I have spent the past 2 days sinking into Toni Morrison’s knowing so deep essay. It’s my go to essay when I try to understand my place in this world. The wisdom, accuracy, relevance of her words are worthy of being kept every single day.

If black women are to survive, if we are to truly brighten our future, while building strength for today, then we need to constantly shape this untenable reality of a life we want. We need to mold it, sing it, reduce it to manageable transforming essence, so that change itself can occur. We are what the world needs. A disturbing disturbance that is not hawk nor stormy weather, just us, rustling like life. We are life.

This knowing so deep has comforted me the past two days. It’s my keep for the day and all through this year. Keep knowing black woman, especially black mothers, that your sweep is grand. Continue to Rest in Peace Tyre.

For all the mothers that shaped me!

I think about us today. Black mothers wherever you are. I think about the thoughts we have for our children. The fear we have too. I think about what tomorrow may bring. What today brings. I want to say it will be better. It may not be. I want to tell you to dry your eyes. You can cry too. I want to only see love and life in your eyes. Though I see hate and death too. How did we get here too? When did we turn on our own in this way too. Another death, another life. By our own hands. With our hands. How did we get here. The universe keeps turning they say. We keep spinning too. Round and round and round and back to where it all began. The failure to relate to others. When others fail to relate. Young black men full of hate, howling hate, for each other. How did we get here? Life now imprisoned, death now, our best offering. The thinking that history happens all the time. Only this time, his name is Tyre. He called out for you, his mother. Mama, Mama, he said. Today will be hard. Tomorrow too. But listen, you are still the rim of the world. Your horizon is grand. Without you, who will they call. They will call you, always, mama and you will rise again and rise again to catch the sun, your son, rise again.

How I choose to remember him, his smile was everything. Sleep well.

Keep black mothers in mind, all of us raising black boys in America because I don’t know how we got here, how death is our best offering to those that look like us now. The system is rigged and racist. I get it. But to each other. No one thought hey, that maybe my own brother. That is the part that has my heart in pieces. We don’t even see each other anymore. So I really want to know how did we get here. Who are you besides what you do and why didn’t they see him as their own brother.

The idea of remaining in one piece, birthed this space where all my experiences, parenting, productivity, life continues to roam free.

I cannot begin to count all the ways it has helped me heal from fires and storms. My heart knows too, all the ways rivers flow in peace, all because we lived, our way.

And so to sum this year in few verses would also diminish all that the year gave. And it gave everything, death, chaos, hurdles, trust, betrayals, triumphs, stories, and speech made less.

Yesterday, between hearts full of joy, and souls at peace, I learnt the true meaning and power of grace. The thing 2022 gave the most.

It’s in the people you see, those surrounding your table, those walking along your sides, those passing through storms with you, and those keeping your minds and imagination roaming wild and free.

They made 2022 sterling, silent, but statuesque all because I pondered themes that allowed me to reach beyond my dreams and the skies above.

Grace was sufficient for me yesterday. Grace got me through today. Grace will lead me all the way tomorrow and beyond.

Seeing as though we remain pregnant and full of ambitions for this thing we call joy (not to be confused with what others call work), grace has helped me give my all. Emptied everything too as I proceed to the next fold.

Knowing that my best is still yet too come, grace is how I choose to walk, knowing that there are legions by my side, prepared for the battles ahead.

I may not be able to sum the year in few verses, but grace is all that remains. That and the multitude of happy faces gathered around tables in a lounge in Lagos, for this thing we all birthed together.

I like this idea that glory will be revealed one day. Many may see or not see it too. But it’s been promised so all you can do is wait. 2022 was the year I reached my limit. It was also the year I knew my soul in the words of Claude McKay. The urge, the insistence, the trouble to do things as ordained was necessary even when exhausted and honestly, we have reached our limit. I didn’t think I would know or understand what limit looks and feels like because I am forever on the go but I do and 2022 taught it so well. Yet, contemplating who I am, Claude McKay still comes to mind because I know my soul. Everything is like grass and will wither eventually. Wild flowers too, fade when wind blows their way. I am learning though to lean in deeply to the one who measures the ocean by handfuls or the sky with his hands. To know that even exhaustion is allowed so long as I remember where to place my trust. I am. Strength is being renewed. I feel weak yet still feel like rising, still feel like running, still feel like walking, all because of whom I will always place my stride and trust in. He is the reason for 2022.

