Friday, 10 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Damn, I was so into you

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Like you used to do
The thought started with, ‘Like you used to do’, the sad reality of loves that I once had and have lost for reasons I have not fully understood. I reflect and wonder at what could have been, yet we never really got to explore that unity of mind, of soul and of life.
The moments are collected as memories, each reminder a cut to the heart as the search of real and true love continues in a resignation to fate rather than a determined yearning for it, even though the latter is a deeper feeling than the former.
My life appears to be crowded out with exes, lovers who became dear friends, lovers who passed on, lovers who became fleeting acquaintances, lovers, long forgotten with the pain that they brought and the baggage they refused to shed.
I’m ready, you’re not
However, what is most striking is what I was ready to invest and what they were not ready to put much faith in. It is no doubt that I bring a challenge to certain lives and with that optimism that upsets the sedentary with new possibility. Elements of my personality, though introvert can provoke either the positive or the negative.
Reactions to it also can inspire or tire me out as the balance and stability I seek is in finding refuge in person, place and situations. Arms to embrace, shoulders to lean and the absence of inhibition to be free with each other.
Writing about this does not make it easier, for I have been blessed with means and ability well beyond those of partners that there was rarely any thought given to sharing of that abundance in everyday life, the pursuit of happiness and the pleasure to be derived from it. Just like you do.
Damn, I was into you
I have had those fears before, that where you could have taken then leap but hesitated, vacillated and procrastinated until time and tide took away all the options and left you with regret. Anticipation is also another thing on the part of both partners, I have plans and I have dreams, they can neither be executed nor fulfilled in an instant.
There is a process of growing and knowing, flowing and glowing, sowing and owing to the point where the stars are aligned and destiny takes the wheel.
For all that the heart wants to do, the head must review and assess, lest, in the end, we become as fools. For the few, I really could say, ‘Damn I was into you’, I can only wonder when did it go astray.


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Young men need to calm down

Kicking the bus in the balls
He was shouting and probably remonstrating about something when he got off the bus and without catching his breath, still in a tirade, he proceeded to kick the bus. The bus winched and groaned at being kicked straight in the balls.
Not exactly. Whatever might have started the altercation, he was really ejected from the bus, in his anger and petulance, he began kicking the bus to make a point. Meanwhile, the bus rolled away from the bus stop and he was left there to kick a bin and then the bus stand.
It is not the end of the world
Young men need to learn to calm down. Take control of their emotion and exercise a bit of self-control. Whilst, a lot can so easily escalate, that same situation can be tempered down to irrelevance. It all depends on how a person decides to react.
He missed a bus journey he probably could have enjoyed and had to wait probably another 15 minutes before another bus came by. It is quite likely, he would have simmered down by then, rather than have fire, smoke and steam coming out of his mouth, nostrils and ears in that order.
As I pondered on this matter walking back to my hotel, at another bus stop, someone asked me a question in French that I did not understand. Before I could explain myself, he began swearing and cursing at me, he also kicking the bus stand. I was exasperated, saying nothing, I kept walking along, now wondering about the many angry young men who lose out just because they cannot calm down a bit.
Maintain composure and perspective
This brings me to an event in the news a few weeks ago. This about two young men who by my reckoning could easily pass for my son, if I had by happenstance had issue. They were fledgeling models building a profile in their professions when the one said to the other than he had slept with the other’s girlfriend. [BBCNews]
By the time you knew what was happening, they had met up for a fight, one side armed with dumbbells and the other armed with three knives including a machete, over an unsubstantiated claim of one having slept with another’s girlfriend. The young man who took umbrage at having his girlfriend in the arms of a rival got stabbed and he died.
What needless, senseless and careless loss of life over what by terms should be a trivial matter. Egos and personalities without capacity or inclination to contemplate consequence. A gross lack of apprehension for the future, by living only in the present and now. Respect has become a precious commodity, linked with a feigned sense of honour and dignity that everything is sacrificed to maintain that status after which all is lost.
What if they decided to reflect for once and step back from careering down the road to perdition? A silent voice that spoke into the consciousness of one that suggesting, backing down does not mean a loss of face, defeat or person.
Calling me chicken doesn’t make me one
I know the number of times I have been called a chicken, in the desire of that person to get me to do what I have decided not to do. A chance encounter could define an entire future, but that encounter alone when veering towards the negative is probably the best sign to disengage.
Walking into a park one sunny afternoon and seeing a friend, I went to offer greetings and pleasantries as one of his acquaintances urged me to sit on the grass. I had no intention of sitting on the grass, so I stated, I would rather sit on a bench. At which point he called me a pretentious git and asked if I thought I was better than those sitting on the grass.
I responded, everyone has made their choice to sit where they want to, I have decided, I prefer to sit on the bench and I don’t care for whether he accepts my decision or not. We parted company, not in the friendliest of terms, but I knew that only that circumstance would have put us in the same space. There was every likelihood, there would be no other encounter between us.
Take a time out and take it easy
I take a laidback approach to things, I hate to be in a rush, I make time for activities I have planned, I would step out of the way of those to whom time has become the most expensive commodity. I can take offence yet refuse to be offended or slighted. This all comes with a keen sense of self and the ability to brush it off.
The quest for respect is not a goal, it grows out of conduct, comportment, demeanour and stature. There are cases where respect needs to be demanded, it is never with brawn. We have reached a level of civilisation where conversation, ideas, knowledge and wisdom should suffice in settling issues. We can agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable as we aspire to a greater level of gentlemanliness.
I do hope that young men begin to realise there is more to life beyond that momentary hot-headed where the absolutely regrettable becomes an ever-present possibility. There is more respect, honour, dignity and integrity to be had in the future if you can walk away from a volatile situation now.


