The Magic of Readers

There are no awards for readers, at least, none that I know of, but there are awards for writers. Readers buy the book that wins the writer a prize, and yet without readers, there would be no writers.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know. ― Alberto Manguel

I am indebted in no small measure to you because if you did not read, I would not write. Yes, I would scribble in my journal, but without the focus, discipline, excellence, and tenacity of the past four years. I would neither research nor stretch myself beyond the world I know. You inspire me to look for the gem in the mundane and tell it as creatively as I know how.

What Lee Hall wrote about the play, I find to be true about writing. “Whether you are a writer or an actor or a stage manager, you are trying to express the complications of life through a shared enterprise . . .  And live performance shares that with an audience in a specific compact: the play is unfinished unless it has an audience, and they are as important as everyone else.”

I view with suspicion, every writer—by writer, I refer to anyone who crafts words intentionally on a platform that another can access—who claims, “I don’t care if anyone reads what I wrote.” The search for significance is a universal pandemic and writing is one way we ask, “Is anyone out there? Can you hear me?”

Sometimes, I have wondered about this business of writing and questioned my destination, but you were there to assuage my vulnerabilities and validate my journey through your comments or private messages. I learnt to count on your consistency as much as you did mine, and I am a better writer because of you.

When I conceive an idea, the meaning is clear to me, but the challenge is to get you to see it. You complement me by filtering my words through your experiences and adding depth to them that I did not recognize. Like the time I wrote a silly story, about two lovers and you showed me that it was about immigration and integration. And you were kind to me. If you thought stories like, Six Is Just A Number, echoed my life, you did not judge me but kept your perspective to yourself.

When members of the London Poetry Society asked Browning to interpret a particularly difficult passage of Sordello, he read it twice, frowned, then admitted, “When I wrote that, God and I knew what I meant, but now God alone knows. ― Ralph Keyes

Vladimir Nabokov wrote, “Readers are not sheep, and not every pen tempts them.” That my words have drawn a few is humbling and empowering, a weight of responsibility I have been proud to own.

The best part of writing at Livelytwist these past few years, was knowing that you were going to read what I wrote and not being disappointed, Sunday after Sunday. I cannot thank you enough for your uncanny generosity.

Thank you.

 

 

 

P.s. I stop blogging on this platform today.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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An Anatomy of a Farewell

 

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

There was no perfect time to begin Livelytwist. Four years ago, I did not have all the answers I needed to start a weekly blog. Chief among them being whether I could sustain the tempo—whether I could produce writing that would entertain, inform, inspire, or provoke thought, week after week. In Six Degrees of Separation and Other Stories, I bare my soul.

I started this blog with grit, a little knowledge, some research, plenty goodwill, confidence, trepidation, and a two-month content calendar.

The question that I am frequently asked after I introduce myself as a blogger, after, what do you blog about, is: do you monetize your blog? The question is not always direct. Sometimes, it is cloaked as queries about ad revenue or sponsored content.

In his book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Monetizing Livelytwist was never my primary focus. I just did what I love with dedication and excellence, which are hallmarks of everything I set to do.

The result is a resume I can present anywhere.

  • Produced over 200 articles with quality content.
  • Displayed my range with a rich landscape of varied writing: creative non-fiction, short fiction, op-eds, reportage, memoirs, and personal essays.
  • Highlighted my range by tackling topics from the mundane and comical to the serious, made relevant because of the underlying message(s).
  • Synthesized and delivered local content to international audiences. 
  • Facilitated and sustained online engagement with heterogeneous crowds via the comment section.
  • Identified, managed, and promoted (new) writing talent.
  • Discovered and negotiated new business through engagement on other platforms.
  • Harnessed marketing opportunities by collaborating with others and leveraging their social networks to reach new audiences.
  • Developed and managed diverse teams by initiating several writing collaborations.
  • Received 100,000* blog hits on livelytwist.com through organic growth. 

However, the emails and conversations that attest to the fact that I lit other candles remain my greatest treasures. All because I dared to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and move in the direction that my heart was tugging me to go.

. . . this gift that chose me, feels like a solemn trust, like a platform to do my life’s work. When you read something and say it inspires you to do life better, I let my tears fall where they will. –Timi Yeseibo

Someone said that it is not that life is too short but that we take too long to begin. I concur. People now ask me, “So you’re gonna stop blogging, what next?”

