Gratitude 101: I Choose To Be Grateful
If foul moods can be measured in degrees, be it the Fahrenheit or Celsius format, then the one I was in this past sunday morning was way over 100, as far as both forms of measurements are concerned. I am of the opinion that the foul mood with which I woke up constituted of weeks of foul mood hangovers. It was the kind that would make you want to get a restraining order, asking me to stay well away. I am ever so grateful that I do not have a flat-mate because I tell you, someone would have moved out. Yes, it was that bad.
When it started a few weeks back, I ignored and blamed it, on tiredness and my hormones acting up. When it persisted, I put it down to my medication causing havoc again, since mood swings happens to be one of the side effects I have to deal with as a result of being on a few medical jelly sweets. I really tried to shake it off. I even had a nice teary session with my journal while pouring a few things onto the pages of life as documented by me and it helped for a while. Suddenly, this feeling came back and this time around, it was stronger and had no plans to move out of my way or let me get on with the business of living. Sometimes, I would log on to Facebook and see a mutual FB friend’s status and laugh but this joker was always lurking around, just waiting for me to close my mouth and say, ‘hey, remember me, I’m still here!
This was no ordinary feeling. It is one I have dealt with before, however, it has been a while since I had to confront this joker. Hence, I had forgotten about her tricks and approach to sneaking her way back into my life. What made her recent visit very interesting was that I also fed her with enough ammunition to keep doing what she wanted to do. It only took a few sit-downs, thinking about life and focusing on what was not working right now, for her to feel empowered.
From thoughts about work, career, friendships/relationships, what’s going right and what’s going wrong to everything about life in general, she had enough arsenal to wreak havoc. My world, did she do the Brazilian samba with my mind? Like most people with a dream to do great things, I too want to do awesome things with my life and in life. I want to be remembered for the problems I solved, not the ones I caused. With this feeling hanging over me like a hawk, I started taking stock of the dreams I have carried for years and the things I had promised myself I was going to do this year. Some I have done, others are yet to be touched but I know they will be done. It may take time but hell, they will be done. However, this sense of sadness came over me like I had failed myself. I didn’t feel like I had failed my father or my mother but myself and no one else. It felt like I had sat myself down years ago and gave myself this lecture, which was that by XYZ, you must do this and that because if its not done, then you are a failure. But I know full well that that is a lie. I am not a failure and refuse to be one. I may not have succeeded at everything so far, it does not mean I am a lost cause. It simply means I am learning to define my strengths in areas where I shine, while I enlist/employ the help of others to make the areas that are not my strengths work. After all, no one knows it all.
It was my 31st last month, and I think that also contributed…the pressure to do a lot of things tends to come on you at a certain age and right now, I want to live and do what I was put on this earth to do. While I reserve the right to keep my vision private, I do think and believe, it’s a feeling we all experience at one point or another. Is that not what they call mid-life crisis, as far as men are concerned? Looks like women have them too. Since I turned 22, I have always known what I wanted to do with my life. I have worked towards it but at present, I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whereby moving forward is slow due to reasons I have no control over but going back is not an option either. The things I have control over, I choose to work with, in the hope that the ones I currently have no control over, will fall and bow to me as they come under my control in due season.
Sometimes, I also put the pressure on myself to do this and that because it is at the forefront of my mind that I am the first child and the fact that my parents have invested so much in me, I want to make them proud. Yes, that is normal but you cannot allow it dictate the pace at which you live and lead your life. The pressure of being first sometimes is that you are expected to create the order for your siblings to follow but I can say I am grateful that my immediate younger sister has done a lot of first in my family, and I am very proud of her. Hence, I know for sure that my younger ones have never felt I needed to do anything before they do it. They just know to do because they too want to live a life of purpose.
Some people may not be able to identify with this but I am Nigerian, born and raised or should it be born and bred? As the first, the pressure is on to do well, meet a nice man, get married and heaven knows…once you are a certain age, your expiry date is numbered. So, imagine the horror of being lectured a few days after my birthday by my aunt, who wants me to get married, so she can wear her gele and carry baby (See me see blessing!) I have heard this before. I hear it from my dad and a few others all the time. In fact, I dread calling my father sometimes because after hello and how are you? The next question is, when are you getting married? My mum is very understanding and has never felt the need to pressure me about marriage. In fact, she does not even make it an issue but I know she thinks about it even if she does not say it.
