Month: October 2019

Unconditional Love and Mental Health

Have you ever loved anyone so much, you expect nothing back? Unconditional love basically means you’re not expecting anything in return.

I have always felt a little defect because I have never loved another adult unconditionally. Not once. I have no children, so that explains that. Though I have loved some children and young people unconditionally, but as soon as they become adults, the unconditional part ends for me. Mostly, this is because I really love being in equal-effort relationships. Even with family members. It is not that we should all contribute the same things in equal measure, rather that we complete the circle for each other. Kind of find the things we love doing, and do them consequently inside the relationship for ourselves, and for each other. I don’t want to be paid back, I want my efforts and existence to be acknowledged and appreciated.

For people we love unconditionally, we extend our non-judgmental attention, our acceptance, and caring toward a person. We do this without expecting or hoping to receive anything back. And, we do not want the people we love unconditionally to change in order to meet our needs. When we consider another person’s happiness and security to be as important and as meaningful to us as our own, we love that person unconditionally.

This is a very commendable kind of love.

However, human love tends to be conditional. Most people expect, at the very least, to be loved back. At most, we expect someone to submissively accept to be our home keepers, make our breakfast before 7:40am and iron our clothes. The submissive home-keeper will expect you to pay the rent if you want sex and give some pocket money if you want real intimacy.

Is unconditional love healthy?

Let’s say, it depends. If the receiver of unconditional love is also offering unconditional love, then we have a partnership approved by cupid. But, if there’s any sort of abuse or violence in the relationship, unconditional love ceases to be a good thing. A selfish person would definitely love to meet an unconditional lover. In the setting of condition-less love, nurture, support, adoration etc, a selfish person can receive – taking, and never giving back.

This is very unhealthy and devastating for the giver in the long term.

When active, some neurological circuits will turn off the parts of the brain associated with bitterness, hostility, and other destructive emotional states. If left turned on for too long, bitterness, hostility, and other destructive emotional states can create long-lasting stress. This can damage vascular health over time. Vascular Health relates to the health of the arteries & veins going to the legs, stomach, arms and head.

However, unconditional love is not always unhealthy. When all involved refuse to tolerate hurtful behavior, a setting in which no one is a doormat. When it reciprocates real warmth and includes a sense of joy unconditional love can take you to an emotional well being where the right neurological circuits are activated. A deep joy, self-love, belonging and a support system which can will heal even the worst traumas.

Accepting or tolerating hurtful behavior is dangerous even on a community level because it teaches people that treating others poorly is okay. Which it isn’t.

In its extremes, unconditional love, is a self-betrayal that allows an inconsiderate partner to damage our soul.

Is unconditional love human nature?

No. Except with our children. Mature love requires reciprocity because an adult is not a needy child who doesn’t know any better. Our relationships can’t bloom in neglect, disrespect or abuse. There are limits to what we can offer others unconditionally. As human beings we’re wired to need acceptance, kindness, and intimacy.

It is very difficult to extend ourselves indefinitely if we’re not getting enough back. This makes us bitter. If our kindly expressed needs are continually ignored, it inevitably leads to feelings of depletion or defeat. When takers get used to unconditional love, takers will try to make us feel demanding if we even dare request for some support in difficult times. It’s good to be aware that there is nothing shameful about wanting to meet our basic human longings in our adult relationships.

Our way forward is not to pride ourselves on being unconditionally loving, but rather to empower ourselves to learn what it takes to create a lasting, mature love. Rather than striving for selfless love, we can do our part to create conditions for mutual love.

Recommended reading: This is a good place to start it you want to learn more about unconditional love vs lasting love.

Does Beauty protect us from mental illness?

Does beauty protect us from mental illness?

This question was asked at a mental health conference I once attended. A speaker spoke about beauty, the lack of beauty and its effect on mental health. It reminded me of the story below, and the lessons I learned about beauty.

The vegetable vendor, mama mboga was not always an angry homicidal woman. She had just gone through a few difficult months, which happens to all of us at some time. Firstly, she had been fighting with her friend Benji, who owed her money. He didn’t seem to have an intention to repay. He was a hustler with a hustle-kiosk by the bridge between Baraza and Kayole. In the cooler hours of the day, he grilled maize, yams, arrow-roots and other grillables which he sold to passers-by. During the hot hours, he was a plumber, a gardener, a painter, an electrician, whatever the Baraza residents needed, Benji could fix it or broker for a fixer.

A hard worker, something mama mboga respected. Therefore, they had a neighbourly friendship going, but Benji drank too much and ate too little which led to chronic money shortage and neglected hygiene. Something mama mboga did not have any respect for.

