Perceptions: What if you were wrong?

   Perception  Imagine this:

A man and woman…. (I will call the woman Mrs Mwansa and the man Mr Kunda.)

The two have just winded up their long meeting at Arcades and Mrs. Mwansa excuses herself to go to the ‘ladies room.’ She asks Mr Kunda to watch her things while she’s away and he agrees. When she returns, she notices Mr Kunda’s sudden strange behaviour: he avoids meeting her eyes and he’s face is almost turning red from blushing. The two of them say their goodbyes – with Mr Kunda still behaving awkwardly. Not one to entertain misunderstandings, Mrs Mwansa decides to confront the elephant in the room.

“Is something the matter Sir?” She asked. “Ever since I came back from…from the bathroom, you’ve been acting…how should I call it…weird? Did something happen while I was away?”

Because she was standing, Mr Kunda quickly reasoned that it would be best for him to express what was on his mind standing, and he did likewise. He moved to where she was standing, leaned in a bit and whispered the following words; “I am very sorry to have to do this…the truth is…I really don’t know if I am supposed to say anything or not…and I beg your pardon for this…but…your zipper is open. I am very sorry.” And he quickly pulled his head away, blushing profusely.

First instinct for Mrs Mwansa was to look down and there it was, very open! She suddenly remembered why after only wearing it once since she bought it four months ago, she had never worn that skirt again. However, when she came across it that morning, she only thought about how perfect it would look with her new blouse and forgot about the most crucial factor. Feeling embarrassed from head to toe, her hands first moved to cover her mouth and then quickly moved to close the zipper. She looked around her to see if people were looking at her. Mostly, they all seemed to be minding their own business but it was when her eyes moved to the entrance of the restaurant that she realized they had an actual audience.

It was her husband. And he was not a very pleased audience.

She could picture the things going on in his head. Knowing very well what kind of man he was, she knew she was in trouble. Where would she even start? She wondered how long he had been standing there. Where was she going to start explaining from? Would he even believe her? She looked over at Mr Kunda who was absolutely oblivious of her husband’s presence. He was still looking like a boy who had been caught red-handed with his hands in the cookie jar. She cursed the guilty look on his face.

For the four years she had known him, despite being a genius in his work, Mr Kunda was generally an awkward and clumsy man…except, his condition always seemed to worsen whenever he was in the company of a female.

“I should go now; my husband is here to pick me up.” She informed the once light skinned man whose complexion had now turned a shade yet to be included in the colour spectrum. When Mr Kunda followed the direction of his colleague’s eyes, his first reaction was to take a step back away from Mrs Mwansa, a move that led to his leg getting stuck in one of the chair and landing his bottom to the very floor.

When will I stop being so clumsy for Christ’s sake, he thought to himself as he quickly picked himself up.  By this time, Mr Mwansa had reached their table and before Mr Kunda could stand up straight, he was dealt a punch that sent him back to floor.

How did things end up like that?

The answer is Perception.

Perception has been defined to mean the process individuals go through to organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

I recently learnt this during one of my classes;

People’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself.

As most of my close friends already know, not only am I a book fanatic, I am also addicted to dramas. So I was watching a certain drama when one of the actresses told this story that left me thinking about the many times I might have misinterpreted reality and ended up paying for it. Although not exact, this is what I was able to pick up from that scenario:

There was a family that had an old woman who was very sick and needed to be on a special diet. The family was very poor so every little healthy food they found was always left for the patient. One day, the youngest child in the family was passing through when from a distance, she saw her mother standing by the stove and eating the rice that was meant for the old sick woman.

That day, neither the rest of the family nor the sick woman had eaten any rice. From that day forward, the girl grew up believing that her mother was very selfish and their relationship was strained since.

However, what the girl did not know or see the day she saw her mother eating the rice by the stove is that her mother was not actually eating the rice meant for the patient. They were old burnt… (wait, can I call them that?)… anyway, in simpler terms – it was rice that had somehow fallen into the ashes of the stove as it was being cooked a few days before. It was not food that could be served to anybody, especially a patient. The woman had come across the rice as she was cleaning the stove and after starving for days whilst taking care of her family, she decided to eat those instead of throwing them away.

