TAKING STOCK…

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I’ve been meaning to write a post for the longest time but somehow time just kept going by till I woke up a couple of days ago and realized that we are halfway through the year already! Isn’t it strange how time used to crawl by when we were in our teens and early twenties? I still remember literally dying to grow up and now that I finally have (I think I definitely qualify) time moves at warp speed! You literally blink and its Xmas barely after the year has begun!

Anyway as I lay there looking back at the last six months, it hit me that I had gone through so much since January that it literally felt like a couple of years and not just half a year! Honestly I have come such a long way in the last six months, experiencing more than my fair share of happy, not so happy and downright depressing moments. I thought it only fitting to share a post on taking stock of my year so far, especially the lessons I have learnt.

Expect the Unexpected.
I started out the year with great expectations and a relatively solid idea of the direction that I wanted my life to take. However sometimes God has a rather wry sense of humor or is that what they call “works in mysterious ways”. This year life has thrown me so many curve balls that I am still spinning. At some point I began to wonder what I had done wrong because apparently when it rains, it pours; in my life, it was raining cats and dogs. Eventually I learnt to take one step at a time, one day at a time and take the good with the bad. This wasn’t easy and several times I honestly came very close to completely caving in. However it was at those moments that I found my greatest inner strength and somehow kept going.

A great support system.
One thing I have discovered……ok, re-discovered is that I have the greatest support system in the world! Without my family and my friends I honestly wouldn’t have been able to get through some of the last couple of months. I have a very interesting family. For the most part we will stay out of each other’s lives and mind our own business; we are generally not very good at asking for help, even when we need it. However we have a knack of sensing when one of us is in trouble and rally to help. I have never appreciated my mother and my sisters as much as in the last six months. From the start of the year to date they have flocked around me like geese; providing comfort, advice, hugs, support, help with the baby….anything that I could think of and a lot that I hadn’t thought of. They have dropped in on me in moments when I did not even realize I was drowning and pulled me out of my misery. They dropped everything in April to accompany me on what would have been a sinking sand pit of misery had they not been there to hold me up at the funeral of my son’s dad. My mother has never spent a night away from her husband in 44 years of marriage (!!!) and she spent two nights in Eldoret with me and my sisters just to make sure I was ok. One of my sisters sat with me the entire night I was in labor, only leaving at 3am to return at 7am to continue her vigil. Not even the nurses could keep her away. Since my daughter was born, my mother has made it her personal duty to ensure that my kitchen has a constant supply of uji, soup and a variety of fruits. I could go on and on and it still wouldn’t do justice to the support I have received. For this I will be eternally grateful.

Life. And Death.
You never really truly appreciate life. Until you have a brush with death. Or lose a loved one to its cruel hand. That’s just a sad fact of life. I’d never lost anyone really close till this year when Aidan’s dad passed away. You honestly don’t recover from the loss. You just learn to live with it. And hopefully, if you learn the lesson right, you try to never again take the ones still with you for granted. This loss was particularly hard for me because after so many years of hostility and estrangement, we started speaking again early last year. It was strange really but he was one of my first coaching clients. He had gone through a particularly rough patch and I offered to help him put his life back together. By the end of last year, his life had undergone a transformation and his future couldn’t have looked brighter. Even his health was on an upward trend. Till today I still believe that he stuck around just long enough to reconcile with his son. It’s almost as if he dedicated his final year on earth to leaving a legacy that his son would be proud to be associated with. And when that was done, it was time for him to go. The only thing that gives me consolation is that we set things right before he went; I don’t think I’d have lived with myself if I had denied him that opportunity.

His death put so many things into perspective for me. We waste so much time holding on to very petty hurts which don’t really matter. People still get so amazed that I would actually offer to help someone who once hurt me and that alone tells me how much baggage we are lugging around. Forgive those who have wronged you today and move on with your life. Life really is too short to hang on to stuff that doesn’t matter. If it does matter, then do something about it. If it doesn’t, let it go.

Adversity.
A week before Kip died, my husband lost his job and then two weeks later, lost one of his best friends. In between all this, I was still having an extremely difficult third trimester with exceedingly horrible reflux and heartburn which ensured that I barely slept each night. Just when I thought that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, my husband’s back gave out and he could barely get up, leave alone walk. There I was, 37 weeks pregnant and seemingly carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders and now driving him to physiotherapy. I was honestly at the end of my rope. In case you have never experienced this, it’s probably the hardest thing in a world for a man to be helpless; especially one like mine who was used to taking care of me. I remember seriously wondering at this time what we had done wrong to God to attract all this misfortune. In the midst of all this and even with my human doubts, I continued to trust and have faith in God that we would be OK. The interesting thing about adversity though is that it clearly shows you who’s truly in your corner. People that we previously thought would help us out mysteriously became unavailable and our support came from very unlikely quarters. The best part (should I say silver lining on the dark cloud) was that we became closer than ever. We’ve ended up spending so much time together in the past 3 months and I can honestly say we are stronger now than ever before. What I learnt? You may not be where you want to be but you are always exactly where God needs you to be. Always appreciate your current circumstances because you are there for a reason.

