Author Archives: Malaka

Post Carnival Relief: These Are My Confessions

You guys are probably going to see videos of me on ratchetblackness.com or World Star – but before you judge me, allow me to confess and explain how all of this happened.

 

Before he was struck by an illness that has kept him housebound, a friend of mine used to go soca parties every other weekend. Not only did these parties keep him connected to his Virgin Island culture, they gave him veritable LIFE. There aren’t words rich enough in the English language to describe the light that emanated from him in the wake of his post soca party euphoria. I determined then that I would attend a soca party one day and promptly added the activity to my bucket list.

Why a bucket list for a mere party, presumably that would be held in a warehouse in Any Metro City near you? Because of one detail – that little hiccup that would make my presence at such an event unseemly: I was married to a deacon, now a pastor. ‘Going out’ for us is dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and/or catching a movie, not getting sweaty to samba and certainly not shaking it to Caribbean tunes. Saints don’t participate in those forms of debauchery: dancing yourself into a molten hot puddle. But as I mentioned on Facebook a while back, my decision making post-surgery can generously be described as questionable, so when my sister (now a soca fanatic since her return from Carnival in Trinidad) said that she wanted to take me to a soca party before my return to South Africa, I did not refuse the opportunity! That’s how I ended up on my back in the middle of the club with a stranger dry humping me.

So, what had happened was this:

I spent two weeks watching soca videos in order to do research on how to conduct myself at this club/party. We only play worship music in our house, if ever at all, and I needed to familiarize myself with soca protocol. Nothing in any of the handful of videos I watched looked anything like what my body was capable of, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to rely on some old faithful boogies, namely azonto, cultural dancing and the running man if it came down to it.

Next came the question of attire. As the mother of four human beings sporting a belly that looks like I’m about to deliver a fifth, there was no way I was going out looking as though I was going to a soca club. I opted for jeggings, high top sneakers and my Cobra Kai Dojo tee from Walmart. As I applied moderate make-up, I felt and looked comfortable…until I started sweating.

“Are you hot?” I asked Adj.

She was fanning herself vigorously, replying in the affirmative. She scuttled off to her bedroom and turned on the standing fan to cool herself down. It was at that moment that I toyed with the idea that the spontaneous burst of heat we both experienced was probably due to the fact that I was going to hell, and had not warned my sister about the ills of club life as a good Christian ought. But whatever. It was too late and the plans had already been made.

At 6:30pm, my brother-in-common-law prepared dinner for the house; oven fried chicken and broccoli. He doesn’t salt his meat, so I loaded up on the broccoli and reluctantly nibbled on the chicken. Adj (my sister) had announced that we’d be leaving at 8:30 to drop the kids off at an auntie’s house before heading to the party.

“It starts at 10pm, and I do NOT want to open the party,” she said.

When we arrived at 11:15pm, the party looked like this.

Where the people at???

But that’s not even the worse part. The worse part is the drive to the event. We had to take my adorable niece and nephew aaaaaall the way to Bowie, MD for the evening, and for the duration of the 45-minute drive, I was subjected to an inane line of questioning from a 3-year-old wanting to know who was driving the car and why were the street lights on. In addition to this, my sister did not want to listen to music because it was “too loud”, which meant there was no ambient noise to drown out the sound of my niece’s voice. I sat in the back seat yawning, contemplating how different this pre-partying experience was from my college days when I used to go out. I thought fondly of my bed and yearned for it.

“I don’t see how people go from parenting to partying so quickly,” I mused. “Especially when the lead up to your night out is the ride we just took.”

Chris agreed, adding, “You just gotta push through that hurdle and commit!”

So commit we did and on to Karma we went for the post Carnival relief party! (Side note: there have been relief parties all over the city, since revelers tend to experience withdrawal after leaving Trinidad/Carnival so severe that it can lead to depression.) After a 10-15 minute jaunt from our parking space down the road, we were greeted by security at the doors who asked for ID (which I proudly remembered to bring with me) and subjected us to a vigorous pat down. I gasped as a husky woman sporting box braids lifted each of my breasts and pressed into my sternum.

“You ok?” she asked.

“Yeah…it’s just that that was the most physical contact I’ve had with anyone in two months,” I replied.

The other members of the security team howled with laughter, and she muttered something that might have passed for an apology. I told her not to worry about it.

“I’m sure it was just a precursor for what I’m about to experience in there!”

Laughter ensued. We ducked into the club. We sat and looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity. The music was NOT good, although the set up and décor was very pretty. There were a lot of people at the bar just standing there, giving a creepy voyeur vibe. And then there was this guy running around covered in flags with a whistle around his neck. The whistle indicated the nature of his employment – Mister Floor Opener, Dancing Facilitator or Winding Orchestrator. I’ll send a box of Cheerios to anyone who has correctly guessed that this is also the individual who would end up dry humping me into oblivion. We’ll get to that.

Bored and quickly becoming aggravated that my first soca party was clearly destined to be a dud, I stood to my feet and began to sway to beat with Chris – a man who needs NO excuse to party and had already committed to winding his waist against the raw atmosphere. Sensing my disappointment, he told me not to worry and promised that things would really start humping at 1 am.

“1 am?” I thought to myself. “You mean, I won’t be back hom and in bed by then? Crap!”

I began to wind atmosphere along with him.

Woman dancing borborbor. And yes. I made that same face. Image source: For God & Nation

At this point, my other “sister” had joined us at our perch and was scanning the room. She recognized two women that she’d gone to school with and they formed a part of our circle for the night…and number that would eventually swell to 11 women, plus Chris. Now that the music was getting slightly better and that I had committed to having fun no matter what, I began to dance in earnest, twirling my towel and doing borborbor or whatever other move came to mind. That’s when I felt someone behind me.

I braced myself for the impact that was coming, remembering Chris’ clarion admonishment about Carnival/soca: “You must accept the wyne.”

So when a man’s paw pushed my neck towards my kneecaps, I submitted and let him push up on me. Ah. But he was so aggressive! Why? It seemed to go on forever, and it was only until I resurfaced for air that he released me…but only momentarily. By this time I was in a playful mood, so I shook my wobbly bits to the beat, which he took as an invitation to jump on my back.

Yes, you read that right. I had a 6’3” nigga on my back in a darkened club lit up only by fluorescence and the roaming spotlights. But that’s not the worst of it.

As time went on, more folk began to trickle in and we few were determined to make the most of the scene. By now I was dripping in sweat (which is not unusual) and I was just happy to be amongst such happy, unpretentious Black people. I sat on the edge of a sofa and The Facilitator popped out of nowhere. Since I was seated, I figured there was no way he could force me into any sort of position where I would be compelled to ‘accept the wyne’.

