SOMETHING STRANGE IS HAPPENING…

Cover of "Living Out Loud"

Look at that! Something with the same name..I’m obviously onto something! Cover of Living Out Loud

Something strange is happening to me…not sure exactly what it is, all I know  is that it is change…and I’m excited.

Sometime this year I made the decision to start Living Out Loud and it seems that opportunities have started to open up to me to truly live my life at top volume and in technicolour.

I have just finished reading the pieces for the writer’s workshop being organized by Elnathan John and Abubakar Adamu at the French Institute. I’m excited by this, because it’s one thing I’m doing for myself and my dreams of the future.

I am excitedly waiting news on something else that might be another direction in my life and I’m working on one or two things that have me equally excited. I’m tempted to start feeling overwhelmed: Can I cope? Isn’t it too much? Isn’t life simpler when you just do that bit you have to do to be ok? But restlessness won’t go away and it’s gradually pushing me out of my comfort zone…I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know it will be worth it.

I want to pull my poetry out again. I’ve missed writing verse, my mind is full of opinion pieces and short stories…part of it I know, is because my poetry has always been borne out of sadness, and for the first time in what seems like a very long while, I am truly at peace, centred and full of joy. I guess my spirit is still re-calibrating; not sure what to do with so much sunlight…

I need to remember to be kinder to myself. I’ve had a busy week so far and it seems like it will be busy up to Sunday, yet I find myself feeling guilty for wanting to go to bed early, for doing some work and not doing others…bad habit; must stop.

Today I was about to start worrying and God dropped this nugget in my spirit: There is nothing coming my way that He has not already provided grace for. So no matter how busy I am about to get, I can deal with it, not because of me, but because His grace is sufficient for me. When I worry about not coping, it’s not a matter of inability; it’s a matter of a lack of faith. So I’m going to stop fussing and just trust that all I need for all I have to do is already here – present and available. I’ll rest assured that everything that is, is meant to be; and if it is meant to be, then it will be fine.

Ok, enough rambling…let me do my skipping (finally gotten up to 200 a day) and sleep. I don’t want to fall asleep during the workshop…I tend to doze off if I’m in one position for too long…if I doze ehn, I will just dig a hole in the ground and jump inside from sheer embarrassment.

Ciao

Postscript: I wrote this piece on Wednesday night, before the workshop. I am glad to report that I stayed awake throughout the class. *phew*. More than that though, I acquired a more conscious awareness of my writing process and I know that my writing will reflect everything I earned on Thursday.

Second, I did my first recording of a poetry segment that will be airing on Mytv Africa. To be honest, I’d always felt that my work with media would be mostly behind the camera…apart from some documentaries I’m still playing with in my head. I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did, but after I loosened up, I was amazed at how relaxed I was; and I know I will only get better. 

All I can say at this point is that I am expectant and excited. I remember once in church  when the Pastor asked us to make a request to God, and the only thing that came to mind was Psalm 81: 10 – Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. He is filling my mouth, surpassing my expectations, and all I can do is continue to look forward with gratitude for all that is coming.

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CORN, FREEDOM AND COUGH SYRUP

 

 

 

It’s 9.45pm and I have just startled myself out of a tired doze on my bed. I would quite happily go to sleep like this, but my windows are open and there is stuff all over my bed and apart from the fact that I don’t like the exposed feeling from sleeping with drawn curtains, I also don’t particularly fancy waking up at 3am in a fright because I touched something that shouldn’t be on my bed.

 

My mind is full, and even though I am tired, I feel almost clogged up…there’s too much in my head…although that might just be the 5 cobs of corn I greedily but happily consumed for dinner.

 

5 cobs. *sigh* my body is begging me for veggies and raw food…I’m not sure corn counts.

 

I had a rough week mentally; had a workplace situation that disturbed my equilibrium and left me feeling very trapped. Anyone who knows me knows that my biggest motivation for anything is freedom; I always have an exit door, even if it’s an exit to a place in my head.