Two Great Men.
I have two great men in my life. My husband. And my son. Spending a lot of time at home has opened up my eyes to that. Work has a way of obscuring what’s really important in your life. These two have literally spoilt me rotten, waiting on me hand and foot. After my daughter’s arrival, they have been a rock in my life. Taking her for a walk when I need to nap and she won’t sleep, burping her, rocking her…you name it, they have done it. Initially we were really worried about the effect a new baby would have on my son but after the first couple of days he took to his big brother role like a duck to water. He absolutely adores his little sister and is constantly offering to help out with her. Her dad has been phenomenal to say the least. For me parenting the second time round has been a breeze thanks to his endless support. One of these days I will write a blog post titled “Real men change diapers.” He grabs any opportunity to bond with his daughter and it’s simply amazing to watch. Through the constant care and attention of these two gentlemen I have learnt that no matter what life throws at me, I am still among the luckiest women in the world.

My Beautiful Princess.
I saved the best for last. 🙂

After an extremely eventful third trimester, my beautiful little girl finally arrived two weeks shy of her due date. By the last month I was exhausted due to sleep deprivation, partially immobile thanks to the strain on my pelvic bones, and extremely cranky and irate. You can therefore imagine my relief when the doctor announced that I was in the initial stages of labor and immediately admitted me. However my daughter was clearly not one for quick appearances and I had to endure an additional twelve hours of pain before she made her grand entry, screaming her indignation at the top of her very healthy lungs. I really want to say that all the pain and agony I had gone through was forgotten the second I held her in my arms, but I would be lying. However, the truth is that she was totally worth it. I remember looking at her in awe and marveling that she was really mine, it was quite surreal actually. I kept touching her little fingers and toes and her little button nose as she slept peacefully, checking to see if she was real. She was the most gorgeous thing I had ever laid eyes on and I fell in love with her immediately.

We brought her home after a couple of nights in the hospital and just like riding a bicycle, soon fell into a familiar routine where she fed (surprisingly) on a regular 3-hour routine allowing me to finally get some much needed sleep. She turned 6 weeks this past Thursday and I marvel at how fast she is growing. Right now she is needy and dependable on us for her every need but I know that within no time at all, she will be crawling and then walking and after that, time will just fly past. So I am treasuring the midnight and 3am feeds for now, in as much as I am groggy and barely lucid during those feeds. I look forward to her beautiful dimpled smile when it does appear, which is like a sliver of warm sunlight in the cold July weather. I adore her cheeky side glances and cheerful gurgle like sounds when I wonder what’s going on in her little mind and what she would say if she could speak right now. I adore all the tiny little moments with her because I know all too well how soon it will all be a vague memory. From her I have learnt that life is so precious and we are all on borrowed time. I intend to enjoy the time I have with her and all my loved ones to the full for the time I have been granted.

When I look back at the last six months, I can see clearly that the journey to this point has certainly not been easy to say the least. One thing I know for sure though is that despite all I have been through, it has certainly been worth it. The rest of the year will certainly have a lot to live upto and I look forward to grabbing it by the horns.

Choices or Excuses?

I recently completed an 11-week course called Centonomy. For those who have never heard of it before, its basically a course focused on helping people understand financial issues better, hence improve their own management of money. It’s a course that has truly impacted how I view my life in relation to money and I would highly recommend it to every single person; I can’t wait for my son to be old enough to enroll him in it.

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During one of the classes, a certain question was posed; What would you choose to do if you knew no one would judge you? This isn’t the first time that I had been asked this question but for some reason this time it really got me thinking. It didn’t really hit me till this morning that as human beings, we are very good at building a wall of excuses when we do not want to do something. Even if that something is our life’s dream. I was actually speaking to someone last evening and she was very frustrated because she felt like life was passing her by and she was stagnating all because she couldn’t pursue what really made her happy.

