November 14, 2015

There to be a blessing


It's Saturday! You probably know one or more people who are getting hitched today and might be prepping to be part of the ceremony. I truly believe that when you are part of anyone's wedding you should only go there to be a blessing without leaving as much as a sour taste in the mouths of those you are celebrating.

Here are some ways you can play that role really well:

1. Pay your own expenses

I have paid for bridesmaid dresses even when the bride insisted it was on her tab and declined aso ebi's rather than owe if it wasn't a commitment I was ready to take on because as a matter of principle, I believe I shouldn't take from a couple getting married. They are the ones spending and if I can't give to relieve the burden, I definitely shouldn't take and add to it.

2. Carry your load

Make sure your logistics and welfare at the event is not one more concern for the couple.

I was once part of a bridal party where one bridesmaid was heckling the bride about who would do her makeup and wasn't happy until the make up artist that worked on the bride's face attended to her. Meanwhile the rest of us had individually started to apply our make up ourselves to save time and give the bride one less thing to worry about.

3. Tell about the good

You aren't there to report all of the things that didn't go right. Sometimes honest feedback is honestly saying what you enjoyed about the day.

4. Leave scores at home

There is time for everything and right now is the time to spread good will and positivity.

5. Get your hands dirty

Be available to help the ceremony go smoothly where you see an opportunity. 

Finally don't be the idle observer, jump in and have some fun!
Make all that money spent worth it!

October 14, 2015

6 Answers to those gnawing accussations of guilt

Ever have that sinking feeling that you are in the wrong and should feel shame for some justified (and sometimes unjustified) reason. Well next time you have that feeling, answer your guilt with one of these responses:

"I am not perfect"

Be kind to yourself. You will not always be right, will not always respond well to provocation and may even react badly under certain situations so don't be hard on yourself or overly self conscious if you disappoint yourself or anyone by your behavior sometimes. Hopefully, they remember that they have faults too and that the particular situation wasn't all of your own making.

Sometimes you need to tell yourself; "It doesn't matter if someone thinks I didn't do a good job  or didn't say the right thing because I don't always do a good job or get it right each time".

"It is not a life and death, heaven or hell situation"

You shouldn't feel guilty about little things which in the grand scheme of things can be overlooked like being late for an event or not agreeing with what someone wants you to do. If the situation is not a matter or life or death and is not a sin, then maybe you ought to relax.

"It can be forgiven and forgotten"

You deserve forgiveness. If you can make mistakes, you can be forgiven. You don't deserve the accusing stares, the incidents where your mistakes are used as a weapon or reference point. Expect forgiveness and defend your right to it when freedom is with held. Permit yourself to live as though the offence is in the past- because it is.

"Am I guilty of something or being controlled and manipulated?"

People use anger to control and someone might overreact to a situation just to set a precedence to avoid being challenged or put outside their comfort zones again. When someone begins to attack your character and not just the offending action, there are chances that they are beginning to take advantage of your remorse to gain more control over you than the situation justifies. Be careful not to take false responsibility for something that wasn't your fault at all or entirely.

"I apologize"

Our social media era and modern day culture promotes justification for every wrong you can argue and "odeishi" your way out of. These days until we are caught and as long as we make no admission to the wrong, an apology is the furthest from our minds. It is immature to think that an admission to wrong is like giving your opponent the advantage and showing weakness. A heart felt apology is like paying a debt out of integrity. It is  honoring yourself by meeting up to your expectations to be good and honorable.

"I forgive myself and permit myself to move on"

Never say in your hearing "I will never be able to forgive myself for xyz". Sometimes you have to say; "I have beat myself up over this long enough! I am giving this situation too much attention and penance than it deserves. It's time to let it go". If God is able to forgive you when you ask, then who are you not to forgive yourself? Are you more holy than God? You'd rather insist on repaying a debt that has been written off than turn around and thank the one that has taken the pain to pay it off for you? What dirty pride?

There are somethings you can't pay for, some losses that cannot be quantified only forgiven. To insist on paying is to insult the aggrieved by suggesting that their loss is replaceable while to seek and accept forgiveness is to acknowledge that you cannot do or say or pay enough to restore things as they were. Forgiveness -God's, theirs, and yours will cleanse your sin.  

Finally, If someone still holds a grudge over your head after you have sincerely apologized and after a lot of time has passed, offer them understanding for being stuck in the past but as for you? Move on.

October 09, 2015

What do you do after reading what I write?



Like? Comment? Share? Or call to tell me how great a writer I am?

I'll admit I want to be able to say I get tons and tons and tons of traffic to this blog and that everything I post online gets lots and lots of comments, but the reality is sometimes I check and recheck my own posts on Bella Naija several times a day just to count the number of comments and on some days my own visits to this blog rack up the daily traffic more than those of real visitors, so yeah I'm not up there when it comes to those metrics.

But when I ask myself what my Call To Action for each post is (Call To Action (CTA) is a term for that element crafted into your posts that makes the reader act in a way you want, for instance buy a product or click a link), I realise my CTA is not like, comment, share or buy but it's think. And if I get lucky it's think, change and act.

I hardly leave comments on the best blogs I read. And it's not because the author's talent doesn't deserve appreciation or the content can be overlooked, but I'm silent because what they say leaves me deep in thought. 

I've read things so powerful that rather than like or comment, I have reclined in my seat to chew food for thought or stood up and taken a walk just trying to understand why a sentence had hit me and why so hard.

That's the way I hope what I write makes my readers feel. That they consider my thoughts and theirs side by side and  come out of that interaction with a new one. That they are engaged, entertained and changed. That in one moment of weakness something they read me write gives them strength or moral resolve.  




