These Three Remain

You can’t make people do what you want them to do. You can’t change them. Or even save them. You can’t make them see what you see. Or feel what you feel. Sometimes I wonder what it is all for. Why we need relationships. Why we crave them. Why we fight for them. Why we feel compelled to save and salvage them. Especially when we know there’s nothing left to give. Sometimes I wonder, you know? What makes us want to go through these things. What makes us vulnerable and overly sensitive to the people we love. It’s hard to explain. – R.M Drake

If you haven’t read Drake’s works, you are missing out. The guy is phenomenal and his poems on social media have a way of striking just the right chord for me. This particular one was unusually long but I’ve been struggling with a certain relationship and it’s like Drake read my mind.

Have you ever felt exhausted from loving and caring too much? You know the other person doesn’t give a hoot but you just cannot give up on them? You have done all you can and time and time again you have told yourself you are done, but you find yourself the next day reaching out to them? Because you cannot stop thinking if they are ok, if there’s something more you can do. You know you cannot change them but still, you cling…

Why do we put ourselves through the wringer over and over again? As I thought through my own situation, the following came to mind:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Faith in the context of the Bible is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hope, on the other hand is wanting an outcome that makes your life better in some way. The two are closely related and it is almost always the case that people who have faith, have hope; and people who have hope, have faith. Strictly speaking though, this relates to faith and hope in a higher being; to God. With human beings, I dare say it is foolhardy to have total faith and hope in them. You can tell someone you have faith in them, but really? They leave your presence and go and do the very opposite of what you had agreed. They will stab you in the back, while you sleep.

I will not even consider why we need relationships. Or how imperfect they can get even when we have given our all. But what is a relationship without faith and hope? Human beings are hardwired to hope even in the worst of circumstances. Hope helps us get through a tough present situation by envisioning a better future. That’s how we have made it this far through the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s how we will get through this third wave that is threatening to get us back into lockdown. We are optimists by nature, always looking for the good and expecting things to improve. Pessimism is a learned behavior – due to life’s battering and bruises of disappointments and unmet expectations.

And so it is with the ones we love and care for. Our optimism is heightened as we hope for the other person to love us back. To get the relationship back on track. Even if it is our self-designed track. We do not give up even when all signs say we should throw in the towel. We fight on even after the closing bell has sounded. We hope. For love.

Love, even flawed human love trumps everything else. To love – a choice we make every day. Do I want to love this person and commit to them, or am I going to let this person go? Once I make the decision to love, the work begins. Work that comprises making many other choices. Choices that will often have me giving and giving even when there’s nothing left to give. All for love. Even the smartest of us does foolish things. For love.

These three remain. Faith, Hope and Love. But the greatest of them is love.

Judah and Tamar

“You know what I learnt from this IVF experience?” He says. “Forget everything else man, forget buying a house, or passing an exam or building a new roof in shags, life is biological and it all boils down to continuity.” – Baba Milan

I will come straight out with it and say I am a huge Bikozulu fan. I always look forward to his regular blog posts on Tuesdays and today’s post written in his characteristic style was captivating. The quote above was by the interviewee in the story. Life is biological and it all boils down to continuity. Mmmhhh…

That one sentence took me back to a story I read recently of a woman named Tamar. She was the daughter-in-law of Judah, one of twelve sons of Jacob. I hope you know Jacob was the grandson of Father Abraham. The story is documented in Genesis chapter 38.

This woman suffered a great injustice in the hands of Judah’s family. She was first married to Judah’s first-born son, Er, who did some wicked stuff and God said: “Enough is enough.” He died before he could have heirs, and in keeping with tradition, Tamar was “inherited” by Er’s younger brother, Onan. This is where the story takes a twist – Onan knew about coitus interruptus long before the act was given a fancy name. Due to his own selfish reasons, he didn’t want his dead brother to have any offspring, and he thought he would fool everybody by having his cake and eating it too. Wait a minute – the Duke of Hastings must be from Onan’s lineage! (All ye Bridgerton fans know what I am talking about, don’t you?). Anyway, you can fool others but you cannot fool God. Because of this wicked behavior, God put him to death also.

Judah had three sons. Two are now dead at the hands of the same woman. In my community, such a woman would have been in the league of “atumia a ciero ndune“, which translates to “women of the red thigh”. These femme fatales were to be avoided at all cost unless as a man, you wanted to end up in an early grave. You can therefore sympathise with Judah for wanting to spare his youngest son, Shelah. He thought he would trick Tamar by sending her back to her father’s household to wait for Shelah to grow up.