Saturday, 4 August 2018

Paris: Boulevard de l'Unpretty - Revisited.

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Talking hair is not cheap
Hair is politics, or should I say political. It is also commercial, it is big business. Yet, it is quite personal, the choice of expression with or without hair is interesting and sometimes just left to the observation.
Then, you come to the real issue, the one of hair for black women. I was walking down the road on Boulevard de Strasbourg, just after the Saint Laurent Catholic Church on the left, before the street changes to Boulevard de Sebastopol and I observed something I had not seen before.
There were men stood in front of shops accosting women and doing everything to persuade them to come into the shops, black women that is, and these shops had dangling from every window and hook as you peered in from the shop windows and the doors, hair of every dark shade, ready to be used as augmentation of natural hair.
How long has this been going on?
Now, I have seen architectural works of the hair that I cannot fathom how much skill and time it has taken to put those creations on the heads of the wearers and they do not come cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
I have written of this section of Paris before, both sides of the street teeming like an African ghetto that even I feel too much of an outsider to be able to relate. Literally, every shop sells hair and cosmetics, and as they are all selling the same things, you do wonder about what makes each shop unique as competition is brisk, if not cutthroat, you probably need men to literally muscle in the customer off the street.
Travelled the world and the seven hairs
The hair, however, is a different story, having travelled off the shorn heads of poor people from the hinterland of Brazil and India, the hair has become the travelled dream of people who probably would never see miles beyond their locality for a lifetime.
The profits from these lengths of follicular fancy would hardly get to them. That is absorbed somewhere in the value chain by people who have probably become billionaires in the purveyance of this fleeting enhancement to beauty.
I would not know if there is a fair-trade hair construct that ensures a bit more of the profits of this arbitrage goes back to the source communities of the hair. That is another element of the opacity of capitalism.
Where’s the shampoo?
I guess for me, the only hair product I use is a razor and shaving gel if that counts as hair products. I shave my head just while I shave my beard, or whatever those itchy bristles are. It was funny and cheeky when my friend as he was using the shower ventured then declined. He then said he could not ask me for something I basically could not have. Shampoo!
That is another story. The trade in hair is about to get nasty and it is in the pulling of customers rather than of their hair.
Like TLC does say, “You can buy your hair if it won’t grow.”

Friday, 3 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Remembering the day you were told, you smell like a toilet

In juvenile detention
I left the office early today at the end of a 2-week working visit to Berlin to be able to beat the rush-hour traffic to the airport. Even that did not mean we were not caught up in traffic until my taxi cab driver used his smarts to cut a detour that took probably 20 minutes out of our journey time.
Down one of the byroads, I noticed high fences and barbed wire on top of the walls. Military, I thought until I saw the sign in German for young offender’s institution. The taxi cab driver said it was a place for pickpockets.
I thought about the parents of the kids in that institution and how they might have helped or failed their kids. Maybe there was nothing they could do about the situation.
The threat of detention
Just then, my thoughts wandered to the many instances where in my father’s displeasure, he threatened to have me locked up in a police cell, for no other reason than the breakdown of communication and the thought that the experience might just toughen me up and make me probably more amenable to the thinking and the respectful subservience to his obstinate will.
Whilst the threat was never carried out because others intervened, and I was to humble and humiliate myself at his feet to placate him, the thought that he would threaten this police cell idea remained a lasting blot to what could have developed into a more rewarding father-son relationship.
It is no stretch of the imagination that I was at times a difficult and unruly child, in some ways the rebelliousness was seeking a way of independent expression, some of which might well have landed me in a young offender’s institution.
When to them you smell
Things finally came to an irredeemable schism when on failing my course he decided I would be more useful on his failing farm. It was conceptually a gulag neither I nor my mother was keen on the idea. I guess on the running of my luck, I had become more of a mother’s child than a father’s child. The morning we were to go to the farm, my sister gave me some money and I left my home for good.
However, I find myself writing this blog because I just read reports of an excerpt from Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book called Small Fry in which she talks of the difficult and sometimes strained relationship she had with her father, the legendary Steve Jobs. [The Telegraph]
She visited him just before he died and sprayed on an expensive rose facial which she found in one of her father’s bathrooms and his acknowledgement? “You smell like a toilet.” This after hugging her.
A destructive streak
It is sometimes difficult to write about the complicated relationship between a parent and a child. The joy in your being born could soon dissipate into condescension, obloquy, disparagement and condemnation. “You smell like a toilet”, is a paraphrase that means many things from disappointment, disillusion and anger on the part of the parent.
You’re not measuring up, in the many ways you by osmosis were supposed to not just to meet the standard but exceed it, whatever that unspoken standard was. The times I was not fast enough, I was not man enough, I was not athletic enough, my teeth were rotten, my mouth was smelly, I was stupid, blind, dumb, an altogether a sense of shame that I could ever have been their offspring. When nothing else worked the ultimate putdown was, you were not responsible.
Take heed what you say
There is a coming of age to this whole process though, from the earnest desire to please and receive praise, through the fear of offending locking you into a state of stupefying stunted lack of agency, the need for acceptance then tires you out to the point of seething resentment, by which time indifference leads you to live your own life the best way you can regardless. You shrug it all off.
I cannot remember when the desire to please my father lost its drive, it was before I was 20 and I had already failed at simple and difficult things. I became the ward of another who allowed me to explore possibilities in ways that gave me a sense of direction.
In some ways, I have a good relationship with my father now, in others, flippant statements in the tone and intent of “You smell like a toilet” have a way of sticking in the recesses of your memory for a lifetime. They are never forgotten. You always remember those things, for they cut deep, stab you in the heart and recovering from the blow is almost impossible, maybe only time can heal the pain.
Take heed what you say to a child.


