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You Guy! Have You Clicked for Peace in 2013?

UmeclickIt’s been four months since we launched the Umeclick? Peace campaign. And it’s been quite the journey.

We started the planning with a lot of energy and gusto in October 2012 and kicked off the offline signature collection in November, after which the e-signature online platform was launched on December 1st 2012. We are still aggressively pounding the hallways and pavements of our primary and secondary schools, universities and colleges, as well as public and private business premises and institutions, in and around Nairobi.

Signature forms in hand, our aim is very simple: we wish to collect 1,000,000 physical & online signatures for Peace’ on behalf of the Kenyan CHILD.

In November of last year, during the Rotary Paul Harris Fellows dinner held at the Goan Gymkhana, the initiative’s Founder & Chairperson, Rotarian Paula Lanco had the opportunity to officially launch the campaign in the presence of Rotary District 9200’s very able District Governor, Geeta Manek and other fellow Rotarians. It was a success and we are thankful to all who stepped up that evening and added their voice to the campaign.

Fast forward to January 2013 and we have collected thousands of physical signatures. We are still overwhelmed by those Rotarians and friends, who have so generously taken time out to help spread the word, through their own peace initiatives (our partners- see below), or have signed the numerous Umeclick? singature forms making rounds in the clubs; and/ or have contributed in kind or financially to the campaign; or even just introduced the campaign to valuable contacts and personalities, within their diverse networks.

Today, we continue to enlist your (the public) added support and goodwill in helping us reach out to more people and surpass our targets.

For those who are wondering what the Umeclick campaign is all about, here is a brief introduction.

click-for-peace-twiceUmeclick?

The ‘Umeclick?’ campaign (also referred to as YOU ME click? for the Non sheng speaking:-)) is an initiative of the Kenya Rotary New Generations team, which is led largely by Rotaractors of D9200, in conjunction with Rotary D9200.  It is spearheaded by the Umeclick? Peace committee, which seeks to collect one million signatures offline and online, from various schools, institutions and groups across the nation.

The offline signatures are very symbolic as they act as a physical representation of ‘the voice of OUR Kenyan child’, calling out to the nation and our leaders to maintain peace during and after the upcoming March 4th general elections. The campaign also seeks to call for hastening of inclusion of peace studies in the Kenyan schools education curriculum.

Reason for the Campaign

For decades, Rotary clubs in District 9200 (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) have worked with children and youth through our Interact and Rotaract clubs, in promoting peace within their communities. We strongly believe that our youngsters are our hope for ensuring our nation’s future, as well as our “tools” for promoting Rotary values of world peace and understanding.

kenya pevIn light of; Kenya’s 2007/ 8 post election violence that saw ‘more than ‘*1,200 Kenyans killed, thousands more injured, over 300,000 people displaced and around 42,000 houses and many businesses looted or destroyed; with significant number of cases of sexual violence’ also reported, it goes without saying that this peace campaign is very important.

Moreover, the recent ongoing spate of violence in the coast and north eastern provinces (amongst various other parts of the nation) paint a stark reality and emphasise what the fact that peace is something we as Kenyans cannot afford to live without.

Just look at the still existing IDP camps, orphaned children, diseased and impoverished Kenyans and it’s enough to make you realise that we are at a crucial phase as a nation. It is why we are pushing so hard for a peaceful future, where our children can learn to live in harmony with each other irrespective of tribe, colour, political affiliations or gender. It is why too, we have also positioned these same children at the forefront of the campaign. If not to push for our peace agenda, to at the very least further humanise the campaign.

How to help us reach our 1M target

It’s very simple. All we ask is that you show your support by going to our website www.umeclick.com TODAY and signing up on the E-Signature platform. You may also visit our Umeclick? FacebookTwitter & G+ pages and add your voice to the campaign. 

You guy! We need your support. Help us spread the word. Click for Peace TODAY and then go a step further and INVITE A FRIEND to sign up as well. THANK YOU in advance. 

Looking to partner with us, please contact the Chairperson on: +254 722 895 505.  

 Article written and submitted by: Rotarians Lilian Okado & Paula Lanco: Images by Brand2D and Google images.

* Source: Ushahidi report posted on www.ushahidi.com titled UN Human Rights Team issues Report on Post-Election Violence in Kenya.

Umeclick? Partners

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Life, love & relationships

 

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Walking The Tight Rope That Is SingleHood

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I turned 33 on Feb 7th 2013 and believe it or not, I was excited. Why? No reason, I just was. Doesn’t age come with wisdom? It helps too that when I turned 30, I made the decision to stop worrying so much about what the future holds and promised to forever celebrate and be thankful for every passing year.. I can’t say that I’ve kept that promise to the letter, but boy have I tried. If you were to ask me on a scale of 1-10 how well I’ve done, I’d probably give myself an 8.

What’s been different though (if I was to compare my pre-30 era to my post 30 era), is that where in the past I would seek a lot of opinions from all and sundry, be it about relationships, business, family, my faith, etc. In the recent past, any decisions that I have made, have relied solely on instinct and meditation/ prayer. I have sought advice from less people; these are people who love me and have my best interests at heart, or who for example, ‘have been there, done that’, and are more than willing to mentor me along my life’s journey.

So yes, I have used my instinct or maybe I should call it my gut feel, to make many important and life changing decisions.

Some of these have been very good decisions, like joining Rotary  for example (something that continues to confirm to me that indeed my life counts for something); others not so much. Some decisions have resulted in Mr.-Bean-happy-tears; others, aweful, mind numbing pain, coupled with feelings of immense loss. And if you know me well enough, you know how much I hate to lose.

But it’s been a good ride overall.

