The guest blogger today is one of my closet friends so am truly humbled to have her here .
In the effort to nourish my soul and cultivate happiness from within, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching, reading, and observation. I’m also slowly changing both my approach and my attitude towards my daily life. For someone who patience and tolerance for excuses doesn’t come naturally, it has been a huge challenge, but a very worthwhile one because I can feel the positive change in the way I live and love and I can honestly say am more at peace and fulfilled since I started this journey to wholehearted living. The tales I share in this piece will cover the challenges and trials, but also the successes and benefits as I navigate my journey.
This past weekend, I was traveling from the city back to my work town using public transport. Now, usually before this trip, I purposely pack light keeping in mind that I usually have to carry all my bags on my lap to avoid placing them on the dirty taxi floor. Then, I strategically place my changed money into the side pocket of my purse to allow for easy access incase I spot some good ripe gonja or fresh mangoes when the vendors come to the window. Then I place my taxi fare right next to my snack money, leaving just enough space for my phone (it has to be inside the bag, or it will fall from my lap when I get up to let a passenger in the back seat out, and that wasn’t a good experience the first time; you know with the earphone wire wound around my neck; me struggling not to die from earphone wire strangling, and at the same time trying not to drop the 2 bags on the dirty floor; never again!! Now, I place my phone in the side bag, and when the taxi is coming to a stop, I just gently take off the earphones, and tuck them next to the phone; making a smooth transition. In the taxi, once I ensure that my phone and snack money are safely placed, I secure a comfortable sitting position to allow window snack purchase, and most importantly, to avoid cramping; it’s usually a two hour drive with multiple stops to drop off and pick up the occasional halfway travel passenger.
On this particular travel day last weekend, I had done all my routine checks and was ready for the road when the conductor said, “Nyabo ono omwana k’atuule awo” (Mme let this kid sit next to you). Normally, I have a soft spot for helping and with my new found mantra of ‘kill them with kindness”, my default is to be kind and helpful in every way I can. But in this particular incident, my seat was broken and crooked (I was sitting at a 60 degree angle, so my comfort was already compromised and I was assured of a butt cramp. Also, the reason he gave for this kid sitting with me was that the traffic police would fine the driver for overloading if the kid sits with his mom, his brother, 2 other passengers and the conductor in the first raw seat; so the solution is to fix him next to me.
I know you must be thinking the descent think to do is to let the kid sit with me, and have a peaceful, traffic-fine-free trip, and you are right (if you are sitting comfortably in a 180-degree seat in the front). However, the first instinct of my comfort-loving, peaceful self instinct was to say a plain NO, but in the name of the kindness, I explained that I was already carrying 2 bags on my lap, and my seat was broken, so having the kid sit with me would be very uncomfortable, AND, I offered to switch seats with anyone who was willing to take my seat and rearrange to make this trip possible. To which the conductor replied, “you are priotizing a bag over a child?” Thankfully, a lady in the back, offered to take the kid. But not without shaming me with the famous ‘toli mukazi, toli muzadde?’ (aren’t you a woman, aren’t u a mother?). And, she continued to tell her neighbors the tale of women like me who have no love for kids, and shouldn’t even have kids if we don’t already have one because we don’t deserve it.
Needless to say, I was getting angry at this point, and thinking F*** kindness, I should give this lady a piece of my unkind mind with a few choices of unkind words, but, thanks to my new default of ‘first assessing the situation, and understanding where the person is coming from before I lose it’, I contained myself, turned on my playlist (coincidentally , the first song to play was a gospel song, perhaps deliberated by a higher power to save my soul in that moment), and started my journey.
This all got me thinking about guilt trips, and how we often shame others and guilt them into doing what we want. Be it in the name of social expectation, religious expectation, or plain old selfishness, it’s wrong, and can be soul crashing especially for people that don’t have the backbone to say NO. From guilting and manipulating young adults into giving all their hard-earned monthly pay to elders and relatives because they raised them, to people asking others to cover up their crimes and injustices in the name of protecting someone who knew you since you were a child, to parents marrying off young girls to old rich men because the rich old man will take care of her parents and young siblings, to shaming women into doing what you want because there’s a kid involved and they are ‘mothers’. When the lady came to the taxi with 2 kids, and a big bag and the conductor gave her the 1st raw seat, did he temporarily lose his mind and forget about the other 2 passengers for that seat and the traffic officers? Why is it suddenly my problem that this kid has nowhere to sit? This is just one of the many guilt trip experiences I’ve had in my adult life, but I have say without the self confidence and the balls to say no, this kind of manipulation can lead one down a life of one-sided sacrifices that can pull you down leaving you with resentment and a sense of insecurity and need to please everyone but yourself; which cannot be good for your soul and personal growth.
GUEST BLOGGER :Rashidah Njuki