After listening to that story and after learning a bit about perception, I decided that whenever I am faced with a situation that might be open to different interpretations; I should consider things from varying angles before drawing a conclusion…especially if it’s a conclusion that might not be favourable. After all, wouldn’t it better to know that you did your very best before giving up on something? There is always that possibility….what if you are wrong?

In life, we are forever drawing conclusions and suspicions based on how we perceive things. That’s the reality. But are the things we perceive reality itself?

I think he/she likes me.

S/he’s flirting with me that one, obviously.

S/he must hate me.

s/he doesn’t like me.

I think s/he is having an affair.

I am going to fail that exam.

Etc…etc

The truth is that with perception, sometimes we might be right…and sometimes we might be wrong. But, is there ever a middle ground? I don’t know. However, the fact is that we draw conclusions based on our schemata – our experiences that have structured us into behaving and reacting in certain way.

Can we say then that how we react to circumstances and how we interpret them tells us more about who we are than what those in the situation are – vis-à-vis Mr Mwansa’s reaction? How many times do you think you have held someone responsible for a wrong doing based on your own perceptions and ultimately destroyed what could have been a great relationship or friendship? Do we ever take time to see things from other people’s point of view or we are too quick to draw conclusions based on what we perceive to be the reality? By the way, what exactly is reality?

Sometimes…not everything is as it seems.

And it is always best not be self-centered.

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My 7 months in mountainous Kenya: A profile of Roberta Muchangwe

A friend of mine recently told me that he was writing a piece that I might find interesting…and as you all know am all about all things, even “Recognizing women doing great work”! I must say, I did find the woman in this practitioner profile very inspiring especially that I also deep my toes every now and then in communications and public relations work.

In this profile, Suzyika captures the experiences of Roberta Muchangwe when she worked in Kenya as a communications specialist with Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives (CREADIS). The idea is to get first-hand information from practioners in public domains on challenges and opportunities.

You can find more information about profiles of practioners on http://courses2.cit.cornell.edu/fit117/

robertaMy 7 months in mountainous Kenya: A profile of Roberta Muchangwe

From October 2009 to April 2010, I worked in Kenya under MS Kenya and ActionAid Denmark. I was placed with a partner organisation called Community Research in Environment and Development Initiatives (CREADIS). After graduating from the UNZA in 2009, I found this job advertisement online and I applied for it. I didn’t even think I was qualified enough but I still applied for it. I pushed in my Journalism Diploma and my Mass Communication Degree and went through the selection process. I later received an email saying I was appointed. It was quite surprising. I put my things together and I was off to Kenya.

CREADIS is an NGO whose aim is to eradicate poverty in rural Kenya by using different innovations in agriculture. They go to different villages and teach farmers how to grow their crops and introduce them to new technology or innovations in the field of agriculture like new chemicals for their agricultural products. Through CREADIS, communities are taught about planting trees and how to conserve the environment. Besides that, it engages communities on how to improve nutrition practices of rural households. Their nutrition program also focused on orphans and vulnerable children especially those that have lost their parents to HIV and AIDS. For the orphans, they would offer sponsorship to go to school and buy them what they needed such as books and clothes.

As a communications specialist, I was there to capacity build the organisation in communications and was expected to inspire the staff of CREADIS in communications. I was there to help them see ways in which they can bring in the use of the media in their projects especially as regards their fundraising strategies. We worked on building the image of the organisation by improving public relations in order to draw donors and well-wishers to their organisation. I trained them and ran workshops where we looked at writing for the media as well as writing to attract the media. We also looked into ways we could organise events that would attract media coverage to put the organisation on the map.

I revived, designed and laid out the CREADIS Newsletter and other communication tools such as brochures, information sheets, photo gallery and posters. Staff member were then trained on how to utilise media in their work through capacity building workshops‏. Capacity building is always crucial, especially for NGOs working with communities to ensure continuity of programmes.

