Breathing Underwater

Read this while listening to Emeli Sande’s Breathing Underwater.

Four years ago I tried to kill myself. The details are unimportant in this post. Failing at that felt like one more failure in a long list my head kept replaying.

This is not about death. This is about life, but I don’t think it’s possible to talk about one without the other. It’s light and darkness.

I wanted to die because it was dark. My life was a stumbling around bumping into things in the dark. A constant wounding without healing. Death and darkness aren’t any different. Didn’t feel like any difference—except death promised the nothingness that meant no more wounds.

Not dying didn’t make me alive. Follow me, it makes sense. Not dying didn’t mean the darkness lifted. Darkness doesn’t lift without light. It remains.

This is the first year I’ve felt alive. Like life flows through me. I feel alive because of light. I can’t say this is the moment it came, or this is why it came. I know I definitely didn’t do anything to spark it. If I could, I would have ages ago.

Earlier this year I had these vivid moments where it felt like I could literally feel the life of Christ flowing through me. And I’d dance in my room and laugh, and talk to Him about it.

Light finds us in the darkness, and if we let it in, light grows and grows and grows. So that even when darkness tries to return, we are not stumbling without help. Light knows where the stuff lies in the darkness and helps us to navigate it. Till it grows again and we can see well.

I know what is true. The life of Christ. The light of the Word of God. I know what I’ve held on to during depressive episodes. I know what has lifted me out of them, unlike anything could in the past.

“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.” – Isaiah 43:2

“My God, I’m breathing underwater.” – Emeli Sande

Do you understand the song now?

Advertisements

A week in the life of…

The earliest time you get home that week is around 12am, and that is on the day of the opening. You spend most days supervising the installation, making purchases around town, and calling people to make sure they do their jobs. Some days you drive home in the early evening only to have to drive back at night. And that’s how several pieces of clothing end up on your armchair, with you too tired to allow for the two/three hours it usually takes you to try to fall asleep. You take two Ambien tablets every night, shower and fall into bed, only to wake after four or five hours and repeat the cycle.

Tuesday is a lesson in adulting. You had planned to be on away on an Island but had to cancel the trip weeks earlier. You put your phone on silent even though it’s your 27th birthday — there’s work and the calls are distracting. But there’s also ice cream cake and wine and the best, who has flown in for your birthday + the opening + other sundry business. The CFF too. You are grateful for people who let you be what you need to be in the moment. Who are fine with sitting in silence. Your bicycle leans against the living room wall, reminding you how little time you’ve had to feel the wind or forget life.

Early on Saturday, you get a call and you go out without taking a shower. There’s still a lot that needs doing before 4pm. You rush back home around 2:30pm, shower, get dressed and get back in your car. An empty can of power horse joins two more on the floor mat in the passenger’s side. While you sit in traffic, you wet cotton wool with polish remover and get to cleaning your chipped nails. It’s past 3pm and the fuel scarcity has made it harder to get around quickly. You start to line your eyes and brows. You worry about not making it back in time for guests to start arriving. You play three songs on repeat: Ghosts | Laura Marling; Wonder | Emeli Sande; Hello | Adele.

You remember how the week had started with chaos.

Have you ever had to tell someone to stay away from you many times because you think they’re selfish and impact your life negatively? Yet they keep returning even though they know that this causes you distress. So this person who has first hurt you by being unthinking, tries (selfishly again) for months to take more from you — your peace, your time, a connection they miss, conversations, love or whatever. This person who can’t do a basic thing like not do something that affects you negatively, wants you to be unselfish by continuing to allow them in your life.

You don’t mind people being selfish, so long as they don’t try to take and take from others. You think people shouldn’t ask of others what they cannot give them and shouldn’t do to others what they cannot take. That should be simple, right? Apparently not. You get so tired of saying “leave me alone” and hoping they won’t ruin another week during which you need to be as stable as possible, that one night and one extra wine glass you vomit your unfiltered thoughts about them. To them.

