June 26, 2015

Weddings and other occassions for offense

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Very recently I was dragged into a conversation around a certain Pastor whose child was getting married. The bone of contention seemed to be the unwillingness of the Pastor to invite the everyone in church to the wedding reception. I was aware I was entering slippery ground because the tone of the person speaking suggested she had not only concluded that this Pastor was in the wrong but was also peddling that gospel. Since I didn't want to be a convert to any train of thought that would lead me in the error of holding something against someone who in reality owed me nothing, I put myself on alert as she spoke. I told myself  I wasn't going to get offended after all I wasn't directly related to this family, I wasn't putting a kobo of my money into their hands to help with all the bills and having been there before I guessed they were probably thinking of the cost of catering for a whole congregation minus their own host of family and friends. This turned out to be true necessitating my friend's change of heart and making me feel proud I did not take the bait.

Weddings are bobby trapped with lots of occasions for offense. The number of people involved, the differences in taste and personality and the amount of decisions to be made are the perfect recipe for disaster and couples barely go unscathed. But I am not as concerned about the clashes between family members or the gauntlet a couple is passed through by their well meaning church counsellors or village elders as all these come with the territory and have come to be seen as a necessary rite of passage that separates the men from the boys. Rather my concern is about the little squabbles and petty quarrels that can well be overlooked but sadly turn into major drama distressing the couple more than necessary.

Having gone through that baptism of fire myself I have gained more sympathy for intending couples and have found out that 9 out of 10 times the anger targeted at the wedding party is misplaced. So friends and family, the next time wedding bells ring around you, get out your shock absorber and decide that this is an occasion for celebration not one for offense and no matter which of these things happen, you will not be offended:

You didn't get an invite to the traditional wedding?

I didn't know it before but I have discovered that a wedding is a private and personal thing. Somewhere between attending other people's weddings and eating their rice and chicken  and people attending my wedding and eating my rice and chicken, I have learned that a wedding is between two people and they are the only ones that know what they are passing through the whole time.

Somewhere between those two and their families are histories and experiences that friends and well wishers know nothing about. The tears in a grandmother's eye, the shudder of a mother's shoulder, the crazed dance of a parent, the solemnity of a sibling, the big fight with no apparent cause, the insistence on a rite, the strangeness in the usual- all mysteries that turn you from a friend to an outsider. So you didn't get invited? Maybe it was family only for reasons better not known to you. It's not the time to get angry about not being included, it's the time to support your friends where they think they need you the most.

Didn't get a personal call or visit informing you about the wedding?

I had barely confirmed the agreed dates of my wedding or gotten used to the idea myself before I started receiving calls from "aggrieved" quarters about not being informed of my wedding dates. The tone of entitlement in some voices left me irritated as I considered how much of their concern was merely about being current with the newsfeed of my life as opposed to being genuinely interested in my wellbeing through those events. I was grateful to the very matured few who told me they had heard from xyz but understood that with all the preparations I was probably overwhelmed and would take a while to reach everyone with the news.

News spreads faster than legs or call credit can carry them and most of the time you aren't being overlooked. The couple will not be able to tell everyone or visit everyone, don't take it personal. If you heard, call the couple and congratulate them. Don't just ask them to let you know where you can help, tell them you have a car, driver or house they can use or put your 5 or 10k into their bank account. While you are busy deciding not to attend because you were not important enough to have been told personally but had to see the wedding in a church bulletin someone else who heard the night before is deciding that the occasion is too important to them to take that aspect personally. It might not be what you think at all.

Didn't get aso ebi?

Because I wanted cord lace for my friends I knew my aso ebi was not going to be the typical N3,500. I knew it would be expensive and so I had made up my mind that not only would I take the hint at the slightest show of hesitation when I approached anyone with aso ebi, I would not be offended in the least bit if they refused be they childhood friend or someone whose aso ebi I had purchased before. Furthermore, I didn't want the hassle of buying bales and bales of cloth or chasing people for payments so I reduced my headache to a few pieces and made my peace with that. It had nothing to do with which friend would get or not so I was totally perplexed when I was accused of selecting those I offered my aso ebi to and what was more amusing was that those who claimed not to be included waited till the week of the wedding when nothing could be done to complain!

I know this aso ebi issue can really get out of hand and stir the hornet's nest but seriously, we can chill all the way down and not let it be a reason to get offended at the bride at a time when we should be giggling with her.

Didn't get the contract to provide a service at your friend's wedding?

Maybe she wanted something different, something she saw and fell in love with right away. You can't help such things, those whims that come with your special day. It wasn't done to hurt you specifically, let it go. Some people also avoid using friends or family for business for obvious reasons and remember the wedding is about two families. The other side might have come with their caterer or decorator or the bride might have had to  make a compromise to please someone so look the other way, let it slide and enjoy really being at the event.

There will also be plenty occasions for the couple to get upset- unfiltered comments, competitive relatives, church rules, unexplained expectations, vendors from hell, gossip mongers, difficult in-laws and so on. It's all part of the territory and some things you have no control over but you can decide it won't offend you if:

A close relative/friend can't make the wedding?

Between dodging the man- made obstacles and fielding the difficult terrain of wedding preparation, it occurred to me that the least of my worries was who graced the occasion with their presence. Our resolve was being tested enough by the pressure from the stress and strain on the narrow road to matrimony. I made up my mind that whomever God wanted to be there would be there and agreed with myself that it wasn't meant to be if someone found themselves unavoidable absent. That settled it for me so I wasn't surprised or disappointed when I didn't see someone or they called to apologise. The decision not to be riled up by anyone's absence had taken care of that for me.

