Monday, August 31, 2015

Let's Dance In The Rain!

Dancing In The Rain
Let's start this one by reminiscing our childhood. Well mostly mine but I am sure you will relate. It has been a long many years and it’s amazing how some of the events of my childhood have stayed with me. It’s true how they say some things stay with you for life. Even the silly things do – mostly so. Remember how school used to be back in the day? How our tiny versions were full of life and immeasurable exuberance? I miss those times man. I really do. Not that I have grown old but things were different back then. I remember carrying packed lunch to school. The lunch box we called ‘Tini’ and inside it a mixture of rice and potatoes. I also carried a tea doll which I mostly hang religiously around my neck like a sort of expensive ‘Bling’. 

Sometimes the lunch box would drop while running to school. You had to scoop that mixture up or starve the whole day; a damn hard choice. I would choose the former anytime. Some days I’d feel the urge to eat the food before lunchtime and then cry the whole afternoon for not having had any food. 

I used to dread some things back then - like getting to school late. Teachers on duty were absurdly mean. They would cane you with too much passion. I believe they enjoyed it. You'd think they were born to do that. I had somehow gotten used to whooping but each time was different. You would never be too comfortable with ass whooping – at least not the primary school I attended. A teacher would be happy today and cane you rationally. Another day would be marked by failed salary increment and this would mean next level whooping - like wet tree branches next level.

We used to sing during morning assemblies and the PPI programs (anyone knows what PPI used to stand for?) I remember singing ‘fadha abraham hazmeni saa...ayamwandothe’ (Father Abraham had many sons…I am one of them). Don’t laugh; it was pretty hard figuring those English words out in the village I grew up in. We prayed too; ‘Our fatha who ati heve halo be tha ney, thy kido ka” and I am sure God heard us. He listens to the heart you know. Occasionally (mostly on closing days) we would fight. We called it ‘closing school with someone’, a literal translation that is. This is where most boys learned to stand up for themselves. I know I did. No one wanted to be labelled a coward. It was better being the village hero even if it meant a black eye that your parent could never find out about. 

Seasons came and went. We enjoyed all of them. But we always looked forward for the Christmas holiday season. Heck yea it was the best of them all. It was different. Back then Christmas meant more than I can explain now. I still smile at the Christmas memories we made. We would eat out hearts out. We would eat meat man!!! Roasted meat, boiled meat, 'Maini', 'Mutura' you name it. We wore new clothes. They would be bought in August to avoid December price hikes and get tucked away to wait until December. But that never mattered. Fun was the center piece. Always. 

Girls would play with balloons and cook 'Chapati'. But boys weren’t that 'lame' (apologies to any feminists out there). No, we did more than balloons. We would hook up with the cool cousins from Nairobi and go out. Chase after girls, swim in the village rivers, cause little trouble here and there. We’d even pee wherever we wanted. Nobody cared. It was Christmas.

Life was good then. Right now growing up doesn’t seem anything like grownups made it look like. Looks like a hoax to me. Anywho a specific memory crossed my mind today. That memory is why we are talking about dancing in the rain. Remember how we played in the rain as kids? No? If you never did then you’re probably one of the urban kids who had a 'boring' life. Let me bring all of us to speed about what dancing in the rain entailed. It took many versions but here is mine. 

You chuck from home in the morning as usual towards school. You’re in a clean over-sized uniform. Your mum warns you against playing in the dirt – as usual. School goes on fine, the day passing with canes here and there, undone homework, failed math problems etc and most the time the teacher yelling about school stuff you're not interested to know. Who wants to know how battles in the past were won by sijui akina Napoleon? Si we have our battles to fight now and we are not bragging about them ama

In the afternoon, after eating the cold lunch you carried, it starts drizzling. Your face beams with joy. This is going to be one of those days. The rains are coming. It has to rain heavily today. You tell yourself. And like prophesy the skies open up and the rain hits the ground fast and unapologetically. You dance around in the class but that is not enough. Kamau, the kid who lives for these moments, throws you out of the classroom and before you know it you are chasing each other in the rain. It is fun. You scream and shout and cry when need be. You’re lost in the moment. Two hours later and you’re done. The rain stopped long ago. You smile and say goodbyes as you head home. 

This smile fades towards home because you’re certain what’s going to happen. You cringe at the thought of it. You can’t imagine your mom whooping your tiny behind. Not again. It is always vigorous; it makes you afraid, weak even. But you really don’t care, you had fun. Yea it was fun. You did play in the rain. 

Now you’re probably wondering where I am going with this, here’s the thing, we are not supposed to forget how to dance in the rain.  Vivian Greene said "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain". Our version of rain will be storms of life. It's not like we are yearning for troubles as we yearned for rain as kids but like it or not we all get challenges. 

People will disappoint you. Someone will cheat on you. You’ll run out of money. You’ll be robbed of small money or big money or both. You’ll fall ill and curse the day you were born. You’ll get ahead of yourself sometimes. Heck even other times you’ll fall on your face and it will hurt. You’ll think of quitting. You’ll want to throw in the towel and walk away. You’ll be embarrassed that you can’t color inside the lines. That you don't fit in. 

