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Sunday, March 3, 2024

We’re all individuals in search of love, each carrying our own heartaches (Part 20)

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Borogie, despite her numerous positive attributes, grappled with a tendency toward hypochondria. Whether driven by a genuine need for attention or other motivations, this characteristic drove a wedge between her and her husband, Yerro. Yerro, being casual and dismissive, often made side comments about her ailments that did not sit well with Borogie. While hypochondriacs are initially easy to tolerate, the constant exaggeration of minor ailments into grave maladies can strain the patience of even the most understanding individuals…

It’s inevitable that we absorb certain traits of our family’s to some degree. It’s been quite some time since one of my brutally honest conversations with Borogie, during which she recounted with great pain how Yerro treated her disdainfully due to her health issues. She remarked, “Look who’s still here now. They’re all dead and gone, Yerro and Dado, referring to her co-wife. They used to mock and ridicule me for my ailments. But I’m the last one standing—still frequently unwell but alive!”

Upon careful reflection, I acknowledge a shared tendency with Borogie to internalize emotions and keep things ‘inside for a long time.’ This self-awareness serves as a deterrent, enabling me to address offensive behaviors from those who should be close, i.e. friends and family, before they fester into wounds. Simultaneously, it empowers me to navigate challenges posed by individuals outside my inner circle. But while it might be easy to block, unfollow, and walk away from those who are not close, true strength lies in confronting and resolving issues within close relationships. This perspective is rooted in the understanding that only an ‘unbeliever’ would sever ties with family.

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Moreover, in recognising some of Borogie’s traits within myself, I am reminded of her life’s narrative. Despite her lifelong hard work, she found herself with little solace in the end, marred by bitterness and an apparent inability to let go of perceived slights and offenses committed by some of the people she loved the most. This realization presents a deep sense of sadness for me. In my perspective, the absence of a comprehensive education, encompassing both Islamic and Western teachings, appears to have entrenched her mindset in an irrational aversion to conflict and the subsequent nurturing of resentments.

Many individuals, particularly women, often choose to remain silent, hesitant to confront others due to fear, miseducation, a reluctance to challenge the status quo, or a desire to avoid appearing “arrogant”, all stemming from limitations in their educational backgrounds, home training etc. This, I believe, is the reason individuals like Borogie suffered in silence. Fear can act as a deity, subtly governing one’s life without conscious awareness. I firmly believe that a single heart cannot accommodate two deities—the God of Fear and the Lord of the Worlds, “Sayid Alealamin.”

In my personal perspective, the feeling of being mistreated, dismissed or ghosted by someone or a group of people cannot be attributed to specific stressors; rather, it seems to be a result of collective actions. Crucially, it stems from one person rejecting a perceived connection that is not reciprocated by the others involved. I recognize that unrealistic expectations also contribute significantly to the disappointments people face. Expectations, much like joy-killers, have the capacity to disrupt our peace of mind, as they often manifest as premeditated disappointments.

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I recall a recent encounter I had with Aunty Toulie which served as a stark revelation of the complexities within familial relationships. At the age of 62, I watched the once attractive woman with the light brown eyes and pale skin, share with me a distressing account of body-shaming perpetrated by her closest kin during a recent family gathering. The shocking revelation transpired in the presence of her own granddaughter and other family members who, regrettably, remained silent witnesses to the heart-wrenching scene.

Aunty Toulie, an Oku-marabout, whose Wolof is as inadequate as my Mandinka, which is quite poor, and who often resorts to English when conversing with her family, recently found herself entangled in a distressing encounter. On that particular day, she was amidst her family when she briefly stepped away. Seizing the opportunity, her first cousin addressed the remaining relatives with a remark in Wolof that echoed through the air, “Toulie looks like a bag of bones. If I were in her situation, I wouldn’t attend large gatherings like these.” The utterance hung in the air, followed by a palpable hushed silence, only broken by a few discreet giggles, as if the insensitive comment were a jest.

Aunty Toulie’s granddaughter, profoundly affected by the hurtful words and the toxic atmosphere of the gathering, couldn’t contain her emotions. Mindful of her granny’s potential distress, the courageous nine-year-old girl repeated the derogatory comments to her own mother, desperate to make sense of the cruelty that had unfolded.

Equally shocked and disgusted by the revelation, the girl’s mother, who is also Aunty Toulie’s daughter-in-law, took it upon herself to report the incident directly to her mother-in-law. And so, through the painful conduit of a child’s aversion, Aunty Toulie learned about the hurtful words that would marr what should have been a memorable family celebration.

Later, in a tone tinged with self-deprecation, she shared with me, “They thought my granddaughter was like me. And that her Wolof is bad like mine,” she shrugged, a mixture of amusement and resignation in her expression. “I may not be wise in the ways of hypocrites, and I may not be street-smart, but I would never talk bad about my own family member.”