From my daughter. She recently completed this by the way and it too cute.

Some poetry help you see who and what you are. I keep learning that every day. Lucille Clifton is my muse. I travelled for work over the weekend and carried along 2 of her books of poetry: ‘How to carry water’ and ‘Quilting.’ I was drawn to both because they help me see who I am, like the blessings of a tide. While reading, I came across this unnamed piece she wrote to mothers. I have always looked to Lucille Clifton for inspiration, partly because I see myself in her and this piece. Her role as a mother, a poet, a woman grateful for the many wild blessings words bring, makes it possible for me to also imagine these wild blessings for myself. She cleared the space for many people to see and know themselves better. Also left a lot behind for the next generation to pick up where many left of in this race called life. This piece below is for women and anyone else to keep running into all that we can ever hope to become.

By Lucille Clifton

I spent yesterday reflecting on this poem of hers about women and what we do in life and work. She started by describing a woman, one just like her, similar to the one in proverbs too. Often the last to sleep, but the first to be up. Always coordinating her life, those of her children and partner and everyone else in between. Yet, despite all that, she still takes the time to put something down, words like ‘Good Times’ or what the grass knew. Gift of understanding may not be hers. But yet, her space at the table is vital, like her own life.

Women like that, those who juggle life and work and do it well or not, deserve to be on many tables. Yet are not. Like Lucille, I think about that woman, somewhere, somehow, like me. I don’t take anything for granted. Every single day is a gift worthy of praises, if not for anything, at least because we got another day. Surely, there will be another and another and so I think about what to do with each day a lot.

Today and for the past couple of days, to be surrounded by women like me, those who generously opened up their worlds so that I too can come in and find a seat at the table have inspired me to write this piece. The gift of understanding is beyond me. The little we dream is precious and possible in their company. It’s this and a prayer that what we continue beyond here and now, becomes all we want. That in a sense is what we are. I pray that the brilliance, the wisdom, the contribution of all women, those like me and those not like me, be kept alive, every single time, we collectively open up and let others come in and find their seat at the table. Keep women!

I spent this evening learning about wonder. It was from a philosopher at my institution. We were both attending an evening event and once we were free to mingle, she immediately approached me and we practically ended up spending the evening talking to each other. Initially I was hesitant to say anything to her. In fact what do you say to a philosopher. I had 2 philosophy friends in college. We were all doctoral students at the time, and I was struck by everything they did. One of them, Ronke Oke, has remained a dear friend and I will forever be grateful to her for the invitation to attend one of her classes where they talked about Franz Fanon and his books. I left that class buying the books and holding them for life. So anyone with a philosophy background scares me, hence why I was initially hesitant. But now, I am open to where they lead me.

Then I asked finally, what do you do. She said these words that stuck with me. ‘I study wonder.’ My ears and soul were open. Wonder, is that the same thing as curiosity, I asked? She said no. Wonder actually precedes and sets the foundation for curiosity. It’s like an engine for curiosity. She also mentioned how early philosophers spent time wondering before delving deeply into curiosity. We also display this better in childhood, with stories that seem so far fetching yet open and believable to a child’s mind. It is then no surprise that some child feel like they can fly and well actually proceed to fly never mind that they crash down to the ground.

