The Little One in the form of an Owl...(but don't tell her I said that!)

December 31, 2011

HOW Did the Chicken Cross the Road?...With Her Head Held High

          I am a warrior.  I deserve this; I deserve to lose my Purpose and regain my Self; I deserve to know myself again.  I don’t know how that can make sense and if I think on it too much the Voice of Fear disguising itself as the Voice of Reason, of my mother, of the world, will rise up in my mind and shout, “SHAME, SHAME, SHAME-You are NOTHING; you’ve achieved NOTHING; you deserve only ME (Fear) as your- Punishment (?) Reward (?) Penance (?)-until you get your SHIT together.” But right now-just now, I am not thinking, only feeling and writing. And YES, I feel I deserve this; I deserve to not think, to not be afraid, and to know myself again; my heart shouts “I deserve this!!...Who gives a FUCK WHY?!?!”

            …And so do You?

December 30, 2011

A Day of Reckoning (Part 3)

Looking at the past is a whole lot uglier than the movies would suggest.  The day after Christmas, my parents got into a heated argument on the inane topic of who would ride in what car when they went to visit relatives the following day.  The power was out; it was late, coming to 10 o’clock and the house was half-lit by the erratically placed solar panels.  They sat in the darkened living room carelessly raising their voices into the shadowed halls switching seamlessly from English to vernacular, as they tend to do when excited.  And the Little One and I both wandered in and out of rooms running from the voices, or the shadows, or both.  She had her Big-Hungry-Eyes on, and persistently chanted ‘Mukaka said she was going to make me matoke and groundnuts’ though it was I who was doing the peeling, and the determination of her finger sucking made it clear, she and I both knew the plan had been diverted.  And somewhere in the midst of my fury and-shall I say it??? Okay then-FEAR, from my memories slipped out my own silent story; now I will give it voice (But DON’T tell Vannesa!):

“Once upon a time…time, time, time”, I think to myself.  I am probably about 3 years old. If this did happen, and I’m not saying it did, I’m just saying I remember it, and it would be my first memory. It is in the middle of the night, we are all dressed for sleep, and my father is chasing my mother around a small neat living room with a 3 piece sofa set, t.v, coffee table, and white carpeting.  She is screaming and beautiful in a long silk nightdress.  I am scared and confused, but determined to act like nothing untoward is happening.  So I shout like a small, spoilt child “I NEED TO WEE-WEE!!” And they are running around this loveseat sofa like fucking Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd (I mean, how ridiculous can you be?!? But that thought had no voice at the time.) My mother shouts down at me, ‘JUST DO IT!’ So I lift up my white nightdress, squat down on the white rug and urinate as they continue to playing out this mad melodrama. And I think-I mean, I remember, feeling relieved, like ‘yes, of course, that was what was bothering me.’

  Cellular Memory- that was what the Snake Priestess called it. She told me that my hatred and revulsion of snakes was born of the memories of my ancestors that very literally existed in my cells.  She explained, ‘being from East Africa means you come from the home of some of the most poisonous snakes in the world. For your ancestors, the feeling of a snake slithering across their feet in the middle of the night, for example, would rightly be cause for great alarm. That instinct of fear still resides in your body, but now you have the chance to heal it, not just for you, but on their behalves as well.  By the second day I was making out with the damn thing. She touched a nerve, and it happened to be the right one. 

A Day of Reckoning (Part 2)