 

So anyway, I’d been feeling trapped and trying to deal with it without being unprofessional and without letting my output be affected. God sha knows how to answer me just in the nick of time, heard a sermon in church that helped me see the situation from another perspective, but it’s taken a little time for my pendulum to swing back to a place of rest. Today I finally had an unforced conversation with the person responsible…I didn’t want to, but after I did, I was glad, because I realised that it was the silence that was keeping me out of whack.

 

I’m becoming very big on releasing things and letting them go. So yeah, I’ve released the person.

 

What else is in my head…well, I’ve got 2 trips planned for this year…3 actually. I’m excited, I love to travel…and it’s the kind of trip I like…exploring…just going…looking forward to going on and writing about them…

 

I’m sitting on my room floor and I keep catching a whiff of what smells like cough syrup…which makes no sense as I haven’t had a cough in a while. It’s very distracting.

 

Anyway…I’m looking forward to this weekend. I intend to be very self centred about it and take care of me…I will be totally lazy and indulge my spirit by doing only the things I wish to do…as I wish to do them. I might probably end up seeming rude but the people who know and love me will not mind and I can’t really be bothered about anyone else.

 

You know, I had a lot more in my head when I started typing, was just going to go on till I was empty…except it’s all gone now, maybe all I needed was to begin the process.

 

I’m thinking of my friend in Maiduguri who I haven’t heard from since the beginning of the week. I’m hoping she’s fine and sending out a prayer that God protects her and everyone else in the SOE states.

 

I’m thinking of all my writing projects and excited because I will catch up on them this week.

 

I’m thinking about not being afraid of some of the pictures God is putting in my head. He shows me something planned for my future and I used to freak out and shut down because it was too big to comprehend. But little by little my mind is adjusting to possibility and I am gradually becoming more excited than nervous about it all.

 

I’m thinking that I don’t like weaves…I don’t like not having access to my scalp. It feels like there’s a mat glued to my head.

 

I’m thinking that freedom is a place inside you. It’s an understanding you carry with you. Irrespective of what your circumstances say.

 

I’m thinking about my little sister and sending a prayer out for her for a wonderful holiday.

 

I’m wondering whether this is why I used to freak out about the future, because once I get on that track, this is it. The things God has shown me astound me in their scope.

 

I’m realising that I am no longer scared…

 

I’m thinking how incredibly patient with me God is, because He is teaching me little by little that nothing can take away my liberty. Not a person, not a circumstance, not a dream or a vision.

 

I’m thinking that I am responsible for my outcomes. That life can throw what it likes at me but I am still ultimately responsible for the direction that I take subsequently. It is still up to me…

 

I’m thinking that I am more than up to it.

 

Someone said to me today about someone else “They’ll never change” And I’m thinking that actually they will, when they see something they want more than they want to stay the same.

 

Ok I have pins and needles in my foot and this cough syrup smell is driving me mad and I think an ant just bit me.

 

I’m thinking that perhaps it is bedtime.

 

I don’t know how I feel about Americanah…am I allowed to say that? Am I allowed to say that I am not immediately bowled over by it or transported by it? I don’t know.

I put it down…several times. I put it aside to read something else or do other things and now, although I have been reading it for the last few hours, I have put it aside again to write about it.

I’m not saying that it is not a well written book, it is extremely well written….but somehow it is different…maybe this is what it is meant to be.

This isn’t a review of the book, I do not have the breadth of experience to review a book by someone far more skilled than myself.

Americanah is odd. It doesn’t attempt to make itself relatable. It seems to wander from one place to another, from one perspective, one emotional and mental place to another, as if when she was writing it, Ms Adichie herself put it down and picked it up over and over again, and as if each time that she picked it up, she was a different person.

It seems to meander, almost to drift, but it does not…it is just taking the scenic route to a place that we might or might not see, depending on where we are when we get to the end.

