an ode to violence? (yes, really)

courtesy: healthyplace.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

violence begets violence

i am haunted…by violence

i see it everywhere, i mean everywhere

in movies, news, the papers…obviously

in language, in mentalk, in football…possibly

violence is so so normal

it is so so masculine

its synonyms are with us

every effing, no, every violent day

 

intensity, severity, strength, force,

great force, vehemence, powerfulness,

power, potency, ferocity, forcefulness,

wildness, frenziedness, fury, storminess,

tempestuousness, turbulence; lack of control,

lack of restraint, passionateness; fervency, ardency

 

honestly, sadly, and unfortunately

violence sounds so so sexy

makes me just want to…

have mad mad passionate, ferocious  sex in the rain

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pain is an act of love 

pinching, pushing, punching, slapping

threatened with beatings for bad behavior

threatened with further beatings for not answering questions

threatened with more beating for talking back

for keeping quiet, for speaking up

 

beaten for causing embarrassment to the family

beaten to get rid of the resulting shame

beaten for disrespecting the elders

beaten for fighting, failing, foiling,

beaten because it hurts them, too

 

beaten for not doing the right thing,

beaten for delay in doing the right thing the first time

beaten because you must have done the wrong thing

beaten because you are a man

beaten because boys don’t beat girls

 

beaten because sparing the rod

is disobeying the good lord

growing up and straying

a sinful parent it’s portraying

beating, you learn, is the ultimate act of love

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the language of initiation

it will hurt some

the pain is necessary

a man must learn to withstand pain

and then spend the rest of his life running away from it

 

it will hurt some

the pain is necessary

the plan is to go through it now

and learn why later

 

it will hurt some

the pain is necessary

to understand that nothing in life

comes easy

 

they brought presents

money and food

and i learned that pain is a party

for them, not you

 

it will hurt some

the pain is necessary

the point got lost

when i tried to inflict it

rather than endure it

 

it hurt a whole lot

and to this day

three decades on

it is still baffling

why the dance with pain

leaves more marks beyond the question marks

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adolescence – romancing  with pain

adolescence is god’s act of violence on man

suddenly, what was normal is not any more

not my mother, not my sisters, not girls, not boys

 

not my body

oh no, certainly not my body

and then… they call it growing up

the acne, the crazy dreams at night and the messy sheets in the morning

that i was told was a sin

the weird emotions when with others and when i was alone

 

and i was told that this was all normal

that this was ok and that i was becoming a man

i dreaded the thought and more so the alternatives

castration, suicide, or going far far away

 

then booze showed up

a welcoming froth

warmed my gut, my heart, my soul

and most of all my mind

 

if ever there was the ultimate experience of

peace, love, unity,

bliss, freedom, happiness,

release, rest, love

where violence was absent…

…it was when i got high

 

and…

if only i could stay high forever

would there be peace on earth

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dancing with the punches

his fists taught me to dance

to skip the parts that were out of tune

to tread carefully as on a fragile ego

so that the jig would be just right

 

he painted the house red

when his fiery insecurities waltzed

with my innocent sensibilities

and did we create hit music

 

he played my heart

with his fists

and i learned, too

to do cover songs

on others hearts,

minds and bodies

 

once i used words of a hit song

and she said

she preferred drum music to rap

waxing lyrical moved to fisting to the beat

 

with his fists and my rhyme

the rhythm created a disordered

orchestra of pain, of agony,

of fear, of the unspoken

a complex dance with the fists

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once and for all

my sister says once you hit once

you will again and again

do you promise to never hit me

no matter what?

 

your sister is right

your sister is wrong

 

i will not promise to never hit you

simply because

i cannot promise to never hit you

 

so what do i do when

i feel unsafe

threatened

afraid?