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Thought Picnic: On life giving us another chance

Grindr for an update
Passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport a few weeks ago, I had a few hours to spare. Whilst Grindr will not offer opportunity, it still remains fascinating as people publish their presence in search of liaison and probably more.
One glance at proximity talent revealed a young man I had known and met a long time ago. At the age of 23, he was diagnosed HIV positive and we just happened to be chatting online when he revealed he was fed up with life, he was suicidal, unsure of what to do and apparently had no discernible career path.
My disposition has been never to run out of hope, regardless of the circumstances one is in. Times that I have comforted myself with the thoughts and spoken words that the storms will pass, the calm will come and the sun will shine again.
Giving life another chance
It was just about the time that I embarked on a post-graduate course, I was doing new things rather than considering my situation terminal. As we talked, I began to put ideas in his head about possibilities and opportunities. More so, I stressed the fact that an HIV diagnosis was an opportunity to give life another chance rather than end it.
What I said might have been a seed of hope, I do not know. A year after he was working as a shop attendant at the airport, a number of times, I passed through the airport and I always sought him out to say hello.
Living the life of happiness
In other forums, I found he fell in love, then got married, went on holidays and soon, I left the Netherlands. For almost 8 years, I did not encounter him anywhere. The few times I had passed through Amsterdam, especially with the reconfiguration of the airport, I thought he had moved on to other things.
So, my surprise to see him on Grindr at the airport that I sent him a message that I was in the lounge and asked if he would want to meet up. He responded and said he would come round to my side of the airport.
For the telling of better stories
Our very first conversation was 14 years ago. He looked happy, healthy, thriving and satisfied with his job where he had been promoted with additional responsibilities. He was still married too and he said he could not be happier as he hinted at the original conversation we had.
I defaulted to the refrain, that we are all stories, that we may get times to tell better stories of ourselves, the things we had been through and how they have become part of a distant past.
More pertinently, having given life another chance, or was is life that gave us another chance to revise our stories for a better narrative? We are full of gratitude and we cannot deny that singular fact, above all else. For now, we are still here and we are thankful for that.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Football: A time to mope

Quite downcast
It is the strangest feeling and emotion that words cannot really be found to express. That low, dark, uncommitted and seemingly resigned state of being that holds you down like you’re beneath the water for longer than you could hold your breath until some reflex lets you bob your head out for a death-defying gulp of air and whatever it might contain.
It was the same feeling I had exactly 8 years ago today when I watched the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands, in Spain of all places. I was on holiday in Gran Canaria at the time. I found a bar of fellow Hollanders and the football match at one time looked like a wrestling or mixed martial arts match, with my people from the Netherlands playing a game I never expected of them. We lost.
As the Spaniards rejoiced in their conquering of the world of football, I took a slow, sullen, sad stroll back to my hotel, unable to muster a smile or respond to the revelry that surrounded me. That night, I went to bed and dreamt away my sorrows and relapsed back into holiday mode for the nine days left of it.
Each player a team
Today, like any other time England plays, I knew I could not watch the match, just as I can hardly watch Nigeria play. The tension is just too high for me. I was feeling exhausted by the thought of it at noon. I probably should have acted as if I had no dog in this game for the Netherlands were not in it and I had for the last two World Cups donned my orange colours instead of those of my birth country or the country of my heritage.
Nigeria visited the World Cup and basically took away the trophy for the best kit, their performance was all hype and no goals. Eleven brilliant players playing as eleven amazing teams. Which brings to mind the assessment of one foreign coach about Nigeria. They are so disorganised that the disorganisation will upset structured and organised teams, by that alone, they are able to exploit and win games.
The death knell of Nigeria’s foray was already sounded by Croatia in their first match, now, it is Croatia again who have put a stop to that English anthem that I had dreaded would not come true.
Three lions should take a nap
When England sent Sweden home, I curbed my enthusiasm, when everyone including the Queen’s Guard, yes them, decided to play the Three Lions anthem in front of Buckingham Palace on Saturday evening as I tried to miss the excitement of it all by boarding a train for a 2-hour journey.
For all intents and purposes, the Three Lions song, released for Euro 1996 is a good rallying song, but it is almost too hubristic for my liking. To my mind, it is the worst anthem to have if you have not already won the competition for which it is being sung. This for the simple reason that if we fall short, others would find the means to ridicule us beyond the utterly risible and that is never a comfortable place to be.
I would rather I was singing Football’s Coming Home after the England Team captain has his or her mitts on the trophy. Then, we can celebrate and those waiting to make fun of us if we faltered would have no other choice than to join in our celebrations.
Just what I feared
I returned home from work and went to bed, having a few waking moments to check the live text review of the match between Croatia and England, we scored early but never improved on that scoreline, whilst Croatia equalised and then scored the winning goal in the second half of extra time, the god of miraculous football turnaround having gone to sleep, time seeped away like sand emptying to the force of gravity in an hourglass.
We have only pride to play for in the third-place match against a Belgium who have already trounced us once in the final match of the group stage.
It’s nope for us
It is quite likely that France would lift the cup, but Croatia are not pushovers, they can quite easily become the surprise dark horse of this tournament that left Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Brazil as has-beens. My money was on Belgium, or rather, my hunch was on Belgium, my money stayed in my pocket.
If I had any consolation, England has won the World Cup in my lifetime, albeit, I was only 7 months old. I think this young England team came well beyond our expectations, their temperamental was even, level-headed and focused. They might soon bring a trophy home. There is hope and there is scope, we would cope, given a moment to mope.


