Mornings are beautiful. A bout of fresh air, birds are singing ‘good morning’, and your mind is fresh. The aroma of freshly brewed Arabica welcomes you to the business of the day. And the morning sun gloriously shines, reminding you to keep rising no matter how many times you go down. It is the most beautiful sunrise South of the Sahara and North of Limpopo. You promise yourself never to look back again. You are a star shining in your own direction. You like Kipchoge Eliud, believe no human is limited. That still small voice in your heart keeps shouting of your capabilities. You swore to stand strong for you. To take the bold step and live up to your potential. But are you?
The thought of him hits your mind and everything comes tumbling down. Your heart aches. An ache so painful, it feels like your heart is breaking into pieces. Breathing is protracted, you are short of breath. All you want is him. He is your savior. You yearn for his touch. Yes, that touch that sends shock waves all the way to your toes. It arouses your brain in spasms and fixes a smile on your lips. You know it, right? It leaves a bodily vibration that is orgasmic in nature. In its wake, a heatwave remains.
Your lips tremble, longing for his kiss. His is the kiss of life. It is like he breathes his air into you and you can rise and jump like blind Batimayo. Girl, you know what I am talking about. You miss him. And will pay whatever price to have him as your man. I mean, many have crossed your paths, but none, I repeat none, meets his league. Tall, dark and handsome. His voice vibrating all the way to Timbuktu. His accent a mix of Queen’s English with an Italian and French touch. His Moschino shoes, Gucci belt, Italian suits, and Ashley’s cut hair and manicured nails smell fashion savvy and money. He drives a state-of-the-art car, the BMW X4. Oh, and did I forget his scent? Tom Ford Noir, Cool by Davidoff, Sauvage by Dior or Man by BVLGARI, you know which one you like on him.
It is Normal
Until he cheats on you. Or did he already cheat? Tagging your girlfriend to his next office party, because you are not a party animal like him. And if you are like my mother, did he walk with his head held high like did my father? Hold on, I need to digress for a second here. Growing up, my father hit mom so many times, I lost count. I, a weakling physically, could barely afford to defend her. She of muscle and vigor, she worked hard for every coin she held. Rains beat her, and cold bit into her flesh, out like many other struggling but tough women, selling second-hand clothes to fend for us. But when she got home, my old man would lift a hand at her. He that ate what she bought, dressed from her mitumba bales, and she never got tired of opening the gates for him way past midnight. I loathed his behavior.
And when those eye operations came nagging and she took the bow, my ol’man would use these moments to run the show. Such times, our fees would not be paid and my mother had no right to question him. It wasn’t about poverty for us, but a lack because he refused to chip in for the sake of his other women. And when I, the eldest child questioned his stinking mannerisms, my mother got the hit instead. Many are the times she fought him back, to defend herself, tagging along that ugly bandage on her right eye. I would stay awake many nights, crawling my way to the sitting room or by their bedroom door, just so if they fight, I can walk in. In the tender days, I curved out these insomnia habits.
Once I questioned my mama about this and her response haunts me to this day. She said, ‘Shiku, I stick by him because I love my family. I stand strong so that you daughters can have a father. Forget about me, I am old now, but you have a whole life ahead of you. I will continue standing by him so that you my kids can have the life I envision for you.” How old was she then? In her thirties, if I am counting right. Beautiful, smart, naturally light-skinned and with kids she adored to the moon and back. She, again from a family where the dad beat the mum, the trend was born there. She would do anything for her kids. But this answer gave me my determination. I promised myself never to stand such nonsense from one born of a woman.
Allow me to ask you today, how many times has he abused you and you stand him, condone his demeaning mannerisms and accepted a secondhand life for the sake of family? You fear fingers being pointed at you. The world will brand you a separated or divorced woman. Your kids will be called fatherless. Truth is, you may think you are protecting the kids or that he will change sometime later, but my dear, you cannot change an adult. Think twice before the rains beat you to six feet down. The trauma on your kids is barely ever healed.