WRONG.

He grabbed me by my feet and lifted them around his waist. I immediately pulled a move I learned from my 6 year old and went limp. Dead weight. All 245 lbs of it. It didn’t matter. He hoisted me onto his hips and began to pump/wing/grind aggressively. I held on for dear life, fearful that he’d drop me in the middle of this club and burst my still-healing cranial stitches. When our interaction exceeded the threshold of comfort and reason, I bucked and tried to get down. It was at THAT point that he laid me on my back, parted my legs, and began to simulate the act of dry humping. There was never any pelvis-to-pelvis contact…just the appearance of it. Over his shoulder, I saw a woman pull out her pink iPhone and begin filming. Why? My sister sprang into action and tried to get this massive, and deceptively very strong man off of me, but because I was laughing hysterically at the absurdity of it all – ME, a pastor’s wife in a Walmart t-shirt, struggling to hold in explosive flatulence brought on by the broccoli eaten hours early, on the club floor at her first soca party – she assumed I was enjoying the experience and walked away. As in she left me there. The wave of hysteria passed quickly though, and I scooted away from under him and sought refuge on the sofa again, breathless and bewildered. (Honestly, I was really unnerved by how quickly and efficiently he was able to maneuver my body into such a compromising position. I’m no willow.)

If you see me on some ratchet Black website, please know that it was not my intention to disgrace my family or myself. It simply just went down that way! I thought about all of my friends who work in entertainment and who so carefully guard their public persona; People who I admire. I relayed what happened to one such woman early this morning.

“Oh girl, please,” she said. “I had something similar happen to me when I was in New York!”

I told her that it felt good knowing that we would both be in soca hell together when Judgment Day came. How will Saint Peter allow us into the pearly gates after exhibiting this level of no behavior?

And speaking of no and worst behavior, boy did I show it all.

I jumped.

I ducked.

I wyned.

I even stood in place and marched.

We jammin’ still!

I had THE best time I’ve had in a long time. There were no egos, no women were fronting on each other and apart from the crazy man with the whistle (who I spent the rest of the evening avoiding), the men were respectful. And as promised, by 1:30 am, the place was packed, the dance floor was covered in puddles of sweat and a guy impersonating PM Dawn was gliding through the crowd, like an apparition after a fever dream.

 

This morning I got home at 5:30 am with no regrets.

 

 

PS: Just so you ladies know, it is only mandatory to accept the wind at Carnival. In America, you can shoo a man away with a flick of the wrist or a waggle of a finger. I only learned this after the rottweiler had had his way with me. This was a great experience, but it will certainly be my last. I need to redeem myself with prayer and fasting and Hillsongs…

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Someone Show Swagger Mama Otiko This Chart

You ever get tired of repeating yourself? You ever just get bone weary of saying the same thing over, and over and over again? You ever wish that you could find the words to make the carrousel of madness come to a grinding halt? That must be it; maybe it’s the way we’ve been saying it. All us feminists, and human rights activists and people with common sense and decency…perhaps our semantics just don’t connect or compute with the rest of them. And by ‘them’, I mean Otiko Afisa Djaba and her merry band of patriarchal, rape culture supporters attempting to defend the woman’s most recent contribution to the debasement of the Ghanaian mind.

Otiko Djaba is a Ghanaian politician and minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection. Speaking at the 90th anniversary and Speech and Prize giving Day of the Krobo Girls Presbyterian Senior High School in the Eastern region, she concluded her soliloquy with the following admonishment for the impressionable students, saying:

“In conclusion, I want to say to you, be bold, be confident, be respectful. If you wear a short dress, it’s fashionable but know that it can attract somebody who would want to rape or defile you. You must be responsible for the choices you make”.

These are the words of the minister for social protection.

I can’t spend too much time on this, because everything that has been said on the matter on the supposed (bogus) relationship between rape and sartorial choices has been said an infinite number of times before. If you’ve read a book, read the news, watched Lifetime for any significant period of time – or hell – watched National Geographic, you will walk away with the understanding that the only responsible party in the act of rape is the person(s) perpetuating the crime. The rapist. Not the victim…the rapist.

otikoWomen like Mrs. Djaba are particularly dangerous in an environment governed by rape culture. She is a traitor to justice, although she probably believes her admonishments will positive long-term consequences. Quite the contrary. In putting the blame on girls who wear short skirts for their violent sexual assault, she gives would be rapists a free pass to use what they consider “provocative dress” as an excuse for their vile actions. Over the course of the 20th century, we saw and heard horror stories about women who were made to relive the incident of their attack on the witness stand.

“What were you wearing?”

“How much did you have to drink?”

“Were you flirting with him?”

“What did you think would happen if you were working at those late hours of the night?”

The treatment rape victims are subject has contributed to the dismal numbers of reported rape. Adding to how few convictions follow a trial, there is a sense among survivors that the follow up trauma is just not worth it. Otiko ‘Swagger Mama’ Djaba’s advice only adds rocket fuel to a freight train that’s long been running over rape survivor’s lives and teaches women and girls to blame themselves before such a possible attack happens.

Her statement, aside from being absolutely ludicrous, is completely false. Hemlines are not a factor in the propagating of sexual assault. If that were the case, there would be no cis/hetero male victims of rape…and yet the CDC reports that 1 in 71 men are the victims of rape. (I searched for statistics on male victims of rape in Ghana and found none.) What length were the skirts these male victims were wearing at the time of their assault? And what about the women who rape men? It would shock her and her supporters to know that this is a real phenomenon that stretches back centuries. I don’t blame her for her ignorance. Patriarchal systems have made it almost impossible to have a real conversation about sexual assaults on male bodies. Some aid organizations in Africa won’t even give funding to help victims of sexual assault if the reported statistics include men. Men in these situations are punished twice. Furthermore, it perpetuates a culture of silence that can only lead to greater frequency of rape, molestation and assault.

It might behoove Mrs. Djaba to take some extended courses in gender studies if this is the ministry she means to lead. Rape is a scourge on the Ghanaian populace, and it cuts across age and social status. Rapists are found in the slums of Agbogbloshie as well as the highest and most prestigious positions in the land. There is no way to “spot a rapist”. They are teachers, pastors, husbands, fathers, brothers and neighbors. They are not boogey men lurking in the dark. Most rape survivors are attacked by people they know, trust and/or are familiar with. That information needs to be a part of the national conversation and any ‘advice’ well-meaning but ill-informed people need to give. The circumstances under which people find themselves victims of rape are varied and complex, nevertheless they all have one thing in common: The motives and the intent of the rapist, those being to exert dominance, power and to fulfill a selfish and perverse sexual desire.