Everyone who knew him and found it necessary to have any kind of verbal exchange with Benji did it from the opposite side of the road. His breath was known to kill the rats under the bridge to the left of his maize-roasting-grill. He sold his roasted edibles to those who did not know him, and children who were too short, so Benji’s killer-breath wafted over them mixed with the smoke from his jua-kali grill.

Mama mboga had liked him all the same. If like can turn into love, lifelong friendship or acrimony, this was one of those that were turning acrimonious.

Livia & Valentina

During the same period, sometime in 1995, Livia and Valentina arrived in Baraza, having escaped the war in Rwanda. To get to Kenya, they had traveled through Uganda and Tanzania. A three-day journey had taken months. The two beautiful sisters had with them their young sons, one each, and they rented the house by the bridge, opposite Benji’s hustle kiosk.

They used the front of the house as a salon. With a talent for braiding hair and skin care, they kept the salon immaculately clean. They were efficient too, braiding a full head of small twists in three-four hours. Unlike other salons around in Baraza, they never double-booked customers as other salons did. The aggravated customers left the old salons and booked their times at the LV salon. The ladies had good speakers installed in the salon ensuring quality sound in entertainment and they had beautiful international magazines strewn around.

At this salon, gossip in broken Swahili sounded like compliments in French. I appreciate good gossip in good Swahili more than I let on, but gossip at LV salon was and still is unbeatable. It was never about specific people, it was about situations in which several people were involved in – nameless unidentified people. It was like listening to soap operas on radio or folklore.

Though mama mboga and Benji used to be good friends, by time LV salon opened, Benji and mama mboga were no longer on speaking terms. Except the occasional insults directed in each other’s direction. With the arrival of LV ladies, mama mboga lost her previous role as the unchallenged COO of Gossip Center AB. Animosity could be felt through the vegetables on mama mboga’s kiosk. To worsen the situation, the LV ladies started to catch the attentions of all the men, including Benji.

Women seem to be in constant preparation for the eventuality of war or famine, in which they will need the men to fight for them or hunt for them. Even those women who don’t care a whiff about men, do not like it when new women move into their territory and start attracting the men, in case men’s loyalties change leading to abandonment.

The LV-ladies cleaned the salon between 07:00 -07:30 every morning, the very same time when men were passing, or driving by on their way to work. For the ladies, they were preparing for LV opening hours at 08:00 or 08:30, just after they had prepared their sons for school. For the honourable wives and women of Baraza, the LV ladies were intentionally seducing their husbands by cleaning.

With kangas wrapped around their nice round hips, loose unflattering t-shirts or old Kitenge blouses and headscarves or stockings on their heads.

Still the men would standby or drive slower, distracted by the cleaning rituals and the swinging hips under the kangas. The maize roasting Benji, by the roadside opposite the LV salon, gave up his beauty sleep every morning to arrive five-ten minutes before or after Livia or Valentina started the cleaning routines. Although he wouldn’t open his maize grill until around 9:30am, he was ruled the simple matter of lust. To sit on the other side of the road and watch a half hour of Livia or Valentina bend over cleaning the floors or wiping the windows with the whole-body shaking was a daily dose of lust-relief. It did not matter that Benji did not have a chance with any of the two women. Not even with two hells frozen over and purgatory closed.

Livia and Valentina had, with impressive results, taken the over-hyped and unpredictable risk of future damaged skin or cancer by bleaching themselves. I shall never forget the daily hassle they went through to protect their bleached bodies in constant scorching sun. When they were forced to be out in the midday sun, they used sunscreen creams with as high protection as muzungus, and then walked around like caricatures of themselves, with small pretty umbrellas. People either loved them, made fun of them, or hated them.

“They look like the Japanese geishas you see on karate movies, don’t they? He he he he.”

They cared less and I loved them for it. By the time Benji discovered them, the bleaching was well done which made him resentful.

“A woman who can bleach that well is high-maintenance. Who wants to spend money on that? Who wants a bleached woman in his bed anyways? Imagine if the skin peels off?”

Mama mboga’s loving husband

After a few months of LV salon as a neighbour, mama mboga was even worse tempered with Benji and Herculi than usual. She demanded her money when Benji was drunk, a time she would normally avoid him. This escalated into an exchange of curses and disparaging accusations.

In another country, it could have ended up in a court of law – as slander. Mama mboga had even toyed with the idea and discussed it with Magara, the lawyer in house number 60. Magara had studied law in India and presently worked in an up and coming law firm in the city. Mama mboga was distraught especially because Benji had used the words witch, and night runner to insult her. Magara explained that it would cost her more than it was worth considering that she would probably need to bribe several people to get witnesses and this, even before the case got to court.