Cultural Habits and Mannerisms
At your wedding, your parents gave you a bed. They added a brand-new set of bed sheets, a duvet if you are as modern, with a Maharaja mattress and fiber pillows. Summarily, you are now under your husband’s and do not have a bed to sleep on at your parents. in Swahili, they say, ‘wamekusindikiza na kitanda.’ Sometime back, this seemed all cool and beautiful. In fact, you are told that from then henceforth, you need permission to visit your parents and for how long you can stay over.
Oh, my mother kept her side on this one. Going to shagz was a one-day affair. Leave home in the morning and we are back before the clock of midnight. Yaani, somehow, we had to sleep on our beds at home. The number of times she would let us stay at her family were counted. But hold on, I barely every remembers her staying at her parents for more than three days. The narrative would go like this: her always wondering how the ol’man was surviving. What he was eating? Was there enough food and milk to last him that long? Come one now, food is in the fridge, well cooked and packed in tins. Yet when he returned, he barely had ever put a finger on that fridge door. He would forever be nursing gouts and puking for overeating half-cooked nyama choma and his love for the bottle.
A single call from him and our holidays would be rudely cut shot. Mzee ameongea. Eeeh, someone pinch my ear and rouse me from this sleep. I still see women my age face this today. Yes, kwa chama it is all about how she is surviving abuse from him. Aki, I am tired of listening. She is holding on because she did a big church wedding. You my friends, mwajijua. Parents and sibs forever remind you that you chose the guy, you cannot afford to leave him. It is much worse because you have kids in tow. I mean, they gave you a bed, how now do you expect them to house you and your baggage? Baggage is what your kids are to them. Kids belong to their father remember? And at his place, your kaburi zone lies. Ouch, I hate that statement with a passion.
Culture is holding you a prisoner of fate. Mama, this is a wake-up call. Your kids need you, for their tomorrow and day after tomorrow. Arise before you lose your mind. Love yourself some more and love those kids enough to protect them from the loss of a parent. I love them working marriages, but if it is not, at the point of no return, you need to make some deliberate choice.
Divorce in Africa is a Taboo
I know, no one needs to lecture me on this. You as a woman cannot walk away from your matrimonial home. As a matter of fact, it is wrong to air your dirty linen in public. You cannot go speaking your challenges to your parents or to the marriage counselor. It is your business to protect family secrets. In other words, you are to go with the sufferings, pains and hurts to the grave if the time ever comes. The couple of honor at your wedding is to be your advisors. Aki please, someone whispers to me where they leave their marital skeletons when they stand behind the bride and groom.
A time came when my mother had decided to leave her matrimonial bed. Divorce in court would not be an option. And her sibs though older, none was in support of the idea. There plan was to have her stick to her marriage like micege stick to your clothes in the fields. Aibu was not an idea they were willing to undergo. Their sister being called a divorcee did not augur well with them. So guess what they did, they would go tell my ol’man’s side her thoughts. But when the time to leave came, she never looked back. It was like rising from a bad dream.
Girl, remember, you were married alone. Not with your sister or parents. It is your package. Not even your clans despite their big name. when the time comes and you decide to walk away, ata kitanda sahau. Hold your head high and walk tall. It is your story, not theirs. And let caution you, to talk they truly will. You will be tagged, branded and fingers pointed at you. But guess what, someone who will love and treat you right is just around the corner. And anyway, you do not need a man to validate you. Take care of yourself first.
Religion and the Fear of Failure
Like me, because you are divorced or are a single parent, you cannot join the coveted Woman Guild or Mother’s Union. Hahaha, please allow me to laugh. Church doctrine does not allow a kid to be baptized without both parents present. The Elder at PCEA will ask you, ‘ako wapi baba mtoto?’ Yaani the team has never set their eyes on the man in your life and all of a sudden, they have picked an interest. You kids will be stigmatized in for a problem that you are walking from. Ask me about it. Guild, hadi hukoo kwa viu sasa.
Religion is the opium of the masses, someone said. You got married in church and are chained to church traditions. ‘Only death can set you asunder,’ said the pastor at your wedding. And the whispers about your marital struggles are spreading faster than Amazon bushfire. You take the back seat in the church so they cannot see you. But mama remember, it is you who took your hekayas to the Chama or told that other colleague from your District Fellowship. Yes, none has your best interests at heart. If you know how much I love udaku, you will understand the others.