Back to my marital terrorist auntie, her Spanish inquisition on this particular day was different. She let me know that as soon as you hit 30, your eggs start acting up and then you could have issues as a woman because the best time to have your children is in your 20s, according to her medicine. Though I have no knowledge of the university where she obtained her medical degree . The shocker was the fact that she went one further and reminded me of my medical history. That was the last straw. So, I told her that I was currently allergic to men. It didn’t work. My auntie went one better and said ‘well, you don’t have to marry him, just have a child with him, at least you know you have that for life. That is what all women want.’ How do you beat that kind of solution?
Well, I thank God for a lot of things, including a big mouth when needed. Give me a chance to take you on an imaginative exercise – I told my auntie, if the only reason I want a man is for his banana puree to mix with my tomatoes, so that I can at least have one organically produced child, then everyone can wait. Needless to say, she went on to talk about how getting too much education is sometimes not good for a woman. I was very happy to let her know that I plan on going back to university to study for an MA, come 2011. Let’s just say, my aunt and I will not be having this discussion for a long time to come. There is more to life than marriage and being somebody’s Mrs. It is not the be all and end all of life or a woman’s life. I am reminded of Michelle McKinney Hammond, who once said, ‘it is not until you carry a baby from conception to birth that you are a mother. Whose life are you impacting while you wait for your child to come into the world?
As I took stock of life while working my way through what I was feeling on sunday morning, I was reminded of my life’s journey when I took a good look at some images. They instantly knocked sense into me and gave me a reason to be grateful on a different level for the gift of life. I looked at the images before me, including the one to your right and I thought to myself; when I was ill and at death’s door, the last thing on my mind was career, marriage, children, what was going right or wrong. In fact, failure did not exist in my vocabulary during that season. All I wanted to do was survive.
And that was the turning point for my day. I even found time for some personal humour. My friend and I have this private joke – whenever we encounter someone who is really intense due to a situation or just in a bad mood, we usually say, she needs to get laid to relieve her stress levels. I sincerely prayed that no one would have said that in my absence these last few weeks, just in case I have come across in a manner that was unsavoury. (Dear Lord, I pray my mother and Pastor don’t read this. They will ask, if this is what they have been teaching me at the yearly Singles conference at church) 🙂 I swear it is just a joke, no harm intended. Honest!
And so, I look back on the last 15 years of life and pictures that document my journey. I have everything to be grateful for. When you have come from the image above to where I’m at today, it would be silly to complain. I may not have all I want in life right but I am grateful. I may not have all the money I desire, making it easy to do the things I want to do, but hell, I am grateful. For the gift of life is wealth. My career maybe in the waiting room as I learn and keep knocking on doors but I am grateful I have one at all and a sense of who I am and what I want to do with myself. Yes, there are days when it feels like I am putting in so much and getting so little in return, but I am grateful because there are people out there, who will give a thing or two to have what I have. I say that with every ounce of humility in me, if humility can be measured. I am not be married at my tender age of 31 and so may not get the so called ‘Respect,’ that having a Mrs before your name brings you, I say to hell with that cultural mindset and way of thinking. I create the life I want for myself and when I respect myself, others will treat me with the same kind of respect that I bestow on them.
Last night, while watching a webcast, I heard these words, “The pressure of a situation will show you how you deal with it but the heat will show you, what’s inside you.” It made so much sense. Life is a cycle and after every achievement that was of a momentous nature, you start all over on a new road, called the unknown. It will make you question life and everything you believe in and stand for but I have learnt that nothing comes without a struggle. Nothing comes without an investment. Hence I’m going to fight for my place and spot in life, while investing my energy and resources to make life happen for me. And when I get to the mountain top, I want to look down and say I made it!
The beauty of an elastic band is that you can stretch it out however you want. In fact when a poor quality one snaps, an elastic band is still an elastic band. Its name, purpose and characteristics have not changed. You may have to get creative and tie that whopper snapper on both ends, and end up with a knotted elastic band; it will still do the job. So, come on life, keep stretching me but you are not going to break me. I was not made to break. You of all people should know that by now.
Gratitude 101, I choose to be grateful for today and all others that come my way.
Image of Belinda In Green Shirt – Ayo Dot