But lets talk about the boogey man, and what so many people think he/she looks like or where he lurks:

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.02.18 PM

Image source: Dailymail.com

An Iraqi refugee who raped a 10-year-old boy at a swimming pool has had his conviction overturned because a court didn’t prove he realized the boy was saying no.

The rapist, identified as Amir A, 20, violently sexually assaulted the boy in the changing room of Theresienbad pool in Austria claiming it was a ‘sexual emergency’ because he had not had sex for four months. This kid was swimming at the pool – a supposedly safe space – and had his body invaded in the most cruel and vile manner because this 20 year old man could not control his urges.

*****

While on Hajj, my friend’s cousin was walking back to her camp after completing her prayers. A man was following her, which was not out of the ordinary. There were thousands of people there and there is rarely an opportunity for privacy.

When they reached an alleyway the unknown man grabbed her, pulled her into the darkness, forced her face against the wall of a building and began to rub himself against her backside, stopping only until he had ejaculated through his clothing and onto her prayer clothes. He ran off immediately afterward. She was also in a supposed “safe space”: a pilgrimage to Mecca, where you would think that everyone’s mind was on Allah and dutifully fulfilling a pillar of faith. How could she know – or even fathom – that her fellow Muslim brother would have such vile thoughts on his mind at such a sacred time?

*****

I myself have written about my molestation at the hands of my now deceased uncle. I was 8 years old, barely pre-pubescent with a dry jheri curl. At the time he cornered me I had gone to my room to go and get a toy with my sister. After he stuck his tongue in my mouth, he turned to my sister to perform the same lewd act on her. Fortunately, my sister’s flight instincts have also been keen and on point. After she witnessed what he did to me, she ran out of the room. I on the other hand had not been so fortunate. I ‘let’ him do it, because it had already been drilled into me that adults were right and you always obey your elders. My reward for that obedience was enduring a sick feeling any time his name was mentioned and footing the bill for his funeral. Is the boogey man supposed to be your father’s blood brother? Convention says no.

At what point do we begin to counsel men and women about self control, rather than legislating bans on miniskirts, or forcing girls to cut their hair so as not to appear so ‘grown’, or ironing breasts of pre-teen girls in the hopes that a flat, disfigured chest will deter any unwanted attention? When will girls have the opportunity to experience the same freedom in their bodies that boys do?

mabuse.cameroon.breast.ironing.cnn.640x360

The irony of Otiko placing the blame for sexual assault on victims is not lost on many. This is a woman who sports a half shaven head, and who had to endure all kinds of denigration during her vetting process because of it. People said she did not represent Ghanaian culture, that she looked like a hooligan and loose woman who didn’t have common sense or morals. Those of us who defended her did so because we know that it’s not what’s on a woman’s head that makes her effective at her duties; it’s what’s in it. She was a symbol of the new, liberated Ghanaian woman who could defy convention and STILL earn the respect of the office she inhabited. These young, hopeful girls nicknamed her ‘Swagger Mama’, a moniker she apparently takes great delight in. She was cool, funky and confident and many high school age girls looked up to her. They still do.

So for her – Otiko Djaba in particular – to champion the most baseless tenant of rape culture and all its hypocrisy is not just shocking: it’s disappointing. And until Otiko does an about face on this issue, the woman herself will wind down the same path as her predecessor…as an utter disappointment herself.

But as always, I’m here with solutions. Perhaps this chart will help all involved and clear up any confusion.

ef9136203ab412b9d33addaac2360b9f

It ought to be clear, but today is Sunday and I know that in a Church Near You, a ‘man of God’ is preaching about how provocative dress makes men rape, so we’ll have to have this same conversation in the near future.*Blank stare*

Heaven save my son and brothers from such men who would instill and nurture such a demonic and weak spirit in them.

Everything About Jung-a Kim Hitting the Deck Screamed “Mom”. And It Is Hilarious.

By now you’ve most likely seen the hysterical video of Robert Kelly being interrupted by his two cherubian children in the middle of a very serious interview with the BBC. If you haven’t, you absolutely have to watch the video of the incident before we carry on.

 

 

The man being interviewed by the BBC is Robert E. Kelly. He is a political science professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University. The woman who came crashing into the room like a Looney Toons character is Jung-a Kim. She is his wife and mother to the two little children. The video is a testament to the very real – and often dismissed – hazards of working from home when there are small children present.

If you’ve been following this story, will also have seen that the warmth and glow of the unanimous amusement we shared in globally was quickly doused by a healthy deluge of shame. It appears that many people, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, mistook Jung-a Kim for the nanny. It was an unfortunate misnomer. Of course (and I say ‘of course’ because the average understanding of what racism is and how it works is about as accurate as Donald Trump’s understanding of how the presidency in a democracy works), these people were quickly labeled as racists. That’s what it takes to be a “racist” these days: To see an Asian woman in the presence of a white male and children and (wrongly) assume she’s the help. To do so certainly betrays a level of unconscious bias, and it certainly demonstrates that anyone who would leap to that conclusion needs to get out of the house with much more frequency, but it certainly doesn’t betray a sense of sinister superiority that oppresses one group for the benefit of another. I think it just merely shows how unobservant we’ve become as a society in general.

Any parent who has worked in the home, or functions as the primary caregiver for their children in the home can probably identify with Jung-a in that moment. We all know what she was thinking because her body language was screaming her thoughts at us. I’ve seen some people defend their position for mistaking her for the nanny due to the clumsy way that she extracted her children from the room, followed by her graceless exit. They said that she was likely crippled by the fear of losing her job for allowing the children to interrupt the broadcast. These people either don’t engage with the real world because they 1) spend too much time on their mobile devices or 2) don’t have a diverse group of friends that includes stay-at-home moms/dads or 3) have hired help in their homes that they treat very poorly. Jung-a Kim’s bodily motions were not driven by fear, but rather by a matrix of passions that included embarrassment, panic, disbelief, urgency and humility.

Here her husband was, an invited guest on THE British Broadcasting Corporation to discuss the political upheaval in Korea. He was brought on to provide an expert’s voice and perspective on an issue of international importance. There was probably a discussion the night before about how the day was going to go for the few minutes that constituted the duration of the interview.

Robert: Bae, you’re going to make sure the kids are quiet during my interview with the BBC, right?

Jung-a: Oh yes. Of course! It will only be 15 minutes long at the most, right? I can make them some snacks and put them in front of the TV/Legos/Whatever Tool Mom has handy to distract her kids.

