Beware the Hand that Holds the Ladder

 Many an imminent citizen has been quoted saying “they rose up from nothing…they found their potential and used it to alleviate their own poverty.” People speak about it, rappers rap about it, and individuals allude to it when shirking the responsibility of lending a helping hand to a stranger/friend in need – after all they pulled up their bootstraps and rose in the ranks all by their lonesome.

“Self Made.” There have been albums titled after it, ballads sung about it and movements made with regard to the notion. Personally, with no disrespect, I believe it is a load of bullocks. No one is self-made, not in their entirety. I do not seek to minimize the role of the individual, the strength of character necessary to reach that pinnacle of success, the self-discipline, nor the marrying of preparation with opportunity; however that success was not reached based solely on individual effort.

That repositioning from destitute poverty to power and great riches must surely have had at lease one hand up somewhere in the rise. There must have been a friend that helped you, a foe that fueled your desire to do the seemingly impossible, a partner that pushed you, or even an angel investor that gave you financial wings.

The concept of building an empire from the ground up requires a foundation, and surely one must have masons and carpenters helping to lay the blocks and secure the scaffolding even if you are attempting to be a “jack of all trades” project manager.

It is important to realize and itemize the contributions of others. The climb up from nothingness to success must surely involve someone holding the ladder to stabilize it. The width and breadth of your come-up might be easy enough that the ladder is virtually stable on its own, but even then having someone to ensure that passers-by do not bump into it and aggravate it to the point where it topples over and deters your progress is a necessity. In order to focus on the climb up, there are those on the ground providing stability and support in whatever aspect necessary.

People often accredit success and progress to the I’s, I did this, then I did that, then I achieved the other, then I, then I, then I… However it is vital to give credit where it is due. Whether the contribution has been money, time, wisdom, expertise or even a less conventional catalyst planting seeds of doubt and despair that propelled you forward – it is important to have an awareness of these things and not omit them from the autobiography. It is important not to disregard the stabilizing forces, not to attempt to re-write history, and not to give in to the pretentious lure of keeping up appearances of occurrences that never occurred. Ultimately beware of the one that holds the ladder, don’t step on the fingers straining to stabilize your effort to your success.

There is a force, a spirit; “karma” if you will, that must surely circle back around. And if somewhere in the process you have purposely or unconsciously disregarded the importance of others’ contributions to where you are, there will be negative consequences from not giving credit when credit is due. The helpers sent to help you on their journey deserve their accolades too. Beware not to crush the fingers of the ones who are providing that stabilizing force for you, because ultimately, they might yank you back down or alternatively it may not by their own volition, but somehow, in some way, something will come round and bite you in the ass for your lack of gratefulness and class.

By Any Other Name

A recent article revealed that a Nigerian American woman is being charged with human trafficking and subjecting two young Nigerian women to modern day slavery (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/06/13/georgia.human.trafficking/). Even before the link to the article appeared on my Skype chat with a friend, I knew what it was. I knew that “modern day slavery” by any other name, especially as the perpetrator was a Nigerian, was just a case of house girls transplanted to a new nation and regularly accepted practices converted into irregularities as they crossed the seas.

Housegirls and houseboys are a regular commodity in Nigeria and many other developing nations. In fact, one of the reasons why most dread going abroad is the lack of this luxury, which we consider a norm. In the States there is a general “Do It Yourself” attitude that the individualistic nation upholds. Since the end of their slavery, the rights of all individuals, rich and poor, are protected by many policies and procedures. They may not have perfected the treatment of justice and liberty for all, but they certainly make a valiant attempt. This means if you want a maid, a cook, a cleaner, etc you will have to pay an arm and a leg to engage one, pay them by the hour, and say goodbye to the notion of getting an all-in-one individual.

Therefore the lack of this support service in first world countries proves a difficult adjustment for many Nigerians who are used to it. I am not opposed to the idea of having domestic staff that help with various tasks: cooking, cleaning, child rearing, driving, etc. Where my opposition lies is when domestic staff become domestic slaves, as they so often do.

