A Little Painful Reflection

Everyone thinks that being able to write is a truly marvelous thing. Sometimes it is. Other times, it’s such a struggle to keep the thoughts from spilling out of your nostrils that you have to hum really loudly to outdo the incessant projection of your fantasies into your real world. In case you still think this to be a wonderful experience, do read on.

I have a problem with using my words to express exactly what I’m thinking. Add to that my often delayed response to hurt and shame and you have a bubbling cauldron of trouble.

So now that you have a background, I’ll share a little story. As previously stated, let’s take a hypothetical angle to this. Okay? Good!

An old friend of mine – let us call him Peter – recently pointed out that I reek of independence. He obviously did not mean the good kind. He was not the first person to point that out. In fact, he was the third male friend to have cited this observation and so it sucked big time to hear it said to me a second time in under two weeks; the third strike would occur the day before yesterday. In the spirit of applying what I have learnt from Brene Brown about developing shame resilience, I started thinking about the things that trigger feelings of shame in me. This is where I go out on a limb and share, on the world wide web, what it is that makes me feel vulnerable:

  1. Asking for help. I don’t mind being needed, but I hate to feel needy.
  2. Reminding a close friend/relation that they owe me money. This makes me feel like a petty and exacting person every single time.
  3. Feeling like a third wheel. Sometimes, conversations happen around me that I cannot contribute to because I don’t watch TV, I haven’t been up-to-date with movies, I don’t read certain books, I have been so busy at work that I have lost touch with a couple of friends over the past few months (let us just count all of this year).
  4. Saying “No, thanks” when everyone is in on ordering pizza for lunch again or going out or meeting up or visiting a mutual friend. There are days – sometimes several in a row – when I would prefer to remain at the office alone or walk home alone or sit in my little house alone and just be with Michael Buble or the dim lights that seep into my room when the lights in my house are off.
  5. Feeling as if I need to explain my decisions/choices. I get defensive a lot. Even when it doesn’t show (which is not often). So finding the words to explain why I do not feel like: tagging along on an idea or taking one for the team or doing it with everyone else or not being a party pooper is a hustle. How do I put it frankly without boring you with too many details or coming short of explaining what I mean to say? Wait, why am I explaining my need for alone time to you anyway? I don’t like sitting to complete a half-done to-do list late in the day/night and having myself to blame for getting arm-twisted into something that may have been important but was definitely not urgent.
  6. Coming off as bossy and coming off as indecisive. The former leaves me feeling as if I am stuck in a tunnel and waiting to get run over by a giant truck traveling in my direction at 100 miles per hour. The latter makes me feel as if I’m in a perpetual state of falling down a cold bottomless abyss.
  7. Falling short. Whether it is of expectations at work or at home or among friends, family and strangers. I do not like to let people down where I should have been more capable of handling an issue whether on a professional or personal level. I have been told that I do not like blame and I have confessed to having the guilt conscience of a nun (although the opposite is also true if I should manage to block someone or something out of my mind completely).
  8. Like my rabbit breeding business which failed twice before even kicking off. The blame went round and round in my head until it landed smack where it started – with me. The worst part is not that I lost what was my life savings at the time, it was (and still is) that I lost my business partner’s money too. And it doesn’t help that he says that he signed up for it with the risk of failure in mind.
  9. Getting called out out loud. I hate feeling like a live manual whose every move and habit and likely breakdown have all been mastered. I don’t like most statements about me which start with: “Wait and see how she’ll react to…” or “You’re going to make her…” or “This is where/the part where she (will)…”. I don’t like experiencing the overwhelming and exhausting need to prove myself to people I care about. Trying to prove them wrong, a natural reaction for me, is equally painful and emotionally exhausting.
  10. Feeling dismissed. Have you felt as if you were there for someone more than they were willing to be there for you? Have you been willing to listen and be present, advising gently without fixing, only to never really feel as if you were receiving the same patient willingness to listen to your own hurt/frustrations? That is the one thing I feel I need to learn to get over.

I just realized that I am feeling pretty about myself right now. So I’ll stop typing now and get into bed before I actually break down.

I really hope this helps someone.

P.S. I wrote this last night. I’m feeling pretty good about myself today.

Such is Life

Fridah's Banana Cake

Fridah’s Banana Cake

I’ve got the lonesome blues and it’s Friday.

