The Lightness of Being 55 by Jean Chong and Cycle Write Blog

Jean and I hit it off when we bantered in the comment section of my post, On Getting Older. Responding to my reluctance to tell my age, she said, “Well, one day you’ll feel great to reveal your age. Seriously, it is earning life experience that no one can take away from you.” I dunno, I’m still a Naija girl and we hide our age in a room locked with steel chains.

Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” To me, Jean echoes this sentiment in her post. While I’m not racing into my fifties, I’m not dragging my feet either. I want to enter my later years having established healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices as Jean has done. I hope she’ll inspire you to be “light” at fifty-five and beyond. Hear her:

The Lightness of Becoming 55

It’s a special age of symmetry for anyone:  it’s 2 open hands that are smacking double high “fives” with hands of other birthday well-wishers.

55 means I’ll just hopefully go for a bike ride  around my birthday. No, it won’t be a 55 km. ride since my birthday falls on a winter work day this month.  Our evenings are still dark early and there may be icy pavements. We’ve had several winter days that have plunged below -31 degrees C. with a howling snowstorm.

Still, it’s a strange feeling …55. Continue here

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Grief: When Words are not Enough

grief

I am a strong woman and I let my tears fall as often as they like. However, when I pull up in front of his house, I repair my eye make-up and then smile twice to drive sadness away. Tears are not welcome here, I remind myself as I get out of the car.

I let myself in and grief meets me in the hallway. The post lies in a scattered pile on the doormat. Blue envelopes, white envelopes, shiny envelopes, and magazines and periodicals, he does not read. I sort them in three groups: the urgent I place on the console table, the trivial I put in the drawer underneath, where he keeps his car keys, and the rest, the magazines, periodicals, and shiny envelopes, I dump in the dustbin, in the kitchen.

Here, grief is loud coaxing me to chide. I clear dirty plates, a half-empty sardine tin, and stale bread in the semi-darkness.

In the living room, the curtains say no to the sun. The light from ESPN’s classic football on TV illuminates his form. Grief is quiet inviting me to converse. Grief is still but I am not one to fill the silence as if I am a child colouring with impatient hands that cannot stay within the lines. It has been two days since he heard the news.

When pain overwhelmed my reasoning, my sister sat beside me, squeezed my shoulders, and remained quiet. When disappointment visited me on a Monday morning, my cousin sat beside me, a box of tissues separating us. She hunched her shoulders in sync with mine, let me cry, and kept quiet. When I exhaled the last bit of hope in my heart, a friend sat beside me, numb we stared at CNN, and then he kept silent vigil as I channel surfed.

So, I sit on the settee, careful to maintain distance. I sit until my nose attunes to the smell of day-old perspiration and until I can breathe in the stuffy air circulating in the room. Grief is hypnotic calling me to sleep. I sit until I awake. His head lies heavy on my lap. My skirt is damp and the soft sounds are not from the TV. They are from a man beaten by life, his hopes shred by the finality of death.

“My father, my father, oh my father.”

Grief feels like roulette. Sometimes touch is enough. Sometimes presence is enough. I know he knows that if we pull open the curtains, sunlight will burst through and in the night, the moon will give us light. But right now, words are unnecessary. This is the first time I have observed a man cry.

I have only ever seen two men cry. The first time must have lasted less than five minutes. Ten years passed before I saw another man cry. Perhaps it is because this occurrence is rare that each time I glimpsed a man’s vulnerability, I loved him more.

If we show our weakness, we may lose the ground we have secured and the advantages it conferred, but if we don’t show that we are weak sometimes, we may lose much more. We may lose the opportunity for others to love us for our humanity.

I wonder, at what age does a boy “man up” and decide to stop crying?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Grow Up Mikey

boy amateur boxer by Lisa Runnels

The walls have remained the same—off-white walls with the imprint of dirty fingers near the doors. It is five long years since I was in my parent’s home. I mull over my last conversation with you. Sitting across from me at the restaurant, the table shook when you banged it, rattling our glasses, your rage exposing your fragile heart. I did not speak then, but I will speak now. Mikey, this is my story and it could be yours too.

My parents are not responsible for all the problems in my life. Ha! It is true that in a moment of anger, my mum flung her high-heeled peep-toes at me. But for crying out loud, I ducked with the agility of a teenage athlete, and enjoyed the small victory of seeing for a second, the remorse on her face when her shoe hit the wall and rebounded with the broken heel coming in second place. She has paid enough, and the statute of limitations has run its course.

And what if my dad never said, “I love you,” and never attended any prize-giving ceremony where I stood on the podium looking and hoping, from primary school through secondary school and up till my graduation from university? So, he didn’t know how good I was at Scrabble and how deftly I could steal two-hundred-pound notes while playing Monopoly?

