One Question Away

“I wouldn’t have stumbled on such an important discovery. I’d still be sitting in the dark, oblivious of the life inside me, thumping against my chest, seeking to find expression.”

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So, I began this journey of self discovery and it’s been quite interesting. I made a decision to get to know myself (strange, huh?), to learn about who I am, what I can do, what makes me tick, what keeps me going, what has the potential to be a limitation to me, e.t.c.

Anyways, on my journey, I encountered some questions. I’m sorry, did I say some? Myriads of questions, ok. “How can I…? How do I…? How will I…?” Most of my questions were built upon the word “how”. In some sessions of rummaging those questions, I ended up scampering away with a headache. “I didn’t know it would be this hard” but in those tough moments, I found that quitting was not an option. Quit and live a purposeless life? No way! So, I kept asking.

You see, I have many talents and abilities; I have 3 core areas (or so I thought) that my heart beats for- Customer care, Hospitality and Quality Management. So, I felt focusing on just one would lead to limitation. It didn’t make sense to me and besides I couldn’t decide which ones to drop. Then, one day, I decided to ask a thought leader and life coach, Mr Emeka Nobis (God bless his beautiful heart) one question about carving/finding my own niche and he took me through a process…leading me step by step to answer the question for myself and then, I realized that these 3 areas are actually connected. They all point to people (expressing great value for and adding value to them). Boy, was that a moment of discovery! Talk about clarity. My eyes are shining brighter than a torch light- It’s like a light bulb came on. I feel closer to myself, deeper into my own. Yea, I know the journey’s still on but I am freer and more powerful than when I started.

Never be ashamed or afraid to ask (the right person) a question. God knows, if I was forming “miss know-it-all” I wouldn’t have stumbled on such an important discovery. I’d still be sitting in the dark, oblivious of the life inside me, thumping against my chest, seeking to find expression.

Feet off the Cliff

cliff-diving

The gloves are off. I’m ready. I can smell the win. I’m so close to it, it’s intoxicating. I can’t believe I got here! Oh wait! I can. I know the road that got me here. Trust me, it is not a pretty one- I’d name it the “Valley of the shadow of death”. I have gone from sadness to excruciating pain to depression to life-loathing to numbness to indifference to hope and now, I love my life!

You see, I’m a survivor. I WENT through these things and I came out smelling like a rose. Not a scratch on my back, not a strand of hair lost. I am complete. In fact, I feel more alive now than I’ve ever felt. I feel like I’ve been born anew. I’ve got a new life now and I’m ready to truly live! I live!

I’ve jumped. My feet are off the cliff. I’m far from safety. Suspended in the air- Wait! I can see the birds flying; I can see the sun clearly; I can almost touch the sky. What a breath of fresh air; it is so exhilarating. This is where I want to live. Far from the distractions, the “cares of life” and limitations. Why should I be struggling for a space on the ground with ants and roaches when I can float freely and uninhibited in the sky? No, this is where I’ll live.

A resurrected man can never be afraid of death. I have died and now I live. I fear nothing. I have found my place. My feet are off the cliff. I intend to keep it that way.

Tired

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All my life, I’ve had to beg to be loved or work hard to earn it. I must say it’s been a frustrating ride. Recent events have caused me to open the dreaded, sketchy and scanty childhood memories of mine, in a bid to find out why. Since I can’t share my findings with anyone close, I thought to share them with you.

My parents didn’t plan for me. I grew up in a home with 6 kids and for some reason, I always felt unwanted, like a burden that had to be borne. I always wanted to run away from home or just be nonexistent; the beatings were more intense whenever it got to “my turn”.Parts of my childhood years are blank in my mind and I always wondered why until I figured out that my parents wanted to have just 3 kids (I’m the 4th kid) and from stories told me by my parents and siblings, I was supposed to be a boy- based on scans and all- the long awaited boy to crown their joy but voila! I came out a girl. My parents were disappointed. I guess they couldn’t help but see me in that light. Now, don’t get me wrong, my parents did what they could to love and accept me but deep down, that disappointment stayed; occasionally popping out through their mouths and and actions. So, I grew up feeling like a disappointment- Very hungry to be loved and accepted for who and what I was. I did all sorts- changing myself, lowering my standards and making stupid decisions in a bid to get some form of acceptance but it never worked. Sometimes, I thought it did but the results were transient.