I went out into the field with project officers and got involved with the work that they engaged in and tried to find stories that we could write about. I had to balance my work between the field and the desk though I spent more time in the field where everything was happening. I gathered, edited and wrote news stories and other communication write-ups for the organisation.

My experience was not short of challenges. I never understood Kiswahili which is the other official language that is spoken in Kenya apart from English and of course there are other local languages. CREADIS is an organisation that works in deep rural Kenya where people do not use English. The good thing is Kiswahili is a Bantu language which makes it similar to languages here in Zambia. I could get the meaning of some of the words but for the sake of accuracy, I had to have an interpreter with me which proved a challenge of language none existent.

I found Kenya fast paced compared to Zambia. Zambia is slow paced if you ask me. Kenyan people are always up and about doing a lot of things. Most Kenyans are not in formal employment but are into business and they seem to catch on with the latest things happening around. I guess it is a personal thing and that’s why I might I have felt that way. I am more of a laggard as I always catch on much later on certain things, be it personal or technology wise‏. Adapting to this kind of arrangement was quite a tough one but eventually I managed.

Besides that, I felt some form of intimidation from the staff of CREADIS. I think some of them felt they didn’t need an expert from a different country to come and teach them about communication when they had people within country with those skills. Who can blame them? though the idea with ActionAid was to let the African region create links. Yes they have their own experts; it was about learning from one another and sharing experiences.

As a project, there were times when we didn’t meet the project goals, especially as regards fund raising. Times when I drew up fund raising proposals to different funders and some did not go through. Such times were usually the crucial times for me. But then again, we could only try again.

In terms of social life, I was able to fit in quite well. I understand how African culture works as regards behaviour, dressing and such things so this was no big deal, I was able to easily fit in. I just had to practice a bit of “when you go to Rome do as the Romans do”. An African really just fits in [laughter], but of course I had to ensure that I was sensitive to each and every cultural norm I encountered that was different from mine‏.

Looking back now, I think anything is possible even if you have barriers. You can still break through if you really want to effect change but you have to be patient because you are working people who have different attitudes. If you are going to work with other human beings, you have to be humble. Place yourself in a position where you also want to learn from them. In as much as I went out there to impart this knowledge, I came back with a lot of knowledge myself.

When it was finally time to leave Kenya, I felt like I was living my family behind, I had met great people that I wished I could stay and work with forever. At the same time I looked forward to going back to my country which I missed every day. Mixed feelings encompassed me during my last days in Kenya.

Despite the fact that I didn’t have the required experience, managed to carry out my duties effectively. I worked has and my passion to work with communities and helping to see them develop got me doing the work without the required years of experience. Additionally, I had a previous eight months experience in community work from my previous voluntary job with Restless Development and also with different Media houses as an intern. By the time I was leaving I really felt like I had archived something huge. I left a happy woman because they knew how to utilise communication in their organisation with regards to their projects.

Kenya is beautiful and I had beautiful experiences there. It is a land of diversity though there are divisions amongst people from different tribes. I loved the great landscapes that Kenya has and of course the coastal area with its beautiful beaches. The beaches were a great get away place most times for me. This is not to say I didn’t miss home, I missed it every day but I knew what I went there to do was worth missing home for‏. I did not only learn a lot from the project but I made life long memories and friends.

Roberta Muchangwe is a Lecturer at The University of Zambia in the department of Mass Communication and Coordinator of the Media Project (Zambia).

About the Author:

Suzyika is a Graduate Student at Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy University studying Public Policy.

Whatever Troubles you might Face: Always Choose to Live!

depressed imageI recently put up a post on Facebook that read;

I will give 20 pin talk time to whoever is first to get this question right; you are at the mercy of a killer. He tells you that you have no way out except for one: he folds two papers in half, each with the words ‘you will die’ written on them. He labels them A and B. He asks you to pick the paper with the words saying ‘you will live.’ It’s a trick. He knows this but you don’t. You actually think that one of the papers will save you. You have no choice but to pick one. And you must choose to live. And the truth is that you lived. How did this happen?

I promised to post the answer on my blog so here we go!