A ride that has left me in full knowledge of the fact that given life’s opportunities (missed or otherwise), combined with my multiple bouts of insanity, God has been fair and just.

Where I made the right decisions, He blessed me beyond my wildest imaginations (I can’t thank Him enough). Where I made less than great ones, well He just left behind stark lessons that catapulted me right back to sanity.

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But here is the thing and possibly the crux of my post. A decision I confess I have not even remotely managed well, is that of the dating game. For whatever reason, for the past three years this part of my life has been pretty much, a grey area. As such, I have wallked a really tight rope, never really letting go of the walking pole that has an, ‘I am single’ status, emblazoned across it. There have been times when I have managed to entertain the idea, but somehow, I either sabotaged it or created an opportunity for the other party to do so, giving me a good excuse to continue walking…

I will not delve into this now… My safe explanation being, ‘It’s complicated’..

Does this then mean that I have loved every single minute of being single?

Heh heh… I really want to shout ‘Absolutely YES!’ but I am reminded of the occassional moments, when I have felt lonely and missed having someone special tell me I am equally special (and all that gross, gooey lovey-dovey banter :-)). I am also reminded of the times I met and ‘fell for’ guys who I really liked and would have loved to date seriously, but after the first ‘exciting date’ -unfortunatley for me – didn’t ever hear again from them. So yes, being single has not always been my choice – even though, I like to make it sound like it always has been:-).

But have I been unhappy, single? ABSOLUTELY NOT! And this might sound defiant, considering the general unsaid consensus that because you are a single woman at a certain age (30+), ‘iko shida’; but it’s not.

Fact is, every other day, single women like me are going about their lives minding their own business and doing their bit to contribute to society. Patiently waiting for Mr Right, but living their lives regardless, confident that their turn will come.

But then, I come across comments being made on social media or in random conversation with random folks, heavily weighed down by below-the-belt-nuances, alluding that single women of a certain age are in fact single, because they are too agressive, or too headstrong, or too educated, or too Nyeri-like, or too scary, or too something. A comment that I think, kind of subtly borders on making single women out to appear like some sort of body defect.

And it’s not just the men making these negative comments, but the women too.

These pre-conceived perceptions are what have made me continue to walk the tight rope, with no apologies.

Case in point, I recently read a post on a pals FB wall that pointed out that the women who dress up nicely (I’m paraphrasing, I think the words used were ‘wear expensive brands’), are usually the loneliest. You can’t blame me for assuming the writer was referring specifically to single women (as married women are not in the general societal (african) context, necessarily considered lonely).

Equating loneliness to great dressing, really? I found this comment a tad bizarre, but one that took me back to a conversation I had with another good male friend, who enlightened me that due to my ‘headstrong’ nature, I would find it difficult to marry, as majority of men don’t appreciate women who talk back or speak their mind. I remember being openly taken aback by his statement. Actually I was stunned.

He finished off by saying: ‘Lilian you are ‘perfect marriage material’, save for that little thorn in many a man’s flesh, your independent (headstrong) mind’.

I know, I know, we still live in a highly partriarchal society, where women are only meant to be seen. But question – and this is a serious question – if you don’t fancy a woman with her own mind, who can contribute ideas that can help equally edify yours once in a while, then why educate her? Why not instead turn her into a barbie doll and place her in a barbie house, where she can cook and clean barbie clothes?

I don’t mean to be inconsiderate of people’s opinions, but Beyonce, Oprah, Sharon Sandberg, Wangari Maathai, etc., didn’t get to where they are being quiet or timid.. Nor does their agressive nature make them poor quality women. This women are impacting/ impacted the world in more ways than one.

But say, you argue that my impact on earth is incomparable to the above mentioned women; for crying out loud, you can’t ignore that my folks took me to school to give me a chance at a better life, than what they provided me. They spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to provide me with an opportunity to read and think; and then you ask me not to think, or is it, not to think out loud? If I can’t exercise this basic freedom, then aren’t their blood and tears wasted? And so what if I do, is it so bad? If I work hard to dress my body to look good; why does it always have to be perceived negatively or a show of disrespect for my male counterpart and then even used to label me and others like me, ‘defective’?

C’mon, don’t the boys realise that we not only dress up for ourselves and our egos, but for them too? For the human race to survive, we need men and women to get along.. and in this era of extreme visibility, single women are taking it up a notch; not to prove a point, but to at the very least, help to ensure that the human race endures.

I remember last year over Christmas, I was with some friends fraternising a local. And the waitresses on that day were dressed in sweater tops, tired looking lessos wrapped around their waists, topped with badly wrapped headscarfs. My immediate take was they looked like housegirls (no offence to anyone) and wondered why the club would make pretty looking girls dress up so badly. How were these girls to feel beautiful, dressed like that?But strangely, some men found the attire ‘sexy’ because it was so ‘village like’ and to make matters worse, some of the other patrons in the club, spent their evening making rude and cheap remarks at the girls.

I felt be-littled on their behalf. But at the same time it hit me.. This is actually what some of our grown, educated men want from their women. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

So if you ask me why I am still walking the tightrope that is singlehood, eeeh…

Added to the fact that I am who I am, it’s probably not yet the appointed time. And it’s my instinct or gut feel that reiterates this fact.

Of course, I like many single women out there do hope 2013 is the year we meet that tall, dark, handsome bloke (if he exists). But if it’s not, it’s not going to be because I am defective. It will be because God still has his use for me single. And we as singles, men and women alike, should be allowed to embrace it without fear or judgement. We should not fuss or worry, knowing that there is a plan. In good time and reason the chips will fall in place.

