It was my birthday a few days ago. I read this post again and realise just how much of it still holds true for me.
I’ve made new friends, fresh relationships and met awesome people I’m fortunate to call ‘family’.
I’m still in shock from all the cake I ate on Tuesday lol, and cringe at the extra hour of work I need at the gym to get all the calories off my hips. But it was a good day– the very best, and I look forward to everything this new year brings 🙂
The question of death is a universal one. The question of who owns life is a bigger one. What exists beyond our consciousness, and how do we determine the existence of the afterlife? However, there is another issue I’m more concerned about and it is the quality of our life and how much control we exert over it.
If man was made to inhabit the earth, should he not also rightfully acquire a certain quality of life that makes his stay, or existence as many might put it, worthwhile. I have long maintained that our happiness and satisfaction are moving targets, ever-changing the older we get. As a subscriber to the Christian doctrine, and a believer of the utmost lordship of God over a man’s life, I am also pressed to agree with the position that the one who gives life also holds the authority, alone, to take it.
Despite, I find myself questioning this authority, and the laws of the State to protect the lives of her citizens from danger—including danger to self. This danger apparently includes taking one’s own life.
“Why does a man destroy himself or what destroys him? I would have to judge that suicide is mostly the tool of the thinking man. The right to suicide should be the same as the right to love.”
― Charles Bukowski
The question of a right to wield power over one’s own mortality pose an ethical and moral dilemma. On the one hand there is the issue of creationism, and on the other the question of choice. Should a person who has been brought to this world without their permission be granted the choice to stay or leave it?
Parents have an obligation to provide for their children and give them as fair an advantage as they can afford. They are also expected to give the best quality of life within their reach. The State is sworn to protecting that life, too, within the ambit of the law. As a result we have balanced individuals, matured and capable of deciding at some point in their lives what quality of living, made available to them, suits them most. Some aspire to live quietly; others look forward to an adventurous life. And some prefer a balance of both.
So what happens when this choice is threatened? Should the individual go on living a life below the quality they desire? Should they adjust their preferences, and perhaps, play at trying something new to satisfy the State’s responsibility to keep people alive and at no danger to themselves? Should people keep on living because their loved ones insist?
“There is a certain right by which we many deprive a man of life, but none by which we may deprive him of death; this is mere cruelty.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
I am aware that within some states in the USA, laws have been enacted that legalize physician-assisted suicides, in so far as the individuals involved are capable of making the decision on their own; have been given a six months prognosis or less, and are capable of administering for themselves a lethal dose. This is quite similar to what Swiss’ Dignitas offers: an opportunity to live with dignity and die with dignity.
It’s everything I believe life should offer—the choice to live as you want and enjoy the most of it while here. Death comes soon enough, and there’s no saying we’ll know when that will happen. But in a world filled with many uncertainties with little within our control, every man should be allowed, at the very least, a chance to live with dignity and die the same. Not ravaged by sickness, or abject poverty, or a life that appears to head nowhere.
While I understand the need for people to live with hope in their hearts; the unwavering belief that someday, somehow, things will get better, should the peculiar minority who don’t feel that way be subjected to the whims of the majority who do?
To whose benefit is it when we attempt at shoving our moral compasses on others who do not share our views on death and the right to it?
Again, I am a Christian, but over the past few months I have found myself pondering this. I don’t have the answers, and I know this is a difficult topic, but if the legislative bodies all over the world are beginning to reconsider their stance on assisted suicide in medical cases, perhaps it’s also time that we as a people began considering it, too—outside our current ethical and moral boundaries, above our fears of questioning the norm, and beyond the medical bracket.
Further reading (links open in new tab)
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Because this is everything I would say to myself ten years ago, and everything I need to hear today.
I don’t know why people seek out fortune tellers. Why would you want to know the heartaches that lie ahead, the assurance that life will take your spouse and body and dreams?
He will be with his family tonight, Doctor, when he goes home, the deathless man says. Why should I tell him that tomorrow he is going to die? So that, on his last night with his family, he will mourn himself?…Suddenness. His life, as he is living it – well, and with love, with friends – and then suddenness. Believe me, Doctor, if your life ends in suddenness you will be glad it did, and if it does not you will wish it had.