As we spoke I began to realize that in general a lot of us are really not doing what makes us happy. Yes I know you will hit me with that same old story – we don’t have the luxury of being happy when bills have to be paid and responsibilities have to be met. So we build this nice grand house of Excuses. I cannot pursue my dreams because I have a child to support. Because I have a loan to pay. Because I have a spouse to support. Because I have rent to pay, or a mortgage to pay. Because I have my parents/siblings to support……….blah blah blah…….Does this sound familiar? Excuses. That’s all they are. But we have convinced ourselves that there is no possible way we can be “selfish” enough to be happy while all these people are relying on us right?

As I pondered more on this dilemma, I asked myself; so what happens when your kids grow up or your dependents no longer need the support or the loan is paid? Will you then pursue your dream for happiness? Will you then do what really makes you happy? Chances are the majority would simply get a new excuse to hide behind. You all know how this story ends. On a death bed with forlorn regrets of what could have been had you had the perspective and guts to just grab it.

I am not in any way encouraging reckless behavior but you do need to ask yourself, how long can you hide behind the excuses? Obviously few of us have the luxury of having zero dependencies, so it just means it will take more planning on your part to ensure that you have catered for those who depend on you. Haven’t you heard of someone who ventured into business from the safety of a job? Most will tell you that they saved the equivalent of at least one year’s income, some as much as three years, simply to ensure that they could continue to sustain their lifestyle in the period of initial transition. Doesn’t this make sense? And isn’t this person doing what makes him/her happy? Don’t we actually look on from the sidelines wishing we had the balls to take the same bold step?

So what is really stopping you today? Don’t tell me a child, the child will eventually grow up and leave you there by yourself and you will still not take the bold step. When you really think about it, you are the only one standing in your own way. YOU. Everything else is details. Interestingly, a lot people haven’t even really thought about let alone figured out what they would really want to do if dependencies weren’t such a huge factor. Some of you are just afraid to ask themselves that question, Fear governs you. Because the minute you ask yourself and figure it out, then you might have to do something about it. And that thought just terrifies you to the point of crippling you. So it’s simpler to have the excuses and never do anything about it.

So now that hopefully I have got you thinking about it, what’s your next move? You need to figure out what makes you happy. What would you choose to do if all the excuses were eliminated? This is probably the hardest part because it requires a lot of introspection. Once you have got this figured out then make a plan on how you can implement it. For most of us it will be a business or a better job, or a different choice career, or even more personal choices like leaving an unhappy relationship or finally settling down. Whatever it is, just make sure that its 100% about you and not about anyone else. Your implementation plan then needs to be S.M.A.R.T for it to work (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound). It needs to be documented and tracked constantly to ensure that you are actually making progress towards your set goal. (I have a life coaching program that specifically focuses on helping people find their direction and achieve both short and long term goals using this model).

Ultimately all this looks a lot easier said than done. Like most things worth having, it’s obviously not a walk in the park. However, if you are persistent and tenacious enough you could soon be living the life of your dreams and choosing rather than envying those who appear to be doing so. It all comes down to the choice you make. Will you live your dream or will you live the excuse?

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A Final Tribute.

My son’s dad died two weeks ago.

I have really struggled with writing this post. Difficult does not begin to describe how hard it was. I still remember the call on that beautiful Thursday morning. It was the day before Good Friday. The call that turned my world a deep shade of grey. Everything after that call was mostly a blur. I remember being surrounded by people; probably a reaction to the deep animal like wail that I didn’t even realize was coming from me. I remember the outpouring of sympathy, with very few words said and just gentle squeezes; after all, what words could be said that could provide comfort at that time. Mostly I remember wondering over and over, what was I going to tell my son? How was I going to face him and tell him that his dad was gone?

We eventually told him that evening. Or rather, my partner told him and I tried to keep a brave face; failing miserably of course. My son took it surprisingly well, using logic and not emotion like we adults. He kept stealing these curious glances at me, almost like he could tell that this was a really sad occasion and eventually he came over and just wrapped his little arms around me and said “I’m sorry mum.” This of course opened up the floodgates as you would expect, because I never thought that my son would actually be stronger than me.

Over the next few days, the preparations for the final sendoff passed in a blur of texts, phone calls and sympathy messages. It was all so surreal to me; the outpouring of support is all that kept me grounded. I was assailed by memories, some recent but most of them from our past together and I kept telling myself that he just couldn’t be gone. He was larger than life after all. I remained in this state of denial, crying occasionally but simply refusing to accept the fact that he had left us.