Nevertheless, where judgement is inevitable, we should walk tall and not buckle under the pressure to conform to assumedly societal standards. Yes, it’s hard to remain positive sometimes. Look at me, I have been told (again and again and again, by both men and women) that my ‘eggs will one day expire’ or I’m nearly reaching my ‘sell by date’ and soon I will no longer have a benchmark list for Mr. Right and will instead be knocking down their doors, ready to settle as as a second wife or ‘mpango wa kando’.

To these men (and women), I always respond by saying: ‘I am a woman of God, beautifully and wonderfully made (and that’s not a figure of speech). God does not err, nor does He expect me to settle for less than the best. He does however, expect that I trust He will deliver on His promises eventually, in His timing, no questions asked’.

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But say, just say that indeed, things become sooooo thick that my eggs do expire. Aaaaah, a serious problem indeed.. Oh well, I guess I can always adopt.:-)

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Life, love & relationships

 

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You’re Fired!!

You're firedI’ve had a hard week.

Maybe I should be a bit more accurate: I’ve had a hard couple of weeks. Ok I exaggerate. I’ve had a couple of hard incidences in the last couple of weeks (yeah that sounds closer to the truth). These ‘incidences’ have caused me to cry buckets… I lie, maybe not buckets, considering no tears came out, but when they did try to emerge from my almost dried out tear ducts, they refused to drop. I think the June cold also has a part to play, congealing the tears in my eyeballs. Good one June! I’ll hold them tears till ol’ August arrives then let ‘em rip!

So yes, on more than one occasion these past weeks, I’ve pretty much looked like a glazed zombie.

I will admit. I’m a softie… I look tough (sometimes), sound tough (mostly), talk tough (sometimes) but really, deep down, if you shoved a magnifying glass down my throat and let it slide down to my innermost being, all you’d be able to see is a ball of mush, mush and more mush. Squeeze me a little and I well up, too hard, and all the tears in the world, like the Niagara Falls come gushing out.

Of course, it also has to do with the fact that I am a phlegmatic melancholic. You know the one with the double personality – like Hannibal. (Ok Hannibal is on another level).

On one hand I’m the melancholic, the thinker; often described as deep, emotional, poetic and moody; loyal but petty. Organized and focussed. More often than not gets refreshed by alone time rather than being with people. On the other hand I’m a phlegmatic, you know, that easy going person who is always singing, ‘let’s love one another’, and wants no drama. Quietly stubborn, but always the one who just wants everyone to be happy; always carrying around a peace flag in her bag, which she whips out at the first sign of red! Interestingly enough, the common denominator for both the phlegmatic and melancholic personality types like me is we are deeply introverted.

Yeah, you might be thinking, Lily, deeply introverted? Never! Well, many don’t believe it either, I fake really well. Just ask the four walls of my house that spend the most time with me, they’ll tell you I hardly go out and spend many a day and night holed indoors, on my laptop or reading all versions of story books without a hint of fresh air.

So yeah I’m deep like that. Everything – and I mean everything – I do is filled with the most insane passion.

For example, I sleep passionately, with a snore. A snore that my dad once threatened to silence at the surgeons because it was causing our house to rumble (love you dad:-)), and my cousins joked would lead my future husband (poor man) to file for divorce. LOL. Ok I don’t seriously snore that bad, but I’ve been told that I used to, back when I was a 64kgs caricature of my current self. I would snore like a lion (or is it roar like a lioness?) Ok I’m losing the plot of this story…

Rewind…Back to scene one, act one…

They say both good and bad things happen in threes, right? Well in my case, they happened in fives, and I’m talking of the bad. Yup, five solid curve balls smack in my face. And before I could scream, ‘Why, Lord why?’ it was all over. Allow me to paint a clearer picture.

Imagine getting fired 5 times in one month. Here’s what happened.

I woke up one day and found a ‘YOU’RE BOOTED!’ neon sign, flashing wildly in my face. A particular special someone had in less than 24 hours totally blanked me out of their life, no explanation. Just as I was recovering from the shock of the first ‘piss off mate’ message, it happened again. Another particular special someone, whose bubbly funny self I was beginning to get accustomed to, also blanked me out. All I know is, one day everything was warm and fuzzy the next, the air was chilly and unresponsive.

No sooner than that occurred than two of my service providers, with whom I’ve been working with on some huge client contracts, in succession, downed their work tools, stopped responding to my emails and eventually dropped off the face of the earth; again no explanation. I totally missed the memo. Immediately after that (yeah those balls just keeps coming) at exactly 2.30pm Thursday, I received a politely worded email from a mildly irate client telling me in Donald Trump fashion that, ‘Lilian, you’re fired!’, and all because the providers I’ve been working with have been missing important deadlines and submitting less than stellar work. Yup s*#@ had hit the fan. And I’d dropped the ball. How had I noted fired them twerps (providers) before and saved me the embarassment?

Now if you’ve ever been the recipient of a ‘You’re fired’ call or message, whether someone is officially or unofficially cutting you out of their personal or business life, then you know what happens next.

If you’re me, the phlegmatic melancholic, belly heat rises to your cheeks and your heartbeat increases, perhaps because your veins have constricted like the grip of an anaconda. Your throat begins to close in on itself and unprintable thoughts fly around in your mind riotously.

stunnedSaying I was stunned, is putting it mildly. My ego had suffered a major blow.

Usually when that happens, I rave and rant over my troubles with the little voices in my head, then immediately after, go into hibernation for like a year. But this time for some reason, I was calm. I didn’t speak to anyone or anything. Maybe I saw this coming?

After processing my thoughts and the consequences of the sudden changes that were and had occurred in my life, I simply reigned them in, pressed pause and went straight to bed, at 7pm. Can’t be that bad right?

The next morning at 5am, after catching up with the book of Psalms 86, it took a while, but I eventually managed to put everything that had happened over the last four weeks into perspective.