For goodness sake, he put a roof over our heads, we ate until our little stomachs protruded like a ball, and our summer dresses, which caught the wind and ballooned when we twirled, had pink flower petals and yellow butterfly patterns. He spelled L.O.V.E. in a different way, and I refuse to let my juvenile fantasies of challenging his authority in a boxing ring follow me into my twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties.

So your parents expressed their frustration at your (“un”)reasonableness by acting as though you would not amount to much, swearing with their nostrils flared and their breath coming in gasps. Did they not spend time correcting you so you would amount to much, and when they realised that a life sentence in jail for killing you was not worth the trouble, hired the services of a private tutor? Let it go. Grow up and stop holding a grudge.

Do not tell a shrink the stories that you should reserve for your grandchildren and write the shrink a fat cheque afterwards as if you had twenty-five hours in your day and as if you do not have bills to pay.

Dad and mum, you are officially off the hook. My mistakes are my own, born of foolish choices. The things you forgot to warn me about, I could have found out. All those times when we sat (you on the red armchair and I on the cream sofa), and I wondered who taught you to lecture, pretending to listen, so you could congratulate yourself for passing on great wisdom, I should have paid attention to the pain in your voice brought on by the memory of bitter experience. I could have asked and you would have told me more, so much more.

My mistakes are my own. Despite all you did to set me up for a good life, I chose the life that brought me pain, that brought you pain, that brought us pain. I do not blame you and you should not blame you. We have life, we have hope, we have faith, and we have love. You could not buy the sun even if the central bank printed more notes.

Enough already! Everybody stop crying; say, “Cheese,” and face the camera!

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: ©Lisa Runnels/www.pixabay.com (used with permission)

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A Day in Tolerance

a day in tolerance

It is a sunny Friday; half the working population of The Netherlands has the day off. I board the train with ease. Potential Bestfriend is in the cabin. We nod and smile at each other. We ride the same train every morning. We have come a long way, from eye contact, to nods, and now toothed smiles.

The seats are arranged in clusters of four, two sets of seats facing each other. I choose a cluster diagonally opposite from Potential Bestfriend. I sit by the window so I can look at life along the way, and then I create an island. I toss my coat on the seats opposite me and drop my bag on the seat beside me. I litter my island with my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books. Sometime on this journey, each will receive my attention.

More people enter the cabin.

Mevrouw?” The man looks at my bag and then me, a universal sign language.

I scan the cabin. There are other seats available, I tell him with my eyes. He waits. I make a big production of putting my iPad, BlackBerry, earphones, and two books in my bag. I flash him an apologetic smile that means, the two seats opposite me are empty, can’t you sit there?  He meets my smile with his—if you want your personal space, go buy your own train.

I keep my cool. These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The ride from Den Haag to Leiden is twelve minutes. Regular Joe fusses and fumbles, and twists and bends to make himself and his enormous rucksack comfortable. His shoulder grazes mine. His elbow jabs me and His hips brush against mine.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

He moves his enormous rucksack several times in an attempt to balance it. Heaven alone knows what’s in it. The rough edge bumps my leg and tugs at my pantyhose. I shift my leg. I open my mouth and then close it.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

“Station Leiden,” the announcement comes through the loudspeakers.

The cabin fills up. Young Generation approaches my cluster. He looks at me and I nod. He folds my coat before he takes the window seat directly opposite me. He isolates himself from the world with his Beats by Dr Dre headphones.

Regular Joe digs around in his enormous rucksack. Like a magician on stage, voilà, he produces a banana. He eats it while my empty stomach convulses. The Conjuror aka Regular Joe dips his hands in his rucksack again. Out comes a boiled egg. He cracks the eggshell against the armrest and peels it. He leans over me, brushing against me, to reach the small dustbin under the window. I get ready to push him to outer space, but stop.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

The combination of boiled egg and banana is too much for me. A fart escapes before I can hold it in and release it slowly so it will not smell. Regular Joe sniffs like an Alsatian guard dog and wrinkles his nose. I look at Young Generation and speak his language. I roll my eyes the way my son rolled his eyes at the Converse shop after he picked a red pair of All Stars and I suggested a neutral black. Young generation winks at me, and smiles knowingly at Regular Joe. Oh yes, this fart will not be attributed to me.

A belch, a wipe of his mouth with the back of his hands, and then the Conjuror dips his hands in his enormous rucksack yet again. Voilà, strawberry yogurt! He twists the cap open and sucks. It is an angry sound, payback sound. He kicks my left foot. His apology is unconvincing. The last time I slapped someone, my hand hurt for days. I am ready to take another chance.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Dames en heren, over enkele minuten: station Amsterdam-Schiphol.”