Robert: Perfect. Hey! Do you think you can help me position the camera for the video? The office is a little drab and I want to give the best impression.

Jung-a: I think you should have the map of the world as your backdrop. It makes you seem professorial.

Robert (laughs): That’s good, because I AM a professor.

Jung-a (giggles girlishly): Tee hee!!!

The two drift off to sleep, clinging to each other in a warm embrace. What a lucky family they are…two healthy children, a happy home and a father who is sought after by a huge international news organization for his opinion. Jung-a goes to sleep, swelling with pride and dreams of the great feats her family will accomplish.

And then, the next day, to her absolute horror…in burst the children… to interrupt her knowledgeable husband in the midst of his erudite delivery on a very serious topic. The family’s honor and dignity is at stake! She’s failed to keep her end of the bargain and keep the kids out of sight and earshot. Just as a nanny (or any other adult) would have done, she rushes in to rectify the situation by grabbing the kids and extracting them from the room. But that wall slide and drop to the floor? That was a TOTAL mom move. I’m cracking up just thinking about it. Give me a moment. AHAHAHAHAA!

This can only end badly, but I gotta pull out all the stops to catch these here kids!

I’ve observed nannies. You see, a nanny would have simply walked out and closed the door behind her, dignity in tact. Mothers in the presence of their children are different creatures. Jung-a was trying to make herself disappear from the camera frame, so as not to take away her husband’s shine in the moment. I’m telling you what I know, because I’ve been there are before and have watched my stay-at-home friends react in similar fashion when the kids provide sideshow entertainment. You haven’t tested the limits of your professional demeanor until you’ve had to negotiate contracts from the confines of your coat closet; or organize a national event from the obscure blackness of your garage (I see you, MX5!); or hit that mute button so you can hiss at your children TO. JUST. SHUT. UP! only return to your conference call with pre-hiss professional demeanor, as though nothing had happened.

And video conferencing is even worse. Video conferencing from home – from any unregulated environment, really – has no guarantee of control. Jung-a Kim’s presence was supposed to be that guarantee, and she failed in the discharging of her duty. That’s why she turned into a puddle of good on the floor and tried to flow away. Hilarious!

 

*****

What do you make of this whole “You’re a racist because you thought the wife was a nanny” narrative? Do you agree with it? Have you ever had to save your family’s dignity by sacrificing your own? Discuss!

Of Tumors, Humor and the Joke the is the American Healthcare System

This is an attempt to condense a 2-and a half-month saga into less than 2,000 words. There will be gaps in the information and series of events, but hopefully it will explain my extended absence from the blog.

 

In the Beginning…

Dec 29, 2016

In early January I hinted that I was experiencing my first migraine. It was both terrifying and thrilling. Terrifying because there was no pain to rival what I was experiencing in my cranium at the time, and thrilling because it was exactly the sort of pain I’d always hoped to gain familiarity with. I used to witness my cousin endure frequent migraines, and at 19, I thought it was so sexy. She would pop her prescription pills, sit quietly at the kitchen table and let her lashes rest against the dark circles beneath her eyes. The picture of serenity was in complete contrast to the outgoing and gregarious woman I’d known my entire life. What kind of relief did she feel after taking the pills? What was it like to be THAT quiet? I wanted to know!

Image source: paindoctor.com

Nearly 20 years later, I got my wish. After spending three days at some of the Western Capes most beautiful beaches, I began to suffer some of the most debilitating headaches I’d ever experienced. They felled me…kept me in bed for the majority of the day. There wasn’t an over the counter pill I could take that would dull the pain for more than an hour. This must be the migraine I’d so desired as a college sophomore! Now that I’d diagnosed myself, my husband dutifully went to Clinks to pick up some migraine medicine – a two-day supply cocktail of pills that rendered me barely coherent and almost motionless. A week later, I will still living with excruciating pain in my head.

Eventually – after much necessary and needed nagging from the wonderful women in my life – I found my way at the doctor’s explaining my symptoms. We ruled out meningitis (which I’d survived in 2013), as well as allergies. The doctor surmised that I probably had a tension headache, which lead to the migraine or vice versa. She prescribed 6 different pills and told me that if the headaches didn’t go away, we could investigate with a blood screen or a CT scan.

Those words proved to be key.

While on the medication, I felt wonderful. I was functional (not able to drive, though) and back to interacting with my family. I called my doctor to tell her the goodness. We were both thrilled and made no plans to see each other again. But two days after the meds ran out, the pain was back. By this time, it had been 12 days since my first headache. I did not remember my cousin suffering migraines for this long, and I was alarmed that my first migraine should last this long. However, I figured it would go away on its own if I sat still, avoided loud noises and drank some tea. It didn’t work.

I spent my birthday week alone in a cabin in agony.

 

The Diagnosis…

Feb 1, 2017

When I could no longer endure the torment, I went back my doctor. She ordered blood work and a CT scan. We had to drive to the next town to fulfill the latter. The radiologist gave us the disc with my images without a word. We then went to the otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor, aka ENT) to investigate if my discomfort was due to allergies as my GP suspected. The man was a congenial man with an intense stammer. After greeting us and making small talk, he casually popped the CD into his computer and grew very pensive.

I asked him if I could put my head on his table, as by this time I was experiencing fierce pain.

“S-s-s-so this is your b-b-b-rain…,” he said. “And n-n-n-n-not to alarm you, b-b-b-but there’s a mass that sh-sh-sh-sh-shouldn’t be there.”

It took me a while to register what he was saying because of how it was being said. I had a tumor, he revealed: it was slow growing and about the size of a golf ball. Judging by its dimensions, it’d been growing for about 10 years. It appeared to be full of fluid and was most likely the cause of my persistent headaches. It did not appear to be malignant, however.

“A neurologist would have to confirm this diagnosis,” he admitted.

I lifted my forehead from his desk to acknowledge that I’d heard him. Then I began to both cry and fight back my tears. I mean, you hear the words “brain” and “tumor” and you expect the worst. Marshall took my hand and squeezed it. The otolaryngologist placed his hand on top of ours and did the same. Struggling through his stammer, he assured me it was not as bad as it seemed.

“Besides, you have worse things to worry about. Donald Trump is president!”

I laughed, despite the pain, despite the grim prognosis, despite it all.

Yeah. Things could always be worse.

 

Go With the Money! Follow Your Insurance.

Feb 4, 2017

 My South African medical Avengers gave me options and advice about where and how to seek treatment to remove my tumor. There were several skilled surgeons in the country who could easily remove it, “Or since your insurance is in the States, you could go back home and have it removed there.”