To his defense, Benji explained that he was hammered, pissed and pissing his pants, and did not remember whatever he had said. He assured mama mboga and her cronies that he did not mean anything of it in his sober day-times. The devil had visited him on that evil evening and said all those evil things. It must have been full-moon madness, he concluded.

“As you know mama mboga, I have some screws loose on a good day; and even more screws missing than usual on full-moon nights.”

That did not pacify mama mboga, but she let it slide by retorting ominously, like a true night-running-witch, that Benji better find other places to be during full-moon or he may find himself disappeared, never to be found again.

Mama mboga reminded me of shushu in many ways. Like shushu, mama mboga believed that men do and say what they mean when they are drunk, and lie through their teeth when sober.

”Cowards, the whole bunch!” She would hiss in anger if a woman complained about a drunk husband who had done evil while drunk.

”Why don’t they dare do it while sober?” She wondered.

Although LV salon had stolen some of mama mboga’s women during the day, the kiosk remained a meeting place for housewives and housemaids in the early evenings. The hours between 17:00 and 18:30, when the salon was closed and dinner accompaniments had to be acquired. All news, advice, recommendations, concoctions and experiences were shared among the women at this hour.

Of course the men avoided the kiosk, until the women were done. The last months of 1995 and beginning of 1996, mama mboga was altered. Even her usual friendly abrasiveness had turned unfriendly and her flying stones aimed at Herculi, the dog, had venom in them. Herculi started to avoid the kiosk all together, rarely showing his face by the kiosk except late at night or early in the mornings when it was closed.

It turned out, the LV ladies had been retailing the products they were using on their skin, and had been marketing them by word of mouth. Mama mboga was racked with confusion. She was considering bleaching herself but was not totally decided how to go about it secretly so no one noticed her becoming yellower or browner by the day. She was a fine woman, mama mboga was, but no one except maybe her husband would call her beautiful. She was on friendly terms with the LV ladies, giving them whatever of the vegetables from her kiosk was overdue and would otherwise go bad if not sold. In exchange, they made her hair for much less than the asking price.

Be that as it may, she was not as young as the LV ladies, having a daughter in late teens. She had to be at least thirty-five, that is if she got her daughter at sixteen. She didn’t know how to handle the LV ladies’ easy beauty. Her greatest charm was her easy vexation with life wrapped in humour and a warm laugh.

The third thing that tipped mama mboga’s balance during these months was when her husband, who never used to show any excitement around women, started dropping by the kiosk in the early evenings.

‘Just to chat with his wife’, which he never did before LV salon opened its doors. She was suspicious from the very first day he stayed longer than his standard 20 minutes. She observed for a few days without comment but on the fifth day he stayed for an hour, mama mboga promised that someone would die or disappear if she felt humiliated by any eyes looking in the wrong direction, or a smile at the wrong moment.

”I am not especially funny, and I know when I have said something that one can smile about.” She declared as a warning and her husband understood.

He still stopped by, careful to not cause anyone’s death or disappearance. He did not know for sure what his wife was capable of. She seemed to live exactly as she wanted. Her children went to school, she bought the food she wanted when she wanted. She paid the women’s chama every week and all this in total disregard of his existence.

He worried that if he disappeared, she would not notice except if the school fees and house bills were not paid. He had to admit that she made sure that he had eaten, showered and called to check that he had arrived safely when he was traveling without her. She did not always inform him of her plans and did not demand explanations for his actions either. She had once, in a moment of comradeship, said to him that the only thing she had ever needed was a home and children.

She had all that now.

He did not know what he would do if she was not in his life and he was afraid she knew exactly what she would do if he left her. So, he discretely watched the LV-ladies. Discreet enough to not embarrass his wife, and long enough to be able to say to other men that he too understood manhood’s fascination with the ladies.

The LV ladies were referred to by their first names which falsely implied that they were unmarried and childless. They had been married and lost their husbands in the Rwandan war.

Neighbours were suspicious of them.

“Where do you come from?” The reply “Rwanda” meant nothing for a regular Kenyan except flashing TV pictures of bloody limbs being dislodged from the bodies or the burning churches hidden behind smoke. Most kept their distance for the preservation of their marriages and declaration of man-ownership, which was often displayed by most women when confronted by the LV ladies. Here were two beautiful young women, man-less, a child each and independent with their own house.

Husbands could start disappearing.

The silent consensus was, “Better keep away from them!” Which was enforced with backstabbing lies, cayenne-pepper-looks, confirming-bonding-knowing-looks among the chosen few who behaved as expected. Small hidden head shakes and when the worst came to the worst, diverted looks. No respected woman’s eyes met the eyes of the ostracized. The agreement was as simple as it was old.

