CUT! Changing The Stories That Limit You.

Stories can build us. Stories can also break us. No stories are as strong as the ones we tell ourselves. Coming in second are the ones we heard from our guardians growing up: a mother who said you’ll never cook well, a teacher who said you were dumb, a father who just didn’t care….

I have found that we can change the stories we tell ourselves. We can arise like the mythical lion and tell the story of how the hunter wet his pants the first time he heard us roar. We can reclaim the narratives and tell stories that build us up and challenge us to be better and do better.

One of the stories that limited me growing up was the family tale of my carelessness. My mother said it, my father said it. Everyone believed it. Truth be told, I did misplace my fair share of items, but that was something I did, not who I was.

I began to take better care of my things as I grew up but the story wouldn’t change. It got to the point where each time I asked for anything, my Mom or Dad would say, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I would take the said item and guard it with my life. But alas, the story would come to pass and soon the item would vanish into thin air. This kept happening, then one day I had enough.

I asked for a ring boiler and my Mom said the usual words, “Here, I know you’ll loose it.”

I replied,”No Mom, I won’t loose it. I will take good care of it and use it for as long as I want to.”

I had that ring boiler for six years.
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Another story that tied me in knots as a writer was the story of rejection. Every one gets rejected, the story said. You will have to get used to getting rejected over and over again. Hey, look, Marlon James, the Man Booker 2015 Prize Winner, his first novel got rejected 78 times, by 78 publishers before it finally got a home.
So-and-So (insert name of big shot) got rejected 66 times.

The more I listened to the rejection story, the more my belly turned to stone. The thing is, I can’t stand rejection. It is bad enough that writing doesn’t pay much and is so darned hard to do, but the least I want at the end of the day is a little applause.

I want a clap on the back and a handshake. I can stomach some nicely worded affirmation padded constructive critique, but to think of someone thrashing my hard work is unthinkable.

So for months, I didn’t submit anything. I self published on my blog. I got pieces accepted through recommendations. I stayed away from the rejection story and it stayed way from me.

Until I realized it wasn’t helping my writing.

Like it or not, writing is a highly subjective business. If you don’t “put your self out there,” you’ll miss many opportunities to be seen. You have to risk the fire to get the gold.

But how do you do that without being rejected?

You change the story. This is the story I tell myself now:

Rejection in writing doesn’t exist.

Simple.

There could be a match, meaning, well written story meets right publisher/audience at right time. Or a non-match, meaning either the story isn’t well written or the audience/publisher is wrong or the timing is wrong or all three.

Writing a good story is my duty, but the rest is out of my hands.

It is like donating blood. You don’t weep and wail if a patient’s blood type doesn’t match yours. You are the donor, they need you, they are the ones to wail. You just keep giving and some patient somewhere, thanks God above, and lives another day because you did.

So I am going to start working on my stories, polishing them and making them the best they can be. Then I will send them out knowing they are can’t be rejected, they are already accepted; by me and by many other people. All they need is a place to call home. I won’t worry about those non-matches, I won’t wail if it is something out of my hands. I will just keep going because to someone out there, they’ll be the sun and the sea.

Those are some of the stories that limited me and how I changed them. How about you? What stories do/did you need to change?

Posted from WordPress for BlackBerry.

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The Gender Conversation I

This is harder to write than I thought. My head says this topic is over-flogged. My heart disagrees.

Head: What do you think you are going to say that has not been said already?

Heart: Nothing. Really. But maybe I can help one more person look at things differently. Maybe I can help myself look at things differently.

Head: And that will achieve?

Heart: Nothing. But perhaps it will give someone hope. Perhaps it will help someone up.

Head: How?

Heart: By helping them see–

Head: See what

Heart: That gender equality is not something to be fought for.

Head( gasps and glares) : Tell me something.

Heart: That is what I am trying to do. I don’t see men fighting to be male or children fighting to be child-like. There is no inequality of genders. Why are we imagining one?

Humans are equal.
Genders are equal
Women, men, transgender, asexual, all are humans. All are equal

Head: How dare you say that? After all that the patriarchy has done to women?! Stopping them from voting, working, even driving? Just because they happened to possess a different set of genitals?

Heart: Yes, certain systems have oppressed women over the years but that does not change their worth. I am not less because I have been troubled or hunted or silenced or imprisoned. In fact, I am more.

No one bothers to oppress or repress what they are superior to.

When Caucasians oppressed and sold Africans, did that make us less than they were? I think not.

Oppression is not the basis of worth.

Head: But women can’t do the things men do. They can’t–

Heart: Pee in bottles?

Head: Not that, they can’t run as fast or jump as high or light as many kilograms.

Heart: Interesting. But neither can most men.

Or people with special needs.
Or people with injuries.
Does that make them less male? Or less human? If I took away some of your abilities would you become less human?

Are you a human being or a human doing?

Besides Serena Williams (and many other women) can run faster than many men, jump higher, lift more and earn more. Does that make her a Superman?

Head: Don’t be silly.

Heart: Silly? I am being reasonable, patient, tolerant and kind.

Head: How so?

Heart: I am painstakingly telling you things you have always known yet wilfully ignores just to make sure your wife serves you pounded yam every afternoon.

Head: Don’t you dare bring that up!

Heart: Why?

Head: Because that is what you F**** do. You disrupt homes, spin society on its head, dishonour authority. Be faraway from me!

Heart: Calm down. It is not that bad. Yes sometimes, we F****** overdo things. And sometimes we do them wrong. But those are mistakes not standards.

The standards are simple: let no human be discriminated against because of gender.

In fact, the standards are so universal we are planning a name change–

Head: A WHAT?!