 

run

to your sister

to your god

just run

 

what does that say about us?

i need guarantees

i need to trust

that i can feel safe with you

that you won’t hurt me

 

i need that if i am to be with you

otherwise we have a problem

a huge problem

 

baby, the way i see it

the one with the problem

is the one with unmeetable needs

not the one with ungiveable promises

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son, i’m sorry i hit you…again

he came to me as a refuge

in me he found confusion

and a slap and a punch

for never doing the right thing

 

all because

 

he wouldn’t do his homework,

or the dishes

i told him this was about life

as his face met my open palm

 

i lied

 

it was about me

and my pain

and my fear

and my anger

 

i am sorry

i hurt you

i hurt us

 

and now

 

i don’t know what’s worse

being an absent indifferent father

or a present violent one

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what i am really really afraid of 

if you love, trust and respect me

before i have earned it

i will think you are mad

or drunk on something cheap

 

if you demand that i earn it first

i will insist your standards are too high

then i’ll go hate on myself

poor me, poor me

 

they say be yourself

we’ll love you as you are

and i chuckle

and whisper to myself

 

because i know very well

that i belong in the sewer

because that’s where shit belongs

and i can’t stand the smell

 

but more than that i can’t stand

the unspoken, the silence

that the smell brings

especially that loving you

is more painful

than remaining lonely

 

if love is pain

is that love really?

 

your love cleanses the stench

your trust provides the confidence

your respect, oh, your respect

births a desire to glow and grow up

 

and suddenly, i am no longer afraid

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grace is real 

therapy

or prison and therapy

are the only options available

for violent perps

she told me

 

i had done the work

of therapy, of cleansing

of healing, of forgiveness

of letting go

i told her

 

i was a pre-convict

and because of grace

and loads of self-work

i avoided the story

of an ex-convict

 

and yet i stand here

and sit among you

a free man

living a day at a time

without having to look over my shoulders

or you having to watch your back

 

yet

though i make a vow i cannot keep

i still do not give promises with guarantees

 

grace is real

it keeps the past in the past

and the present presents as a gift

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violence is…

 

violence is borne of a lack of self-acceptance

violence is a lack of acceptance of another, of me

violence is lying in a ditch and feeling sorry  for the world

and then dragging them to your level

and beating them with experience

 

violence is low self-esteem in need of company

violence is causing pain because you are in pain

violence tells you the world is messed

and it’s your job to beat it into shape

 

violence keeps the cops busy

and the priests, and the counselors

and the chemists and the doctors

because peace on earth may just wipe out

a whole load of jobs

 

violence can be physical, emotional, verbal, psychological

or spiritual

sometimes it is abnormal in a normal world

but often it is normal in an abnormal world

 

violence strips you off layers of self-respect

self-love and self-worth

in your quest to restore, to replace

then you only strip others of their humanity

when a simple look in the mirror would’ve sufficed

 

violence breeds violence

people resort to solving issues through violence

as victims and perpetrators

why can’t she leave? how does she put up with it?

i am sorry, please forgive me. i know i said the same thing last time

 

violence is addictive, it’s contagious, it’s progressive

yet, yet, yet, violence is avoidable, needless and treatable.

                                                                                                                                   

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For Men Only – Poems on Masculinity

Mwanaume ni Confusion

It’s not easy being a guy in this day and age

On social media, mainstream media, githeri media

Name it

On social media, #MenAreTrash

On mainstream media, #MenAreViolent

On Githeri Media, #MenAreRapists

Mwanaume ni Confusion

 

I go to church and I hear

Man up and Man Enough

And what I see

Man is up there on a sister (not his)

and topping the food chain

Never having or being enough

Father is only title shared by God

Why are many, then

Fatherless, Godless

Mwanaume ni Confusion

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Toxic Masculinity

Men bashing is a thing

We accept to be bashed

We are called right

We refuse to get bashed

They say see we told you

 

Man Trashing is a thing

You defend trash

You’re reminded

Your place is the bin

 

The good thing though

About a trashy place

Is that it can be cleaned up

And healed and restored

 

This masculinity can be detoxified

Cleansed, healed and made whole again

Masculinity can then be a thing

Of pride, privilege, power

Most of all, of love

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 Mr President

The commander in chief

Extremely wealthy and privileged

Tuko pamoja

Until I get home

And I get it

I am on my own

 

The people’s president

He has fought the good fight

We will write

And gotten everything

A handshake except the prize

 

The other president

Who tweets for man-y

A warrior in a hostile jungle

Yet

Yet

Yet

Where he dares we will not

He is a lonely one

 

Remind me again

Why being president

Is a good thing

Urais si raisi

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Fatherhood

Wisely

Patiently

Violently

Angrily

 

Those are the words he used to describe his father’s authority style

He is wounded before he starts on his journey proper

Fathers cause wounds to their sons

But the greatest of these

Is silence

 

Until he gets his son or punching bag

I fear for both

Because wounded souls wound humanity

Hurting people hurt others

 

Is there no hope for our sons?