There is something very final about a coffin. I still see the one they put him in clearly in my mind without even closing my eyes. When they rolled it out at the funeral home, I analyzed it in my usual critical manner – a simple understated deep brown pine box with gold encrusted handles along its length and a glass viewing pane on top. I stared at the people jostling to make a queue just so that they could peer into its contents and I remember wondering why they were so eager to make this real.

My feet remained rooted to the spot. In the deep recesses of my mind I knew that if I looked into that box then I would have to let go of my denial and accept what I was determined not to. I resolutely stood staring as the queue slowly began to move and the first of those who peered in began to shake and wail loudly as the truth hit them like a speeding train in a tunnel. Unfortunately for me at that point someone noticed me standing on the periphery and decided to take the decision out of my hands and literally created a space for me right at the front of the queue. Before my mind could react, there was the little peering glass, right in front of me and my curiosity got the better of me. I looked in. It was him, really him. And it hit me like a tonne of bricks. He was really gone.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of activity with several church services and lots of beautiful tributes about the kind of person he had been. All I could see was him in that pine box. Lifeless. Cold. Grey. Gone. Nothing could change that. No words could bring him back.

We took him to his rural home for an overnight stay in preparation for his final journey the following day. It was a rough night needless to say; a strange bed in a strange house but pure exhaustion finally knocked me out. His funeral service the following day bordered on a political rally which to me was both faintly amusing and irritating. When it was finally time to say goodbye, the skies (fittingly so) decided to open up and in the confusion, I nearly missed his final send off. I got to the grave just as the box carrying him had been lowered into the deep hole where he would finally rest.

As we were offered soil to throw onto the coffin, my mind was suddenly frantic. I had so many questions to ask him, so many things to say. I hadn’t even really said goodbye. I desperately wanted to freeze time just so that I could say what I needed to say but no one could hear my frantic mind chatter. As I watched the soil slowly pile on top of him, the only thing I could do was seek out my son and hold him close as we watched in surreal stillness. Sooner than I expected it was all over and the flowers had been placed and the mourners had drifted away. I stood there staring at the mound of soil and colorful flowers that now marked his resting place and I was overwhelmed by the memories of his time on earth.

For me, the hardest part was not knowing how I was supposed to react or behave. After all we had both moved on with our lives when things didn’t work out and had only become close again in the last one year when I was his life coach. I did not fit into any of the tick boxes – I wasn’t his wife, mother, sister…I was way more than a friend and certainly not just the mother of his only child. I felt like no one could understand the depth of my grief, me included.

I kept wondering why it had hit me so hard, without any warning and standing next to his grave that grey evening, I finally realized why. I was grieving not just for the memories but also for all that had happened between us while we were estranged. I was grieving not just for the happy times but also for the pain and bitterness and anger that I had buried deep inside me over the years. I was grieving because I had never had a chance to tell him what our separation had done to me, and now I never would.

From that moment at the graveside, till this very moment as I write this, I have consoled myself with thoughts that he is watching me from above, that he knows what is in my heart and that he knows that I finally forgave him. I don’t really know if I believe this but it’s all I have to hold on to because I never told him while he was still alive.

I look around me and it breaks my heart to see the pride with which people hold onto things that really don’t matter; never realizing that death could snatch that final decision from them. I see it in my own family, I see it among my close friends, I see it everywhere. Needless meaningless rifts created by human pride and finger pointing. After all, it’s never our fault, is it?

I don’t know how long I will grieve or how long it will hurt. I know that peering into that pine box opened up a floodgate of deeply buried and long forgotten pain inside of me and I have no choice but to deal with it. Hard as it may sound though, I am grateful for the chance to deal with it because not many get that opportunity.

For him the journey is now over but mine has probably just begun. His death has given me a whole new outlook on life and for that I will always be grateful. The brief time we shared will always form a part of my past, and an integral part of who I ultimately am today. Without him I would not be the person I am today.

Kip, this one is for you. For all the good times and the bad times. I treasure all in equal measure. Rest well my beloved friend. Till we meet again.

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Of Buns in Ovens….

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I have always looked forward to having a second baby. Pregnancy is supposed to be a wonderful time in a woman’s life as her body nurtures new life and prepares to create a miracle of life from tiny cells. The actual experience is varied from woman to woman with some having a relatively easy time and others suffering the extremes of hormonal imbalances and body changes.

My first pregnancy passed in a blur with barely a recollection of the trimester milestones and changes in my body as my son grew. I always felt like I didn’t truly enjoy the pregnancy as I was struggling with so much turmoil in my life and the expectancy of new life only confounded it further. It wasn’t until I took my son home with me that the miracle and wonder of his creation and birth really truly hit me and I began to appreciate every mother and what she has to go through to experience the blessing of nurturing.