I’ve had and still have friends that are so lovable; you couldn’t but love and accept them ‘coz they’re so complete, gifted and lovely. I kinda hoped it would rub off on me but it never did. I guess something about me repelled love. But I stayed always working hard to be loved; swallowing betrayals, insults and mockery. I just wanted to feel like I was special to someone- that in the crowd someone would pick me. It’s pathetic, I know but I crave this. Then I met Jesus, and though, I’m still learning to balance grace and faith, it’s been quite interesting. You see, I’m not eye candy, you won’t  take a second look at me if I walked by but Jesus makes me extraordinary. He is my glow. I’ve fallen so many times I’ve lost count but still I rise, surprisingly. I know Jesus loves me, or at least, I’m learning to know that  but I yearn to feel loved and special by another human being. At some point I decided to ignore myself and just focus on making others feel loved but I’m afraid I’ve run dry. My bones are weak; my soul is like a desert. I just desire to know that no matter how ugly, fat, foolish and repulsive I might be, that I matter to someone.

I crave that look a groom gives his bride as she walks down the isle to forever. I want to be hugged, kissed and cherished like a precious jewel.I want to be fought for and approached even if my nastiest state. I want to be valued in my flawed state and admired as I blossom into a beautiful flower.. I believe there is some beauty in me, no matter how little. This is my enabling environment. I’m still searching for it. I thought I found it but I’m not so sure anymore.

So, right now I am tired. Tired of begging, trying, working so hard, running after people that teat me like a pig- repulsive and unwanted. Right now, I don’t care if I have these deep desires or not- my strength has failed me, I cannot move a muscle. I’m tired

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your flavour?

Just reminds me of a song by Craig David; he was trying to “get it on” with a girl and he was fantasizing about the experience. But I’m not tolling that line today, my focus is something paramount to life… I’m talking about your identity- what makes you an individual and different from the general public. You see, we live in a world that doesn’t celebrate being difference (not initially, at least); so much comparisons- “who’s richer?” “Who wore it better?” and all that. But I’ve come to see that we are ALL different- we cannot all fit into a box. I mean, not all ladies can fit into a medium-sized  Alexander McQueen Draped Bustier Gown neither can all men score hat tricks like Lionel Messi. We are all different  and the sooner we identify our niche and appreciate our differences the happier and more productive our lives become. Doing this frees us from the pressure to fit in and allows us to develop ourselves in our own specific areas of strength. I personally believe that every person was created to shine in a particular field but the question is do we believe that we can and should be different? Most individuals prefer to play it safe by just blending in with the crowd and following the trends in society; only few have the courage to celebrate their differences.

 

One question I always avoided was “Who are you?” It always sent chills down my spine because I didn’t know what made me different or rather I refused to appreciate it. I always saw myself through the eyes of other people and I was too scared to come face to face with the man (or should I say, woman) in the mirror. I was afraid of what I would find if I took a closer look at myself. And Now?, you may ask. Now, I see myself- my strengths and weaknesses, my likes and dislikes, my niche, my preferences and all and I must say I like what I’m seeing. I see that each day is worth celebrating as I appreciate, discover and develop myself because I have been intricately designed by God. I’m not all perfect; I still have weaknesses but one thing I now know about weaknesses is that they are not evil stuff; they are what they are- WEAKnesses: areas that can be pluses if they are strengthened.

 

So, take out the time to discover your own flavour; no matter how little the differences you may see, appreciate and even celebrate them because they make you you.

Stretch Yourself

I spent the past weekend at an event with some of the greatest singers I’ve every heard- at the music concert of The King’s Assembly’s Inspire Conference 2014 in Nigeria, Port Harcourt City precisely. I watched and heard them do “acrobatics” with their vocal cords to produce such beautiful sounds of different ranges and I was stunned, rather shockprised (a combination of shocked and surprised). I mean, I couldn’t believe that human beings (just like me) could do such with their voices. Now, I’ve heard nice songs but this was beyond nice and in the midst of the excitement and amazement, a question crossed my mind. I asked myself,  “How did these people get the capacity to do such with their voices? We all have the same vocal cords don’t we?” Ok, I believe I’m a good singer *wink but I wondered why I couldn’t be so creative and flexible with my voice. Just as soon as the question crossed my mind, within a short time to ponder, the answer followed- “Its because they’ve taken the time to stretch themselves, just to see what they could do with their voices. They have passed themselves through diverse processes to stretch and build the capacity of their vocal cords. They didn’t just leave it as they received it at birth, they broadened its capacity and voilà! Now, they can go to almost any range with their voices”. We all have the same vocal cords but some sing way better than others because they decided to push themselves to the limit. Others just stayed satisfied with the semitones and baritones they could modulate and demodulate to. Kinda reminds me of an interesting story I read about a man who gave his workers different amounts of money to keep before he went on a business trip; some workers decided to trade with what they had and made more whilst one stayed satisfied with what he had. The story ends with the other workers who added to what they had getting more and the satisfied worker losing the little he had. This doesn’t seem fair but that’s how life goes.