For two weeks I have been a real girlfriend. The boyfriend was around and we ate cold pizza for breakfast, watched Trevor Noah after dinner, talked about the future, held hands, met my friends, had drinks with his. I cooked for him, he did the dishes, we did laundry together, I fell asleep in his arms, we made trips to see his parents for the weekend and his brother’s new baby.

Now, I dread going home to fall asleep next to the pillow case that still holds his scent. I haven’t been able to fall asleep as easily as I’d like to and although I scrubbed the house clean yesterday morning, I could not wash the pillow cases. It’s still too soon to have all of him exit all at once.

There’s something about living alone that makes it difficult to adjust to a housemate, be it for a few days. And the fact that you are in a long distance relationship does little to help you along. You notice how crammed your space has started to look, that the only other time any part of your home looked this messy it was when you were moving in for the first time, that you wish the bunching of your floor rug did not happen so often, that you’re afraid of how exhausted you are by the repetitive returning of things to “where they ought to be”.

Then you realize that you care more for the person crowding your personal than the stuff and the order and the space itself. I miss my boyfriend and I miss the mess my house was in because it meant that I was not alone.

However, that is where the support of good friends comes in. The ones who know just when to stay away and when to call and what to say when they see you (which includes never asking “Are you okay?” until a few days have passed or when it is in relation to a difficult situation at work or your family). I cannot stress how blessed I feel to be in such amazing company at this time. As I type this, we just had cake delivered at the office and shared it with everyone and we’re expecting one of us to join us any minute now so we can enjoy more good music and cake with the whipped cream the boyfriend brought me. He would be so proud.

In other news, IT’S FINALLY FRIDAY!!! I look forward to getting some reading done, watching at least one more movie (I watched Gone Girl last night and slept so late I had trouble waking up this morning) and visiting mother dearest. I also have a cooking date with a new(ish) friend I may be working with closely and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Plus, I got a call from a local media house to speak on a certain health issue as a nutritionist and I’m looking forward to that too. I have finally started to accept that my rabbit breeding business has failed and it feels good to say that without feeling guilt. My future brother-in-law had a long chat with me on accepting and moving on and trying again that left me feeling ready to let go and do something else. He pointed out that I had gained experience and that nobody could take away this invaluable life lesson; that in spite of the monetary losses, I am now in the league of people who took a risk and learned something from it – because there are people like me who never try. I immediately thought of Theodore Roosevelt’s quote, which is what I will leave you mulling over this weekend:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Living Life on the Fat Lane.

I weighed almost 10 kilograms more than I do now when I was in high school. Recently, precisely 5 months ago, I put on a little weight and got complimented on the same – turns out I was a little too trim for my height and age (not likely in that order). One business-associate-become-friend pointed out that I now look like a woman and not just a girl.
Where were all these people when I was dressing in over-size clothes, with every inch of my arms and legs covered even in hot weather, and my hair cut short – all so I could draw as little attention to my body as possible?
The statement that led to my losing 9 kilograms in 3 months came from my mother’s friend. It is vital that I point out that it took place at the entrance to my mother’s office building, in her presence, on a loud chirpy and oblivious note.
“Kwani what is this that you’re eating that has made you bigger than your mum?”
Obviously, this post took me way back and sank in deep for me.

