January 13, 2017

Who is the adult in the relationship?

 
When simple tasks like brushing my teeth or styling my hair became a battle of wills where I always lost to my guilty feelings that I was being a bad mother if I didn't respond to my toddler's often tearless crying, my (adult) husband weighed in on our codependent relationship and set my priorities straight.


As my little one continues to show more independence for instance when she is able to tilt and drink from her own cup or yank my breasts from their pockets to take what's hers lol, I find myself struggling with breaking the codependent habits we both formed during her totally dependent stages.

Then, I had to go everywhere with her including to relieve myself because she clung to me to the extent that I had to lift her onto my knees and use the toilet at the same time.

Till now, we haven't succeeded in getting her to sleep in her crib and so co- sleep but even that is not enough for my gugu. She still has to sleep skin to skin and no matter how many times I place her back on the sheets, she snuggles and wriggles until she finds my body heat. Now that she is stronger, she can jerk her body backwards when I try to adjust her, wringing herself from my hands before assertively climbing onto the body part she wants to spread herself over- my head!

My day used to revolve around her and simple things like taking a bath or washing dishes had to be scheduled around when she fell asleep or when her daddy came home from work. Until we discovered that she could be tricked into being happy in her own company if we put on baby rhymes for her to watch. But even that had its time limit.

l was becoming so limited that my sleep was suffering, my masters programme was suffering and I was not regaining the life I had before. All it took was a forlorn look and loud, long crying and my own independence was thrown out the door.

I was complaining during one of our conversations when my husband leveled a question at me. "Who is the adult in the relationship?", he asked, returning the invitation to my pity party.

His own idea of parenting was that I should ask myself who was served by my carrying her everywhere with me. Wasn't it me and my story that until I sacrificed myself, I wasn't loving my child?

His logic was sound.

It was to her benefit that she exercised the independence she was gaining from walking and taking herself places she wanted to go. I could even be subverting her confidence to venture out when I pulled her back because I couldn't be chasing her around to prevent her from going somewhere or disrupting my things lol.

It was to her benefit that she exercised the independence of having teeth and my on and off approach to weaning her off sucking milk because it was the main way I bribed her to sleep, stop crying or eat, was more about me.

It was also to her benefit that she exercised the independence she was displaying as she expressed herself by repeating new words like "bye" and "go" and responding with recognition to used ones by saying "Ka" when she heard the word "Quack" or "Rowwwww" when she heard the line "Row, row, row your boat" or "mmm mmm" for the silent letter "B" and "I" in the rhyme that spelt B.I.N.G.O before retracting one letter each per round. So her tearless crying or fearless tantrum throwing when I repeated "NO" while taking away things she shouldn't play with, didn't warrant any guilty feelings.

And I didn't have to tie myself to her cradle strings. I could wash the dishes while she waited then get to her while my bath waited its turn too.

All in moderation.

One at a time.


January 09, 2017

The book I wasn't to write





On the post on Bellanaija introducing Toke Makinwa's book, #OnBecoming, my attention was drawn to a comment from a person under the name Hmmmmmm, who said she had been Toke once and had written about her bad experience presumably in a marriage and even secured a publishing deal. She said her father then read it and although she didn’t intend to hurt him (maybe she didn’t mind some other person getting hurt), she inadvertently hurt her father by it in some way. He then advised her to let it sit for a year and if she still felt like doing it she could go ahead. She took his advice and a year later the book title and content had changed because she was a different person- healed.

About a year ago, I wrote a story about a harrowing experience I went through. It was so internally harrowing I needed the whole world to hear. I needed something large enough on the outside to make up for what was eating me on the inside. I was so inconsolable one person couldn’t console me; I needed to tell the whole world about it.

It was a “must tell” as in the words of Toke. Like Tiwa Savage's song I also felt “If I start to talk the thing wey I don take my eye see, we no go end”. E no go end because I wouldn’t let it end. If the whole world could really line up, I would go down the line of everyone in the world at least everyone in my world or just people in my life repeating the thing wey my eyes don see.

How ridiculous? They probably are also looking to recruit me into their own line of hired mourners who can pity them for all the things wey them eyes too don see.

But this is what pain is- ridiculous.

As ridiculous as it now sounds to me, I wrote my story for a short story competition. What better way to use the pain if not to get something out of it? My own version of the story would get heard at the same time I would get a cash prize. That money would be used for a good cause. Now that I replay those motives it was almost like I was justifying a bad thing like stealing from a rich man by saying I would give the money back to the poor who deserve it more or cleanse it by tithing a tenth of it to the church.

