By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
As I celebrate my 56th birthday, June 11, I give gratitude to God Almighty. I have so many reasons to be grateful. I am grateful for my beloved husband, my amazing son, my siblings, my wonderful mother who is enjoying the fruits of her labour, and my health. I am grateful for the nieces, nephews and other young people who I have brought up like my own children. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve people and support them in any way I can. I am grateful for the music I hear every day, the songs I get to sing and the dancing I am able to do. I am grateful for my friends, both former (for the memories of the good times) and current. I am grateful for the work of my hands, and that I have made use of the gifts I have been given. Has my life been perfect? Of course not. Have I ever felt afraid? Certainly. Have I ever failed? Yes, absolutely. Have I ever doubted myself? I have. Yet each time these things happen, I don’t dwell on what hell has been let loose in my life. I focus on the heaven I know I deserve. For each loss I suffer I have faith that I will gain four things in return.
Last week, a friend of mine wrote on Facebook, “Those of you calling on God to destroy your enemies, remember God is not an assassin.” I wrote on her page, “I never wish ‘my enemies’ death. What is the fun in that? How will they see me coming with my big gele and even bigger smile?” Perhaps it is the way I am wired. I am never paranoid about so-called enemies. I never worry about someone ‘jazzing’ me, calling me in my sleep or placing something on a bed or chair for me.
If I am offered food in public and I refuse, it is not because I am afraid someone will poison me. It is because I don’t want to smudge my carefully applied lipstick. Besides, it is at the exact moment that you put that nice piece of snail in your mouth that someone will walk up to you and start a conversation and you are forced to nod like an idiot because you don’t want the food in your mouth to show.
As a politically-engaged person, I know for a fact that some have taken names of me and my family members to strange places. It never ceases to amaze me that we are not concerned with keeping up with the rest of the world as new scientific and technological frontiers are discovered, but we have time to engage in such time-wasting ventures. When people rush to tell me these things I shrug my shoulders and say, “God is in control.” God has indeed been in control.
When I was younger, one of the common refrains in personal development literature, especially for women, was about “losing the baggage.”
Everyone carries baggage, you can’t go through life without it. However, the kind of baggage we carry can weigh us down and derail us from our destination. I am thankful that I do not have more baggage than I can afford to carry, and there are some bags I have simply just dropped along the way. Fear, negativity, self-doubt, regret, blame, bad energy, these are some examples of excess baggage that slows journeys down. In Toni Morrison’s words, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
I believe that my life’s journey has been about figuring out which bags to pack and which to drop, both literally and figuratively. I am fully aware that I enter into this day as a privileged person. Millions of women across the continent will start the day in suffering and pain. Many will be beaten and abused. Some might die trying to give birth. Mothers will stare at their children wondering how they are going to feed them. A good number will wake up on sick beds with little or no hope of getting better. I cannot apologise for my circumstances. What I can do is acknowledge it and use it in whatever positive ways I can. For every blessing I receive, I know I owe so much more to so many others.
There are so many people carrying bags of such misery, it is a miracle they can even get up in the morning. And there are those who have simply given up altogether and by their own hands they sadly foreclose the possibility of a new dawn.
A good number of my friends and peers have simply dropped all the bags they own and have made the ultimate transition, a move that awaits us all in the end, no matter how many bags we own, pack or drop. So, as I start a new year of my life, I promise myself (on my own terms) the following:
I will do more
Exercise more (Hopefully)
Eat more (Vegetables)
Eat less (Pounded yam and egusi)
And worry less about not being enough
I am enough
No more time or space for needless baggage. I have got places to go.
• Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a gender specialist, social entrepreneur and writer. She is the founder of Abovewhispers. com, an online community for women. She can be reached atBAF@abovewhispers.com