Silence needs speaking up

Authority needs honor

Even in the presence of pain

Of shame and despair

 

Sons of fathers and Fathers of sons

Need a reawakening

A new consciousness

Oh dear, is there an app for this?

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God the Father

This God is quite baffling

They say I am created in his image

Yet the image I see is

Jealous. Insecure. Angry. Punisher.

 

Then God the Son

Heals many

Feeds many

Sweats blood

Crucified at 33

And joins that Father

 

God the Holy Spirit

Great guy

But he is still a courier

I am told

For God the father

 

Why then is it difficult to see the love

through the violence, vengeance and vanity

the secret pain of grief

Just over a decade ago I attended the funeral of a man I had worked with on a teen talk show in the mid-90s. I remembered JJ, a cameraman, as a reasonable man and reading about his death in Zambia where the boat he was in, capsized in the Zambezi River, greatly saddened me. My fond memories of JJ and not much else drove me to that funeral at NPC Valley Road. Listening to the tributes about the man, made my heart flutter with sorrow and I couldn’t help but wonder about the uncertainty and seeming unfairness of death.

I ponder about death quite often. Not sure whether it is because of its definite inevitability or it is a result of my experience with depression and suicidal ideation where thoughts of death were my everyday companions. Or perhaps because, after a certain age, the reality of death becomes more of a truth to be confronted than avoided. I don’t know.

At JJ’s funeral service. I allowed myself to grieve, yet I was curiously aware that my sorrow had little to do with his death. I realized that whatever sadness I was feeling would certainly not make any difference to JJ nor to any of the speakers who were strangers to me. I wondered if I was being disrespectful by hijacking others’ genuine grief. Yet, the tears continued to flow. A most poignant moment at the service was the acceptance that this space at Nairobi Pentecostal Church was the best place to grieve all the losses in my life – not just the death of a loved one. It is as if a dam in my heart had suddenly given way to the floodgates of unmourned sorrow and grief. I allowed it all out. I was at least confident that I wouldn’t stand out. We were, after all, in a sad space. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.

Princess Diana’s 20th Death Anniversary

This past week I watched The Story of Diana, a documentary marking the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic passing at age 36. I stumbled on the documentary on Netflix and I almost did not watch it because I preferred a flight to fantasy fiction film – anything to momentarily forget about (my) life. But a memory of twenty years ago flashed in my mind and I knew I had to watch the documentary.

I loved a Sunday morning drink at the local bar. Well, any bar where Sunday morning found me. It almost always felt like an act of rebellion. Here I was drunk, happy and free when others would be trooping to church to pray for the same experience. The camaraderie and sense of unity in the bar on Sunday mornings were, to me, the ultimate acceptance of being human.  Perhaps only a few will identify with this sentiment.

On this Sunday, I was at Mugumo Bar in Eastlands in Nairobi. I had perhaps come in at about seven am with a severe hangover. There is an unwritten rule that there were only two known options to combat hangovers; one, do not drink or two, stay drunk. Avoiding a drink was never an option on my radar then.

Seated on the wooden chairs that were arranged along pastel Formica topped tables, I took gulps of cold pilsner straight from the bottle. I often harboured secret thoughts, brought on by my miserable financial situation, that the next gulp would be the last one – a horrific thought that was immediately obliterated by yet another gulp. Alcohol was the ultimate escape from reality.

The present reality at the time was the breaking news report beaming on CNN about Princess Diana’s accident and her subsequent death in Paris. I almost immediately felt like I had been stabbed. I never knew why. I tried to focus on the song, most likely, mwendwa wakwa mariru or some other Kikuyu song playing from the jukebox at the back of the bar. Yet, I also wished the barman would increase the volume on the TV over the song. I dared not make that request which was only reserved for the 7 and 9 pm news bulletins.