I need to summarize this story but Tamar knew she had been tricked when Shelah grew up but she was not invited to procreate with him. She deviced her own trick and my oh my! Judah ends up being the father of her twins! I watched The Bold and the Beautiful back in the day and it was scandalous the way Brooke Logan-Forrester moved from one Forrester man to the next. We now know she took lessons with Tamar!

Life is biological and it all boils down to continuity.

Human beings have been able to create many things but life remains elusive. Yet, that is the main purpose for which we live. “Be ye fruitful and multiply“, was the order given by the Creator of all life. One’s offspring remains their greatest heritage; the arrows in the hands of a warrior. They continue shooting off when everything else has fallen silent. The greatest heritage but no one can obtain it by themselves. People will go to great lengths; not even counting the cost involved. Look at Tamar – she could have been killed (burned to death, in fact) if she hadn’t been clever to retain evidence from Judah’s escapades. All for want of an heir to carry on the bloodline!

Baba Milan is right. No achievement compares to procreation. Do you agree?

Niceness

“Nice people with common sense do not make interesting characters. They only make good former spouses.” – Isabel Allende

I am a nice person, I think. I am respectful, hardly ever raise my voice (except with my children – children have a way of testing your patience, you know?) and I am a peace-loving person. I wear a smile a lot of the times (I believe in letting age do its work naturally without aiding it with scowls and frowns!) and only ruffle a few feathers when it’s absolutely unavoidable. I am a nice person (I said that already). So what?

The above quote by Isabel Allende isn’t from anything I read today; rather it’s from her 2007 TedTalk titled Tales of Passion that popped up as my recommended talk for the week. Allende is very engaging and incorporates humor in her speech in a manner that made me think “when I grow up I want to be like her”. But those two lines made me pause and wonder, “What’s wrong with being nice?”

You’ve all heard the clichés: “Nice guys finish last” and its contra “Bad boys get all the girls”. There’s even a book that is sitting pretty on my shelf almost two years on: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel – I just did not like it. The tacky title aside, the few pages I gleaned felt like the advice was one has to fake it to make it. Maybe we should change the corner office rather than change women to fit in. I might be convinced one of these days to finish reading it but for now I am with Robin Sharma on Leading Without a Title.

Where was I going with all these? I remember – “What’s wrong with being nice?” “Why has Mr Nice Guy, in particular, received such a bashing?” Nice people are friendly, pleasant, gentle, compassionate, sensitive, kind, the opposite of a “jerk”, a term used to describe a mean, selfish and uncaring person. Add common sense to the niceness and you have the making of a good, decent human being. A good parent. A good spouse. A good leader. Why would Allende say such people only make good former spouses? Or did I take her joke too far? Maybe I “overthought” the idea, as I am told I am wont to do.

Indulge me for a moment. A person who cannot handle their nice spouse may have deep-rooted problems that need “a-shrinking.” Unresolved past hurts? Trust issues? Feelings of inadequacy, undeserving, low self-esteem? I am no psychologist so let me not dive into uncharted waters. What do you think? What’s wrong with being nice? Google gives me almost 2.3 billion results. Help me narrow it down.

Ultracrepidarianism

𝑇ℎ𝑒 ℎ𝑎𝑏𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑓 𝑔𝑖𝑣𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑜𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑑𝑣𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑛 𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑢𝑡𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑜𝑛𝑒’𝑠 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤𝑙𝑒𝑑𝑔𝑒 𝑜𝑟 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑝𝑒𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒.

Such a beautiful word for such an ugly habit, huh?

𝑈𝑙𝑡𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑝𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑟𝑖𝑎𝑛𝑠 are rarely polite people. They are the know-it-all type. Jumping into conversations they have no business getting into. They are presumptuous and get on your nerves. They are the type of friend who tell your story before you can tell it. They go “𝑏𝑒𝑦𝑜𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠ℎ𝑜𝑒”!

The Bible has a simpler word for such people – fools! Proverbs 18:2 says: “𝐴 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑙 𝑡𝑎𝑘𝑒𝑠 𝑛𝑜 𝑝𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑒 𝑖𝑛 𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔, 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝑜𝑛𝑙𝑦 𝑖𝑛 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑜𝑝𝑖𝑛𝑖𝑜𝑛.”

In this era of social media, there are more ultracrepidarians than I care to count. Fools who comment on every post with hasty, ill-considered words, without the social cues that are borne of wisdom.