And those are the best comments; the one where someone says, not I commented but I cried or not I retweeted, shared or reposted but this really helped me. 


http://omonaikee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/how-to-be-happy.html



















And occasionally I get to relish those comments where someone says "thanks for sharing", and I know that those moments spent capturing fleeting memory and minutiae emotion, and mining words of hope from depths of suffering are absolutely worth it!

http://omonaikee.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/how-to-get-back-up-again-when-life.html


September 23, 2015

How to get back up again when life throws you down

You can get back up again!


1. Take time to heal

Healing is getting mind and body well again. It is important to take as much time as you need to heal. It is also important to heal in mind and body, spirit and soul. Not everyone will understand your process- they might expect you to bounce back to the cheerful you they remember or get into old activities at the same pace, but you know what you are ready for so take your time.

2. Gain your deliverance

Deliverance is casting out the hold the trauma has on you. Without this we are tempted to behave a certain way because we've been burnt or we get hardened by the situation and become bitter instead of better.

We might need to work on our minds washing it in the water of the word and refuting negative and contrary thoughts. And we might even need to rebuke the Devil's manifestations in our lives, commanding fear to leave and anger to fall silent.

The truth is the devil has a way of taking advantage of our pain to ensnare us in bitterness or unbelief in God's goodness and power, in people and even in ourselves. It might be quick or it might progress over a period of time but we need to get ourselves free in mind and in body from Satan's oppression over which God has already pronounced us victors.

3. Determine your perspective of the past

Gaining perspective is seeing what has happened from a perspective that allows you move on in spite of it. It is a form of closure.

It is generally believed that we only gain closure from confronting a person who has hurt us and getting an explanation, an apology or the satisfaction that comes from giving it back to them. But seeing closure this way would imply it is not within our control but dependent on another person's willingness to give it. The people who have had horrendous things done to them yet found peace within themselves prove that gaining perspective over one's troubles can bring about closure.

Gaining perspective is also the reflective process that allows us learn from the past and thread wisely in the future.

4. See a new vision for the future

The bible says arise out of the depression and prostration which circumstances have kept you and don't just arise but arise to a new life!
 
Arise to a new vision for your future- see something ahead that is worth living and fighting for, this vision then gives you the strength to work through your present reality towards a beckoning future filled with hope.

5. Reconnect with friends and family

Trials are a time of isolation. You feel isolated in your experiences and in your pain. Anyone who goes through is tempted to believe they are alone and that no one understands. It is time to shake off this feeling of self pity.

People would have hurt you with insensitive comments and actions but let wisdom remind you that you need people and can't succeed carrying on with a feeling that everyone should stay on their own.

Don't get stuck in anger at those who didn't seek you out, who didn't help like you expected or who out rightly missed the mark. Think of those you have also unknowingly neglected or disappointed in their own time of need and thank God for those he brought your way- they were just what you needed. If you live long enough you learn that no one is to be thrown away, that someone who disappointed you in the past, can stand by you in the future and someone who didn't help you in one situation can help you in another. Like Job after his restoration, pray for and reconcile with offending friends.

Finally, accept the sympathy and good will of those who come around you to comfort you for the things you suffered and rejoice with you for the things you survived!

September 17, 2015

Refusing to rely on memory

www.anextraordinaryday.net


Previously I have written about how we hold on to memories that do not serve us when we should be letting go of them. Our memories can be stronger than actual events, because long after events have passed and outcomes have changed, our memories insist that what we felt was fact and what we concluded was truth.

Sometimes we will need to question these facts and try these truths. To heal we will need to stop relying on memory alone, but begin to let other factors into the equation. More importantly we will need to let God into the situation and take his word above our memories.

Recently, I had this conversation with my friend that God is not likely working on how to rain thunder and hailstorm on someone who hurt us unlike the expression we often use that the thunder bolt God will use to strike our enemies is doing press up. I think he is more interested in seeing the person our anger is directed at come to repentance, and seeing us healed. 

Healing starts with removing the darts that wounded your heart. It's in staying down to tend to your wounds not in getting up to run after your attacker. It is in seeking vindication from God and finding the milk of compassion in ourselves to nurse our broken spirits back to form not in seeking a balm of apologies from the offender.

God knows all the sides of the story. He may be saying one of these to your heart:

"I was protecting you from something down the road"

"I was preparing you for something down the road"

"Your Mr right wasn't right for you"

"I allowed it happen but ensured that no real harm came to you"

Recently I was watching a bit of one of the Harry Porter series where Gandalf cast his memories out of his mind by taking out strands of hair with his wand. It was one of those moments where I went "Ahaa" because it reiterated my sentiment that the world is using principles God has given us even better than we do.

The bible says to cast down every imagination and take captive (take over) every thought (including every memory) which is contrary. It says so because the devil ensnares us with thoughts, imaginations and reasoning so that we only remember the worst of people who may have had done good to us in the past and harden our hearts against them without remembering how we have been just as guilty.

When we question our memories and challenge our feelings and allow God's word weigh in then we are reaching beyond memory and are bound to find out on the other side that the real tragedy is in playing into the Devil's ultimate plan to destroy our joy and happiness through pettiness and bitterness.

We find out that all those memories are really serving the Devil's purpose and we have God's grace to side step his traps and live free!




Read Part 1- Holding onto memory here- http://omonaikee.blogspot.com.ng/2015/04/holding-on-to-memory.html
Read Part 2- Letting go of memory here- http://omonaikee.blogspot.com.ng/2015/04/letting-go-of-memory.html

September 15, 2015

Rewriting History

Hey people! How is everyone doing?

So
last post I talked about Elizabeth Gilbert's idea that you can change the narrative of your story. I think it is an important skill to learn because it is not about what happens to you but how you see what has happened to you, that makes the difference in if you recover, or if you get bitter or better.
 
I have also found it a useful practice to retell my story in my version of events to find a way to accept an otherwise unacceptable outcome. More recently, I am learning to add to the story by balancing the evil men did with recollections of the good they have also done and by giving reasons not to justify growing feelings of dislike or persistent temptations to remain angry or bitter.
 