I remembered having made a sincere prayer months earlier; asking God to streamline my life, more or less straighten my path and direction in my life so that I could: “…walk in his truth and fear His name’ (Psalm 86:11). It then hit me that perhaps God was in fact doing His thing; you know, responding to my prayers in a bold and clear way and moving the chess pieces in the story book of my life in the direction that he knew was best for me, i.e., yanking people I loved out of my life, butchering the kings and queens or the pawns on the chessboard that is my life – getting me fired (so to speak), so that maybe, just maybe I can learn His way and give Him my undivided attention.

I can’t say this is an accurate explanation for why things happen the way they do. I also know I tend to over spiritualise stuff when I don’t have practical answers. But I chose to accept this explanation, if only to relieve the pressure in my head. I must say though, I am at peace. At peace with the fact that no matter how stunned I still might be (recovery being a slow process), I have this uncanny feeling that God is on my side. It is well, whatever will be, will be.

drowning manI recently heard a story told of a flood coming through a town and a preacher is at the top of the roof of a church, waiting.

A boat comes by and the man inside the boat says: “Come on preacher, waters rising we gotta go!”

The preacher responds, “No, God’s going to look after me.” The boat drives on. The water is about waist deep now, and another boat comes by and says.” Come on preacher we gotta go you’re going to drown!”

The preacher again responds, “No, God is going to look after me.” The man drives on. The water by this time has risen to the neck of the preacher and a helicopter comes and the pilot shouts.” Come on preacher you’re going to drown.”

The preacher a third time responds, “No God will look for me.”

In the end the preacher drowns and goes to heaven. Up there, he goes to saint Peter waiting by the pearly gates and inquires why God didn’t save him.

God then comes out and says. “Well preacher, I sent you two boats and a Helicopter, what else did you need?”

Moral of the story: When you have the option to jump into a lifeboat or drown in your endless, ‘why me lord, why’ river of questions, you’re better off jumping into the boat. At least in my case, I choose to jump.

 

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My Shallow Walk With God

my shallow walk with GodI love God with unmistakeable passion; more lately than ever before.

I have been in this place before, a place where everything around me feels right and in sync with the beating of my heart. Perhaps in 2001, when I made a conscious and adult decision to love God and walk with him, inquiring of his direction every time I ran smack into a brick wall, it’s possible, I may have I felt the same way. I’m not too sure, though I am certain that this feeling I have now, is all too familiar and comforting; one that maybe once or twice – no more than three times, I’ve had in my brief lifetime.

I can’t quite remember what exactly led to that decision 11 years ago – to walk with God, that is; to dedicate my life to pursuing his conscious thoughts as laid down in the big black book. But I know along the way, my walk became quite monotonous and my steps heavy, as my righteous plan took a back seat and I opted to take the easier route and lead a simple life. A life of no obligations to pursue perfection or that great man I was taught about as a child, who was captured as perfect in every sense of the word. I chose instead to live in the grey, where as long as I proclaimed (read: shouted at the top of my lungs) my love and belief in the greater good or strong allegiance to doing good often enough, then everything wrong I did would be crossed off St. Peter’s list and replaced with a good deed.

So for me, for a decade, it was reassuring to staying in the grey. It comes as no surprise that I fought hard to stay there; like many other strong willed characters, it was in my nature. To live a life, which I now unashamedly refer to as a shallow walk with God, a man described as Supreme Being, Conqueror, Might Warrior; a spirit that I can only hope to one day meet in person and if possible even pick his brains.

Life is indeed unpredictable.

Depending on what you believe, who you accept as the giver of life and creation; or even what your appreciation of right or wrong is, or what you aspire to become, to obtain, to touch, to feel. Life remains just that, an unpredictable journey.

It’s impossible when I look back; to have predicted the person I have turned out to be today. I know for many they can profess to have reached where they have always hoped to be, but for me, I cannot. Because I am not yet there, and believe my journey has just began. For in the past, like the Israelites who went round and round in the desert for 40 nonsense years, I have gone round and round my desert for 11.

This is not to say that all has not been well in my wilderness, on the contrary. I have laughed, I have loved, I have danced, I have cried, often times for all the good reasons. But similarly, so did the Israelites in BC times even as they encircled their generations with Moses – the one of the burning bush – leading the way, in more or less the same neighbourhood. It is reported that only when the generations of evil people had been properly wiped out by death, violent or otherwise, did the remnants gain an opportunity to wander into the ‘Promised Land’.

So there they were, 2,000,000 men, women and children, wandering aimlessly for 40 years!

Now, the sheer possibility that 2,000,000 people can meander around in a desert that long sounds absurd and scholars have even argued that this can’t be humanly possible due to the lack of evidence – at the very least – of pit latrines – and with absolutely no possession, let alone the logistics of moving such an obstinate number all at once. (I guess you have to be a scholar to come up with that argument:-)). But let’s say for my sake and for those who believe (again in the big book) that they did; I have to admit that at this point in my life, it makes sense to me why they had to.

You see, I kind of relate to that feeling of wandering in a wilderness. As mentioned earlier, just because you’re wandering, doesn’t mean it’s all bad. It doesn’t mean there is no progress or movement or achievements made in your life. On the contrary, there is progress and there is movement and there are achievements, only difference is, the movement is in circles within a limited proximity and the progress made in baby steps, akin to an inch long slug sliding on its mucus, attempting to travel from one end of the Mississippi river to the other. Considering the river is 3760km long, it’s likely the slimey buggers would dry up halfway there.

So yes, here I have been, wandering in the desert.