That whole week was a very painful one. I could not explain why I was hurting so much about Princess Di’s death. I had never met her nor had any crush on her. I had fleeting questions why I was so shattered by her death. And I would not dare tell anyone what I was feeling. Alcohol was the best anaesthetic for the secret pain of grief.

“Why am I feeling so saddened by Princess Diana’s death? Si, I am a man?”

“How come she was so unhappy yet she had everything anyone could hope for, especially never have to worry about money?

“Why is the royal family saying nothing?”

“Why was life so unfair on her? Will God forgive her derelictions?”

Hurting people hurt others. During the week, I got drunk whenever I could and watching her funeral the grief coupled with shame and a severe hangover were a recipe for disaster in the coming days. I caused a lot of mayhem at home that week. I never once talked about my experience of grieving Princess Diana’s demise until perhaps a couple of years after I had stopped drinking and now on a journey of recovery from alcoholism. Grief became a partner in this phase of my life. Recovery presented an opportunity to deal with losses, failures, that would usher fresh experiences and new beginnings. JJ’s funeral was a turning point in helping me understand the importance of letting go of the past.

This week, I got my full-circle cathartic certificate after watching the story of Diana documentary on Netflix. But more than that, in a Psychology class on Loss and Grief I shared about it and my lecturer asked me what I thought my real grief was about.

“I think I felt that Princess Diana was the unwitting underdog in the story of her life. And I somehow connected with her need for love and yet in her search, she died, just when she seemed to have found it.”

It. Just. Seemed. So. Unfair.

I wondered whether her search was in vain. I assumed that as a princess, love ought to be an automatic reality and for me, an African man, it should not be an issue worth searching for or contemplating.

In my loss and grief class, I could now acknowledge that, though it may have taken twenty years to realize it, I have since experienced unconditional forgiveness, extraordinary love, and meaningful freedom.

 

 

 

Depression will be the death of us

Awareness: Depression wolfybytes.deviantart.com

I was a freelance props guy in television commercials. Not a very good one. A hardworking one. I was a nice guy. A very good one. One film director once quipped on set,”Chris you work really hard. You are stupid but you work really hard.” Obviously, that left me really confused. Should I relish the compliment as I processed the seeming insult?

We had parted ways with my then boss and I independently sought work from some of the companies with whom we’d previously worked.  This was in early recovery – in 1999 -a truly fascinating time. So fascinating that when I think about it now, how I survived that era of navigating early recovery baffles me. Life felt like a  rudderlessness ship in the unchartered territory of a sober adult life.

This one time Ginger Ink called me to work on a commercial; a beer TV commercial. I was dreading the experience. I needed the money. But the last commercial my crew and I had worked on was such a terrible experience. We had kept on second guessing ourselves through every scene, working with a seriously underestimated unrealistic props budget, and we had consistently  pulled in 20 hour days over two weeks.

I could see this next shoot going the same way. Or worse. And that would kill me. Worse, I could drink again. And then die. It was a beer commercial after all and my department was in charge of the entire product. I woke early one morning, wrote a letter to Ginger, indicating I why I couldn’t work on the production. I was too scared to have a face to face meeting with her so I left the letter with the security guard at the gate and left.

She called me in to talk about what was going on. In a conversation in the kitchen, I  told Ginger I was having it rough. I was not going to work on the production.

“Why? Are you working on something else?”

“No,”

“Do we pay too low?”

I was letting her do the work. I didn’t know how to say what I didn’t know how to say yet I needed to say.

“Chris, what is really, really, going on over there with you?”

I eventually did communicate that I was petrified at working on the upcoming television commercial.

I think Ginger figured out that I was not in a good place, so she made the weirdest of offers: she asked me to come into the office every day of the production and sit in the garden and do nothing else but show up. She would ensure I got something to eat and some bus fare.

I ended up working on the production. And got me some money to pay off some of my debts, rent arrears and have me some regular meals.