Besides my husband, I had only told a handful of friends about my diagnosis. All of them offered well wishes and prayer. Two of them paid for and arranged my flight back to America, and a mere 3 days after I discovered I had a meningioma I was on my way into the country.

There was a herd of cattle on the South African Airways flight all the way from Jo-burg to Dakar, something I was both horrified by and grateful for. One of the side effects of the tumor+medication+altitude was severe gas, so while I was sickened by the stench of cow manure in the hull, it concealed the stink of the intestine coiling gas I was releasing in my seat. I pitied the guy sitting next to me, but only a bit. He commandeered the armrest between us, so fart guilt-free I did.

I arrived in Washington, DC on the 5th. After we’d deliberated about where to get surgery, a friend of mine had already begun making arrangements for me to receive care at Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) in Baltimore. Johns Hopkins has a system whereby new patients are routed through a medical concierge who handles your case, the pertinent paperwork and functions as a go-between for the patient and the doctor(s).

My concierge was awful. The woman was mediocre in the performance of her duties at best and rarely engaged her brain in the execution of those duties. I’m not saying this to be cruel – it’s just true. In the week I spent working with her, I was no closer to getting surgery than I was on the beach in South Africa. After five days of emailing back and forth with her (and she would only respond to my emails at the end of the day just before she was leaving the office) it was determined that I could not see a neurosurgeon for a consultation until I’d had an MRI done. Why could she have not told me that on Day 2, at least? Despite knowing that I was staying in Fairfax, VA, she scheduled my MRI to be done on the JHH campus, 2 hours away from my address… and for February 20th, 11 days away.

By this time, I had run out of the steroids my SA doctor had given me to help shrink the tumor and had no prescription pain pills left. It being Black History Month, my confidence in John’s Hopkins was already low, given its history with kidnapping and experimenting on Black bodies in the early 20th century. Everyone around me was exasperated, which was making me anxious. My cousin (the one with the migraines) suggested that I go to the emergency room to seek care and eventually an MRI. I declined to follow the course of action because of respectability. Can I tell you, respectability rarely gets results? I decided to drop Johns Hopkins, their ridiculous process and inefficient staff entirely soon afterward.

Why I gotta almost kill someone to get access to healthcare I pay for by LAW every month???

I spent the next two days trying to find a neurosurgeon who would order an MRI for me so that I could get a consultation. No neurosurgeon would see me for a consultation unless I had an MRI, and I could not get an MRI unless I was a current patient…and I could not become a new patient without an MRI. It was frustrating and exhausting. Eventually, I ended up at an urgent care center and explained my dilemma.

“I just want the pain to go away,” I said to the attending physician. She was a compassionate woman who took on my frustrations as her own.

“This is just not right,” she muttered. She and an attending nurse worked diligently to get me in contact with a neurologist, who spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how “good my insurance was” and that it should be no problem at all for me to find care. He then wrote the order for an MRI and referred me to a neurosurgeon: Dr. Joe Watson.

 

Income Determines Outcomes

Feb 14, 2017

 My MRI was scheduled for Valentine’s Day at 10pm. The out of pocket cost for the procedure was $2,746 payable at the time of service. I had just met with the neurologist on the 10th, which meant that if I did not have a spare $2700 plus hanging around, I would only have four days to raise the funds or forfeit the procedure. Fortunately, and by God’s good grace, Marshall has developed the traits of a miser and provides our savings account with regular infusions. After depleting all the funds in our health savings account, I paid the balance with money from our personal savings account. Mind you, this was my personal cost even with the benefit of “good insurance”.

I was grateful to finally get the ball rolling, but the whole 2-week ordeal was troubling to me. Accessing healthcare in America was proving to be less like Grey’s Anatomy and more like John Q. The ego, bureaucracy, nonchalance and indifference of the gate-keeping paper pushers on the front lines was staggering. Unlike civilized countries – like the UK, Canada and South Africa where the life and health of patient comes first – healthcare in America is a luxury industry, socioeconomic factors, such as class and disposable income dictates quality. It also dictates outcomes.

Once behind the Iron Insurance Gates, however, I found myself treated to an entirely different experience. There were no more frustrations. The course ahead of me was clear and well plotted, and I had my surgery scheduled almost immediately. On Wednesday, Feb 22nd, I was at Inova Hospital where I submitted myself to the administrations of Dr. Watson’s skilled hands and numerous metal utensils. The surgery took 5 hours to complete (only because there were two arteries feeding my tumor and Dr. Watson had to take care not to sever them and induce a stroke) and an hour later I was groggy and talking way more than I ought to have, but I was in my right(ish) mind. A sampling of the things I am reported to have said are:

“I’m hungry. Don’t feed me like a Charles Dickens orphan!”

“Donald Trump is possessed by a demon.”

“People like penis books, but they try to act like they don’t like penis books. They wanna judge me for writing penis books, but they like them….don’t they? That’s why I stopped writing penis books!”

“Mitch (who I had been calling ‘Chan’ until he corrected me. Mitch is of Philippine descent) has soft hands…soft hands for touching my boobies…and we’re going to find him a boy toy…”

“Emily Bronte does not get her due as a writer!!!!”

I’m angry about Emily Bronte not getting her props.

On February 25th I was released from the hospital. Had I still been screwing around with Johns Hopkins, I’d probably still be waiting for a consultation TODAY.

*****

 

This is why I have been AWOL on the blog. I briefly entertained the idea of ‘bravely writing through the pain’, but I decided that doing so was. Not. My. Life. I wanted to spend the weeks that morphed into months focusing on myself, my family and the people who have shown me genuine care and concern in this span of time. Besides, not writing gave me the opportunity to do a lot more reading, an indulgence I rarely get to participate in anymore.

All the same I did miss you, MOM Squad and for those who reached out to me privately and personally, your words of encouragement and prayers have meant the world to me. If you ever find yourself in need of a neurosurgeon, I recommend Joe Watson. He’s not just a great doctor, he’s a good man. He also keeps a bowl of delicious candy in his office, which on their own are worth the trip!

 

Are you looking for copies of ‘Madness & Tea’ or any of my awesome/hilarious/colorful books? You can find them on the internet! And guess what? The internet will deliver them straight to you if you click this link.

80s Pop Culture Reared Me to See Myself as a Monkey

My husband says that my vast knowledge of obscure cartoons is evidence of my latchkey upbringing.

“I had parents who loved and nurtured me, and made sure they were home with me after school. Whereas as YOU had television.” He was joking, but there was an element of seriousness to his assertion. Marshall (my husband) truly is horrified that I consumed so much TV as a child.