Four years ago, I could at least define what I was beginning, a blog. Now, it isn’t easy to articulate my next steps. This is what I know for sure. Whatever follows will involve me writing in some form. I now know that when you identify your gift, develop it, and use it to serve others, you will inspire others to do the same.

I once read that sometimes when it seems as though things are falling apart, they are actually coming together. In hindsight, it was true four years ago when my life took a difficult turn. I believe it to be true now.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

P.s. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. It is now time for new adventures and to stop blogging. I first wrote about it here. I’ll write some more in the coming weeks and then I’ll stop.

  1. Gladwell, Malcom, Outliers, The Story of Success, (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 175
  2. Not quite 100,000 hits . . . yet.

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Licking Dry River Beds and Flying Trapeze

“What are you afraid of?” He asked.

“Nothing,” I replied, shaking my head as if that would make it true.

I did not think I was afraid. I tried to explain the sense I had, which had nagged me for months, that I was on the threshold of something new. I bolstered my explanation by rambling about the diminishing passion I had for my blog; yes, yes, yes, disciplined focus had kept me going, bla, bla, bla, but . . .  Was it the move or the upheavals or the new responsibilities? What had sucked zest from me, as when the bath plug is lifted, soapsuds disappear suddenly, vooom, down the drain?

If you are like me, you ramble about events—a pause here, a recollection there, an unrelated trivia woven in the mix—walking through the maze that is your life, to make sense of your journey and to ensure you are not speeding away from the, as yet, unspecified destination.

My friends are patient listeners, facilitating my journey with subtle signals from the control tower, never attempting to pilot my plane. My conclusions can only be authentically mine, if I arrive at them by myself.

“Hmmm, so are you licking dry river beds then?”

We laughed at his allusion to the story of a prophet called Elijah. I had heard him tell it more than once.

Elijah was a prophet who once called down fire down from heaven. During a famine, ravens brought him food, and he drank water from a brook. Then one day, the brook dried up because it hadn’t rained in ages. The way my friend tells it, Elijah had a few choices. He could remain at the brook, licking up every last molecule of water from the riverbed because he had been divinely sent there. He could even attempt to command water to gush, geyser-style from the riverbed; after all, he wielded power. Or, he could open his heart to embrace something new.

My friend was asking me if I had become stuck in my comfort and safety zone.

“You know that when Elijah left the brook, he went on to provide food for not only himself but also a widow and her son. That’s greater relevance and impact,” he continued.

I nodded. “Yeah, yeah . . .”

“So what are you afraid of?”

“Em . . . Elijah knew exactly where to go next. I’m not so sure. I stop my blog, then what? Twiddle my thumbs?”

“You can never be idle, Timi.”

“True, but you see what I’m saying . . . right?”

“Have you ever watched trapeze artists?”

“Acrobats? At a circus? Sure. They’re graceful, beautiful to watch.”

“They have to leave one bar then swing in the air to catch another. So imagine this . . . a trapeze artist . . . he’s holding this bar,” my friend clenched his fist. “As long as he’s holding it, he can’t swing and catch the new one—”

“I see it!”

Now, it was his turn to nod.

I was like a trapeze artist holding one bar with one hand while reaching for another with the other hand. I looked ungainly. My balance was suspect. I was likely to fall. Trapeze artists have more faith that they will catch the new bar than faith that they will fall.

“Wait wait wait. But don’t they have a mattress or spring board underneath? Aren’t they legally required to have some security? Hmmm, let me google it . . .”

He smiled; perhaps at the way my mind works.

“But you have security Timi. You’ve always had security.”

If you fall, I’ll be there. – Floor  🙂

P.s. 1. This is what I googled instead:

P.s. 2. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. Now it’s time for new adventures and to stop  blogging. I’ll be writing about this in the weeks to come.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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When You Can’t Remember Loss

James Bekenawei on Loss

The only thing that hurts more than a bad picture is a lost picture.

Most times, to cement the details of an event in my mind, I take pictures. A picture is a frozen moment from a string of moments. Behind every photo, there is a story; behind every story, there is a past. The emotions that the images evoke give photos meaning.