A year later, I was admitted at Chiromo Lane Medical Centre with severe depression and deeply suicidal. During my stay there, I got medication and the obligatory counselling sessions. I also underwent electroconvulsive therapy; a procedure, done under general anaesthesia, in which small electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. After 10 days in hospital, with a severe memory loss as a side effect of the ECT,  I was discharged and put on medical treatment that lasted another 6 years or so. In that time, I also sought counseling from various therapists and read up on anything that I could find about depression.

I realised that what Ginger did in that kitchen was a huge gesture that possibly saved my life.

Let’s face it, listening to a depressed person can be draining and exhausting. It is potentially depressing; the self-pity, the excuses, the rationalization, the victimhood, the negativity about everything.  If you do not know how depression manifests itself, it is difficult, nay impossible, to believe that depression is NOT a self-inflicted choice one makes. All the signs of bad choices are there. What with the procrastination and broken promises? Or the underwhelming attempts to get out of it? The poor me, poor me attitude? Or the binges in alcohol, sex and unhealthy relationships? Or just silence, prolonged silence? Or, finally, with finality, suicide?

This past week, I lost someone to suicide. I am grieving because it seems so, so needless. A man, an artist and very possibly depressed. We’ll never know. When I hear how his body was found, I understand the possible why of it. There are several possible whys that are playing in my head right now as I think about what triggered the carbon monoxide poison route that he chose to go. Few belongings; sparse furnishings with no food in the house. All signs of a struggling artist who depended on his art for a living. And could not, resulting in his death. Oh, the irony!

I am saddened because of the inevitable hush that now abounds and other theories of the cause of his death that are now prevailing amongst the relatives. There is even one theory that he taped up all the windows and door spaces, lit the jiko in the bedroom because he was feeling cold. We will believe anything except that it was suicide. And we will not talk ill of the dead. We are Africans.

Thing is, I understand that reconciling oneself to any loss is often awkward, difficult and personal.  With suicide, it is worse.

A few years ago, I asked a student at a local university who was doing a class project on alcoholism and recovery, to let me share my story as the class project. During the Q & A session, one student wondered why there was laughter in what was a rather tragic story. My host, it being her class project, responded that it was the individual’s honourable way of dealing with the impact of my story. They were not laughing at me, or at themselves. They were laughing in place of crying; in place of losing hope.

Similarly, I understand the current reactions to all who are dealing with this close person’s death.

”He should have said. Perhaps we would have helped.”

“We all have problems. We are still here, aren’t we?”

“Why couldn’t he just man up?”

“Suicide is cowardly.”

In the meantime, I will not blame you for not understanding depression or the depressive. Depression is complicated, it is complex. All I ask is that you own the pain you feel. Own it! Then you will be confronted with the real choice, to blame the man in the coffin or stop the next one from getting there before their due date.

Me, I am tired of the needlessness of truly avoidable deaths.

RIP buddy!

 

computers 101 reload

image

So this past week I sat in my first basic computer class in eons, at this uni.

When asked by the lecturer what my expectations from the class were, I answered that I had three and the first one was obvious: that I get an A.The second one is that I complete the class. And thirdly, that I get to learn how to use a few more tools embedded in the programs I already use.

An A because it is a ‘basic’ computer class and hence I feel entitled to my sense of entitlement having used computers for a while now. And I’ve come a long way since that embarrassing instance at a cyber cafe at Madaraka Shopping Centre in 2002 when I discovered that a browser was not a physical gadget. How else could I press the back button of the browser if it wasn’t? That the cyber cafe attendant didn’t laugh in my presence (she should have laughed later for her own sanity at least) transformed cyber cafes to be my first legit computer training centres.

Completing the class is important to me. I quit a class several years ago after High school when I prioritized being a member at Tumbo’s Bar across Ngong Road at Adam’s Arcade whenever it was class day. I didn’t last long in either.

Then I joined USIU where the basic computer class was a compulsory one. I walked in to the computer lab, got bedazzled by the array of computers in the room and immediately freaked out by this high-risk danger zone. The class of MIS 101 were all issued with a floppy disk that we were to get formatted before the next class so that we could start using it for I dunno what. I doubt ever darkened the doors of that computer lab again.

