It’s a fascinating thing, this life we lead. Some people never leave the town that they were born in, some never return to it. Many around the world still firmly believe in the marriage and children model, yet there is also an increasing level of individuals who opt to live without this, either through long-distance lives and reunions, or by simply directing their energy onto other facets of the human experience.
Personally, I don’t fit the standard boxes and have long-since accepted, and in fact celebrated, my blog’s namesake – a wondering wanderer. (I did give it to myself after all!) Though this causes deep pains for me at time, it also brings me divine joys. And this chapter is more of the same. Plus, who says life has to be any of the above? I’m writing the pages as I walk them….
Since fully recovering from the life-changing month of March, many things became softened, simplified and greatly emphasised. Certain energies around me left or were excused, and alignment felt more in my reach than I believe I’ve ever had at my fingertips before.
And upto this present day as I write, the time period from then until now has been the setting sun upon my African love affair, at least as I currently know it, and as I walked (flew) away, I can tell you without shame – my heart shattered into a million pieces.
Is it truly possible to feel so much in tune with a place and it’s rhythms? (Despite it not being my native setting and when so much chaos and insecurity reigns, where the common song from outsiders is just how much they wish it could be improved and more efficient, just like their home origins?) Maybe. Maybe not… Those who know me well in Nigeria, especially friends who are locals, nicknamed me the ‘white African’, claiming that it was the habitat meant for me. And I couldn’t agree more.
Presently, I truly feel like a fish out of water in my childhood land; I don’t understand the place or the people. Fascinatingly too, anytime I step out of my countryside living, I hear Naija accents and find myself magnetically drawn to these sounds and the associated personalities; even my ‘test for release’ crew were from Magodu, mainland Lagos, Nigeria…..my it felt good to speak in Yoruba and pidgin for that brief moment or two.
The thing is, why would I tear the heart from my chest if I am so in love then? Am I simply a glutton for punishment?
No. Not in the slightest.
Sometimes, even the hardest changes are needed; to truly keep yourself in bloom, to keep your eyes shining, to feel your spirit soar. I am beyond blessed with the opportunities I have created for myself, having earned my first pay packet at the age of 13 and never really stopping since. So many of my Nigerian friends would do anything to have the possibilities that I have open to me. When opportunity knocked last year, I knew beyond doubt I would be simply a fool to turn it down, despite the myriad of emotions that would ensue.
Plus, the best thing about goodbyes? The feeling of anticipation for the next hello. Not that it made them any easier. I am not sure I actually uttered the g-word out loud in all honesty…..
Being the woman that I am, I also made the conscious choice to utterly dive in, to soak as much up as I could, after having so close a life call. This, in parts, has made the departure worse, as I created 4 months of some of the best moments of a lifetime. Oh how I miss it right now.
Blessed be those that feel seen, cared for, understood, and free. I am one such soul. Exquisite beach days with delicious friends; drinks, sunshine and food meant the smiles rained among us for many weeks after. Members clubs, that allowed us to maintain our social bubbles and keep others safe from any covid concerns, meant frequent crossovers during socialising and the chance to soak up different languages, hearts and personalities with ease. Beach days and sailing competitions allowed for adrenaline to run, whilst heat and natural vitamins made my skin, eyes and heart shine. Whilst there were dinners after dinners, dancing after dancing, and more mischief and frolics than is imaginable in such a short period of time. Words fall into inadequacy when I try to make you resonate, understand, be there. Lifetimes of joy, packed into post-recovery days/weeks/months.
Taking a moment of reflection into the here and now, African music, most especially Nigerian beats, make my heart change it’s rhythm and I find myself utterly absorbed and taken over by it. Does anywhere or anything does this for you? On a daily if not hourly basis right now, I find myself saying thank you over and over for this, and on what seems to be a never-ending, yet most-enjoyed theme tune in my head; I have a constant replay of So Far So Good (by Phyno), being thankful for life today. If you’ve never heard it, see if you can avoid smiling when you do. I even found myself singing this aloud on various forms of public transport today, and whilst I was sat for 2 hours plus on the floor of a Welsh railway station, when trains were delayed, broken down or simply not where they were meant to be.
Preparing for my new step meant releasing many material items, as seems to be another common theme in my life (I’ve had more postal addresses than birthdays….) but sadly the current covid situation also meant that I had to release my beautiful felines from my care and onto trusted others too.
Attachment is a fascinating thing and as a psychologist, I don’t believe we can ever really explain it, master it, or truly know how it relates within another’s sensations, when paired against our own. Fela and Kuti brought me such comfort and intuitive responses that I truly feel a part of me is vacant in their absence. Yet I am also able to feel nothing at all, knowing that the new environment was not meant for them, or else it would have been possible. Can you feel such contradictory feelings at once, or is it just me?
Those two creatures shared pretty much all of my emotions, followed my movements, my people, my rhythm. Never have I had such a kinship and it is entirely irreplaceable. They knew when I was broken, they padded their feet on my operation wound site, they lay beside me each night when I felt like my heart was lost or my direction was momentarily blurred. They purred and purred beyond measue when they sensed I was in love, in joy, or even simply when I was singing and dancing around. And oh how Ojo, my driver, adored their playful spirited nature that seemed to jive with the country’s musical rhythms just like us humans did! They also knew who I shouldn’t have trusted and were fantastic for my retrospective moments….
Meanwhile, the more I sold, donated, or used up, the more my apartment, belongings and professional items seemed to multiply. As I lightened my load in the left hand, the right one was, on the one hand, absorbing love in more powerful ways than before, yet also somehow holding more of material items than I had relinquished. Simultaneously, I was utterly overwhelmed with gracious and loving gifts from parents, families and friends as the date approached, for which I am forever thankful for.
