BEING HERE

There’s pleasure in being back here…in this place where it rains 7 days out of 7…making sure that everything is both lushly green and sopping wet. There is pleasure in walking around, exploring familiar unfamiliar places and discovering new ones.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve come back home, but it does feel in a sense like I have come to rest. I’m not the girl who left here, and somehow it doesn’t feel like I’m the girl who I was 3 weeks ago.

It’s been a while since I heard these languages spoken, but my ears are beginning to recognize the rhythm and like a forgotten thread, my mind is picking them up and connecting them to words I used to hear and speak. Suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, an Efik word pops out of my mouth almost of its own accord, almost as if the air itself is whispering them into my ear.

My name is no longer exotic or unusual. No one asks where it is from, I don’t have to spell it; instead the people I meet have a sister or cousin whose name is Arit, and they pronounce it, not simply as I have come to, but with the emphasis from the throat that turns it from something slightly exotic to something very cultural.

I recognize the bodies too, because they are my own. In a workshop, I sit across a woman who almost looks like my cousin will in 20 years; beside me is a woman who looks just like one aunt and speaks just like another. I recognize my frame, my hair, my calves; I see them in the bodies that walk past me.

People speak Efik to me, I reply in English and they smile…and continue. I’m standing on the street and hear my name called…name and surname, by someone who probably saw me last 11 years ago. When women I barely know call me baby, or sweetheart, I smile, I do the same, I have the same easy affection, the same love of endearments.

There are no strangers here…well, not many. I may never have met them, but somehow, I know them. I know who they are.

It’s not home, but I fit right in…in the ease of living, the quiet unhurried pace of life. Sitting in a taxi while the driver moves as if he is out on an evening jaunt, I feel myself slow down; I become one with the people chatting and laughing as they stroll on the sidewalk, with the old man sitting on his porch, with the children dashing almost recklessly into the street. I take pictures with my eyes, of 2 teenage girls playing cards, long legs sprawled on either side of their little stool,watched avidly by a little crowd of children. Pictures of the mother busily frying groundnuts on a little stove while her toddler dances contentedly behind her, pictures of men, woman and children…pictures of people living.

The houses are neatly painted, surroundings tended…people live here; they sit on the impossibly green verges and chat as they watch life go by. They sit outside on plastic chairs and eat roasted pork and roasted fish and wash everything down with a cold beer. When they are done they go home and sleep; tomorrow will be another day of the same simple pleasures. They do not ask for more; they do not need more.

The influences are familiar, the accents are familiar, the silence is familiar.

This place is familiar.

There is pleasure in being here, the woman that I am. I walk into my beautiful uncompleted house and my mind comes to life with plans for décor, with visions of the life I will live here. And then I marvel at time, that I am here, at this time, this person, in this place; planning a home for the time that I will be here.

I never bothered about décor before; no real need to paint this or buy that or do this. But here, I know exactly what I need, I haven’t seen it yet but I know it exists because my mind has drawn a picture so clearly that the things I see must exist in this dimension.

I imagine the nights when I will come home, and prepare my dinner, and write, and listen to the world outside my window.

Did this place bring these pictures? Or was their creation sheer serendipity?

I splash in the puddles, my hair is wet but I don’t care. What is wet hair compared to the pleasure of the warm drizzle against my skin?

On Saturday I climbed on a pedestrian bridge and looked at the city laid out below me. It was so beautiful but I couldn’t focus. I thought that I must take a picture but instead all I could think of was how high up I felt, how fast the cars below me seemed to be, how flimsy the bridge felt, how insignificant I felt. So I hurried down, heart pounding, one step after the other, eyes resolutely planted on the ground. And when I got to the ground I looked up at the bridge and laughed at my silliness. I will climb it next week and every week until I can take a picture without fear that a strong breeze will topple me over the shoulder high rail.

There is pleasure in new things – new faces, new experiences, new places, new thoughts.

I feel gratitude so strong that it brings tears to my eyes and turns my face upward. My heart, my mind – they’re full of pictures, of impressions, of feelings, of disbelief. How did I get to be this blessed? This favoured? How did I get this life? How did I win this life that I have lived?

