And it’s good to be alive, to laugh and love and thrive.
I live in a building with mostly older people. By older people I mean over 65. They are not old. They are just older than me and most of the people I spend most of my time with.
In Sweden, we live long. So 65 is just the beginning of 20 years of fun. I mean with a good pension and good health.
In our building, there are 75 year olds, 78 years olds, 80 years olds, 50 year olds. Definitely 45 year olds.
There is me.
There is the cat on the 1st floor.
There is the dog on the ground floor.
The cat stinks. That is how I know he or she is there. I live on the 3rd floor. I take the stairs; both going up and going down. That way, I can pretend that I am keeping myself fit. Taking care of my body.
The cat stinks really bad. I am discouraged from taking the stairs. Some days, I need an excuse to not take the stairs.
Sometimes, I can hear the cat meow. Rarely. I think she is a lazy cat. Mostly I can just smell her. The ammonia. When you smell cat stink, you know it is cat stink. Somehow.
The dog barks at me. Only at me I think. I never hear him/her otherwise. As soon as I open the entry port to the building, I can hear the dog yapping. The dog even runs to the door, probably to say hello. Or to tell me something about his/her life. Or his/her master’s life.
Closed up in that apartment for hours on end. The cat too. Probably the owners too.
Maybe the dog can smell the cat. Which would annoy him into barking & yapping. Trying to warn me that there is stink upstairs. Bad stink that a dog shouldn’t be expected to live with.
Maybe, the cat can smell the dog. And yet, keep silent? Maybe, the cat can hear the dog. And yet, keep silent?
The walls we build, they have two sides. Usually, the walls we build hide us on the other side. Are we then protected from freedom or from captivity? from sunshine or from rain? From lack, or from plenty? from sand dunes or from flowers? from music or from silence? from a potential friend or from a potential enemy?
The lives we choose, they have two sides. Usually, choosing one life means rejecting another life. Have we then chosen a life of searching? a life of finding? a life of learning? a life of giving? a life of taking? a life of hiding? a life of fear? a life of courage?
Or have we chosen a life full of life? If we are brave, we may be able to help our neighbours. If we are brave, we may even be able to help ourselves free ourselves of our fears.
One of my all time favorite poems is Unending love by Rabindranath Tagore. Often, during the worst years of feeling abandoned, self doubt accompanied by self hate, feeling lost, feeling used & misused etc ; I have gone back to this poem to find inspiration on how to love myself.
I don’t know when I first knew, but I have known for a while that love is a verb. Hard work. Still, when I met love, I almost missed it! Like driving by the turn you are supposed to take on your way home and realizing it when you see the road sign for the next junction. Thinking no. no.no.no I don’t want to go there. I want to go home.
I almost missed love because, like most of us who have a complicated childhood, I had little idea how love should look like. How love should feel like.
I knew I didn’t want the love I saw or experienced during childhood. Love that abuses. Love that ignores. Love that belittles. Love that leaves. Love that stays but is not really available. Love that controls. Love that goes behind you back. Love that cheats. Love that mocks. Love that hurts constantly. Love that kills. Shattering love.
So I have been learning about love through living & making mistakes. Here goes!
4 times when love is not enough:
(1) Low or non-existent Compatibility. Intellectual, emotional & sexual. If 2 people are not compatible, eventually it becomes such a struggle to communicate, to have sex, to just sit together & have breakfast that love turns out to NOT be enough. BUT, the complexity is, it doesn’t matter how compatible a couple is, keeping the compatibility relevant is essential.
(2) Low or lacking Respect is the end of love. For every relationship, boundaries have to be set & boundaries have to be respected. If the boundaries sound unreasonable, re-negotiate them respectfully or leave. Boundaries cannot be over-stepped without re-negotiation where respect is present.
In my experience, when compatibility and respect are properly balanced, communication issues are few and severe misunderstandings far in between. Apologies are genuine and forgiveness easy. A person who feels appreciated, loved & respected will be more forgiving. A person who feels unappreciated, unloved & disrespected is more antagonistic, bitter & unforgiving.