“James, all our efforts today were wasted. We lost all the pictures,” Tunde said. I had just finished dinner and wanted to settle for a movie marathon when he called. “A virus attack or something. It affected the camera’s memory card also, so we can’t get the raw pictures.”

Hours spent selecting, sorting, and editing wasted. An entire day’s shoot, gone with the wind. The story behind each photo forgotten before it is told.

I delved into photography by accident. I have always loved pictures and have an archive of exotic photos. One day I took a photo with a friend’s phone and he loved it. It dawned on me then that I could create photographs not just collect them; that I could freeze time for the future because memory dims and forgetting happens. A blunt pencil is better than the sharpest memory, a blurred camera lens than the clearest mind.

Women who lose their babies carry the pain forever. My mom has five of us, but she still talks about the one that didn’t make it. That loss hurts her even though it’s been more than thirty years. Losing photos is the closest I have come to how my mom feels. I hold on to the carcasses of damaged hard drives because letting them go means accepting that the memories stored in them are forever lost. Sometimes, I survey the hard drives and wonder, why. Why didn’t I back everything up? Why didn’t I upgrade my cloud storage when I could? But the hard drives do not answer, they stare back and dare me to cherish memories I no longer remember.

One of my greatest fears is losing my memory—of waking up and discovering I can’t remember anything—and that even my writings and photographs, which I employed to freeze moments, can’t help jumpstart my memory, because they are lost. I fear losing an extension of myself via lost memories and photos.

In my desire to freeze moments for Throwback Thursday, I often let things go unnoticed and become unmindful of the emotions the camera cannot capture. Behind every photo, there is a story. But of what use is a story if it does not evoke the emotions that bind us to it? The remedy I’ve found is in the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling: [to] fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run. To enjoy the moment, rather than merely freezing it.

© James Bekenawei 2017

Bekenawei James Robert loves to tell pictures, snap stories, and to question answers. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @bekexjj. He blogs at 4unansweredprayers.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/sony-slt-a58-camera-sony-2033999/

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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The Appointment

Samuel Okopi on Loss

As a child, I longed to be baptised. I cannot remember a time while growing up as a Pentecostal Christian, that the opportunity to be baptised presented itself to me. Baptism felt like a watershed moment from which I would rise a complete Christian.

My secondary school didn’t provide for Pentecostal services so I attended Anglican services instead. One Sunday, our reverend father announced that students who desired to be baptised were to register and attend baptismal classes. These classes would run throughout the term.

I was elated. My golden opportunity had come.

Classes started soon enough. As a junior student in boarding school, time is an archenemy, and the threat of senior students commandeering your time for their selfish purposes always looms. Still, I managed to attend virtually all the classes and committed to memory, the cryptic questions and answers contained in the catechism we were given.

The long awaited day of baptism finally came. We were to assemble at the chapel by 4 p.m. for onward procession to the river bank. I was writing Junior WAEC exams and luckily, the only paper I had that day ended by 2 p.m.

Halfway into the exams, our fine art teacher came into the hall and announced that students must obtain poster colour sets from her, that afternoon, for the fine arts exam holding the next day. Art is my great passion and doing well at it mattered to me. I submitted my answer sheet long before others and dashed to the studio to get my colour set.

I met the studio door locked. The fine art teacher came an hour and thirty minutes later. By that time, the area around the studio was swarming with students. I spent the next two hours hustling to get my set.

The battle finally ended. As I walked back to the hostel with my colour set, all I could think of was having a bath.

4 p.m. Chapel. Baptism. My appointment with spiritual death and resurrection!

The time was already 5.30 p.m. I jumped into my white trouser and white shirt and raced to the chapel.

There was no one in white-and-white when I arrived and I didn’t know the location of the river. An old man I recognised as one of the cleaners, walked by and I asked him what direction the students in white-and-white had taken. He pointed at the way I had come. I didn’t wait to hear him begin his statement.

I kept running even though I wasn’t sure where I was headed. Soon, I spotted an array of white-and-white marching towards my direction. Before long, I had caught up with them.

I saw my close friend—with whom I had memorised the catechism over the last twelve weeks—and anxiously asked him about the baptism. There were tears in his eyes. At that moment, I received a divine revelation that abiding in his eyes were not tears but the holy water of rebirth.