On the other hand, I pity him. My husband has no working knowledge of the Gobots or their mission; has never heard of the Street Frogs OR the Tiger Sharks; and prior to this particular conversation, was oblivious to the existence of the Get Along Gang. That’s a lot of quality 80s animation to have missed out on, so I am compelled to reflect on his childhood with sadness on his behalf. Besides, I wasn’t a latchkey kid all the time. Some days I would be taken to Mrs. Scott’s house after school. She was a septuagenarian widow who would feed me Spaghetti-O’s and instruct me to watch Scooby Doo while she reclined in the sun chewing and spitting tobacco juice in the company of her faithful dog, Queenie. So yeah, I had adult supervision.

Sometimes.

Naturally I was curious if any of my friends remembered the Get Along Gang and as expected, my nerd friends did not disappoint. I’m proud to announce that two other people besides me harbor fond memories of Montgomery Moose and his merry band of do-gooder sidekicks. And naturally, as these conversations tend to do, another query sent us down a separate path on memory lane.

“What about that racist little cartoon called Monchichis?” (This was the Woke Nerd asking. Artist Nerd had bowed out of the conversation at this point.)

“I actually liked the Monchichis,” I replied. “I liked them because they had afros that looked like mine. I connected with them.”

Woke Nerd was aghast. I completely understood why.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Monchichis, they are a race of anthropomorphic monkeys who live in Monchia. They were a completely autonomous race of beings that developed their own technology and functioned under an orderly societal structure based on birth order. In other words, the oldest was in charge – and as the eldest child in my family, that power structure and hierarchy appealed to me. The Monchichis were frequently disturbed by another race of blue/black monkey anthropomorps who were less technologically – and therefore mentally – advanced.

Nowhere else on television was there a community of animated beings that shared traits and features similar to mine that had complete autonomy over their lives. In every other cartoon I watched, there were no brown/Black girls in positions of leadership.

  • Jem
  • Rainbow Bright
  • She-Ra
  • Nobody

Furthermore, all anthropomorphic characters were, by default, patterned after white characteristics, features and behaviors. The only time an anthropomorph exhibited Black characteristics if there was a deliberate attempt to depict that particular character was “Black”.

For example: In Thunder Cats, Cheetara is obviously a blond bombshell, while Panthro is portrayed with what would generally be considered “Black features”, down to his wide nose, reverberating voice and bald head. Furthermore, Panthro – like his human counterpart Roadblock on GI Joe – is a loner…A little unhinged and unpredictable, never completely integrated into the group but dedicated to the cause nevertheless. He has freedom to make decisions, but it only extends so far: Specifically as far as his garage or wherever it is he keeps the Thunder Tank. And as excellent as Panthro, Roadblock and Shana Elmsford (Jem) may be at their individual tasks, they will never be free to lead the multi-ethnic/ majority white group that forms their community/clique.

In response to my question about where else on 80s television one might find examples of totally isolated Black animated characters that had complete sovereignty over the affairs of their lives, Woke Nerd offered Fat Albert and his friends. But even he was quick to admit that they hung around Fred Sanford’s junkyard and wore ski masks in broad daylight, and therefore weren’t really positive or powerful examples.

This only supported the reasons for my unfortunate partiality to the Monchichis. They were the closest things I could associate with a normal, non-dysfunctional society of color. Freaking monkeys.

This is the sort of subtle every day racism that white people of my generation don’t get. There are certain indignities that they will never know, and it would take too much time and too much emotional labor to unpack to paint even a partial picture. They’ve never had to look far for representation that made them feel ‘normal’. The characters that looked like them were conquerors. They were multi-dimensional and had depth. You got a sense that they were in control of their destiny and that you could depend on them (or someone who LOOKED LIKE THEM in real life) if you were ever in a pinch. Beyond the images, the very language surrounding their whiteness spoke to their power.

He-Man was the leader of Masters of the Universe.

She-Ra was the Princess of Power.

Freddy from Scooby Doo could lead you in solving a mystery.

Inspector Gadget’s niece, Penny, was the real brains behind each crime solved.

Rainbow Bright and her noble (white) steed had the power to make any problem go away simply by putting little glittery stars in her belt and pressing a button.

Every powerful/smart/enterprising person in the 80s cartoon world is white and usually blond. Even Dottie Dog from the Get Along Gang was a blond cheerleader. Add to that, every other girl in the Gang had blue eyes, just to reinforce that these may be animals, and we can’t make them ALL blond, but daggonit, these are WHITE animals!

One could argue that Mr. T bucked this trend on the cartoon named for him, but I don’t accept that. If we apply the same character and plot development standards to his show as say, She-Ra, where every member of the Rebellion living in the Whispering Woods is white, 80s television might have imploded. It still might. Can you imagine a team of all Black gymnasts lead by a Black man in a cut off shirt and a Mohawk flying around the world solving crimes and subduing people with their physical prowess? It would result in cartoon TVs first police shooting.

But back to the monkeys, cultural representation and how I saw myself.

When you grow up in Africa or around Africans in the diaspora, there is a 99% chance that you will hear tell of a “monkey” story. My primary school teacher told us about how a young English boy stopped him in London one day and asked if he had a tail…and if he’d allow him to see it. When I was a child, an airport worker in Europe once referred to all the Africans in transit as a “bunch of monkeys”. The Lebanese woman who lived next door to my best friend could be heard screaming, “You f***ing monkey!!!” at her maid as she hurled household items at her.

Nevertheless and no matter what the world said around me, I never saw a monkey’s reflection staring back at me when I looked in a physical mirror. But what was beinf reflected back to me on a subconscious level was something else entirely. When I discovered the subliminal perceptions I held about myself– and my continent – it startled it me. It shook me. It shamed me.

One day, many Monchichi years later, I was at home when someone (I can’t remember who because folks were always dropping by in those days) brought over a printed piece of paper with an AT&T ad on it. They were angry and demanded we look at it. Horror and shock erupted from the adults around the room. I kept staring at it, trying to work out what was so awful about this whimsical telephone advertisement.

“Look at Africa.”

I looked and didn’t see anything wrong. Africa was the right shape, the geography seemed in order…

“Malaka. Look at everyone else on the globe with a phone in their hand!”

I still didn’t get it.

“There’s a monkey sitting in Africa. Every body else on the planet using the phone is human, but they got a MONKEY in Africa!”

An AT&T ad from 1993 depicting the company’s coverage around the globe.

Of course I didn’t see it.

Monchichis ‘look like’ me.

Monchichis have technology.

Monchichis also happen to be monkeys.

Monkeys are live in Africa.

Monkeys look like me.

Oh my God.

