Archive for the ‘Soul Songs’ Category

On Friendship 

September 1, 2015

Old friends are like old songs. You hit rewind, play, fast forward so many times. You know all the lyrics. You know the base line. You know the pause. The riff.

Good old friends are like that. You know them so well you can imagine what they’d say or do even when they’re not there.

Good friends are the ones that don’t change just because they got married, or a new job, or were elected governor, or won the lottery. You know their lyrics. They’re harmonious and consistent. Sometimes better, fuller, richer but never discordant or jarring.

Sometimes they play off key. Sometimes they lose their joy. Sometimes they lose their voice. Over the years some pruning happens. Some stick. Some fall away. We’re never going to make friends like we used to. Or share those intense bonding experiences of youth.

If you don’t see joy on their face you go away. Unless there is joy between you why bother to stay. Life is too short to be less than the best you can make of it. Mutual joy, unadulterated joy is friendship.

Sometimes friends disagree. Sometimes they don’t talk to each for awhile. Then one day they meet and no one would know they didn’t speak yesterday. Because life happens and you can’t always take it personally.

Can we be friends if we don’t share beliefs and values? Don’t you have friends that believe in God, and Church, and the Illuminati? Friends that believe in Revolution and condone fascism?

Don’t you have stingy friends? And generous friends? Are you generous or stingy? With your time, your emotions, your energy? If all your friends are generous what would that say about you? Narcissists form relationships with only gain in mind.

Friendships are familiarity. And degrees of familiarity. The friends with the greatest familiarity are the ones you call ‘close friends’. The ones you are comfortable being vulnerable with. Friendships are vulnerability. And degrees of vulnerability.

That’s why you distance yourself from the ones that take advantage of you when you are vulnerable. The ones you thought you could trust. Friendship is sticking up for each other and watching each others back. ‘I got you?’ No shaking.’

Friendship is reciprocity. Because without it someone will feel cheated. And growth. Or it becomes a broken record – irritating the hell out of you. Sometimes the record cracks, sometimes it even breaks into a dozen pieces. Sometimes you try to put it together again like a puzzle. Sometimes it’s never quite the same.

Friendship is acceptance. Accepting each of you is perfect just the way you are. Friendship is disappointment too. And degrees of disappointment. Maybe you’ll never speak again. Maybe you won’t even remember what happened.

Joy. And degrees of joy…

Friendship – what is this thing called friendship?

Is it the people that helped you when you were down? The ones that held your hand while you were sick? The ones that listened when you were down? Or the ones that told you to snap out of it? And bite the bullet? Both? All?

The one that held your hand while you were sick was also the one that bit your hand and them tried to chop it off. Alas. It’s so much easier to just listen to your instincts sometimes.

Listen.

Friendship is instinct. Instinctively you will know who you can trust. And how many degrees of trust.

Is your resolve to make things better than you found them? Do you care? Or do you merely think of what you can extract and gain? Do you mutually reinforce a striving for excellence? Do you strive for excellence? Are you scared? Do you share your fears? Are you still posing? And dreams?

Friendship is sincerity. But what do you do with the sincerely ignorant?

You get up early on a Sunday morning to take your friends sister to the airport when her logistic plans fall through and it’s almost a crisis. Did you think about it first? Over the years you lose track of who owes who what.

When friends are down you discreetly slip them a bill or two when you can. You don’t make a song and dance about it. You don’t expect nothing in return. You don’t wait for them to ask. Or even pay back. Degrees of friendship. You can’t help the ones pretending everything’s all right. Degrees of sincerity.

Once upon a time you faced life with an attitude of trust till you realized you have to let people earn your trust. It’s the difference between right and privilege. So you make friends in a different way now. And you use a different criteria to label people friends or not. Some survive and some fall by the way side.

You can chose the type of friend you will be. And you can chose the type of friends you will have.

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Reflecting on Writing, Grave’s Disease, Forgiveness, Self Care & Bible Quotes

April 19, 2012

I had a relapse in Grave’s disease again. I could feel my body reacting to the stress hormones that trigger it. I happened shortly after I wrote the letter to my mother. The emotions hijacked me. They were so strong. I thought I was having a heart attack.

For a minute I forgot why I’ve refocused on my writing and been consistent with my blog. It was first and foremost therapy for my auto-immune disorder. You can’t indulge a full blown neurotic hypochondria living in Nigeria. Healthcare with or without insurance cover is expensive. And unreliable of course. We have no confidence in the system.

But you must have confidence in something. I was playing with Felix, the cat. He depends on me. Totally. I saved him from certain death. I wonder. Who do I depend on? If Felix had depended on himself he would have died. He somehow knew to come to my doorstep.

I digress. The loss of health insurance forced me to get creative with my therapy. Come to think of it scarce resources always encourage creativity. The final outcome here will of course establish whether we are successful. The gamble. No less than my life.

I am grateful to modern science. When my condition was first diagnosed my heart was already failing. I needed the medical therapy to save my life. I researched my condition. I knew more about it than my doctors. I resisted their pressure to have a thyroidectomy. I’m trying to hang on to all my bits and parts.

Once the worse symptoms were under control I started looking into causative factors and addressing them. I really do believe that all illness is rooted in the psychosomatic. I know there are those who disagree. If you’re one of them please be civil if you must argue your point of view in the comments.