My desert represented by a huge imaginary fence, upon which I have sat on 90% of the time these last couple of years. This is the fence that I latch on to for dear life whenever I have to make tough decisions about life, love, family, relationships, and my overall belief systems. I don’t know, maybe it has been because I am a coward, whichever the case; life up on the grey fence (I hate to admit) has led me to take longer to achieve many of my goals in life.

I say this because, late last year, I decided to remind myself of how I felt when I first made the decision to walk with God all those years ago. It has not been an easy feat; especially since as soon as I made this conscious decision, packs of wolves were immediately sent my way, hence extending my stay up on the fence a few months longer.

Since I jumped to my death however.- wolves, hyenas and all – what I have seemingly achieved in the past six months have been staggering. The drastic shift in the kind of life I lead, in the way I think and perceive of life in general and as a consequence, the results – emotional, physical and spiritual, can only be explained as phenomenal and blessed. This shift has seen me struggle to adopt a daily habit that comprises fervent prayer, meditation and fellowship with like minded people, not forgetting zealous practise thereafter, of all that I have been learning from those aged in God’s wisdom.

It’s not to say, that I didn’t do all these things before; I did, but it was always one or the other; never all of them at once.

My point? Ummm … Perhaps I’ve rambled on too much and lost the point:-). I guess what I am trying to get at is the fact that like the Israelites, I can only remain in a wilderness for as long as it takes me to review my walk with God and accept that may-perhaps, experimenting with his way, will bring to a final end my endless circling and ecnircling of the same spot (or is it recycling of the same struggles?).

So, on I march, venturing into the Promised Land. How do I know? Well sometimes I guess when it’s time, you just know – kinda like when Michael Bolton loved a woman. I think too, it could be that scripture that was read out loud for all to hear, by the lady in red leading prayers last night at River of God Church that convince me: James 5:16b: ‘The prayer of a righteous man (woman) is powerful and effective.’ And NO, it does not say, the prayer of a man (woman), but that of a ‘righteous’ man (woman).

And so endeth my shallow walk with God.

 

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If I Die And St. Peter Slams Shut Them Pearly Gates In My Face, I Promise You, I’m Using The Back Door!

st peter at the pearly gatesYes, I said it! And I’ll say it again. If I get to heaven and St. Peter and his troops manning the gates refuse to let me in, I’m using the back door.

If I find his royal guards, at the back entrance, with severe and unyielding looks, I’ll wait until everyone’s asleep (even if it takes decades), and when I’m certain no one’s watching, I’ll just jump over the gates. If they have electric fencing or a pack of Dobermans waiting to devour me or they choose to show me mercy and instead hurl my scraggy figure back over the gates and out, well I will wait till I’m healed from my wounds and try again. I promise you, I will keep trying until I’m in. If I never ever, ever succeed, God forbid, I suppose I’ll die at the foot of them pearly gates. At the very least, I suppose I will get an ‘E’ for Effort.

If whilst all this madness is happening, St. Peter get’s irritated with my ill timed and idiotic shenanigans and asks me to explain why I’m going to all the trouble, I’ll look him in the eye – muttering under my breathe, praying fervently that I don’t burn from the light radiating off him – and just tell him the truth. That, “I am the sum of my personality and my life experiences; experiences, which I went through, because they were apparently meant to teach me some life truths and build up my character. So it’s not entirely my fault sir’! It’s not my fault that I stand here enviously watching Mother Teresa as she plays in the iridescent garden pools with her children of Calcutta. It’s not my fault, because I always tried.”

Of course my excuses won’t fly, but I’ll die knowing I tried and everyone walking past me into heaven will know too!

This morning I woke up poignant. Not surprising, as I slept feeling somewhat disheartened. An early night that lasted ten hours was filled with dreams that stirred up some disconcerting thoughts. Of a past that I had just about dead and buried in the innermost parts of my mind.

How is it that these things so easily crept back to the fore? That I had to be reminded of shadowy things; of shadowy people, of shadowy acts, of temptations, blood and tears? Things I fought so very hard to let go of for the greater good; to afford myself a long march back to a life of goodness. Why then does the darkness still manage to invade the privacy of my renewed and enlightened mind? I guess that’s a question St. Peter and his boys will be tasked to answer, after I break into heaven.

introverted childAs a child I was an introverted introvert. If you can begin to imagine what that is like, think of someone petrified of open spaces that expose you to strange faces masked as family, friends, teachers, doctors, the neighbours kids, the shopkeeper; faces that pose endless questions and always, always, expecting answers.

As a child I was terrified of speaking up. Often I was teased and called dumb, which made the retreat into my reclusive shell that much easier. On occasion, no fault of their own, my folks and teachers would scream at my lack of proclivity to interact and socialise freely like other kids. I always screamed back (in my head of course) that all they needed to do was as patiently and as quietly as they possibly could, sit down with me for an hour or two and help me stare at the walls. After which, I’d then tell them, my name is ‘Lilian Okado’ and continue to stare for another hour before adding, ‘I like to drink Coca Cola and not Fanta-disgusting-orange.’

Yes, yes, I know, it would have taken some time, but they’d have eventually learnt that I actually can talk; it just takes our kind longer to open up, something that hasn’t changed much today; to open up, that is.

Hence, it follows and for obvious reasons, I hated going to parties, weddings and church. Ok, church, wasn’t half bad, because before Sunday mass was over and my mum got busy showing off her daughter dolled in frilly dresses (which, had she waited for me to speak up two hours later, would have easily learned were itchy and better preferred frills off), church offered some odd solace and comfort.