Embracing Imperfection

I have a confession to make: I have been struggling with perfectionist tendencies since I was a teenager. If you’re a carefree spirit who lives by the Y.O.L.O. mantra, this is not a big deal. You’re on the outside looking in at a situation which needs more than getting laid a little more to get it fixed. My perfectionism was rooted in the need to control what I could around me. I knew I was brilliant, just not at Math and Physics, and it drove me insane to watch other students excel academically with a lot less effort than I put in. So I made sure I kicked ass in my English class, that I knew a lot more theology than the average Joe, that I read Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams while everyone else was doing devotionals or romance novels, that I knew about temperaments and personality types and disorders and body language before most of my peers at the time. If I could not be good at one thing, I had to be great at something else.
And there was the cleaning and organizing. Even my mother and I differed over how I wanted her house to look. Shoes had to be dusted and kept in a straight line, pegs and hangers were colour coordinated on the clothesline and in the closet, respectively, and the house was dusted and mopped twice every single day except Saturday. When I hosted, which was almost every weekend and some days of the week, I had to do the cooking myself. I was also particular about how the dishes were arranged on the rack. I listened to the same music when I did laundry at home – Enya, for about three hours straight – and I grew cross with my roommates when they touched my stuff and forgot to put it right where they found it or when their guests sat on my bed and left butt prints behind – I expected them to straighten up like I did whenever I sat on someone’s bed. I was exhausted a whole lot, but too busy to take seriously the jokes made by my friends about my being obsessive compulsive. Deep down, I was a little proud of the acknowledgement of my efforts; they noticed that I was extraordinary at something.
In 2012, I met Sir Ken Robinson and Brene Brown. I have not been the same since. I realized that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was enough, that being vulnerable was not a bad thing since vulnerability allowed me to love and empathize and reach out with stories of my own personal fears and failings. I have been reading Brene’s book, Daring Greatly, and have discovered more and more about how I have been holding myself back than I ever did. I have grown more receptive of risk taking and communicating my feelings and fear to those I love and I have especially come to appreciate that I am enough.
As a result, I told the boyfriend that I missed him and wanted to see him only to learn that he had booked a flight to come be with me for two weeks. For those of you who didn’t already know, I have been in a long distance relationship for about 6 years. It’s both amazing and dreadful because you relish and take note of the little things that many people in “normal” relationships have confessed to take for granted, but it can also sap your energy and drain you emotionally and leave you feeling lonely and unfulfilled. I also went on my first real road-trip with friends in 2015; the others were more about the destination, but I have had some good times with friends on the road. Last weekend, we went to Meru and I was thrilled by the whole experience – the comfortable van we took, the frequent stops we made, the hotel rooms we checked into, the services at the hotel, seeing our mutual friend break down when she saw us at her wedding, watching our mutual friend match out of a limo and down the aisle to exchange vows with her college sweetheart, dancing all night at the after party, hitching a ride back into the capital in the (wait for it) the same limousine used by the bride and her maids. A small personal detail is that my period came late, for no reason at all, and that gave me a chance to really enjoy my weekend getaway. Now, my other friends want to be included in whatever future plans we have for a road-trip over the weekend. I have a trip to Ahero, near the lakeside city of Kisumu, scheduled for next weekend with the boyfriend where we’ll be visiting his parents. I can’t wait. I especially can’t wait to receive him at the airport! I’ve started spreading my business options and I’m focusing on sales and marketing which I am rumoured to be naturally good at. I especially enjoy being able to be genuinely honest about what makes me feel shameful or vulnerable.
In short, I feel that I am learning how to live a fuller life and I simply had to share my joy with you all.
Cheers good people!


Brene Brown's book

Brene Brown’s book

I grew up believing that tears were a sure sign of weakness. I was a tom-boy, and I still am, so I felt very strongly about crying; even when it happened in the dark and nobody was there to witness it. Fast forward to somewhere between 2011 and 2012, about a decade later, when I came across this quote by Washington Irving:

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

Looking back, I wish I had shed a few more tears and allowed people around me to do the same without letting them feel awkward about it after. My only defense is that I didn’t know better.

In 2013, after I quit my job as a receptionist because I was unhappy, a friend of mine introduced me to Ted Talks. The summary of it is that I have never been the same since. My favourite Tedster is Sir Ken Robinson. He helped me think about my life as organic as opposed to a linear model and I stopped feeling like a batch of product in a box meant for the job market. Brene Brown, another Tedster I really like, made me realize that vulnerability is a good thing. I shall be reading her book, Daring Greatly, because I want to gain the courage to be vulnerable so that I can in turn transform how I live, love, parent and lead. I am still learning how to lean into discomfort and how to put myself out there more, but I have seen myself improve and grow and have watched as some of my insecurities have faded into oblivion because of embracing vulnerability. Even my new hairdo – kinky untamed hair worn not-straightened – is an attempt at being comfortable with my natural look. I especially enjoy taking a shower from head to toe EVERY SINGLE MORNING and I looove my new shampoo. Vulnerability is allowing me to walk more comfortably in my own skin and helping me feel better connected to myself and the people I care about.