I was struck and spent the rest of the evening listening to her. I saw myself in everything she said down to why I write grants. She concluded, you almost always begin in the realm of wonder, before curiosity leads you to ultimately write your grant. I was spell bound by this time. Wonder is truly the foundation of my work as a grant writer. I say it always that I have to visualize what I am writing first. I have to paint the full picture in my mind, before then writing it out. I am in the middle of a significance section of a new grant and I have spent close to an entire day on this section, just to have only 2 short paragraphs written. I have imagined what these sections should look like. I see them in my mind. But words are not coming together and so I keep imagining whatever will get that section written out in the way I have visualized it. So I close with the following prayer to this gift of insight called Wonder shared with grace from a philosopher at my institution (She has written it all as a book by the way and it is currently under review and I promise to be the first to purchase it once it becomes ready. I thank her too for offering to give me a copy).

My sons depictions of a butterfly inspires me always.

I pray that wonder cracks open your mind. I pray that it forces your eyes to bulge open and once open, may you be drawn into the underside of everything that comes your way. The torture, the pain, the joy, the wonder of it all, may all of them usher you through this maze called life.

I have met the source of my curiosity. It has always been there everytime I grumbled, stumbled, mumbled, and humbled myself through silences unearthing impossible desires within. Some of them were ordinary, but insisted that they become extraordinary in my hands. I cherish the scars left behind better now. All the ways things once indescribable have become describable these days. Everything I write seems possible now that I know my soul. I am content too with failing, knowing that the journey ahead towards what belongs to me has been cleared. I go through now with ease because you call me.

I know this moment is a witness to a struggle, a metamorphosis of sorts, a period of wading through life, until one becomes the butterfly that sees life beyond ourselves and all the ways we come out of shells to become more of ourselves.

I pray that wonder continues to carry you, me through this unavoidable journey. Without withholding, without scolding, but still molding all its range and depths. Still unfolding even as we change and accept, all the things we never thought possible, like death, like anger, like madness through this journey called cancer or things that arrest me now like wonder.

May you keep wonder, in the ways that butterflies sojourn through life.

By the way there was another philosopher there who has a book on human suffering. She said to send her an email and she will send it to me. I am on it. I see why I should continue to surround myself with them.

I see dust coming from the sky. A cloud full of dust. Coming towards me. In it, there is an army with no cowards. They surround me, ready to do battle for me. They will destroy all that ails me in a single night. Destroy them so I feel no pain. Only peace and joy and whatever else my heart desires. I heard once to watch out for people in a flow. Watch out and do not stand in the way. Or their flow may consume you, choke you too if you dare try to get in their way.

Yesterday, someone tried and they failed. Yesterday some one tried to empty my brook, forgetting that a cloud surrounds me. Even my grass cannot be withered. I am always green. My feet is planted by a stream of water. And I have patiently waited for this moment. The time to rise up on wings is here. I rise too, like a eagle. I leave heads spinning and trembling with fear. Some of them saying who is this woman? Who is she with all this shelter from storms?

Tell them, I come from a people rooted like a tree. Tell them, a people with rich harvest and livestocks with plenty of pasture. Tell them they are like birds, hovering over their nests. Tell them only water flows from our sides. Tell them streams of water flow from all the mountains and hills that surround us. Tell them we are like flowers that bloom in the wilderness. Tell them we are strong and never afraid. Tell them how our moons are as bright as the sun and our sun brighter than usual, seven times brighter. Tell them a cloud of dust surrounds us, and in it, our people are prepared always for battle. Tell them we are legions.

As strong as the woman/girl/legacy next to me!

If we must survive. If we must do it with our head held up, and our feet planted firmly to the ground, then we must never forget what happened. We must never forget how it made us feel too when it was happening. Achebe once noted that there is danger not in remembering but in forgetting. I am in a phase of my life, where forgetting is not an option. Not when we still have chapters to write. What all this reminds me is that I cannot write all my story in one chapter, one book too. I do not see the story as one story, but a group of stories, like a pile of things to keep, all of them, the sum total, a definition of me. I get that many still tend to see me as a doctoral student. Some even think I am just a mother who somehow works in an academic settings. Of course if you look at all doctoral students, all of them, like me, are alike. I have a never ending desire to write. Treat every subject too like one long dissertation. Still, in reality, it’s been 11 years since my doctoral experience. My journey is beyond that of a student, never mind my age or posture in life. Women like me in academia, often do not reflect on our day to day happenings. Or we may do so, behind closed doors and with plenty of resentment. Not me. I refuse to let silence choke me these days.

