A Penny on Tragic Change

posted in: Free Thoughts, Ink Africa | 1

It is this phenomenon of change that accords the present its value. It is what makes us seek our preservation so that we can have something from today, something familiar, when tomorrow comes. It is uprooting of a version of self to birth another that colors experiences and gives meaning to memories and hope. It is here that the future gains its significance – the ability to take what we currently have and make it into something new and ours too, whether or not it’s positive. It is this nature of ours to cast off deep-seated parts of ourselves, knowingly or not, to take on forms that ultimately mark our procession to another realm that defines what we all call life even though we all own different versions in the most similar way.

I think that in many ways change, especially tragic change, is abrupt. Even when the process seems slow, giving enough time to erase or unlearn some things one backspace tap at a time, the momentum gained is never enough to make relearning easy or healing swift. The weight of “alien-ness” is not something designed to be familiar neither is it permitted to be avoidable. How then have we not mastered the inevitable? How then can we find meaning in this?

It had been a year since I last saw her but I could almost bet she’d look the same – fair scalp clothed with short hair too curly to be Nigerian, skin still glowing from over seventy years of being polished with lemons and a smile still sterling like a crescent moon bringing youth to the old night sky. They had told me over the phone that she – my grandmother – whose mind was sharp as a pin was now experiencing age-associated memory impairment. I had spoken with her a few times to scold her over not taking her drugs but her resolve was always intimidating and I would always cajole and plead instead. So when I walked into her room, I was unsure of what to expect but was certain I would encounter something unexpected. She beamed when she saw me, my siblings and our friends and then rose slowly and reached out for me. I hugged her, making sure to bury myself in her familiar softness. I asked how she was and what had happened all this while and she told me everything except that most of it were unknown to her, resident in her imagination. My sister had already told me how our little cousin and his mum had come to visit her and how afterwards, she announced to everyone that her grandchild had come to show her his wife. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when she told me the same thing and how my father who had come the previous day to plead with her to take her drugs, had come to warn her sternly not to take any of her routine pills until he gave his approval.

Each time she said any of these bizarre things, my sister and I would share a look and silence that said “Old age is taking her away from us”. She had become a colorful tree in autumn, losing a leaf after another the more she said and thought those unreal things. After a while she turned to me and said in Igbo, “Nwadiuto (the name she calls me which means ‘Sweet Child’) went to serve her fatherland (referring to the NYSC program) for many years now and never came back, not even to see me. I smiled at her and said “I am here Mama” and that was when I saw that even she was before now, was not fully aware of how much of herself had been evaporating. She bowed her head and exhaled and was silent for a minute as though she was mourning the loss of her youth – herself. She looked up at me, smiled and patted my shoulder and then went on to tell us how she was no longer herself because she could no longer change into shorts and fight off anyone hassling her grandchildren.

I can see it already; how we all are scrambling for more time with her, making her promises that we hope would be potent enough to extend her time with us, trying to make room within ourselves to house the inevitable and hoping that our love, deeds and prayers are enough to elongate this path of relocation that she treads. We hope like anyone else would, that the more we care, love and live, the easier it would be for us all to transition into the space that we now prepare for her eventual absence. What is striking is that what is a slow march for us is a sudden fall for her – not being able to recognize her grandchild even after 45 minutes of sweet talk, seeing the young ones as adults and ignoring common sense on a whim. So as we seize the gift of time to make room for oncoming change, we must now remember that within her is a raging wind, ripping up elements of her that she once thought permanent and that these free spaces must be filled with positivity and enough of our presence to yield growth. You see, change, especially tragic change is always in some way, abrupt.

Like Anais Nin once said,

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically.

We grow sometimes in one dimension,

And not in another; unevenly.

We grow partially. We are relative.

We are mature in one realm, childish in another.

The past, present and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present.

We are made up of layers, cells and constellations”

It is sometimes in the bosom of anguish and discomfort that we are empowered to make room for ourselves to breathe and thereby grow in some way. Loss has popularized itself as unwanted and people have spent verve and time combating the occurrence of the inevitable. Society evangelizes strength in the face of tragedy and people are led to latch unto broken pieces of themselves, fastening them together with duty, memories and an exaggerated sense of loyalty. Herein lies the danger of a single story; clinging to what is now the past at the expense of allowing yourself room to accept that that absence is here to stay and can be filled with a legacy that will birth a more rewarding narrative. Until we begin to truly see how discomfort and insight from these experiences can spur growth, we would never be able to harness the potential that is embedded in change, no matter the kind. Our strength should show up in letting us feel emotions without consuming them ourselves because as hard as it is to accept, loss in itself doesn’t kill but grief does. It should show up in graceful acceptance of the present and objectively and radically applying resources within our reach to create value for ourselves, others and even the legacy of what we had just been lost. This applies not just to personal lives and relationships but to professional affairs and communal ones too. It is in our interpretations of events and reactions to them that we have the chance to make change – no matter the kind – precious and productive.