Heart: A name change. Since F****** has become a taboo word, we formerly known as F****** now wish to be known and addressed as Humanists. (Broad smile)

Head(deep groan): How can you? Haven’t you caused enough trouble already? Must you create an anti- religion now?

Heart: Not really. The word has four meanings. Go with the fourth one.

Head: Which is?

Heart: marked by humanistic values and devotion to human welfare.

Head: That is confusing.

Heart: Yes it is. The entire spectrum of human oppression, sexism,racism, war, famine, and poverty is confusing.

But we can’t stop trying. We have to keep trying. Not to make sense of it, but to stop it. To contain it. To help free people that are suffering because of it.

We can’t look away and pretend it doesn’t exist. We can’t wish it away either. We must do what we can where we are to change the injustices we find around us.

Head: But what about families? What about wives? Would you have them disrespect their husbands? Or would you have women stay single? What is the way for these women empowering ideas to exist within the family structure?

Heart: It is easy. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Dress up, It is time for work.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of the Gender Conversation. I hope to continue it tomorrow. So please share and come back to read the next part. Many thanks!

If Wishes Were Horses: Using Technology To Curb The Spread Of Ebola?

It is a nightmare brought to life. Our worst fears confirmed, the deadly Ebola virus has arrived in Nigeria and already at least 8 people are feared to be infected.

Discovered in 1976, Ebola has been profiled as an ‘African Disease’ that is a reflection of poor healthcare service. The recent outbreak however puts that line of thought in doubt as well as questions all previous assumptions and knowledge about the ailment.

For instance, the co-discoverer of the virus has been quoted as saying that he wouldn’t be worries about sitting next to an Ebola patient on a train except the person vomited on him or something. He went ahead to cite instances of children living in houses with Ebola patients without contacting the disease, in 1976.

The 2014 version of Ebola seems quite different. Despite the use of full Personal Protective Gear (Masks, gloves, goggles,scrubs), health-workers are getting infected.

Mr Sawyer, an American who flew into Nigeria with the disease and was seen in a hospital in Lagos for barely 72 hours and yet at least 4 medical personnel that attended to him are believed to be infected as well.

This raises questions.

1. Is the transmission of this virus fully understood?

2. Is this strain of Ebola different? If yes, how?

3. Can we continue to use the usual methods of patient care and nursing despite the huge risks?

4. What changes could we make? If wishes were horses?

Personally, the outbreak has kept me thinking. One thing is very clear, we don’t know enough about this illness and we need to change the way we are handling it if we are to make any progress towards ending the scourge.

That’s where technology comes in. If resources were available, these are some of the things I would like to see.

1. Robots used to clean, feed and nurse the affected patients.

2. Specialized beddings that soak and disinfect secretions as they are being produced.

3. Skype type communication with affected patients.

4. Mechanised disposal of bodies in dedicated cremation machines.

And so on.

As long as a cure doesn’t exist, breaking the chain of transmission is the only hope. If one man could infect eight others then imagine: how many people could be at risk from the eight?

It is time for scientists, bio-scientists and engineers to join the fight against this dreadful disease.

It is time for a change of tactics in curbing the spread.

The sooner, the best.

P/S: Opportunities exist for clinicians interested in working with Ebola patients. Contact me.

The Making Of A Writer

Some began to write in their teens. Some began in primary school.
Some began to write at four.
Some began in their diapers.

You read these things and fear fills your heart. Older than thirty, you are considered a middle aged writer. If you had a british passport, at least you would have the Granta 40 under 40 to dream off. Now it is just a void, a chasm of missed opportunity and a glyph of wasted youth. A tragedy of ignorance, science-subject-fixation, and the buying of lies: You must be a doctor. Best grades guarantee a good life. Writers are hungry. Nigerians don’t read. Who reads Africans?

Then, you hear a whisper: soft but sure, solemn but loving, coming from somewhere below your right ear.

It says:

You aren’t a middle aged writer. You aren’t a writer when the world says you are one.

You were a writer before you were born.

When God foreknew you, thought of you,

When you awaited a family in His Mind,

You were a writer.

He designed you for your purpose with the care and skill of the Ultimate Precision Engineer.

He placed you in that home where books were loved, honoured– nay– worshipped on purpose.

He placed the library on your daily walk to school’s route. (Made sure they still had books in them at the time) for a reason.

He put Aesop’s fables, Nurudeen’s adventures and dozen’s of Enid Blyton books in your hands because your destiny needed them.

He gave you Law lecturers as parents. You spent weekends reading the Nigerian Constitution and Law Gazette’s aloud while Dad nodded and corrected your pronunciation. You spent weekdays perfecting spellings while Mom stirred her pot of Atama soup and passed you bits of dry fish, because that was the childhood you needed for your calling.

You had magnets in your hands and books were drawn to you all the time: Pacesetters, Onitsha Market Literature, Babylonian History,My Book of Bible Stories, A Good Sex Guide, and so many Agatha Christie whodunits .

You skipped from school to dorm saying your poems, your rhymes and you made up songs. The songs outlived your brief six year stay there. Your book of poems, wasn’t so lucky.

Even as a science student, you tried to study Geography. After a single class and you ran to Literature where you belonged. There you outshone the art students without meaning to, like a fish that found a stream.

“I’ll make you Minister Of Literature when I am President” your bosom friend said and both of you giggled into packets of Okin biscuit and diluted Ribena ‘juice’ concentrate.
Such dreams weren’t SSCE compatible.

You joined the Press Club, the Wazobia Club, The Drama Club, The Debate Club too. You days were full of words, themes and expression– a rainbow from literary heaven.

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To be continued.
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Thank you

God Bless You!