Thursday, 5 July 2018

Thought Picnic: Exercising the art of the unflappable

When they project
One morning last week, I woke up to find a message on one of my social media profiles from someone who took exception to appearances on my profile.
What people feel about the way I look or choose to present myself is left to them, I cannot deny them the need to be silent, to compliment or to castigate.
On the point of silence, I cannot read minds, so it does not bother me. When I am complimented, I hope I have the grace, gratitude and courtesy to acknowledge it without becoming disagreeable. Then also, I try not to be suspicious as to consider every compliment as a means for some to inveigle their way into my affections and confidences. Who knows motives and maybe there is no motive at all apart from appreciation.
When they abuse
However, when a complete stranger is overwrought to the point that they have to castigate me rather than hold their peace, you have to wonder what they are really up to. In most cases, I have ignored them and where the facility is available, I block them.
The one last week went a bit further than was necessary that I was compelled to react. When people come at you out of the blue, I default to seeing it as a projection of themselves rather than a reflection of myself.
I responded, “Is that a cheap shot at me to make you feel good about yourself? I don’t care for what you think. Go and find someone else to project your negativity on.”
He responded with derision and then addressing me as a bozo, he ordered me not to respond again. I was having none of it. I responded, “I don’t know what side of the bed you got off on, but just because you are frustrated and probably unloved, should not have to make me a target of your ire. Then, I was a sleeping dog that you have kicked, you can’t now control the narrative.”
When they repent
I expected him to go away. He didn’t, in fact, I was surprised at his response. “I have just read over what I posted to you,” he said, “I’m sorry, it was nasty and rude, I apologise.”
To which, I responded. “I accept your apology. Have a nice day.” Then he went on about how sorry and contrite he was, he thought I was a nice guy and he hoped I would not close him down after what happened.
To that, I had no further responses, for whilst I have made acquaintances and friends after some conflict, I do not necessarily see that as the best avenue for cultivating friendships. Conflict, argument and disagreement whilst respecting each other courteously and nicely, I can abide. When you go down the line of abuse, you have burnt your bridges before you have had the opportunity to cross them.
When you don’t care anymore
More poignantly, the moral tale behind all this is to know when people are projecting their negativity and by that, refuse to allow that to define you, confuse you, aggrieve you and rile you to the point that they can take advantage of your composure and sense of wellbeing.
As I have written before, when I have faced racial abuse, I have mostly seen it as an opportunity to educate and not take offence. I have found that the same works for when you are abused or something negative is said about you.
Then, when a respected mentor inadvertently suggested I was failing to show an example, I simply said, that was just part of my failings. He meant the opposite, but when you have reached the point where you are not driven by the need to please and you are comfortable in your own skin, you will be unflappable in the face of anything they throw your way.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