Focus: Redefining Perfection

Somehow we’ve been made to believe that since we cannot house perfection beneath our skin or even exude it, images on paper always should. Perhaps a reminder of what we could be with more “effort” and faith. Somewhere in this age, standards have been etched unto  “paper-worthy” narratives and like a plantation of blooming palms, they all pose, leaning on their perfection with hair billowing like palm fronds and jewels signing off their majesty in our minds. Someway, mannequins and humans have managed to look like doppelgangers in everywhere that isn’t reality.

It all seems forgivable until we begin to submit our wellness to the standards of inanimate images who ironically only reflect dreams that people like you think they cannot quite embody. It seems forgivable that all models and sketches are of women with lush pliant eyelashes until women whose kinky hair found their way to their eyes begin to carry shame upon themselves in handfuls. It all seems pardonable until it just isn’t and right now, it isn’t.

Recently, I made a sketch of a lady and believe me when I say it was a decent sketch [I am a decent artist ;)] The only thing was that as a result of the angle at which my head was bent while I drew, her own face came out somewhat angled. I made do with her and went ahead to give her great hair and shape; people in real life have all sorts of heads and facial features and each unique stroke of character that their flesh wears makes it all the more striking. Beauty really doesn’t need permission to thrive and until this resonates as truth in us, we will keep submitting our glory to the unrealized dreams that images on mag covers and canvasses carry, for validation. Tell me you see the tragedy too.

Anyway, as you already expect, a number of people seemed unnecessarily unsettled about something being quite wrong with the appearance of the lady I had drawn. I couldn’t help but think about how, perhaps, the standard really isn’t on paper anymore. These images of unrealistic versions of what human beauty should look like have crystallized in our minds that every other person including even the “models” on paper are now passed through the lens of these socio-culturally imposed reflections in order to earn the definition of being that they ‘deserve’.

With people, perfection thrives with focus – focus on the individual miracles that only you can shed light on. Miracles that can reside anywhere, from bones to heart to mind. There are no limits to where the pieces of perfection you embody can lodge themselves. It’s all you so do not disregard the whole simply because where your glory lies happens to be a blind spot for someone else who needs repositioning.

Sometimes, the ugliness (and I do not refer to just physical beauty) we say we see in ourselves has nothing to do with what we hear others say about us and everything to do with the blueprint we have of self. The problem is that a lot of times, we forget that one of the things love and beauty have in common is that it is not their job to be easy on the eyes. Always remember that the interpretation of anything draws its essence from dimension of focus and that functionality cannot be maximized unless true knowledge is attained. Focus on everything that is right about yourself and watch how your impression of yourself evolves into true self-awareness from which you can explore and optimize the creation of sustainable value exclusive to you.

PICKING BEANS

In traditional Africa, how grounded you are as a woman is measured by a myriad of factors with domestication at the forefront of the pageant. More interesting is it that you do not have the luxury of choosing what chore interests you and therefore what you will and will not do. You are given ‘what you ought to cater to’ which is determined by whatever standards are prevalent in the household and if there is a handful of “Africanness” in your home, be rest assured that you’ll get it done anyway.

I have always thought picking beans to be a hard, cumbersome chore because well, you literally pick the bean seeds one at a time. Millions of bean seeds are poured into a tray jumbled with a crowd of impurities, dirt etc. that render the food unworthy of being eaten in that present state. These beans are then painstakingly picked one after the other – breaking some out of their jackets and transferring whole ones to another container in readiness for cooking. Most young home-grown African girls are pros at this one. It is tedious is you ask me but we all agree it’s way better than chewing on stones while eating. That’s just not a romantic idea.

The universality of adolescence and the turbulence that drives it must be recognized for its beauty – the kind of beauty hinged to emotions and the whirlpool of humanity that continually serves us the hope of becoming. This common story became my experience and it was then that I learned one of the deepest lessons that still holds the reins of my sanity.