Should I meet Brene, I would love to tell her that I have shared her talk with a small group of teenagers who had just joined one of the top performing high schools in my country because I felt that they needed to know that it was okay to feel the pressure to excel in class and because everyone struggles with something. Their response proved to me that there is a need for the appreciation of vulnerability in our lives.

A close friend of mine told me, rather recently, that he was certain that I would look at him differently because I had seen him through his worst phase of a breakup. He went ahead to say that he was sure that I would break up with my boyfriend if he ever bore his soul to me like he (my friend) had done. It broke my heart to hear him say that. It especially made me feel terrible that I did not disagree with him 100%.

The inspiration for this post is Whitney Houston’s song I Look to You. I listened to it on my ride to work this morning and it made me sad because she was my heroine growing up – I wanted to grow up to sing like her – and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to still have her around. I don’t sing much anymore, but I plan on getting back to it because music does nourish my soul and those of others (I used to sing with a few friends at a hospital near home and it gave me such joy to share myself like that).

Cheers, good people!

The World IS a Village & I love Java


Mark says I’m thirsty about a certain guy because he’s nice. I think I just like nice guys. And not (necessarily) in the flirty sense. This story begins at Java, a coffee house with several outlets in Nairobi, where I have developed the habit of meeting up at with a few friends of mine, on account of the amazing chocolate fudge cake (which I now only allow myself to have thrice every month and even then I share it with someone) and Dawa – the term of endearment I use for the garlic-honey-hot water mix with a secret ingredient (which my taste buds are yet to identify correctly). By the way, dawa is the Swahili word for medicine; a rather appropriate name for this hot beverage since it helps through the worse cases of the flu.

Towards the end of last year, I started spending more time at Java because I enjoy being in good company and it’s an added bonus when there is also a variety of good meals or snacks present. I have resolved to enjoy myself a little more this year and have even joined a travel club so I can make another trip to Europe later this year. There is also a tentative schedule for road trips around Kenya, and I do hope to cross the border a few times, alongside what my girl Lisa calls a “chai fund” – money put aside with the intention of facilitating coffee/chai dates.

So the reason why I picked the above title for this blog is because I identified a wonderful waiter at my favourite Java in town, the one along Kimathi Street with a balcony overlooking Kaldis. Let’s call him Nick. Mark insisted that I may as well ask for his number when I chatted him up some time last week before placing my order. I laughed and let it go. Nick didn’t serve us when we went to Java with Julie on Monday, but I did see him around. You cannot imagine my surprise when we boarded the same bus home and discovered that we are neighbours! He lives right across a gate from me and has also lived there for a year.

Tonight, I’m glad that the world is a village. It makes me feel small and safe.


Hello good people!

I guess what they say about serving too many masters is true: I have been doing a lot more reading than writing, I have been blogging elsewhere (sharonogugu.wordpress.com) more faithfully than I have been doing here and I have also been taking more time to revive the hang-out-with-friends habit than I did before.

Apart from wondering why I haven’t dared to book a trip to Greece and quit my job to go on road trips, I have been keeping well. Everyone is getting married and having babies and I’m still hungering for more time on the road. I’ve decided to reread old (and not so old) favourites and after The Fault In Our Stars, I have reread Americanah. I should be done with Harper Lee’s brilliantly witty To Kill A Moking Bird and then I shall be rereading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – although I have kind already started.

So one of my awesome(EST) friends is a young man who likes to read and has too much in common with me. We are both nursing curious cases Wanderlust and reading and are in love with the same Theodore Roosevelt quote which I shall leave here so you will take time to celebrate leaning into your fears (that line is from an amazing TedTalk, by the way).

After my first trip out of Kenya last year I cannot wait to see Europe again! Thoughts of Vienna and beauiful cotton scarves and Turkish food kiosks consume me all the time. I miss the Doener Falafels and Doener box treats I enjoyed while touring and cannot wait to do it again and do it this year so help me God!

I’ve also planned a few rounds of road trips around Kenya and cannot wait to go to Nakuru and Namanga and Lamu!

Meanwhile, I am looking for the next new challenge with regard to work because I really have been here a year and although management has it perks I have a hunger for some fieldwork, some slaving away in the hot sun, some volunteer work far away from home and some new exciting adventure which I feel is out there waiting to be found.

What are your exciting ambitions for this year?