In my dysfunctional relationship to miracles, I figured that I’d get the required computer skills by waltzing through the streets of Nairobi whilst flossing an unformatted disk outside my school bag, on the bar counter. Pretty much the same deep seated belief I long held of winning the sweepstakes without ever needing your buy a ticket. No one could convince me that I was delusional before I screamed “DELUSION!” at them for having such low perspectives on life matters.

The guilt of eventually losing that disk was truly heartbreaking and not necessarily because of the undone assignments that were supposed to be saved in it. The agony was how people would now know that I am a very important university student. Go back to the lab and get another one? Nah!

I shared with my class why I MUST complete this computer class and my classmates, mainly freshmen, chuckled.

Isorait, do keep coming back, you’ll find out that those drivers who are always reported to escape unhurt in road accidents does not actually mean they ran away from the accident scene unscathed.

neutral is comfortable…for a while

sitting-on-the-fence

I recently had the privilege of serving as a commissioner on the student-run Electoral Commission of our university during the students’ elections.

It was a twenty-four hour affair which consisted of clearing all the candidates’ pictures, setting up the polling station, facilitating and monitoring the voting process from 9am to 9pm; and after a one-hour dinner break at 10:30pm, we proceeded to the vote-counting phase. We wrapped up  a few minutes to 6:00 am. Tired but immensely fulfilled.

In order to maintain our neutrality and objectivity, we, the members of the commission, could not vote. Not voting meant I could still have an opinion without the burden of choosing a preferred candidate.

And still look hot in the branded denim shirts.

But the thing is, I still had an opinion. In fact, several opinions that touched on the elections. For instance, several of my female classmates didn’t vote for the ladies vying for competitive slots. On asking them why they said it’s not right to vote for their fellow women just because they’re women. I had an opinion on several other matters. For now, I’ll revel in the bliss of neutrality. I know it shall pass.

But I discovered that being neutral is only good for a time. At least until the vote counting is done, and then we are back to having opinions. The new student government that was voted in is now my student leadership and my opinion, if any, is private by choice, rather than by mandate.

It was comfortable to be in an officially neutral position. I had authority. Like when this guy was taking a photograph of the ballot paper indicating how he’d voted. I stopped him saying it had no integrity. And he protested wondering what he had done wrong.

“There’s nothing wrong. It just has no integrity.”

“So, why can’t I take a photograph?”

“Because it is a secret ballot voting process.”

“But it is my vote. And I want to show my guy how I voted.”

“What does it matter anyway how you voted? It won’t even matter in a few hours when the results are announced. And why do you need to let your guy know how you voted? Why do you need to prove your support?”

I stood my ground as commissioner and he eventually cast his vote. I forgot all about it, but I doubt that he has let it go. He has not acknowledged my greetings.

Credit: Daystar University
Credit: Daystar University

Of late I have been observing certain individuals in my various circles express themselves from the standpoint of their specialty. They have a firm grasp on what they believe. They are bold enough to articulate their stand and in doing so; they invite fans and haters alike. Be it some of my pastor pals,  PK and Curtis; or Pst M, the senior pastor at my church; or Ginger from the Landmark Forum; or the dude from my fellowship; or the fearless Boniface Mwangi; or even my lovely wife in her academic and intellectual expression. Equally admirable is that dude from the now-registered, now-suspended Atheists of Kenya (which I think should be registered). No, I’m not talking about their president: that one feels like one of those Man U fans who know and follow up on everything Arsenal. I’m referring to the bearded chap who is a childhood buddy of mine and who knows the Bible. Yeah, that one. He has a firm grasp of why and what he believes in, or doesn’t.

I watch these individuals with a mixture of admiration and dread. Admiration for the full conviction they place in the declarations they make. And when they invite me to their quests or beliefs, the certainty with which they guarantee the outcomes is sooooo sexy, inspiring and reaaally admirable. They approach new arguments with the same confidence I approach chapati and chicken. They are giants in their respective disciplines.