My teenage years were fiery with drama especially in my relationship with my mum. We fought a lot things just like you would expect an adolescent girl and her mother to, and being the expressive sanguine that she is, she would erupt with words like a long suppressed volcano and all that red-hot lava would crystallize in my mind as offenses. I would over-analyze these verbal exchanges and wallow in hurt and self-righteousness until I was full. The book that I was, was filled with things that I could not get myself to erase with ease and so I slammed the pages shut – there would be no more of this writing.

This time, I just turned deaf ears. It was easier to shut out all the altercations coupled with whatever were values tucked within them rather than let my emotions rage each time this drama blossomed. However, the downside was that I was thick with experiences and still learned no lessons. This was the tragedy.

This is the tragedy that a lot of us are becoming across diverse facets of life. Life happens to us every day and rather than refine our experiences to yield lessons that we can apply to create value for ourselves and the society, we over-analyze details from a position of self-righteousness or stubborn will to stick to what we know – tradition, a business plan, relationships etc. that we do not necessarily have to abide by.

In my case, this realization dawned on me and I began to seek how to make the best out of these encounters instead of throwing the bath water away with the baby. It was then that I stumbled upon the idea of picking beans. Like with the chore, you had to pick what was good and whole and discard the rest. And so, when anyone threw words at me, I’d simply pick beans.

Amidst the hurt and pulsating emotions dancing wildly like a billowing flag within a sandstorm, I would simply envisage myself sitting with a tray of grains, taking away whole bean seeds – lessons – and discarding hurtful words like chaff. This was healing for me and has remained so. This was for me a medium for guarding my heart and granting myself an escape from gathering offense and fighting the scars they imprinted upon me.

In Gbolahan Fagbure’s book “Working on a Dream”, he raises the question of how much more peaceful our dealings with people across our professional and personal lives if we could consider the excesses of people as we do those of kids. When children cry, are irritable or throw tantrums, we do not go about thinking that they do all that out of spite. Instead we consider the facts that they may be experiencing discomfort, hunger or pain. By exploring this dimension of the situation, we treat them with more concern and arrive at more wholesome outcomes. This too, is a great alternative to the picking beans analogy.

Remember that wear and tear are outcomes of usage. This applies to us as individuals; we burn out as well. Hence, we must set limits to how we utilize ourselves especially when the resources are internally generated and sustained. As an individual, taking everything that comes your way so seriously especially when they can culminate to negative experiences, is a luxury that you should not be able to afford. Not every event that occurs should crystallize into your life experience and this is a function of how you interpret those events and thus, allow them into your reality.

Ever since, I have equated this chore to a metaphor that holds the magic to a world of rest in a world that throws me an unfiltered mix of experiences. The best part of this chore, for me, has always been towards the end when the tray has more chaff and stones than bean seeds such that it becomes difficult to pick the seeds individually. Here music is born as the contents are spread within the tray in a side-to-side movement of the tray that births a kra-kra sound. Then with the nimble hands of a juggler, the beans are thrown up in a motion that sends the contents of the tray into the air and the beans somersaulting backwards onto the tray in a manner that leaves the impurities in front. The whole beans land at the back of the tray in a victorious ‘krainch’ sound, affording you the privilege of blowing the chaff into the air and out of your care.

This acrobatic display of hands, trays, beans and air can be replicated in your life with you holding onto your values and lessons and letting go of negativity in all dimensions of your life experiences. I am sure you’ve already noticed that in this journey into and through adulthood, you are being tossed unexpected pieces of a mix of both hard and soft stuff and here is a recipe to ease the overwhelm. Not everything that comes to you is for your consumption and you must build a system to filter what you let into yourself or else you will most definitely bear the burden of either getting it out or leaving with the consequences of harboring it.

Adulthood and perhaps life itself were not made to break you! However, it is your responsibility not to let yourself get broken.

Bedside Talk with a Lonely Wife

posted in: Ink Africa | 0

Bedside lamps only shine light on my pain

Throw rays on unrustled sheets on rainy nights

On two pairs of legs that never meet

On tears glistening in the wake of the moon

On bodies whose caress can never light a fire

 

Bedside lamps only shine light on my loss

Throw rays on untouched lace on windy days

On two pairs of hands that can never go south

On tongues that sit in their caves nursing loneliness

On parts that never rise to please me

We All Live in Places

posted in: Ink Africa | 0

In the days that birthed today,

Love lived in the simplest of places…

In wrappers that hung loosely around mothers’ waists

In old satchels that housed fathers’ coins

In the grains of Sunday rice and threads of Christmas clothes

In empty bellies of brothers who sacrificed meals

On reddened buttocks of partners in crime

 