Paul in the bible shared his coping mechanism which helped him move forward through adversity; it was to forget the things that were behind him and press forward aggressively towards the things ahead. Through the bible, there are several instructions to forget, to not call to mind, and to refuse to dwell on past pain.
 
This article shows one woman's way of forgetting, by neglecting to give attention to the worst bits of a traumatic event and choosing to make the most parts of the story the best parts of it. Next time you get the opportunity to talk about something horrible you experienced, try this- tell about the good breaks you had, the kindness you received, the lessons you learnt!
 
No matter what you've been through, it can become beautiful in the retelling. By Elizabeth Gilbert

Everybody in my family is a talented storyteller. We can't play team sports, we have a tiny little problem with drinking and we're all pretty dysfunctional about money—but man oh man, can we tell a good story.

I spent my childhood watching narratives get spun, twisted and renegotiated as family events were transformed from incidents into stories. There's a big difference, it turns out, between the two. An incident is an event that happens in real time, with real consequences, usually involving real (and raw) human emotion. A story is what you make out of it later.
 
Incidents are wild and dangerous; stories are controlled and reassuring. In the process of building a story, you sand down the sharp edges of an incident, buffing away all the pain and immediacy and urgency, creating something you can carry around safely in your pocket. A story is a magnificent thing because it puts you back in control.

Growing up, my grandfather used to tell the tale of his cousin who had a habit, back in the 1950s, of getting drunk late at night and then going for nude swims in the Erie Canal, all alone. One night this poor fellow locked himself out of his truck—which contained his clothing. He was forced to walk home, several miles along the one main road of his hometown, wet and naked.

But it gets better! My grandfather's cousin had found a tiny washcloth in the bed of his pickup truck—the only thing he could use to hide his nakedness. As he walked home, whenever he saw a car approaching from the front, he would use the washcloth to cover his private parts. Whenever he heard a car approaching from the back, he would cover his bottom. Inevitably, of course, two cars approached from both directions at exactly the same time. Should he cover his privates or his bottom?

"So I asked him," my grandfather said, "'What did you do?'"

And the cousin shook his head ruefully and replied, "All I can say is this: I've always hoped that I made the right decision."

God, how I loved that story!

Of course, as an adult, I can see that it might not have been so hilarious back when it was actually occurring—back when it was an incident. But my grandfather's cousin had taken that unhappy incident and crafted it into a really good story, which he then gave as a gift to his family. He may have exaggerated some of the funnier details while editing out some of the sadder ones. My grandfather himself, over time, probably embellished the story even more. I may have just embellished it myself, retelling it here. Some may have a problem with this. They might say we are obscuring the truth. But I think it's fine. I even think it's humane. The truth is hard enough when it's happening.

Here's another example: From 2001 to 2003, I went through an awful divorce. This was an unhappy incident, indeed. I was miserable, depressed, shamed. At the time, a well-meaning friend said,
" Hey, you're a writer! Someday you'll write about this!" I was offended, thinking it impossible that I could exploit my own pain for a story.

But I did transform my incident into a story. I had no choice, really—it's my inheritance.
Not that writing Eat, Pray, Love was easy. Figuring out how to make a good story out of an unpleasant incident never is. What should I leave in, what should I take out? The choices matter because your history is whatever you choose to tell about yourself. I thought, "Which private parts of myself should I cover up, and which private parts should I reveal?" It was intense. The emotional stakes were high. It felt like traffic was coming in both directions and the only thing I had to protect myself was a tiny little washcloth of words. All I can say is this: I've always hoped I made the right decision.

Read more:
http://www.oprah.com/inspiration/Elizabeth-Gilbert-on-Storytelling#ixzz3kfkDXFf5

September 03, 2015

Building Resilience: 5 Ways

Building resilience is a phrase I came across a while ago and I thought of how apt it is. Indeed it is important to be resilient, to be strong enough that people's opinions and harsh comments do not land on an already sore spot, or their actions do not control you, or you don't give up easily and run away from every uncomfortable situation or play the victim e.t.c.
 
Recently I read a couple of posts on my blog and saw that a lot of them have to do with my process of building resilience and reserves of strength. Whether it was me learning I could only control myself, or learning to take control of my own happiness or learning to handle a tantrum thrower or difficult person etc., the reoccurring theme that stood out to me was how to become a resilient version of myself.
 
So maybe this might become a series over time or the theme of a book or some publication, but whichever way I use it, today I start with 5 ways you can manage uncomfortable situations by changing the way you react internally when you cannot change the person involved or the situation.
 

1. Emotionally detach yourself from other people's opinion of you. www.marcandangel.com.

Only yesterday someone passed a comment about my work. It started with flattering commendation on something I had done and ended with a flattening admission that this person felt I didn't always do the best work.

The criticism came right after the praise and guess which one stuck?  I had to consciously and continuously deflect my attention away from the negative comment, telling myself "whatever XYZ meant by that is XYZ's business" because for the life of me I couldn't justify the statement and so it sounded unfair, undeserved.

Besides it wasn't doing anything for me. If it contained information that helped me either clarify what this person expected or proved the accusation true, then I could admit it as reasonable but as it stood it was garbage. So what I did was to detach myself from this opinion and treat it simply as discardable garbage.

2. Before you agree that life has been a series of negative events, ask yourself what is happening right now that you can be positive about? 
www.marcandangel.com

When you ask yourself this question you realise that there are a lot of positive things you have going for you and you only need to look up to realise that the drudgery and mundaneness of everyday is adding up- every day in little ways you are making progress even if it isn't obvious. 

For me answering that question proved every reason I thought I had to be blue wrong. It changed my focus from the past to the present and admitted as evidence the truth that all things are temporary and situations never remain exactly as they are but evolve. 


When we stay on the positive side of life and we see that we aren't getting the short end of the stick at all.