“Don’t become friends with those single beautiful people, unless you are stupid, in that case, you deserve what’s coming your way. Let them fix your hair, and only because no one else does it better. ”

Some women asked the LV ladies to watch their children for a couple of hours or so when they ran errands. But, the same evening or the next morning when they passed by on their way to church, or to the Makuti bar with their husbands, the same women stared straight ahead without even a hello to the LV ladies.

Beauty was a liability that was used against Livia and Valentina. Once, Livia told my mom how she had walked in on the shopkeeper’s wife and the pharmacy owner’s wife as they debated whether the LV ladies ever had husbands. Or if they were loose-morale-women who had gotten pregnant by other womens’ husbands. The husbands must have opened the salon for them.

She was crying as she told mom this.

“They don’t even ask what we have seen. They just assume, and gossip and sneer and spread lies.”

The shop keeper’s wife had haughtily said that she had asked her husband to keep away from the LV ladies.

” Who knows, maybe they are Congolese who sleep with monkeys and bring AIDS with them?” Livia whispered tearfully.

“Like giving the men permission to insult and disrespect us. Wanawake hatusaidiani. Women, we cannot help each other. She said in so good Swahili I was smiling at her for a whole minute afterwards.

Meanwhile a couple of women around Kanzu court, had suddenly become a little lighter in their complexions. Mama Shagi blamed it on lack of sunshine, as she had recently spent too many hours indoors, since her sick mother came to visit. Curiously, the complexion did not go back to the usual darker shades of fore-years, when her mother had left and mama Shagi was out daily, albeit constantly on the lookout for a good shade.

One evening as we waited for our kales and spinach to be sliced by mama mboga’s sharp knife, she informed us quite ceremoniously that after months of deliberation, she had decided not to bleach herself. Apparently, she was furious at herself for being tempted by such vanity.

Will I pay my daughter’s school fees or buy breaching creams? She asked us all. At that wrong moment, Herculi walked by the kiosk, minding his own business, as though the devil wanted him dead.

“That stupid dog again!? He is relentless! Did you know he stole my samosa the other day? I turned around for a minute…” Mama mboga started hurling rotten avocados at him.

Lessons on Beauty

At the LV salon, I learnt to watch ordinary good enough women turn themselves into instant unreachable, high maintenance sirens.

Beauties of all sorts. For dates, for weddings, for nights out with their husbands or sugar daddies.

I also heard and watched women and men observe beauty, react to beauty, assassinate beauty and often, speak condescendingly about beauty. The African saying: a man who marries a beautiful woman has similar problems as the one who plants his crops by the cowshed was constantly evoked and revised during childhood. In different words and versions.

It was repeated into teenage.

Men advised each other and women laughed encouragingly.

On friendship, a married woman with a beautiful female friend is like a poultry farmer letting the Lycaon into chicken pen. A beautiful woman is the enemy of men’s financial advancement, was often used by both women and men. Especially, when a man on his way to financial ruin happened to have a beautiful wife.

On AIDs, all you needed to do, was stay away from beauty. If you want to avoid AIDs, avoid the beautiful women. They entreated as they elbowed each other on the way in or out of beautiful women.

By the time I was sixteen and ready to live alone, I realized that I hoped I was not beautiful.

I reacted with distaste and even horror when anyone said I was beautiful, pretty or attractive.

After all, I had done nothing to deserve beauty and I longed for it to stay away so all I had was myself. My humanity, wife-material, potential-mother, potential-friend, AIDs-resistant. Plus all other good things that could come from lack of beauty.

I could then dedicate my thoughts and dreams to the attentions I was receiving from a boy, Karani, who had moved into our court and seemed to like Herculi, the homeless dog, as much as I did.

Recommended Reading: Are you interested in learning more about feminism, women’s rights and the journeys women make towards their destinies? Here is a list of blogs to take you from knowing nothing, to awareness.

1:59 things you need to know before you turn 34

So Eliud Kipchoge ran 42km in under 2 minutes. He is 34 years old – an age when most people have given up, and are just pushing life (kusukumana na maisha). Some well-wishers even advice us to just lie down and die after 30 – especially if you’re an unmarried woman, jobless man, divorced etc

What did you learn from Kipchoge’s 1:59 feat? Did you think about the mental calm, stamina or well-being it requires to do what he did? How about his wife? And pace makers? Did that teach you anything about support systems?

So let’s do 1:59 things you need to know before you turn 34 years old.

  1. Age is NOT just a number. It is a collection of stories, experiences, connections, adventures, misadventures, love, hate, heartbreak and healing. Your potential to live, love, hurt, heal and repeat all of it again is limitless. You are resilient.