There was no God talking to me like he did to David or Elijah in B.C times, but there was a God who spoke to me nonetheless, in my mind where my imagination ruled. Through mass, I sat on a hard pew, answering all of those questions asked by my parents and teachers without skipping a beat. Those were the moments when I happily shared why instead of lapping up the milk served in a mug after dinner every evening; I chucked it out through the window of the living room, to be found in a fermented heap by the help or worse my mother, on Saturday mornings as she went about housekeeping. I shared the truth that the taste and smell of raw milk made me want to vomit myself to death and caused me an itching fit the next day.

I also confessed why I secretly binned the slices of bread served during four o’clock tea. It was because the help applied a super thick layer of Blueband margarine and it made me feel like I was eating the margarine itself and not the bread. I also shared I was sorry I laughed when she didn’t know how to flush the toilet, or when my mum screamed at her for leaving the TV on all day because she didn’t know how to switch it off and I had refused to show her. Seated quietly on the pew was my moment of unburdening the ‘heavy stuff’. I got it all out, the mischief of the week that weighed heavily on what I know today to be my conscience.

I hate to admit it out loud, but life is indeed easier without a conscience.

I remember a time in standard one when my class teacher asked us to close our eyes and imagine what God looked like. Eyes shut, for a time, nothing came to mind. Then I began to hear other kids in the class shout out, ‘I can see Him! He is huge, strong, big, and, beautiful!’

I on the other hand could see nothing. Unwilling to be left out of the revelation, I shut my eyes tighter and concentrated harder on the darkness. Slowly it began to form shapes and the shapes began to move about. It was not long before a dark eerie shape with horns snorting red spurts of fire emerged fast lunging towards me. That can’t be God! I opened my eyes terrified. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a troubled child, not at all, I just had a wild imagination. Plus after a tantrum episode earlier that morning where like a crazed toddler, I flung my brother’s Nintendo against the kitchen counter after he forbade me from ever touching it, I doubt my ‘conscience’ was going to let me off easy.

So there I was an innocent child, reminded of just how strong your conscience can be that it manifests itself ever so strongly in your dreams and imaginations.

Fast forward to last night, where I forgot to mention that as I got into bed disheartened, I began to slip. Yup! I began to yearn for my old life; I desired so much to go back.

I longed to pick up the phone, write an email or a text message and find some way to right a wrong relationship. I longed to move three steps back and rekindle a lost love that once threatened to kill my consciousness and destroy my value system. I longed to reach out to those men and women who stabbed me in the back not once or twice. I so wanted to forget the searing pain that coursed through my veins upon discovering that a friendship could be easily replaced and that loyalty was but only a word. I forgot that the pain was not physical but all in my head.

Now there is a common train of thought shared by most if not all, to, ‘live life to the fullest!

living life ot the fullestFor some this would mean bungee jumping, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or party rocking every day of the week. For others it would mean visiting Bali and snorting on some coke on the way just for fun or reaching out to a stranger and tugging at their arm and telling them just how beautiful they are. Living life to the fullest may include some or all of that, but to me it also means treading dangerous ground where I can easily lose a part of my soul yet again.

For those with a shadowy past living life to the fullest means teetering at the edge of a towering mountain overlooking an abyss’ filled with memories of the times when you led others down a treacherous path. When you stopped considering the consequences of your selfish acts, or when no emotion was evoked nor remorse felt when you became ‘the other woman’ or a ‘maniser’ (opposite of womaniser). Living life to the fullest could mean not caring about the end and the finality that death brings. To me it’s akin to living life without a conscious. Sometimes i think doing so would make life so much easier.

Therefore, last night for the most part, my eyes glued to the TV, I thought of what my life would be like if I forgot the pain of letting go, of being alone, if only for a fleeting moment. As I focused on my pain caused by nothing but a ridiculous craving, I forgot just how far I had come, nothing mattered. Not the positive strides made since I said goodbye to unforgiveness, to hate, to unkindness, to anger and bitterness. The nostalgia to revert to my old ways, to take back words of finality on an unworthy habit, practise, relationship, association, and life in general, was so strong that I almost gave up.

But I didn’t. My dark night that left me cursing my dreams quite oddly brought with them a sense of relief as I was reminded what a relapse was. Like the proverbial alcoholic I was to keep marching on and away from the darkness. All that was required of me was a quick visit to the AA and fast; my AA here being, prayer.

True, I’m not yet over those pearly gates; but until then, I’m stuck fighting St Peter’s henchmen even if it means using the back door; prayer no doubt.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in life

 

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There Is Nothing New Under The Sun

nothing new under the sunI went to church yesterday; hadn’t been in two or three Sundays (I no longer count, it helps me sleep at night) so it was nice to be back seated at my favourite pew at the very front, game face on, ears pointed, eager as any beaver to listen to Pastor Rev. Tony ‘break it down for us’.

You know the thing about church or going to church is not about listening to something new or something that is out of this world. I admit though, that every time I go to church I leave feeling like I have learned something new. But in reality, I really haven’t. I’ve just managed to appreciate the day’s message a different way with a renewed sense of understanding. Or maybe depending on my state of mind or heart at the time Pastor T is doing his thing, I am more receptive to a particular message and I get to really capture that which I need to hear for that sermon, be it encouragement or condemnation. There is nothing new under the sun and so nothing I heard at yesterday morning’s sermon – which was fantastic by the way – was anything I’d never heard before. Yet, I still left church feeling absolutely refreshed.

Today, we live in a world where many things emanate from a pre-conceived idea that was likely thought up by someone totally different from the one who brought it to fruition.

I am not saying that nothing in this world was ever a new discovery; of course not! But where we are now as a race, there is very little (I believe) that hasn’t yet been thought of by someone else. Think of it this way, you dream up a perfect idea, only for Google to burst your bubble by revealing someone somewhere already cooked up your amazing idea. light bulb moment

I remember the first time I thought of a business idea, I was 23 and I had an ingenious plan to set up an interiors imports company called Tausi Consult. I thought that was such a cool and unique African name, only to go on Alibaba.com and discover a Japanese company called Tausi Consult offering almost similar services; thus, ended my dream that day, following my inability to think up a different ‘cool’ company name and the realization that it was not as cool as I’d thought it to be.