At my father’s house, which we have invaded with Christmas spirit, there are 3 dogs, two of whom we gave him when his older ones died.  Having just lost my two dogs from unexpected illness, it is hard to be around them; but for the most part they are reticent of us since they don’t see as too often.  There is only one who has insisted on befriending me; he finds me alone writing or lighting the charcoal grill to save gas, and cautiously and with great deference approaches me with wagging tail. He reminds me of Vannesa (but DON’T tell her I said that!). They are both so emotionally na├»ve and thus able to love with unabashed intuition; she and he, both have the ability and willingness to invoke restraint in their affection the minute they feel their “caretakers” demand it.  I think this is okay for a puppy, but it frightens me with Vannesa.
            If Vannesa isn’t telling one of her usual stories (Once upon a time…) she will indulge in a quick gossip session with the equally ritualistic words of “Can I tell you?”, often followed by the command: “But DON’T tell [so-and-so]!”.  This command is a habit I hope to break her of as I prove my trustworthiness, while teaching her the difference between stories and secrets (a difference I have faith in but have never thought to articulate).
            Yesterday, she gave me a mixed dose. What began as a story: “Once upon a time…”, “time, time, time”, I eagerly replied (I’m adoring the depth that this ritual gives these moments), also contained the distinction of secrecy: “But DON’T tell Mukaka!” (grandmother-my mother).  And then in her stunted, halting, lyrical tone-often stopping to correct her English she told me of a memory; this is the edited version:
            One day, when I was 5 or 6 years old, mummy was sick-but not sick like…like when she went to die, eh? She was sick with flu-okay, not flu, but also cough and when her legs were paining so she almost couldn’t walk.  So mummy told me to go and make porridge. And I was sooo happy; (in song) ‘I’m going to cook por-ridge, I’m going to cook por-ridge…’ And while I was cooking a man, who was NOT family (you know, mummy showed me ALL of our family, so that I know who we are).  So that man came into the house and mummy was shouting, so I came in and said ‘eh! Who do you think you are? You’re not my family, who are you?!?’ And he said, ‘MOVE!’ And mummy said, ‘SHUT UP!!’ And I laughed and laughed-I like that word, ‘shuttup’.  And mummy took me into another room and told me to abuse this man and tell him to go and that he was not welcome.  Then there were visitors arriving, my two uncles.  Mummy said, ‘you see this man, he is coming into our house even though he is not our family!’ And my uncles shouted at the man and started beating him. One uncle was even about to cut his legs, and I said, ‘Nooooo!’ Then I pushed him like this, out of the door and took his shoes and threw them.  Then mummy said to my uncles (in whispers) ‘thank you, he was about to kill me.’  And I tell you? The porridge got burnt and I had to make another one-hahaha.

            I feel guilty telling this story-someone else’s story-with such ease, when I cannot seem to find the words to tell my own.  Why is it so much easier to write of my life through my relationship with the Little One, as it happens right now, but I cannot find the language to write of my life as it happened 20 years ago; to write of things I swear I healed long ago? But I have insisted this post be used for weighing up; calculating the different stories; putting them in their rightful places; demanding they add up to something that makes sense. And this blog has insisted it is to be ruthless in its mission, ‘I must write it plainly and thoroughly-poetically or not’; there is a message I am seeking, there is a message I need to be found…

Was this story told to me before or after the shouting in the living room?

December 28, 2011

The Day of Reckoning (Part 1)

           I am a coward. I am a heartbroken, confused hermit who tries to revive my social side with periods of frenzied lovemaking to Kla just to desperately burrow further into myself afterward.  Lately I have to literally run away from Kampala, not from shame at the hedonistic activities I’ve participated in, but from fear at the overburdening, groundless, limbo of my life.  It’s all empty space where once there was a mission; even though I had to cut the path myself, scarring my body and heart in the process, at least I thought I was going somewhere, at least I knew which direction to take.

            “Never swiftly lift a constrictor snake from one cage to the other-you will have just put them through an eternity of chaos.”  A Snake Priestess once taught me that and on that day I finally came face to face with my Shadow Animal…and I saw the light. 

            I like the safety of moving purposefully. People think I am graceful; I only just recently revealed that “grace”, as some inherent personality trait, has nothing to do with it.  When I was an adolescent I developed a distinct fear of tripping, stumbling, falling in public places.  To tell the truth, looking back at my environmental circumstances I think I felt my dark skin was shaming enough and sought to reduce any other telltale signs that I should be judged inferior (but that’s for my therapist to figure out, no?) 

The result is I have perfected a technique by which with each step I place on the ground, I unnoticeably, but consciously and often painstakingly align each part of that side of my body to correct and adjust my balance before proceeding to the next step.  Over time this has expanded to not just walking but also how I lift something I’ve dropped on the ground, open my notebook and pick up my pen, lift my sunglasses to my head when walking into a building-all of my movements are done with the same meticulous adherence to balance and timing.  It is true that the habit begun with a fear of public scrutiny and it continues to be the case that when in place I feel…exposed I am more aware of it, but it was my mother who made me notice this when in the house one day folding clothes on the bed, half-dressed and unclean, she saw me reach across the bed to the floor to pick something up and in that time I was thoroughly unconscious of my actions; clearly my body has just acclimated to this state of being, this meticulous adherence to balance and timing.