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I won’t limit this to just singing but I believe it applies to life in general. We have talent and abilities that are still like raw materials… You and I know that raw materials don’t have much use till they are processed. So, what are you doing to stretch your abilities and talents? In you lies unlimited potential. There’s so much inside of you… so much you can do but you’ll never know until you stretch yourself to see.

The truth is that, you’d be so miserable if you let your potential just sit there inside you untouched. Day by day, you’ll be haunted by the things you could do but have decided not to because of fear, laziness or what have you.  Your environment is flooded with opportunities you can harness to groom yourself. Take advantage of them

The choice is yours. Stretch yourself or become a fossil. .

When Euphoria Fades

Love

Falling in love is beautiful and finding that special someone who accepts you as you are is just magnificent; makes you feel like the best thing God made… All of a sudden, everything around you becomes so colourful and lovely- the sound of rain, the green leaves, the setting of the sun, everything.  I guess that’s the logic behind the statement “love is such a beautiful thing”. That person becomes the center of your universe and daily, you plot ways to make him/her happy, funny enough, the ideas flow effortlessly. He/she is all you can think about throughout today. Wow! Words like happiness, ecstasy, elation… what else? They all describe your current state.

Now, I’ve come to see that it’s so easy to fall in love but staying in love requires work but sadly, most people aren’t ready to sign up for that work and so we see myriads of broken hearts and divorces. How would you explain that a couple who were gushing over each other, months or years later can’t wait to be apart from each other; people who took vows at the altar before God, friends and family with so much emotion and conviction begin to “drift” from each other like objects carried by the waves of the sea. They move from lovers to housemates to strangers and worse, to enemies. Gary Chapman, author of the 5 love languages, stated that some married couples, years down the line, become nicer to strangers than they are to themselves. Why? Surely they didn’t plan to become strangers when planning the wedding. In fact, if asked, they won’t be able to point out when their relationship lost sizzle…“it just happened”.  Now, I’m not trying to scare anyone from getting into a relationship or getting married… certainly not! I believe marriage is a beautiful thing, I am engaged to wonderful man and I’ve got my heart set on enjoying the rest of my life with him but I want to point out an obvious trend and trace the root of this trend, so that you and I don’t add to the statistics of broken hearts/marriages.

It’s been scientifically proven that when a person falls in love, it has an astounding effect on the brain… same effect cocaine has. Now, this effect translates into euphoric feelings which also manifests on the physical body- you know, the goose bumps on the skin, fastened heartbeat, feeling of butterflies in the stomach, when you see that person. The brain quickly associates those feelings with this person and they are “let loose” when we come in contact with them. That’s why we always want to be with them and all… you know what I mean. These feelings are not wrong; they are all part of the package but not the whole package. It’s so easy to express love with these feelings on board but what happens when these feelings begin to fade or rather when they start to dwindle; its common knowledge that our feelings are like rollercoasters- up today, down tomorrow.  They are unstable and thus, we definitely cannot expect to have a stable relationship with them driving us. Expressing our love only when we feel like makes us very unreliable and inconsistent. This cannot sustain a relationship. ‘Coz no one wants to feel like the best thing today and the most unwanted fellow tomorrow. And one thing I’ve realized is that people need love the most when these feelings are not “gushing”.

This should be an obvious truth but we seem to practice this over and over again- base our love expressions on euphoric feelings. Couples mount on these feelings that usually accompany the beginning of the relationship expecting them to take them to the land of their dreams- “happily ever after” but they do not realize that this saddle can only take them so far. It is not potent enough to take them to the very end. We all have different ideas about love but one major idea of love is that it is a decision; one we make consciously, one that has consequences and requires commitment and commitment to a person or a cause goes beyond feelings. Early in relationships, it’s easy to ignore the fact that loving a person requires conscious effort because we are guided by the euphoria and we can’t imagine that loving this person being so difficult. We set out with intentions to love our partners forever but it is dangerous to let the euphoric feelings be the basis for our relationships. The basis for our relationship should rather be a decision to love our partners no matter what whilst we enjoy the feelings as and when they pop up and use them as tools to express our love. Our emotions are tools, not dictations.

Making the decision to love your partner will help you keep your ship sailing when the euphoria begins to fade. This is the secret behind lasting marriages. This is why people who have been married for 30 years are still deeply in love and are even more grateful that they met each other- they decided to love each other through life and not abscond when they no longer felt like it. They decided to consciously express love to their partner (in ways they’d understand- See Gary Chapman’s five love languages; now that’s a topic for another day), to forgive their partner always without holding a grudge and accept them even when times change. This is not an easy decision but it sure is worth it.

