More Than the Sum of All That

compass

My aunt is wearing a striped tube dress with spaghetti straps. When she sits, love handles circle her tummy like three rubber tires. “Timi, where have you been?” she asks, but does not expect an answer. I am there and it is enough. She sucks me in a tight embrace, her warmth spreading over me, her smile wide. 

The years apart are too many to fit into an evening. We make small talk highlighting the events that count. Did I hear what happened to her son? Only God could have saved him. And what about me and my hopes for tomorrow? I do not burden her with sad news; there is no need to slow down the tempo of the music we are making. Soon we are silent, each of us locked in our world, making sense of words.

When my sister says, “Aunty you look as young as ever,” she returns to the present.

“No o. I am old.”

My sister counters, “You’re looking young. No one would believe if you tell them your age.”

“Please don’t deceive me, don’t give me false hope,” she says like a woman who has been lied to and preyed upon. She pats her Halle Berry wig and looks at me with a small smile.

She is seeking corroboration from me. I cannot just give it, mouthing empty words. I do not know how old she is. I have no compass with which to navigate true north, therefore I cannot tell if she is indeed looking young. Having not seen her for years, in which I harboured memories of her younger fashionable self, she is in fact looking old to me.

My sister and my aunt continue the cycle of compliments and weak rebuttals. I fight within myself. Where is true north?

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place,” Cormac McCarthy wrote. 

My aunt’s husband is long gone; one son is far away, the other closer by, and her only daughter died too early. She has forged a whole life for herself apart from them. Her carefully made up face—thin black-pencilled brows, two large dots of muted raspberry rouge, and red lips that complement her hazel skin—is like a photo from another era. She has weathered storms and raised many children that are not hers, including me. I sense her hunger to be seen and admired as I too have on occasion hungered to be seen and admired.

I stop fighting because I have conquered myself.

“Aunty,” I say, “You look young and beautiful.”

It is not false hope; it is true. I remember learning that a (magnetic) compass almost never shows true north. True north is different from magnetic north, which changes depending on local magnetic variation. About a million years ago, the position of magnetic north even wandered closer to the geographic South Pole.

I had planned to ask my sister how old my aunt is. But when we leave, I let the question die in my throat. What does it matter? I am in charge of my compass. Moreover, she is more than the sum of all that.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/compass-magnetic-orientation-801763/

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Love is a Beautiful Thing

love-beautiful

As I grew up, it sometimes seemed that my parents would throw invisible daggers at each other and the knives would miss, hit the wall, rebound, and lacerate my heart. I thought they might do better apart rather than together, but my mother was adamant that she stick things through, as if she were glue.

Close to thirty years have elapsed since those turbulent times. In war more than elsewhere things do not turn out as we expect. Nearby they do not appear as they did from a distance (Carl von Clausewitz, On War). Perhaps because my parents now speak of their departure like something imminent in the distance, they invite my sisters and me closer, and I see what I did not see then.

My parents tell us about their lives, the things we do not know that they think we should.

We ask my father how he met my mother. His story is like him, adorned with few words. He says that when he met my mother, she was suitably impressed with his house; he had a very nice house in Sapele. When he left Sapele for Lagos, my mother followed him there.

My mother protests and interrupts. She admits that although he had a fine house, she never ventured inside, did not even heed the catcalls of the boys in the area, who said, “Lady, notu you we dey call?”

We shush her gently and assure her that her turn will come. When it does, she counters his story. She says that on her way to school, my father and his friends would peep at her from their house. “I used to be very pretty,” she is matter-of-fact, “everybody struggled to talk to me, but I would just ignore them.”

When my father came to look for her, he was always well turned out in a suit and tie. Because she was afraid of her mother finding out, she met him at the corner and it was, “Hello, hello, by the window side.” A shy smile creeps at the corners of her mouth at this recollection. “But,” she says, “I did not give in for a moment.”

At this, my sisters and I laugh. We make jokes about standing at the corner. My mother laughs. My father laughs. It is a while before we collect ourselves to continue, lost as we are in our memories of teenage love and desire.

“I left for Lagos because I had a strong urge to succeed in life; Sapele was too small for my dreams. I did not leave because of your dad, but to find greener pastures,” my mother says.

“Okay,” my sister smiles knowingly and says, “he was your greener pastures.”

My father chuckles, “She pursued me to Lagos.”

My mother rolls her eyes in exasperation, “I said I went to find greener pastures!”