You hate being mean to people, even when they deserve it. And it’s not even because you try to be a good person; it’s because your capacity for vindictiveness scares you so you try not to go down that path. You are really quick to apologise to people — if you don’t, it feels as though you have given yourself permission to hurt them in any way possible and that scares you. Anyway, you apologise and, in this case, reiterate that you’d just like to be left alone. It’s not that hard is it?

That was last Sunday. It is another Sunday, the day after the opening, and your flat is a right mess. Not your usual organised chaos but real chaos. You’d been too busy running around town during the week and no one was home to let the housekeeper in on the two days she came by.

It’s Monday evening and you walk in to shiny floors and fresh sheets and a table that no longer looks like a paper war zone. It makes you really happy. Instantly. Sometimes, especially when you’re trying to plan your finances, you wonder if you really need things like a housekeeper for the apartment or if you really need your assistant. Then high-pressured days or weeks show you how much they make your life better and eliminate things you would otherwise have spent time worrying about or spent time doing instead of focusing on the core of your work.

Sometimes self-care is taking time out in a crushing week to get a pedicure or it’s eliminating smaller tasks that drain you further physically and/or mentally.

Dream bigger

I’m a dreamer. I get lost in my head imagining stuff to the minutest detail. So, in implementing, I’m often tightly wound, trying to make it conform to what I built in my head. But there’s only so much one can control. The negative part of it is that sometimes I worry so much about making it happen the way I imagined that I fail to see how it could be better. I’m learning to let go of control, because being less controlling allows me to dream bigger. It allows me to see more opportunities and improves my vision.

I also have confidence to make hard decisions in spite of fear. The past two weeks have been about saying no to things/people that threaten my peace. I’m learning to eliminate distraction, no matter how familiar or attractive it is… say ‘no’, because people will take advantage for as long as I let them… say ‘no’ because an opportunity isn’t right for me.

It’s also been about openness. About saying ‘yes’ to support. Earlier, I was having a conversation with O about a project, and I said to him, “It’s all exciting but it’s also really scary.” His response was simple, “Awa wa ni bi yi.” That’s how I get my confidence these days–from knowing that God is there; from knowing that people like O are there; from knowing that Google is there.

The scale of the things I’ve been working on is daunting. A few months ago, I was really low on confidence but I went on, anyway. The crazy thing is, as my confidence in my abilities is growing, so are my dreams. There’s so much to do and learn. It would ordinarily make me scared then depressed but I’m so happy it’s surprising. I have been happy the past couple of weeks. Not because my life is perfect (is anyone’s ever? Tell me) but because in spite of all that’s going on, I have great clarity. This clarity has come from my faith and learning to see the workings of God in the happenings in my life. Every day, I remind myself to dream bigger and worry less.

Requiems for love

Because some songs bear the weight of memories…

BlackBird | Nina Simone

“This is apt,” I say, increasing the volume and pausing so he can listen. “It’s the perfect soundtrack for this moment.”

“Change the song. You think this is a movie?”

I don’t tell him that it’s too late. That regardless of our choices, this is how I’ll remember him. Us. A bird with a broken wing, longing for flight but unable to take off.

Youth | Daughter

“Rayo, I know you. You wanted a reason to leave.”

I don’t argue with her. No one’s warmth has ever kept me from starting to crave ‘alone’ after 6 months. “I didn’t expect him to give me no reasons to stay.”

I hold on to the anger at his reckless dick because it is easier than saying, “You make me want to swallow my tongue and fold into my soul for comfort. I know if I stay much longer I will kill myself.”

Stay | Rihanna

I have a compulsion to win and I can’t accept that failing at something doesn’t make me a failure. So, I make myself stay. But love is not a race, and four years is a long time to pay for a mistake.

Who Knew | P!nk

At any point, one of us has doubts. And it’s a dance. He leaves; I fight to put us back together. I leave; he pulls me back to him. Yet we tell each other it’s forever. Made of something real. Not just firsts but lasts, forever.

How did we think our teenage selves so wise and steady when thirty is drawing near and we still haven’t figured out love or life?