I therefore vowed to myself that my next pregnancy would take place on my terms, when I was good and ready and when I didn’t have too much going on in my life (as if that is even possible!). Best laid plans and all that! So I took my time, ensured that things were more or less in place in my life and decided, mid last year, that I was finally ready to take the plunge – Seven whole years later! In case you’re shaking your head or laughing at me and my naiveté, in my defense, I’m a bit of a control freak and I figured I needed some control over this particular pregnancy.

It came as no surprise when the test turned positive and there were no awkward conversations with the dreaded “we need to talk” phrase that turns most men into stone! It actually felt like a bit of an anti-climax – perhaps I was expecting drum rolls or something dramatic. The first trimester went by like a dream, much like what I had planned. I was lucky enough to experience zero morning (or any other time of the day for that matter) sickness and I didn’t even bother to see my gynecologist till I was ten weeks along. After all, I was now a seasoned expectant mother. The scan was predictable and my first peep at my little bun in the oven went exactly as planned.

So there I was, very pleased with myself and beautifully glowing with just the tiniest bump showing and I was the picture perfect mum-to-be. Nothing could possibly go wrong; after all I had planned this perfectly. Boy was I wrong! At exactly this point, life decided to do what it does best – laugh in the face of my plans. Shortly into my second trimester, I suddenly developed the worst case of acid reflux and heart burn known to humanity, the craziest mood swings and a deep aversion for social skills. I suddenly could not stand to be around anyone – people literally drove me crazy.

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Meanwhile I was unable to sleep thanks to my displaced digestive system and every night was a choice between eating and sleeping! No antacid could sort me out and the only choice was to sleep with my upper body elevated, like patients do in hospitals. I have no clue why doctors would think that patients can possibly get any rest; honestly sleeping in an elevated position on your back is the equivalent of having a nightmare while you’re wide awake. So combine sleep deprivation, mood swings, a non-existent appetite and trying to keep my stomach acids where they belonged and I was basically a walking time bomb with a live fuse!

Suddenly my pregnancy had gone from being wonderful to my worst nightmare in the blink of an eye. I largely kept to myself and the few people who were unfortunate enough to cross my path deeply regret it to this day. I honestly did not like what I saw when I looked in the mirror and I am not referring to my physical state. I slowly realized that I could allow my condition to take over my life (for the next few months anyway) or I could do something about it. I had never been one of those people who believe that being pregnant is an excuse to get away with anything and I wasn’t about to start now.

With no small amount of difficulty I started to make a conscious effort to revert to my usual self. I made the effort to smile at people even when I didn’t feel like it. I ensured that I had my dinner as early as humanely possible to increase my chances of sleeping at night. Slowly by slowly I started to feel better about being pregnant and my energy levels gradually improved. I stopped making excuses and started taking action on things that I wanted to do. Including writing again which had become a casualty of my previously constant foul mood. I resumed my walking and my swimming. Most importantly I began to feel like myself again and I stopped blaming my (poor) pregnancy for all my woes.

What did I learn from all this? I will let you all know once I have my baby in another 3 months! :-)….Seriously though, I figured that I really cannot control everything; I will plan and God will laugh. When you think about it, carrying a little human in your body for nine months is the most unnatural natural thing ever! It’s bizarre to say the least and could only have been created by God. So the best way to cope is simply to take each hour of every day as it comes and to try and keep in mind that you’re really not yourself for those nine months. And that this really isn’t an excuse to be the worst person in the world.

Clearly I’m still learning but here are some more tips. Exercise when and if you can. Get enough rest. Take your supplements. Calcium really sorted out my muscle aches. Eat small, regular meals. Have a great support system. Someone who understands what you’re going through and will put up with your constantly changing moods without blowing a fuse. Keep yourself occupied – an idle mind is the best way to end up focusing on how crappy you are feeling in those low moments. Vent often. It’s important to speak about your conflicting emotions, of course to someone who understands. Don’t bottle stuff up, no matter how trivial it may seem. As long as it’s a big deal to you, it’s important. Map your own way, don’t be afraid to make your own rules. Each pregnancy is unique and so is each respective experience. Take time to look after yourself, you are the most important person in this equation; it will not be this way for much longer, especially when the baby gets here. Don’t be too hard on yourself either – you are just human.

I’m now happily (most of the time) back to enjoying the journey. Even when things don’t seem so easy I always remind myself that in this particular case, the end will truly justify the means. So come what may, I will take it in stride because when all is said and done, everything eventually comes to pass.

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