Undeserving

Grateful

Blessed

There is great pleasure in the person that I am, profound gratitude for the opportunity to experience every single thing that I encounter; for the chance to laugh, to be silent, to watch, to not care.

There is pleasure in being; in being here, in being me, in being me here.

 

DAY 26/27 – GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Ok this is where I confess that I am actually slacking. This is becoming a habit. And no be say I no get things to be grateful about o! I’m just letting life and it’s plenty busyness get to me.

So today I was reading through my journals and some of my old letters. Journals are great btw. There are few things as good for establishing growth as reading your thoughts and experiences from a year or 2 past. Every time I read a journal entry, I am just overwhelmed with gratitude for how far God has brought me, because I can see the changes within me so clearly.

Anyway I was reading these letters I once wrote to someone I was madly in love with. We weren’t in the same place and so we communicated by writing long letters to each other. It inspired me today to talk about all the things I am grateful for in love and relationships. Not just romantic relationships but in friendships, work and even family relationships:

1. I am grateful for all the people I have had the privilege to love and be loved by. It is not easy…in fact it is really scary to open your heart to someone, understanding that this relationship has the potential to cause you pain. So I am grateful for each person that looked at me and decided that I was a chance worth taking.

2. I am grateful for the lessons they taught me. Each relationship has taught me something.

  • One day, in an argument, an ex said to me “If you keep complaining that people treat you this particular way, it’s not them, it’s YOU!”. It was said in anger but I tell you it opened my eyes and it showed me that it was MY responsibility to decide how I would like to be treated
  • After an evening sitting with some frenemies – you know them, smiles face to face, sharp daggers soon as you turn, I just decided that I would no longer do this. I made a promise that I would only engage in mutually affirming friendships and I would have nothing to do with people that I knew did not like me. And I haven’t since.
  • Every relationship has cleared a new truth for me – the things that matter to me, those that don’t and why. I understand myself, why I act the way I do, the types of people I should never date and much more.

There are many many more like that. Things that I have picked up along the way  and which have helped me as I have crafted the person that I am becoming.

3. I am grateful for every single period in my life. See, I love being single…maybe too much sef. But you know, there is a blessing in the seasons of aloneness. When you can up and move without worrying. When you can apprise a situation and see exactly how it works for you. Being single has given me the freedom several times to take chances or steps or make decisions as they needed to be made. I enjoy my “me” season to the fullest so that when there is a “we” season, I will have no reason to complain about things that I could’ve done but didn’t.

4. I am also grateful because I have learned to value of my affection. See…many of us treat love like we are being done a favour. yes we should be grateful for our partners and their value in our lives, but that gratitude must be balanced by a healthy appreciation of what we are bringing into the equation. This is not arrogance – I am an awesome partner; I know this. It took me some time and a great many tears to learn this, but having done so, I have gained the ability to enter a relationship knowing that the person I am with is encountering an asset. I am less likely to waste my time with relationships that are not profitable to either of us and I am able to love freely, knowing that my value is not dependent on the person I am with, but on who I am.  I acknowledge expectations but do not trap myself into meeting every single one. It means that rather than accepting everyone that walks into my life, I weigh…I treat every encounter deliberately and everyone that is in my life is there because I have chosen to keep them there.

5. I am grateful and excited about the future. I look forward daily to a value adding, mutually beneficial relationship. I am excited about learning about this special person that God will bring into my life. I look forward to being a blessing and being blessed. I know that it will be beautiful…I will accept nothing less.

6. Loving people has taught me more about loving God. Like I said previously, I grew up with a rule book of how God should be loved. Having thrown away the rulebook, sometimes I am confused. It helps to ask myself “How would my partner/sister/friend like to be treated in this circumstance? When I am trying to get out of praying, I remind myself about how much I love chatting with my boo just before I sleep, and realise that God would probably like that too. When I am grumbling about reading my Bible, I remember the “Good morning baby” messages that ensure I start my day with a smile, how much more a love note from the Lover of my soul? When I don’t feel worthy of His love, I think of just how much it pleases me to lavish love, and then I understand.