They bicker over the details of their romance, each wanting to come up tops, but it is playful, weighted by tenderness processed and matured over time. I do not point out that both their stories have holes they have not filled. Maybe they want to bring my sisters and me close enough and no further.

Young people often imagine, as I did, that the fires of romance in older people die out, their candles burnt and spent somewhere in their twenties. In my forties, I know this to be untrue. Watching my parents, I know that it will still be untrue in my sixties, seventies, and way beyond.

Love is a beautiful thing. 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/tic-tac-toe-love-heart-play-1777859/

 

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Forty is the New Forty

sign-speed limit

When you’re twenty, you listen to popular music. When you’re thirty, you discover different kinds of music. When you’re forty, you listen to the music you grew up with. – Galanty Miller

When a friend turned forty, she posted photos of herself of Facebook. She looked great, for her age— a euphemism for women with flabby Brazilian butts and men sporting four-and-a-half packs, which in our youth-obsessed culture, is a compliment women and men alike covet. The photo, which garnered many likes and complimentary comments was captioned, forty is the new twenty. Is it?

My twenties were a time of finishing school, getting my first job and navigating the workspace, getting married and raising a family, and defining and redefining who I was according to the roles I played. In retrospect, I was finding myself, although I did not then know it; did not know there were still plenty heartbreaks and joys to experience. In my twenties, mortality was far, invincibility near. This is as it should be, I think. Life is a series of experimentation, and my twenties was peak season.

Done right, the experimentation of the twenties lead to consolidation around the forties where finally one accepts that just because it is fashionable does not mean that it is right for me. Twenty is a marketer’s dream, the landscape fluid and accommodating undergirded by credit cards. Forty is like marrying a man who squeezes toothpaste from the middle of the tube. If his hands slip to the end, more often than not, they find their way back to the middle. He has come to know, there are no prizes for pressing the tube, only clean teeth.

I understand that when we say forty is the new twenty we mean that the person in question does not look forty. But what does forty look like? Old? What is old? Grey hair, wrinkled skin, poor sight, and an abbreviated gait? The fountain of youth begins in our minds not our bodies. Forty is confidence, and confidence is attractive. Forty is finding the balance you sought for in your thirties. For me, forty is peace brought on by my faith.

My twenties were great; I will not pass that road, littered with people pleasing and tangled apron strings, again. I do not want to. Older is not automatically wiser, but in my forties I see the link between the choices I made in my twenties and the fall out in the years since. Making the connection enables me make informed choices for the years ahead.

Experience is not the best teacher. It can be a good teacher, but an expensive one. If forty were to be the new twenty, then it should be twenty with experience and then the real twenty somethings can learn from the future, from those who have gone ahead of them.

The only thing I want from my twenties? My super fast metabolism, and that only on days I feel vain. The view from my forties is great. I hear it gets better in the fifties, until then, I am wearing my forties like a badge.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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Shifting Gears [3]

gear shift

Not The Comic Book Hero

As a young man, I had no understanding of stiffness after exercise. I had no idea of the pain that came with the arthritic joints of unsteady elderly folk.  This would never happen to me.

In the 1940s, I happily skinned my knees in South London streets devoid of motor cars. During the ‘50s, I was introduced to cricket and rugby, two sports I continued regularly to play until, aged forty-five, I moved to Newark on Trent and considered it a little late to join new clubs.

From thirty-five to forty-five, I undertook weight-training three times a week. Throughout my forties, I ran 25,000 miles on roads, including participating in eighteen marathons. Having covered nine miles to work with a knapsack on my back, I showered in my workplace, and then breakfasted in a nearby cafe. On the day I ran fifteen miles before completing a rugby training session, I felt smugly comfortable with the epithet ‘Superman’, bestowed somewhat facetiously, I’m sure, by a group of Social Work students.

I shrugged off sporting injuries, notably tying a broken finger to its neighbour with a bootlace before completing a match. That joint has never bent since, rendering picking up coins rather difficult.

As I entered my sixth decade, a recalcitrant calf muscle forced me to concede that my daily mileage would need to be walked, not run.

During a game of touch rugby at the end of Sam’s December 2007 stag day in the Margaret River wineries, a seventeen-stone friend of the prospective groom, forgetting the rules, tackled me to the ground. I leaped to my feet and tackled him back at the first opportunity. The father of the bride halted the game soon afterwards, saying that ‘someone’ would get hurt.