3. A negative thought/comment has no effect except you believe it.
 www.marcandangel.com

Recently I was trying to navigate a turn on a crowded street, when another driver drove up to me and said "you cannot drive AT ALLLLL". I had observed a man gesticulating impatiently in a car that had to stop for me to be able to turn, it was this same man who took his time to tell me what all his antics were about.

I was startled more by his eloquent use of language and his clean accent than the deliberate put- down in his words. For a comment laced with as much bile to a total stranger, I expected a person with much less decorum. I mean I would only expect that brew of hostility from an uneducated, unpolished conductor in a moment of road rage!

As his comment landed, I flung it back remembering that mine and the safety of other road users was more important than impressing anyone, and mindful that I hadn't broken any traffic laws. 

I contemplated why an obviously proper gentleman will bother to be so uncouth, when it occurred to me that the problem was the car I was driving! He probably deserved to drive it more given his perception of his driving skills and I less given his perception of mine. Soon I had enough evidence to believe it was a dismissible comment and found myself feeling sorry for the man instead.

4. No matter what you've been through it can become beautiful in the retelling Elizabeth Gilbert on www.oprah.com.

When something negative happens. I actually get a sheet of paper and write at the top "my version of events", then I say what happened and explain my actions and rationale for them. When I look at my side of the story without all the harsh judgements of others involved, I can find a reason to be compassionate to myself and forgive any embarrassments or hurts that came my way as a result of the event.

But Elizabeth takes it further, saying that in the retelling you have the benefit of hindsight to dull or sharpen elements of a story and come out with an acceptable ending. It's your choice to retell that incident in a version that you can make peace with. Like drawing out the benefit or morale that came about as a result of the ugly incident or including the benefit of the doubt to one character's hurtful actions or justifying your reactions under the circumstances. 

5. Don't permit anyone to control the way you feel
 "Becoming a better you" by Joel Osteen and "Power thoughts" by Joyce Meyer.

In essence it is important that you do not let yourself be controlled by the anger of others. It's okay for someone to be angry with you, it is even okay for them to communicate their feelings to you but it is not okay for them to hold you to ransom, be mean, harsh or attacking, or to indirectly by passive aggressive behaviour try to register their annoyance with you.

When this happens you  need to see it for what it is, take responsibility for your part and apologise but leave the person to calm down and be civil again- this is their responsibility not yours.  






August 18, 2015

The day I abused Haruna!


I called Haruna one boy like that! 

A friend had just read my raves racking post how to be happy, and we were discussing it. Meanwhile I was still in the “anointing” that had washed over me to write it and it was while mulling over a thousand connected thoughts and insights about myself, Haruna and the dynamic of our relationship, that I suddenly had a light bulb moment!

Only days before, a foolish thought had crept into my head to send me on a mission not of my own choosing. I wanted to tell Haruna I was not playing again. I was taking my toys and going home to my house. When I heard my own thoughts, I distanced myself from them. They weren’t mine- merely suggestions from the child in me throwing a tantrum to get attention, so I picked up the phone and reported her to Haruna instead of doing her bidding.

I had to accept that rather than throw a tantrum or throw our relationship into a few days of sulky responses and silent treatment, that the adult thing to do was to say, " hey, I’m here, this is what I need", and wait for him to respond. And beyond that I had to accept that I couldn’t force him to respond or decide what the response would be and I agreed that I wouldn't try either.
But without my favourite tools of choice- the tantrum, the pout and the sulk; I didn’t have control!

Not over him at least but definitely over myself and the thoughts in my head and that was in itself victory!
So yes I abused Haruna- that “one boy like that who won’t let me control him”!

August 17, 2015

Should you visit unannounced?



Sometime in the lifetime of her relationships, a woman will encounter this widely preached gospel to visit the person she is dating unannounced to catch habits which are not verifiable otherwise. For instance if he keeps a messy liar, nurses a bad habit or of course, has another woman!

This FBI move is often justified by the fact that you truly don't know a person until you live with them so there might be merit in seeing the way they live first hand and if there is any doubt about their faithfulness, what better way to ensure they get caught without time to destroy the evidence, than to appear unannounced with a search warrant! And of course there is the surprise visit just for the thrill of giving your better half a good surprise.


Whatever the motive, the unannounced visit has its merits and demerits. For instance it can show the degree of something e.g. a statement like "I am a casual drinker" might mentally translate a picture of him occasionally consuming shot glass sizes of alcohol once in a blue moon while a visit might reveal several bottles at home and a larger appetite than one imagined. It can also help confirm a hunch- clandestine relationships, the real state of his financial affairs, family dynamics, influences and loyalties e.t.c.

When you think that the impact of a marriage on one's life can far outlive a life time you want to do as much due diligence as you can not as little as you can get away with without having to ruffle a feather or raise an eyebrow. But is the unannounced visit a good or bad idea?


While a go see can help put a relationship's troubles in perspective- giving life to those "its not you it's me" statements, it can also jeopardize the relationship when the person wearing the other shoe feels it shows distrust to spring a surprise on them as though you were looking to catch them doing something.

So for the woman who thinks it is necessary to visit her man unannounced, she has to be prepared for the unexpected, whether positive or negative. It might signal the end of the relationship if indeed there was another woman. It might not digest well if her partner sees it as an issue of distrust. It can even be a deal breaker especially when the partner has been an open book.

And for man who takes it as a slight? Especially if he hasn't executed his commitment even though he has professed it, he should perhaps be more open to the idea of his love being tested in ways he has not contemplated and this is not just because he has nothing to hide or because his partner is probably naively testing a theory handed down as sisterly advice from one burnt sister to her, but because he realises that these are the things courtships are made of- necessary background checks that re-affirm his partners faith in her decision. A faith she will later need when she has real reason to doubt in the future.

July 13, 2015

Why didn't things change when I prayed?


I don't know.

And no I am not answering your questions, or attempting to explain away your burden of disappointment, even disillusionment at the power of God to change things that you called on but never came.
 
I am saying "I don't know" to the disappointed believer in my heart seeking for answers I don't have.

