On The Year Ahead

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Per the internet, if you are not Donald Trump or Andy Murray, 2016 was probably a rough year. It was for me. Amongst other things, Mum left earth and there was nothing I could do about it. We can only control a small fraction of life and that sucks. We do our bit, life does hers and if we are lucky enough, the stars align to create something that is without an untimely and a sorrowful conclusion. But everything ends and sorrow is ingrained in the fabric of life. 

It seems, we are perpetually warring for and against life’s uncertainties: success and failure, Joy and sorrow, and so on. We do have (to an extent) control of the work put in, the friendships we make and break, the places we go and books we read. But, life is a careless wind unperturbed by people's dedication to happiness. A curve ball could be thrown at any time and God save the one who is unable to catch it. Yet faith teaches us to believe, in spite of and in protest against fear and defeat. I suppose it is what drags us, weary athletes, to the end of the marathon, heaving with punctured lungs and broken bones. Faith is why we look forward to things that are not there. And we must hold on to it like our lives depend on it. It is what fuels the New Year’s optimism. 

It is ever-present in the congregation at a church’s crossover service. Churches are usually packed to the rafters with faithful and exceptionally jolly people, excited about the new start January 1 provides. The pastor will declare the New Year a year of success, promotion and victory, and we will shout thunderous Amens! And dance profusely, sweating away former anxieties and putting on latent ones, that will, if we are lucky enough, remain latent. For me, the best part of the service has always been peering through the swarm of bodies for my parents, especially mum, at the dawn of the New Year. She was hardly happier than she was on January 1 and thus beamed between 11:30pm and 12:30am. Maybe it was because every year of being alive was miraculous. We hugged her in turns– my brothers and I, and she often smiled with her lips folded in, as if to hold a reckless laugh or hide a dangerous blush.

We recently moved to a much bigger church. The kind that holds two Sunday services and has a mid-week morning event with over 1000 attendees. If we weave through the avalanche of bodies in one piece, my brothers and I will make it to dad in time to keep half of the tradition alive. And although one never really 'moves on' from the loss of a loved one, life does. The speed of life means that there is a hesitation to celebrate the start of a new year. In a way it feels like I am leaving mum behind with the year. Ah, but life goes on.

As for 2017, I hope we look after our mental healths. I have learnt the hard way to protect mine at all costs. The brain is the CPU and can, like every other organ in the body, become unwell. I hope we protect our faiths and ruminate on knowledge like never before. I hope we ask questions of our beliefs and pursue personal understanding and that we are not overwhelmed by the multitude of doctrines in our religious or spiritual spaces. I hope we are kind to one another and that we help others without fanfare and the want of reciprocation. I hope we protect our dreams. And realise that the fear of failure is fine if we have figured out what we want to do. I hope we figure it out if we already haven't. And who knows? perhaps 2017 will be the year that our stars align. I hope we all hold on to hope and faith.

I hope we all have a happy new year and beyond. 

Photo source: Pintrest

 

Places

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I preserve my time with people as events and more importantly, places. Goodbyes have become a permanent fixture over the years: migration, graduation, death, etc. Distance soon turns friends into strangers. Easy pleasantries become quadratic equations: “I haven't seen x in while; I should probably check up on y." And the people I (we) shared laughs and tears with, become vestiges of good times: the good old days. Nostalgia.

I collect these experiences as places because even when the nuances of the stories and moments slip out of my hands, I do not misplace the where. It means that when the what and how escape memory, there is a place to build from. A foundation to lay old bricks upon. A road map to a house of lost treasures and old possibilities.

When my mum passed on in May, I rushed to recollect our last time together, the last place we breathed together. It was on her 50th birthday and she was being discharged post-surgery from a hospital in the States. How poetic. She was frail but cheery, flashing a smile to the extent the pain would permit. Cancer be dammed. This was recovery. I did not think a hospital room in Maryland would be our last place. It was. When I think of November 2015, I'll remember that place.

I did not see her until February or March: via Facetime. I was in my room. She was in hers, an ocean away, asking about my wellbeing. “How are your friends?” as though she knew any of them. Her room is now a landmark in my memory.

I had a strange dream as a kid. A type of apocalypse had happened but mummy and I remained, alone in the world. Frightened. But we had ourselves. I fail at recalling the rest of the dream but I remember that we stood at the front of her shop in Iba, waiting for something to happen. Anything.

She turned up at 8pm for my first visiting day at boarding school. Visiting hours ended moons ago. Lagos was 2 hours away. I thought they had forgotten. There was a mix up, I think. I can’t quite remember. We sat at the front of my school’s chapel. Coke or Fanta and meat pie in hand; the wind gusting against our faces in the silent darkness.

The last time I saw her, we were at the funeral service, hours before the internment. She was resting in the casket. Her quiet yet striking beauty beaming as much in death as it did when she was alive. Her body decaying and soul on a journey. That she was “going to a better place,” brought me little to no consolation. Every time I heard it, no matter how true it rung, it fell off my skin like dead hair. How could the place be better without me? Without us?

But of course, she has a place in my heart (our hearts). And perhaps that is everything. Perhaps it matters that even as the upper bulb of the hourglass empties and memories become blurrier, the places we lived, left and loved ourselves, are etched as footprints in the sands; guiding and teaching me how to put the pieces together; how to repaint over and over, the marvellous picture of our time together.