The best way to overcome the wall—the point in a marathon at which your body tells you that it cannot go on—is said to be to run through the pain until it subsides. When, towards the end of 2008, my left hip developed severe discomfort, I applied that belief. Sometimes I couldn’t sit down afterwards.

About three months after receiving a prosthetic joint in October 2009, I was back to an average of two hours a day of undulating perambulation.

When we began reclaiming our neglected garden in April last year, both Jackie and I spent about six hours a day throughout the summer engaged in heavy tree work, removing stumps, and shifting substantial rocks and concrete.

Abruptly, this March, I shuddered to a halt. My right knee was in such pain that when I visited the GP, I was offered a wheelchair, which I declined.  After some improvement, I can walk an occasional two miles and my gardening is somewhat restricted.  Were I to be tackled today, I would need helping to my feet.

Exercise is now required to reduce stiffness. It has happened to me.  I am not the comic book hero.

That is what I have learned in 2015.

© Derrick Knight, 2015.

Derrick blogs at derrickjknight.com

 

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Shifting Gears [2]

Don't complicate your mind.

 

Eileen’s writings, laced with humour, candour, and common sense, inspired me to examine how what is important to me has changed over the years.

In Gifts of Age, she notes, “On the outside I’m a short, plump, white-haired old lady on a walker. But inside me still live all my younger selves. Dwindling energies and a sense of time passing at warp speed, force me to re-evaluate my priorities. Where do I want to focus my limited resources? On image? On possessions? On my aches and limits? On pleasure as a temporary distraction? On a past that I cannot change? On a future that may never come?

It seems more important now, to focus on recognizing the footprints of God in my daily life, on celebrating God’s presence in the small and ordinary, even in the heartbreak, and to share that awareness however I can.

No matter what our age is; today is the only day we actually have.  We can seize it, rejoice in it, and dance in our hearts.”

She invites us to laugh with her as she shares how growing older has caused her to shift gears. Hear her:

At night, as soon as you get your pillow nest arranged to support aching backs and knees and burrow gratefully into it, doubt enters the room.  Did I lock the doors?  Did I turn off the stove?  Did I switch the wet wash to the dryer? Did I take my pills? Yes, I think I did all that tonight. No, that was last night. Oh hell, I better go check.

Then, because your bladder is your only body part that’s more active with age, there are at least three trips to the john every night. And since your early warning system is now deceased, these are made at warp speed, even on a walker. Panic is a great motivator. There should be an Olympic competition for this. You wake up tired and wonder why.

The disconcerting end to what seemed like a reasonably nice day is realizing that you have gone all over town smiling today without your upper dentures.

When you express worry about some of the disasters being experienced by others your age, your children encourage you to be thankful that’s not you.  And you mentally add the word, yet.

When everyone’s talking about diets, you’re thinking, Sure. Like I’m going to give up my last pleasure in life, so I can look good in my casket.

Read More …

If you enjoyed what you read, please tell Eileen so on her blog.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

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A Fading Glory

fading glory

Standards of beauty change from time to time and country to country, but when I was a young man, much younger than I am today, I was considered good-looking for my time and place.

I remember the heads of female employees turning as I walked the length of the office to my destination. On more than one occasion, women driving by whistled and catcalled as I walked on busy city streets. All these things I found very amusing and gratifying on some level.

Because I have been objectified—I have been on the receiving end of unwanted attention, been hit on by both men and women and made to feel very uncomfortable—I understand and sympathize with women when this happens to them. I’m not complaining, just explaining.

Growing up, I never considered myself good-looking; instead, I was self-conscious about my looks. As I grew older and had more success with girls and women, I began to gain confidence. This boost led to success in other areas in my life—man’s greatest adrenaline rush is a beautiful woman. Many doors opened for me because of my good looks. I have always attributed it all to good luck. It is a matter of good luck, I suppose, to be blessed with the beauty gene.

But beauty can be a double-edged sword. Plain women are jealous of beautiful women and don’t trust their men around them. In the same way, men often feel insecure in the presence of a good-looking man.

Recently, a younger man worked at the same dealership with me. Every time I saw him, I felt uncomfortable and didn’t really know why. He was extremely handsome and moved with grace, literally dancing around the dealership. I got jealous every time he attended to an attractive customer or even one of our young female associates. I knew it was foolish to feel this way, as if I was in competition with him, even though I am much older and in a fulfilling relationship. When he quit and moved to Miami, I was very happy to see him go.

