Friday, 12 July 2019

Just for the asking


We have been put to the test,
At the drawbridges of Fortress West,
Where a gatekeeper says lest,
The invited returns not to their nest,
They cannot, for now, be a guest,
For reasons that we must contest,
And quite vehemently protest,
Though our means are modest,
Our aims are completely honest,
Once more we find we must wrest,
To show our very best,
Against policies that do suggest,
We can’t be better than the rest,
On this, we are really pressed,
As it must well be stressed,
That what was then professed,
And would like to be redressed
At the point that it’s again addressed,
Is the leave granted to the quest,
To enter freely unsuppressed,
To be trusted wholly as possessed,
Of good character duly manifest,
To act as agreed and expressed,
And depart without arrest,
When due as one did truly attest,
We stand the readiest,
To leave you all impressed,
It is just a simple request,
A visit as if you haven’t guessed.


Monday, 8 July 2019

Thought Picnic: The changing dynamic of familial allegiances


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Beyond the conventional
There comes a time when you can no more think for just one, even though for such a long time, anytime I have been asked about my family, I have answered, I have a large family of one.
One person can be a family, just as a family can be traditional, extended or unconventional, and I have been in all of those to different degrees with experiences and influences that are extensive.
That one has not followed the convention of the traditional family setting does not mean that the individual does not have responsibilities and obligations to keep their own concept of the family unit intact, safe, provided for and secure. There is sometimes that misconception that the absence of dependants means the commitment of means and resources to demands and requirements of others following the traditional family concept.
Assumptions taking liberties
Obviously, in terms of numbers, there is probably more to distribute towards achieving much for the comfort and liberties of the singular, but it cannot be imposed as a duty, just because the person for reason of circumstance, opportunity or fate has not conformed to the heteronormative mindset.
The contemporary family unit now respects no conventions, what is adopted is what is found suitable for the individual or partners in that construct. The composition is fluid as well as committed and decisions that concern that unit then must take all parties into consideration, for partners and dependants alike.
The extended family becomes peripheral to that family unit, their requirements and demands, secondary to the focus needed to maintain family unit cohesion.
Setting your family goals
This can become a source of conflict, if certain do feel ignored or left behind, it might occasion emotional blackmail and put to test the matter of allegiances.
You can love and care for your blood relatives, but in the matter of spousal relationships and the development of those into your own family unit, there should be no question as to with whom loyalties lie, where faithfulness matters and to whom the greater devotion must be found.
It could be a tough course to navigate, but the person with whom you choose to spend life together on matters of the heart and things that evolve from therein must know that they come first and above in the scheme of things.
When you’re in this together
In the evolving commitment within relationships, you begin to affirm a few things, like, we’re in the love together, we grow interdependent of each other, decisions require the consideration of the partner, and for the elimination of any doubt, what each person does is done with the mind that affects both in the relationship and consequently, all around that relationship.
That is the confidence those in that family unit need to have, that progress is a lock-step activity of persuasion and conviction, communication and information, assurance and endurance, and, encouragement and affirmation. Whether it be a large family of one or any other viable construct of relationships that matter to the people involved.


Thursday, 4 July 2019

Thought Picnic: Living a storied life


For the quiet around
Even without hearing a sound, there can be a lot of noise, deafening and debilitating noise, banging on your eardrums from the inside of your head.
They say the battle is mostly won in the mind, but how do you acquire the silence and quietude to concentrate on resolving the issues that give you much discomfiture?
I find my comfort in many things, the times when the turmoil proves too upsetting, I would probably just go to sleep. It keeps the thoughts from getting overwhelmed with imponderables and the implausible, hours later in wakefulness, the mind has settled into some resolution and purpose, it is a strange journey to acceptance that I have travelled many times before.
Not for a thing
Worry is an illness that can infect all organs of the body and make you terribly ill. The residue of religion left in me is the insight into how worry can change nothing. If nothing can be changed for the situation, you’re in, why bother expending energy in ruminating over the wastelands about you?
This is where other aspects of the residue come to play, for many stories from the Book have the narrative of coming to pass, rarely ever coming to stay. Nothing stagnates to the point of having no movement of time. Time rarely stands still, things might seem long in passing, but never immovably stopped that all the laws of nature are upturned. This too shall pass, and it will pass into the realm of stories told in the future as if it mattered not at all.
Talk to thy self
Beyond that, I speak to myself, loudly in my Anglicised name, I tell myself, it would come out right, I expect things to turn, I prepare for the future ahead that I cannot see, but know that life creates stories that you are given to help others see beyond their walls, their clouds, their chains, their gates, their inadequacies and anything that makes you think any less of who you can be.
I have a vision of the possible, the possible that walks through the impossible, usually not as miracles, but as the gift of fortune and fortitude with a mind set to rise and be lifted above the fray. Then, because I found it when I was in the Pentecostal movement, I still speak in tongues, it might be gibberish, incantations, prayers or commands that turn nature on its head like the parting of the seas, that is my teaspoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way.
I can find my peace in storms that rage so violently that the hearts of some men fail, I have stood in the whirlwinds that swirl the dross and dust off me to leave me feeling refreshed and ready for the next challenge. There is a life to live, live it well, for from the very first day, it was a struggle to thrive and a blessing, it remains each day, what I am thankful for, a life so ordinary, yet made extraordinary by the stories I have been given to tell.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Looking like I do, happily