Not me, I say. I do not do things, as you say, suddenly. I prepare, I think, I explain.
~ The one quotable text from Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife I can’t recommend
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It was few minutes past 8pm when I boarded one of the loading vehicles for the night before drivers called it a day. I rode shotgun, squeezed between the driver and a middle-aged man. The engines kicked to life as the light overhead cast its dim glow.
“Your money please.”
Hands stretched forth clasping wazobia notes. I helped him collect the monies so his hands stay on the steering wheel.
“Sister, your money.”
He was referring to me. I took my first look at the inside of his cab. Layers of dust coated the dashboard. I suspected the dust on the fake brown fur placed just below the windscreen would choke the occupants of the car if anyone bothered dusting it off. The stereo system could barely be called that, considering all it sported was a gaping hole—a testament to a vehicle that once was. The only thing that appeared in fairly decent condition was the seats. But then, wasn’t that all we really needed in a vehicle anyway. Every other addition, from the stereo to the air conditioning was for comfort and another excuse to attach ridiculous price tags.
The car wheeled into a pothole and I braced myself for impact as the hand brake dug into my thigh.
“I should pay half the fare.” I’m not sure what response I expected. It had been a lousy day and even the best of the people in this State would have lost their quip.
“My sister, no vex. I get just 250 naira per drive and in a day I might go only three times.”
That’s an average of 750 naira per day’s work. Take the mandatory 50 naira ‘tax’ to the garage administrators per trip and the total take home pay drops to 600 naira. That’s less than $2 per day. His family lived in the outskirt of the city and he got to pay them a visit once a week.
“No money in this business at all. When I pay my debt, I’ll carry my car to another place.”
The journey from the bus stop to my home is about five minutes and within that time I reconsidered everything I’d thought about my life. Earlier in the day I’d done a bit of mental cataloguing and brain whipping. I needed to raise money for a certain project to kick-start the next phase of my life, but too many projects in the pipe tend to drain resources—including the emergency stash.
Helen Keller once talked about lacking shoes and realizing the next man had no feet. I have my reservations about this eternal wisdom because while it asks that we be grateful for what we have, it also attempts to diminish the weight of our struggle by drawing a rough comparison with the next man’s. I don’t have to wonder where my next pay check will come from. I’m neither in debt nor have family miles away depending on me for survival. However, I understand this struggle, not because I live that life, but because in my little world I feel hard pressed to make tough decisions and find solutions, too.
A few months ago I would have felt shame for feeling the way I did. Here I was without shoes staring at another without feet. But whether shoes or feet, our needs were different and not in any way diminished by their size. What mattered was the value we placed on them, not some invisible measuring line deciding if our struggle measured up to a community standard.
If I learned anything in that old beaten car, it is that to share in another’s story isn’t to make mine of worth; it is the understanding that struggle is universal, irrespective of our destination, that expresses true community.
Wazobia—Nigerian slang for 50 naira note. Derives its name from the pictorial representations of the major ethnic groups.
It’s 2017 and feels like I got the memo when everyone’s already having a good time. For the first time since I started this blog I didn’t write a New Year post. I’ll tell you why, alongside the beautiful things that happened in 2016.
- My spiritual life became richer. I’ve always been an always-have-your-feet-on-the-ground kind of girl. If something does not make sense, the chance of trying them out is slim to none. In 2016, I learned that faith isn’t very logical all the time and the lack of sense does not make it an impossible feat.
- Forgiveness came easier. Ever felt like you lack the capacity to forgive someone who hurt you? I felt that way for a long time. I was hurt in 2015 and wondered how I would survive the year with all the anger and grief. Then I learned forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it’s something you do and then do again every single day after. It wasn’t my love I had to give; it was my consent to hand over the offender to the author of love. Life became easier after that.
- Studying made me almost mad. I’d say literally mad but that wouldn’t be true. I did feel almost mad though trying to pay attention to other things aside the pile of books staring me in the face every day, lecturers reminding me to read at least two hours daily and colleagues oppressing me with all their knowledge. But I realised with constant practice and discipline, everything becomes a tad bearable.
