In my year in review for 2015, I wrote that I was learning to enjoy summarizing each year as it came to a close. This has not been true for 2016. I struggled with words as I sought the right way to say what I wanted to say. In the process, I have written and re-written countless material which for one reason or another didn’t feel quite right. The words and my feelings didn’t seem to come into alignment. So, today I sat down for the umpteenth time and told myself that instead of a summarizing 2016 I was going to write the first two things about the year that came to mind.
I had to get this post done today.
So, the first thing.
In 2016 I was entangled with a person who is incredibly negative. To them nothing I do seems right. I tried my best to remain positive but the negativity was driving me nuts and we would argue constantly – sometimes very intensely. One such intense argument degenerated into a physical confrontation that left me shell-shocked. Never before in my life had I ever been in physical fight and in that moment, something had broken in me that had once been good. I was dislodged from who I believed myself to be and found myself in a place emotionally that I didn’t want to be. So, for the rest of the year I set myself on the path of healing. I figured I had a choice to make. I could let this person’s negativity control me or I could accept that they are what they are and the circumstances were what they are. I couldn’t change much of these things; but I could change myself and my attitude. Once my attitude changed, nothing this person said or did affected my emotions.
The lesson I learned from this is that there is no reason to argue with people that are constantly dissatisfied or complain. In instances when we argued I would get angrier and angrier with each word. I was reacting instead of responding. Worse still I allowed them to influence my feelings and behavior and in doing so handed my power over.
Other people’s thoughts are not our responsibility and we should be protecting our own inner space, that’s the space we have full responsibility over. But protecting our inner piece does not mean excluding ‘negative’ people around us from our lives – especially when such people are close relatives. In my experience, it has meant understanding myself and setting boundaries so that the presence of ‘negative’ people does not dislodge my stability or authenticity. This requires an ability to be generous, tolerant, and clear-headed at the same time: a unifying presence.
Now the second thing.
In mid-2016 I read about a wall installed in a public place in New Orleans that invited passersby to reflect and write their stories of things they want to do before exiting this earth. I have since learned that this wall was created by Candy Chang after experiencing a personal loss. I loved reading the responses on the wall and throughout 2016 checked what people were writing on different walls around the world (Similar installations have been made throughout the world).
Naturally, this turned the focus on me. As I read responses by others I wondered what mine would be on such a wall. As a result, I was constantly thinking about death. Perhaps because of a certain health challenge. Then in July 2016 I attended Grandma Grace’s funeral service in Muranga and the priest spoke about death saying …worrying about death is not only useless, but also makes one miss out on the life they’re living right now. He said that although it is …scary and unknown, letting it run your life was to be dead while still living. We are all going to die so do not fight the inevitable… He continued.
I found this words illuminating because there was a time when the thought of death would trigger some profound feelings of loneliness and fear. For some reason after hearing these words I gradually came to a place in my heart where I accepted that at some point death will happen regardless of how safe or health I try to be, what gods I pray to, or what science I trust in.
The lesson here is simple, I am going to die. But for now, I’m alive.
Lastly, my response on before I die board would be:
Before I die I want to love more and fear less.
I want to learn to meet people where they are and love them as best as I can.