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Of weight and form
For a man my age, I am pretty much comfortable in my own skin, in my identity and generally in the way I express myself. Yet, I do suffer from middle-aged angst about my body, I obsess about my weight even though my doctors would prefer I maintain the weight I have considering I lost 25% of my body weight when I had cancer 10 years ago.
I probably would be happier with myself if I lost a few kilograms. That, along with middle-aged spread that can plague you if you are not committed to an exercise and fitness regime. A gym membership languishes with monthly extractions from my account, the gym in my apartment block has not seen a visit in aeons and the swimming pool that gives my the yearning to learn to swim, leaves me with the best of intentions, good intentions, but intentions do not keep you fit.
FaceApp on WhatsApp
Then with the fantasy of desire and probably the means to acquire, I was visited with a remodelling of my face, a full beard that is attractive to someone but a complete irritation to me. Five days after shaving, every pore of the nascent beard growth is itching stimulus receptacle asking a tug, a pull or a scratch, it is only assuaged with a shave, a good clean close shave with 2 days for my skin to heal.
What I could be in the imagination of FaceApp and none look the least attractive to me.

It drives me to distraction; I would rather I had no beard as I did not even start growing one that responded to shaving until I was in my 30s.
There is much else I could change, male pattern baldness with a dusty brown Caucasian wig as bangs. I know of no other male in my immediate family that has this condition, but when I saw that I was losing the hair, I did not agonise about it, I took it all off especially after watching a film of people with a snake oil remedy for hair growth inject people with hair loss issues with a serum that grew their hair at unbelievable speeds, until it became clear that they were being used as hosts for aggressive follicular snakes. [Body Bags – Wikipedia]
All the makeup MAC can make
Maybe there are things I would have liked to change, my teeth, the front two which I lost in a childhood wheelbarrow game and the stories that follow. It is somewhat unsightly, but I am not that self-conscious about these things, I have faced more life-threatening situations than the absence of a complete set of fitted mandibles and maxilla. I could tamper with my nose and fiddle with my ears, but I would no more be who I am after all that.
Then I think of the girl with her boyfriend in the video of TLC’s Unpretty, he was not happy with her as a person, he wanted her to have bigger boobs and persuaded her enough to feel so inadequate that she contemplated cosmetic surgery until it dawned on her that she was just good as she was.
I don’t feel unpretty
The battles we fight in our heads where people who are naturally beautiful get to the point of thinking something is so wrong with their looks that after rounds of plastic surgery, they become grotesque caricatures of their former selves and bizarrely contented with the butchery of their bodies.
I pray I never have to suffer that level of psychological discontent leading to the physiological hacking away of my natural features. I have lost a few teeth, had a crown or two inserted, but for everything else, I am blessed with much more than I have ever been grateful for. No, I don’t feel unpretty, I love my body, I could do much more to be fitter.