Several months later, a book got into my hands. It had been written by someone I knew and in it she wrote all about her daddy issues and husband issues. I read the short book in one seating. It was full of anger and questions I couldn’t answer for her. Anger and questions meant to be directed at somebody else. Another case of what we cannot say/confront for whatever reason that rationalizes not saying/confronting it, ending up as sickness in our bodies eating us alive or angry words that will in turn create more anger as people react to them and even more anger as we don’t get the desired response.

I felt the book didn’t add value; there was nothing in it to learn just anger. It was a “How to be angry when your father disappoints your mother as a child and in adulthood when your husband disappoints you” book. Now this anger would be passed to another generation. A wife’s anger at her husband would become a daughter’s anger at her father just as her own anger at her father was in response to what she felt was mistreatment of her mother. Another generation would form another link in the chain of a generational pattern of daddy issues.


I thought about my own story as I read on. As if on cue, an email from the competition’s organizers flashed on my phone screen as I finished reading. It said my story had not been shortlisted. Was it a coincidence that on the same day minutes apart from reading that story, I was getting a message preventing the publication of mine? Even though it was the very thing I thought I wanted and the thing I thought would bring closure, God who knew it was healing I wanted, was kind enough to show me this wasn’t the way to it.

The judges too must have thought it was another how to be angry book. But it didn’t register then. I still believed it was a must tell to end all must tell stories of private pain and public gossip. I still believed it until Toke’s book happened.

Like the other book, I read hers. Again it was there- daddy and hubby; pain and anger. It wasn’t my story but it was my anger, my rant as though written by another person then put in my hands to judge. I was brutally honest about this my book- it was another diary of a mad black woman!

Vicariously through Toke’s work I could see what it would have been if I had done it- medicating pain with book sales and titles, convincing myself I had won. And it suddenly was not enough. What an empty victory it would have been for me.

I knew that now because I was beginning to taste the victory that comes from really healing. I recognized it in the final chapters of Toke’s book where she recognized pain as her teacher to teach her about herself and anger as her real enemy preventing her from learning. If I was a victim, I was only the victim of my making- the Heroine, Martyr and Saint all rolled in one.

Suddenly it was not the must tell. All I wanted to tell the world, my world and people in my life was to rid themselves of this consuming anger that destroys.

And I did in this must tell- here.

It’s a must read.
 

What I learnt reading the dairies of mad black women

 
 
 

December 21, 2016

Unbecoming the Victim



Emotional pain is the worst. I was speaking to a friend the other day and we were reflecting on the abundant examples in our experiences of people who continue to talk about things that happened to them ten, twenty, fifty years ago, ourselves included. The conversation ended on the note that it is good to get over things quickly. It ended there because it was the easier way out of our problem of not getting over things quickly.

In the same way it is easy to say all we have said about Toke’s book, On Becoming, because that’s where it ends. We are done after we have had our say. What is harder for us to do is what she did- she “unbecame”, the documentation of which is the singular redeeming factor of her so called “must tell”. Never mind that the writing was hardly novel, the contents sensationalized and pages too few and dedicated again to too few chapters of her life; in it she unbecame the victim of her story. A version that had justified the anger that while keeping her eyes peeled on what everyone else had done was blinding her from seeing what she herself had become.

The expression “making lemonade out of lemons” pricked my ears as I watched Toke explain the reason for the book on her vlog. It was not the only thing she said, just the one that unsettled me because these days we have canonized revenge by throwing around mantras like “the best revenge is your paper”. Is it?

Isn’t the best revenge that you are not seeking it? That your being somebody deserving of love and (fill in the blank) isn’t in your paper or in any other evidence of success? Are we that egocentric that everything that happens that we don’t like is blown into something that should be avenged and everyone we meet that doesn’t agree with us is reduced to a rival- an enemy of progress?

That’s how we have demonized prayer by turning anyone we cannot control into enemies that “Baba God” will punish. Will he?

Isn’t the reality that no one person or situation is ours to control? Doesn’t it almost seem like all our pain in life is trying to get us to that point? But not only do we give God memos on how to do his job, we dare ask him to be complicit in our self deceit of being in control of him, what he does and who he punishes.