In this day birthed by yesterdays,

Love lives in intangible places

In promises escaping lips of lovers

In battles fought to preserve humanity

In heartbeats that race at the mention of a name

In the union of preserved heritage and emerging dreams

On the road that leads to you – spitting image of wonder in the heart of God

The Unconventional Business Skills and Tips Series: THE FERRIS WHEEL THEORY

I never mistook Disneyland for the real world. Nigerian kids who grew up at home seldom do. By the way, home is what we call this country that housed our ancestors and all those within the circumference of the white man’s ill-drawn hexagon called “Nigeria”. Here, we threw lost teeth unto roofs, knowing better than to keep them under pillows waiting for non-existent tooth fairies to swap them for what now? 50 kobo coins – half the price of Banana Bubblegum in my time.

However, realism did not take from me the longing to experience the excitement and exhilaration other kids who had gone may have felt in Disneyland. Imagine my disappointment when my sister and I had been taken to the amusement park in Port Harcourt at the time and I couldn’t reach the pedals of the go-cart because I was too little. It was such a cumbersome ride. A few years down the line, I was excited to explore the rides at Wonderland Park at Abuja. Best believe I made up for this lost piece of my childhood that day. The roller coasters, wheels and water rides were the highlights for me. But even then, I never thought about any of the rides in the manner I’m about to articulate them until I sought an analogy to embody the theme of this post – CONSISTENCY.

 

The harmony of the feelings of excitement, fear, triumph, distrust and wonder that come alive and rage in you when the Ferris wheel spins are a product of how consistently the wheel spins for a period. The reactions – squeaks, laughter, wide-hanging jaws and eyes popping in wonder – are the intended outcomes underlining the essence for which the Ferris wheel was set in motion.

To optimally produce an intended outcome, consistency must be ensured.

If the wheel spun at 45°and hung or went a full 360° and stopped, it would only elicit a ‘’what the hell is this” type of reaction from people because it would not have given them enough of an experience to be satisfied with. In like manner, once you start a process or assignment, you have to put in efforts at such a consistent rate that the intended outcome is maximized. The onus lies on you at the preparatory stage to ensure that certain resources, plans and systems have been laid out. As soon as you confirm that it is a “go’, you are saddled with the responsibility of following through on your commitment.

This was a crucial lesson that I learned the hard way at the end of last year. While taking stock of the year, I realized that I had begun a lot of projects and endeavors here and there without the prerequisite projection and provision of certain resources to follow through. I had to work, write exams for a professional certification, run an online business course, execute writing engagements and a coaching program, run my blog and a budding interview series and work on prospective collaborations. My plate was full. This were going on before having set-up beforehand a workable system that would cater to all these commitments. Talk about a recipe for disaster.

I noticed as the year unfurled, that I was beginning to accumulate unfinished/abandoned projects. The most painful being the online business program and the most embarrassing being four truncated appointments with two prospective interviewees and clients respectively. Unfortunately, I was in a mentally paralyzed state when I realized this and did little or nothing to remedy the situations. It was from all of this that the most crucial lesson that I learned regarding consistency emerged.

Consistency is directly linked with credibility; your degree of consistency in a field is directly proportional to the measure of credibility you will amass in that field.

On realizing this, I simply halted all attempts to get new interviewees or clients until I would be ready to respond with full attention.

Credibility is the life of your business and personal brands and you must strive to enhance these. The more efforts others can see you put in, the more trust they will have in your competence and the more you can build your confidence. These C’s are vita; to the perception of your personal and business brands which are what set you apart from competition and peers.

Consistency fosters specialization. Frustration is born by lack of competence in the endeavors you dream of or indulge in.

The more you work at it, all things being equal, the better you get at it. This is where competence comes in and it is at this point that we relate to quality of product and service, brand positioning, customer retention etc. These are elements that ensure the continuity of your business as well as its positioning in the industry. Of course, these elements are not independently fool-proof but the beauty of consistency is that the continuous friction exposes one to deeper dimensions that call for reinvention and exploration of those aspects.

The year is young and while some may already have dumped some New Year resolutions, it is those that have made well thought-out strategic decisions and made provisions that will enable them to constantly stay committed that will have great outcomes.

Whether it’s two, ten or twenty people on board, the Ferris wheel spins. On a sunny or cloudy day, the Ferris wheel spins. Whether or not it feels right, the Ferris wheel spins. We look forward to getting on the ride because we trust that the Ferris wheel will spin…enough for us to scream and face our fear for heights while looking from above at the earth that carries us on its back. The Ferris wheel is the Ferris wheel because it spins.