I don't drive as well as I think I do in my head. Behind the wheel I'd like to thing I am badass but I'm not- I still pull my seat as close to the steering as I can and lean forward like I couldn't see the road if I relaxed in my seat. I have a few things to work on here and there so when Haruna is in the car with me he becomes the back seat driver- guiding, correcting.

One such day, I got to a fork in the road where I was meant to join traffic and paused at the turn to look back into the new road I was joining to ensure there was no oncoming vehicle. As I tensely negotiated the turn, looking then waiting then moving then looking, Haruna stopped me and said "look in front of you and see" and lo, I was already on the road and all I had to do was keep moving forward!

If I kept looking back I would just have kept waiting because all I could see were moving vehicles meanwhile I was already on my path and even blocking those directly behind me!

Like the rear view mirror of a car, the questions why - Why did it happen to me? Why did I go through that experience? Why did God let it happen?  Why didn't God answer my prayer? -  suggests that it has already happened and reveals that we are still looking backwards, and if only we turn our eyes forward we will realise that we have moved. We are not there anymore- not exactly, no.

We've moved an inch, a mile, a day, a month, a year or two or three away from where we used to be. The pain is a little less, more time has elapsed, there have been changes- we aren't in the same degree of heat as we were when it happened.

When we look at those changes however small they may be and change our focus to how we can make them bigger or more meaningful, we find we can ride them out of our disappointment to a better place.

We can continue with that move forward.

While I can't answer the questions that explain the past, this is just as well because the questions that help me change the present and lead me to the future are ones I can answer-ones that matter.


June 26, 2015

Weddings and other occassions for offense

#Upforgrabs: You stand a chance to win a gift simply by leaving a comment on this post. Don't want to enter for the book? No problemo, please scroll down and enjoy the post!
  

Very recently I was dragged into a conversation around a certain Pastor whose child was getting married. The bone of contention seemed to be the unwillingness of the Pastor to invite the everyone in church to the wedding reception. I was aware I was entering slippery ground because the tone of the person speaking suggested she had not only concluded that this Pastor was in the wrong but was also peddling that gospel. Since I didn't want to be a convert to any train of thought that would lead me in the error of holding something against someone who in reality owed me nothing, I put myself on alert as she spoke. I told myself  I wasn't going to get offended after all I wasn't directly related to this family, I wasn't putting a kobo of my money into their hands to help with all the bills and having been there before I guessed they were probably thinking of the cost of catering for a whole congregation minus their own host of family and friends. This turned out to be true necessitating my friend's change of heart and making me feel proud I did not take the bait.

Weddings are bobby trapped with lots of occasions for offense. The number of people involved, the differences in taste and personality and the amount of decisions to be made are the perfect recipe for disaster and couples barely go unscathed. But I am not as concerned about the clashes between family members or the gauntlet a couple is passed through by their well meaning church counsellors or village elders as all these come with the territory and have come to be seen as a necessary rite of passage that separates the men from the boys. Rather my concern is about the little squabbles and petty quarrels that can well be overlooked but sadly turn into major drama distressing the couple more than necessary.

Having gone through that baptism of fire myself I have gained more sympathy for intending couples and have found out that 9 out of 10 times the anger targeted at the wedding party is misplaced. So friends and family, the next time wedding bells ring around you, get out your shock absorber and decide that this is an occasion for celebration not one for offense and no matter which of these things happen, you will not be offended:

You didn't get an invite to the traditional wedding?

I didn't know it before but I have discovered that a wedding is a private and personal thing. Somewhere between attending other people's weddings and eating their rice and chicken  and people attending my wedding and eating my rice and chicken, I have learned that a wedding is between two people and they are the only ones that know what they are passing through the whole time.

Somewhere between those two and their families are histories and experiences that friends and well wishers know nothing about. The tears in a grandmother's eye, the shudder of a mother's shoulder, the crazed dance of a parent, the solemnity of a sibling, the big fight with no apparent cause, the insistence on a rite, the strangeness in the usual- all mysteries that turn you from a friend to an outsider. So you didn't get invited? Maybe it was family only for reasons better not known to you. It's not the time to get angry about not being included, it's the time to support your friends where they think they need you the most.

Didn't get a personal call or visit informing you about the wedding?

I had barely confirmed the agreed dates of my wedding or gotten used to the idea myself before I started receiving calls from "aggrieved" quarters about not being informed of my wedding dates. The tone of entitlement in some voices left me irritated as I considered how much of their concern was merely about being current with the newsfeed of my life as opposed to being genuinely interested in my wellbeing through those events. I was grateful to the very matured few who told me they had heard from xyz but understood that with all the preparations I was probably overwhelmed and would take a while to reach everyone with the news.

News spreads faster than legs or call credit can carry them and most of the time you aren't being overlooked. The couple will not be able to tell everyone or visit everyone, don't take it personal. If you heard, call the couple and congratulate them. Don't just ask them to let you know where you can help, tell them you have a car, driver or house they can use or put your 5 or 10k into their bank account. While you are busy deciding not to attend because you were not important enough to have been told personally but had to see the wedding in a church bulletin someone else who heard the night before is deciding that the occasion is too important to them to take that aspect personally. It might not be what you think at all.

Didn't get aso ebi?

Because I wanted cord lace for my friends I knew my aso ebi was not going to be the typical N3,500. I knew it would be expensive and so I had made up my mind that not only would I take the hint at the slightest show of hesitation when I approached anyone with aso ebi, I would not be offended in the least bit if they refused be they childhood friend or someone whose aso ebi I had purchased before. Furthermore, I didn't want the hassle of buying bales and bales of cloth or chasing people for payments so I reduced my headache to a few pieces and made my peace with that. It had nothing to do with which friend would get or not so I was totally perplexed when I was accused of selecting those I offered my aso ebi to and what was more amusing was that those who claimed not to be included waited till the week of the wedding when nothing could be done to complain!