- We got stuck in a recession and Trump blew the world away. Typing this made me chuckle. Imagine waking up every day to the new fall in the value of your currency, going to the market to learn your favourite brands have doubled in price, searching for alternatives and hating them, dealing with the fear of unemployment and a pay cut, and knowing Trump is the president of America. Conditions will always change and everything bends to accommodate it.
- Ideas! That’s what happens when you know things may never be the same again. I spent a lot of time thinking of alternatives, which led me to considering the things I love most in the world, which further led me to research and now I’m a step closer where I want to be in 2017. Change can be a good motivator to realign priorities if it does not paralyze you.
- Learning to let go. Not everyone is meant to remain in your life. I heard that once and never gave it another thought until I had to let go of someone special to me. It was not an easy decision, but it had to be done. How did I feel afterwards? Terrible. But terrible is only a feeling and feelings change.
- Life hangs precariously on a very thin thread. And could be gone in a puff! I mourned the loss of a blog pal (you’ve probably seen Archaeopteryx here). But his demise made me think about life a little more deeply. Death comes for all like a long-lost friend; we can either embrace him with joy or regret.
- The past never goes away. I dream of him knocking at the door. Sometimes I look out the window and he’s there, bidding me to come out. But I don’t; I don’t invite him in nor do I go out to say hello. The past never really goes away; he’s there in our subconscious, but no one says you have to give him audience.
- Set manageable goals and keep them in sight. Goal setting have been a tradition for many. Some never see past February, and others can quite simply be termed ‘rolling plans’. I’m not sure why some goals never see the light of day, but studies suggest the reason for failure may be tied to our sharing. The logic is the brain feels gratified when goals are shared with others, hence reducing the likelihood of accomplishment. Mine has never tanked like that, but then I’m not a goal-sharer until I hit the mark. Perhaps it’s time to try a new approach (?) Write it down, keep it in sight, ask for help, but otherwise keep it to yourself.
- Victory! Comes sweeter to those who labour the most. I don’t know if I heard that somewhere or if it’s original. A week ago my final results were released and I’m happy to say this girl is an official holder of a professional certification. I had to let go of things I loved (like this blog) to get here, but I’m glad it was worth it. Although the journey may seem long and weary, the joy when it’s over will exceed every effort put into the task.
I like to begin each year with a general theme. In 2015 it was hope; 2016 was a time to tear down and reconstruct yesterday. This year I’m trying out things that scare the crap out of me. I know it will probably feel stupid sometimes, but like an advice I read on another blog said, “if you wake up one morning and feel unhappy with where you are, have the courage to do whatever is necessary to make a change in your life.”
So here is to taking bold steps.
Happy New Year
The image of happiness is laughing eyes and tongue sticking out in a picture frame. My mobile camera goes click-click, balanced on a selfie stick held at an angle that flatters the errant jawline of my cheek. Eyebrows on fleek… click. One-eyed wink… click. Kim K’s pout … click. Goofy squint look… click. Two dozen pictures and filtered edits later, instagram is ready for my awesomeness.
The image of happiness is a facebook post; pre-wedding shots overflow feeds boldly captioned ‘save the date’. Wives flaunt husbands. Husbands flaunt wives. Parents share pictures of kids at every stage of their growth in a surprising wave of media parenting.
Yet, the paradox of our existence is with all the happy media frenzy, there are many out there who suffer bouts of depression.
Last month I had an emotional breakdown. I had spent the early hours of my birthday thinking where my life might be headed, and days on social media binging on everyone’s happy story, wondering why my life wasn’t cool enough. And inasmuch as we’re told never to compare our journey with that of other people, we can’t eliminate the lines of our individual existence that crisscross and overlap, nor can we deny its existence. So may be this comparison is a natural response to our shared reality.
I’ve been thinking about this, our social epidemic of happiness. The unicorn moments we love to create for the pages; the frames of laughter we hang on our wall or store in our mobile phones; moments of bliss we are all too happy to share with the world. Then there’s everything else either dialed down they are barely noticeable, or completely tuned off—and that’s the part we wish remains undiscovered.
In her Tedtalk, Brené Brown speaks about the power of vulnerability; the difficulty in letting ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen by others; our need for connection and erroneous belief that being vulnerable is akin to weakness. We think that to belong means to put up a happy front for everyone… even ourselves. And so we try to numb those feelings, but we cannot selectively numb “[because] when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness… and then we’re miserable.”
