When Love is Not Enough

When you enter the world, you’re wet, naked and poor in most senses of the word. This is unacceptable to your greedy little instincts, so you begin to gather things for yourself almost immediately. My mother, my nipple, my blanket, my chew toy, my shaker without which I won’t allow to sleep.

As you grow, you attach different levels of fondness to the different things you encounter, from toys to books to friends, lovers and eventually, that person you feel should be yours forever and ever amen. But Happily Ever Afters are rare and sometimes things don’t work out.  What  happens when you have to walk away? When love is not enough?

Loss is hard to accept. To acknowledge that grief is going to blast through you and remain sane enough to envision a time when you will not be hurting, that’s even harder.

When the loss is permanent*, say the death of a parent, friend or spouse, you feel a terrible helplessness and it is this feeling that pulls you away from the lip of insanity. You realize that whatever you do, however much you weep and starve and curse, your person is dead and you cannot bring them back.

Then there’s the flavor of loss that I call reversible loss. This is where your mind tells you over and over again that if you say the right thing, your ugly situation will disappear and you will be back in the zone of comfort, normalcy.

It could be the loss of a job (right before a promotion, no less) where you are sure that if you explain your contribution to the company hard enough, the boss will welcome you back your desk.

It could be the loss of a partner with whom you have built a flamboyant castle of dreams, a castle that is now disintegrating, wisp by wisp like so much cotton candy.  In the case of lost love, even if you are the one who has broken things off, the feeling of “I must take my words back right now and return to my relationship” can be overwhelming. Woe unto you if your partner has also made their mind to move on because you’re going to be stuck with self-loathing and regret for a while.

People with broken hearts are always looking to commiserate with somebody. That’s why there are so many threads on reddit on this subject, and so many songs. That’s why I’m writing this, to be honest.

I asked some wonderful people how they dealt with the loss of a partner that they still loved. My exact question was:

Have you ever walked away from a relationship with somebody you still love? How did you do it? What was your day 1, 5, 9 10, 20 like?

This is basically sadporn. Proceed with caution.

Nagasha: The same. Weighty. Heavy hearted. Except some days were heavier-hearted than others. But they all carried the same dull ache. Day 1, 5, 9, 10, 20. They were all the same.

Immaculate: Day 20 feels like you made the decision to walk away only moments ago. You can barely believe its been 20 days, it all feels like yesterday.

Kirungi: It’s been a year since he walked away but stupid me, I’m still trying to walk away…it can be that hard.

Nswaswa: Year 1 was so painful that even booze could only numb but never stop it. Year two is better, though just seeing a missed call from her is agonizing and even more so when we actually speak. But going apart has been like removing a bad tooth- the pain of extraction and healing time are worse than the bad tooth pain, but then you feel better and even if you loved that one (or still do) you know life is better off without.

Diana: Grief. It’s just like grief. It is grief. Except that with a break-up, when you think you saw them on the street, you probably did. And then all those times you wondered what you would say have suddenly materialised into an actual situation…

Nada: I cried a lot the first fifteen minutes. Parked the car, smoked a cigarette. It rained and I was on the road by the car, and then it was all tears everywhere. I think that thunder broke something in me. It hurt, I drove back to Kampala hardly being able to breathe. Day five was worse, and day twenty was particularly bad because we bumped into each other. And soon he was gone forever. That pain never really leaves you. It lingers inside your mind waiting for a girlfriend to pose a question like yours, to hit back full swing. But now I take a deep breath and carry on.

And finally, Amanda:

Walking away from a relationship when you still love someone hurts. I listened to the script, Adele, Lady Antebellum, I re-read those love letters. Yes I was one of the lucky few who received those precious missives.There was a permanent lump in my throat for a while I tried to cry and failed. I never cried, which I found strange. We were young and inexperienced maybe even a little reckless. We were each others firsts and even though I am past him I know there will never be one like him. He literally snuck in and stole my heart,the good-looking thief! But we got full closure and that helped we talk occasionally and we are both good.