Money buys everything, except the important things

1.1. If you don’t have a personality, money will not buy you a personality.

1.2. Values and strong mental stamina cannot be bought with money either.

1.3. Love, commitment and respect have never been bought with money. Never.

1.4 You can definitely buy attention, fear, sex, flattery, fun and even adventure.

1.5 Regardless of the amount of things you can buy in 1.4. you cannot buy joy or peace of mind. You can have a lot of fun with people without ever feeling real joy with them, or finding peace near them.

Discipline vs Passion

1.5.1. Discipline and perseverance is not the same as passion. To be disciplined and persevering in things for which you have no passion is futile.

1.5.2. Passion helps you choose the thing or person you will dedicate your life to. You have to love something or someone so passionately, your entire being wants it. That is how The Law of Attraction works. All thoughts turn into things eventually.

1.5.3. Discipline, faith and trust is the engine that sustains dedication to things and people.

1.5.4. Self love is the fuel that keeps the engine running. Enabling the engine to sustain dedication, faith and trust.

1.5.5. Self Love is not self obsession, narcissism or an inability to receive constructive feedback from life. However, self love includes the ability to ignore people when they try to define you.

Pace Makers and Belonging

1.5.6. No one has a right to define you, and categorize you into any group you don’t feel a natural belonging to. You define where you belong. Additionally, you define what you need to do to be accepted or acceptable in the spaces in which you want to belong. Setting boundaries and allowing ourselves to become vulnerable is a part of this journey.

1.5.7. The place, people and circumstances you choose to belong with, unwittingly become your pace makers in life.

1.5.8. The pace makers in your life are your choice. Every step of the way. You define the passion, the goal, the values and the expectations. Set boundaries, demand discipline and dedication and you keep those who keep up. Respectfully releasing those who don’t into the universe.

1.5.9. Money can buy people’s time. It can buy people’s competences which make it unwise to think of money as meaningless, just because it doesn’t buy core happiness. It can buy entertainment and comfort which go a long way to turning a bad day, into a good day.

Money cannot buy passionate pace makers that support you to be the best version of yourself. However, it can help you keep competent and dedicated time planners, dieticians, advisors, coaches, doctors, motivators and sponsors.

Those Nike shoes would not be designed for just any dude.

Recommended reading: Success is a journey, not a destination. Learn to enjoy the process. If you are looking to read more for motivation and inspiration – Visit EveryDayPower

7 things to unLearn to Prevent Suicide

Did you know that every 40 seconds, someone, somewhere in their world takes their own life? Count that. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10 . . . . . . . . . . . . .40.

In recent years, I have thought a great deal about how little I was taught about living a fulfilling life. There was a lot of love in my childhood, and yet, except for the repetitive reminders of how to catch and keep a husband, I cant remember being taught how to be fulfilled. Like finding and keeping the husband would be fulfillment in itself.

Credit to my mom, she did teach us to have our own income, bank accounts and separate financial plan. She ensured that we understood that financial freedom can be the defining factor between life and death. Between your children having dinner and your children sleeping hungry. The difference between you sleeping in the sofa, or in the children’s room or in a hotel – when he eventually brought another woman home to your bed. Beat fear and submission into you, so you finally accept that the other woman can sleep in your bed.

However, mom’s financial freedom was not presented as a way of fulfillment, it was a way to survive. A coping mechanism, to avoid worst case scenario.

My dad told me: Do not marry the first person you fall in love with. It is the easiest way to get stuck in the road of least resistance. And never finding out who else you could have lived with makes you fearful that there is no one else out there for you. Which in turn can be used against you. If you fall in love, and want to marry him anyway, take time and meet other people. So you can learn exactly why you choose that person, over another person, to spend your entire life with.

Poor daddy didn’t know I would be an adult in a world where you can marry in the morning and apply for divorce in the afternoon.

Most of what I was taught was in the region defined as How to reduce yourself so you are lovable.

1. Be Brave but not Vulnerable

We are taught to be brave. Lions and lionesses without ever getting space to be vulnerable, weak and lick our wounds after a brave-spurt. This touches on all the below points too. To ask for help, you need to be brave, whereas to define yourself outside of gender, you have to be braver than brave. Imagine how much courage it takes to be a man, or a woman, waiting for a partner to choose you over and over again for a lifetime? While all you want is to spend a lifetime with this person.

However, while you wait, you are not supposed to be vulnerable. In the gender-roles, a man should not cry in despair while waiting. And a woman should not be vulnerable and God forbid, give up. She cannot nag, demand anything or loose her temper. Leaving her husband to live alone is out of the question. If she should break down mentally, and leave her children because she is not feeling like the best mother for them at the moment, she is the worst mother in all universes, all lifetimes. Some people will loose their minds completely, and give it all up, just to find solace in madness where no one can come in with expectations.

Imagine the guts it takes to disappear from expectations, and choose a path no one in your village has walked before? To be nobody and be like nobody? Or the energy and resolve to stay sane, and find some fulfillment in life, even when all you’ve been taught is fear and survival.