So I went through an emotional breakdown and cried and deleted my evil social media apps and shut out all my friends. But the thing is I didn’t feel any better. I still walked around trying to stop my cracks from deepening, and I struggled with it long enough to know my way wouldn’t work until I brought back the evil apps and talked to someone. And that’s exactly what I did. By opening up to someone else, I revealed another part of myself and learned a bit more about them. My feelings weren’t abnormal. My sadness was shared by many others. In my vulnerability I had connected. In connecting I allowed myself more joyful emotions.
Put into perspective, we can begin to appreciate the masterpiece that is Pixar’s Inside Out. Our mantra may be simple: sadness is negative emotion; happiness is positive emotion. So when the photographer asks us to stare at the camera, he demands a smile before clicking the shutter button, adding to our belief that to immortalize this emotion is better than to do the other. But in truth sadness need not be the opposite of happiness; sometimes it could be another path to happiness.
The most interesting image I have of myself is an ‘accidental’ photo over three years old. Clad in a red tank top, hands clasped beneath jaw and eyes staring down a table, I’m the perfect image of disappointed. It’s still one of my favourite pictures, not just for its authenticity, but because every day it reminds me that we are a ball of emotional energy—not just happy ones, but sad, vulnerable, weak, crazy energy, and it’s okay to share those too.
Image: Instagram @Anapuzar
If you had asked me what happiness meant a decade ago, my answer would have read: it’s finally coming home to good food and a warm bed. You see, I was in a boarding school that availed me only the basic luxuries—as basic as they could get. When I posed the same question to a group of friends, answers differed with each person defining happiness as best he could, given the prevailing circumstances of their lives.
I used to think this was a one-definition-fits-all thing; that you could tell people what should give them lasting happiness, and that the sum of one’s feeling would be their dreams, both short and long-term, fulfilled. I may have been wrong.
It explains why a person living in luxury would consider suicide when they can afford everything they ever wanted. Why a mother would kill her own baby if children are God’s gift to man. Why certain people suffer spousal abuse, if the call to marriage is the highest union that two people can find. Why privileged children run away from home, when there are less privileged that would die to have just a bit of their part. Or why some go into crime even when provided for by the State. The paradox is that people want happiness but do not understand why their desires, now fulfilled, leave them feeling hollow still.
The much I’ve come to know is that our personal and collective definition of happiness changes the longer the sands pass though the hour-glass. It was Heraclitus who said that no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man. If human character was subject to time and experience, one’s perception of happiness is also subject to the same prevailing influence.
It brings some perspective into this ever elusive definition. In fact I am willing to bet that if I threw open the same question, obvious as the answer(s) may seem, it will take some thoughts to offer one that pleases you.
So I asked myself again: what does happiness mean to me?
Over time it has been so many things, but the passage of time has helped to refine my perception. The more sand has escaped from the hour-glass of my life, the clearer I see through it. Whereas happiness used to mean getting as much as I could within the shortest possible interval; now it is knowing that happiness is not in achievement itself, but in the journey between how soon I want it and when I eventually get it.
This touched me in so many ways I do not have the courage to explore.
We’ve talked about rape so many times, but we can never talk about it enough.
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Statistics tell us that one in five women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime.
One in five women.
The next time you’re in a room filled with people, take a look around at the women in that room and think about those numbers. Disturbingly, since rape is underreported in this country, that number is higher than statistics indicate.
When I started this blog I wanted it to be a place I could go to and just write what was on my mind. Whether it was funny or serious, it was going to be my place to vent. The Stanford swimmer’s rape trial and verdict that has been in the news recently is so disgustingly obscene that even though I wanted to write something, I couldn’t find my way here to rationally articulate any reasonable thoughts. But I have to say something.
A young unconscious girl was…
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Death comes to all of us—eventually. Unless you’re of the biblical school of thoughts, then maybe you’ll live to see the rapture. Otherwise, death comes and it’s an end we all have to face.
I find the thought of this mortality amusing—I’ve said this before and got called a weirdo, but think about it. If we get to think about where we will like to be in the nearest or farthest future, if we are advised that the most effective way to ensure that we reach our dreams without giving up is to see where it all ends every time, then why shouldn’t we pay attention to our ultimate end which is guaranteed?