Fools who emphasize what is shocking and outrageous over what is true and good and pure. You know them, don’t you?

I hope to remain wise on these streets. Proverbs 14:7 advises: “𝐿𝑒𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑎 𝑓𝑜𝑜𝑙, 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑑𝑜 𝑛𝑜𝑡 𝑚𝑒𝑒𝑡 𝑤𝑜𝑟𝑑𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑘𝑛𝑜𝑤𝑙𝑒𝑑𝑔𝑒.”

The word was 𝑼𝒍𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒑𝒊𝒅𝒂𝒓𝒊𝒂𝒏𝒊𝒔𝒎. No idea how I ended up with these wise sayings. But there you have it – from now on you can call me The Anti-ultracrepidarian!

Playing Catch Up

Catch-Catch. What Miss W wrote in answer to the question: “Name some games that you play at school.” Social Studies mid-term test. I have difficulties understanding these studies so I will not attempt to delve further into that subject. The word catch is what has been in my mind. I must say we did not play catch-catch when growing up, and if we did, we sure didn’t have such fancy names for them. May be nyita-ngunyite did just fine.

I am again guilty of neglecting my baby here and so I am playing catch up today. A lot has been happening with my clan, not forgetting the butterer of my bread who has been relentless in trying to fill up the hole in the bottom line and I have to play my part.

For starters, the idiot box is no more. Gone. Kaput. Just like that. No, they didn’t break into the house. And no, the digital migration war was not a turning point. Nor was Mr G too broke to pay for Dstv, thank God. The idiot box is voluntarily locked up. Out of reach. For everyone, mama here included. Imagine that! It’s been two days and I am still suffering withdrawal symptoms. Everyone in the house is. So I am wondering who we are trying to impress. Ok. It was a consensual agreement. Because the grades were dropping, homework was not getting completed on time. Piano practice was down to no piano practice. Food was not getting eaten when it should be. Talk was down to mono-syllables. In other words, zombies were starting to reign. Something had to give. And the idiot box was the culprit. Or the victim, take your pick. So it’s packed for at least one year then we do a performance appraisal.

One year. We did it again a couple of years back. 2012. Another no-idiot-box year. Until the political temperatures started rising. Mr G and I became tired of playing catch up on what was happening and what was being said in the newspapers. We wanted to hear it straight from the horses’ mouths. Not reported speech, which by the way is always misquoted, or so they tell us. And so during the weekend before the presidential debates in February 2013, the idiot box graced our sitting room again.  And oh boy! What a feeling that was!

It was like a girl meeting her first love after so many years. Years of wishing that she hadn’t been so stupid to play hard to get. Years of wondering what he was up to yet not picking up the phone to call him. Years of wondering on whose bosom he lay at night. When she hears that he has been spotted in town, she gets ready each day in anticipation of running into him. Which does not happen because life isn’t that kind. Instead, she meets him when she is ill prepared or dressed up for that matter. But her heart doesn’t understand that now, does it? It fails her miserably. Making her feet flip flop, turning her knees into jelly, tying her tongue and erasing her memory of all the words she had practiced to say at that very moment. And Mr Idiot Box saves the day. He becomes the hero who rescues the damsel in distress. And the damsel is all too happy to follow his cue (see how the likes of Christian Grey gain control?) Our Mr Idiot Box has been in control ever since as we fought for the remote control trying to play catch up from where we had left a year or so earlier.

I must admit the hiatus period had its benefits. Even Miss M who takes the saying All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl too far…surprised us. Books were read. Exams were passed…with flying colors I must say (by the way, ever seen colors fly? Must remember to look up the origin of this phrase). And nobody died from idiot box fever. Everything was looking up. In hindsight, we should have boxed the thing immediately after the political hullabaloo was over (is it ever over anyway?) and returned to our ‘normal’ life. But hey? You all know how addictive it is. You watch the scandalous Thembeka on etv’s Scandal! (forget Kerry Washington’s Scandal) one day and you just want to know what happened the following day and the next and the next. By the way, that’s the only programme I follow so I don’t even know why I am whining about missing the idiot box. But truth be told, I also secretly enjoy the The Thundermans, Sam & Cat and other such like shows on the Nickelodeon channel. Oh! Except SpongeBob Square Pants and his shenanigans at Bikini Bottom – especially when there’s food on the table. He gives me the creeps! I say secretly, because when I laugh at the casts’ antiques, it is often used against me when later I proclaim tv time out. Like, “Mum, even you know how funny this show is, please let us watch just this once!” Never mind that the episodes are repeated tens of times.