 

In case you don’t know what love looks like… I honestly believe Hollywood hasn’t given us a proper picture of it. Here’s what it looks like:

“Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self. 

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 

Love doesn’t strut.

Doesn’t have a swelled head. 

Doesn’t force itself on others, 

Isn’t always “me first”.

 Doesn’t fly off the handle. 

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel. 

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth. 

Puts up with anything. 

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best. 

Never looks back, 

But keeps going to the end”

 

So you see, euphoria can’t help you accomplish this. Let this be your standard.

Handling the fears

I try to share my experiences because I believe the messages with the greatest impacts are those that are personal, you know, the ones we learn firsthand, not those we heard about or read in books. Now, I’m not downplaying learning from the experience of others or from advice but there are some things we may never learn without experiencing them ‘coz human nature is quite stubborn, and thus, sometimes we choose to learn some things by experience rather than instruction. Anyways, recently I’ve been undergoing introspection; self-examination,  I decided to think about what I’ve thinking about for a while in order to gain deeper understanding of who I am and know the  ‘whys’ and ‘whats’ of my humble self. In this examination, I noticed something toxic that I need to uproot and that is the “fear of rejection”.  How did I discover it? I got to a point in my life where I was tired of the norms … I got tired of staying boxed in and limited; tired of not being able to being able to laugh and speak my mind freely or be comfortable in the midst of a crowd;  tired of the limitations I had placed on myself. As a result of this, conflict began deep within, between the me I had always known and the me that was trapped inside- fighting to breathe and gain expression. I began to dig deep and at the root of this lifestyle… there it was… the fear of rejection- the fear that if I come out, I’ll be pounced on. The fear that I won’t be loved and appreciated because I’m not good enough. The fear of not being accepted. The fear of being mocked or laughed out.  I realized that this fear has built the walls of the prison I found myself in.

I realized that I may have gotten by with this lifestyle but the fact is that I don’t want to just get by anymore, I want to live! I want to enjoy my life! I want to be happy, to laugh out loud (literally); I want to celebrate every day; I want to love out loud and share my life with people and enjoy the love of loved ones because the truth is that I deserve it. I’m lovable. I have something valuable within me that people need. I deny the world of my smile, my words, my experiences, my unique personality when I stay boxed in, I deny the world of Tamunotonye Allen when I just hide out in fear.

And you know one thing I realized? The words fear speaks are all lies. They are unreal. They only become real when we believe them.  Someone said that FEAR means False Evidence Appearing Real meaning that your fears are just mirages; they are just illusions. When we pay attention to them, they dictate our actions and shape our realities. If we can begin to doubt our fears rather and exalt the truth above them in our minds, then we begin to live and enjoy the precious moments of life.

This isn’t just a “feel good” write-up I just came up with to cheer myself up. It’s a statement of freedom, Yeah, it will take a while to be completely free of this fear but I am well on my way and that means that I am not where I used to be. I’m on my way to who I am.

I was watching Season 1 of Simon Cowell’s, the X Factor US recently; the one Melanie Amaro from Sunrise, Florida won. I’m not telling you this to dig up stale gist, I learnt something very vital from her ‘success story’. I actually picked interest in her just after her first audition in Miami. She’s a very brilliant artist with an amazing voice; always gave amazing performances but she had a challenge- she felt she wasn’t good enough. At a point in the show, she was sent home, She felt her chances of living her dreams were gone completely, According to her, that  went ahead to “confirm” that she wasn’t good enough. But something unusual happened within show, Simon realized sending her home was a mistake and he went to her home to get her after discussing with the other judges- Paula Abdul, LA. Reid and Nicole Scherzinger; in fact, the judges sent him to get her back on the show regardless of the laid down rules because she was that amazing. She agreed to return to the show.  According to her, the experience she had on that show were life changing and she realized that the walls she had built to protect herself  began to crumble and on one particular show, she damned those fears and expressed herself fully; I mean, she sang her heart out. She revealed the ‘real her’ she was too scared to show because of that fear and from that moment on, her performances became greater and better. She was free to be real and to truly express herself through the songs she sang.  She eventually won the show.

I learnt a great deal from her story and I hope you do to, Let those walls down. Begin to doubt your fears and believe the truth of who you are- that you are indeed great, lovable and important.  Join me to make this decision to live life to the full and to pull down those walls we built to “protect” ourselves. Let’s stop hiding in fear and start living! The truth is we just have one life to live, let’s live it well.