A reprieve and a celebration of goodwill

The signposts are appointments
The year in almost a decade now has been signposted by my visits to see my hospital consultants first in Amsterdam, then in Wrexham, London and now Manchester.
My visit today for which I took the day off started easy. My Uber ride to the hospital was without event, arriving with about 5 minutes to spare. I do worry about the rides because of the concern about getting to the hospital late has added more millimetres of mercury to my blood pressure readings as to put it in the danger zone.
Up and down and just about right
I booked in at reception and within minutes of my sitting down, a nurse I had not seen before called me in for the initial checks, weight, up a bit, height, down a bit, blood pressure, good, a bit can be improved upon.
After that, I met with a registrar who seemed to have swotted up on my notes before asking a few questions about how I felt. It seemed to me that my concerns about memory in terms of shortness and loss of it at certain times for which I had the HAND test last year had become something to do with my moods.
Moods are not memories
I had to immediately correct the impression, the medication I have been on for 8 years now, might cause cognitive impairment, that impairment is neither psychological nor psychiatric. Then the issue of folic acid deficiency anaemia, the counts are still low and this might need stronger medication than can be bought over the counter. My GP will be instructed to that effect.
The reason I was back for consultation within three months was to review my drug regime, a topic that had come up for the past two years. At my last appointment, I was given four choices to review. One that would have changed my drug regime from single-pill daily to twice a day, I ruled out, but I did have concerns about hepatic and cardiovascular side-effects, whatever is lactic acidosis and the dreaded lipodystrophy.
The registrar assured me that there would be stricter and frequency monitoring considering my medical history, however, we could postpone this activity for another three months.
Giving back wealth and experience
Through our discussions, as I had mentioned the many consultants I had met in that department over the last 3 years, we touched on the activities of the retired head of department who is out in Myanmar working for a foundation proving acute healthcare services in the region. He showed me his blog which makes interesting and revelatory reading, especially when comparing the advances in the West to the issues in less developed countries.
This is after 27 years of being an NHS consultant, he has retired to work in environments that would tax people half his age and he seems to be having a time of his life. Very inspiring.
I had a new drug prescription made before I went for phlebotomy, where the queue was 40 deep until 10 were called off to be fed to vampires in another consulting room, the waiting time was close to 60 minutes. When I did have 6 vials drawn, I returned home and went to bed. Until September comes.


Friday, 8 June 2018

Thought Picnic: I did not know I was clinically depressed

The foundations of woe
The so many ways I have been blessed and fortunate sometimes escapes my recollection and the constant need for expressing gratitude.
Having been brought up in an environment where everything was seen in terms of the supernatural, the spiritual, the paranormal and fates over which we had little control than to be in fearful supplication to deities that hardly be bothered with our pleadings because we had not flagellated ourselves enough to be worthy of a hearing. The psychological damage had the strongest foundations to build upon.
The result was fear, foreboding and premonitions, visions and apparitions of things that defy logical explanation, yet, were as real as they could be to one as the principal agent and victim of that circumstance.
Between critique and criticism
A constant questioning of one’s sanity not helped by the reasoning that was projected on my person as being slow, sometimes unsighted, probably dishonest and hardly reflective. None of this was helped by those who found opportunity and latitude to take sexual favours off me from childhood and the absence of someone in whom to confide in about my fears.
My fears as I would learn were signs of weakness, a feeblemindedness that needed a stricter and harder way of life from the simplicity of ease in my home. A boarding school beckoned and away I was from that presumed safety and left at the whim of tortuous cruelty to which I needed to adapt lest I be bullied more than I had the capacity to endure.
Beyond that, I was a bed-wetter, at a time when it was not considered a psychological issue, but one in which I lack self-control or discipline. The antidote it was to shame and to ridicule me, all of which I absorbed because I was the problem. For the first two years of boarding school, my mattress was given a daily airing in the sun, just as was the case for two other classmates.
The things I saw that none believed
It all came to a head, first at home when I thought the monstrous thing I saw twice in one night was the devil, having been primed earlier in the day with tales of horror. My experience was dismissed as excited exuberance and my life became the recitation of Psalms in a language I could hardly speak over cups of water to drink or buckets of water to take a bath.
From prophets to shamans, I found myself in hovels and grottoes, prognosticators, seers, mediums and sages, saw evils and perils ahead for which we needed to appease gods and God, none of which helped my psychological wellbeing.
I did not know I was depressed
It is only recently that I have been able to reflect on the fact that my late childhood into my teenage years' presented classic symptoms of untreated clinical depression. Irrational fears, sinking feelings and waves of terror that greeted my sighting our house from the beginning of the street that led to it. I could not explain it, but it was there, a burden, a weight, an unease and utter discomfort that I just pressed up against as other unhealthy habits and acts began to characterise my personality.
The times I attended lectures and could not for the life of me appreciate why or what I was in class for. The culmination of which was five wasted years of tertiary education, for what I had in mental capacity was nowhere near able to overcome the psychological stresses I was under, conveniently dismissed as lazy on the one hand and me not pulling my weight.
I just muddled through day after day until a sudden decision by my father to work the demons out of me at his flailing farm led to my running away from home. It probably was my saving grace, because the pressure in my chest lifted, but I could see no future yet.
A new lease of freedom
Then, in my darkest hour, my aunt invited me to stay with them, then, rather than press me into their way of life and belief systems, I was given the latitude to explore, to breathe, to grow, to assert and to thrive. That led to the rebuilding of everything that I had lost, the full force of facing my failures and having at the back of my mind that opportunities once lost can be regained, albeit after a temporary setback.
I have not even touched on the compounding issue of addressing, understanding and accepting my sexuality. That, I have borne as a refrain and undercurrent of my life since as early as seven.
I just coped and not out of ability
Depression presented itself too many ways that maybe the Psalms, the prayers, the rituals and much else helped me survive, even if I doubt I was ever free from its effects. The coping mechanisms were a kind of stiff upper lip stoicism, reserves of resilience I never could account for, or a sense of independence or even inviolability or invulnerability left me exposed to situations where I had a false sense of security.
Schooled on the idea that only the weak needed therapy, it was not until a few months before I was struck down with cancer, I had just survived a bout of shingles that discussing all the feelings and apprehensions I had with a neighbour with a career in medical sciences posited that these were signs of depression.
Things I left undone
I gave it no further thought as I ended up in the hospital and traversed a course of five days from denial that my life was in grave danger to the acceptance that whatever danger was presented, there was a possibility of a future beyond this. It meant that when a prognosis was given that I probably only had five weeks to live if I did not tolerate the treatment, I was more in hope than despair that I would see it through.
The fact that I had left this existential threat almost too late to be attended to might have in another setting drawn excoriation and rebuke, I was fortunate to have sympathetic and determined medical personnel supporting me through the ordeal.
How my personality attacked me
As I began the course of treatment, the way I presented gave the false impression that all I needed for the medical intervention, it took demanding a psychological attention to my situation before I was recommended for therapy and psychiatric counselling. My case was, having suffered a catastrophic loss in health, wealth, well-being, status, comforts and on the verge of losing my house, there was no other indicator needed to describe my need for urgent psychiatric help.
My medication presented other issues and side effects, diarrhoea, insomnia and occasional claustrophobia acute in vivid dreams and once experience that had I not resisted stepping out of my apartment, I would never have returned to that safety and enclosure ever again.
I did not present the classic signs or the way the questions were asked of me suggested I needed no help, yet, I felt just the opportunity to talk to a professional was more than necessary before I lost my mind. The bills were mounting, creditors were threatening and there were no easy solutions in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy, the loss of two close friends and no clear future prospects beyond surviving cancer.
The terror of suicidal thoughts
Then I was terrorised with a crazy thought, I lived on the 7th floor of an apartment block, my windows were tall and apart from a single bar at the lower end, I could step out. I had visions of stepping out and flying, then knowing I could not fly, a playback recurred of my body splayed out dead on the tarmac below. It haunted me many times, but something kept me from carrying it through.
I had a story and I did not want it to end in that way, there were enough tragedies and misfortunes swirling around than for my life to culminate in that, I never talked about it to anyone. I am just glad that the thoughts never got to the point that they overwhelmed my reasoning. I found times to cry, probably not to regret, I embraced my humanity and vulnerability and comforted myself with thoughts that things will eventually turn for the better.
I found the support that pulled me through
None of this would have been possible without help; medical, psychological, in friends, in neighbours, in lovers, in my faith, in hope, in God. I was not invincible, I never was, I just by fortune beyond what I probably deserve found peace with myself, an acceptance of who I am and an accommodation for the frailties and failures that have become part of the story of the successes and victories in life that I also celebrate.
As I think of life and also think of death; I hope that as long as I live, I continue to love life whilst not living in the fear of death.