I know this aso ebi issue can really get out of hand and stir the hornet's nest but seriously, we can chill all the way down and not let it be a reason to get offended at the bride at a time when we should be giggling with her.

Didn't get the contract to provide a service at your friend's wedding?

Maybe she wanted something different, something she saw and fell in love with right away. You can't help such things, those whims that come with your special day. It wasn't done to hurt you specifically, let it go. Some people also avoid using friends or family for business for obvious reasons and remember the wedding is about two families. The other side might have come with their caterer or decorator or the bride might have had to  make a compromise to please someone so look the other way, let it slide and enjoy really being at the event.




There will also be plenty occasions for the couple to get upset- unfiltered comments, competitive relatives, church rules, unexplained expectations, vendors from hell, gossip mongers, difficult in-laws and so on. It's all part of the territory and some things you have no control over but you can decide it won't offend you if:

A close relative/friend can't make the wedding?

Between dodging the man- made obstacles and fielding the difficult terrain of wedding preparation, it occurred to me that the least of my worries was who graced the occasion with their presence. Our resolve was being tested enough by the pressure from the stress and strain on the narrow road to matrimony. I made up my mind that whomever God wanted to be there would be there and agreed with myself that it wasn't meant to be if someone found themselves unavoidable absent. That settled it for me so I wasn't surprised or disappointed when I didn't see someone or they called to apologise. The decision not to be riled up by anyone's absence had taken care of that for me.

Your best lady or someone you need isn't as supportive as you would like?

Issokay. Why are you looking up to the hills when your help comes from the maker of heaven and earth who can move anyone in heaven or earth to show you support and encouragement? Next! Find someone else near you who will share your excitement or feel your pain. Let her keep her bridesmaid title, you keep your sanity.

Something didn't turn out the way you expected it to?

Don't expect everything to go perfectly and when they don't just focus on the things that do go well. It doesn't have to pain you like that like that. Hopefully with good planning more things went well than out of hand, so count your blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise what the Lord has done.

Loved ones the next time you catch yourself flirting with a growing suspicion that something the bride or groom did was to offend you personally, please rise above it and remember you do not have to take the bait- you can remain unoffended. Bride and groom there will be a lot to irritate you, some things will get the best of you but if you have already decided that you will not be dragged by anger, harassed by strife or mangled by conflict then catch it before it latches unto you by refusing to take offense. Back to sender!!!

So head over to the comments section and leave your comment. The best comment wins a copy of "The Power of a praying wife" by Stormie Omartian! Best book on learning to see behind your spouse's quirks and deal with rising emotions in prayer first before "responding" in love not reacting in anger.

June 20, 2015

Loving you long distance


Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you left with this uncomfortable feeling of confusion as to what transpired there that would leave you feeling a tad angry, sad or just put off? Yes you laughed and hugged good bye, you even enjoyed bits of the conversation and might even have benefitted from being around this friend but somewhere in between something was done or said that cast an unpleasant cloud over the whole visit.

Before now I would never have thought of or given myself permission to purposely put distance between myself and someone I considered a friend and was only capable of this when I realised I absolutely had to rescue myself out of the negative impact of the words and actions of a friend who wasn't relating with me in a healthy, nurturing way.

I once had a very confusing friendship with a person who would appear to encourage my efforts and give me advice but it all seemed contrived. It would come as critique from an expert to a protégé, it sometimes was unwarranted, it overlooked reasons to praise or commend, and it was always in comparism to what this person was doing. Additionally, there always seemed to be a need to inform me of every detail that suggested this person's progress in the area I was also trying to build a niche in and this information wasn't limited to places gone or tasks done, I was duly informed when connections I had, had also become this person's as well.

There was a sense of entitlement which expected many things I couldn't expect in return and any refusal on my part to do something for this person was met with wounded feelings and harsh accusations that usually went something like- and I thought we were friends- it was all very one-sided.

At first all I did was talk. What the said friend said to me, what the said friend was doing and what I thought of what the said friend was saying or doing. Then my confidant of choice would add two cents usually to justify my analysis- yes I noticed this and that too- or sympathize with how I felt and suggest a way to handle it. I had taken the bait and it didn't take much to get me really fired up talking on this subject, I was consumed by the emotions I felt and didn't even know just how fixated I was getting on this issue.

But it was just talk. I felt too guilty to make any move. I thought of the length of friendship and the impact my actions would have on the wider web of relationships this friendship was a part of. So I did nothing until I was sure of what low risk, high impact strategy I could use. Finally after long suffering (lol), I decided to stop listening, to stop focusing, to stop reading and to stop being part of the audience this person had.

I stopped reading update messages this person regularly sent but deleted them as soon as they flooded my phone. I identified that the preferred mode of communication with me was messaging so I discouraged this by keeping messages unread as long as I could ignore them and long after the mood this person had to converse had expired.

At first it was hard to ignore someone whose words I had let have my attention before but gradually each ignored message gave me the balls to delete the next until I gathered enough courage to block off the contact from my messaging service.
At this point this person desperately did all to regain my ears, including arm twisting me into going back to the way things were before. And for the first time I was totally convinced this person knew exactly what they had been doing all along and stuck to my guns.

Eventually I noticed I stopped talking about this person. The little I knew of this person, the little I suspected of what they were trying to do, the less I thought of them. Finally there was peace as I limited their reach to me. And when it was absolutely necessary, I controlled if there was any need to get in touch and made sure it wasn't an avenue to be exploited or belittled.

I share this to say that as difficult as the task of pruning the dead branches in our network is, it's our responsibility to do so to keep a healthy tree. Some relationships will test our patience and we will have to decide which to endure and which to let go of. The friend who rubs you off the wrong way. The relative who leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. The colleague who turns you into a friend so they can undermine you as a boss. The peer who makes you look bad to look good. The person who justifies their progress only in comparism to yours. People who minimize to equalize.