Enough said about Mr Idiot Box. I must stop thinking about him and hope the whining has finally convinced my poor heart that the break up was for the best.

Back to more catch ups. Miss N is playing catch up with mummy dear. This has been her week. Estrogen has taken over her body and it’s been drama after drama. I pity Mr G though. Hope he does not drown in the levels of estrogen in that house!

I must now catch up with the butterer of bread.

Ciao!

Of toilets and latrines

Try googling the difference between toilets and latrines and you will be thoroughly entertained by the answers you get. Here are a few of my favorites:

A toilet is used by civilians, a latrine is used by soldiers…

Toilet is flushable and can transport urine and excreta for further treatment but in latrine that is not possible…

A latrine is a stand up basin to urinate into that dumps into a hole that is the toilet….

Latrine does not flush. It’s just a hole in the ground. A toilet has a seat; like the kind at state parks…

Toilet is the receptacle you deposit your waste into. Latrine is army-speak for the room where the toilet is located…

None, although most people think of a latrine being an outhouse type facility…

Well, all this before you even complicate your thought line with washroom, bathroom, powder room, rest room, lavatory, water closet, crapper, john, ablution, piss pot, stool, throne, etc.

Why does a simple, functional spot have to be so complicated? I am reminded of the day I found out of the existence of a toilet paper museum. Yes. TOILET PAPER MUSEUM. With an Exhibit Hall and Themed Galleries. You don’t believe me? Check this out http://nobodys-perfect.com/vtpm/pages/exhibithall.html.

Anyway, my discovery was marked first with humor (who needs that?), then with surprise (that a simple item could have such a long history!) and more surprise mixed with amusement (the debate of Over or Under. Like really?). In the end, I was grateful for the discovery and I must have stolen at least an hour from the hand that feeds me just scoring through the web. Today however, I am not so sure this knowledge has not just complicated my life. Talk of TMI! When replacing tissue in the toilet at home, nay bathroom, I find myself increasingly concerned whether I place it over or under. I am an Under person and when someone else places it otherwise, I change it. I just hope they do not notice lest people think I suffer from OCD.

Well, the purpose of the post has been lost in the grill mix that is my brain as I write this. It is a Saturday morning and I am in an office out of my home country trying to finalize some work so I can go back home as soon as possible. A colleague is asking some questions that I cannot wrap my head around. Another one comes in just to say hi and start small talk when all I want is to finish the post and get back to work.

Ok. I remember now. My seven year old daughter is the reason I thought up the difference between toilet and latrine. By the way, I miss her and talking to her on phone each day has not been enough. She has 10001 questions and perfectly fits the profile of an investigator ama polisi. So this day I tell her and her sisters that we are going to visit a friend. Her first question:

“Do they have a toilet or latrine?”

The question surprised me. I know she knows about latrines as the “hole in the ground” and her grandmother did the honorable thing of having a toilet installed in her house otherwise the visits were becoming a chore! But my friend lives in the city and therefore I ask whether she has come across a latrine in Nairobi.

“Yes”, she replies. I dig deeper and find out that they have latrines at school. Again, I am surprised. She joined her new school this year and I can swear I have not seen a latrine (at least my understanding of what a latrine is). On probing further, I get it.

As long as a toilet has no seat, it is a latrine, according to this budding academic. Forget that it is flushable, or that it is inside a building. If she must squat to do her business, it is a latrine. And she hates, nay loathes it. Once, on a drive to Naivasha, she had to go. Like now (got that from her favorite cartoon character). Forget that before leaving the house, I gave firm instructions for everyone to relieve their bladders since I didn’t want us stopping on the way. So we stopped by the roadside and walked a few metres from the highway and told her to do it there. She looked at me as though I was an alien. Where? Here? How?

I tried demonstrating. You know the thing you just stand with legs apart and squirt? We did enough of that growing up and I couldn’t understand what was so difficult. So, I told her to squat but the bushes were pricking her backside. But she had to do something so we could get moving. She half-squat, half-stood and the result was urine on her legs, socks and shoes. I guess that was her first experience of what the lack of a ‘toilet’ can do to you. Nowadays, the toilet is the last room she visits when we are going out….even to the mall.

And asking whether places she has not been to before have toilets or latrines. I wonder whether she would choose to stay home in the event they only have a latrine….