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

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cup-book-breakfast-read-plan-2123710/

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.

Advertisements

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.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/child-beautiful-model-little-cute-920131/
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.

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

Photo Credit: https://web.facebook.com/bizzarreart/photos/a.262015740857231.1073741828.262003347525137/439234606468676/?type=3&theater

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 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

 

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.

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/

 

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.

 

Much Ado About Something

lagos-airport-night

The man seating across the aisle from me is what Nigerians call Kora, which loosely means that he hails from somewhere in the Middle East—Lebanon, Syria, Israel.

“Excuse me, excuse me,” he calls to the flight attendant. “Can I use the toilet over there?”

He gestures to the business class section, which will be cordoned off with curtains after the airplane takes off and reaches cruising altitude.

The flight attendant says, “There is a toilet over there,” and points down the aisle.

The man and I are seating on adjacent sides of row 11, immediately behind the curtains that define our class; those seats with a little more leg room and no trays.

“But that means I have to go to the back.”

He speaks with a Nigerian Pidgin accent. I place him as Lebanese. Many Lebanese families have been in Nigeria for generations.

The flight attendant is quiet, his expression stoic like a doctor.

“What’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?” the Lebanese man turns his hands so his palms facing upward, are asking the questions too.

“It’s for the business class passengers sir.”

My view is limited, but the business class section looks empty and passengers have stopped entering the airplane.

“Yes, but what’s the difference? Is it not the same toilet?”

“Sir, you can use the toilet at the back.”

“That means I have to walk all the way to the back. This one is closer.”

The Lebanese man places emphasis on the word all, in a way that reminds me of how petulant teenagers roll their eyes. I peg him at between 47 and 52 years old. His stomach strains against the buttons of his white shirt and his hair is mostly grey with silver highlights.

He looks at me, maybe because I have been following the conversation, but I look away. Although I am fully Nigerian, I have no desire to moderate the debate.

The flight attendant adjusts a bag in the overhead luggage compartment. It seems like a passive way to deal with a belligerent child.

“The toilets in the back are cleaner than those in business class, sef,” the man tacks this sentence to the conversation, like an insult.

It should provoke a reaction, but it does not. The overhead luggage compartments demand so much of the flight attendant’s attention.

He continues, “I have been waiting since 9 in the morning for my flight. You people are just useless.”

My 13:30 flight was also grounded. All Lagos-bound passengers finally boarded this 18:30 flight. I commiserate with him.

Communication is like dance and grouse takes many forms. If a man asks a woman, what’s wrong, and she answers, “Nothing,” he knows that something is wrong. The toilet, business class or economy, is not the problem here.

“I’m very sorry about that sir.” The flight attendant’s voice has a professional inflection, sympathetic but detached.

“Sorry, sorry. Take your sorry. I don’t need it!”

Minutes later the flight attendant demonstrates the safety instructions coming from the airplane’s public address system. Twenty minutes into the flight, the man ambles down the aisle, all the way to the back, to the toilet. The flight attendant serves refreshments. The man gists with his travelling companions in Lebanese.

I am still rolling their conversation over in my mind, intrigued by it because of something I once read: two monologues do not make a dialogue.

What if the man had started out by stating his displeasure over the delayed flight and the inconvenience it caused, explaining his tiredness because of waiting all day in the airport, before requesting to breach protocol, would the outcome have been different? 

But in Nigeria, to be polite is to be weak and to be aggressive is to be right.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo credit: Photo credit: artforeye via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

 

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.

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/

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.