Agency, Autonomy and the Complexities of Life

I’m someone who loves, appreciates and understands the complexities of life. I know that it’s not always black and white. It’s frustrating that sometimes we are required to be simplistic, normative, basic in the way that we think, in the way that we live, in the way that we love. There’s not enough space for our colours and nuances- the things that make us special.

I wish there was more room to be complex. I wish it was possible to survive and thrive with the complexity- without it being diluted.

But sometimes for functionality, for practicality, we need definitive answers to the difficult questions-  Do you want to leave this job or not? Do you want to love this person or not? 

It’s not always possible to live with the complexity. Sometimes you have to strip it away, forget it, ignore it and just get on with life. Life requires us to be decisive sometimes. If we take too long to make a decision, life will make it for us.

And I much prefer the agency and autonomy of making the decision myself- as difficult as it may be.

There’s no toolkit for these things- we make a way as we go along. And hopefully others can learn and be inspired by it.

I know that it helps to seek help; to ask questions- furnish yourself with information. Information can increase the depth of complexity. And, it can also distil your situation.

As I write this, I’m thinking of the times I was too afraid to ask. Not asking because I would rather not have known the truth. Not asking because I would rather not have known the lie.

You should also make a habit out of observation- watching people, things, life as they continue. You might see what you’ve been missing.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded” (Hebrews 10:35) | Nairobi, Kenya

What I know is- complexity notwithstanding, we will always find what we need to find.

T

© Tessy Maritim

2016 Sign-Off

We’re two weeks away from the end of this year and the beginning of a new one.

2016 has been magical, joyful, sweet. 

This year, I’ve experienced immense joy and excitement. I’ve seen the expanse of life through people and places, both new and old. It’s important to rely on people- they teach you things you could never learn on your own; they take you places you could never go on your own. Cherish the love, the laughter, the unique intimacy you enjoy with the people closest to you. It’s been magic, it’s been sweet, it’s been special.

2016 has been confusing, ambiguous, difficult. 

This year, I found myself confused, struggling and fighting to keep myself together. 2016 has been peppered with many moments of self-doubt and sadness. Self doubt and sadness- important ingredients for the full-bodied life I stay in pursuit of. Every season has it’s lesson. Again, ask yourself- what is this teaching me? About myself? About others? About life? Low seasons deflate your spirit and force you to recoil- this process can be very important; for introspection, for change, for a chance to reconnect with yourself and for a chance to reconnect with God. Stay down as long as you need to but then get up and do it again. Maybe do it differently. Nevertheless, do it again and do it with God.

2016 has been hard work, tearful, victorious.

This year, I worked extremely hard. I pushed myself. I stretched myself. I worked through my academic insecurities and came out feeling as badass as they come. This victory was assuring, validating and a confirmation that indeed, every place I set my foot on belongs to me; belongs to my story.

2016 has been redemptive, healing.

This year, I found healing in myself. I nursed my wounds and took very good care of my self. My self-care practice has been peak. For this, I thank God. For working with me, negotiating with me, forgiving me, loving me, never letting me down. I found redemption in new beginnings. I look the same but things are definitely different inside- and I’m glad for this. I can make new of myself when I choose, how I choose- sweet redemption.

2016 is now over. Whatever happened, it’s now over. Look ahead, there’s something new waiting for you.

“Each fruit has its’ season”– Tessy Cherono Maritim | Nairobi, Kenya

 

Merry Christmas, friends. See you in 2017.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Black History for Life // Revolution

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Now is the time.

To revolt. Not on occasion, but continuously. By existence. By overcoming. By fighting. By standing up. By loving. By taking care of self. By taking care of others.

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Loss hurts. But please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. Scripture tells us: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

It’s such a fight to exist, sometimes, and yet we do. Revolution.

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Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.

Stay cognisant, connected, invested and supportive of the struggle everywhere.

Revolution captured by Seun Roti, directed by Shinade Walters & Tessy Cherono Maritim.

(Inspired partly by Hillary Clinton’s concession speech.)

Black History for Life // Power

panther-3Power in ourselves. To achieve, to build, to fight, to heal.

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Power together. To achieve together, to build together, to fight together, to heal together.

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Black history is for life.

Stay cognisant, connected, invested and supportive of the power of black diaspora everywhere.

Power captured by Shay Roti, creatively directed by Shinade Walters & Tessy Cherono Maritim.

Tools for Transition

For a few months I’ve been going through transition. Transition is about many things. It’s an indication that we’ve outgrown a season of life. It’s a time to regroup. And depending on the nature of the transition, it may require a period of healing.

During a period of transition, you may want:

answers to questions you may have

avenues to escape

assurance that what’s to come is better than what you leave behind

On answers

Your questions don’t need answers. I thank my angel friend for teaching me this. Your questions don’t need answers. At the time she shared this with me, I was going through emotional pandemonium. I pegged my transition on answers that quite honestly, were never going to come. Her words were sharp and just what I needed- you know you don’t need an answer!? It may not always be clear to us why. But, we don’t always have to know.

