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!

Vulnerability

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.

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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

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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.

Heeeey!

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?

More Monday Blues

I had such a busy, relaxed and happy weekend! I went to see my Mum, who just completed a course she has been working on with her everything for the past year. We’re even planning to have icecream in the course of this week to celebrate – I will have you know that my mother does not eat junk often. I also got to hang out with my best friend and roommate from uni on Saturday evening. We ate tortillas and played loud music and talked into the wee small hours of the morning. It was hard to leave her place on Sunday afternoon, but I was going to link up with the boyfriend’s family – his sister who recently had a wedding was around from Vienna and she wanted us to all have lunch together before she left last night.

Somewhere around 6 p.m., after some amazing breadcrumbed chicken and lovely carrot and salsa salad, I got a call that poured water on my giddiness. My side business has been making slow progress since I revived it a year ago and I have been too preoccupied with “other things” to check in on it as frequently as I did before and I got upset when this was pointed out yet again. Old wounds were opened and I thought about quitting. It got so bad that I called good buddy of mine in a fit and ranted for almost 20 minutes straight. Then I did the same with the boyfriend; only this time I stopped in the middle of the chat to break down.

Neal Caffrey got me smiling and I ate a whole bar of chocolate (I don’t even like chocolate, but this was Austrian and that is a different ball game). It didn’t help that it was raining heavily and that that tends to make me miss the boyfriend and I was unable to sleep for a while.

However, my college roomie and my other buddy from uni are in my office waiting for me to post this so we can go out for pizza.

Life is beautiful, good people. Choose to see it as such.

I had the Monday Blues today…

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I cannot believe how irritable I can get sometimes! I’m not good with spending; pulling out money to buy honey cornflakes which I know will come in handy when I can’t step out for lunch can set me off. And I think that’s what happened earlier this afternoon. I decided to put up a status update on Facebook indicating that I am pissed off because I need to get over myself before locking the office door and taking a few minutes to soak in Sam Smith. Then I got a call.

One of my closest friends – made sometime this year – called to update me on the progress he had made on a hurdle he was tackling. He has been hitting a brick wall in a vital personal project and this weekend the sun broke through his clouds. We took forty minutes to talk and laugh and sigh and celebrate.

Then I got an email from a close family member who recently suffered two strokes in quick succession – just two weeks apart – which rendered her right leg and hand less-sufficient-than usual. She is making huge progress and has been able to compose an email to family and friends, just today, letting us know that she is okay.

Now here I am drawing up a list of things I would like to spend money on in December. First of all, hangers for the clothes I never wear because they are heaped on top of each other at the bottom of three bags. Second, a road trip; the said friend (above) and I have been planning this for a while. The rest will follow and has to include a facelift for my place – should I decide against moving in the new year.

Cheers to the rain, to friendship, to positive energy and to Sam Smith!!!

Reading IS the new Sexy (among other things)

I have sat with people around tea or coffee more than I have probably walked the earth. What can I say? I’m a woman. We always have words to spare and nothing brings them out like a hot beverage with great company after a long day at the office.

Over the years, I have started to notice a new trend in gossip where men are involved. We girls like to talk about boys: the ones we love, the ones we can’t stand, the ones we wish we had, the ones who got away (either because we let them or because they weren’t exclusively ours to begin with) and the story has read like the original script of Romeo and Juliet. Even the Hollywood version was pretty close to Shakespeare’s original.

But my ears have started to pick an exciting new sequence in the narrations. More girls like men who read! Now, my findings are biased. I hang out with friends and friends of friends who resemble the first generation of friends. But hear me out. I am hearing more ladies chattering excitedly about blokes whom they can describe as “well read”, “widely read” “a fun of reading/books”. Books and I have had a love affair long before I even knew what love was and I cannot begin to express my utter joy at these new findings. And just so you know that I am not collecting statistics from the same pool, I eavesdrop on conversations sometimes. Yes, yes, not a particularly wonderful thing to put out on the world wide web, but I’m just being honest here. There is the likely chance than book lovers and lovers of book lovers hang out in coffee shops and quiet restaurants, but I am still pushing my agenda.

I may be stretching it if I say that the generation of men  that uses lines like “Me I would never touch a book if I didn’t have to do exams” is on the brink of extinction, but a girl can dream. Plus, the world would probably be less fun with no guys using pickup lines from books and getting the general idea or context of what they are quoting (to impress you) all wrong. Yes, the world does need more colour.

In my personal opinion, I like readers because I have noted a close parallel between this one habit and emotional intelligence; which I equate to being able to read between the lines, take a hint, know how to actually use what you know to keep up with the general dos and donts of human association. Now, just because I can, I will add that your stakes are significantly improved if you also happen to be musically inclined. I’m just saying. And that definitely does not include crying with me when my cat gets run over, but having the just-right-thing to say or letting me know that you genuinely do not know what to say or do to help the situation – and sometimes giving you the exact words I’d like to have spoken back as the ideal consolation.

There. I’m done. See you again when I’m feeling inspired!