I must say I had a lot of fun reading all the responses. The truth is that I came across this trick question when I was watching one of my all-time favourite Korean dramas. When the heroine asked the hero (or should I just say the two leads in the drama?) this question, at first, just like the hero – I had no idea what the correct response should have been.

It was only later in another scene that the hero got an epiphany whilst he was eating something from a plate …when the answer occurred to him. At that moment I thought to myself, “Oh wow…didn’t even cross my mind!”

However, out of everything that was said, I found that I loved the lesson of the trick question more than the trick itself. It was one of those moments that led me straight into reflection. So I thought it would be great to share this with my friends and let’s see how they work around it!

Suffice to say, many tried to tackle the question and some did give very good possible answers, except, I was looking for the best answer that would explain how it came about that the person in question was still able to live despite having picked one of the papers that said he would die. Despite increasing the reward prize, it seemed they all just wanted me to keep my money. I like that. 🙂

As I keep writing, I am sure that the answer will slowly be forming itself in your heads…of course I am assuming that not everyone who is reading this has watched the drama I am referring to where this question came from. If anything, I would give the little prize money to the person who could tell me the title of that drama! Now that would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Now picture this;

In the drama, the answer came to the hero/protagonist/lead while he was eating something from a plate. As he kept picking a piece off his plate, he looked at what was remaining on the plate and suddenly stopped! The answer had occurred to him.

And this is the answer:

If the victim (I will call him/her that for lack of a better term) was expected to pick the note that said, ‘you will live’ when in fact we know that both notes said he would die, how is it possible he was able to live? It is because the note that was meant to decide his fate …and in this case it is the note that had remained, the one that was not picked read – you will die. Therefore, if the note that was not picked said he would die, doesn’t it automatically mean that the note he had picked said ‘he will live’? Remember, he was asked to choose the choice to live. Irrespective of what was written on the note he picked, the note that was meant to decide his fate – the note that had remained to be read out by the killer said he would die which meant by default that the victim had picked one that said he would live. And this is how he survived!

I hope it’s all clear. I know it might be a little confusing for some but keep going over it and it will soon make sense. And to borrow the words of the actor, “to every trick question, there is a trick response.”

Like I said before, I found the lesson behind the trick question even more interesting. Here’s why:

Whenever life is difficult, we always think that there is no way out….just like everyone who didn’t know the answer to the question. But I am here to tell you that that’s not the answer. There is hope no matter how difficult the situation you are in might seem, whether you have a small trouble or a variety of troubles…always choose the best choice to live.

Those were the ‘not so exact’ words of the actress in the drama. Of course it helped that she was a psychiatrist. But I believed every word of it.

There was a time when my family had it all and then there was also a time we had absolutely nothing except each other. I remember thinking at that time…. “Is this all there is to life?”

But that is all in the past now; a past I feel was very important because it has shaped me into who I am today. I am now grateful for everything I have in my life because I know exactly what if feels like to not have anything in your life. Back then we did everything humanly possible to survive…to make sure we were still alive the next day. Instead of wallowing in misery, we chose to live.

And I will continue choosing to live because…even as clique as it sounds, it is the truth; what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!

Marriage: the Ultimate Goal for Women?

wedding

When Abraham Maslow talked about self-actualization – which is at the peak of his hierarchy of human needs, did he picture in his head that for women, perhaps their peak experience would be achieved through marriage only and nothing else they dared deceive themselves believe was self-fulfilling? I seriously doubt that.

However, it has come to be accepted by many in societies around the world that no matter how successful, confident, psychologically balanced or secure a woman is, if she is not married, then she is one sorry miserable and lonely individual. The adjectives even get worse when she gets pregnant out of wedlock!

All that money and she still can’t get a man to marry her?

No man would wanna marry such a successful woman. She would intimidate him.

She is so beautiful yet no man wants to make her his wife.

Oh wow congratulations on your engagement, finally!

Whenever a woman announces her engagement, the most common reaction from her friends and relatives is a positive one, ‘congratulations!” Unfortunately, it’s not always the case for men. For the latter, the pronunciation of an engagement is usually received by this reaction, “oh hell, there goes freedom!”