*****

Fortunately, my children’s generation and those beyond will (hopefully) be spared this sort of cognitive disjoining when confronted with racist art/advertising. We still have to fight against the effects of colorism, body dysmorphic disorder and hair texturism (a plague in the natural hair community), but I am confident that they will never subliminally associate their physical features or their personhood with a monkey. We have Doc McStuffins and Li’l Bill to thank for that. So when people ask ‘WHY do we need more characters of color on TV’, let my Monchichi story provide further evidence for why more – and better – representation is necessary. Not that that matters so much at our house now. In my absence, Marshall has cut DSTV, so television plays a lesser part in raising his children than it would if I were home. I suppose that’s a good thing.

 

Have you ever had a moment where you discovered that pop culture influenced you on a subliminal level? Was it a positive or negative experience?

In Defense of the Cowardly Marwako Employees Who Stood By As Their Co-Worker’s Face was Pushed into Pepper

Note: I will tell you all about the brain tumor that’s kept me from writing, but let’s table that for now so we can talk about this.

On the 4th of March in the year of Lord, two thousand and seventeen, it was widely reported that a 26 year-old restaurant manager named Jihad Thaabn grabbed Evelyn Boakye by the neck and rubbed her face in blended pepper while hurling abusive words at her. Ms. Boakye is employed as a member of kitchen staff at Marwako, a restaurant in Accra owned by Mr. Thaabn’s brother-in-law. The attack went on for 10 minutes before she was released from Thaabn’s physical grip. As she stood washing her face, Thaabn’s anger was reignited for reason’s that have yet to be explained. The attack continued. He grabbed her again and locked her in a room for 6 hours, refusing her medical treatment while forbidding her fellow employees from offering her assistance.

Marwako

It’s reported that Thaabn warned that if anyone tried to intervene, he’d have their job(s). All these men and women could do was stand by and watch “helplessly” as their co-worker was physically tortured and held against her will on the premises of their place of employment. Upon her release, Ms. Boakye alleges that she was warned not to report the matter to the police. It took her two days to gather the courage to report the matter, still not having recovered from the chemical effects of having pulverized scotch bonnets rubbed into her eyes.

index

As one would predict, there is a healthy dose of outrage expressed all over the country. There is also no small amount of indifference, with people very eager to move on from the incident because there are “bigger issues” plaguing Ghana than one Lebanese man abusing his subordinate. After Ghanaians have argued about whether Marwako should be boycotted/who really suffers in the wake of a boycott/whether we all shouldn’t just leave this to karma and God, we will spin in circles until nothing is actually done to address the root causes of employee abuses in the nation until the next horrifying event. Such is the Ghanaian’s cycle. We know it, and most importantly, foreigners know it as well. There is a reason that Ghanaians have a reputation for being “friendly”, rather than “proud”. Friendly in our context is a polite euphemism for push over. There’s no point in denying it.

Nevertheless, keyboard courage has been exhibited in profuse abundance. I have yet to see a single individual express solidarity or empathy with the other employees who watched Evelyn Boakye suffer through her 6-hour-plus ordeal.

“So what were her co-workers doing while she was being attacked?”

“If it was me, I would NEVER let that man put a finger on me!”

“Oh, if I was there, I would have intervened. Damn these Lebanese to hell! Can I come to their country and behave this way?”

We all would like to think that we would behave heroically in moments such as this – that we would muster all the gallantry of the ancients and right a horrible wrong in that moment. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we all exhibited the kind of courage we do while behind the glare of our screens, we wouldn’t let managers get away with sexually harassing the new hire; we wouldn’t sit by while a man beats a street kid to a pulp for scratching his car; we wouldn’t stand by while a trio of men walks into a chop bar in order to slap and punch two women for the crime of being lesbians…allegedly. In fact, we walk by atrocities committed in our communities every day because it’s none of our business.

Second to that, all this haughty talk is the privilege of those who have the benefit of financial security. If it’s one thing dependency robs you of, it’s the license to exhibit courage in the moment. Notice what Jihad Thaabn threatened his sympathetic subordinates with in the midst of his terrorism: the loss of their livelihood if they dared to intervene. The choice between dignity and paying school fees is not an easy one when you have so many people depending on your income. As I sit here and type, I can see the mental wheels of those Marwako kitchen staff turning. I understand why they where rendered inert. I’ve been there myself.

When I was 23, I worked at an organization that sold conferencing solutions. I was only there a short while before I was promoted from office admin to account manager, the direct result of a pending merger with a larger company. A week before the promotion was to take place, there was a brouhaha that I was drawn into between two other AMs and the operator, whose job was obsolete but spared because she was a friend of the CEO. Somehow, I ended up in the CEO’s office finding myself on the receiving end of a verbal assault. She cursed me and the other two account managers who’d gotten me embroiled in an issue that I had no stake in at all. The woman used language that my own father had never spoken to me with, and if the man who was responsible for my earthly existence and education up unto that point had never cussed at me like that, then there was absolutely no way in Satan’s hottest hell that this white woman was going to.

I cleared out my office and quit that afternoon.

This, of course, looked bad for the company (the accounts had already been divvied) and over the weekend I got half a dozen calls from managers and co-workers asking me to reconsider and come back. I refused to listen. I called my father proudly to tell him what I’d done.

“Why would you do something like that?” he asked incredulously.

“Because she CUSSED me, Daddy. How can I work for someone who would treat me like that? Even YOU’VE never cursed at me before…”

Less than impressed with honorable stance, my father said, quite sardonically:

“You should’ve waited until you got another job before you quit.”

Now, as a 23-year-old woman with no children, no car note and minimal bills, there was no reason for me not to have walked away from that toxic environment and say screw it all. What my dad was saying – without saying – is that I was a 23-year-old Ghanaian who had a family to help support back in Ghana and that they could not wait the requisite 3-6 months for a new job to pop. Doing so would stem the flow of that support. My personal suffering….and dignity, by extension…was of lesser consequence.

Three days later, I was loath to return to that job, but return I did.

“I knew she would come back,” my immediate line manager was reported to have said.

Whore.

Until Ghanaians get to the point where our dignity is worth more than a position frying rice or creating new customer accounts, there will always be a Jihad Thaabn, or an Obinim, or the myriad of powerful-yet-unnotable people at liberty to abuse their staff on a daily basis. The Marwako assault exposes yet again how privation robs a people of more than the things that readily come to mind when we think of the working poor and middle classes; like access to social services and utilities. It also has the capacity to rob one of the ability to express compassion.

Isn’t it scary to think that one day, someone will be too frightened to save you when you’re face is being ground into the proverbial pepper?