Hence, finding out that you have given birth to twins doesn’t mean you go and place a tattoo across their foreheads so as to identify them as completely unique from each other, it just means you have to begin to learn to share and appreciate them both at the same time, but in a different light.

So yes, I can confidently declare that Pastor T’s message yesterday morning was one that has been retold by a past generation of church leader’s world over.

Why I didn’t hear it at Christian Union back in campus as I clearly did yesterday, I can’t say. Or it could be that I was in a loud crusade at Uhuru Park when I first heard Pastor T’s message, but the mindless ululating Christians screaming and spitting, ‘Praise the Lords’ unreservedly into my eardrums and showing obvious lack of vocal boundaries, that my perhaps immature Christian self, swiftly blocked my ears and helped me miss ‘the message’ (Ok you can tell I am not quite the fan of evangelical crusades because they do nothing for my spiritual growth other than leaving me with an unnecessary headache, irritated and confused). Anyway, it is that yesterday was to be the day that I stilled the voices in my head and Pastor T’s message like a live broadcaster came through loud and clear. And I was grateful that I had given myself another shot at listening.

I know for a fact that our teachers and parents weren’t foolish to encourage us to read the same boring textbooks over and over. And it may never have made sense to me when my math teacher came up to me and told me it was for ‘my own good’ to be punished with poor grades for not studying as regularly as I should. Of course he also didn’t want to accept that a gifted student like me was just never gonna be a math guru, however hard I studied. But he still wanted me to study because he knew there was hope I could be redeemed.

And that’s why I go to church every Sunday (almost). Perhaps to be redeemed. It’s the same reason why Muslims go to the mosque, why Hindus visit the temple and why we eat food.

I hope that maybe something will click. That on any particular Sunday one or a dozen words from the pastor will break the invisible glass that stops me from getting God’s message on other days. I go to church because I believe in right or wrong, and in sin. To be reminded that I still have a conscious, and that I sinned in the past week when I gossiped, cheated, lied, stole, disrespected my parents, dishonoured a marriage, and dishonoured God. I don’t go to church because I don’t know. I go to church to reinforce what I already know.

There is a saying that to be an expert in a particular subject you have to read a book every week on that subject for a year. I recently learned this at my Enablis monthly meetings: that to be as successful as Tiger Woods, you have to give 16,000 hours to your business. This will average 15 years for most people (So far I have done three and half years, clearly I have a way to go). So you see, had I not gone to church yesterday, I’d still not get it.

Let me use another example;

gleeIf you’ve watched a movie or TV series more than once, like I have watched Glee Ssn1, 2 and 3, you’ll know what I mean.

The first time I watched Glee, it was with a blank tabular rasa. I didn’t know what to expect and I took everything in. The experience was great and I fell in love with all the characters of McKinley High.

The second time I watched the series, I noticed that Artie, the boy in the wheel chair, was an even better singer vocally than Finn, the lead male singer. The third time I watched it, I understood why Finn and not Artie, was the male lead. I also realised, it’s not that Britanny, the really blonde chic who rarely sings and is always in the background dancing can’t sing, it’s just that she’s a 100 times much better dancer than anyone else on the team could ever be.

Then, I watched Glee a fourth time and began to better appreciate the characters’ individual strengths and weakness and how they so brilliantly all tie in together. And by the fifth and sixth times (by now I’m obsessed), not only could I mouth all the songs word for word, but I was also able to value the hidden stories that lay behind each episode, ranging from, self esteem issues, to dealing with death, to homosexuality, to dating and teen sex, to school bullying and the negative high school groupings – issues that teenagers face the world over.

My point is; the more I watched and internalised the characters of Glee, the more I appreciated what lay behind the teen musical, outside of a brilliant producer.

It’s the same with going to church.

I don’t think we go to church because we have nothing better to do (Ok sometimes we don’t). But really, we go to church because we are reminded of things that we may likely forget. We go to church because it’s another opportunity to make sense of what sometimes can come off as gibberish – especially if you’ve just been in an all-nighter head banging crusade. I go to church, not because Pastor T will have something new to tell me, it’s because I will have an opportunity to hear God’s voice… again. I will get to hear how drooling at someone’s hot husband or wife will not just land me in hell (ok let’s be real, most of the time hell doesn’t scare many of us enough to stop drooling, or thinking of all the evil things we can do with that someone’s hot husband or wife) but can only lead me through unnecessary pain, heartache and humiliation, not forgetting life changing scars or consequences you may not have seen coming at the end of the road.

So yes, I go to church to be reminded, that life is short. That though money is right up there with food, air and water, there is more to life. I have only such a time as now to do something meaningful that can change lives, even just one.

Indeed, going to church is my way of reinforcing what I already know: that going down that slippery slope is ok, as long as I know not to stay down there too long that both my consciousness and my soul die off and I no longer have the ability to do what’s right, whatever my religious affiliations might be.

 
 

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Integrity Musings Of A Woman Suffering From PMS

no i dont have pmsTwo mornings ago I clambered out of bed feeling less excited than usual.

The culprit I blamed for this foreboding was Miss PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome).

I once told a male friend who thought I was making things up that most women experience PMS perhaps every month. I can’t confirm this to be true for sure. For starters, we are all different, so I am in no position to speak for the three or more billion women on this planet.

Nevertheless, PMS is a common term medically defined as, ‘a wide range of physical or emotional symptoms that typically occur about 5 to 11 days before a woman starts her monthly menstrual cycle’.