When I was being prepared for my marriage just a few weeks before the traditional ceremony, I remember one woman saying to me, “you wanted marriage right? This is what you get and you should work hard to attain that goal. Do you think it comes easy?” Because these statements were delivered in the local vernacular, the impact was thrice the intended outcome.

K-party pic
On my bridal party (kitchen party)

I was very stressed during that period because as most African women know…and especially Zambians in this case, getting ready for the traditional marriage ceremony is most likely the most stressful and humiliating process a woman can ever go through during her journey to marital bliss…especially a woman who was not raised very traditionally!

I cannot emphasize how many times I thought about giving up on marriage during that whole experience. Despite it being done mostly for my own good, I did not appreciate the fact that almost all the women that surrounded me during that time kept on telling me how lucky I was to be getting married and how I should prepare myself mentally to deal with my husband’s infidelity in the future.

I kept wondering, is my future husband also going through the same lessons as I am? Is someone also telling him, “Watch out for that Annie, you better treat her well so that she doesn’t run off with another man.” I don’t think so. They were most likely telling him about the things he should expect from me as a perfect wife and very little about what he should do to be a good husband. If I remember correctly, not once was I told what I should expect from a good husband! It was like it was enough that he chose to marry me in the first place. I did not appreciate that.

Being the kind of person who is not very used to being told what to do and being stamped on by women whose names end in the suffix ‘inlaw,’ that experience and many others after that were very awakening. I did not take kind to the fact that such behaviour was not from men, but by women themselves towards their fellow woman!

If anything, I was only able to make it through that whole process due to my husband’s support, a man who does not buy into the concept of wives being a man’s slave.

How is it that when a wife becomes pregnant and delivers, it is the man’s swimmers that are congratulated on their delivery but if a wife fails to become pregnant, it is her womb that is cursed and insulted? I think that as long as no tests were taken to prove the efficiency of either party’s productive parts, if the man’s swimmers are the key to a woman’s pregnancy, then the swimmers should be shamed publicly for failing to deliver.

I mean, why would anyone kick and trample an oven for failing to produce bread if no dough was put in it in the first place? It doesn’t make sense at all. If you start out believing that the swimmers are kings of pregnancy, then keep with the trend all the way. Don’t change ships just because the weather is bad.

From my experiences, I have come to understand that sometimes…and mostly, women opt for marriage as a symbol of commitment; a means for them to be exclusively committed and dedicated to that one person, to raise a family with that person and to have someone to lean on during life’s journey. It’s a companionship thing, I am sure Maslow would agree with me.

It is not always that a woman will get married just so she can have exclusive access to a bank account or have someone take care of her because she has failed to do so on her own. When these things come, they are like a bonus and sure as hell they should be if she is going to dedicate the rest of her life being his helper. Yes it is very likely that a woman will choose marriage as a means of attaining self-actualization but marriage in itself is not the actualization being sought after…it is simply a means to an end. And this end can be attained through other means as well but it is always fun and fulfilling if the journey is filled with love and companionship.

I have been told so many times before that the major problem men have with women is that they always tend to portray themselves as victims of society or men, always forgetting that the women themselves are catalysts of that reality. And they are very right! It is a bitter pill to swallow but the truth is that most of the times my femininity has been bruised; it has been at the hands of my fellow women.

A few years ago I saw a post on Facebook from a female friend that read;

Stop walking tall and acting as if you own the world because everything you have belongs to your husband. You were nobody before he married you. You did not work for any of that…. Success is not a sexually transmitted disease.

I cannot even begin to tell you how offensive I found that post to be. In fact, I was mostly offended by the author of the post than the contents of the post itself! I do not know about the woman who was being talked about but whether she was a ‘nobody’ or not before he married her, she must have contributed her efforts somehow to whatever she became after marriage.

Whether it was her beauty, her laughter, her ability to care for someone enough to cause them to want them to marry her…and whatever else went on between them behind closed doors, if the man was still with her, then she was definitely doing something to earn her keep in that marriage.

I refuse to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal for women. The only reason it works is because it has a legal clause to it and with it comes the possibility of proudly raising a family of your own that will love you unconditionally.