Seven Lessons in Seven Days

Somewhere along the way in late 2016, I (apparently) uttered the words “I desperately need a vacation from my family!”

Now, I don’t recall ever saying this aloud – but as the old Negro proverb goes, “From your lips to God’s ears!!!” That is how I ended up being banished to Tsitsikamma National Park for seven days and seven nights. It was my husband’s birthday gift to me: Solitude. Ostensibly, solitude to write, as I have also professed aloud that I want to go on a writer’s retreat at some point in 2017. (That I DO remember saying.)

It was a sweet gesture from a man who dotes on me, so I have tried my best to make it work to my advantage. Unfortunately, that attempt was in vain. I have discovered in these past seven days that though I often crave silence, I am terrified of it when bestowed to me over long periods of time. There is a silver lining, as luck would have it. My solitude forced me to pay attention to everything around me, as I had little to no access to the Internet (a cumulative one hour over the course of seven days) and only one DVD to keep me company in all that while. That DVD was Graffiti Bridge, starring Prince. I’ve owned Graffiti Bridge since 2006 at least, but have never watched it until this week. I watched it for four consecutive nights until my family came to see me on Sunday with more movies. As he always does, the Purple One taught me something special about this thing we call life.

 

Lesson 1: Divine Providence

“What God has for you is for you.” That is a saying I used to repeat in worship because it was cute, but after watching Graffiti Bridge, I firmly believe it. Did you see how many times Morris Day & The Time blew up the Glam Slam, or set a fire, or destroyed Prince’s equipment? The answer is LOTS. And STILL, no matter what, new instruments always appeared in time for the next battle or the Glam Slam was restored to its industrial splendor just in time opening hours; as though it had gone through a modest renovation rather than a demolition attempt. If something is meant for you, all the pieces will eventually line up for you to have it.

prince-graffiti-bridge-film-style-07

Lesson 2: Effort

I opened my hut window to let some air in, which always runs the risk of letting other things in. On this particular occasion, a fat horsefly buzzed its way into my room. I was content not to bother it as long as it didn’t bother my food or me and as fortune would have it, it eventually got bored and decided it would leave. It buzzed its way back toward the window. Instead of following the breeze and flying out, it flew toward the pane of the adjacent window, desperately trying to fly through it.

Y’all.

I watched this dumb fly climb up the pane, ram its head into it, fly to the base, climb up it again, and ram its head into the glass – repeatedly – for 15 minutes. It did this until it DIED from exhaustion. The fly entered my room full of loud, buzzy piss and vinegar but would have died in silence if not for the undignified “thunk” of its corps hitting varnished wood.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-42-27-pmThis taught me two things: a) If you’re dumb to get yourself into an unfamiliar situation, be smart enough to plan your way out. b) Effort without strategy can have fatal consequences. Sure, the fly could see its goal – the woods outside – from the clear glass, but that barrier was there for reasons. Just because something takes on the appearance of your success doesn’t mean it’s true to form. If you keep running into the same clear glass wall, maybe it’s time to shift course just a bit.

Or else you gon’ die.

Lesson 3: Vanity

Vanity is often regarded as a negative characteristic, but I believe it can be put to good and positive use. Embodying vanity can be healing. An albatross showed me this.

With miles and miles of beach available at its disposal, this particular winged sea rat chose to waddle in the one rock pool formations that was closest to me. It bathed itself with thoroughness and surprising attention to detail. The albatross made a big fuss about making rings and waves in the water that was still and peaceful before its aggressive arrival. After its ablution, it then chose to preen itself on the singular rock that was directly in my line of sight. Every once in a while it would stop fussing with its feathers to check if I was checking it out. After we made intermittent (and sufficient) eye contact, it continued its grooming.

To the world, the albatross is an unattractive nuisance with an irritating bird shriek. But in its own eyes, it is a siren of the sea, the peacock of the waves. How else can a seagull gain the effrontery to assume its presence is a desirable one? In this way, I learned that we must all shine and glory in our own light; Yes, even we who qualify as winged rodents.

Lesson 4: Perfection

Have you ever spent the day in a perfect environment, where someone else has thought of EVERYTHING? Well in this case, that someone happens to have been God. As I said, I went to Tsitsikamma to write, but most of my time was spent in reflection and contemplation. Why? Because perfection does not inspire creativity. There’s nothing of value you can add to perfection. It’s as futile an act as gilding the lily.

Can you imagine throwing extra muscles on Indris Elba? No. No you can’t. Because what’s the point? See how perfection robs of you the very desire to take a creative risk?

Lesson 5: Honesty

Piggybacking off of perfection is a lesson in honesty. And if I’m truthful, sitting out in the woods alone was not the course to successful, productive writing…at least for me. This is because the woods, the darkness, the perpetual crashing of the waves and the very pine planks that housed and protected me from the elements invoked sheer terror within me. That leads me to…

Lesson 6: Courage

Most of our greatest fears begin in the mind. A lot of us don’t even get a chance to fail, because we won’t take the shot(s) needed to experience failure nor success. And even though I did not succeed in writing the Great African Novel during my sabbatical in the forest, I did at least walk away with a new understanding and appreciation for the part our cognitive framework plays in overcoming doubt and fear. In my case, I overcame my fear of being overridden by cockroaches.

screen-shot-2017-02-05-at-3-40-51-pmLook at these walls. Tell me these walls don’t look like cockroaches! Every night, I kept vigil with the light of my cell phone to make sure that the knobs in the walls did not come to life with beetle like pestilence with the sole aim of crawling into my ears and inhabiting my brain. *Shudder!!! *

I could’ve let courage fail me and insist that my husband pick me up long before the seven days had come to a close, but instead, now I get to boast to you all about how brave I was in my insulated cottage with plumbing.

Lesson 7: Trust…with Caution

A doe and her fawn came to nibble on the tender shoots that sprang up all around the campsite at the park. Although I was in striking distance of either on two occasions at least, I made it a point to keep a respectful and wide berth. Although the animals were somewhat comfortable in the presence of their human neighbors, I believe everything NatGeo tells us about animals and wildness. I can hardly think of a dumber way to die than a head-butt to the gut from Bambi’s mom.

This analogy works in the human world as well. It works for virtually any situation. From credit card sharks to the lady offering “free” samples to bonbons at the mall, it always pays to sprinkle your trust with a little bit of caution. Because one minute, you’ve lost yourself in the blissful delight of gourmet chocolate and the next, you’re $5,000 in chocolate branded credit card debt.

 

And there you have it! I turned my mess into Muesli. Have you had any impacting lessons come your way this early in the year yet? Do share!