There is a downside to beauty. To be consumed by it, to waste away like Narcissus from Greek Mythology, is a mistake. Beauty fades and as I age, I sometimes feel like the invisible man. However, the words of Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez are poignant, “Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” To reincarnate beauty, it must be tempered by grace, compassion, and love for others.

 

© Benn Bell 2015

Benn blogs at Ghost Dog
He wrote this piece as a rejoinder to my post, Beauty A First Class Ticket.

 

Photo credit: Pezibear/ http://pixabay.com/en/journal-leaves-brown-road-kahl-636462/

 

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Demystifying Age: So How Young are You?

Age

“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom.”       – Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez –

I once knew a boy from the village who did not know when he was born. Since he had never attended school, he resumed primary school when he moved to Port Harcourt. That he was bigger than his classmates did not inspire their respect or fear. They teased and provoked him until he abandoned school. I was in secondary school then.

The years rolled by and his voice deepened. The years rolled by and I completed my university education. I planned my life using age as milestone markers. I wonder now, how he planned his; where did his ruler start and how did he measure off millimetres and centimetres on the graph of his aspirations?

Age is just a number, maybe, but with it, we appraise where you are and where you should be. Your age cannot reveal your heart, bury your enthusiasm, or stop your dream unless you let it.

Conversations about age have dominated my circle recently. Five writers whose ages span from early twenties to mid-fifties have joined the conversation. One theme runs through the narratives: age matters, but you must define why for yourself.

When it comes to age, perhaps women have a lot more to say . . .

 

The Other “F” Word

Three years ago, I turned forty. I flipped out even though I knew that the negative ideas about women hitting middle age are misogynistic and wrong. At parties, any time the topic of age came up, I’d leave the room to get a drink so I wouldn’t have to cop to my age. After my ex-boyfriend told me that guys on Match dot com were writing me off because I had “40” in my age box, I thought about lying and saying I was “32” instead. I felt as if my age was my expiration date and I’d become a carton of spoiled milk.

Six months into forty, I realized I had a choice to make. I could keep chastising myself for getting older, or I could stop buying into the messed up ideas around aging that I’d internalized. Considering I’d spent most of my thirties waking up to who I really am and what I really want, I certainly didn’t want to fall asleep again under another sexist spell cast by the patriarchy.

At forty-one, I kicked my sugar habit and became the healthiest I’ve ever been. I started writing my first book. I stopped saying yes when I wanted to say no. I began listening to my instincts more and less to what other people think. I also stopped worrying about men who weren’t interested in me and started to pay attention to the men I found interesting. At forty-two, I met the person I want to grow old with. And even though I don’t look twenty-three anymore, or even thirty-three, I love the way I look today at forty-three.

So far, my forties are proving to be—to use another F-word—(pretty damn) fabulous!

Diahann Reyes @ storiesfromthebelly.com  Read full article

 

No Longer Just a Number

For as long as I can remember, age has always been just a number for me. I shared my age comfortably when I introduced myself, and I never hesitated to give out the real number when asked by those who seemed oblivious of or who disregarded the cardinal rule.

In the past two weeks, however, age has become the measure of my womanhood and the number of chimes ringing from my biological clock. After completing my undergraduate studies in Morocco, I hopped on a plane home. In typical Gambian fashion, I received hearty congratulatory messages and varying expressions of pride from family, friends, and acquaintances, swiftly followed by prayers for a good job, bigger accomplishments, and most importantly, a great husband.

It is the natural order of things here. An undergraduate degree is enough for the woman who had chosen to go beyond high school instead of settling down to start a family. They say, “Time is not on your side.” They say, “You might not be able to bring home a husband when you are ready, because all the men would have been taken.” To their prayers, I mumble, “Amen,” and return to weighing my job options.

I find myself drawn to institutions where I feel my youth will not devalue my qualifications and capabilities. I dress to look ‘older’ for meetings and interviews, so my teenage features will not influence my potential employers’ decisions.

Consequently, I have become more conscious of my age. Twenty-four is no longer just a number. It is a detail that one might only encounter on my résumé.

Jama @ linguerebi.wordpress.com

 

Open Secrets

So is your age a deep secret? Mine isn’t. I celebrated my birthday this year in a blog post, The Lightness of Becoming 55. Since then, I’ve come to realize the post was about embracing my mortality; at eighty-five, my father is dying of cancer. Still, it’s a strange feeling . . . fifty-five. I have a few grey strands that I just gave up plucking! Seriously, fifty-five means I have earned life experience that no one can take away from me.