7. I am grateful for every heartbreak. Guys…every heartbreak has stretched my heart, made it softer, made it bigger. I love deeply. I love children, I love sunsets, I love rainy days, I love people. Sometimes it feels to me that my heart is just so full of love that I must pour it out. I am learning to love like God and there is no way my heart could be as big as it has become without every heartbreak. I have encountered shades and colours of love…I know that love is not perfect and I accept that it is not meant to be; I understand that its beauty is in its many flaws and in its frailty and so I take as I am given, valuing and affirming myself and those around me in the process.

There’s much more to be grateful for, but my washing machine has just sung its “I’m done” tune and I need to go hang out the clothes. Have an awesome awesome Saturday people! God bless

 

 

DAY 15 – GRATITUDE JOURNAL

I’m home! Home – isn’t that a wonderful word? That place you go to where nothing matters and everything is fine – no matter what is going on outside. I’ve come to appreciate home – not just the physical space of it, but the people in it – my family that lavishes love and acceptance on me and reminds me without words that I am unequivocally and unconditionally loved. So I’m home, in my bed, after a long chat with different members of my family, after laughter and gist and hugs, and even though I have only been away for a weekend, I feel as welcomed as if I had been gone for months.  I’m grateful for my family.

 

I’m also grateful for the opportunity to travel. I have restless feet and God blesses me every so often with the opportunity to get on a plane and go somewhere. Not so much that I stop appreciating it, but not so rarely that I become frustrated and indifferent. I love airports and luggage carousels and coming down from plane steps. I love the route out with my knapsack on my back and my faithful olive-green and brown suitcase that has followed me everywhere for the last few years. I love reading in planes and watching the mad scramble for the aisle as soon as the plane comes to a stop. I love to watch the ground gradually appear or disappear and note the features of the ground below me depending on where I am. I love the moment when the plane takes off and when the wheels re-establish contact with the ground. I love those silent moments when I’m in the clouds and it feels like I am passing through a cocoon of whiteness and I am sure that if I keep my eyes resolutely focused outside I might catch a glimpse of my Abba. I love to travel, and I am grateful for my trip.

 

I enjoyed Calabar – the lushness and the greenness of it. I drove past one place and there were people sitting on the grass, doing nothing more than watching life go by. I loved watching the vendors with their outdoor barbecue grill thingies roasting all sorts of meats. I enjoyed the monuments and how they depict culture. I longed to be able to read Nsibidi…perhaps I will still learn. It was hard to deal with the drizzle at first, but I remembered how easy it is to walk through the fine mist and feel like someone is gently dehumidifying the world around you. It was a lovely whirlwind visit and although there are many people upset because I didn’t get to see them, I hope to do so soon.

English: Calabar.

English: Calabar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

I have just finished a lovely cup of my loose leaf tea; it’s a mixture of Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and some others I can’t remember…I love tea. I feel deeply and completely content with the beauty and wonder of life. I hope you all had a good day too. Have a blessed night; see you tomorrow

 

DAY 9 – GRATITUDE JOURNAL

I didn’t feel grateful this morning; I felt angry and disoriented and unhappy and…well, you get my drift.

Today was one of those days where you just want to stay in bed and sleep…

After some hours in the office, I needed to pop out to run some errands, and there was some seriously crazy traffic on the road. But instead of spoiling my mood, the combination of blaring horns and suffocating heat and (probably petrol fumes), got me to a very Zen place. Somewhere on the road to Wuse Market, I realised that I was at peace again, happy and centred again. By the time I got back to the office, I was a little light headed from dehydration, but I was good. So today, I am grateful for maddening, infuriating traffic.

Despite that sha, I have never been so grateful to have a day end as I was today. I was sleepy, tired and just needed to be somewhere else. So, I am grateful for the work day that ended just as I needed it to.

Third, hmmm…what do I pick? Is it the staff members who thoughtfully and kindly brought me snacks and drinks from a birthday party in their class, or the way the Holy Spirit came to my aid to ensure that I still got an incredible amount of work done? I could talk about today’s service in church, my Pastor was on fire today, she spoke, preached, prayed and declared…I literally felt things shift. Or maybe I should talk about the joy I felt when I was standing with my siblings at the door to my room, chatting and laughing, no quarrels or squabbles, no power play, just love and enjoyment of one another’s’ company. I’m grateful for all of them…can’t choose.

I could say this 5 million times and it wouldn’t be enough…God has been good to me, my loving Father has been good to me.

Goodnight guys