I dread the same individuals or rather their outlook because I have disagreed with each of them on the basis of their unwavering stand from their perspectives. I tend to, in these arguments, lack a formidable stand of my own except that I don’t completely agree with their seemingly fixed viewpoints. My disagreement in the absence of facts is often a weak place to fight from, especially when I lack alignment to their ideas, thoughts and or suggestions. I am usually, however, vindicated by time:  a time when I have clarified my thoughts that then crystallize into ideas which I can then communicate coherently. The annoying thing is that these guys will have moved on to the next argument and I will find myself playing catch up yet again.

I often feel, though, that these need to broaden their minds a bit (or even a lot) more. That notwithstanding, I still admire their conviction, focus, and unequivocal stance. And as they continue to express themselves, they grow, expand and evolve.

For instance, I still struggle using scripture as the basis of my Christian life. My assertion is that God and His several ‘expressions’, rather than just the Bible, are the basis of my Christian life – indeed my whole spiritual experience. Now, I often come across as being overly defensive in my outlook, unconfident about my stand, shifty in advancing a convincing argument. The result is I am left feeling irritable, small, resentful and often jealous. I second guess myself and even wonder whether my thoughts or questions are even valid. In the midst of another self-inflicted faith crisis, I choose to remain silent and feel stupid.

Three years ago, I was selected for a master class scriptwriting workshop. It was a big big deal for me. My claim to fame was my experience of having written my autobiography as an alcoholic. Having completed the workshop, a couple of us were selected to write a screenplay for a feature film. Another big big deal. My co-writer, twenty or so years my junior, was a trained filmmaker. I thought we made a great tag team. He had me watch several movies so that we could get a feel of what to write about. I got and felt nothing from watching those movies. Yet, I still felt that I had a legit right to be here. I’d say that I was in this tag team to bring the soul. He didn’t buy it. I started getting late for our brainstorming sessions, our Skype calls with the producers. And what looked like a once in a lifetime opportunity was now looking like production and I began dreading the meetings. Worst of all, I stopped trusting my input yet I knew there was no other contribution I could bring to this project except me and life experience. And the project was halted.

I was not surprised. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. My assigned partner and I couldn’t seem to build a synergy out of our unique strengths. By the time I’d processed my side of the street about the fallout, not only had everyone moved on, but a new film was shot on the same location in Tsavo East. I got that it is ok to write from my soul. Only thing is, there was no one to tell and I have never looked at another screenplay since, or even dabbled in writing one.

[“Healing is learning to trust my own wisdom, my own intuition.”
—Mary Zink]

I am back in school now and besides being quite excited about it, I am being more intentional and deliberate than I ever was. Being a full-time student is coming at an opportunity cost of the time I could spend growing my business. It is also coming at a high price because I am endeavoring to understand the content of the subjects I am taking each semester. That has also meant that I am bit slower on the uptake and more so on gunning for the distinctions. Yes, I am getting some good results so far but good grades are not my primary motivation. Getting some knowledge, history and diverse perspectives about the stuff that inspires me is the motivation. You know why?

I want to be an authority like these ladies and gentlemen!

I want to win arguments or, at the very least, sustain them. I want to count. Yes, that’s it. I simply want to count. I really want to take a stand and have the balls to defend it: with facts, conviction, confidence and authority like a commissioner on that students’ elections day. And when wrong, I want to stand up, learn from my mistakes and put my butt on the line again. Because being neutral, like an ECD commissioner’s term, has an expiry date.

Sitting on the fence soon gets rather uncomfortable.

 

Overcoming the war within

source: meetville.com

“Chris, I invite you to imagine a life different from all that you know about yourself when you had a chaotic life and now, the one of your recovery journey. Imagine a Chris different from all that.”

“No, it isn’t possible. This is it! Besides, it’s better than what I used to have.”

“I thought so. You couldn’t even if you tried, could you?”

“Nope! Simply because it just isn’t possible or even reasonable to do so.”

Within two days of that conversation with Ginger, I prematurely quit that training program where I felt my current life as it stood was being invalidated and I was being vilified for not doing the impossible. I quit because the program coaches were wrong, and I was right. I quit because they deliberately raised the stakes so high that in my failure to attain them, they could then validate themselves for having such a demanding six months leadership program. I quit the program. I resented being put on the spot in a conversation I felt I couldn’t win. I quit.