A funny definition I once read – likely written by a man – described it as, ‘the worst time to be around a woman, because she becomes an irrational psycho b**** who froths at the mouth with rage and seeks to destroy anything which stands in her way.’

A bit extreme, but I guess it drives the point home.

The weird thing about PMS though, is the way it can sneak up on you, like it did this morning. Unless you’re the kind of woman who gets the obvious uncomfortable physical symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating headaches, nausea, et al., which I thankfully never do, you sometimes can’t really tell that your sudden irritability, emotional outbursts or annoying mood swings are actually symptoms of PMS. If you’re like me, you’ll only always ever recognise it too late after your menstrual cycle begins, or after you stare in embarrassment at the emotional 2AM text message to your boyfriend telling him what a ‘maggot and ungrateful pig he is’. In my case, outside of the signature and very gross pea sized zit that appears like clockwork on my forehead, I mostly only realise I am ‘PMS-ing’ after a bout of wallowing in solitude, feeling like I am all alone in this world, no one loves me and my intensely dark chocolate skin is hideous.

So yes, after 32 years of trying to figure out my body, I am certain PMS is my monthly curse, here to stay, where for a day or two, I will feel like the pits and probably spew out venom at unsuspecting passersby.

And so it was Wednesday morning as I drove back to ‘the office’ after my 9AM client meeting on Upper Hill road, I was feeling low and down in the dumps. As I zoomed in and out of random thoughts, and in what I call a moment of poor judgment I decided that I didn’t have enough patience to deal with the Uhuru Highway traffic and chose to instead take a perceived shortcut. This through the Community route, on to Valley road, through to Kileleshwa and onto Waiyaki Way. A pretty long shortcut. Worse was for half an hour, the matter in my brain was sandwiched between depressing thoughts that lay against a back drop of distant Capital FM Radio voices.

What featured prominently in my thought process was the concept of integrity.

I can’t explain it, but the word just popped up in my head. For what seemed like an eternity, I broke it down, I defined it, I redefined it, I built a contextual background around it, I assigned different characters to it, characters that to me both represented integrity and the lack of it. In short, I pondered. And the more I did, the more irritated I became. It didn’t take me too long after to get angry. I was angry. Angry at Lilian Okado; because when I looked at my life, I remembered the tons of incomplete projects both in my business and personal life that were a manifestation of a lack of integrity.

For starters, at work, I had pending projects that had ‘overdue’ screaming headlines written all over them. I had made work promises that I had been unable to keep. I had disappointed a customer or two by overpromising and under delivering. It’s common for many entrepreneurs to bite more than they can chew, but I never knew that one day I would be admitting that I was that kind, having always prided in being a ‘woman of my word’.

landrover discovery 4

As the traffic inched forward at a crawl, I watched a couple of ‘sexy’ Landover Discovery 4’s passing by and got more depressed.

How much more clearer can things get. There I sat watched my dream four wheeled creature zoom past. It was becoming very clear that the only way for me to tick that ‘dream item’ off my 200+ goals list was for me to seriously have an integrity makeover. Because, how would I ever attract an eight figure income that could afford a luxury car, if I did not work on my integrity issues? How could I convince a CEO or business owner of a blue chip firm to do business with me if I couldn’t deliver on the ‘small deals’? And it didn’t help that my pending and incomplete projects transcended my personal life.

Two weeks earlier I had said I would start going for Capoiera (a Brazilian form of dance) classes or doing some other form of physical activity twice a week, but by that morning, I had succeeded in finding multiple reasons to cancel staying healthy. Then just four months ago I committed to begin waking up earlier than usual every morning to pray but haven’t quite gotten round to that.

You see, even as I give myself excuses for not doing what i say I will do, it remains that my inability to follow through on the mundane stuff is a clear indication of a severe inability to do so on the bigger things. It also just means I have difficulty being consistent.

And so what does this say of me or of my character? That, A) I can’t be trusted, and b) I likely won’t ever achieve any of the 200+ things on my goals list aka driving my own Discovery 4. The thought of that depresses me even more.

As yet another discovery 4 zoomed past me (kwani these machines are being given away for free somewhere?), I could feel the tension heighten in my chest (Lord I cannot die of a heart attack now) as I diverted into analysing the quality of some of my personal relationships.

What I saw was far from stellar. That an extremely independent thinking woman like me will still fight to hold on to inauthentic business and personal relationships that kill my self-expression and cause me to doubt the beauty inside of me, is ridiculous. But I yet sometimes I do. Yup, I lack integrity and it took a 30 minute solitary drive to really help me unveil this fact.

But today am at peace.

On one hand I’m done PMS-ing. YAY! On the other, I now recognise the inconsistencies in my life; in my actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes and know exactly what I need to do. Burdened with this knowledge I pray and hope I can turn things around. That I can learn to live an authentic life again, true to myself and no one else. Even if it means changing some aspects of my life that I so willingly fight to hold on to.

Indeed, four days ago I lacked integrity and I didn’t know. I lacked the integrity that separates leaders from followers, true friends from jealous bees, the real Mandingos from the wanna bees. But not any more. I am making the long journey back. However long it will take me to get my act together; to go back to being on the straight and narrow, to worrying less abotu what the masses think, to delivering on promises and commitments, to being a good friend to those who honestly, truly deserve it; to be the best at what I what I do. I will do it!

I am going back to creating sunshine and spreading it around, to sustaining a consistent work ethic, to being trustworthy, to eliminating all thoughts of mediocrity in whatever’s left of my short life.

… Thank you Miss PMS. I am past you. Tonight I am going to bed knowing full well that tomorrow, I will do better. Tomorrow, I take back integrity…

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in life

 

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