Just as Maslow stated, it is not guaranteed and its certainly very rare that during the course of their lives, people will actually attain self-actualization.However, to reiterate a point here, marriage in itself is not what makes a successful and fully self-actualized female.

You have to remember that by society’s standards, a man is the one who gets down on one or both knees to beg a woman to marry him. Why would anyone stoop so low just so they could make something out of the person they are asking to marry? Can’t we conclude then  that there is a dame good reason why anybody would get down on his knees to ask for something? Isn’t it obvious that they need something from that person?

It is that which they need and that which the woman expects from them that makes them equals, although we all know who actually gets to wear the pants. But, the bottom line is that they are both bringing something to the table. Any person who gets the chance to get laid on a daily basis or reasonable basis is dame lucky in my opinion.

And certainly any person who as a result of a few seconds or minutes of pleasure gets another person to carry the proceeds of that pleasure for nine months and then release the heavy product through a very small and narrow gate…if you have anybody that has ever done something like this for you or you are hoping that they one day do it for you, believe me you are the luckiest bastard to have ever lived!

And you better recognize.

Personality Traits: Do I Really Want To Be Like My Parents?

Have you ever had that moment- when the preacher in church says something that made you feel really guilty? I had one of those moments last week, well, maybe not exactly but the concept is the same. The thing is, I was working on a school assignment – my Organizational Behaviour course, the topic was on Personality determinants and structure. I was busy enjoying my lesson when I came across this line;

Contrary to many beliefs, heredity factors are indeed major determinants of personality.

The moment I came across that line, every brain activity in my head stopped for what felt like a century. I felt scared…extremely scared. Despite my brain seeming to have logged off, I could smell and taste a strange bitterness in my mouth. Something felt wrong.

And something was definitely wrong. I tried to reboot my brain but it didn’t help that the next topic I came across was one covering Sigmund Freud. That man had deep psychological issues that no psychologist in his or this era could diagnose. The fact that I instantly connected to one of his theories scared the red out of my blood cells immediately.

I wondered to myself; did I really want to be like my mother and father. The first response I gave myself was a resounding NO. At that particular moment, I felt like I did not wish to have any of my parent’s traits. But before you think that I had very bad parents, let me tell you that I had the best mom in the world! So what about my father?  You ask. Believe me I am asking myself the same question too.

It is no secret for both my family and friends that my father and I weren’t close. But that is not to say he was a bad father. We just never saw eye to eye due to a whole other bunch of reasons. However, my mother was in-love with him and she stayed by his side until such a time he decided forever had run its course with her. She still stayed faithful to him to the very end, God bless her soul.

The things that make me not want to be like my father are things he did that I never liked. I do not know if it makes sense but generally speaking, my father was a good man, he loved a good laugh, he was jovial, extremely intelligent to the point of madness, he was good looking (I think?), tall… and whenever I watched him with my big sister, I could feel and see his fatherly love. To that extent he was a good father, very loving. But then again who wouldn’t love my sister? It could also be that she made it easy for him to love her and I built walls around me to completely shut him out. The evidence seems to support that assertion.

The other good thing I remember about my father is that he was a good spender. After his retirement, he broke all possible world records by dancing on all his benefits during the time it took him to actually receive them and get home to celebrate with his wife of over 20 years.

Even still, despite driving himself into bankruptcy, he was still able to have money and for years I watched him try one business after another. I still do not know where he kept finding the capital. Even if it was debt, I think he had some great skills on him to convince whoever it was that kept giving him money to keep giving it to him! He was a genius like that, my father.

He spent on his children excessively whenever he had the opportunity. Most of the time the opportunities where hard to come but whenever they did, it totally rained! Unfortunately, my father’s good qualities where like a curse on themselves…like a double edged sword. And it is because of this that I felt I did not wish to be like him.

His intelligence allowed him to come up with brilliant business ideas that would sometimes send him to the brink of insanity. He was a man out of control. A man who would not be swayed from his unrighteous path even if Jezebel herself stood naked in front of him holding a Bible. Whereas he had begun as a good husband when he married my beautiful mother, with time he turned into a very scary human being.