I sigh in relief. With a rucksack as big as Texas, Regular Joe must be heading for Outer Mongolia. But, he does not get off the train; rather he takes advantage of the empty seat in front of him and stretches his leg. Hands clasped on stomach, he dozes and snores softly.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

We approach Amsterdam Zuid, a busy commercial hub. Most travellers exit here. Does Regular Joe have a job? Maybe at a smoothie factory—think banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt. Before I finish debating whether to wake him up, he opens his eyes, looks at the display monitor, and turns to his left side, brushing my hips, again.

These are the people that the preacher talked about, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek.

Young Generation waves goodbye.

The cabin is almost empty. In seven minutes, we will arrive at Duivendrecht. Flinging my bag on my shoulder, I consider kicking the rucksack, since Regular Joe is drooling in his sleep. I do not. Instead, I attempt to cross the Himalayas mountain range.

By an act of divine intervention, I find myself on the aisle. Potential Bestfriend smiles as we make our way to the doors. At Duivendrecht, she takes the escalator to the metro stop, while I take the steps to platform eight.

I reflect on the forty-two minute train ride. The selfishness of Regular Joe—how dare he sit next to me and what about the human heads buried in his enormous rucksack? The banana, boiled egg, and strawberry yogurt combo he designed to provoke a fart and embarrass me. His dozing drool, his irritating snore, and his constant attempt to tap current, the nincompoop, he stretched my tolerance level, but I prevailed.

As I congratulate myself, I see a hungry and tired young man who boarded a train seeking food, rest, and relief. I realize with horror, I am the person that the preacher talked about. Quick, turn the other cheek; turn the other cheek!

So, what’s your tolerance meter reading these days? Share, I promise not to judge…

photo

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

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.

Image credits: all people illustrations, animes, avatars, vectors by Microsoft

Background: lovely pink and gray card design by VisionMates in backgrounds/wallpaper http://www.vecteezy.com/backgrounds-wallpaper/47521-lovely-pink-and-gray-card-design

design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

On Getting Older

I am getting older and I do not mind. I have embraced my age. I do not want to be a tottering teenager again, watching my father scrutinize my list of provisions and wondering what his response “okay, I’ve seen it,” means.

I am pragmatic. A few years ago, I folded my wedding gown and put it in my bottom box. It seems like a small thing now, but it was not at the time. My dream of slimming down enough to wear my wedding dress after life and children, died that day—I embraced the truth about getting older and weight. I have a sister who can probably still fit into her wedding dress; she distorts my theory. Are we not sisters, from the same mother, no less? Why did she have to have all the slim genes? I digress; this is about getting older! All my highs and lows have made me the woman I am and am becoming. Yes, I embrace my age. It is the greying that I have not fully understood.

When a few years ago I asked my hairdresser for a shampoo to tackle the dandruff that caused the persistent itching in the middle of my hair, she told me that dandruff was not the culprit. “You have so much grey hair there; that’s what causes the itching.” Information overload (amebo); who asked her?

Nevertheless, when I got home, I parted my crown of glory in the middle. And there, standing tall like irokos, streaks of lightning amid my black sky. I pulled a handful, twirling them around my fingers. When and how did they get there? Thankfully, they did not march forward from their hideaway; however, their strategy to gain new territory caught me unawares. Stealthy warriors, overnight, they appeared at the hairline around my temples. Aha, my hairdresser styled my hair with side parting and we won that war. The last time I was in the salon, we struggled to decide which “side” to part the hair. “We will soon have to resort to centre-parting,” she said after grave contemplation.

When the first few grey strands appeared on my eyebrows, my tweezers came to the rescue. And so it was that I was plucking a strand or two from my eyebrows the Saturday before Easter, when I saw it. Grey hair had sprung up in places I did not know they would or could grow—in crevices that my mother did not tell me about! But this? Haba! How far? A grey eyelash? You’ve got to be kidding!

I moved my mirror to catch the natural light from the sun. There it was—not ashamed of standing out in the row of black and as long as its fellow lashes. Is this what it means to get older? Accepting with equanimity the things you can’t control? I went to the shops to find a solution.  I smiled when I saw jet-black mascara. Who knew that black had different shades? I am older, and I will change the things I can, one grey eyelash at a time!

shades of black

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

images ©Timi Yeseibo 2013; photography: Sam Bird & Timi Yeseibo

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.

The Body Magic

BM getty images1

I mounted the scale and fought depression when I read the display. I had not eaten all day, how could I have gained a kilo instead of losing one? I looked at my body in the full-length mirror. I love me, I thought as I sucked in my stomach and lifted my chest. I love me not. I sighed as I exhaled and let everything hang loose. I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember; perhaps it is because I am judging my body by the unrealistic pictures in the magazines.

