I remember. I have been saying this word lately. As if all memories are fading fast. They seem to be, considering how time seems to run along these days fast. So I remember, once when I took a class in college. It was a sociology class and the focus was on slow food movement or this idea of eating food slowly. Not the focus on processed food or fast food that many of us have unfortunately been accustomed too, but food from the earth, a movement focused on growing what you eat. So I remember when as a little girl, my grandmother would give us garden eggs from her garden to eat. My dad and my grandmother planted some along with Aloe Vera and Hibsucus flowers at the front of our house and yes, he would use them for juice and drinks and anything else that made his heart well. Dad was diabetic so he relied heavily on food from the earth. Our favorite being these garden eggs or Afufa or Anyara as we would call them in our Igbo language. I remember them big too, pearly white and with green stripes. There was a joy, not easily described whenever your eyes or your mouth sees and tastes these garden eggs.
That joy came to my doorstep today. My husband’s cousin mailed some garden eggs to our home all the way from North Carolina. She didn’t have to considering we just spent the weekend with her in Georgia but she did and the joy I feel for them and her and not easily described, but I’ll try. I’ll try to remember this joy, remember garden eggs, remember being a witness to moments with them, with my dad and grandma, long gone too. I remember this collective memory you revived for me and thank you to our dear cousin. Few things bring joy like garden eggs. I hope you find them for yourselves these days.
Pour me juice mom, please pour some juice in my cup. This was the sentence that jolted me back to writing. I was in the middle of sorting groceries that I just bought. Exhausted and still trying to figure what to eat for dinner. My five year old son had other things on his mind. They included pouring a strawberry lemonade juice in his strawberry lined cup that he made for himself. I wondered out loud to myself that I didn’t even know when I asked him this question: why did you line the strawberry on your cup. To relax, said my son. That’s how I relax. Where did you learn that from, I asked again. From a cartoon, and this is how I want to relax, he said and walked away with his strawberry line cup with strawberry lemonade juice. We should all be relaxing like my five year old. Sure a strawberry lined cup will do. But beyond the cup, a little me time is critical. I looked at him in amazement. He is only five and prioritizes himself first. He is only five and understands what makes him relaxed. He is only five and seeks enjoyment things. That was my text to Daddy right after our exchange. A lesson I learned from my five year old. Life na je je, as we would say in Pidgin English. We should make time to relax and do all the things we love and want to do. It doesn’t have to be strawberry lined juice on a cup. But more so, that thing that keeps you going. I have been on a slump with writing. This is probably the longest I have not written in awhile. Of course death has a way of keep thoughts and word bay. Death stole my thunder and words would not do. I am grateful for my son and the lesson he taught me that I didn’t know I need. Life na je je. We should all make time to relax. I’m am off to relaxing.
Throw away all you think about life. Throw it all. Then just live. Life is too short. I am realizing it more so these days. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. Tell all those you love why you love them everyday and make them sick and sick of your love. I am in the mood of infecting my life with love and people that matter and these days, all I want you to know, is that I would do what makes me live out my best life. This is the moment I have been living for. The realization that I have been blessed for a very long time to live out my best life. The immense fragility of life, all its sweetness and sadness too, makes me what to turn up to a dark field to simply stare at the silver moon and everything bright the dark night has to offer. The raw cuts of life caught me off guards today and I have been numb and obedient to the moment.
I got news that knocked me off my feet today. I have been in a daze and just in awe of this thing called life. Poppa George has joined the ancestors club in a way that I never expected. I cried because I thought we had time. I remember when we spent time together. I’m still in a daze and it’s not even 24 hours later. I barely did anything today and if I did, lord knows my mind was everywhere and no where. George was more than a father to me. I considered him like a father. He took me under his wings when I was in college with his daugther. Took us always to the best diners and restaurant in Philly. Made me feel loved and respected and valued and showed me how a true gentleman should always treat a lady he loves and cherishes. I knew what love was in college because I saw it first from George. He was the perfect gentleman. A firefighter too who knew how to take care of all those he loved. I have been numb today because I never got to tell him just how much I loved and valued him. I never got to tell him that he was my idol too. I know he is smiling down from heaven but George just know I loved you and I know that God loved you more. We will always be there for the love of your life Ms Toni. This isn’t a goodbye. More like rest until we meet again. With all my love. Your Jules. I intend to live out life, with love, just as I know George would have wanted.
I have been waiting to tell the stories for beads for too long. Something about their origin, their glimmer, their silence. Earlier in the summer, I started to write something and of course I got carried away. Not before I saw a paper that made me pause. It noted how beads were silent witnesses to histories long forgotten, histories many will never know because the history writers omitted that aspects of beads that made our ancestors feel whole and secure in themselves. So now I’m back to the story I started to write. I lack words these days due to finally being exposed to what we have all feared for the past 2 years. The illness and fatigue is debilitating but we are finally coming around and words are slowly returning. In the meantime, see the tiny piece my brain managed to put together about beads and hopefully stay tuned for more.