Everything I read linked my condition to stress and anxiety. Some writers suggest its a break down in an over active fight or flight response. I like that one best. Living in Naija is like that. Always alert. Anything can happen. At any time. You’re constantly braced for disaster.

At its worse I used to feel like I had a hand around my throat. Choking me. That was me of course. I was choking myself. With my cigarettes. And felt I wasn’t speaking my truth anymore. I hadn’t written in 4 years. I felt frustrated. Full of things to say but not saying them. Why? What is the symbolic relationship?

Why was I choking myself with the poison sticks and the silence that were sapping my life force? And why has it been so difficult to stop even knowing this is what stands between me and bursting good health and Life! Why am I ignoring this self care?

My tweets this morning quoting Jeremiah in the Bible were about my smoking among other things and me acknowledging that my ill health is the result of over 4 decades of lots of unhealthy habits. ‘Return to the Lord and he will heal you’ is an analogy for returning to healthy habits and the body healing itself.

I discovered the words and inspiration I needed to forgive my father in ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran. I found the inspiration for the letter to my mother online. I found the motivation to forgive myself in the Bible. Words that speak to the soul are everywhere. And the soul understands.

Why am I indulging in high risk self destructive behaviour like smoking? Its a symptom of stress disorders. A negative turning inward in response to some conflict. Probably the residue of my manic childhood and adolescence. We won’t go into that.

I always resolved my feelings and conflicts through my writing. I write what I’m feeling. See it in black and white. Resolve it. Or at least move the interior conversation forward.
Learn something. Sing my soul song. My own form of ‘speaking in tongues’. To borrow a popular term of reference.

My excuse for not writing the previous 4 years was not enough time. But more than once I recall modifying or withholding my true and honest sentiments to suit the point of view of my employers. Both were true actually and led to a considerable amount of tension.

The international NGO sector is notorious for long hours, low wages, poor benefits and taking advantage of people’s compassion and kindness long after they stop being start ups while boasting to donors they’re keeping overheads down. ‘Working harder than Wall Street executives without the perks’ I used to say. And there is a lot of burn out going on.

Of course some do better than others at taking care of their employees. Some take as good care of their employees as they do their beneficiaries. Some don’t take very good care of their beneficiaries. Some employees are better than others at self care. I digress. Again. Classic avoidance behaviour.

March ended. My daily writing must continue. Yet I have not been very disciplined this month. Writing as self care and therapy. I told someone this morning I didn’t want to indulge in any more narcissistic navel gazing. An unfair categorisation of what was a very emotional experience. If that is what I feel like writing about I will. That’s what blogs are for right? At least I’m not calling it a how-to book and selling it.

Personal journey and how-to-books are usually useless except as inspirational autobiography. Each persons journey is personal. How I resolve my thyroid disorder is not a road map for anyone else. I wish folks would stop marketing themselves as the ultimate solution. I digress. Again.

I have written of my dislike of the word discipline. That includes routine repetitive tasks. My Meyer-Briggs results confirm as much. However, I am in the process of healing my relationship with the word. In a less positive light I have been called ‘fickle’. I consider myself spontaneous. And impulsive. A risk taker.

(I found a balance. I have learnt to draw a road map and move serpentinely through it smelling the roses and allowing spontaneity.)

While the Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s of life eat oatmeal for breakfast every Monday no matter what most of us would find that incredibly tedious and limiting. What if you were offered an opportunity to have a bowl of berries and yogurt? Or eggs benedict?

In Nigeria everything is so fluid most folks plan meals according to what they can afford day to day. I’ve become one of those people since losing my job. Forced to see my previously unacknowledged privilege. The freedom to choose what I want to eat.

It took several decades, losing my job and an illness to really appreciate that. So now I have a menu. If its on the menu in the absence of exotic alternatives we will eat oatmeal every Monday. Again I digress. Avoidance. Face that which you fear! What am I afraid of?

I want to talk of forgiveness. About forgiving myself as an essential part of my mental and physical healing process. I feel I have finally in the course of my recent writing forgiven and accepted both my mother and father.

Now its time to forgive myself. This is the uncomfortable part. The part I’ve been avoiding. The hedonistic narcissist in me seeks pleasure, not pain. It cringes from the sort of honest self critical reflection this requires. This amounts to narcissistic injury. Or suicide.

Still that which is noble and good and divine in each of us has its coping mechanisms. It flourishes even on the sun-less forrest floor stretching and climbing towards the sunlit canopy above like jungle liana.

I am a Capricorn, ruled by Saturn symbol for pater, and depicted as the mountain goat. We never take the scenic route through the valley. Must climb that bloody mountain. We love the view from the top. Cold. Paternalistic. Logical. And yes that describes me too. Just like the Meyer-Briggs test.

It is also told that the moon was rising on the day I was born (whatever that means) so I’m also supposed to have some very un-Capricorn like traits. Feminine traits. It may all be hog wash and psycho-babble but it carries the storyline forward. Gives a fun and picturesque framework for exploring the unconscious and reclaiming what Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ calls the intuitive feminine.

I feel inspiration coming on. Forgiveness and healing beckons. Then eureka! I realize. There is nothing to forgive, everything is exactly as it should be for us to take the next step of our individual journey. And our collective journey. And it all led to this moment. And continues tomorrow.

‘This is the day that the Lord has made. It is wonderful in our sight’

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