Between goals and achievement are discipline and consistency. – Denzel Washington

Will you spin like this too?

 

The Unconventional Business Skills & Tips Series: THE ART OF SEDUCTION

I asked a question on Facebook about people’s take on seduction and what it has to do with business and art. I got really interesting answers, many of which had sexual connotations. The beauty of the space we occupy in existence right now, is that many words and experiences have become richer with meaning and more complex with context. I have conceptualized “seduction” in a manner that I hope might make some meaning to you.

Seduction is an art. One that embodies the mastery of the entirety of your being, not “doing”, and harnesses it to emit an allure that triggers a certain kind of desire from another person or a group of people. So yes, you can master your body and use it to create a visual image that arouses another party’s senses or you can simply employ your voice to convey words and nuances that stir up an intended atmosphere within the other person or group of people. The intention of this article is not to explore seduction as an art in the sexual context, even though that might come in handy; we are talking about adaptation of what one might consider a soft skill to business, art and perhaps, daily living.

While I am still mastering the art, I have been able to rope in the desired reaction from people, at one time or another, simply by accentuating inherent elements that I have honed into a magnetic tools, if I dare call it that.

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of experts on the art of seduction while examining my personal experience harnessing the art, and have come to realize that if 2/3 of the world can master this art beyond the bedroom, we will set off a mind-blowing chain reaction hinged to harnessing strengths, creating desire for these enhanced assets and fulfilling needs and cultivating appreciation. I’m talking global change.

Let’s get down to important knowledge areas in mastering the art of seduction.

1)     Be Intentional

Have an intent. There’s a reason you want to send out all that current and there’s a certain kind of vibe to let out and you do not achieve heightened results by just being. Being is wonderful but here, your doing is what matters. You must be sensitive to responses, nuances, signals and must respond in a way that answers to a need in the other party. I listened to a TED Talk by Seema Anand and she spoke about how Cleopatra (one of the greatest seductresses ever) was able to seduce and keep Julius Caesar. She chose to always be happy when she was with him so that he would always associate thoughts of her with his happiest moments. How powerful is that? This is especially important for long term relationships, be they business and personal. You must decide on what stimulus to incite and harness your intrinsic energy for that purpose.

2)     Blur the Borders of Insecurity

I learned something really powerful from Chen Lizra. The Cubans are one of the most seductive people in the world and this is informed by the fact that they are a communist state. Firstly, Cubans use words to instill self-confidence and an acknowledgement of self-sufficiency in their children from a very long age. So a child bends to wiggle her waist and gets an “Oh Catalina, you’re so beautiful”. What has that got to do with anything you might ask? Everything! Catalina grows to appreciate that she’s beautiful no matter what she finds herself doing. So she could turn out to be a janitor with the strut of a supermodel, constantly giving off an effortless vibe that conveys “I’m beautiful always”. So there you find guy who thinks “she looks great every time her lips are pale” and another who thinks “I’d kill to always see her in red lipstick”.

Secondly, being a communist state, there are no ads from competing businesses trying to convince people that they have to be in a certain way to attain a certain kind of life. Do you now see what sustains the healthy self-esteem? So we’d have individuals who are not as conscious that their hips are slim or that their curl pattern is not right, in response to the unbridled reconstruction of the mind by the media. The aura they exude comes from an inner harmony of their body and mind without limitations based on societal perceptions in a tussle with self-image.

You must accept your seeming flaws as fundamental to the entirety of yourself to create that harmony that you can then channel through your voice or strut or scent or gestures. This underlying current, like tides, carries people into you because in those moments they aspire for something in you and would most likely feel they need what you’re offering. Insecurity blinds people to this dimension of you because you subconsciously emit an energy that traps this essence when you constantly dwell on all that negativity.

Many times, if we truly get this right, we notice that no one notices those flaws we once cared about.

3)     Textures and Forms

One of my favorite recipes is sweet potato porridge garnished with carrots and cucumbers. Here’s the interesting part: I never let the vegetables cook so they stay very crunchy. When my teeth meets a crunch in the midst of all that mash, it feels like the recipe is saying to me “I am all that you expect and so much more”. You must set a spin to your technique and every single time, there’s a different reaction to a different shade of grey. *winks* Seema in one of her talks, spoke about perfumes and scents as a seduction tools and I was intrigued. So the hair would be perfumed with Huss, neck with jasmine, arms with mint, navel with very heady musk, the waist curve with a subtle extract of roses and the back dotted with little dabs of sandal wood. The beauty of being intentional here is that you’d consider the amounts and application techniques. Now tell me, how do you recover from the presence of such a man or woman on a still night where the wind all but takes you on a ride into each scent and its own spectacular journey?