I do the same with my life.  When moving from vision, to plan, to action, I still try to make each part of my decision mimic my physical movements- trying to stop in the midst of momentum so as to adjust and regain my balance even before anything…apparent has happened.  I tend towards taking tiny baby steps, even when I’m supposed to be swimming; the grace of this habit in movement is simply ironic in life, and that irony turns to tragedy when I lose my footing by a wave or a sudden moment of depth.

December 27, 2011

Once Upon a Time...Time, Time, Time.

          This is where I have to introduce myself- I think that’s been the hardest part of starting this whole thing.  As evidenced by my blog name passions which define me are diverse and inexplicably linked- in me.  And anyhow I don’t even know yet which version of me will emerge on this platform.  I suppose I just want to tell a story a two, no explicit catagorization, just some stories that I know-truth or fiction in this case, would be best left as a question of semantics.  Is what I believe the same as what I’ve experienced? And how exactly do I recognize what I know?  Ahhh yes, the truth of this quest is emerging; it is a quest for Truth itself, as is such for all the best people I know…

            8 year old Vanessa says, in Uganda you don’t simply begin a tale with “Once upon a time”, but it is a call and response. The storyteller begins “Once upon a time…” and the listeners respond in chorus “time, time, time”, only then can the story proceed.  It’s quite lyrical actually, especially in the angelic sound of an eight year olds disciplined and earnest chant. It also does wonders for evoking that archetypical image of indigenous ritual, where our ancestors would gather by the fire at night and sing songs to tell stories, and use those stories to pass on messages, messages of Truth.

            Everything about Vanessa is lyrical, not just her voice; her life in the 6 months I’ve known her is the stuff country songstresses dream of.  I am only learning of the 7 ½ years before, in small stories that always begin…but wait! I’m supposed to be introducing myself, hers can wait. And so:

                                    “Once upon a Time…time, time, time…”

            There was a young girl who believed herself a writer, but having comprehended little if anything of the context of her existence, her stories were borrowed fantasies that were high in drama, but went nowhere, and told nothing.  So she fell in line with the chorus and headed to academia. Choosing to embedded herself in the social sciences, she believed , “this is what I need; with this training I am bound to write something important”. She became inevitably disillusioned most assuredly by her own single minded and fantastical ambition.  She threw aside her pen and went back to her motherland- a country she’d never even been born in, but one she aspired to call home. With joy and rapture she proceeded to get her hands dirty, believing it was simply a misallocating of duty, and misuse of weapons, that had early thwarted her still fantastical ambition.  She decided to develop a product using all the rich agriculture bounty that was often neglected, wasted, and overlooked by her contrived countrymen.  This product was not just supposed to be an inspiration for the infinite ways the agribusiness could improve in Uganda, but was also supposed to demonstrate the potential success of a Synergistic, and thus Sustainable, business model: “I will do something important” she proclaimed.  And thus her juice beverage was born…then shelved.  This young girl, turned entrepreneurial woman, found herself to be nothing but a Little Red Hen: “who will make this juice with me?” she naively quipped again and again, and the story never went so far beyond the response “not I, not I, not I…” (though time and again this response was always coupled with the sincere declaration that the Little Red Hen would be very, very rich one day, feasting on such delicious bread).

            I find myself a woman with nothing much beyond the potential I had to begin with, my juice formulas, like all ideas left idle, will surely return to the Matrix from where they came.  But it is true I also have a few more stories than I did before, and this time they are very much embedded in the context of my existence.  And so I raise my pen both the weapon and shield of the Philosopher.  I write now, to remind myself that it was I who came with this Light I eagerly sought to share; the light has dimmed now, but I can find it again; I have a secret compass.

            The trick is to get it all out in words-to get the stories written plainly-poetically or not-and thoroughly.  Because all of that, all of those stories are simply what happened, but in between- if I write it right- in between I may find the meaning-the message still reverberating from the ancestral fire circle and I will know something important.

            So I begin “Once upon a time…”, and hope that there is an answer back, “time, time, time” so that I may proceed with this song of Truth.