Yet people fear death. It’s the reason so many out there want to be immortalized in their children… I think it’s a biological order. Man forms community, chooses a mate and procreate to ensure that his genetic line continues to live long after he is gone. Animals—Lions in particular—kill off the cubs of the former leader of the Pride to ensure his offspring repopulate the feline nation. In life we’re still thinking about living longer than our mortality will allow. It’s like some kind of contingency plan against the inevitable. It’s the reason we feel remorse for one who has passed away, offering respect to the deceased we never knew like we’re appealing to Death to come for us at a much later date.
But death shouldn’t be something we dread; on the contrary we should encourage active discussions. And by discussion I don’t mean talking about it when we’re old and tired of this world; I mean thinking and talking it when we have everything to live for. We should take living everyday like it’s our last quite literally. We should even discuss the various means by which we could leave this world—as dreadful as some of it might seem. But most important, we need to think of the people we will leave behind and our legacy when it’s over… whenever it’s over.
A week ago I woke up to news of the death of a vibrant young man who allegedly slipped in the bath and died. I am privileged to have worked with him in the past and if there was something I loved, it was his jovial nature. The news got out and there was nothing but love from those who knew or were opportune to have read something he’d shared. I spent the rest of the day thinking of what will happen if people learn of my death. You should think that, too. Hopefully you do. Then I asked my sister what would happen if we both knew I’d die that night and she said, “We’ll spend the night awake; no sleeping for you.”
So there are a number of reasons for our fear of the inevitable. We fear the life we’ll have when the people we love are gone; we fear the life they will have when we are gone; we fear we will never be the person we want to be if we die now. We fear we haven’t lived enough. But we don’t have to be afraid, or death has the upper hand. We just have to embrace the truth of our very finite existence so it takes away the element of surprise.
Think of the end. Talk about the end with people you love. Live well. Leave good. Perhaps this is a better contingency plan.
Do first impressions matter?
A week ago I was walking home from work, down a busy Lagos street, exhausted and barely keeping the adrenaline pumping when I stopped to buy bread. Bread because I don’t know how I’ll survive in my house without it for a whole weekend.
The woman was rude. That was my first impression. She spoke like I was interrupting something and shot daggers when I tried inspecting the bread. I asked if they were fresh. Yes. They all say yes, but you ask anyway hoping someone will say it’s a day old. Or two. Or maybe a week. But asking buys you time to block out the rest of your senses and use just the nose. If you’re lucky the pleasant aroma of freshly baked bread will fill them in no time.
She looked irritated by my presence and I regretted stopping in the first place. Naturally I’d walk away, but I didn’t. I stayed, allowing our mutual irritations overlap. For a moment I wondered how she managed to keep any customers at all.
Three days later I walked past the same stall and heard someone call out. When I turned it was the bread seller, waving and asking if I wanted to buy more bread. I’m not sure if I succeeded in hiding my surprise, but even before thinking I could feel my lips returning the smile. This thing betrays my emotions.
The next day I stopped over to buy bread. She called me her friend or something like that. I don’t mind, I’ve been called many things by women ranging from darling to sweetheart to love and my baby. It’s all the same to me.
Everyday I walk past my eyes do a quick search for her. We lock gaze. Smile. And communicate a silent good night. Yesterday I stopped to buy bread. Two? Yes, two. She remembers I bought two loaves the first time. She remembers the brand I like. I don’t even inspect it. Don’t take too long to eat this one. I nod.
I’m surprised she recalled my face since we met on a dark road illuminated by candles from other traders. Maybe I have one of those faces you don’t forget; maybe I look like one of those customers you know will always come back.
Should first impressions matter?
I don’t know. I met a bread seller who was rude the first time, I was sure I never wanted to do business with her again. A week later and we’re exchanging secret smiles. There are many things that could have been wrong that day. She could have had a bad day, and yet all I could think of was how I deserved a nice, cheerful person serving me… even when I wasn’t feeling so cheerful myself.
What does that make me?
I don’t know. But I hope that someone out there will be more generous with a second impression of me.