 

This Nigerian American woman beat her two housegirls, made them sleep on the floor/couch, bathe with a bucket (laughable, I know), did not allow them to eat what they cooked, did not pay them wages and made them dependent on her for basic necessities. There are many parallels here, many of which transplanted into the Nigerian context of housegirl-to-madam relationship would appear regular. However, this woman could be facing up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and may be stripped of her American citizenship.

This begs the question – did she mistreat these young women? Most definitely! What it comes down to is the value of the individual. Just because someone comes from a poorer background and may not have been afforded certain opportunities, they do not deserve to be treated as a lesser human being – for they are not a lesser human being. Respect for those around you – whether employed by you or “saved” by you from a worse existence – is essential. Housegirls and houseboys have rights too, or at least they should. The treatment of these two young women is the norm in some households here in Nigeria and other nations across the world, and this is both sad and wrong.

Karma has a way of creeping up on us, whether we are able to connect the dots or not, and since “whatever we do to the least of Christ’s brothers” we are doing unto him, we should be ever conscious of our interactions. A popular test used to judge character is the “waiter test.” How do individuals treat someone who is in a position of service to them, someone who they do not have to put on airs for or have any incentive to impress? This can be applied to domestic staff. How does one treat those that are clearly subordinates in an unspoken class system where ill treatment is permitted and at times promoted? This is of utmost importance.

There are many cases where housegirls and houseboys receive a better life, an education, and opportunities to advance themselves and their families – God bless those who are catalysts in this process. However, there are those cases that are similar and worse than the one orchestrated and now faced by this Nigerian American woman. It is a reminder, be mindful of your actions, be aware of your interactions, be considerate in your treatment of others.

One does not know the day or moment when you will be called to stand trial. What charges will your accusers bring against you? Will they be your opposition or will they support you during times of trial? The tables have a way of turning, and as power shifts and you are at the other end – will your ill treatment of others backfire against you or will you reap the seeds of goodwill you have previously sown? The choice is yours, and the strength of character you choose to develop will surely play a crucial role at one time or another. Beware, be careful, be who you are comfortable with and can willingly answer for.

Audible Passions

If my passions could speak, what on earth would they say?

Would they speak of how they lay untouched, festering with decay?
Would they speak of how they are ignored, and never see the light of day?

Would they speak of how they spend more time in my dreams,
And are hardly ever brought out to play?
Would they speak of how they long to relocate, into reality?
Would they speak as if their existence would never come to be, with a tone of finality?

Would they speak as those who are but shape shifters,
Never quite settling into one form before being moulded into another?
Would they speak of the influence my life has on them, when one is seemingly traded for another?

Would they sing the song of unsung heroes,
Of ones yet to realize their purpose?
Or would they grumble at their lack of realization,
Secretly thinking I do it on purpose?

Why is she so torn, they must wonder.
When will she get it together, surely they ponder.
Does she really think she can achieve us all, they ask.
What gives her the gall to believe she can accomplish such a task?

Some of us are in direction opposition of each other,
Why on earth does she even bother?
How can she want to be a this, and in the same breath a that,
How can she long to write of this and then speak of that?

How does she reckon one as short as her can aim so high?
On what authority does she hope to touch the sky?

Do they question how long I plan to leave them dormant,
For how long they must remain fallow?
Do they know I pray for them everyday,
And my plans for them are far from shallow.

Do they know I’m breaking the lock on my hope chest,
And will soon let them all fly out?
Do they realize I’m laying the ground work,
So they’ll be nourished and never die out?

Do they know I love them so,
And that is why I await the right time,
Do they know I’ve realized I must let them go,
In order for them to truly be mine.