We were once silent, like beads, distant, but present, next to skins, golden and warm. We were once, precious, like jewels, dwelling, within hands refusing to part ways for good. Now we lay, discarded, no longer silent nor precious. Just waiting for shadows, rising anytime now, without fear or shame.
And I made this for an event I attended beginning of the month.
I see life as a journey. For some, that journey may take up to 86 years. For others, few months. Last year, my little nephew completed his journey in 10 years. He returned back to the one who first called him, first framed him, first loved him. We all have to return back to him. But the exit of a 10 year old, stings.
Here was a boy, his mother described as her king. An oasis of love, so divine, so beyond the beauty of flowers that bloomed in spring. Their love too was never supposed to end. Always supposed to rise up on eagle’s wing. Yet, perfect submission was all our soul could sing.
This weekend too is bittersweet for all of us living. Life remains a journey that will come to an end. Yet, many still take life for granted, pretending that there is no dead-end. Expending our time and energy for things that even our life can’t seem to comprehend. And when our journey comes to an end, very few remain to commend all we left behind, defend even the time we spent, sowing love that was supposed to transcend time.
I called his mom yesterday. Told her to be strong. That their love is still divine. That his journey, still sublime, even though the end stings, he is still the perfect definition of life lived by God’s design.
She called him her angel. God’s perfect being. Sitting next to the one who first called him. I asked her to send up a prayer to him for me. Remind God of all of us still here, all of us still contending with time, as we comprehend this loss our heart still cannot get over, despite time.
Then she took me on a journey, an oasis of her love for her king. Though, he is gone, she said, something great can still come out of this moment. She imagined it would be an oasis. His very own oasis of light. Where all the memories they had together transcends time. One where all things supposed to end, never truly ends. Like his smile, the warm glow in his eyes when he shines his bright smile. His words, those he reserved for those he loved, because they deserved all his words. Every thing about him was truly perfect and by God’s design.
When love is defended in this way, it never really ends. It begins again, always like a circle that never ends. So she is going to sow an oasis of love. She is going to raise awareness of his love. No other child should end their journey by 10. But if they do, she wants them and their families to remember not how but when, not why too, but when they choose love over and over again. A never-ending oasis, this outpouring of love that truly never ends.
Listening to her, made me realize how connected we all are to love and by extension light. Even in our deepest darkness, in moments that are difficult to comprehend, the pull and push for light transcends time. Like an oasis, the movement towards light never ends. We become light the more we seek it out for ourselves. Our light, does not exist in isolation. Rather they interact and will penetrate moments of darkness in ways that allow us to survive and thrive even as we bend to things our soul can’t fully comprehend.
When we move towards this oasis of light, we are no longer held captive by the firm grip of darkness. We move towards light even when darkness surrounds our journey. Our existence can only manifest great things if we let light flow like gentle waters along rocky streams.
The key is to keep moving, whether along rocky paths or in dark tunnels. Many say it’s at the end of the tunnel. I say it’s right where you are, whether at the beginning, the middle or the end of the tunnel. Light is all around you, so long as you choose to move. A mother’s love, resembles this oasis of light. I saw a glimpse of it as I listened to it being manifested in the words my sister spoke so eloquently with all her heart, all her might.
It’s an oasis after-all. Light invades our being despite our resistance, interrupts all the noise too, often with no assistance, and structures our lives when we choose it as the pinnacle of a supreme persistence for darkness that threatened our very existence.
No other being perceives it in this way. Darkness may come to disrupt it. Death too, in its own final way. But seeking light, doing our best to reach out to it, to clutch it firmly in our hands, is freeing, in it’s own unique way.
We are bound to be in darkness. Our journey through life began in a womb filled with darkness. Yet we thrived despite being surrounded by an air full of darkness. We did so, because of this light inherent in places filled with darkness. So that, even if we watch our children depart before we do, even if we pass through the deepest darkness, their gift back to us, reminiscent of the moment they first came to us, is an oasis of light
This is a mother’s love truly undefined, one my sister has found for herself. One that I hope to live up to, as I continue my journey through life. Keep this oasis of light for all mothers, especially those who bear the unthinkable, unimaginable, unbearable weight of loss. There is still light for them and all of us, even in these moments of loss. Rest In Peace, a perfect oasis of God’s light Kaysen.
Finally, this day of grace, so amazing, has arrived. This day will forever be etched in my memory now. Not because of what I get to call myself from today, A full Professor, but more so for the untenable reality I molded for myself, reduced to manageable, transforming essence, my way, now my knowing so deep.
I think about the Late great Toni Morrison’s letter to women, girls, daughters like my own, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, mother in law, herself, often. But especially today. To that letter I would add fathers, mentors that are male, brothers, uncles, friends that are male, my sons and my husband. All of you have been the rim of my world, my beginning and everything that personifies the word primary.