But you have to realize this is life. To quit is to die. You can never walk away because where you’re going there are still issues to deal with. So staying and fighting is the thing. Yes, to stay and fight. Not the relationship one - though it applies there too - but I mean the life one. Learn to dance in what you perceive as trouble. Even when you’re sure it is an equivalent of an ass whooping by life. Find fun in your storms. Be grateful for the lessons learned and soldier on. Let's all dance in the rain, shall we?

Let me be subtle today and end with this simple but informative poem by Ric Masten:

|| Let it be a dance we do
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times
and the bad times too
Let it be a dance.
Let the sun shine, let it rain.
Share the laughter, bare the pain
and round and round we go again
so let it be a dance. ||

Monday, August 10, 2015

Right Here. Right Now!

Living In The Moment

Life has always and will always unfold in the present. A good thing I must say. However, there is a dark side to this given the way life will slip some of us by because we are never on the present. So often I have seen friends allow the pleasurable moments to slip away, allowing time to go by unobserved, unseized, unappreciated – you name it. And this is not a good thing. Let me give you a little background of why I am blogging about this. So a few days ago I am at a restaurant having lunch and the song ‘Living In The Moment’ by Jason Mraz (You’ve never heard of it? C’mmon! What do you listen to again? Listen to it here  ) is playing in the background. As I stare at my plate of Matoke and Beef (not so delicious by the way) the song caught my attention and got me drifting. Part of it goes like 

‘….I will not waste my days
Making up all kinds of ways
To worry 'bout all the things
That will not happen to me ….’

It took me back to those good times back in college when all we did was hang out and read as little as we could. We loved living in the moments. We had fun and I am sure my friends that will read this are witnesses. I can say we came, we saw and we conquered – not entirely sure how this is applicable here but moving on swiftly (or not), we did have the time of our lives, especially in our final year. However, my concern is for the people that went through that life – which was supposed to be super-awesome - full of worries. This is why I am writing – for the one soul that is never at rest in the present. Pretty sure now you get it. It is all about the ‘Right here. Right now’ philosophy.

So let’s dive right into it. You are working but you mind is on vacation. You are on vacation but you are worried about the work that will be waiting for you back at the office. You are supposed to enjoy a present moment but your mind will not let you. There is always something coming up, a deadline, an event, a duty…something. The future worries you too much and you are always trying to change it. Then there is the past, thing you did and the things you did not do that still haunt you. The could-should-may have dones that are constantly killing you.  

Let me bring this closer. You are having coffee at Java and instead of enjoying every sip you make you’re thinking “is this better than what I had last week at Cafe Deli?” You are eating cookies and they are good...really good…They always are by the way… and instead of enjoying the cookies you’re thinking “I hope I don’t run out of cookies”. You are at a concert and everyone is dancing their ass off but what are doing? You are taking pictures and recordings with your phone. I am too sure you won’t get to dance with that phone later. Do these experiences sound familiar? Yes? Good. Not a desirable life you would agree with me. Everyone (you included) pretty much would jump at the chance of living in the moment some can even lecture about it (despite the fact that they do not do it) but the question of ‘how’ comes up.

So before we get to the how I need you to stop judging my proposition of living in the present. Pretty sure you’re sitting there wondering – how about the future? The money I should make? That blue Subaru? I mean will the future be there if I just sink into the present? Shouldn’t I be concerned about that? Well you just have to believe it – Ye of little faith. You make the future great by living moments the right way now. The milestones that you envision are made up of tiny worry-free moments. Now back to the how. Top of the list (I even have a list mahn! Awesome isn’t it?) is that you to stop being too self-conscious. Imagine life as you being on a dance floor. When you start having questions like - are people are judging me? Where should my arms be?  Should I let go? This is when you look like a clown dancing. The trick is to simply let go – the ‘be here right now’ kind of thing. Don’t be that paranoid chic who over-thinks everything. Mark you I never said you zone-out on life because that is very insane. Stay sober, we need thee aye.

Second thing on my list (and probably the last one :) ) is for you to savour the moments. Enjoy the shower and stop worrying about being late for work (if you get fired contact me I can hook you up with a lawyer and we can argue your case from the Human Rights perspective. Yeah that’s right; we all deserve to enjoy a hot shower). Seriously though, enjoy what you are doing at that particular time. Eat that chocolate like you mean it..Don’t just rush through it. Enjoy the walks in the park, by the road or the ‘vichochoros’ you use (that is if you are living along the Kasarani-Mwiki road - I am not targeting anyone here). When you are ‘chilling’ make sure you are really ‘chilling’. When you are talking to people make sure you are there – be present in mind. Breathe deep and slow…don’t be a slave of schedules and times, accept challenges as they come not as you anticipate, be active in the present, be sensible about routine activities, be grateful. Do things slowly and deliberately. And that’s what we call living. Living without Sallendaling (see what I did there? No?).