 Loss is hard to accept, especially if you’re listening to Toni Braxton on a loop. If your heart is a mess right now, know that you’re not alone. The world knows your pain and if I were able to sing songs, this would be a crazy track, just for you. Feel better. I already do.

Here’s some of the stuff that’s helped me feel human again:

Warsan Shire’s Seven Stages of being Lonely

Everything by Soley:

 

Almost Everything by Little Dragon, especially Ritual Union

 

Of Monsters and men (this is an entire album)

 

Almost Everything by KT Tunstall. Heal Over especially

 

Nneka’s Restless (OMG this video). I think I can watch this on a loop because it’s been a couple weeks

Do share the sounds and tricks that have made you feel better after one of them nasty break ups.

x

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Humbled by Latkes.

One of the reasons I’m glad to be an adult is that I’m no longer made to attend  gatherings against my will.  I choose whether or not I want to remain in a particular space and this has everything to do with being able to afford a boda boda at any given time.

My parents were determined for me to grow up a social, religious and well-rounded individual. This meant I had to attend youth conferences, Christian home cells and other such things. To do away with awkwardness, we, the youth, were always loosened up with “ice breakers”, little questions to get us talking to each other. One of the most common ones was, “what are your hobbies?”

As a teenager, the three things I truly enjoyed were eating, eating and cooking. I had other interests, somewhere in the background but those three made my life worth living. And yes, I know I’ve mentioned eating twice. I hasten to add that I did not have an eating disorder. I just derived all the pleasure that I derive from other things now, from food.

This wasn’t something I could reveal to other teenagers just like that. They’d judge or giggle or act like I wasn’t cool because talking on the phone and sneaking off to daytime kadankes didn’t appeal to me enough to be included on my list of hobbies.

I have more varied hobbies now but food, the cooking and eating of, remains among my favorite things. I try to have a little project every week. If it is Masala chips this week, it’s perfectly done peri peri chicken the next. I get a feeling of accomplishment just from bending over a steaming saucepan with a printed out recipe in one hand and a mingling stick in the other.

About a week ago, I happened upon latkes on a food blog. Latkes are a Yiddish food, a Hanukah staple and they look really delicious on the internet. I hunted around for the best recipe and then messaged my boyfriend, asking him to prepare his mouth for good things.

Like these

Like these

Together, we followed all the steps of preparation. I grated irish potatoes and cracked two eggs. He cut up ingredients, squeezed the starch out of the potatoes and radiated that very vital ingredient, enthusiasm. I then mixed everything together and heated a thin film of oil in the largest pan I could find. I know now that the oil I put wasn’t enough to cook the potatoes properly, but then, I was determined to follow my recipe to the letter.

The first two latkes looked like rebellious worms and didn’t stick together very well. I put them on a plate anyway and made Roger taste them. His face remained blank as he chewed, giving me so hope that perhaps, the ugly looking things tasted OK.

After swallowing, he said, “This tastes like paspalum. You know, the grass. This tastes like grass.” I tasted them myself. They tasted like grass.

He crunched again on an obviously raw clump of eggy-irish and said “It’s like we’re goats!” By this time, tears were streaming from my eyes and I was barking with laughter. I agreed with him and observed that we’d have to be very proud and foolish not to abandon the project. He wasn’t done commenting.

After taking a picture of me staring forlornly at the one remaining latke, he said, “In the picture, you look like mother who’s just given birth to a very ugly child.”

Really bad looking latkes

Really bad looking latkes

We further ruined the irish by trying to make it into a stew, but that’s a story for another day. My latkes weren’t a success, but I enjoyed making them. What’s my next project? Latkes again, of course! I won’t rest until I make crisp, golden, spicy, heavenly smelling potato pancakes.

Read his account of that day’s happenings HERE.

What it means to come first.

