Falling To Pieces

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It’s OK to not be OK. Yes I said it.

It’s OK to fall apart. To have no clue where you are going or what the heck you are doing. To not know whether you’re moving forward, backward or just oscillating around the same point for goodness knows how long. To constantly grasp at straws in the hope that one of them will be the one that saves you from drowning. Yes, all this is OK. Why you ask? Because at least then you are conscious and self-aware of just how far you fall short of your own expectations. Which probably means you will eventually do something about it.

If you aren’t falling apart, if you are perfectly put together all the time, if you always know exactly what you are doing and where you are going……It is likely that something is deathly wrong with you.

Speaking of death. In the space of ten short months, I lost three people who were very close to my heart. Each loss more harrowing than the one before it. I partly attribute this to the probability that I barely allowed myself to deal with any of the tragic losses.  The first one made me angry. I’m told that’s a common reaction to loss. The second, I regarded with disbelief and denial. The third and most recent was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. Finally acceptance. And with it, some semblance of peace and comfort. That we are all on borrowed time anyway and it’s best to get our affairs in order since each day is borrowed, measured, precious.

There’s nothing like the taste of death to make you appreciate being alive. And I don’t mean the cliche living – you know, appreciate what you have, be positive, blah blah blah. Not that. I mean the raw, ugly truth of what living really is.

I’m the kind of person who looks very put together. Not the type who constantly annoys us with their ever-positive banter (I hope!) but rather the type of person who people are drawn to because I listen. I don’t give solutions but people walk away feeling lighter. A type of catharsis I suppose. So generally I don’t seem to be the kind of person who would fall apart. Or who wouldn’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going. I know now that this is due to the fact that I work very hard to “Be OK”.

A couple of weeks ago I featured a series of guest posts from a good friend of mine. Very routine. I remember reading his post when he sent it to me. It struck me as a very deep post, and I thought, “Wow, this could help someone out there….someone who could be struggling with the same thing…” And up went the post.

A week later, I called my friend and told him that I might as well have written the post. One day I was perfectly OK (my version of it anyway) and the next I suddenly wasn’t. I was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t even make out what was my reality any more. Out of nowhere, or maybe just a long overdue buildup of glossing over issues, my emotions were raging all over the place. Nothing felt right anymore and I questioned almost every single decision that I had made in my life. All I knew was that I had created layers and layers of being OK, time and time again, over and over. To fit in. To make other people comfortable. Or to avoid making them uneasy. To avoid being selfish and deal with my issues. Yes, you actually need to be selfish just to get time for yourself to deal with whatever you’re going through. And the things just kept piling up. Until the dam literally burst.

When I finally stopped spinning, it was very clear to me. I had been so busy dealing with and helping other people that I had conveniently forgotten to deal with Me. Some of it was avoidance obviously.  Dealing with other people is so much easier than dealing with yourself. If you’re anything like me, you will understand when I say that I constantly put myself on the back burner to prioritize another person’s issue. I never even realized how much it had cost me.  Until I crashed. Part of me desperately went into Urgent Fix mode. Trying a band aid solution to a gunshot wound quite literally. I couldn’t be down right? That’s what I had told myself for so long so it was just natural to get fixed asap. But my heart just wasn’t in it.

Now I don’t typically wallow. But this time I was neither ready nor willing for the quick fix. The more I pondered it, the more I realized that my quick fixes had covered up things I wasn’t ready to face. The deaths of my loved ones. A sense of failure from certain decisions I had made. Feelings of not living up to what I perceived as other people’s expectations and opinions. The more I dug, the more ugliness I unearthed. The truth is hard to face, bitter to swallow; yet for all its harshness, it was a welcome reality and almost fresh in its raw deer-in-the-headlights authenticity. It was liberating.  For the first time in a really long time, I was OK not being OK.

The best part about this was that I felt human. Mortal. Real. And deep in my soul I sensed that I needed to be completely taken apart just so that I could be put together again. Almost like being reborn and seeing things with the naïve simplicity of a little child.  It is terrifying and at the same time, delightfully exhilarating. Like being handed a blank slate to write on.

It’s just the beginning of the journey for me and I know I have a lot to learn.  The one thing I know for a fact though is that it’s absolutely OK to not always have your ducks in a row. Because now I know it means that I am always continually working to improve on me. Figure myself out. Get better, do more. And every once in a while, it’s OK to cry. To hurt. To fall, just so I can figure how to get up in a different way. Because ultimately none of us really wants to stay down forever.

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It’s just unrealistic to believe that you will never fall.