For love to be enough, one has to feel that they belong with the other person. Totally. Like Lily & Marshall. So glued together that when a 3rd person even considers attacking, annoying, gossiping, looking down etc on one of you; the other jumps the 3rd person! Immediately & brutally. You have each others backs & you keep each others secrets. Your safety, well being and/or success is not more important that your partners.
(4) Plan Bs are a love killer or a love challenge at the least. In my limited experience, a case of one foot in one foot out usually means both feet out. If there is some other person, place or experience that feels more interesting, more important, more exciting than your partner; then love will not be enough. Especially if most of these things feel more fun when done without the partner. If mother dear is better at most things. If your best friend understands you better, always. If that fight you had yesterday made you wonder if you really should be together.
There is not much that you can say during the time you watch this. Or after you have watched this.
You only cry for help when you know there is help to cry for.
Part 1 is here
Yes. the Carmelite sisters taught me all I know about discipline, hard work, rebellion and self respect. They also opened all our letters, read them, censored them with a marking pen and then handed them over. I was a small thin girl with short hair. So sister Paula called me to the “letter reader’s office” [there really was a letter reader!] and she said “Linnie, if you weren’t so small and innocent I would think this is a boy disguised in a girl’s name. But I am happy to think that it will take a while before boys notice you at all! You have no breasts!!?” She looked me over, smiled and handed the letter to me. She then shooed me out of the office.
Encouraging. Very encouraging. I have a lot to thank the sisters for. Although puberty and discipline (rules) were at odds with each other for the four years they shared a compound.
For many years, I thought the two verses were the whole song. Until I moved to Sweden 10 years ago and looked it up because I wanted to send the CD/LP to Sessa back in Nairobi. I then found the whole.
In mid November 2002, the end of my 2nd year in high school, I received another letter from Sessa. Nothing special with that, I received a letter from Sessa bi-weekly. If the nuns didn’t keep it too long, then I received two letters at once. Which was fine with me.
Dearest, dearest, good things are happening!! the letter began
Hope you are ok and hope the nuns are treating you as Christians should treat each other. She was, and still is cheeky when she sets her mind to changing status quo
Are you really a good street child in the play? I know you can act but you are so proud! A street child has to be dirty, humble and broken. That is what you have to be good at.Taking care of the garden in the mornings sounds like fun. I would have liked to do that with you. But mass in the morning feels exaggerated. Do you really think the priest would be having a relationship with sister Paula or are you just mean? Is it because she reads your letters?
thank you for the book about Anna Frank. Mom said you are keeping my head in the sky so I am hiding all new books at the Salon. The ladies like it. They say it fools the customers that we are classy ladies. Sessa had been training/working at the Rwandan owned salon outside our court, musaponi court, in Komarock, Nairobi. She was learning to be a hairdresser.
Be kind, be nice, be strong, be happy.
Chari has been to visit and yesterday, she informed me that I could find a job at a tourist restaurant at the coast. A place called Watamu. It sounds tamu tamu (sweet sweet) already. I plan to go and see. But I won’t leave until you have come home for Christmas holidays. When will we see each other if I leave without seeing you in December? Only God knows. I am now earning a little more at the salon so I am saving a little money for you so you can come with me and see where I will live. We need to move to a bigger place so Tensa & I can have a room. If I move to the coast, then at least Tensa can have the room to herself. It is no longer comfortable to sleep in the living room. Some privacy is needed since you know what… [referring to puberty, breasts and menstruation] Hopefully I will earn some more in Watamu.
I am happy that I did not rush to marry Timo. When I move and work far from here, I may be able to wait so we can marry at the same time!! Nobody will bother with me then and I can just wait. [If you become a sister, I will also become a sister.] I thought she did that to please the nuns
Number 52 fought all night last night again. And she is pregnant again. Remember last time we wondered if you can get pregnant from fighting??!! But I will tell you more when you come home.