Her words carried the weight of her sadness, revealing her nuanced understanding of human dynamics and a commitment to family loyalty. As we delved deeper into the conversation, she unfolded the layers of her perspective. It became evident that, to her, the bonds of family were sacrosanct, a sanctuary untouched by the judgments and criticisms of the outside world.

Having endured a past reminiscent of the most tragic Nollywood plotlines in Nigeria, she had emerged from adversity, soaring into the skies of her freedom and self-confidence. When her daughter-in-law relayed the hurtful words spoken by their relatives, Aunty Toulie responded with a calm acceptance.

More than the gossip and betrayal behind her back, she confided in me that what truly wounded her was the family’s apparent disregard for the underlying cause of her substantial weight loss – a consequence of ill-health. The failure to acknowledge her struggles and the pain she endured on her path to recovery cut deeper than any unflattering name they could hurl in her direction.

In a world where gossip and backstabbing often find their way into the closest circles, Aunty Toulie stood as a guardian of familial integrity. Her refusal to disparage her own kin showcased a moral compass grounded in loyalty and a refusal to participate in the destructive dance of familial discord.

The subtle shrug she offered when I asked her whether she confronted her cousin, wasn’t just a gesture; it carried the weight of resilience and a silent determination not to let external judgments infiltrate the sanctuary she had built within her family. In a society where appearances and perceptions often dictate social interactions, Aunty Toulie’s simple declaration of “I allowed it to slip. But I am so disappointed in her,” echoed a profound truth – that the strength of a family lies not in perfection but in the unwavering support and protection of its members, flaws and all.

As the conversation unfolded, it became clear that her wisdom transcended the immediate situation. It spoke to a broader philosophy of compassion, understanding, and an unwavering commitment to preserving the sanctity of familial bonds. Aunty Toulie, in her unassuming manner, became a beacon of familial grace, reminding me that, in the face of external judgments, the power to uphold the dignity of our loved ones lies within our own choices and words.

In another strand of my personal journey, I contemplate a particular incident—a birthday celebration marked by the unexpected betrayal of two friends I held dear. Among them, one friend’s act of ghosting me was particularly painful. While the other friend’s indifference was disappointing, it was the snub from someone I genuinely believed was a true friend that cut deep. The overwhelming emotion that surged within me wasn’t solely anger; it was a profound sense of shame.

This wasn’t just any betrayal; it was a betrayal by someone I had invested trust and affection in. The shame stemmed from the realization that my perception of our friendship was far removed from the reality of her actions. It was a stark confrontation with the vulnerability of trust and the fragility of connections we often hold dear.

The pain wasn’t rooted in the fact that they were my top priorities; it was the breach of trust by someone I considered a confidante. The shame I felt overshadowed the anger, as it forced me to grapple with the stark contrast between the friend I believed her to be and the friend she revealed herself to be through her actions.

I can recall many instances where I felt the sting of unacceptable behaviours from those I hold dear. It always comes as a shock—a realization that we might be an afterthought, the last to hear news, or worse, not hear it at all from the source’s mouth. Especially when the source is someone we hold dear. Not being invited to occasions we believe we should be a part of, gossip by people we love and admire or deliberate snubs from people we deeply care about, are experiences that cut deep.

As the relentless passage of time carries us forward, the wisdom of embracing acceptance emerges as an indispensable life lesson. In the dance of existence, snubs, with their unique essence, assume the role of profound instructors. They illuminate the individuals worth cherishing and those perhaps not deserving of our regard. Snubs, rather than mere rejections, manifest as insightful signposts along our journey, steering us toward a genuine understanding of who truly belongs in the inner circle of our affections.

But beyond the external interpretations of snubs lies a deeper understanding—that each person we encounter is a unique entity, carrying their own burdens and heartaches. It’s a humbling realization that the human experience is woven with threads of vulnerability and resilience. Recognizing this shared humanity becomes the cornerstone for cultivating empathy and understanding.

In a world where kindness often stands as the beacon guiding our actions, it becomes paramount to approach these encounters with a compassionate heart. Understanding that behind every snub, there may lie untold stories of pain, insecurities, or misunderstandings allows us to navigate these moments with grace. Letting kindness be the overarching theme in our interactions not only helps in healing wounds but also contributes to the creation of a more compassionate and empathetic world.

As the sands of time sift through our collective grasp, let us embrace the lessons that snubs, however uncomfortable, bring forth. May we learn to discern the authentic bonds from the fleeting connections, and in our pursuit of love and understanding, may kindness be the guiding force that transforms these moments of rejection into opportunities for deeper connection and growth.

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