Rumor has it…(pt 2)

To avoid being caught up in the web of gossip, here are a few ideas I have. Please feel free to add any ideas you have.

First, I think you have to recognize it as a distasteful habit you want to get rid of or reduce. If you do not think there’s anything wrong with spending time doing nothing but discussing people’s lives, then this article probably has nothing to offer you.

At any point in time, we have a lot going on our lives. There are goals we are trying to achieve and there are those we have achieved. So when you gist with a friend, if you talk about your lives, you probably won’t have enough time to cover all these areas. Talk about your life, ask about your friend’s. Talk about your love life or your quest for one, your work…your career plans, your successes, your failures, your fears. When you are done talking about yours, ask about your friend’s life. Did that guy she talked about call her back yet? Did she go to see the doctor?

You can steer the conversation gently away from a direction you don’t want. Guys hang out for several hours and hardly say anything personal. They talk about cars, sports and money-making tactics. As a result they hardly have all the drama that female friendships are full off. The truth is, if you ever needed a help, how many of these friends would you be able to call on?

Go shopping together, share recipes, advice each other, tackle problems together…even pray together. I think these are more worthwhile ventures.

Rumor has it…(pt 1)

Gossip: noun-a person who habitually talks about the private details of other people’s lives. verb-to engage in casual/unconstrained conversations or reports about other people typically involving details which are unconfirmed as true.

While almost everyone engages in this distasteful habit from time-time, I believe this is actually predominantly an affliction of females. It seems to be like a ‘delicacy’ served wherever there is a cluster of females.

This affliction is worse than an addiction. Addicts recognize and try to resist their habits. Gossips do neither. Why then do people gossip? Here are a few of my hypotheses:

I believe that some people gossip to deflect attention from their personal situation. They focus instead on what’s right or wrong with other people’s lives. However momentary, it helps them forget their own problems. It is fun for them to sit down together and analyze other people’s lives or actions while theirs take a break. Talk about using paracetamol for someone else’s headaches.

Some people just like to know what’s going on in everybody’s lives. They thrive on having the latest information on everyone’s lives…they just seem to know everything. As if they have an invisible satellite monitoring everyone’s activities. Talk about talent wasted. These are people who would have done well as private investigators.

I often believe that people addicted to gossiping either have a void in their lives and they gossip out of boredom, or they are just really ‘committed’ to this habit in which case they create time out of their busy schedules to keep up.

It’s also a little hard to believe that anyone would spend so much time researching/talking about someone that neither fascinates nor intrigues them.

Certain groups of people seem to just always gossip. It’s like an addiction ring in which members are bound by their common love of hearsays. It’s the premise on which their friendship is built and they are enablers. Without the stories, the friendship would wither and die.

I believe gossiping should be avoided as much as possible. Tattletales often get into trouble because they say things they shouldn’t have and they lose the trust of people as a result. They are frequently caught in the web of who-said-what and who-didn’t-say-what. I also doubt that a genuinely nice person would talk about others behind their backs all the time.

To sum up, gossiping is an ugly trait which we mostly just pick up and stick with. You can simply decide to do less of it for a start. I don’t think talking about other people’s lives detracts from your problems (if you have any), or adds to your life (if it’s already perfect). Except if you get paid for it, I doubt there’s anything to gain.

Have a gossip-free weekend!!!

While waiting…or not

When I hear the term ‘waiting for the right man’, I often think it is quite inappropriate. It brings to mind the mental image of a young (or not so young) woman, waking up day after day, getting groomed, trimmed and pruned, and sitting by the road side like a ripe fruit waiting to be plucked. I doubt that is true…literally.

The other impression one gets is of a young woman whose life is on hold as she waits for the right man to happen along. The next big thing waiting to happen in her life is the right man. The truth is even as absurd as that sounds, single females often give off these vibes knowingly or unknowingly and guys pick them up and interpret them as desperation. So much time and attention is given to this project. There is a lot of strategizing and re-strategizing as well.

I don’t believe most of the single ladies I know are ‘waiting’. They are very smart and intelligent women who are doing amazing things with their time and they raise the following questions in my mind. What if we didn’t wait? What if we asked the right man out if we met one? What if we focused instead on being ‘right’ alone first?