They are perfect candidates to love long distance.

June 18, 2015

That Neccessary Unrest!


I'm having it again!

That itch.

That feeling that until X is done I will not be able to give myself rest.

I know it won't go away- that necessary unrest that will drive me until I just do it.

I know it will only get worse the more I seat on my bum not being about it.

I've felt it several times before.

There was that time when I wanted to start a monthly event of some sort.

It started as a desire, then crystallized into a thought as I found out what it would be about. Then it began to itch just a little and as time passed with me doing nothing it worsened. Each time I saw a broadcast about some monthly event it itched and itched and itched until I had to do something to scratch back ... that was the beginning of iBlog.

I'm having it again!

That itch.

 

May 27, 2015

11 Ways to Handle Critism Online.



I googled this once and didn't find very helpful suggestions on how to deal with trolls online so I hope I can help someone else with more practical ways to handle the heat when being attacked online or in the media.

1. Handle it like a pro

Like Bey! Beyoncé is a celebrity who knows the up and down sides of her star lit world. She understands that she can be hailed "hosanna" one day and "crucify him" the next so whether it's a pregnancy rumour or a split scare, you never see 'yonce react in the media but be sure she'll post an innocent picture of her flat belly or a casual picture of a romantic getaway to frighten the lie back into the shadows. So don't join the drama or get riled up and add to the heat- make sure the people you are trying to prove a point to are really worth it before working up a sweat.


2. Let others fight for you

I wrote an article on BellaNaija and someone came for me in the comment section. See a screen grab from the comment section and the article I wrote here. Luckily, readers called this critic out.



3. See if there is anything to learn from the criticism

Again on the same site, Cindy kept leaving contrary comments and after getting refuted a few times by other users, the young lady's comment finally dwindled down to the real emotions behind the outburst.

Sometimes the person might have a point they are trying to make but are lacking in the interpersonal and relational skill to make it...

 
4. Don't fuel the fire

Most of the time the general public is not really aware of whatever the story is about and in responding fire for fire you draw their attention to the story revealing even more information than what was originally out there.

I see people respond on TV or top magazines to accusations made on one small blog or through the grapevine and shake my head in amazement as the subject takes the bait and helps their critic or attacker spread the venom about them to more people on a platform the critic would never have gotten access to. Why share your spot light with the enemy? Retain your right to keep your affairs private and refocus the spotlight on your achievements instead.

5. Address the facts only, ignore the vitriol.

Example: X is a stupid whore and husband snatcher.
Response:X is a married woman whose husband was previously unmarried.

If you must respond, address the facts only but side step the landmines of provocation. A tantrum thrower wants nothing more than for you to give them a reason that justifies their bad behaviour. They are always waiting for you to get caught in the mud fight and sling some shots back at them so they can feel justified to hurl more dirt at you.

They are probably better at mud slinging and tantrum throwing than you, the worst mistake you can make is to stoop down to their level and get into their comfort zone. Instead be like America and don't negotiate or engage with terrorists.

6. See it for what it is

Don't let the poison sink in. More than half the time it is not about you but about them.


7. Delete. Ignore

Know what to ignore. Not everything deserves your attention.


8. Keep records where necessary for future reference

Keep print screens, correspondences, recordings especially if they are threats or you suspect criminal intent. You might need to file a case in the future and you will need evidence to prove it.

9. Don't play their games

Don't enter their mind games and play by their rules. Most stalkers et al construct an image of who they think they are dealing with, that person is not you. This image fits their fantasy idea of the relationship they have conjured up with you in their heads. So reaffirm that you are not that fantasy image by not playing along in the roles they have defined for you in their obsessions.

10. Set and communicate your boundaries

Let people know what sort of comments or behaviours are accepted on your platform. And be ready to take action that reinforce your boundaries.

11.Take action

Delete comments, block trolls, unfriend, uninvite, unfollow or take down accounts.

Ultimately there is a devil- that's your real enemy. Don't waste fuel fighting the people letting him use them. Sometimes when the heat is unwarranted and unfair get on your knees and address things from the source.

Don't forget to breathe! This too shall pass!

Photo credit: http://lorirtaylor.com/how-to-spot-social-media-stalkers-before-its-too-late/

May 08, 2015

The Ghost of the Ex: Things you should know


The ex that remains in your head. The one you imagine you will see when you are having a bad hair day. The one your mind pesters you about running into when you are at your worst.

The one that haunts you with only the saddest memories of that chapter and exaggerates the impact of the pain on the present. The ex you are supposed to forget but don't.

Rather than be tormented by these ghosts, here are truths about the situation to give you a more peaceful perspective on your past and keep you from being nervous about running into them in the future.

They are not better (or worse) off than you

Seriously speaking we think about the ex way more than we would admit-where they are in their lives right now and what they would think of ours. And especially when we were the ones who were left, we hope they would be impressed gobsmacked, no dumbstruck at what we've done with our life. We want them to know that we are not "there" where they left us and get more satisfaction than we should when we run into them at our best and even more so if we find them at their worst.

If you live long enough you realise that life is difficult and no one is exempt from the ebb and flow of good and bad, success and failure, ease and difficulty that characterize our existence. And that being the leveller, your ex, just like you is struggling through parts of their life and coasting through others and it has nothing to do with who he or you ended up with. So no you don't need to prove "I am doing well without you" or get even "your life will be hell without me". You only have to remember that it isn't always what it seems and put less value on appearances- yours and theirs.

They have nothing on you

It stings to be on the receiving end of a quit notice from a relationship. The other person was prepared and you were not! By the time you could come up with your own reasons why the relationship wasn't working for you, the referee had declared the winner, the crowd had cheered and you were the only one left in the ring! But the score is less obvious than the ten points to none you were dealt.