I lost myself to deep reflection over what had just happened as I turned back and walked a lonely footpath leading to my hostel. I had lost an opportunity that had eluded me for seven years. At some point, I met with the ground, wishing I could go under. The dirt, the weeds, and their budding relationship with my white-and-white deepened as I thrashed about, seeking the kind of catharsis that can come from shedding the waters of sorrow.

A wise man, who may remain unknown, once said: “Hell is the knowledge of opportunity lost; the place where the man I am comes face to face with the man I might have been.”

Two years later, I got another chance to meet the man I looked forward to becoming. And this time, the pain of memory ensued I kept my appointment for the meeting by the river.

© Samuel Okopi 2017

Samuel Okopi loves to sing, design, and fantasize about the future. He believes there is no end to learning and so, for him, every tommorrow is pregnant with new opportunities to inch closer to perfection.

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/time-watch-clock-number-minute-1842099/

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2017

 

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She Always Will Be

Tomi Olugbemi on Loss

Dying does not hurt the dead but I fear it is different for Mummy. I often worry that she may be grieving too, floating about in some existential plane and mourning the absence of her husband and children. I chew on the meaning of rest in peace. Is it mere banality or is death a form of rest? Perhaps it affirms the belief that eternal bliss follows dying.

I was angry that barely two weeks after the funeral; a guest minister at church preached on God’s healing power. I was angry that many people believed her death to be God’s will: that He knew best, and Mummy’s time had come. I scolded myself for not coming home months before she passed and for believing that she was on a path to recovery. When Faith Evans voice came on the radio, three days after Mummy died, singing: every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you; I closed my eyes, tightened my jaw, and wept on the inside, instead of telling the taxi driver to change the channel.

In Mummy’s death, I lost the only person whose personality traits perfectly mirrored mine. I took after her in the way she swallowed her pain to soothe others and in how she folded into herself and feigned wellness even when sickness or depression ate from her vitality. We loved alike, silently but on full throttle, often walking the lines between worrying about a person and loving them intensely. We remained quiet in the midst of strangers but could be extremely goofy around familiar faces.

Grief is not as persistent as it used to be; my life continues and I have to concentrate on things besides carrying the weight of sadness. These days, grief visits in spurts, like a houseguest rather than a tenant, revealing itself as sudden re-realisations of loss when I place my mother before things: Mummy’s key. Mummy’s car. Mummy’s dresser. Mummy’s cancer foundation or while watching a mother die in a film and remembering that mine died too. Grief is the sadness in Daddy’s eyes masked with a smile when he abruptly interjects her name, Funke, while telling an anecdote about her. It showed on my brother, Dami’s, distraught countenance as we shot his graduation photos sans Mummy. And my other brother, Tofa’s wishful thinking on Twitter that heaven had visiting hours.

Like all the tragedies that have befallen me, I do not know that full recovery is sure. I do believe however, that in time, we adapt to regain normalcy by holding on to the love of, and for the departed; and conjuring their pith by drawing from past events. Thus, memories become more profound, more precious, like little vials of moonlight set aside for the days when the dark feels too present. Because even though they are dead, they breathe in reminiscence.

In losing Mummy, I am reminded of love’s eternal pursuit, its limitlessness, and how it travels beyond the boundaries of physical contact. That not even death can quell its power.  I have learned to still love what is no more. I have learned that loving another person is a life-long endeavour and that loss is not the end.

I hope that like Mary Elizabeth Frye, in her poem, Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep, Mummy is wearing a glinting smile, saying: do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die. Although she no longer is, she always will be. Rest in peace, Mummy.

© Tomi Olugbemi 2017

Tomi Olugbemi is a poet. He spends his free time fretting about words and recovering from pessimism. He blogs at tomiolugbemi.com.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/tea-rose-corolla-caf%C3%A9-book-teapot-1871837/

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

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Falling From Lofty Heights

Timi Yeseibo on Loss

We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione

To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent  hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.

You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.

Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.

With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”

Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.

It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.

I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”

I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.

One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.

“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”

“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”

I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.

I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/levitation-young-woman-in-the-air-1884366/

 

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