I keep referring to Brené Brown and her work on vulnerability and courage because I know nothing that speaks on the topic of mental health in the same way.

2. Waiting

Were you taught to wait for life to happen to you too? God has a plan and fate is already in motion, so if you just trust and wait, the pieces of our life will fall into place? If we plan, strategize and dream big, we are told that we are too big for our boots. Setting ourselves up for failure. We are defined as ungrateful and unsatisfied. Especially for women! I remember when I said I would never be a teacher or a nurse, I would something else entirely. The auntie brigade came out to inform me why teacher and nurse are best wives ever. Because I am not even supposed to dream about my life if I am not dreaming a space for a husband in that life. Even if no husband is in sight, or maybe you are homosexual and no husband is coming into your life.

The phrase high maintenance has been used to close that coffin for women.

For men, the wait is for the perfect wife. The encouragement to dream big, so you can support a family. The wife of a successful man does not need to work. So wait till you succeed, then find a wife worth of your success. She does not have to love you, she just has to submit and appreciate the things you do for her. Like pay her bills.

So, we are advised to wait for childhood to end, for marriage to start, wait for people to treat us right. Wait is often called patience.

3. Disappear. Be nothing.

After waiting, we are taught to disappear. If you watched Game of Thrones, you know about the girl who has no name. Not think for herself, not question, not hesitate and absolutely not have any visibility. Those who are a little different from the surroundings, are smart to hide those sides of you that are different. Hide them when you speak, and even better, hide them when you act.

You are gay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual, asexual, confused about sexuality? Pretend you are straight! Only then can you be acceptable. Even Lovable. Are you straight and your marriage is falling apart and taking you with it? Lower you expectations. By all means do not demand or expect more. Higher expectations may make your spouse leave you. It is better to patiently stay in a bad marriage than leave the marriage and disappoint the society.

If you can wait and disappear at the same time, then you are a perfect person.

3. Your Gender Defines your life

Our society has had defined gender-roles for as long as it has existed. Men do that and women do the other. With the onset of feminism, sexuality, intersectionality etc the gender question has become a mental-health trigger for most of us. If you fit in a gender-role perfectly, this life works well for you. Almost perfectly. We all work hard to fit perfectly in gender-roles to avoid the permanent struggle of not belonging, and therefore being unlovable.

Be a Man has killed more men than it has saved lives. What does being a man even mean in your day-to-day life? Paying rent, school fees, building a house up-country, financially caring for your siblings and aging parents etc For what? What happens if you are unable to be a man? What happens if you do not understand what being a man means?

Act like a Woman is another aspect of mental health and well being. Wife material vs slay queens? What if you are not capable of acting like a woman? If you are something in-between being a woman and being a person? A human being?

4. Don’t be a burden

We are supportive and helpful in the short-term because of fear that people will use and misuse us if we keep giving. People will be lazy and will never get on their own two feet. So we tell people “I have helped, supported, been-there-for-you long enough! You need to get on your own feet.”

Secondly, we cannot afford to be supportive for ever. Most of us do not have the mental-emotional-psychological energy-reserves needed to be receptive of other’s pain without damaging ourselves. And we all know, most of us don’t have the material reserves. To support a person, we are denying ourselves.

I was once going through the worst year of my life and my broken heart needed me narrating, embellishing, crying rivers, sorrow, pain – on repeat. People can listen to pain and sorrow for a certain period of time. We are capable of sympathy and empathy, but in limited doses. After a few months of grief, a friend kindly asked me to move on. To stop spreading the sorrow. Other people had their own problems, she said. You cannot burden people with your pain, because they have their own pain.

So, what do you do with sorrow and pain, if there is no one to tell about it? Obviously, you keep it inside.

When you kill yourself, people say: you could have talked to me. Which is a total lie. Because people don’t want to listen to pain. Pain, even in it’s silence is a disturbing scream.

What if you need other types of help? Money? School fees? Somewhere to live? Bus fare? Hospital bills?

Is there someone you can go to where you don’t feel like “a burden”? Most of us have no-one. Not even I can be supportive for long periods of time, without doing or saying something that makes the other person feel like a burden.

5. Hard work always pays off

But it doesn’t, does it? Working like donkeys doesn’t always pay off. I remember the first time I realized hard work doesn’t always pay off. I had been working for this Indian as a secretary for 3 years in Industrial area. He was a terror – insulting, demeaning, disrespectful – name it. But, I needed the job, so I stuck with it and did the best I could to make myself useful. I was there at 7am, before him, and left at 6pm, after him. I learnt to type as he talked. To save things he said in my mind so I could remind him of his meetings, of his wife’s calls, of his children’s birthdays.