I had quit several times in my life; when drunk and in my recovery journey. When I got sober, I saw and accepted why I used to quit during my alcoholic doldrums; that life I had was a loser’s life. Quitting was the obligatory part to complete the script.

Recovery presented a different dance to the quitting song.  I was now sober. Sticking with the winners was the rallying call and all the self-help and empowerment books never tired in reminding me that winners never quit. I have found myself in situations where I really needed to quit; a dangerous relationship, an unfulfilling work situation, being in the wrong queue, or in a matatu that had been nabbed by cops or one that was simply heading the wrong direction. But no, I remind myself of my commitment to stick it out and that I had put my butt on the line. In my mind, I bang my chest with my fist proudly. The KDF would have been proud of me as their newest, proudest, most committed recruit. If only I wasn’t too old.

Oh, excuses, I thought, were a mark of one who is truly in touch with reality. I never called them excuses, though. Explanations. Reality checks. Pragmatic observations, maybe. But not excuses.

And with an explanation (read excuse), I quit that leadership training in 2008.  My contention was that Ginger didn’t know what she was talking about when she challenged me to see my life outside and apart from all that I already knew as a problematic drunk and a recovering alcoholic. As if it existed. Mschew!

In 2009, I was thrown into a deep end of that life that doesn’t exist. I was to be introduced to the Christians’ world. Maybe say reintroduced. And it was with this backdrop of being a Christian in recovery that I was recently invited to share my story at the chapel sessions at Daystar University.  I had been there in 2013 but then it was different; to share my story and market the services of the rehab I then worked in.

This time, I shared my story at several forums, but in preparing for this one, I was asked to draw my sermon on a couple of verses from scripture. I struggled with that for a while. I read and reread the assigned verses and slowly welcomed the thoughts arising. I found it a bit daring. I was going to talk about my encounters with Christians when I was drinking; now, this is a topic I don’t often openly venture in where Christians are involved. While I take full responsibility for how I treated Christians in those days, I can’t say I find the same accepting spirit when I share my experience of getting help from them or even their attitude when they were offering it. Yet, in preparing for the chapel session, I felt a deep stirring to share this with the audience. It would be a risky move, in my opinion. The stakes were higher this time, and if there’s one thing I learned at the leadership training, was that a life geared to making a difference was risky, lonely, possibly thankless, and not often pretty.  I couldn’t turn back. As an experienced quitter, I knew nothing new or fresh would be gained from quitting on this opportunity.

The first session came, all protocols observed and I stepped up to the podium. I was placing my butt on the line as a recovering alcoholic, first year undergraduate student at Daystar university, a husband to a Daystar university faculty member, and most of all, as a Christian ‘publicly’ confessing my salvation for the first time.

Yes, my life has been catapulted into different expressions than I previously thought impossible. Living in the impossible dream is still daunting. The war within is still a common phenomenon. In an expanded space of faith, however, I am gratified that I can now surrender my life, my will and the results of an uncertain future and impossible dreams to a God who I believe is all knowing and is the source of the past, present and future.

I also endeavor to be anything but the truest reflection of Christ that I can muster. It’s about progress, not perfection. I have since learned that Christians get depression, commit suicide, and get involved in criminal and corrupt schemes. And most of all, Christians are human beings. Yet, the hope I derive from this way of life is that the war within can still be won.

Whilst in third form at Strathmore I wanted to be a catholic. My aunt and godmother thought otherwise. She reckoned that I shouldn’t convert to Catholicism simply because I wasn’t going to be a good catholic. I only got it later that her reasoning was that I was already a lousy protestant and that a conversion would not produce the miracle I craved.

Besides now being a firm believer in a God of second and third chances, I am now an advocate that there is always something beyond our present reality. The greatest risk is to act as if it’s true.

And that’s the war within.

So please find attached the sermon I recently presented at the chapel sessions at Daystar University. 

OVERCOMING THE WAR WITHIN – The Sermon