You must master your channel in a way that you can arrest people senses by appealing to different pressure points. Maybe it’s the element of surprise, or plugging in a much missed piece of anything or just tantalizing with an array of options that can drive the mind crazy with want and expectation. This is where your skill and your ability to apply it to diverse business contexts come in. This can be portrayed through capabilities, products, mode of delivery etc.

4)     Effective Seduction

I find this interesting because this is the part that brings about retention and trust. If I were walking by a stranger and wanted a fleeting connection then perhaps, ensuring that the desire I drew out of him is optimally satisfied may not be on the top of my list. But for you, who wants to keep clients, friends, lovers, that may be vital. Is it enough to rouse all that want and pull in people, what do you satiate them with? It is the knowledge of this that allows people reserve a mental space for you; associate certain emotions and reactions with you and establish loyalty.

This is my theory. After a while, I would begin to resist if a person would often seduce me, awaken a need and leave me hanging.

Quick question. What exactly were you pulling the person towards? What did you intend to give or sell or share that necessitated your actions and inactions? I hope this makes sense to you. I love the melody in the way your voice soars on the wind to me but what words do they carry? What is the essence of the content of your speech? Is it a question to necessitate an honest response to an issue or poetry to heal me from hurt? What do people get from you when they let themselves be drawn to you?

5)     Confidence

This is one thing every great seducer has in common. The shy will most likely aspire for this or be intrigued, the brave will most likely be impressed, the feisty perhaps challenged but in all, you will get their attention. This is raw material you need to work with. It is then your prerogative to build this attention into what you deem fit, in line with your mission. I must say that competence births confidence. It’s easy to ooze confidence when you are sure of what you are doing or who you are as it fits into the scheme of things. So look like it, talk like it, gesture like it and shine like it.

This is probably the best time to add that subtlety intertwined with confidence is almost always irresistible, and wits and humor almost never leave you embarrassed, if you know just how to make them work fluidly.

Making the best out of life in general is to a large extent, dependent upon how well you position yourself to take advantage of opportunities. You may not go from bland to a human magnet in a day but you can adjust your mannerisms, lifestyle, expectations and unlearn the habits that do not let you manifest your essence in its entirety. Systems are built to serve businesses but people themselves are the spirit and soul of business. You must master the art of living without doing it from the background of your own life.

I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on this topic.

The Unconventional Business Skills &Tips Series: NEVER EAT ALONE

So I once spent a Friday night with a lot of incredibly smart, young people. The kind who know simple unlikely stuff like people like David O’Groats and that Sat Nav rhymes with Dat Rav. Look at that! It was a book club event and I had always romanticized the thought of belonging to one. Here was an amazing platform to connect with equally great professionals and build a sustainable nest of knowledge and experiences all stemming from the proceeds of great minds from all over the world encapsulated in print. Let’s not talk about the intellectual arrogance that fine young men who get my attention reek of. I thought I was going to feel like the new guy; that bit of awkwardness that gnaws at your stomach until names start begin to sink in and jokes draw laughter from you. It wasn’t quite so… I walked into the beautiful home of the host, one that reminded me of mine that I haven’t visited in almost a year, and I didn’t feel new. I just searched the faces of people already sitting and call this cheesy, but I felt like I was looking at what would be tomorrow a gallery of faces whose achievements would line the halls of global business and heck, general life. This, in that moment, had nothing to do with whether they were people of character or whether they were already on the right paths. It was simply that naturally, great leadership always sprung from a hunger to learn and the drive to probe knowledge, and this was just that right there.

Things kicked off nicely with an icebreaker and people were quick to get into the heat of the diverse energy in the room. Then we went into the discussion of what I’d call a powerful book titled “Start Up Nation”. At a phase, we had to be divided into groups where we had a pre-determined aspect of the book to discuss as well as questions. We dug deep and hit the surface again with a wealth of insights. I felt free enough at this time that I gave the presentation to the club on behalf of my group. We went through all groups, raised debates and dissected ideas and then it was time for finger foods and drinks. So everyone got talking and mingling was in full swing. For some reason, I simply picked up a paper plate, got some small chops and settled on a sofa to eat and read a book. I know… I looked at myself like that too. Like what the heck are you doing? Who sits down to read a book at a book club event when other ardent readers with a whirlpool of diverse experiences and a willingness to share that, were all over the place putting stamps on things that could be the beginning of amazing friendships, business relations and who knows? Marriages? Ironically, the new book I started reading was titled “Never Eat Alone”.