Incidentally, in a conversation just a little while ago I had to explore some history to try to reach some clear understanding of a cultural matter. The culture of people are a practical demonstration of their identity. A loss of their cultural history often results in the kind of vulnerability that we witness in Africa today: a vulnerability that shows itself in our embarrassing efforts to acquire and display foreign accents, in our dash to buy all things Western, in our speed to bad-mouth Nigerian ways and things. It is easy to sell any narrative about Nigeria to Nigerians today especially because we have no idea what we once were and where we once headed. We are like sheep without shepherd without our history.
In a personal experience I saw another side to this issue. History may not be lost but it may be so painful that you wish that it was. Every time you come up against it you want to avert your eyes and pray that by the time you look up it would have dissolved like mist before the rising sun. And yet without facing that history squarely and bravely but intelligently dissecting it, that fear that it always inspires will be the baggage you carry everywhere with you.
My secondary school and university days carry their share of history. I can often hold my own when embarrassment comes at me in public. I don’t know where I picked up the skill but I actually know how to take an embarrassing moment and make it a memorable one. Or at least I used to. But memories are a whole other bucket of fish. Sometimes you remember and shudder at what you did and hope nobody else does. History may be embarrassing.
How we understand the past is the most important element determining the future — James Carrol
But without history, how can we know our own selves and plot a course for the future? What you do not face squarely and clearly sort through is likely to haunt you into repeating the same mistakes. History says a lot about who we are. As a matter of fact, without it, we are ships adrift on the sea. We need it to guide our paths into the future.
The question “who am I?” begins its answer in “what came before?” History may be scary; it may be embarrassing or it may be unknown but it should never be ignored. Discovering it is key to discovering ourselves, understanding it is key to understanding the decisions we have to make and the paths open to us. Owning it takes the power of definition away from possibly malevolent or dubious elements and gives it back to us.
Odii is an entrepreneur. Figuring life out and sharing his discoveries is business he enjoys doing. You can find him @ Panorama
I began this blog two years ago in a hotel room far from home, filled with questions of my worth. It wasn’t a very happy day, but then, my life was not particularly cheerful to begin with. There were times when I cried so much I wondered if the flow would ever stop, and there were days when between a quick smile and laughter I’d say to myself, who are you deceiving?
Who was I deceiving? Nobody. It was my subconscious indicating its need for expression. So when an old friend sent me a link to her blog, I thought to myself, I can do this too. And I did. My first month, in hindsight, turned out a summary of my persona, since the things I wrote about reflected my interests in culture, relationship (with others) and emotions. The second month in a nutshell: identity crisis.
I love that writing can express oneself, thoughts, emotions and interests. It didn’t seem quite appealing on the first trial and there were times I thought to quit this blog and move on… but I didn’t. Two years after I am still here. Writing. Sharing. Relating. With you. Because you let me. With every view, like, comment and share, you tell me you’re here and I am not alone. So that young woman who faced an identity crisis no longer exists and in her place is one eager to discover more about herself and this community.
The benefits that have accrued cannot be quantified. I’ve been more attentive to the world around, not just walking through it. I’ve listened to strangers, not only because they provide fodder for the next post (which is totally great), but because I understand what community means a lot better—it’s experiencing one another.
So this is me saying THANK YOU for walking and running with me. For teaching and helping satisfy that primal urge for communication. And most importantly for being you, because by so doing you let me keep being myself. Right here.
It took staring at a leafless tree for days and struggling to still my hands from reaching for a camera to come to this; to realize how monotonous life is when we allow it. Wake up. Eat. Work. Sleep. And perhaps pull out our cameras and take a shot ever so often. It’s not difficult to see how one can remain absolutely clueless about the world and the delicate beauty it harbors.
Few days ago I conversed with a friend. We talked about the special things that make us tick—mine were books and photography—and then about joy, sadness and emotions. At the time I felt what it could be like to exist in a space without experiencing it. It’s a lot like catching a nice view and jumping in just in time to take a picture, before the moment passes. That is the power of photography: the ability to freeze time, as good as elemental power can get for us, until you take a closer look at your picture and a whole new wonder explodes—like that Dragonfly. I always thought it ordinary till I took note of the light play on its wings.
