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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