Monday, 1 July 2019

A survivor does not owe you a convincing story


A sex story
In the main, I have kept my counsel on a developing story in Nigeria because the commentary covers the spectrum from the totally agreeable to the utterly reprehensible, so much so that one engagement can leave you mired in the completely incomprehensible.
She was twice his age when she called him into the toilet, closed the door and crouched down, then she pulled down his shorts and handled his member, brought him down, centred him to her exposed self and asked him to move in on her. That is all he can remember of that event. Like so many crazily eerie moments that litter over half a century of life, this one still plays back like a slow-motion replay in the inner recesses of the mind.
That was the only instance with her, probably she decided she should look for someone else, but in that seemingly insignificant moment, the seeds of an outrageous scandal had been sown whilst at the same time the treasure of innocence had been plundered by an act of senselessness that you probably would not impute on either party.
Other sex stories
However, beyond that day, there were other instances where those presumably entrusted with the care of minors whilst the parents pursued their careers in the confidence that their wards were safe completely unaware that were being fast-tracked into irresponsible adulthood for the personal pleasure of their male servants.
You wonder why the kids said nothing to those they trusted then because trust by proxy now went to through the servants, not that the parents were too busy to engage the children, the parents just naively thought everything was fine on the home front and by inference, fine with the children.
When eventually, a report of one of the servants interfering with the kids got to the notice of the parents, they did all the motions, a hospital visit and a sacking of the servant without involving the police, it would have been too scandalous for such a respectable family. This was three years after that other episode, they had moved to another city by now.
Can’t forget sex
Little did they know that the report came at the instigation of another child, who found that they could easily confide in another child than go to their parents. Without the prompting of the other child, nothing would have happened, and the abuse would probably have continued. The parents were completely caught up in the trauma of the event, that first, they did not bother to inquire whether others might have been abused, when one other was previously the plaything of that abuser.
I guess they thought with time childhood memories would be erased and forgotten, if only. If one were to add to this a greater indictment, it is after the servant was sacked the kids were told to watch out for his return, no adult with them as they were terrified of what might happen next, all they had for safety was the instruction to scream, a boy of 10 being the eldest against the servant, 29 years old.
The scars of child sexual abuse run deep and only a few survivors of such events go on to live in healthy relationships with a complete blank on the past. Sexual innocence once lost can never be replaced, but there is a lot parents can do in caring, in nurturing, in showing unusual affection and doing everything to regain the trust and confidence of their children being readily able to report any violation of their bodies.
Earn sex trust
Whilst some parents might find this strange, the trust a child can have in their parents to report sexual abuse has to be earned, earned beyond the standard of just being a parent and expecting every child to worship you from the day they were born. Parental provision is a responsibility on the shoulders of the parent, the child does not have to be thankful for that, but the child would be more exceedingly thankful for the opportunity to open their hearts to their parents long before the problems come.
Yet, what parents concentrate on is ensuring they are respected and obeyed at the cost of everything else. They lament about being disrespected, get out the whip to lash out at every opportunity, make all physical and economical provision and have no concept of emotional engagement, then later in life think the child owes them everything.
That was lost on the day the child lost their sexual innocence when all the parents did was ignore, scold, treat the child as a commodity and leave to chance the healing of time. In most cases, the child never forgot, today becomes a day of reckoning.
Unconvincing sex stories
This is a story told, personal and raw, there was a conversation where the legalism of a child became a matter of dispute, and though recent events need attention, past events are no less significant because the seeds sown then mature in the person affected from that time, they have just learnt to cope better with the hurt.
I wrote this because within the commentary that followed the developing story on Facebook, someone said everything that matters to every victim, every victim of child sexual abuse whether you hear that story immediately after the abuse or decades after that it all seems incredible, implausible or even unbelievable, “A survivor does not owe you a convincing story.” 
To that, I would say, neither does a victim owe you a convincing story. There are liars and blackmailers out there, but to allow those few to determine your view every other story is a grave injustice and too many of these stories cannot be tested to its limits in court, you only need a good lawyer to get a murderer off the charge. What two sides of a story you are not convinced of that would allow you side with the perpetrator against the victim, victimising them a second time, because the victim can't tell you a convincing story?
There are many stories left untold because the victim and survivor is left second-guessing themselves unsure of whether they would be believed about what was done to them, be it child sexual abuse or rape, they are heinous crimes against the person, to which there are rarely any corroborating witnesses. The victims internalise their trauma and their fate, there is courage in keeping silent and there is unusual courage in speaking out.
Tell your story
The many victims of child sexual abuse I have watched being told to shut up, they have a story they cannot tell about what happened to them, because they cannot make their story dramatic enough, fantastic enough, or convincing enough to the majority who think child sexual abuse or rape must follow a rational course of action by the perpetrator.
One can almost say a murder scene almost definitely yields more forensic evidence than a child sexual abuse or rape event, why that is the case when the victim is a witness to their own violation continues to baffle me.
In that story is a boy, an aunt, a sister, many houseboys, some distant relations and no strangers, all before he was 11.