 

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Of Bleeding Hearts and Giving…

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I have always been a bleeding heart. You know, the kind of person who is excessively sympathetic towards those in unfortunate circumstances. I have been known to give in to emotions on frequent occasions and take up charity causes for people I don’t even know. Some people (read cynical people) find this naïve and a little foolish but what can I say? I’m just wired that way.

Parenting is the art of carrying your heart outside your body. Most parents know this. For those who aren’t parents allow me to explain. Imagine if you had to carry your heart outside your body (in a bag or whatever) and keep it safe from any harm so that it continues to keep you alive. Do you get the picture now? It’s a nerve wracking, heart tugging situation. Pun intended. Kids have a way of softening even the hardest of hearts, whether you show it or not.

Before I had my son, I had pretty much mastered the ability to hide my bleeding heart from most with the exception of those who know me pretty well. From the moment he was born, that situation negated itself and to add insult to injury, I realized that I had become excessively emotional. Anything even remotely sad made me cry. Movies. Novels. Articles in a magazine. Animals dying. Well that last one has always reduced me to tears to be quite honest, from the time when I was old enough to understand that animals do not have the same life span as humans. We even had a pet cemetery growing up. The stuff of Stephen King novels. It’s a wonder our house was not haunted by the spirits of all the cats and dogs that we buried there in shallow graves that were later dug up by wild pigs. In case you’re wondering, we lived right next to Ngong Forest.

Where was I? Oh yes, parenting. If you’re a parent you know how sad you get when you see a poor little homeless kid on the street begging for a meal. You know the way your eyes well up when you see those features appealing for medical assistance for a child who has some never-heard-of life threatening ailment. You know how angry you feel when you see a child being mistreated by someone who should know better. You know how helpless you feel in all these situations because while you can only do a little to help, deep inside you always wonder, what if that was your child?

That’s the craziest thing about parenting. You see your child in every situation involving a child. Even when you’re not with your child and you hear a little voice cry out “mum’” or “dad”, you’re bound to turn towards the sound; a second before you realize that it can’t possibly be your child calling you. That’s what having a child does to you. It makes you crazy vulnerable and impossibly soft as marsh inside. That’s the feeling of your heart being outside your body.

Now that I have my second baby, a beautiful graceful princess, I find that my bleeding heart has imperceptibly gotten worse. I suppose with my son being older I had toughened up slightly but I now find myself back to the fears of having an infant sorely dependent on me for her every need. If you have a small baby you can certainly relate to the constant checks on them to see if they are still breathing. Almost as if we don’t actually expect that they will successfully do that on their own. I tell you, babies are undeniably over dependent. Incredibly instead of driving you up the wall, this just makes you grateful every day for the blessing of your little baby. Especially when you hear the story of someone losing her precious daughter to a choking incident. Or another to an unfortunate school bus accident. Or yet another whose child is missing and is presumed kidnapped. It literally breaks your heart and all you want to do is go home and hug your child as tight as you can.

Because that’s when you realize, as you have always known that your child is your heart. Literally and figuratively. You are carrying your heart around outside your body and praying desperately that no one rips it out of your hands and hurls it to the ground, smashing it into smithereens. I imagine that’s what it would feel like, multiplied by a trillion, if something ever happened to your child. I can only imagine because even though it happened to me, I’m still pretty sure that I cannot adequately capture the pain that a parent feels when that heart is ripped away from them. I cannot put into words the fervent prayers of the parent whose child’s life hangs in the delicate balance between medicine and divine intervention. Words cannot describe the gap that can never be filled where once there was a child but a parent had to bury them.

In a nutshell you will never be the same again. Once you become a parent, it changes you. It defines you. It grows you and makes you the best person you could ever be. You could literally give your life in a heartbeat in exchange for your child if it was required of you. I still cannot watch Denzel Washington in John Q without wailing from beginning to end.

Incredibly with all the stuff I’ve said so far, it’s still the biggest blessing that you could ever experience. Like I said, you will never be the same again but for the coolest reasons ever. My son changed me forever and already my little princess has made her unmistakable imprint on my heart. It’s literally the best thing that will ever happen to you and the greatest, most rewarding journey you will ever walk. Just make sure you find a good strong bag for your heart.

P.S. If you’re a bleeding heart like I am, please go to Baby Ivannah Alusa Limo and help if you can. Whether or not you are carrying your heart around in a bag.

Update: On 15th July God decided that Baby Ivannah was too beautiful for this earth and took her with Him to dance with the angels in heaven. We rejoice, even amid our streaming tears, that she touched so many hearts and brought so many together in a common cause. We pray for strength for her family, that they may celebrate the precious measured moments they shared with their beautiful angel whose smile and gorgeous eyes we had all come to adore. Ivannah, we know that you are in a better place.