But, second thoughts creep in: what if people at work discover my age on my blog? What if they start sabotaging me? The reality is that no one cares as much as I do and I would be worrying too much. Besides, over time, that blog post will fade into obscurity as newer posts emerge. As long as I keep exploring my world and I’m open to learning about others, each year of life becomes a gift.

If a much older woman is unwilling to disclose her age, it seems to me that she is afraid of her mortality. Hey, life happens and the years appear suddenly like a breadcrumb trail behind you! More Hollywood actresses are disclosing their ages. This is a good trend or is it just the paparazzi trying to sell news?

Fifty-five equals two high-five hands clapping in jubilation and spontaneity. I’m finding my place in life with my own hands and sharing it with others. To do this, I listen to the best positive timbre of my voice. As I age, that voice becomes more poignant but rich.

Jean @ cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com

 

None of Your Beeswax!

How old are you? When did the question become as invasive as a stranger asking, “What size is your bra?” I first heard that you don’t ask a lady her age, in Nigeria and then, I imbibed it. Yet in The Netherlands, the receptionist at the Gemeente asks, “Wat is uw geboortedatum?” with the clinical detachment of a gynaecologist examining my cervix, and I respond, no pomp, no pageantry.

One day, I looked at my neighbour’s BMW X5, and wondered what he earned. I did not ask him when he stopped for a chit-chat as he walked his dogs because it was none of my business. I calculated the value of his house, googled what a man in his position would earn, took into consideration that his wife is the daughter of a former diplomat, and that they owned a boat. I knew enough.

How old am I? I sing Davido’s Aye, with my twelve-year-old niece and tell friends in their twenties, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt thrice, and moved on!” I discuss my blog posts pre-publication with my buddy who is forty-five and debate the existence of God with a sixty-five-year-old atheist. I am as young or as old as I want to be.

But, when I try on those leather-look skinnies in Zara, and turn to the side, then look at my behind, I shake my head as the attendant asks, “Will you be taking this?” I am not as young as the clothes would like me to be.

So, how old am I? None of your beeswax!

Timi @ Livelytwist

 

Old at 18; Young at 90

I stare into the eyes of my beloved who is in his mid-thirties and wonder if he is in love with me or with the idea of my youth. I have the look of innocence or so I’ve been told. At the restaurant, a waiter asks for my ID to ensure she isn’t serving a minor drinks. I watch the confusion on her face; it surprises me every time. Gisting about celebrity gossip with my friends in their twenties tires me. Listening to the wisdom of my elders intrigues me.  I am an old soul in a young body.

Do we discover life and determine our futures when we are young? Maybe. Is age a barometer for our maturity level? No way! Is age a number that convinces our friends and us that we belong to their crowd? Well, yes. Does beauty have an inverse relationship with age? Yes. No. Maybe.

I consider age a means to tell the time as we journey in life, a clock that divides our stories into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Age is only a temporary number invented by human beings. You are as youthful as your mind allows or as old as the elder who gives you advice. I will gladly tell you my age if you just ask it of me.

“Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90. Time is a concept that humans created.” – Yoko Ono

Michelle @ www.facebook.com/ladieleblanc

 

Not Old Enough

Because I’d recently completed an Art Appreciation class, the church elders believed I had a sophisticated eye for colours and patterns and invited me to the building committee meeting.

“We want to redesign the church building,” the senior pastor started.

“Thank God for our youngest worker here,” quipped the deacon who sat next to the pastor. “We need your expertise,” she smiled at me.

“Since God is holy and white means pure, we shall paint the walls white,” the senior pastor said.

“I agree with you sir. God is also a man of war. We can paint the pillars red to illustrate His fearfulness,” another deacon suggested.

“Wow! The Holy Spirit is at work here. How about we paint the ceilings blue?” the man sitting across from me left his question suspended in the air.

I closed my eyes and thought of rainbows and striped candies.

“What if we outsource this project and have this discussion with a designer present?” I offered.

“Abimbola, what do you mean?” the senior pastor frowned at me.

“Your ideas are lacking in terms of design, responsiveness, color psychology, and so on. Since the logo determines how a brand is remembered, it has to be in harmony with—”

“Look here, how old do you think you are? Since you are privileged to sit in this meeting, you should act your age!” the deacon who had smiled at me hissed.

So I held my peace. The project was doomed, but I kept the knowledge to my young self.

Maggielola @ worshipandswag.com

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image credits:  www.fordesigner.com/maps/15533-0.htm

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.