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Chris: Nine birthdays gone without you

Preparing for something
Today, I would have been so excited for the evening ahead. My best laid out plans for a sumptuous dinner at a swanky restaurant, celebrating another wonderful year.
Whilst, I do not consider myself a dancer, I would have loved to dance, caught in that embrace that always made me feel safe and happy. Infatuated and lovesick I would have been, my heart beating faster than I could gasp the breath to keep me standing. I would have swooned and fallen into those protective arms, those arms long and lanky.
I held back
As tall as he stood and indeed taller, my head never had the chance of getting in the way of my heart, I was silly, stupid and senseless in the elixir of love. I could never understand how in my sense of independence and individuality, I fell head over heels, tumbling down a hill of the most beautiful feeling I could not find the words to describe.
Then, there were times when I could have decided, but I hesitated, I was ready to take the plunge, but I faltered, I could have made a difference, but I left it different. If I had the luxury of a parallel universe, I would have moved out there to find out about what could have been, that never became it here.
Follow your heart
The hardest lesson I learnt in all this was I failed to follow my heart to the oasis of love, come what may. My fears overwhelmed my hopes and in that, I lost what might well have remained in my grip for the celebration tonight.
Chris would have been 45 today and we would have wined and dined just for the joy and fun of it. The story really is, Chris died at 36 and this is the ninth birthday without him. I cannot turn back time, I can only remember the good times, the fond memories and the rest that comes with smiles and sadness – that was the love I lost.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Thought Picnic: On the sudden passing of friends