At university, I used to wear a pair of shorts underneath my clothes, to create the illusion of wider hips and a backside worth looking at. My roommates would often threaten to hide them as payback for something I had or had not done. The threat ensured compliance because I could not afford to be seen without my backside. How things have changed. I have not only been freed from the incessant torture of washing those shorts every night in preparation for the next day, but also from the square foam pads I slipped underneath my bra straps before I wore any top including my t-shirts.

Aha, now that I am close to the big four-zero, it is as if my metabolism has ground to a halt. Even a cup of water adds a half kilo to my weight! How did I get here?

Last Christmas, I decided to make up for all the Naija Christmases I missed while living abroad. I stuffed myself as if jollof rice was going out of style. I watched my weight rising on the scale but was confident that by the end of January, I would be back to my old self after a strict exercise and diet regime.

But nothing could shift the bulge I had acquired on my stomach, backside, and hips—I ran on the treadmill, I lifted weights, I speed walked, I started eating twice a day. The fat just raised one eyebrow, barely opened an eyelid, and then went back to sleep! I began a series of non-religious fasts. After the first few times, my body betrayed me. I ran into the kitchen and ate everything in sight, all this before 11 a.m. on an appointed fast day.

It was at this critical point that I heard about the Body Magic—lose two to three dress sizes in ten minutes. Hmmm, and Michelle Obama is my mother’s younger sister! But I was desperate; my clothes were shrinking, so I requested one from my friend. Let’s call her B.

She arrived at my house with her bag of magic. I could not wait to shrink like Alice in Wonderland. After measuring, she determined my size and selected a garment from her bag. It looked too small. B laughed and assured me that it would fit with some help.

I turned the garment upside down and put in my legs then the struggle commenced. We pulled and dragged and pulled and dragged. As the garment inched higher up on my body, my flesh trembled and wobbled as though experiencing a minor earthquake. Then it flapped like a small flag in a gentle breeze. B instructed me to do a curious dance—stand on one tiptoe and then the other in quick succession to redistribute the fat allowing the garment to slide further upwards. I warily complied.

By now, I was sweating as if I was a Christmas goat being led to the slaughter even though two 1.5 HP air conditioners were on full blast. My sweat glands went into overdrive because I was sure that despite the deodorant I used, I reeked of perspiration. Embarrassed, I mumbled a self-conscious apology to B. Sweat, what sweat? B claimed she smelt nothing. I suppose this was a small price to pay in her line of business.

It was over ten minutes and we had not been able to squeeze past my hips and backside. Accomplishing that feat would be akin to reaching the peak of Mt. Everest. I needed a break. From the corner of my eye, I saw B flop into an armchair and massage her wrists. Who said making money was easy.

We resumed a short while later. Pull, drag up, tuck in, dance, and pull again. B continued to help and encourage me.

“Come on, almost there! There you go, good! Now move your body to redistribute the fat. Yes, yes, yes, one, two, three, go…pullllllll!”

At last, we crossed the final frontier. The stubborn mass of fat that had defied every diet and exercise routine known to me bowed to the power of Body Magic.
The most difficult part was over. I pulled the top with ease and slipped my arms through the straps. To hook the clips, B had me lie down. She yanked the left side then the right while instructing me to suck in my stomach, “Suck in some more, alright, that’s better.”

Hook, hook, hook, deftly she clasped the hooks. Putting on the Body Magic involved more skills than I had first thought, a coach and trainee relationship was evolving.

When she finished, I stood and felt as tight as a wound up doll. However, my posture was immediately improved because I was forced to stand straight. I had an hourglass figure with a lifted derriere. I quickly donned on my tight Ankara skirt. It glided past my hips. The most noticeable improvement was my stomach. However, I had not dropped two to three dress sizes.

What was I expecting? Magic? Yes! Wasn’t that why they called it the Body Magic? B read the disappointment on my face and started explaining, but all I could think about was an elephant trying to squeeze into a corset meant for a hippo. I lay down like a zombie and sucked in my stomach while B unhooked me. The rest was easy. As I pulled off the Body Magic, my fatty portions popped free with pops of relief.

These days I am back to the good old-fashioned way—a consistent exercise programme, a healthy diet with lots of water, and no yo-yo dieting. I climbed the scales today—I love me, I love me not. Scenes from the Body Magic ordeal crawled across my mind and I laughed. What won’t I attempt to acquire the perfect figure? On second thoughts, I love me— bulging stomach, fatty hips, rounded buttocks, and all! I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: ©Cornstock Images/Getty Images

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