So with courage I’m still yet to find,
I take the steps pre-ordained by the Divine,
The time is nigh, for my hopes to arise,
And for my passions to take their place in the skies.
I cannot yet tell you if they will survive,
But heaven knows, yes heaven knows, I shall try.

x

*the Death of Life*

One bright day in the middle of the night
Death and life got up to fight
Tombstones turned and angels fluttered
As the sun and moon both ran for cover
Daggers were thrown and halos were spun
As bets were cast on either one

Death got strong and life got weak
Yet death was not strong enough to claim defeat
They wrestled around through highs and lows
The greater the altitude, the stronger life’s blows

Life tried to toss death off the earth’s edge
Yet death wouldn’t loosen her grip on the ledge
Death tried to banish life into a place of exile
But could not leave life’s side for a long enough while

They rock-paper-scissors-ed for it
And for a while life rocked
But death was close behind on the paper* trail
To cover life up

Days turned to decades
And the feud wore on
And soon death and life
Began to have fun!

Pushing their limits with *car.accidents* and cancer
With life as the catalyst and death as the romancer
Death flirted and frolicked through all the stages of life
Until life decided to make death his wife

The living and the dead gathered, there was quite a crowd
Yet all was silent as life shared his vows

“As the head of the house
I will appear to have all the power
But body and souls shall be yours
In the final hour.

All that I preserve and save
Will be yours to decay
And no matter how far I wander
With you I shall always lay.

The sun I give to you as an .engagement.ring.
And the moon as your .wedding.band.
For no matter what the passing days bring
When the sun sets I will always hold your hand

When darkness gives way to light
I shall once more take the reins,
But even then you shall be my mistress,
And my caress me through life’s pains.”

Death had little to say
To what life had proposed
Except an exuberant: i do
As the crowds applauded and rose

“You may now kiss your bride”
The preacher told life.
and OUR fate was *sealed*
For then life closed his *eyes*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo source: http://www.myspace.com/soundofsilence

Trust(ee) in Training

Women are trained to trust! As a gender, women most often get tarred and feathered as being emotional, naïve, and the silly ones in the relationship. There are a higher percentage of women who submit themselves to a life of doormat-ship and allow themselves to be washed, walked on, and eventually dusted off when they become too worn to be wanted anymore.

My theory is women are trained up to trust.

There are so many facets to the modern day woman that must be outsourced that women are simply trained to trust straight up strangers. Follow my train of thought here…

We trust our hairdressers, our nail technicians, our tailors, our friends (to tell us if we can pull off whatever dress/design without looking fat), our market vendors from whom we buy vegetables and meat, our fellow women (think bathroom breaks during sweaty clubbing sessions – “Do I look shiny?” “Is my make-up okay?” “Do you think its okay if I take my shoes off” *quite frankly NO* but I digress..). We trust our beauty supply store clerks to tell us if we can rinse the hair dye directly in or need to base it first. We trust the mirror, the Mac make-up technicians, the midwives, the E! stylists, the calorie counting magazine motivators, our mothers (to teach us how to cook sweet soup and serve it up the right way) and the list goes on.

We trust a plethora of people, most of whom we’ve only met moments before. Therefore is it not logical that we are easily inclined to trust someone that supposedly gives us a reason to? Someone who woos us and washes us with words we want to hear? Indeed! The fairytale framework is already set in place in our minds, so once the character hypothetically rides in on that proverbial white horse, we easily transfer the most important level of trust unto him. This my darlings is where the danger lurks. For this kind of trust can shatter the heart of she who bestows it without a second thought upon said object of interest.

So after being trained up to trust we must teach ourselves to master trust and invite some mistrust into our midst. After all the Miss with the most trust is usually left at a loss for most times blind trust does not pay off.

So hold back emotions, analyze situations critically, let it be earned rather than freely given. If he is sewing on your clothes feel free to let your feelings show, but if his sole goal is to strip them away you better make him wait. Build that relationship, for only transactions should be conducted with quickness, and even those could benefit from some skepticism.