If I am to have my father’s traits, which ones would I really want to have? And do I even have a choice in the matter? Heredity is such a…..(there’s a word am tempted to use, but I will let your minds fill it in for me, thank you.)

I have had many people tell me to think about all the good that my father did for me and the family. Finding the answer to that task is like asking me to either; mathematically prove that 1 + 1 is actually 2 or, to immediately take the bar exam. I could tell you why I think 1 + 1= 2, but I cannot prove it to you mathematically. I would rather take the bar exam!

But let me try both;

He gave life to me.

For a while he gave me a home.

By marrying my mother, he gave me the best supporter of all time.

He gave me my siblings.

Am told my brain functions on the same wave length as did his….I am not yet sure whether that is a good thing or not but let us not think too much shall we.

Then we move on to my mother…why I felt I did not wish to be like her.

Margaret, a woman with unfailing faith in God; she held on to it even when the walls around her where crumbling onto her head, breaking her into pieces bit by bit. Once I asked her why she stayed in marriage and her solemn answer was, “because of you my kids.”

I do not know if she expected me to be pleased with her response but because of that very response, I had for many years erased any idea of marriage from my head. I was grateful for her sacrifices, and I still am. Had my mother left the man that contributed biologically to my being, my siblings and I would not be where we are today. Any other woman would have left…but she stayed.

Yet…that fact is exactly what makes me not want to be like her. I have seen her pain. I have lived through her pain. I dried her tears numerous times. I picked her bloodied body from the floor many times than I care to remember. I watched her beauty fade from the hardness of life. I watched her smile through the pain, always pretending to be happy. I watched her read her Bible faithfully even when her eyes where failing her. I watched her hold on to dear life just so she could see me graduate and get married. And then all her pain became mine.

She lost the fight.

I should die trying to be like her…but I don’t.

I do not want to have her personality. That kind of personality could drive me crazy. Therein lies too much pain with endurance as the only hope. Her pain was so much that she ended up naming one of her own kids Endurance! Seriously Mum???

I am not patient enough to wait for Paradise. I might desire to live there, but I keep hoping my journey isn’t as rough as my mothers. Her life was a tsunami.

The behavioural scientists believe that human beings respond to stimuli or vice versa, or that our behaviour can be conditioned or reinforced. They believe that every person has a different personality which is influenced by factors such as environment, situation, heredity, and physical. Even before we are born, we have no choice in who are parents will be.

But it gets worse!

We have no choice in the way we will look once we are born. We could try surgery but we will always remember how we were before. Those images never go away. Even cloud servers have nothing on them. Then we have no choice in the environment or situation we will be raised. If anything Sigmund Freud says about the structure of the mind is true, then I have a reason to worry.

At present, my personality is a result of how I wish it to be. Whether it is natural or not is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, it is something that has developed as a result of my experiences through life…the life that I have thanks to my parents. Growing up, I obviously had no choice in the experiences I went through but it is those same experiences that have stayed in my subconscious, always threatening to emerge thereby influencing the way in which I respond to different situations.

Even though I wish to believe that I am responsible for who I am, I know for a fact that who I was born from and how I was raised has much to do with everything I say or do. I can convince myself that I do not wish to be like my parents, but the things I learnt from them are the things I use to better myself in life; good or bad experiences, they’ve been most helpful.

I have lived most of my life hating a man who probably wasn’t even aware of his wrong doings and by doing so allowed him to still have a negative control over my life. I hated everyone who told me to forgive. I even hated God for allowing my mother to go through all that. My faith has been shaken numerous times and it is still fragile…but seriously, my mother should have seen something in it to keep holding on to it to the very end, right?

I want to see what my mother saw.

I want to know why she believed so much.

But the truth is, I don’t have the courage to start looking.

If I do start my mother’s journey, will I end up living the kind of life she did…always holding on even when it was humanly impossible? Is that what they mean by faith? Do I really want that? Do I really need to suffer like her to prove myself faithful? Dear Lord.

The answers scare my stomach enzymes into constipation itself.