When I stepped into academia 8 years and 11 months ago, I knew it was not ready for women like me. Those dark like me. Those that will not stop motherhood for anything. Those also prepared to do the damn work necessary. So I battled demons. Literally did as Psalm 23 noted and walked through the deepest darkness, never forgetting that I have everything. I lost friends along the way. Mentors too. Lost loved ones, one of which whose death is still as painful as the day she died 11 months ago as if it was today. Before the journey began, I laid the path that I knew I would follow my way and followed as I knew how best too, stumbling and getting up along the way. There were plenty stumbles. But also many rising up too. Silence tried to keep me down. It succeed for a minute until Audre Lorde reminded me it will never protect me. Suffering was plenty. Not just with work but also at home. But still, like Ms Morrison would remind me, I am like no other. Not in the way I suffered or stayed silent. But for what I did through both. I was never the most loved, not the most celebrated, maybe the most silent and of course the least eloquent about my experience in academia. But I did it all my way without blinking and that way still agitates me over and over again. Even on this day, even in this moment, I am so grateful for Ms. Morrison’s letter and for the reminder that I did all right. I celebrate today with grace knowing that my sweep is grand. I will forever be endlessly refreshing when it comes to the work I do. They can say what they like but I know the work will change lives and if you don’t know yet, learn my history. I come from a lineage that was not meant to be. The word perseverance was etched in our soul, and it runs through my veins. I know Papa and Mama and Angi would be happy with me as they celebrate today in heaven too. You have done alright Isioma (my middle name), they would say, the one for whom we literally named knowledge. You took this thing many fear, passed through it and even danced through it your way and in the best of company, all of you whom I call my people. We did it. I thank all of you that got me this far. You are so many and my heart is full. I thank you for crying when I cried. I thank you for celebrating when I celebrated. The birth of my children, my marriage, failed and successful grants, new and old jobs, thank you for walking alongside me through this journey. Thank you for being there even when I could not be there for you. There is still movement in the shadow of the sun. I am still coming from the rim of the world. I will always remain that disturbing disturbance you all know so well, neither hawk nor stormy weather, but now as Professor Juliet Iwelunmor-Ezepue, a dark woman of all things. I intend to keep rustling, like life. Thank you Ms. Morrison for this knowing so deep. Thank you to my community. This one is for you all.
What is your Dharma? It’s the one question Jay Shetty asks in his book ‘Think like a Monk.’ What is that thing you are good at? The thing that agitates you, helps you thrive, keeps you grateful or helps you serve others meaningfully. That thing that is a sprinkle of passion with some skills and purpose?
I am finally getting a sense of that thing for myself. It has taken a while to get here, but I know with little doubt what I am called to do. It is everything that I am. How stories bring me closer to my most authentic, confident and powerful self.
This morning I was asked to review a small grant for a new scholar seeking funds for their research. I had four kids to shuttle to summer camps. I managed to get their things ready, shoved them to Dad to do the running around and then joined the meeting a little late. I asked to go next as this was my first review and I wanted to get the flow first from others before I came on. I listened as Reviewer 1 did a splendid job. Then I came on and spoke from my heart. My take was there was no heart to the application. What’s your story? Why should I care? Sure you did a great job putting this together? But nothing sticks and well I have other things to do. I found myself stating back all I teach in my grant writing class. I stopped and let other reviewers give their feedback. One audience member sent a direct message to me thanking me of the way I explained this. I was taken aback at first because this is all I know. Then it hit me, it’s your Dharma. Not the idea of grant writing itself, but more for people to anchor all they do in the stories they want to tell.
Everything I need for this journey with this next phase of my life is already in me. I marveled at how I can rush four kids off to their activities for the day and jump on any call and speak from my heart as to the heart of the matter for them. My dharma is already in me. It has always been with me. It is woven into my being and I intend to keep my mind and soul open to let it announce itself always in this new season I find myself in. Find and keep your Dharma.
Who are the people you fight for? I am learning about them everyday. Not the typical, my family, those I love and care about, but the people you are willing to go the distance for. Slay dragons or catch a grenade for. The people for whom, risking your life is expected. You will do that everyday, every time if time is all you have. The people you fight for are like the air you breath. Life means nothing without them. Water too and you know just how precious water is. The people you fight for are more precious that silver and gold combined. More significant for you than anything insignificant that comes by you. I am in the season of letting some people go, to do what is necessary to guard my heart. But for those that remain, let me tell you that I will fight for you. All I need is a day or time. I will go to the highest mountains for you. Pass through the deepest valleys of hell for you. I will willingly let fire burn me just so we come out finer than the most finest gold. I will fight and fight 700 and 70 times, no matter how long and no matter who. You are my destiny and together, we will write the chapter of why this fight we did together was necessary.