“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:15
I think of humans like that, artistically formed. We are the wonders of creation with our diverse characters and emotions. There are seasons to life, every emotion carefully woven in the fabric of time. Our feelings of joy and sadness are each a part of who we are, so that we are a bit more appreciative of the moments in our lives. To know that our highs and lows are not just symbols of our strengths and failures; they are also testament to the intricacy of the human soul. It’s great to know that we are alike and yet so different, and it will always be a wonder plying one road to discover the depths of a single being; to move past this monotony and experience life, not exist in it.
I learned a good photographer is one able to tell a story with a picture and infuse his essence into the frame. I’m not that kind of hobbyist yet, but I hope to get there someday. Likewise I believe this also forms the basis of our humanity: our ability to see past the visible darkness and confidently step into the lives of others. I’m not that kind of human either, but hope to find the courage someday to hear your stories.
According to the movies and stories passed down over the decades, courtship in Africa, specifically Nigeria was rather a funny and awkward exercise; one that still influences how relationships pan out in present day society. In those days when a man became of age and his elders deemed it time for him to get married, he would be ‘let loose’ on the community to scout for a suitable maiden to wife.
Now, what made a maiden suitable you ask?
- A broadened hip believed to make childbirth easier and also strong enough to ‘back’ the child when it cries.
- An ample bosom to nurse a child.
- A thin waist line to showcase an hourglass figure (they loved their amazons)
- A good stock line to ensure children had no evil traits likely to rear up its ugly head.
- And let’s not forget, the gift of preparing and serving meals in a manner that would rival Nigella Lawson.
- Throw in a pretty face and the said scout had reached utopia.
Basically, he went about the process with the mannerism of a prospective buyer at a cattle market. And when our scout spots the right maiden does he personally take her a gift or try to interact with her? No. He interacts extensively with her family, including distant relatives, but rarely spends any quality time getting to know her as a person. He bestows gifts on her parents, her relatives as a token of his interest. Any gift that makes it to the bride is delivered by a relative, not directly by our scout.
The maiden is seen as something you acquired after making a reasonable offer by way of a gift. There was no need to appeal to her emotions; it was more or less a business transaction.
Fast forward to present day society, not much has changed. Man still hasn’t mastered the act of gift giving without strings as a sign of intimacy and friendship.
Our modern day checklist will look something like this:
- Does she have a job, is she hard-working?
- Is she devoid of illness (this includes her bloodlines)?
- Is she well known in the community? Hmm, this might be a sign that she flirts.
- Is she prayerful? I have gathered a lot of demons and I need a stand by the exorcist.
And the list continues.
History has made it almost impossible for men to approach gift giving from any other angle other than as an investment that indirectly benefits him.
He gave gifts to her father, he got her. Business deal sealed and delivered.
However, today the woman has a choice and sadly that has thrown a spanner in the investment wheel of many scouts. Some have invested and lost heavily; some have played cautiously and still ended up cheated.
I know some of you are thinking, but we should invest in the ones we love. Absolutely true, however, investments are expected to yield returns; gifts are designed to please the recipient. A gift performs well under the atmosphere of love; selfishness on either side turns a gift into an investment tool for manipulation. Expecting to receive sexual favours or commitments because you gave a gift is totally opposed to the true meaning of gift giving.
Most people give gifts to children simply to make them smile; to let them know you thought of them and you love them. If the lady in your life does not stir your feelings on gift giving the way a child would then I don’t think you should be together. Begrudging your partner a gift for any other reason other than you can’t afford or it feels inappropriate at the moment, is an indication that you evaluate your relationships based on what you expect in return from it.
Gift: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.
Don’t buy her a gift this valentine because you see her as a potential ‘cow’ or ‘investment’ ready to yield an emotional, physical or spiritual bounty. Buy her a gift because she’s the girl who makes the sun feel brighter when she looks at you. Buy her a gift because your relationship is worth investing everything good into including gifts. Buy her a gift because you love her and respect her needs as a person.
Funny thing is when a girl senses she has your heart the benefits just keep giving ♥
Chioma is an avid reader and a non-biased writer. She writes to explore and change outlooks to life, while mothering and maintaining balance wherever she calls home. Visit her blog @ Lifehomeandaway