The only thing I didn’t do is give in to his sexual-advances.

Then one 17th of the month, he came in, paid me wages for half the month and told me not to come in the next day. He had found a woman willing to be his secretary and sex-partner, he said.

My pride was my downfall, he said.

Did I want to re-consider my no-sex-with-employer stand, he asked.

I packed and left the same afternoon. My lesson learnt. It is not hard work that pays off in the end. It is luck, combined with competence, add principles and values to that and you may succeed. Still, there is no guarantee.

In my future professional life, people have laughed when I have clearly stated that I want a female boss. A female employer. Or a boss or employer who will not think for a second that sex is on the table when they hire me.

That has been a success factor for me. It has paid off. I just have to do my job well, and be a good colleague to my co-workers.

So, friends, find something you are good at. Something you love doing. Do it everyday, and do it well and make it pay to do it well. Rest from it sometimes, take a vacation, sleep a whole day if you need to, reward yourself for passion and faith. Work with the Law of Attraction – want it so much, it cannot avoid you.

And then work some more.

7. Success is Material and Financial

Have you heard the stories of success? Even in church, they tell you to believe in God and he will make you rich. Money. A big house. I once heard an entire bishop give testimony about how he started life walking barefoot in his parent’s village – but God had blessed him with 5 cars and drivers for each car because he had given his entire life to God. That makes other believers felt like they have not believed enough? Like they don’t have the same access to this rewarding God because they are not worthy?

People who already feel like shit are told to believe and pray some more.

I define success as the ability to choose my life – my next move. Having the luxury of choice, the freedom to say no. Or yes. I know nothing that is so successful as that.

Imagine being able to to be brave,and vulnerable at the same time and at different times. How about you could afford to wait, while disregarding gender-roles. To never need to burden anyone with your troubles as you worked as much as you wanted to, and to take breaks and vacations when you needed them the most. Believing in God not because he could make you rich, or do anything for you, but simply because you felt spiritually inclined.

Imagine a world where people are so brave AND so vulnerable, they dare share their pains and sorrows with other people, instead of killing themselves.

Relationships in Histrionic Times

You know how people always talk about how ‘attention seeking’ we have become in this Facebook/Instagram generation?? We will post almost anything – even bodies in coffins – to get likes and sympathy. Or videos in compromising situations that should be private. Our bodies have become viral artwork we display on the internet-of-all-things. Viral in various states of undress or redress to get approval from strangers we will never meet.

How about on the ground? Is it different in real life?

I will tell you a story of real-life histrionic virality. In teenage years, I loved reggae music more than I loved myself. Almost all of us are like this when we are young. Totally unaware that we should be loving ourselves more than we love our first boyfriend or our favorite music. Others love the approval they receive from their parents and peers so much, they will diminish and ignore their own needs in-order to gain approval and attention.

So we dedicate years to loooviing something other than ourselves. I sneaked out of home to go to reggae clubs. I secretly bought a Bob-Marley hat, and wore it in the reggae club, making sure no one knew of its existence except for my reggae buddies. I said ‘ganja’ as other young girls said ‘boyfriend’ and I dreamed of a pilgrimage to Jamaica.

Culture for me meant THE band. Not cultural practices. Lucky Dube was my dream man, albeit too old for me. I was safe in reggae heaven.

At one reggae gig, I met Eva who was 3-years older than I and we became fast friends.

There were few reggae-loving-girls, so we hang with each if only for the safety-in-numbers when we were out with ganja-smoking dudes. Ganja-smoking dudes rarely drink alcohol and reggae is mostly a peace & balance loving movement.

We will say what needs sayin’ in our music kind of folk. The rest of you can shed blood for it if you think blood-shedding is necessary. Still, a young girl knows what she is risking when she is hanging out with dudes in reggae joints. So, two is better than one and Eva became my best reggae friend.

I am a life-time advocate for situational friendships. The friendships that arise in certain situations and end when the situation ends. Like first-child-motherhood-friendships. You meet these other women who have their first baby at the same time as you bond on that experience. Once you gain confidence and baby survives the first 2 years in your life, the friendship kind of dwindles, because the issues that were keeping the friendship relevant are no longer there.

Or moving-to-a-new-country/city friendships. You are friendless and vulnerable with zero understanding of the new culture or language. So, at language classes or at the university, you bond with other newbies and become fast friends. This friendship nourishes the soul for some years until you find and choose friends that fit other needs in your life.

Sometimes, situational friendships survive the situation, if they grow with the changing situations. Sometimes they don’t. And that is OKAY. Choosing the people who remain your friends in the long-term is part of the art of choosing a life for yourself. Friends can be the icing on the cake that is life.