This is where my message begins. The author attempted and I’d say succeeded at underlining the essence of building and sustaining relationships in business and career. Beyond all the business and finance terminologies and models, people really just want to do business with people they know and trust with whom they share mutual interest in an agenda. This pretty much sums up why the rich get richer. It is the network of these individuals being fueled by favors and interest in the well being of each other that has generally speaking, been the bane of dynasties that have come to redefine diverse spheres of business. The extent of grounds that you explore as an entity lies in the degree of collaboration that you allow to thrive.

Many individuals have not caught this revelation and are swirling in the illusory brilliance of narcissism; something that should oscillate between selfies and vlogs. In a dispensation hinged to an intricate yet global system of opportunities and agendas, you cannot over-estimate the power of relationships in propelling your schemes to fruition, no matter the dimension and scale you have in mind. Little wonder the power of mentor-ship and peer organizations are not taken for granted by those who have seen the light. Isn’t it amazing how people have broken through socioeconomic boundaries to limitless heights through a phone call made on behalf of them or by having the audacity to make small talk and share their passion over a cup of coffee? Many times, the tipping point we seek lies in basic principles such as this, laced with little mysteries that most often yield the same kind of explosive results each time they are applied.

For a lot of people, the art of building these relationships is a chore that they’d rather avoid and they have created a basket of supposed valid reasons to justify. I believe that just like any other skill, this can be honed. It is also noteworthy that I am not referring to pretentious business ties that people make just to move a personal or corporate agenda forward or offering help and then going around thinking “He now owes me one”. The natural reaction for genuine help received is a provision for reciprocation so you really do not need to keep score. To get this ball rolling, there may be a lot personal issues and mindset blocks you may have to sort out but you can start with keeping an open mind about individuals, becoming a better listener and showing genuine interest or at least curiosity in the affairs of other people. The art of small talk can be improved upon and sustaining people’s attention usually stems from your ability to wield wits and relate-able experiences. On most occasions, you do not hit it off with people because they’ve ticked more boxes off the experience checklist than you have. It is more likely that you both had a similar experience or that they have experienced something you aspire to or are interested in exploring. There are various combinations that can hold water. You can have a lot more to offer by being well-read and/or well-traveled. When you expand the boundaries of your involvement with diverse aspects of life, you increase the possibilities of what you have to offer as well as what you can obtain. The easiest way to stop being a bore is to learn more about anything and share your experience, of course without being over-bearing.

So that I don’t start to ramble, I’ll summarize by emphasizing that Africa is stepping into an era of entrepreneurial revolution and this is the time to position yourself as an individual or business entity. While there is a measure of instability on ground, a sure movement towards another dispensation is happening. Your ability to thrive as an individual, family and business will go beyond academic and professional qualifications; it will be fueled to a reasonable degree by the alignment of your agendas with those of others and how you can collaborate to build sustainable time-wise investments and relationships. I think that “Never Eat Alone” is a great book that delves into the deep as too how to take full advantage of yourself and the relationships you can build to make life worthwhile. Needless to say, from now on, I do not intend to sit around eating with a book in hand when I could be weaving draperies of value and goodwill by reaching out to others.

HOSTEL (Ep. 2) – WENE

Love adapts

To skin color and bones

To stories and dreams

To forms and textures

To the different hues humanity houses

Love’s job is not to be easy on your eyes

She made understanding biology easy. Looking at her made it easy to see how bones and lean muscles melded in an embrace to become who we are. She looked like an unadulterated reflection of strength if she was human. The most stunning thing about her was that you could see love clinging to her in a way that did not quite fit. Love was love – soft on the edges and flowery in the way it wore its textures – but Wene was angled, toned and brisk, and so in all, she wasn’t easy on the eye. But she also knew that it wasn’t her job to look easy on the eye.

She had lost her mother some years ago and although it might have nothing to do with this, it seemed as though she had found a way to mother herself – to be strong, warm, stern and protective – for herself and by herself. But she also had too much of this that she doled out the overflow with reckless abandon. I cannot remember how we became friends but we did. What we had was nothing like I imagined – she was intense in a way that was unnerving. Our conversations would flow deep into the night and I would wake the next morning being offered breakfast. She would wonder why I made acquaintances with certain kinds of people. She would be at my door on Saturday mornings to pick me up for a game. She would just be there always…in ways that never quite fit your expectations.