If you’re a firstborn and you know it, ball your fist and bump the place where my caricature’s might be.  I begin by borrowing from an old nursery rhyme to make you madly interested in yesterday’s Stiletto Point. Is it working? If you’re a firstborn and you know it, say, “Oh yea.”

As far as I know, I am the first child of my parents. This has always filled me a disproportionate sense of pride, as if there was some race in which I beat all 5 of my siblings to the finish line and came bursting into the world with the word lovechild tattooed on my face.

There are many similarities I have noted between myself and other firstborns I’ve met, biggest being Lugezigezi. That sells us Kabisa. Know a loudmouth who wants to always be the leader? Ever sat next to a person who won’t stop telling the taxi driver which alternative routes he must use? You have likely met a firstborn.

We grow up calling the shots, being regarded as infallible gods and goddesses by adoring and secretly hateful followers and when we get into the real world, find it hard to shake that sense of entitlement.

Note that if you’re grown and your followers are still secretly hateful of you, your dealings with them haven’t matured. I used to suffer anxiety and flashes of anger about how my loyal, obedient and fearful subjects would eventually outgrow my powers, and they’d stop seeking my approval, but that all dissolved when I stopped having silly expectations.

Firstborns are protective, so much so that in school, we’re the ones who take on the emotionally wounded to try and make their lives better. Also, because we’ve always stepped up and disciplined our siblings when our parents are being slow about it, we are both confrontational and defensive.

A firstborn will usually have a savior complex. Is Martha lacking something? Is Joel feeling sad? How can I take his sadness away? Has Bosco eaten? And that extends to the rest of the world. This will be especially strong if one parent has died and the eldest is trying to make it seem like the gap isn’t as huge as it really is.

As we’re born to brand new, right-out-of-the-box parents, we receive the most canes or leniency,  but usually canes. We were experiments, the ones on whom half-remembered teachings and directives from their own childhoods were unleashed.

We also come to see and know more than everybody else because we’re first companion to our very human parents. This little person they made has ears and often, all a human being needs to survive an ugly situation is a listening ear.

If lucky, firstborns get to be brash risk takers because of how much support they enjoy. Siblings are a protective cushion that lessen the disappointment of a project gone wrong. They’re also the first to brim with pride when one goes right.

Siblings who hate and sabotage each other, even after they’ve come adults fill me with alarm. I hate to imagine what evil situation exists that can drive a wedge between people with a shared childhood.

From Jacob to the people in the 21st century whose stories I know, all none firstborns feel honored and nervous when they somehow find themselves at the helm of the family. Being the one to steer people who trust you is as difficult as it is thrilling.

I love my siblings. They make me strong.  

Barongo got it wrong this time.

Barongo got it wrong this time.

Too young to marry.

Too young to marry.

Over the ages, “Too young’ has carried many meanings for different civilizations of the world. In the day of Jesus, it was perfectly all right for the holy spirit to go knocking on the womb of a 13 year old Mary but if any of that were to happen now there would be a massive scandal (unless they lived in Spain  in which case everything would be bueno).

Many of our mothers had us while still in the lap of childhood. The only reason I can think of for this is that they were still reeling from a time not far before theirs when people had to become men and women at the first sign of puberty because the life expectancy was short. Life had to be lived in fast forward.

Now however that the average Ugandan has at least 54 years in which to live and priorities have generally shifted from home and hearth to knowledge, careers money and networking, it always comes as a shock to me when facebook notifies me that a person I went to school with has gotten married.
My reaction usually goes from confusion to dread to pity because it seems so terribly rushed.

There are many roads to fulfillment, I know and for some people, marriage is the golden pot but why so early? When we graduate from university, we’re still hungover from years of education. Our true selves have only just emerged (if we’re lucky. self actualization can take a long time). Why would you willingly rush from childhood to an adulthood complete with the prospect of babies? Personally, I intend to enjoy the sweet freedom of fully owning myself before making the decision to start a life with somebody as dewy and sparkly eyed as I am.