I suspect that it is not meant to be completely relatable. Some parts I picture immediately, my father was a lecturer in the University and so I can relate to Obinze’s mum, because many of my parent’s friends spoke like her…of journals and conferences. I remember the strikes, first as a child wondering why my father wasn’t at work again, reading the stickers that appeared on the doors “My take home pay can’t take me home” and feeling the slight awkwardness with protesting, as if they didn’t quite remember how…then I became a student, and the strikes meant that I was at home longer than I should have, but not as long as old friends in other universities with more militant lecturers.

I read Ifemelu’s accounts as she arrived and then adapted and then created her own identity and I know that I cannot relate to it because I have only ever lived here and so I have never had to adapt to someone else’s culture or way of life. But I can see the truth in Ifemelu’s answers, her thoughts ring true as well. I just have a little trouble seeing the person she is when she is in America.

The parts about hair tend to grate a bit, but that is mostly because I am getting tired of the whole natural hair/relaxed hair debate. There seems to be a carefully worded campaign for all of us to revert to kinkiness, a message that says “yes I felt it was silly too but then I fell in love with my Africanness the first time I touched my head and felt tight curls instead of silk”. It’s not balanced…it’s very obviously on the side of natural hair and I feel slightly irritated that even here I can’t escape the various advertisements and arguments about the Afro.

Maybe this is what makes Americanah a great book. Perhaps Ms Adichie does not intend us to get lost in the book. Perhaps she means some parts to jar and some parts to make us smile in nostalgia. Perhaps she means some parts to make us think about perspectives that we have experienced but never thought through.

It’s possible it’s just me sha

I find it quite political and somehow I find the book shifting in perspective from a story to a veiled political statement and back and it is in some of these places that I disconnect from the story and put the book down and go off and do something.

Some parts of Obinze’s story sound unreal. Did she mean them to sound that way? Or am I too immersed in Ifemelu to connect fully to this guy who seems to be less substantial as an adult than he was as a youth?

I don’t know what Americanah is. And perhaps that is part of my problem; that I cannot define it. Perhaps it bothers me that it is more complex, more layered and less clearcut than her other work.

I do recognize that this is an incredibly written book, if for no other reason than that I am sitting here at 1.30 in the morning with no light, trying to take it apart in my head to see if I can put it back together in a way that I understand.

Americanah does not engage my heart or my emotions. It engages my mind and I find myself thinking not so much about the characters and their lives and their stories, but about the book itself, about the perspectives and opinions that Ms Adichie has put out. I am not lost in the story, I am standing outside, watching this girl and pondering her impressions, perspectives and motivations.

I find myself thinking about lecturers that no longer write in journals and the wave of hopelessness that drove Nigerians out of the country in droves in the 90s. I compare that in my head to the many leaving now and I find myself asking if the Nigerians who left earlier look at the Nigerians leaving now and are as saddened and surprised by them as we are back here. I find myself contemplating the dynamics of race in a context where I am not automatically correct because after all I am a Nigerian woman in Nigeria. I muse briefly on the thought that perhaps my blog needs to become more specific, more niched (I know that‘s not a word but it says so rightly what I want to say so I ‘m keeping it).

I’m uninterested in Curt, he is a sideline to the story…even Blaine is somehow incidental…I don’t know if he is meant to be.

It annoys me how Ifemelu’s father moves from sounding wise to sounding quaint, I roll my eyes when Ifemelu specifies that she will be using a satin bonnet to cover her hair after she has braided it. There are very many people in the story and it’s a bit hard to keep track of all of them and their various ideologies.

And this might be just because I’ve lost my sense of romance…temporarily misplaced it, but I kinda wished Ifemelu and Obinze didn’t end up together…I mean, how often does it happen like that in real life? I know, it’s fiction, not real life

I’m a bit shocked to realise that I have written 3 pages on this book and that I could write a few more without feeling like I have successfully taken it apart.

Somehow I get the feeling that Ms Adichie has done something quite unprecedented with this book.

I still don’t know how I feel about this book; maybe I’m not meant to feel.