It was easy to see how I could be loved by a man this way – with maturity that came with age and experience, with strong hands, with toned muscled body, with care, with time and security. So when I sensed these from a woman like me on a platonic level, it was disorienting. I had heard of same sex advances and although she never implied that, absorbing all that she embodied was an uneasy task. She gave in a way that made receiving seem like a harder task than I could handle. Wene gave and gave and then, I could no longer receive for the sake of how unusual this love seemed.

She never stopped loving or teaching or caring. I watched her be and flourish in her being. Through the years, people were drawn to her but did not rub off on her. She wore her muscled body the same and most of all, her heart the same. She still hugged me and asked how I was and talked about the present and future as though she was an open door, always ready for whenever you walked in.

The tragedy however was that just like me, people walk away from love, hope and all things divine because we somehow have believed that they must come to us treading the path that we ourselves have created. I failed to see how her love needed a companion or how maybe she may have been tired of being so strong. Maybe I was meant to love her like a mother even though wearing that kind of love may not have created an uneasy image to those watching me. So you see, when love wraps itself around anything, we must let it be because what we truly want is the truth even when it burns the tip of our tongues. Honey! In loving and being loved, we must know that love comes bearing the form of the soul that brings it and not the pictures we have painted to please our eyes.

Tales from Heartstrings

posted in: Ink Africa | 0

ROSE:

I always wake up to a wet sweet tingling on my cheek,

Right where your lips touch before they move to my neck.

My tongue never gets used to your flavor as it bears the drugging effect of wine, chocolates and pure love.

We’ve been married just a year and I still look forward to marrying you the very next day, and saying I do all over again when you hug me from behind.

I often wonder if this would be till the end of time.

 

LILY:

I have loved you for a decade or so, borne your name for half the time and will want you forever.

I took vows by the sea with waters, earth and sky echoing them in unison.

Bed sheets can bear witness of the passion we share and the lights of how often we abandon them so that I can find you with hands and not eyes.

But outside your arms I know no solace for I am yet to bear the name mother;

I often wonder whether you’ll start to mind that too.

 

DAISY:

At first your touch was mild and then they turned to jabs that later turned my skin purple after a day or two.

At first I never wanted you to stop speaking for your words were laced with roses and I glowed as each syllable passed through me.

Now I’m running out of heart for each word from you destroys one more inch of it and makes me less woman.

Three missed periods have ended with scarlet fluid running down my legs and more life ebbing away from me.

I often wonder how long it takes you finally destroy a woman.

 

IRIS:

You have renamed me, re-molded me and made me yours in a way that can never be undone.

The purity of every interaction with you saved me from myself and every hugged pulled more of me out from the clutches of a stained past.

The children are beautiful but I wouldn’t want any without you and I can only love me and them because you constantly show me how.

All this time have taught me that some things- special things like what we’ve built- can defy the Constance of change.

I often wonder how little a woman I’d be if you hadn’t come along.

 

JASMINE:

I have watched you love me in more ways than one; with words, gifts and care but then, I have watched you love us all in the same way.

I see the lip stains, texts, and receipts, and how you steal quick kisses from them when you think I’m not looking.

I have gotten threats from unnamed women who want more of you and forget that you are solely mine or at least, were meant to be.

But I have loved you more, kissed you more, prayed for you more and given to more of myself.

I often wonder what I’m missing and how every other women manages to have enough of it to give you.

 

VIOLET:

I buckle at the knees each time I hear the sound of your voice or even the horn of your car; my body lives in the constant fear of the shame my thighs face by you.

My breasts and neck hurt from where your canines constantly dig in each time the bed lamp goes off.

My nostrils are accustomed to the stench of alcohol from your breath and my face to the eerie feeling of you drooling all over it.

You’ve become a nightmare as constant as the wedding ring I wear.

I often wonder how long it will take to lose you both.

 

IVY:

I have watched your dark hair disappear taking with it all the passion we once had.

Sweet names have gone with age and adventure with the fading memories.

A full house at Christmas and thanksgiving keep me grateful but I often miss little things like your notes and tickles and long nights of sweet nothings in foreign lands.

These days, memories and stories keep me happy and not you.

I often wonder if we’ll ever taste passion ever again before our demise.

 

LEILANI:

I have loved you for half a century and more and you leave me thinking that more can be done.

I have learnt to disregard age because the longing in your eyes each time they find me have never waned.

You have taken with you “all of me” and returned to me “all of us”; something I never thought existed or could be so amazing.

You have become the best of wines getting better with age and more exotic with passing moments.

I often wonder if death will be strong enough to break what we have.

 

Photo credit: ideasvalentinesday

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