There are awesome self-building projects you can embark on with what’s left of your single years. Learn a new language, learn a new skill, build up your savings, learn dancing…swimming…anything! Find out how to be happy by yourself. Learn to keep your own company. The right man can only build upon what you already have. I am a firm believer in the miracle called love. I also believe it is easier to love a happy person than a sad one…makes the job easier. So learn to be happy.

To sum it up, the wait can be frustrating especially if it seems things are not moving fast enough or in the right direction. However, it is necessary -sometimes- to be patient to avoid regrets. I don’t think there is an expiry date on singlehood but that’s an argument I would never win in the Nigerian society’s law court. So while you are waiting…or not, make yourself the ‘right woman’.

MY MUSE

My Muse

Heat….cold…fear… panic…a racing heartbeat,

Calm…warmth…comfort….a stabilized heartbeat,

My feelings have become like the four seasons;

Coming and going all in one moment within one day

At times my feet are locked in cement

At times my feet are afloat on a rising cloud

Some days I wake up with dread

Others days I wake up with hope

I see myself laughing with him

I also see myself mulling over memories of him

Memories of what once was

Memories of what we thought it would be

But now, I have learnt the beauty of true acceptance

To replace the desire to protest or change the situation

With the desire to make it my muse and accept it wholeheartedly

(Courtesy M.M).

Underneath it all…

I lay awake at night. My heart raced. My sheets drenched in sweat. Sleep deserted me. When I slept, I awoke with pressure and tightness around my heart so fierce I thought I was going to die. Even during the day, I constantly felt like I was going crazy.

This had been my state since the day my husband informed me of his decision to take a second wife. He had very little reason to give me. He didn’t really need any. Our religion permitted it. While actually hearing him say it was a shock, the truth is I had always somehow known this moment would come. I had dreaded it for many years.

In the days that would follow, I walked about like one in a trance. I lay alone in the bed we were supposed to share while he went to be with another woman. I felt as if the home I had spent many years building was collapsing around me. Thankfully, I had good friends. And they told me to keep my head up. They were right. I needed to. My in-laws were watching. Sneering behind my back. Trying to evaluate the damage this situation would do to me. For a reason I never understood, it gave them joy to catch glimpses of any perceived fracture in our marriage. They thrived on it. When we presented a united front, it made them unhappy.

I braced myself when the day arrived and even drove one of the groups of people who went to ask for the new wife’s hand in marriage. I put on a strong front and got through the ceremony. At night, I crumbled. No longer was this man exclusively mine. I shared him now. Openly. My heart ached. Terribly.

Looking back, that day presented a new chapter in our marriage. I matured in a new way. Learned more about myself. Learned to pray for myself and my children first. Learned to watch out for myself. To be more independent. I refused to get sucked into the competitive lifestyle I had often despised polygamous families for. So I defined standards I believed in and avoided pettiness.

Difficult as it was, I soared. I made financial decisions and breakthroughs I could never have imagined. I became a better mum. I discovered new things about myself. The ache got better. Maybe I loved less…a little numbly. I kept my sanity and these days, it doesn’t hurt as much. I found strength I didn’t know I have.

(Courtesy I.H.O).

Dance your turn… then rest

We are not immortal. As we cruise through life, we often neglect this unfortunate fact. I believe what ends up happening due to our negligence is that we wake up one day and the realization strikes us in the face that with or without our consent, time has indeed gone by. Some dreams will not be actualized…some actions cannot be undone…some plans cannot be carried out. We have run out of energy, time or opportunity.

What ends up happening is that sometimes we attempt to live these dreams through our children. There is nothing wrong in wanting the best for our children. In fact as parents, I think we owe it to our kids to make sure we guide them right and save them the agony of poor choices. However, there is a difference between this selfless desire to protect an offspring from bad decisions and the selfish desire for a child to achieve a feat we failed to achieve ourselves and share in the glory.