On the cycle of life
It happens every time, first, you’re overcome with shock and then a numbness when you hear the news. Your mind then races into the recesses of your memory, opening closets and pulling out drawers, looking under tables and dusting off tops seeking the snatches of moments that defined relationships that signified friendship and more.
An emptiness descends upon yon the midst of the depressing circumstances, as realisation dawns on you that what you heard is true even if you have no other means to verify the story. As you reflect, you begin to compose yourself in ascertaining the right order, form and delivery of words of comfort and sympathy to express, none of which is easy.
On searching and yearning
Questions come and go, many of which would never be answered, for there is none in the extended surviving ones to relate to on the matters personal as one would have easily been able to do with the principal. Too many instances of unanswered questions like these that plague the curiosity makes one wonder if friendship is ever complete without having a friend of the friend in that circle of friends.
Beyond this is the need of someone close you can just chat to, unburden yourself of the suddenness of the sad tidings rather than have it churn within you. In our mortal vulnerability, we all need a touch of humanity with which to absorb the issues of life and death that makes up experience.
On realisation and fortune
Then part of the reflection you have especially when circumstances are revealed in the shortest delivery of missives pertains to self, the thought of similar bouts and different outcomes. For one, it is that we survived, for another, it is that they did not.
That they did not, does not mean they could not, cancer, as much as it is understood is also misunderstood. For each, and there are many different kinds from benign to aggressive, from treatable through palliative to completely untreatable.
In that mix, as I learn in my own experience is the ability of one’s physiology to withstand the poisonous and gruesome onslaught of medication, beyond hope, if there is any, we can only watch and wait, hoping for the best or accepting the worst.
On mortality and memory
For every time I am told a friend died of cancer, I sense within me a vulnerability like I die a little, saddened and grieved by the news that the encounter once again took away a soul too soon.
Then, too many times the news comes completely out of the blue, and all we are left with are flashes of the last time we met, when the goodbyes were meant to mean, till we meet again, not a final salute to a friendship and life that in many ways was well lived.
He was a colleague, a gentleman, typically with old English reserve, very affable and amiable, I liked him a lot. A year into our working relationship, he retired, but much of the work and documentation he left with us, proved useful, long after he had departed.
The team found times to meet up, we met at one of the pubs in town for a drink where he regaled us with lots of extracurricular activities he was engaged in with his wife in the community. For all intents and purposes, he seemed an active healthy man. Yet, he passed on last week after a short battle with cancer.
Adieu Nick, may you travel well and rest in peace.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Thought Picnic: Watching a blog have a life

When I do, it is still fun
In the fifteenth year of my blogging, I realise that I have not blogged as much as I used to. It is not for the want for what to write about, there is much from the mundane to the serious, but a kind of lethargy sets in beyond the feeling that there seems to be a monotony to covering the things that have been covered before, or so I think.
Yet, again, each event and day is different as reference points can be viewed from another perspective as products of both the imagination and introspection.
The life in a blog
Then, I remember writing a blog, five years ago today, it is just one of those topics about how people could sensationalise an issue based on false premises and quotes. There was nothing much to it until comments came rushing in and the readership climbed into the thousands. It is now just a few hundred reads below 30,000.
It goes without saying that a blog once written has a life of its own, some that I have expected to garner much readership have hardly budged and others that I may not have thought would be understood or interesting have just increased in readership much beyond my expectations.
What I would love is to rekindle that joy and fun in blogging, writing and opining about issues, in seriousness and levity, maybe with humour or disgust, finding expression for the many thoughts, observations and events that I find myself involved in.
Thank you!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

#IDAHOT 2018: Of allies and acceptance



At Cologne Central Station on my way to work.
A workplace joy
I have come to see the 17th of May each year as a day to celebrate and remember in my own little way. It is the day that has been designated the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). [IDAHOT Website]
I became aware of this day when I was working at Barclays Bank, the organisation unfurled a big rainbow flag from the tower in the campus and with that were a number of events in branches all around the world to commemorate the day.
As an institution, Barclays Bank has been amazingly supportive of the LGBTI community, sponsoring and hosting functions within and outside the company on matters of inclusiveness and expression that I have not seen paralleled in any other place where I have worked. You had both a sense of belonging and safety in the work environment, that was just right.
Out and proud at work
Personally, I think I have always been out in the workplace since the early 1990s. I have been fortunate to have friends and allies who have not only been understanding and supporting who and what I am. They have in many ways been part of the network of confidence in expression and identity that has allowed me to thrive.
Whilst, I have never worn my sexuality on my sleeve, a direct question has always elicited an honest answer. I have had managers who have sought to learn and understand how and why we are wired so differently. Where homophobia has appeared to emerge overtly or covertly, I have seen managers call out such infractions and demand that profuse apologise with undertakings to be better behaved to be made to me.
To those as fortunate
In that, I have been blessed and fortunate, then I have to appreciate many others who have never had the opportunity to be themselves at work or at play, out of fear of persecution and prosecution, it is the reason we have an International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. To remind people of the inequalities and the dehumanisation of diversity and difference that still pervades in many societies and communities.
For that reason, the struggle continues, the recognition is needed, and the stories need to be told of those of us who have had it good and of those of us who suffer under laws and states that make them insignificant non-persons because of their sexuality. The violence must end, the persecution must end, and we must come to realise that difference is part of our humanity deserving of equality, respect and dignity.
It is for that reason that I celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, where the colours of the day, shades of purple, for the freedom to be who you are, what you are, wherever you are without fear, loathing or hate to contend with.
Happy IDAHOT!!!
Postscript: When I wrote this, I did not realise that the theme for 2018 was “Alliances for Solidarity”, but that is the truth, I have had alliances and allies for solidarity through most of my working life and I am thankful and grateful for the many friends and colleagues who have accepted me for who I am without reservation or question.