Wazee will ask what happened and even call you for pastoral moments. The church evangelist will pass by at your home, even say a word of prayer but still go selling rumors to the highest bidder. The church has become a big religion and a lie; rather than being a haven for comfort. When I wanted my son baptized, I went through the usual kirathii, PCEA people, you know this one. Haha, had a new Giathii card updated and was officially welcomed back to church. Until the week for baptism happened. The evangelist just remembered that I wear trousers mostly and took it upon himself to remind me before fellow students, I should plan to wear a skirt on baptism day. Easy problem, because as a matter of fact, I had already bought a trending jeans skirt, red heels, and red top, in addition to my hair visiting a salon. It would be my sons’ big day, who would not want to look their best? Until the character asked for the father of the child to be present. Eeeeh, the guy had never been to the classes, and I hadn’t seen him in five years and had made that clear to the church from the start.
Baptism day happened and my sons’ name was missing from the list. Yaani, the lengths church will go to stigmatize you. Haha, looking back, today this is hilarious, to say the least. A meeting was convened by the Pastor of the day and the elders. But guess, what I was ready to walk away. Remember, it wasn’t that baptism was adding a new name to my son’s birth certificate. It was just joining some membership club, that I had heftily paid for with my time and small amounts. So, I could belong. Yes, the price of belonging can be daunting. You need to decide what works for you. Between getting fingers pointed at you and sticking to church ties and your sanity and surviving abuse, it is a tough call. I call it, a moment of tough love.
Mine withstanding the shame, finger-pointing and much more drama with the wazee that day back then has opened PCEA for many single parents today. You never know who your strength tomorrow, if you live to tell your story.
Counting Back the Loss of Investment
5/10/20/30 years have gone by already. You know nothing else in all totality. You invested so much of you, that you don’t even know when it is time to fold and pack up. Your time, energy, emotions, efforts, beauty, and even your sense of being. Somewhere along the way, you lost your self. Looking back at the mirror, you barely see the bride who walked into this relationship that maiden night. Your brains have all the while functioned for this family.
Girl, I know it is painful to even think of leaving it all behind. But when you can smell death but still hold on to the marriage brutality because of how much you have invested. Well, allow me to call that resilience, but when the time comes, please walk away tall when you still can. It is not worth it nursing ulcers or wounds on a hospital bed, taking in the shutters of a broken heart. To be honest, many are the times I yearned for a working family; you know that picture-perfect aura they all post – present dad, proud mammy, and my sisters tagging along. But who is God, in all His genius? He gives you what He knows you can handle. Broken or picture-perfect.
In the end:
Remember what Mufasa told Simba, “Never forget who you are. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.” Because in the end, people will judge you anyway. So, do not live your life pleasing others, live your life impressing yourself. I am a strong woman today because I stand on the shoulders of a strong woman. When her ‘no’ became a proper ‘NO’, her narrative changed. Girl, some people will only love you if you fit into their box or cocoon; do not be afraid to disappoint.
The biggest lessons I have learned in life is not to force anything; conversations, friendships, relationships, attention, and love. Anything forced is just not worth fighting for. Whatever flows, flows, whatever crashed, crashes. It is just what it is. Anne Frank said, ‘Dead people receive more flowers than the living because regret is stronger than gratitude.’ Be careful what you tolerate, you are teaching people how to treat you. When people treat you like they don’t care, believe them. We speak from our hearts.
Perhaps the biggest mistake my mother ever made in the past was that she believed love was about finding the right person. But who is the right person? Don’t look for the best person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Become that person that you want to spend your life with. And when you do that, you can be sure, freedom becomes your narrative. It is Ok, to live a life that others do not understand. I can never say this better than Brooke Hampton, “Never settle for half-assed kisses, partial truths, bad coffee, boring books, fake friends or shitty chocolate.” Let me add, never settle for a second hand or relationship.
Break loose from those chains!
Girl hit me up for a sisterhood hug, some good chocolate, and a good hearty laugh.