Live your dreams. Try your best to knock out the barriers between you and your dreams. Try your best. If at the end you still cannot achieve your goal, then let it be. Do not put unnecessary pressure on children to be everything that you are not. To everything there is a season. This applies to our lives as well. Now is your season. If there is a career choice you like, go for it. Go be it. Don’t give up and plan to impose that choice on your kids. If you are married, try to create a home you like…build and run your home the way you like. This is your own playground to make the choices you want. Don’t plan to run your children’s homes after they are married and make decisions for them. If you have a house, design and decorate it the way you want. Your kids and their spouses may have different plans when it’s their turn because it’s THEIR turn.

We owe our children the freedom to make their own decisions. Hopefully, they make sensible ones and ask for our counsel from time to time. They will make mistakes whether we like it or not. Hopefully the mistakes make and not maim them. We shouldn’t shackle them with the burdens of our unfinished plans or dreams.

To sum up, realize that YOUR time is now. It’s the only time that will ever truly be yours to use(or not use) and design. If there is anything you are unable to do, make your peace and accept that fact. Don’t plan to borrow.

The music is playing for you right now. This dance is yours. So dance.

If you looked…

When a woman stays in an abusive relationship (physical, verbal or emotional), she suffers and the people around her, who have invested years of love and devotion experience the greatest pain- the parents, the siblings. It hurts to watch someone you love dearly become a shadow of themselves all because of a love gone wrong (or one that should never have even started). The children are the worst victims I believe. It is absolute mental torture for them.

I have a son, and I have a daughter. While it is still a little too early to say if I love one more than the other, I can confidently tell you I love them differently. My daughter signifies everything in my world that is pure, delicate and beautiful. Love falls short as a description. I am sure everyone who has a little girl knows these emotions I fail to adequately describe. Having said this, can you imagine how crushed it must make parents feel to know that their precious daughter goes home everyday to an abusive partner? How about the siblings who grew up loving you, respecting you? Your dear friends whose memories of the person you used to be are starting to fade?

I hate to see marriages end. So please do not take this to be a preaching for divorce. The aim of this article is to let you know that it hurts others too. Greatly. Someone who loves you wouldn’t derive pleasure from hurting or humiliating you. He takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting you. That isn’t love. You are loved by so many people. There are so many people who look up to you in your family and even in the society. Your parents probably raised you to know you are invaluable to them. Your kids let you know too. You are truly, truly special to these people and loved by them. It hurts them all to see you so weak and if you looked deeply, you would see. You deserve better.

A mother should be her children’s idol. Loving a mum is instinctual in most cases. Respecting them on the other hand, is a learned behaviour. It’s hard to uphold the image of an idol if your kids constantly watch you disrespected. Allowing them to see this happen will shape their characters without you being aware and this is quite unfair. Their ways of handling their own future relationships will be affected by how they watch you handle yours. Many women often say that they stay because of the kids. I beg to differ. What do you achieve if you don’t raise sons better than your husband? What good is it if you raise daughters who are scared of marriage? You want to raise children who stand up for themselves. To treat others the way they want to be treated…with dignity and kindness.

If you are respectful yourself, I see no reason why you can’t insist on being respected. As women, sometimes we simply assume men know the things we want. Don’t assume he knows he hurts you. Say it out aloud. If you haven’t demanded it before, you should (of course this will probably work only if the abuse is verbal). Let him know statements or jokes you find to be derogatory. If however, you have made a huge mistake and married a partner who is an absolute monster -in which case you have no voice in your relationship- then I pray all the angels in heaven will sing a solution into your ears and help you make the tough choices you need.

To conclude, I would like to let you know that as a woman, you are wonderfully made. Try to be around people who make it easy for you to be at your best. You should be celebrated everyday for all the remarkable tasks and emotions you juggle daily and stay sane and beautiful. For the various ‘offices’ you run successfully. You have such a huge capacity to love and be loved. Don’t give the special privilege of your love to an undeserving person.

Don’t let anyone whip the pride out of you literally or figuratively!

Who do you haggle with?

Haggle (verb)-meaning to dispute/bargain persistently, especially over the cost of something.

In Nigeria, haggling is an art you are taught and expected to have mastered especially if you are female (again as preparation for the ultimate career of your life- ‘wifehood’).