Your best lady or someone you need isn't as supportive as you would like?

Issokay. Why are you looking up to the hills when your help comes from the maker of heaven and earth who can move anyone in heaven or earth to show you support and encouragement? Next! Find someone else near you who will share your excitement or feel your pain. Let her keep her bridesmaid title, you keep your sanity.

Something didn't turn out the way you expected it to?

Don't expect everything to go perfectly and when they don't just focus on the things that do go well. It doesn't have to pain you like that like that. Hopefully with good planning more things went well than out of hand, so count your blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise what the Lord has done.

Loved ones the next time you catch yourself flirting with a growing suspicion that something the bride or groom did was to offend you personally, please rise above it and remember you do not have to take the bait- you can remain unoffended. Bride and groom there will be a lot to irritate you, some things will get the best of you but if you have already decided that you will not be dragged by anger, harassed by strife or mangled by conflict then catch it before it latches unto you by refusing to take offense. Back to sender!!!

So head over to the comments section and leave your comment. The best comment wins a copy of "The Power of a praying wife" by Stormie Omartian! Best book on learning to see behind your spouse's quirks and deal with rising emotions in prayer first before "responding" in love not reacting in anger.

June 20, 2015

Loving you long distance

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you left with this uncomfortable feeling of confusion as to what transpired there that would leave you feeling a tad angry, sad or just put off? Yes you laughed and hugged good bye, you even enjoyed bits of the conversation and might even have benefitted from being around this friend but somewhere in between something was done or said that cast an unpleasant cloud over the whole visit.

Before now I would never have thought of or given myself permission to purposely put distance between myself and someone I considered a friend and was only capable of this when I realised I absolutely had to rescue myself out of the negative impact of the words and actions of a friend who wasn't relating with me in a healthy, nurturing way.

I once had a very confusing friendship with a person who would appear to encourage my efforts and give me advice but it all seemed contrived. It would come as critique from an expert to a protégé, it sometimes was unwarranted, it overlooked reasons to praise or commend, and it was always in comparism to what this person was doing. Additionally, there always seemed to be a need to inform me of every detail that suggested this person's progress in the area I was also trying to build a niche in and this information wasn't limited to places gone or tasks done, I was duly informed when connections I had, had also become this person's as well.

There was a sense of entitlement which expected many things I couldn't expect in return and any refusal on my part to do something for this person was met with wounded feelings and harsh accusations that usually went something like- and I thought we were friends- it was all very one-sided.

At first all I did was talk. What the said friend said to me, what the said friend was doing and what I thought of what the said friend was saying or doing. Then my confidant of choice would add two cents usually to justify my analysis- yes I noticed this and that too- or sympathize with how I felt and suggest a way to handle it. I had taken the bait and it didn't take much to get me really fired up talking on this subject, I was consumed by the emotions I felt and didn't even know just how fixated I was getting on this issue.

But it was just talk. I felt too guilty to make any move. I thought of the length of friendship and the impact my actions would have on the wider web of relationships this friendship was a part of. So I did nothing until I was sure of what low risk, high impact strategy I could use. Finally after long suffering (lol), I decided to stop listening, to stop focusing, to stop reading and to stop being part of the audience this person had.

I stopped reading update messages this person regularly sent but deleted them as soon as they flooded my phone. I identified that the preferred mode of communication with me was messaging so I discouraged this by keeping messages unread as long as I could ignore them and long after the mood this person had to converse had expired.

At first it was hard to ignore someone whose words I had let have my attention before but gradually each ignored message gave me the balls to delete the next until I gathered enough courage to block off the contact from my messaging service.
At this point this person desperately did all to regain my ears, including arm twisting me into going back to the way things were before. And for the first time I was totally convinced this person knew exactly what they had been doing all along and stuck to my guns.

Eventually I noticed I stopped talking about this person. The little I knew of this person, the little I suspected of what they were trying to do, the less I thought of them. Finally there was peace as I limited their reach to me. And when it was absolutely necessary, I controlled if there was any need to get in touch and made sure it wasn't an avenue to be exploited or belittled.

I share this to say that as difficult as the task of pruning the dead branches in our network is, it's our responsibility to do so to keep a healthy tree. Some relationships will test our patience and we will have to decide which to endure and which to let go of. The friend who rubs you off the wrong way. The relative who leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. The colleague who turns you into a friend so they can undermine you as a boss. The peer who makes you look bad to look good. The person who justifies their progress only in comparism to yours. People who minimize to equalize.

They are perfect candidates to love long distance.

June 18, 2015

That Neccessary Unrest!

I'm having it again!

That itch.

That feeling that until X is done I will not be able to give myself rest.

I know it won't go away- that necessary unrest that will drive me until I just do it.

I know it will only get worse the more I seat on my bum not being about it.

I've felt it several times before.

There was that time when I wanted to start a monthly event of some sort.

It started as a desire, then crystallized into a thought as I found out what it would be about. Then it began to itch just a little and as time passed with me doing nothing it worsened. Each time I saw a broadcast about some monthly event it itched and itched and itched until I had to do something to scratch back ... that was the beginning of iBlog.

I'm having it again!

That itch.


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