My friends words were the beginning of (what seems to be) a long journey of healing. I needed to free myself from the expectation of answers so I could see the expanse of life again. Sometimes you need to free yourself so you can do beautiful things. You say, “this isn’t working“, bless the experience for what it taught you and let it go. Give yourself room to do and be more.

On avenues

So… How do you escape and begin the process of transition? How do we get out of situations that hold us hostage? You can wait until you are forcefully ejected. Or, you can do the (arguably) less painful task of unshackling yourself. Run away. Set yourself free. Do what you need to do

Give yourself the avenue. Allow yourself to start afresh. Allow yourself to face a new direction.

And once you’ve committed to a new beginning, it matters not whether the world aligns with you. Go forth, chart a new journey for yourself. Once you’ve committed to a new beginning, opinions about what you’ve done in the past have no power.

On assurance

God never lets me down. I can’t emphasise that enough. So I have that assurance. I’m focused on creating a life of exquisite things, exquisite people, exquisite experiences. I commit that to God and it gives me immense hope for a better future.

If you allowed yourself to conceive a better future, you would realise there is so much for you if you want it. Let that be your assurance. Abundance. Abundance of life. Abundance of peace. Abundance of love. Abundance of knowledge. 

Remember this– Healing is never linear. So when you find yourself going back to smallness, being consumed by the smallness, remember that it’s a necessary part of transition and healing. Keep going.

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The sky is too big for two birds to clash” (Heard on an episode of An African City| Sheffield, England 

The world is vast. I wish you the courage to set yourself free, always. 

T

© Tessy Maritim

It is Finished

Full (.adj) not lacking or omitting anything; complete

Regret typically consists of looking back and feeling a sense of incompleteness. Like there’s something you could have done better in a particular situation. Like an experience ended too quickly. We wish things were different. Maybe longer. Or shorter. Perhaps in a different context. Or at a different time. But my own experience has taught me that everything is complete in and of itself. Including me.

I’m a true ambassador for exerting yourself fully in fixing friendships, repairing relationships, making amends and correcting mistakes wherever they may arise in life. But that also comes with the knowledge that there’s a divine plan for life that may not align with your own. Sometimes there’s too much of a reliance on our own plans that when things don’t work out the way we intend them to, we feel like we’ve missed out on something. But what looks unfinished from your perspective is actually complete in the way it was intended.

And framing life in this completeness makes it easier to let go and move on to the new chapters of life, because you understand that there’s nothing more you can squeeze out. It is finished. And if our lives are complete, then we ourselves are also complete. Complete in who we are and complete in our actions. Complete because at any one moment, we have everything we need at that point to deal with each encounter. Complete because whether or not we realise it, everything we have done or not done is as it was supposed to be.

For me the completeness of life and experiences and ourselves is also in every sense a biblical allusion. I link it to the love I feel God has for me and the understanding of God’s divine plan (Jeremiah 29:11). Despite the depth of sadness or low moments, when we look at our lives as complete, we can understand that they fit into the overall puzzle of our lives that in God’s eyes is perfect. When we look at ourselves as complete, we realise that even mistakes, poor judgment and failures are also features of the overall picture. There’s nothing that you can do to take away from this fullness because your life is bigger than any one moment. Your life is big, grand, magnificent. Complete.

I often pray for a rich life but forget that a rich life is the culmination of ALL seasons- high, low and everything in between. If we selected just certain parts, we’d be taking away from that richness. Leave it to God.  

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I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18) | Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Try not to be paralysed when life doesn’t transpire the way you want it to. Find the courage to face a new direction because your life is full- in this moment and in the end. 

T

© Tessy Maritim

 

Pain Will Visit

This post has been years in the making.

Not because I’ve been writing it for years… but because I’ve been learning and storing the lessons away, knowing that I will one day compile them and put them somewhere accessible. For myself. For others too.

Looking back at the last few years of my life, seasons of pain have been a recurring feature. Pain that doesn’t seem to leave. Pain that wants to stay. Or at least it feels that way- for a long time.

It always finds a way to manifest anew. This year it’ll be failing at something, next year it’ll be heartbreak- and who knows what else next. But it feels persistent. Permanent. Never-ending. Dark.

And you can’t see yourself beyond it. Before it. You try to piece together your life before the pain- elusive. So you look ahead to imagine what your life could be after this pain has finished its’ work- impossible. Darkness.

Pain will teach you to live day by day. How will I make it to the end of the day? That’s the only way to get through- by taking it back to the beginning. Counting the steps you make. Getting out of bed. Dressing up. Eating.  

Pain also does not discriminate. It doesn’t care that it was not your fault. It doesn’t care that you’ve been praying to God every night. It doesn’t care that you’re writing a dissertation that’s due in 20 days.

Pain is the price you pay for experiencing the depth of life.

So the question is…

How can I use this to grow?

The thing is to be open to the lesson- what is this teaching me? About myself? About others? About life?

Hang on to what keeps you afloat. Move with the sea. Move with the waves. Thank you to the things that keep me afloat- colouring, tea tree oil showers, peppermint pedicures, letters from my sister(s) – small, but important.