Mustard seed

Sometimes, hurt comes from someone you didn’t think it would. Sometimes, they layer it with pride and further hurt and you let them, because you don’t quite know how to look people you love in the face and say ‘no’ firmly. I’m learning. Recently, something happened and I went to ‘I’ crying because it blindsided me and hurt me in a way I didn’t think possible. He said to me, “Do you think I have your back? Do you think I’ll protect you? Do you think I’d let someone cheat you?”

And I realised I knew with unwavering certainty that he had my back, knew he’d protect me because that’s what he’s always done in the years I’ve known him. I didn’t expect what he said next though. “So, why have you come to me crying as if you’re helpless. You should be calling me to have a good laugh about this. I feel insulted that you’re crying over this.”

So my spirit started to nag. Is this how God feels every time I worry needlessly and let people’s selfishness get me down? Is this how He feels when I can’t get out of bed for days because I’ve lost my joy hurting or worrying? “Why have you come to me crying as if you’re helpless?”

My conversation with ‘I’ made me pause because I realised just how little faith I have in God, and how my actions make it seem like I don’t have confidence in the knowledge I have of Him. It made me realise just how much time I spend worrying over projects and hurting over slights instead of having a good laugh because I know that he has my back and will protect me.

This year has been a journey for me. With God revealing more of himself to me in my interactions with others. I struggle with my confidence in him but this revelation is helping me scale that mountain. Now, I’m waiting on the one about letting go of bitterness and embracing forgiveness.

Sleep and other drugs

Trust is a quiet thing you don’t know you have, till the loss of it leaves words colliding in your head.
I took an Ambien to sleep Saturday night, and then I woke up Sunday morning and took another Ambien because I couldn’t bear to be alive right that moment and sleep is the closest I can get to death without hurting anyone.
When people have trust issues, it’s usually projected externally. I… I don’t trust myself to not ruin things. I don’t trust myself to use meds judiciously… in fact, I don’t trust myself to do a little taken-for-granted thing like sleep unaided, sleep un-nightmared.
For sleep, Ambien doesn’t work as well as Seroquel does. For managing my moods, I’ve been avoiding the latter because a side effect is that it makes me sleep upwards of 12 hours. By Monday night it seems a viable solution to this thing, so I go back to it. I hate meds.
After a hazy stumbling around four days in a row, I feel better. I stay out of bed for more than 30 minutes on Wednesday. Then my period starts and I realize I had been PMSing. It’s been getting worse the past months.
Moments like this one, I want to call loved ones and beg, “do you understand what I mean when I say it’s not my mind or my thoughts; it’s my hormones that are out of whack?” I don’t trust anyone to understand how this really feels or how it affects me.
Some of the bad decisions I’ve made in the past few months have been made during the PMS window. I need to learn this pattern to avoid ruining things when it comes. Maybe hibernating without gadgets will be the way to go, or shutting myself away from the world.
I’ve spent the last three years furiously studying my patterns but just when I think I’m getting a handle on triggers and acquiring navigation skills, things hit me from other directions and I realize how multi-layered this thing is.
I want to trust people and situations and I really want to trust myself. I want to be calm all the time not restless hands and mind racing. I need my body and mind to cut me some slack.

 

It’s been a year…

I am waiting for sunrise
I am waiting for sunrise

Since I wrote my last post here.

I have been focusing my energy on running ARTYLIVING.

I recently hired someone to work on a new version of the brand/site.

I am no longer a Speechwriter, since Fashola is no longer Governor of Lagos.

I am writing/editing full-time now.

It’s what I’ve always wanted and it’s going well.

Yet…

I worry a lot about life, love, business.

I am stable enough to know that this worry is irrational but not enough to avoid it.

I drink a lot of coffee, Power Horse, wine.

I am not sleeping much these days — it was 12:19am when I started writing this post.

The previous two sentences have nothing to do with each other. I wasn’t sleeping before the drinking.

It’s 12:33am right now and I’m just checking in.