While I agree that this is a good skill to have, I feel over time we should learn to reconsider what the purpose is, and how fair it is. Why should we be taught to haggle with the orphan child whose stepmom forces to hawk under the scorching sun before he gets fed? Why haggle with the woman hawking bananas with a 10 kg baby tied to her back? Why haggle with the yam seller by the roadside who shares a tiny room with 5 children and has an absentee husband? When we look at them all we see is a seller trying to cheat us. There’s more to them than that.

The aim of haggling is to conserve money..or rather create better value for money spent. So why won’t we haggle with our pastors and imams over donations? Why won’t we haggle with Shoprite that sells a tube of toothpaste for almost twice the amount it is on the streets? Why won’t we haggle at Sweet sensation or the other franchises we patronize? Their rice is twice the cost of the cafeteria’s. I know you are probably thinking that will be ridiculous! Why should it be? These are people who are rich and we eagerly make them richer…taking pictures with pride when we patronize them as proof that we were there.

So is the aim of haggling then truly to create more value for money?

Please, next time you see someone selling by the street or hawking, try to resist the call by pride to live up to the name of master haggler especially if you are quite comfortable. Do it as charity. Bargain if you must, but do not  cut her profit off completely. Spare an extra minute to look at what she’s wearing, how many children are surrounding her and you might get a glimpse beneath the surface. She could have been just as pretty or smart as you. She just happened to be born/raised in a different environment. She’s probably just as hard-working and deserving but fate did it’s thing and she’s where she is.

Next time you drive up to a woman/child hustling, do not see a person trying to cheat you of your hard-earned cash. See instead, someone just trying to survive. An opportunity to help. To me, they are more deserving than a lot of people we give to. Don’t make them an object of pity…just empathize and cut them some slack.

Have a ‘less haggle’ week!!

The battle with the -law

An in-law, in my definition, is an absolute stranger with whom you attempt to bond through your common love of your spouse. Please note my use of the word ‘attempt’. This implies that as with any attempt, you may be successful or unsuccessful after one or multiple attempts.

My focus today will be mainly on the females. This is because my brief opinion poll showed that majority of women claim to have very few problems with the males in their husband’s family. The most ‘interesting’ stories I heard were about the women. I think this is probably because whether acknowledged or not, there is always some form of power play between the women in a man’s life. Husbands (bless them) are sometimes blind (or pretend to be) to this subtle battle going on.

This rivalry is a case of history repeating itself endlessly. As a result, the name ‘mother-in-law’ has come to be almost synonymous with ‘formidable’ over time. I have noticed that most single ladies now have a ‘daggers drawn’ approach when it comes to how they intend to handle their in-laws, especially the mothers-in-law. There can be several reasons for this. Sometimes a mother may have disagreed with her son’s choice of a wife and as a result, the wife (if they do eventually get married) tags her an enemy of the marriage. Secondly, we’ve all heard stories of how some marriages were destroyed/almost destroyed by the relentless and bitter pursuits of some mothers-in-law. These stories may make single ladies brace themselves. Finally, she may very well indeed be formidable.

Let’s look at this issue from a different perspective. Some women have a pattern of unstable relationships with friends and even family. They can’t even seem to make up their minds on who is good and who is bad. If a woman has all her life shown a pattern of unstable relationships and fights with acquaintances, why then would her relationship with you be any different? Having this insight might make you feel a little better knowing you are not the problem and this could even provide you a way to cope with the person more effectively. That is, if you are not a person who typically can’t hold on to relationships yourself. Try to understand who you are dealing with, and understand yourself too. On the other hand, an otherwise wonderful and reasonable woman may just not get along with her daughter-in-law. She may have unrealistic expectations of you, making it impossible for you to do anything right…your spirits just won’t click. Maybe she feels threatened by your hold on her son…her son’s love for you. She has been eclipsed and feels you are replacing her as the superwoman and this is her way of reacting to this fear.

I believe that if husbands play their roles well as moderators of this budding bond between strangers, there would be very little problems. Being in the middle, your husband knows you and his mother better than you know each other-at least initially. A man once told me his reason for not allowing his wife and mum live together was that his wife is hot-tempered and his mum is unforgiving. It’s his responsibility to shield each of you from the other’s flaws (which he should know as a smart person) and avoid being swayed back and forth between you two. If he plays the moderator role well and has a consistent and firm role definition for wife and mother, you will both have nothing but absolute respect for each other’s distinct and irreplaceable roles in his life.