Also, friends can be the toxin needed to make that dormant-childhood-scar a festering wound all over again.


Eva was a very good reggae-friend. However, she was a horrible regular-life-friend for a teenage girl of my particular leanings.

This is not to say that I was a good friend for Eva. I did not know, and still don’t know what kind of friend she needed. In reggae meet-ups, Eva was the center of attention. The loud one. Le dancer magnifique. The beautiful one. A sexually experienced goddess. And I was the nerdy-virgin-mouse who hid in her shadow and enjoyed the music.

Unknown to me, my nerdy-virgin-mousyness infuriated her. She made horrible scenes about me playing hard to get and pretending to be better than her. Because in a patriarchal society, driven by wife-material rhetoric, being a virgin was being better than other girls. Obviously, being a virgin AND smart at school was being almost perfect. She apologized as often and as profusely as she insulted me, but it was so exhausting for me.

People loved Eva for her life-of-the-party persona and she was invited to all reggae gigs. The same people feared Eva because she could break all the bottles at a party and drown a sofa in alcohol just to make her point.

Me? I was Eva’s shadow – protected.

Because I was hiding in the shadow of a goddess, I often sat silently in a corner swaying my head to the music and learning the lyrics as the goddess danced. Dudes who did not like dancing would gather at my corner and sit, also shaking their heads and swaying to the music. To talk and learn lyrics.

But my goddess did not like this one bit. God forbid that a dude spoke to me longer than ten minutes when we were out – it didn’t matter if she liked that dude or not. It would hurt her, and infuriate her, and she would throw a huge tantrum so we could no longer listen to reggae, dance, learn lyrics or talk to reggae-dudes.

Paradoxically, if I sat in that corner and ignored all contact with dudes – just did my thing and followed her with my adoring smiling eyes; that too infuriated her. Then she would scream how boring I was, how un-energetic, how un-entertaining. I never knew how to make her happy. She loved me, and declared her love for me in dramatic fits of tears and hugs and public displays. That bothered me because I am not a public-display-of-love kind of person.

I love being loved and respected silently, steadily and privately.

Heart’s-hierarchy of love

Our friendship ended when I started dating – let us call the dude Jeff. Jeff was cute and reggae-obsessed and relaxed in an alpha-male fashion. He did not smoke ganja. Alpha males don’t smoke ganja or drink so much alcohol so they loose control. Eva hated him and made a public-display of her hate. One night, Eva threw such a fit she wanted to throw Jeff over the balcony of some club because he was hogging my time and attention. When Jeff wasn’t swayed by the histrionics, she started trying to hug and kiss him.

That shocked me because she had made such a display of hating him.

Note, Eva being the goddess she was, always had a date on our night outs and paid little attention to me except to check that I was not in harm’s way. Checking I was ok was a big deal and well-appreciated – obviously that was exactly what I had needed. In the fight with Jeff, Eva insisted that I was like a little sister to her, and she did not trust Jeff. She threatened all sorts of things. At last Jeff and I managed to leave.

When next morning she came home to me to apologize, I knew I was done. I had loved reggae more than I loved myself. And reggae and Eva went together. As all teenagers, I now had met a boy – alpha-boy – I loved more than reggae or myself. And because he loved reggae, I could still love reggae, just a little less because now, almost all of my heart was Jeff’s. My heart’s-hierarchy of love was clear:

  1. Jeff
  2. Reggae
  3. Sleep
  4. Me

There was no place for Eva and her emotional dramatics. There would come other loves, greater than Jeff or reggae. It would take years before I was first on my heart’s-hierarchy of love.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Well, lately, I have just been learning that there is a ‘normal’ level of attention seeking and there is an histrionic level of attention seeking. Eva came to mind and my heart aches for Eva in hindsight.

Characterized by unending attention seeking and emotional overreactions, people with histrionic personality disorder are always in a dramatic situation. If all attempts at getting attention fail, they will become extremely seductive to catch attention, even if seductive is inappropriate in that situation.

The symptoms of histrionic personality disorder must cause significant impairment and/or distress in an individual. Often, this distress and social dysfunction leads to low self esteem, self-hate and can eventually lead to depression.


For a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder to be given, five or more of the below symptoms must be present:

  • Self-centeredness accompanied by feeling uncomfortable when not the center of attention
  • Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotion
  • Seeking reassurance or approval constantly
  • Inappropriate seductive appearance or behaviors
  • Rapidly shifting emotional states that appear shallow to others
  • Overly concerned with physical appearance, and using physical appearance to draw attention to self
  • Highly suggestible with opinions that are easily influenced by other people, but difficult to back up with details
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are


Recommended reading: If you are looking to read from other bloggers on dysfunctional relationships and how to take control of your relational-life – Visit Shaftstuff

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