The girls and boys stepping straight out of the lecture room onto the aisle have their reasons, I’m sure, but I’m familiar with only two.

One is the desperation to get out of their parents’ homes. People are unwilling to return home every night to the mutual discomfort and eventual resentment that arises when a young adult and an old adult both try to stand their ground.

Also, in what foreign media I’ve read, living with your parents after university is taboo; a sign of laziness on the child’s part and long suffering on the parents’. Things are different in Ugandan culture however. While it’s normal, admirable even for boys to skip the fold at the first sign of a beard, women have it rough. Voice your desire to get your own place and sengas will solemnly inform you that you’ll never get married. You’ll have become ‘spoilt’. In-laws won’t want to associate with a girl that lives out of her father’s home, apparently.

Our society is so hangover on the patriarchal way of doing things that a woman means nothing if she hasn’t found a man to validate her existence. If she’s not living with her father, it has to be with a husband.

It must be exciting to find a person that makes you feel wanted, alive, complete but rushing to seal the deal might mean disaster for the both of you. Maybe he still has a roving eye to outgrow, or perhaps she’d like to accumulate more graduation caps.

The last reason I can identify is pressure from relatives and the mentality they have that if a girl is unmarried by 25, she deserves to be treated like milk that hit it’s sell-by date yesterday.

If you know something I don’t please enlighten me in the comment section.

Love in the time of mosquitoes

A short story.

I stand surrounded. They approach drunkenly, wheezing out their battle cries. They’re smug in the knowledge that I can’t win for I am one and they are who knows how many.

My hand tightens around Kiboko, the red and black electric racket that we bought as a by-the-way when we were moving. Ha.

Our foes are of two kinds: the hungry and the full.The hungry are fast, light on their wings, flitting from curtain to curtain and wantonly singing their intentions at us. I am silent.

One lands on my back and sinks its proboscis into flesh. I let it. Screw the stinging. I have become addicted to the smell of electrifying blood.

Let it feed.

If two human beings had to exist in the room we’re in, together, forever, they’d kill each other. Not enough space. A galaxy of mosquitos however… I walk ponderously, with a purpose, in slow motion to a curtain on my right and

“Can you at least walk properly?

Sklat!

“What do you mean walk properly? I am Van Helsing. Why would I walk properly?”

I lunge to my left and catch three mosquitos of the full variety. I breathe in deeply.

“Then cut the narration out. I gave up on those bastards a long time ago. They’re too many. Come.”

“I wonder why they don’t smell like nsenene, or at least fried white ants when I hit them. If they did, we’d probably eat them.”

“That would be cannibalism. If you eat a mosquito that has my blood in it, you are a cannibal”

“And you’re a snob”.

We’ve been awake two hours now. It’s early or late, or whatever time it needs to be to ensure we’ll be dripping with annoyance and sleep when our alarms go off.  He’s lying with his face to the ceiling, wearing his hand over his eyes. That’s all he’s wearing.

Somebody told me once that when you can be naked in the same room as your lover and your immediate response is not to jump their bones, you’re in a relationship. We’re in a relationship.

He feels my gaze or my smile and pulls a sheet over his waist. I laugh, turn and sklat! 5 more dead. I’m enjoying this maybe too much?

I fly around the room, beating and kicking at the clusters of hanged clothes. They offer protection, asylum to our enemies. Whenever I make impact, the mosquitoes fall away; thicken the air with their numbers. With pops, sizzles and zaps, my racket welcomes the black, undulating cloud. The sound their bellies make as they explode makes me glad.

The racket eventually runs out of power so I jam it to a wall socket and it’s as I am lowering myself to the carpet that my knees remember they’re supposed to be suffering from runner’s knee. They start to burn and creak. I look at his face to see if the creaking is as audible as it feels. Apparently not.

Fuck these mosquitoes. I detest them but dig the opportunity they’re giving me to show my new body off. With every turn and lunge, I’m saying, “look at what my running has given me. See how firm my belly is, the one you used to frown at whenever you thought I wasn’t looking. I’m trimmer! I’m slimmer!”

