Milestones, lessons learned and unintended intermissions

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It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and what should have been a routine, barely noticeable bump on the flat line that has become the ultra predictable, safety first, thirty-something year old life that is my lot somehow morphed into a swirling mess of mildly depressive emotions. The trigger was an epiphany of sorts, one that I had no business having. If having that epiphany was odd, where it hit was even odder – midway through my morning ablutions, just before the commode gave way to a four minute duel with sensodyne and a power toothbrush. Leading up to it, I was stoking along nicely, keeping up with my annual birthday ritual – deactivating my facebook account, turning off all but my private phone and lobbing a text message in the direction of the one friend I know whose birthday is in the same week as mine.

I would blame the perfect storm that was the accretion of several niggles for tipping me over the edge this time. My Nigerian inquisition, subtle reminders from my father – ostensibly in jest – about how at the age I was turning he’d met my mother, a not entirely cerebral dalliance with my friend Q, and a general feeling of malaise all played their parts, as did an emotionally fraught two week period where an event in the life of the bloke I count as a work mentor shook me up majorly. There was also the small matter of waiting on three big decisions – vacillating between pumped up anticipation as resolution seemed near and the dull listlessness that boredom, and the sense of nothing happening, seemed to spawn.

Four key conversations ended up defining the period – three random ones which helped kick me out of my funk, and one not quite random one. If there is anyone in my circle of friends who’s earned the right to give me a kick in the gonads and shake me out of any bouts of moroseness, it is my friend Kizz. Between twice uprooting her life to go live outside her comfort zone, expending it for a darn good cause in far away lands and soldiering on in the battle for love, no one has epitomised for me the get-on-with-it-ness and gumption  required to enjoy life. She delivered – one morning texting back and forth as I wove my way to work, head bowed seemingly by the weight of the world on my shoulders and irritated by the piddling rain, she listened to me moan on and on about the lousiness of the life I thought I had and how waiting on a few big decisions had me feeling depressed. She let me blow on for a few minutes and then proceeded to give me a gentle rollicking – if those can be gentle – pointing out all the good things I have had happen to me in 2012, for which I should have been thankful. Suitably chided, I slunk into work, grabbed a large coffee – thankful for summer Fridays and the joy s of having the office all to myself –  and promised myself I would be more thankful.

A few days later, I got sucked into yet another cerebral conversation with Q – about all things work, and how my old nemesis from a Nigerian assignment had come right back into the picture at work. Somewhere in the morass of all the things she talked about, she dropped a nugget, a three legged stool model for deciding what was a good job, namely, a good role that one enjoyed, team mates that one liked enough to work with, and a company one was proud to work for. On that scale, I’m 2 for 3, which didn’t seem that bad after all.

The not so palatable conversation was one I needed to have – if only for the clarity it brought to what at best was an awkward situation. Way back in May I’d sensed (and that not for the first time) that certain thresholds had been crossed, but like all foolhardy blokes on a mission I chose to soldier on in blind hope, biding my time. August provided the opportunity to bite the bullet and seek clarity. That I half expected the response I got did little to mitigate the keenness of the disappointment. Paradoxically, it provided some much needed relief too, not least for the opportunity to deal with a certain elephant in the room and firmly draw a line in the sand. I suppose if being once bitten leaves one twice shy, being twice bitten should put paid to any lingering bits of foolishness.

Birthday eve did bring some cheer in the form of a phone call from the buddy I jokingly call my Strategy Specialist (she still hasn’t sent my Big Bang Theory box set though), as well as my god daughter and her kid brother singing me my very own ‘Happy Birthday’. No thanks to my Linkedin profile, one of the guys from work found out it was my birthday, and surprised me with a paid for lunch at Union Square’s TGIF the Friday after.

It was Jorge Luis Borges who said, in his beautifully sad meditation on love and loss, ‘With every goodbye you learn.‘ Here there have been lessons learned, and re-learned if the truth must be told, not least of which seems to be that the only thing that piques my creativity is emotional turmoil.

Far far landing…

For the prompts Far far landing on We Write Poems and Mag 130 on the Magpie tales

 

 farfarlanding

~~~~

the distance claimed you –
seven rivers, seven valleys
and seven mountains too.

fuzzy memories,shadows
wrapped around browned skin –
like a caul – hide you;
till like a distant
shimmering mirage
you fade into the space
where sky meets earth
and where like a pilgrim
I have been drawn
by the call of the muezzin.

the old women
by the river tell tales-
of muttered blessings
of redemption, and of rebirths
where like butterflies
shedding their cocoons
we may arise in peace
on that far flung,
far far landing.

Sunday delights, deconstructing the Nigerian conundrum and difficult work moments

An altogether forgettable weekend – and at my age they all are – is bookended by a pit stop at Union Square for lunch with a friend of a friend. A random conversation a couple of weeks ago about (yet another) mutual friend and my lack of proactivity had ended up in a challenge of sorts being issued in my direction. Three phone calls later – with a few text messages thrown in – I end up making my way up the stairs towards the safe bet that is Nandos for a quick bite and chat. I arrive early – knowing Union Square,  getting a table can be a hassle on sunny Sunday afternoons – the added advantage being that I get to see her first, and the satisfaction that she fits the image I have of her in my head. We order simple food – lime and herb flavoured chicken with a mixed leaf salad for me and a ratatouille for her and bottomless drinks and make small talk over the course of an hour and a half.  All told it is a pleasant afternoon, and but for the fact that I have dodgy genes, and family history I would already be inventing scenarios involving white picket fences and 2.1 kids in my head. 🙂 Given the choice, I would most certainly like an encore by all accounts.

My friend O arrives at my house a few minutes after I get home. His wife has visitors from church – all women- and he takes the opportunity to make himself scare. Being just around the corner from him, I end up being the default host. We settle in to catch up, and the subject of Nigeria inevitably comes up. The shambolic showing at the Olympics gets our juices agitated especially, and we end up throwing in the mis-use of federal character and the educationally less developed state criterion to water down academy entry requirements in Nigeria. The one thing that this guarantees is that it leaves us unduly agitated and down right depressed at the cesspool that is Nigeria.

All too soon, between grocery shopping, church and marathon football manager saves, the weekend runs away and it is 8.30pm on a Sunday night – inevitably bringing the spectre of Monday morning front and centre to my mind. It’s the second week since the paths of Ms Bitchy Boss from my Nigerian assignment and mine have crossed again, almost five years apart. It turns out that I am not the only one with whom she has history. It has been a quiet return so far, deep down in my mind, her return is just another more incentive to take that PhD search a tad bit more seriously.

A Dinner Table At Night

For the prompt at Magpie Tales. I couldn’t shake the impression of distance from my mind (he is looking in her direction, whilst she is looking into the distance)

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A Dinner Table at Night, 1884, John Singer Sargent

~~~

There is silence here –
There is fear, and the dense
Stultifying pall of hurt-
and of memories unresolved.

I have been here before-
On the cusp of this uncharted
Sea, tottering on the edge
Of this yawning chasm, willing
Myself like a puppet on a string
To not tip over, to not
Be swallowed up in the flames
Of the Sango death ritual;
Like a mannequin sinks-
Weighed down by a necklace
Of milestones – into the depths
Of a cold calm sea.

Water drops glistening
In the subtle shade of red lamps,
Wine shimmering in the barely there light
Cannot fade the gloom;

And in her eyes as she looks away
For one last time
Is the cold detached lost-ness
Of a tomorrow that will never be.