I definitely do not dispute the fact that mothers-in-law may sometimes be a handful. However, I want us to bear in mind that one day, the tables will be turned around and who knows what our own daughters-in-law will say about us? Handle yourself with dignity, be respectful and refuse to be disrespected. I believe that women have incredible problem-solving tactics. You need to know what works best for you and stick to it. Know what your expectations are. Try to solve your disputes with your husband if/when they arise. If the visits are uncomfortable, make them brief but don’t stop going. Encourage your husband to be a good son. She can’t be totally bad if she raised such a wonderful son.

Finally, if you are reading this and still single, please go in with an open mind. Be prepared to like and be liked. Do your half. A lot of women love their mother-in-law and confide in her and vice versa. It’s definitely possible. If however, that boat has sailed and yours isn’t as good, then you just have to keep working on this relationship.There’s a method, you just haven’t found it yet but you will. Don’t give anyone else the credit for the success or failure of your marriage. It’s up to you and your spouse.

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Waiting arms

This article is dedicated to all women trying to conceive. You are the uncelebrated heroes among women.

Trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant is a cause of unimaginable heartbreak for women around the world. The wealth and fame amassed by fertility clinics, herbalists and miracle centers is a testimony to this fact. However, if you are African, your problems are much bigger than your personal heartbreak. In fact, nursing your pain privately is a luxury you definitely won’t experience. This shouldn’t be surprising considering the fact that the most common prayer at your wedding (if you are married) was probably for children, children and more children. Some even put a timeline to the prayer-they want the babies to start arriving nine months from your wedding day … or earlier… but definitely not later. Is it any surprise then that a few months after the wedding, everyone is staring unashamedly at your body to see if you are one of the ‘lucky’ ones?

It is every woman’s hope to be able to get pregnant when she wants. It can therefore be a rude shock to find yourself trying month after month, unsuccessfully, to achieve such a seemingly easy task. In fact, it may even seem like the harder it is for you, the easier it seems to be for everyone around you to get pregnant. However, as with everything in life, sometimes, fate just has its own plans. You can never tell what cards you will be dealt. It is pure agony I wish no woman ever had to go through.

In some countries, having children is a choice to make. Africans on the other hand, do not believe this a topic worth discussing. Every woman is supposed to have children. Period! It’s your greatest responsibility..a rite of womanhood. Being unable to get pregnant is like failing the ultimate test. You are expected to feel ashamed and sad. An object of pity. Less than the fertile woman.

I believe that as a society, this has always been the case because the women allow themselves to be treated as such even in cases where the problem lies with the man. Children are blessings and not medals that are acquired for some outstanding performance and displayed as such. You should feel humbled and grateful if you are blessed with them. It’s an honor. A privilege and not a right. Therefore do not feel in anyway better, more deserving or more pious than the woman who has none yet. If you have none yet, walk with your head held high. Feel angry because you deserve to have one just as much as any other woman. It’s also okay to feel angry because of the stupid neighbors, colleagues and family members who just won’t mind their business and stop whispering behind your back. Ignore them. Feel frustrated with the doctor’s unending tests…and do them anyway. DO NOT feel ashamed or less of a woman. DO NOT let this problem consume you. It’s okay to feel as if no one says the right words. Sometimes even well-wishers do not know the perfect things to say. Pay attention to your marriage and career. If having kids guaranteed a good/lasting marriage, there would be no children of divorced families.

I hope this is a phase and ‘this too shall pass’ very soon. I pray for and with you, that God rewards your patience. I hope you have a supportive and co-operative partner who will make it easier for you. I hope God gives you the wisdom to choose correctly whose pockets to enrich -the doctor’s or the imam/pastor/herbalist (it may be confusing). I hope your miracle is closer than you know.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of optimism. Be positive (while being realistic) in your thoughts and actions. You are a strong woman. Stepping out daily and putting up a brave front despite all you go through is proof of how strong you are. All these experiences are paving the way for that wonderful mum you are going to be to the sweet little bundle coming into your waiting arms sooner than you think. Keep your head up.

Baby dust to you.

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