As a woman of the new world and a feminist, I’m not supposed to care about such things. I’m a warrior for acceptance and expression. I preach that if a person’s way of owning their body is by letting it get bigger, rounder and streaked with stretchmarks, their decision should be respected, just like the decision to get a tattoo is respected.

But I[often] care. I want to look something like the half-starved girl I was at university. How ironic that when you’re at your vainest, just aching to show yourself off is the time you aren’t getting laid. At all.

My 9-5 lifestyle has come with a slowness that my body refuses to accommodate. It’s refused to expand in what society considers all the right places (certainly not arms, bellies and backs).

Sklat!

Our foes become bold again, leaving their hiding places and dancing around my ears. I jerk the racket off the wall, jam my thumb against the red depressor on its side and swat the air, killing them one by one, two by four, seven by infinity. I take them out swinging and skipping and screeching  until I am spent. Then I return to bed and stare at the bumps on his arm, each representing an attack, blood stolen from his, my veins.

Vengeance has been taken.

Now, for my reward.

End.

This should be on the new blog I opened for my short stories, but I’m too attached to apenyo dot wordpress and I’m trying to post everyday so. Here you go.

Tell me what you think, yea? Kawa.

For more on love (but not mosquitoes, click this link. )

And then when you’re done being happy and amused that a Ugandan has decided to make a living out of selling “game”, go Like the page.

All in the genes (DAD). #3days

I work out quite a lot nowadays. I no longer feel like my blood is crawling sullenly through my veins and I don’t need to crunch my stomach muscles that hard to see the beginning of two WHOLE abs. My workout routine involves a short run (preferably up a hill), a squat (during which I curse myself for ever starting in the first place) and then a vigorous dance that may or may not involve shaking of booty depending on how my day has gone.

When I described this to my boyfriend yesterday, he gave me a look and said, “I envy the way you live, Mildred. Nary a fuck to give” which made me happy.

When I described it to my sister, also yesterday, she called me crazy. That, coming from the person with whom I (regularly) break into song and dance in the middle of the street is very rich.

I wouldn’t call grooving in public with an aim to get fit crazy or eccentric. There are, however, things I’ve done that fit both of those bills and I blame it all on my father.

See, Dad does not know the meaning of self-consciousness. He does not recognize its existence and expects everybody to experience the world as he does, or else they have a bad case of Satan, or something.

Dad got himself a reputation (and a nickname) for being the lawyer who goes to court in sandals. On any given morning, he wears his coat and trousers (mismatched), gown, sandals and then heads off with a weather beaten laptop under his arm.

At some point, he grew as big an afro as his hair-quality would let him. Whenever a client or an employee would poke fun at him/ complain, he’d say, “Mildred says it looks good.”  Self expression oyee!

He wore sunglasses everywhere for some very long months of my life.

He once dug TWO fishponds in the backyard of a house we were renting in Bugoloobi and filled them with catfish. I’m surprised that nobody in the family has whiskers.

He keeps us in laughs, stories, and FML blushes.

The most just-watch-how-much-I-care thing that I remember him doing happened when he took us all to Didi’s world to experience Uganda’s first recreational park with rides and everything. We were excited, but not as much as he was. He herded us to the water slides, somersaulted into his swimming costume, climbed the ladder and slid ever SO slowly down the big, winding slide. He had a very large, laughing and pointing audience but did he care? NO. I don’t think he even noticed. The pool was empty, so nobody died when he splashed Panda-bearishly into it.

I was proud of my family in that moment. We didn’t run and hide inside the bumper cars. We stood torn between cheering him on over-loudly and trying not to cry.

My 22.9 years have been filled with incidents like this and there are many more to come so don’t judge this girl when you see her shaking her belly fat off on the side of a busy street in KLA. Blame her father.

My mumsy outfit of the day:

Mum would SO wear this