Monday, 7 May 2018

Hotel life: Looking for "Helpless people"

Woken too early for my liking
Considering I am a very light sleeper, I cherish every minute of sleep I get which rarely is longer than a 3 to 4-hour stretch before I am awoken and have to work myself to sleep again.
This morning at my seemingly lovely hotel which is part of a large hotel chain in Cologne, I was woken to an emergency by the fire alarm and after the catechism in German, we were given an English translation.
Evacuation! Evacuation!
“There is an emergency in the hotel, please leave your room and close the door behind you, do not use the lift and follow the directions to the front of the hotel.” Then, it said something about the staff and that I should look for “Helpless people”.
Bags and everything
That would be funny if I was not woken at that hour, but as I was in my pyjamas, it was easy to step into my trainers without even doing my laces and with my key card to hand I grabbed my cane and made down the three flights of stairs.
The number of evacuees that had left their rooms with their belongings were numerous, if we were fleeing a serious emergency, it would have been a looming catastrophe.
As we approached the front of the hotel, the “Helpless people”, which I eventually got to realise were supposed to be the “Helpful people”, the fire warden and staff assigned to handle emergencies beckoned to us to come into the hotel.
The frying pan was saved
He explained in German to the many guests and just told me in English there is no problem. Someone came to my aid and explained in detail that it was a kitchen incident of the chef leaving the pan on the stove for too long which triggered the fire alarm.
Thankfully, no one was hurt including the frying pan, but have I seen how not to do a fire drill or event a real evacuation? Then, please, like I always say in countries where English is not the official language, whilst you all speak English better I can ever speak your language, always get a native English speaker or a teacher of English to review your public announcements. Helpless people, indeed!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Thought Picnic: Addressing irresponsible Facebook communication

Good manners still matter
I have at times had the misfortune of learning of the death of someone known to me on social media, however, I have hoped that the closest relations of the deceased did not suffer the indifference and insensitivity of being informed through the same medium.
It is just good manners to inform the bereaved on a more personal basis rather than have them collide with a wall of grief from a public and impersonal medium. Besides, I take cognisance of my cultural affinities that suggests news of deaths must never be conveyed with bluntness to the closest relations of the deceased either in informing them or in enquiring from them.
Wisdom and sensitivity applied
I remember a conversation I had with a close uncle over a decade ago, he did not know if I was aware that a cousin of mine had passed on, he did not blurt it out, rather he made a passing reference to my cousin that would have elicited a response or a question from me. The response would have indicated I knew, the question would have suggested I was oblivious to the death and then he would with wisdom settle me down before telling me.
I am writing this blog because after the episode yesterday, it is necessary to revisit the matter because I am quite incensed and annoyed. Another uncle of mine should have known better to be smart and wise about enquiring of me from my sister without putting them in unnecessary and preventable distress.
Utterly inexcusable conduct
I appreciate social media provides such ease of communication, the ease is no license to dispense with discretion, manners, decorum, sensitivity and empathy, all of which in my view was lacking from the question asked yesterday that it is contemptible and should be excoriated in the sternest terms.
Nothing makes the act of that distant relation uncle forgivable in the slightest, it was utterly irresponsible and reprehensible conduct. I have elderly parents, I would not want to predecease them, even as I am aware of my vulnerabilities and mortality.
The excuse is not social media or Facebook, it is just plain uncouth behaviour and bad manners channelled through a medium of expression.




Monday, 16 April 2018

Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more ...?

Blogs of fearsome death
I am in mixed emotions about this blog because it reads almost like a blog I read exactly a week ago. He had written that if that particular blog appeared, it meant he had lost his battle to cancer, the blog he wrote a few hours before that, he told us that it was possibly the last blog he would write alive.
So, imagine the feeling I had when a few minutes ago, I received a message from my sister on Facebook to call her immediately I got the message.
Losing my cool
She had been contacted and the message which in my view was in context an incomplete sentence read, “Pls, confirm is it true that akin akintayo is no more”.
I could take issue with many things wrong with that apparent inquiry, incomplete words, the gross levity and disrespect to my person in not capitalising my names; I guess I have suffered more indignities than this in life but accord me some respect in death if I am already dead. If that was a question, I am waiting for the interrogation mark.
I am still alive and well
However, let me assure you all that I am writing this as a living person, breathing, hale and hearty, all my functions intact and hoping that I have some retention of my sense of humour to laugh at this apparent attempt at my obituary long before it is necessary.
I can offer a few suggestions for this line of enquiry.
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more under 50?
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more angry at this message?
  • Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more distressed than my sister who was more upset than I could imagine for hours, unsure of what to believe that she received as a Facebook message?

I had everyone calling and messaging me to confirm whether I was no more communicating by whatever means possible as the enquirer himself is someone I have probably not seen or spoken to in nigh on 28 years.
Again, I am here, I am well, and I hope to God I get to write another interesting blog. Don't believe the rumours and lies, the man is still being the contrarian he is, and for another day, not suffering fools gladly, no, not once.

Please, confirm is it true that Akin Akintayo is no more writing another sentence on this blog? Yes!