If you are married long enough you realise that no person is perfect no less the person who read you the riot act. They will go on to date/live with/marry someone who will also have faults and get the unpleasant punishment of bearing with their partner's flaws. They also will exhibit flaws that justify that long and tired list you drew up about why they weren't perfect for you either. So before you run after their retreating shadow yelling "you didn't fire me, I quit", remember the real audit of both the character of the person who fired and the one who was fired is coming regardless of who called it quits first.

You broke up with them too

Not that "he jilted me" , "she broke my heart" , "he left me for someone else" , "he ended the relationship" ," he rejected me " but that "we broke up", "our relationship ended", "we went our separate ways".

Own your choice whether it came second or was the result of the other person's decision; whether you said it to their face or it was the only option left for you to accept- you had a voice in there somewhere too. It might have been "if he couldn't stay then he didn't deserve me to stay and I am leaving too!" or "Although I have never had or entertained a reason not to continue in this relationship, now I do with this freshly surfacing fact that she wants out, so I want out too!".

If you've been around long enough you realise that the dynamics of life are sometimes like a game of chess- it's all about making and responding to moves. So put less value on who made the first move or who made the second move, sometimes there is a benefit to your opponent making the first move because then you can calculate your next move better.

Your version of events count

Not that you are bad but you were simply misunderstood. Not that you went that low to have dated someone you now feel didn't deserve you, but that you didn't know then that they didn't. Not that you must be stupid to have made a stupid mistake but that you didn't know better or know enough.

If you've been around long enough you realise there are two sides to every story. The story from your perspective of events counts too and certainly above expressed, perceived or popular opinion on what went wrong. Remember you can stick with your story as you understood it and find shelter from other versions that cast you in the worst light.

It wasn't all bad


Just like it wasn't all good memories, it wasn't all bad either. So don't be so hard on yourself for letting someone into your life that caused you pain or unfair to them by blaming them for it. There were some of your needs that were met, there were some parts of it you could be faulted with, there might be something in it for you. Shall we only accept the good and not the bad?

If you look back far enough into your past, you realise that no one experience has defined your entire life either as good or bad, happy or sad but there were good or bad legs along the journey of your generally good life -the rest of which is still unwritten. So let all the facts come in before you decide that that experience ruined your life, or was the worst thing that happened to you, don't judge a book by a chapter.


You got away with it

When we are hurt in a relationship, we want the person who hurt us to know how much their actions affected us, we even want them to experience the pain they caused us. We don't want them to get away easy. But if we expect them to get a taste of their medicine shouldn't we also expect to receive punishment for those we've also hurt? If the ill we wished the ex we are aggrieved with took root, it might still not be a satisfying feeling or it's poison might have far reaching consequences beyond our intentions affecting other innocent lives. Sometimes what we need is the work we will have to do within ourselves, we might find it much more satisfying than the jungle justice we have in mind.

Sometimes just by walking on their own journey a person who once hurt us might realise their mistake, other times just by walking on our journey, we find restoration through one event, person, perspective or the other. Sometimes just by going on you find a you that can surprisingly let it all go. What they have given you in disguise is an opportunity- probably one to stand on your own and find your own strength or an option to live a different life from the dysfunction theirs is.

If you observe life close enough you realise that without any help on anyone's part people stumble and fall. They even fall by their own hands and suffer of their own doing. They are the first to reap the seeds of their character faults. Put less emphasis on whether they got away with it or not, just make sure you got away unbroken in spite of it.

They were never yours to own


We hold on too tightly to our belongings- the things we've gotten used to having and holding, loving and cherishing that we forget they aren't ours to own. They may be ours to cherish and love, to hold and have through the season or seasons but never ours to own. So our love must be wise enough to be free- freely taking, freely giving, never a debt; freely coming, freely going, never a shackle; free to enter, free to leave; never a bondage.


If you think long enough about it, you come to the conclusion that little in life is yours to control, not this person and certainly not the choices they made. They were theirs to make when they came into your life and theirs to make when they left. They can leave. It's a choice they have. That's how come they can leave you, because you don't own them. That's how come you can let them go, because you don't own them. They came, they left and it's A-Okay! You didn't loose them, you didn't fail- they weren't yours to own anyway.

It's okay you didn't forget them

No one really does and it's okay not to. It is in error to think that we can forget. Have you ever caught the whiff of a perfume and remembered a person? Has an event from the past come to mind without your help? Has a name or face you haven't heard or seen in years just drop into your conscious mind without being invoked ?

If you look back far enough, you can find a long list of things you forgot but got reminded of so don't bother with forgetting instead live with it, the past co-existing peacefully with the present.

Final thoughts

When I started writing this post, I naturally assumed an ending with the conclusion to crush, eliminate, bury and send Psalm 91 prayers after those good for nothing thoughts ghosts that remain long after their essence have been buried but found enlightenment in the very act of attempting to ask you to do what I couldn't- forget.

For a long time I had a hard time wrapping my head around a series of innocent misunderstandings that surrounded and probably also led to the demise of a previous relationship with an ex and his family. After trying to explain it to myself I resigned to the truth that at the end of the day this family were complete strangers who didn't know me and whom I didn't know as well, so it was understandable if they misread my intentions and if I didn't understand their actions. They were strangers and the opinions of strangers shouldn't carry so much weight. It definitely could be brushed off if it couldn't be forgotten.

The length of time you spent in that relationship was only a fraction compared to your life, its not important enough for you to immortalize it or engrave it in the sands of time. Acknowledge it but dismiss it casually with a "it happened a long time ago" or a "it's not relevant now". Give it the same distance time has put between you and the past.

Sometimes its really all in your head, those ghosts. Not real. After breaking up with an ex, I expected to run into him not only in places we used to visit but in places I imagined he would frequent - embassies, airports, hotels, even on the internet dripping in fan love but it was me who turned up in those places, it was me who met my expectations of where I'd expect a person to be to look like they had moved forward!

Put all the ghosts out of your mind and all of your thoughts on yourself for a change, by remembering to think about you, you opt to forget about them.
 
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