I don’t know, do you think it is a waste that I am better at hairdressing now and then I am going to work at a restaurant?
Lots of love from Sessa Sessa.
We both knew my parents would never allow me to come with Sessa. And we also knew that I would come with her anyways. But we never spoke about permission or the lack of permission. We just planned our lives and went about it.
Where mother felt Sessa was holding me back, a bad influence with no prospects; Sessa’s mother felt I was keeping Sessa fed on a dream that would never come true. A dream of independence, freedom, own income.
Schools opened during the 2nd week of January. We would have plenty of time.
It is valentine’s day tomorrow. I will be quite happy if an sms/whatsapp/messenger message finds its way to me asking how I am doing. Genuinely asking.
This weekend, we spoke about valentine’s day. For some reason it was almost ½hr dialog about “how rabbits celebrate valentine’s day”.
How decent, adult people; and lady brought up by nuns come to that question?
Thanks for asking!
Stockholm has so many rabbits, sometimes, they have to be shot to control the population. So maybe, just maybe, we saw a couple of rabbits running around happily, completely oblivious of the fact that they could be shot any minute.
I was busy thinking of valentine’s day and what it means for rabbits when the memory of childhood rabbits popped in my head.
A boy needed a pair of shoes. He really wanted a specific make that lasts long. In his tactical planning, if he got a pair of Safari boots, a size too big, he could have them for 2 years before he needed a new pair. In 2 years, he would have saved enough for a new pair of the same.
The boy was 10. maybe 11. maybe 12. not older than 12. The boy & his older sister have tried to remember exactly without success. Repression.
If you know how alcohol infected families work, you know that needing something does not translate to you getting it. You can walk around in too tight or torn shoes. Too small or torn clothes. Too messy hair. Dying of malaria etc Regardless, an adult will prioritize alcohol over your need.
The boy got an entrepreneurial idea. He would rear rabbits. Rabbits breed fast. He could sell the kittens/bunnies. Keep the mother rabbit for continuous breeding. within 6 months, he calculated, he would have his first pair of safari boots.
He worked after school, for over a month! Helping a neighbor with one thing or the other.1 Kenya shilling a day.
He paid 30 Kenya shillings for the mother rabbit. He borrowed a buck from a neighbor two villages away (2 hours walk from home). Within a month and a half, the boy had 4 kittens! The sister could hear, feel, sense and help him count the money that was on the way into his little torn pockets.
Everyday, on their way home from school, the boy & his sister picked weeds by the roadside. For weeks. Food for the rabbits. On Tuesdays, market day, they ran by the market, which was forbidden by the adults
toxic people; to collect cabbage pieces left lying around when market closed.
About 3 weeks after the birth of the kittens, they came home from school with their small handfuls of weed. They head to the rabbit house. Oh, I forgot to tell you, the boy had built that little rabbit house, with little help from his sister, with sticks, nails, iron sheets, reeds, anything they could scavenge, borrow or steal without being caught.
The rabbit house is empty. The boy starts to shake. They can remember a cat. And a goat.
They finds mother. In adulthood, they can’t remember if they looked for mother specifically, called out, or just found her in the kitchen. He asks about his rabbits. In character, she avoids looking at him. “ask your father” she says.
He goes towards the main house to ask father. Halfway across the corridor, he turns around. Back to the kitchen.
The rabbit mother, the doe is stew. In the kitchen. In a cooking pot just beside mother.
He asks, tears running down his face without a sound:
mother: “he sold them and went drinking”
he: “where were you?”
mother: “what could I do?” still not looking at him.
The sister takes his hand & leads him away towards the river. To the big stone by the oak tree where the big snake may or may not be hiding her babies.
The boy is still entrepreneurial. A teacher who runs all sorts of small businesses together with his wife to supplement their income.
Where there is even a little love, some things can be salvaged.