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Photo Source: http://www.wildaboutmovies.com/movies/TheWomen2008Movie-TheWomen2008Trailer-DianeEnglish.php http://hippyofdoom.deviantart.com/art/Lipstick-Kiss-Shoes-77926728

Flip Your Tassel!

I would like to pen a sonnet
An ode to my feelings
The ones of yet unexpressed
The ones uninspired to manifest

The ones I recognize on the sleeve of another
The ones I see flitter across the face of a mother
The ones I hear muffled in the moans of a lover
The ones I weep out at night under the covers

I would like to pen a song
An ode to my future
The one yet unexplored
Cut short by the rooster

The one I see when I close my eyes
As dusk morphs into dawn
The dreams I have of reality
The moves I force upon the pawn

Yet its hardly a game of chess
This sunrise to sunset
So as I commence after the commencement
I seek to do so with no regret

Graduation has come and gone. The cap and gown lay crumpled. I’m hardly surprised though, for it was never the end goal. The end goal was to be done with my first institution of higher learning, to graduate with the highest honors and move on to the next one. All boxes are checked on the list, yet the only problem is paralysis.

Paralyzed by an achievement that has been such a long time coming, sometimes it’s hard to shake it off and move on to that next one. Sometimes that next one is not clearly defined. Sometimes you want to run into the future, embracing it with arms wide open; but sometimes the future is not ready for you. The stage was set, your role was played, now the curtain has been closed for a scene change. I try and wait, with patience as my most impatient virtue, and try not to sink into a “what if” moment that my recent high will never count as a low. Sorting out what continent to hop to, what job role to fill, where to live, what to hold back and what to give – is all a bit daunting. Yet in the still quiet moments I know it is exciting, for it simply means I am on the brink of the unseen.

Blessings from above, courage from within, I’ve awoken from my coma and I’m ready for the next act of this life thing.

.

Photo Source: http://crownlibrary.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/congrats-graduates-and-graduation-library-hours/

Flying iiin Formation

Trying to teach my thoughts to fly in formation
They are off on their own path, recreation.
My dreams are flittering around,
Some flapping others barely making a sound.

Others pounding on my temples,
With the bass down low,
Forcing their way in,
Beats upon beats concealed in this drum roll.
Invading my visions,
Pulling at the strings of my soul.

Making me feel like a radio head,
Stalking my eyelids even when I go to bed.
Partying it up in the 7 corners of my mind,
Confusing my reality with insanity, its disturbingly sublime.

They’re swirling around,
Far above the ground. Refusing to land.
I may have to push them off the flight,
Forced evacuation. Parachute in hand.

I’m dizzy trying to keep up,
When I close my eyes they always creep up.
Its an unconventional path, there’s no road map or signs.
Just emotions that get hotter and colder in this body of mine.

I’m the instructor and the pupil,
Teaching my dreams to fly in formation,
For only then will I find piece and peace of mind,
While my pens keep doodling outside these lines.

I see glimpses of my vision,
Tangible then evanescent,
They cannot be bred of atoms,
They must be heaven sent.
They cannot be saved or hoarded,
They must be explored and spent.

As blessed as the manna
As perishable as the holy bread too,
I feed off my dreams. I am fulfilled,
Yet everything feels askew.

I’m part and parcel,
Not quite whole,
For my creativity shall not be consoled,
Until it is allowed to explode.

Squeezed out like grapes converted to a fine wine,
Every last drop consumed while I dine.
Intoxicated by the simple subtleties and by the divine,
As it raises my reserve and lowers my confines.

My cup runneth over,
I’m barely sober.
Every fibre of my being,
Salutes to its owner.
Wondering if she’ll do them the honor,
Of exposing her visions and vices on her.
On her – where they can be seen,
Where they can be upgraded from pipe dreams.
Where they can be judged or jubilated,
Where they can make a scene. #seen.

Photo Source:

http://www.fotosearch.com/illustration/tune.html