Being told to fly into China with one bag of belongings therefore…..was just simply, NEVER going to happen.
What I hadn’t done until close to the end however, was let my children and close colleagues know what was about to occur. I simply found the words would not come. And I didn’t want them to. That is not to say I did/do not want the next stage, nor that I will go on to be half-hearted and impassionate about it all (if you ever crossed paths with me, even once, you will know that is simply not something that could ever happen). For many, if not all of us, however, turning a page from a story we are enraptured by, also brings a sense of loss. Ever read a book in a day, then felt grief that it was over so fast? As a child, I could read x3 200 page books in a series, before the close of day, and find myself in wonderment/confusion as to how the author simply couldn’t keep up with my thirst for more.
(I am like that you see. I LOVE living life. I LOVE enjoying it. So when I get my teeth into something that feels great, I never want it to stop. As someone who works closely with children and young adults of various ages, as well as providing counselling and life coaching, I genuinely encourage this in my realm of work too. Find what makes you sing, and keep learning the songs!).
Post-operation, my emotions however were largely stunted. Joys were profound, but sadness could not expand. I could feel it, like a pit in the stomach. Yet somehow, I was like stone. Even when I had been party to some things that really should have stung. Nothingness. Or perhaps, I was sooooooooo stunned by the near-death experience that it actually just had no right to penetrate…..paling into significance and all that.
When asked if I felt excitement for the new and approaching opportunity, I felt myself absent from my voice, as I heard these words. As I made the declarations of pending change, I was an observer not the speaker anymore.
However, whilst I knew I was upset, I also knew I wouldn’t spend my farewell days in sadness, whether I was actually able to feel it or not. So, I simply emphasised my ‘yes’ to life (my mantra has always been; “I can only die once, and I want to be fully alive when that happens”), and as aforementioned, I soaked up so, so many things. Admittedly however, some of this was done almost without me being ‘present’.
I purposely planned my farewell party to be a few weeks ahead of my leaving date also, so that the tears would not be provoked and I could enjoy the time lavishing my loved ones, rather than being grief-stricken.
(Though it hasn’t been easy, I used the UK quarantine period for this instead; it all went into the ‘tomorrow’ box, until I chose to prize open the lid).
And my party. Wow, oh wow, did it make my dreams come true! I arranged for African sunsets decor, I had superb musicians and djs play. The food was sumptuous and made by a wonderful man that I can happily call a friend. People from all warps of Lagos life came and celebrated with me, many dancing and laughing across the night. Champagne seemed to never stop and I was in my paradise. Everyone that was there, I loved, and there was more than one hundred people present! (Whilst there was a significant number unable to make it for various reasons…).
I don’t think I have ever felt so much happiness in what I have manifested for my life/my familiars.
(There’s truly too many wonderful memories captured on film, that I can place here!)
And nonetheless, as it had to, the day came, where it was time to let go. There were many people and places I felt bereft to part with, but I said nothing, I collected my bags, and I went down to my car, even leaving my bed fully made with my personal bedding and with food still in my fridge and my housekeeper working at home. I was ready, but I was not.
And as if to mirror what was going on inside, my driver had already been in my home a few times, beside himself with sadness….
He and I have journeyed together through such diverse times and we have traversed many emotions, life scares and in-situ complexities. I truly feel lost right now, without seeing him each day.
In a way, I became like his mother or older sister, always watching out for him, getting his covid vaccine, navigating the stresses he was within that were out of his control. Yet in another, he was my most trusted ally. He witnessed the pain in my heart when someone I had allowed myself to love, betrayed and humiliated me. He watched over me when I felt grief from funerals and emotional losses, as did I, when family members of his, died, when others went missing and we found no way ever to trace them, even when his beloved hens were poisoned by a wicked neighbour. We were family, in a situation where we both needed it so very much.
He celebrated my achievements and my family joys, and loved nothing more than the video calls received from my nephew, wherein he could chatter away to him and fool around, or to regale the times he spent with ‘mummy’ when she had come over to Nigeria, and could I please greet her for him.
Many people do not create this bond, nor would they want to, and I know that often I would be looked down upon by others, for allowing the professional boundary to be so breached and for such a personal relationship to be created. I am simply not that person however, who can be in the company of another, and set us apart. I also knew that my life was perpetually in his hands, and how much it reassured my own father than he could put a name to the face and feel his own trust in the man. Ojo loves me, and I love him. Simple as that.
Anyhow, life goes on and we must always lie in the bed that we made. After many, many months of complexities, costs, and hidden concepts that have taken a tonne of unearthing, I am almost ready to leap again.
Oh how I miss the heat of Nigeria, both on my skin and in my sensibility, and I miss the kisses, the hugs, the dances, the colours, and the animals, more than I feel I can ever describe. Happily, I do know that before I left all those that were around me, truly knew that I love them. They could feel my genuinity, my lack of need for them to be anything but themselves, and for my intense level of independency, that loving them would never mean that I would become dependent on them. Beautiful.
From the years of wandering had, I also firmly trust that farewell for now, means hello my love tomorrow. Gone but not forgotten, Naija through and through. I do not cry for what has passed, (okay well maybe a little), but soar for what I allowed. And for what I am yet to receive, of course.
I cry for my depature, but I shine for my presence. Thank you so much Nigeria and all that you brought to me. Hasta la vista, keep me with you, knowing that I am who I am because of all you gave to me, and all that you allowed me to express. I don’t even know where to begin with where my love affair began, or if it will ever end. It fulfills me almost as much as it pains me that my heart is in this quandry now. (Or is it the other way around?!)
Signing off, Oyatobi, Chinelo, Chi Chi, Lady D, and any other names I fail to recall that Nigeria blessed me with, in this moment of love, sadness and joy. It’s been the best ride of my life.