Pain -even the worst- wherever it exists in our lives, is there to help us face a reality we don’t want to see and accept. A reality anger quickly leaps to our rescue to camouflage for self preservation. And while we hold on to the anger, addicted to the crutch it gives us to justify even the unreasonable reasons why we should continue to be angry, it grows unrestrained, feeding on us. Anger is the nemesis of the person who holds it and it is so deceptive, it hides behind who we are- “I am angry” and what we own – “my anger”.

Until we can unbecome and see how we are using those stories we rehash to protect ourselves from reality and until we can uncover what we hide from ourselves when we shift the blame, we will continue to be deceived by the anger that we were seating down jeje and (fill in the blank) happened and if not for (fill in the blank) that caused it, our lives would have been perfect otherwise.

Thank God Toke’s book was a good example of unbecoming this anger that is unbecoming of us or she would have wasted her money cheapening her life’s experience into news headlines for a couple of comments and bundle of notes, trying to convince us that she is fine now that she has one more title – published author- and is laughing her way to the bank.

That is if she is.

December 16, 2016

The State of Naiveté



I was planning a trip and a friend offered to drop me off at the train station but by the time we were ready to leave our houses, hers to pick me up, I had my doubts about meeting the train. So I did the most sensible thing and called her being more experienced than me. "T", I said, "are you sure we won't miss the train? There is another time slot I can take after all I haven't bought the ticket." Being inexperienced with the process, I was worried I would need time to buy one and still find my platform. "We will make it", she assured me, "I am leaving the house now, it won't take me long to get to you." I looked at my infant and the thought of waiting at the train station in the cold for another hour till the next train bothered me. I went downstairs.

True to her word, she had arrived quickly and on spying me, drove up. "T", I asked again, "do you really think we will make the time?" "We most certainly will not", she replied this time. I blinked back in shock at how sure she sounded. The reality of the long wait ahead and the cold dawned on me as I struggled to shake my disappointment. For a brief second I felt my anger. If I hadn't been convinced, I would have waited and then ridden the bus to the station for the next train. Why did she make me set out now if she knew I would miss this one? (She likely hoped I wouldn't  miss it but let's stick with how I felt at the time to get my point).

A day later, I had a light bulb moment where I realized my actions in that experience were a case study of times I have made decisions in the past by depending on other people to decide for me. The transaction brought into focus different times I had doubted my instinct because I trusted someone who I felt knew what was either the best or not the worst for me, to act in my best interests.

In the case above, I ignored my uneasiness and felt that because someone had more experience they knew better.  It then came to me as a surprise that even though she knew what I wanted was to get to the station on time to meet my train, what she wanted was to drop me off but on her own time to still be able to meet up with other commitments.

If I were less naive I would have seen that what I wanted was a ride but not at the cost of missing the train or keeping my baby in the cold or running up and down with heavy bags and a baby trying to get to ticket and platform and train in a hassle. What she wanted was to give me one but not at the cost of missing other commitments if she waited.


The lesson I have been missing that has made me fall victim to more harsh and costly transactions in the past is that underneath what everyone does for you is a motive they need for themselves to be able to do it. What they are giving you is based on their motive and while it may serve you it isn't because of your motive. And sometimes it will not serve you, and you will go back to them and say "this thing we did has caused this problem for me", but if they are the insensitive type, they will say "own your choice, don't blame me for it". Then you will be left to pick up the pieces because the consequences have become your problem, not theirs. And you will blame them for getting you into this tight corner. You may even feel they owe you after all you did what they wanted you to do. 

The shock for you who is experiencing the state of naiveté is that in your honest of hearts, you were truly convinced by them and depended on them to know and do what was best for you but the one who decides is the one whose interests are served




Now my friend isn't a selfish person at all, she was risking missing her commitments and left her babies and husband to help me. In fact you can look at it another way and say I was the compliant one who didn't share my true concerns and speak up about them.

And I have been compliant in those decisions I see in the past where I didn't speak up or if I did, I didn't stand up for my interests. In all of those scenarios including this one, it was me who knew what I needed and it should have been me who I entrusted to decide what was in my best interest rather than place that responsibility on people to do what only I could and should do.
  
When we got to the station, there was a third train leaving in twenty minutes to a different stop but en route mine. I had enough time to get tickets and survey my environment without keeping my baby too long in the cold.  

It all worked out in the end.

In a sense, it always can and it always does.

 

 


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