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“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” (Zora Neale Hurston) | Nairobi, Kenya

Try not to let pain make you feel small. Life is so grand. Don’t forget that you’ve been here. You’ve been living and thriving and growing and glowing. You’ve been here, shining.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Balance? What Balance?

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been snowed under books and articles. My lecturers did that evil thing where they put all the deadlines in one week, so I had no choice but to put my scholarship in full gear. That’s where I’ve been hiding, for those of you who’ve been missing me.

In my time away, I wondered, how do people achieve balance in life?

I don’t know because as far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing.

I learnt this from Carole Mandi and have recently embraced it as my life philosophy.

Work.

School.

Family.

Friends.

Social life.

Ideally, I’d be able to commit equally to my work, academics, family, friends and social life. But at any one point, that is not possible. I work on a priority basis, rather than one of balance.

I ask myself, what really really really needs my attention right now? And then I centre my life around that. All other commitments are put on pause.

Because I’m not trying to be a Jill of all Trades. I’d rather work on a few things excellently, than a lot mediocrely.

I can’t be everything to everyone all the time. Prioritize your life so that you can show up when your ready. On your own terms. Don’t try to keep up with a social life when you have urgent work and academic commitments waiting on you.

As my parents always say, parties and social life will always be there. If you’ve been to one party, you’ve been to them all. Trust me, you’re not missing out on anything.

The beauty about being overwhelmed is that it gives you an opportunity to declutter- you can stop what needs to be stopped. Pause what needs to be paused. And focus on what needs your attention now. This is how I avoid burnout.

It’s not always easy and there are times when you really have no control. But where you can exercise control, take control. My commitments don’t control me, I control my commitments. 

When you focus your energy on priorities rather than balance, you can take better care of yourself. People focus too much on their commitments to others but forget their commitment to themselves. Remember you, always. 

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backdrop to my thoughts and the place I wish I could be right now | The Burns, Scotland

T

© Tessy Maritim

Today Is Difficult

Today is difficult. There have been many days like this. And many more await me. Moments of uncertainty. Moments of doubt. Moments of fear.

But I want it to be known that I will not be difficult on myself. I’ve set up a precautionary introspective buffer to prevent that. I will not blame myself. I will not blame others. I will take my emotions as they come; they will not be suppressed.

So I want to channel this positively and write about what I find comfort in- to help someone; to help myself.

I find comfort in:

  • having my shit together : when one thing is falling apart, I find refuge in other areas of my life. I work hard to have all the things I have control over, in order. Disclaimer: it still does not fill the void.
  • prayer : keeps you calm, keeps you focused. Even if you just pray around the issue rather than address it directly- God still wants to hear from you.
  • solitude : intimate moments with myself where I can dissect my thoughts and talk myself in and out of things- the sweetest moments.
  • friends : all my angel, sister girls- what does one do without you? Thanks for showering me with endless wisdom; even when I’m stubborn with my decisions. You still catch me everytime I fall. Bless you.
  • repair : i met someone wonderful this week who reminded me that you don’t need to throw it away if it doesn’t work- fix it! Fix it, Jesus.
  • the future : a lot of this stuff doesn’t last forever. I’m reminded of this- There are far greater things ahead of us than what we leave behind. How scary is that!? You want to hang on to a lot of what you thought was the best you could do. But how beautiful to know that there’s more where that came from. May the best of your past be the worst of your future.

I will look back and be thankful.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Slow It Down

This past year has been incredibly intense. My brain is bursting to the seams with things I’ve learnt, people I’ve met and places I’ve been to.

I’ve been wondering what to do with all of it. And I don’t want to move on to the next stage of my life without figuring out where it’s all going.

Learning and doing new things has always been the best way to keep engaged and productive. But there’s something to be said about regularly putting things on hold and looking back at where you’ve been.

There’s a difference between stopping to take time off and stopping to actively examine what you’re doing. I’m trying to do the latter. I’ve been asking myself, is this really what I want to be doing right now? Is this the best way to be doing it? What else could I be doing? Why is this working? What is not working? What do I do with all I’ve learnt?

I feel a responsibility to do something with the opportunities and exposure I have had. I don’t think they were just for me to sit on and use for myself. They need to be dispersed widely and channeled productively.

I think it’s always better to have little on your plate that you do well than having a multitude of mediocre activity. Even when things are going well, it’s easy for others’ expectations to set the direction of your work. It’s very possible to be doing well, but on other peoples’ terms. That’s not quite as fulfilling as doing well on what you actually set out to do.

I don’t want to feel like life is controlling me. I want to set the pace and expectations of my own life. So I’ve decided for the next few months, that I want to stop and reflect. I’m not trying to do new things right now. I want to review, re-evaluate and re-direct. I want to work on making what’s in my hands better. 

When I told a friend of mine a few months ago about my plan to reflect, he asked me a very important question- how will you reflect? I hadn’t thought about it. I’m aware that reflection isn’t just sitting down and doing nothing. There’s a method to it. It’s about determining what it is about your life you’re trying to make better and setting objectives for what you’re trying to achieve by the end of the reflective period. It could also include talking to friends, family and anyone else you feel could give you important feedback on how to be better. 

It won’t be easy but here we go!

 

T

© Tessy Maritim