I choose instead to offer a glimpse of my life experiences, to use this medium too, to open up all that keeps me going, all that ails me too. I have been in conversations for example with a doctoral student, who went as far as to question my work with storytelling and health, as if she alone had monopoly on using stories for healing. I have also been in a meeting, where I was told to partner with a doctoral student to accomplish my goals. The price a woman, black like me, must be prepared to pay in academia, is submission to all these forms of questioning. I will yield to their ways in so far as I never forget my own. Never forget to fashion out an experience, my own, my way, whether with help or none at all. These days, I choose no help. Not because I don’t value or appreciate help, but because I know what drives me.

I am also looking for an animal whose blood can match the power of my offering. And what I offer, all the things I offer to anyone prepared to let me flow, is truly beyond me. And I have no choice. I have been given a gift and I intend to use it with it or without help. I hope though that there will always be people, prepared to help, always be people unafraid of how the water spreads on the floor, like ant, filling up the floor. There is still much work ahead, still so many lives to save, and my only request is that academia becomes prepared to carry the weight of my story. It will be told one day, my way, in full communion with all the legions that got me this far.

From the very beginning, you have watched me. You have seen too, how long I have cried in confusion. How long will I cry for help? Tell me, tell me why, fishes fare better than me, swarm of insects too.

You neither raise your hand nor turn us away, you neither ride horses from a distance nor swoop down like eagles attacking their prey. You say nothing too, when our heart is broken into pieces as numerous as grains of sand.

Still, I will wait to see what you will do. Still and knowing what is known, I will write down clearly, all the vision cupped in my heart, write them down so that when they burst through, when they burst out like waters from a mother, waters from me, I will know your grace and time.

For I know this vision still has its time. I know it presses on to fulfillment. I know too that it will not disappoint. I know that if it delays, I will wait for it. I will wait, knowing it will surely come, it will not be late, this vision I still have for a life beyond broken spirits.

Image from Lucille Clifton’s EA series.

It’s impossible not to have your spirit broken once or twice or more as a mother with children under 10. My spirit was broken today. In the middle of listening to the word of God. I knew the day would be chaotic. Didn’t know it would end in chaos. My baby started with crying. Just as we got to the entrance of church. He wanted a toy torch and we have a rule, no toys in church. So I left it in the car and he started to cry. Tears streamed down his eyes and nothing could console him. So I let him cry, held him close until he calmed himself down. We were in front of church through this and the service had begun. Kids were ushered to Sunday School and I proceeded to let the word of God flow in. First reading was from Habakkuk, one of my favorite verses in the whole of the Bible. The inspiration for todays musing. I asked how long, how much should I have to wait until this thing called motherhood makes sense. He said write your vision for it, wait for it and in due time, all you hope for it will come to pass.

I did and well my spirit was broken before I could seal the vision in my soul. My middle son came out of Sunday school crying. He ripped his paper and didn’t get another one. A kind lady in church saw he was in dire need of a brain break and brought over some stress balls. I rarely carry them around as we never really need them and well this time I made a mental note to always have some around. She only had 2 and I have three boys who have a hard time with this thing called sharing. I pleaded with son number 2, pleaded with him to share with baby, he did, until he ran out of patience. Then he started to cry, insisting that we go get ice cream after church of which I said no and never by the way.

It turned into the worst thing ever as he began to wail and scream to no avail. The music in church helped to drown his tears, but not enough for all of church to feel sorry for me. I was tired and helpless, dealing with son number one struggling with sensory issues and baby clinging to me and here comes son number 2 crying because he wouldn’t get any icecream after church. So I let him cry, let him have the last word until we got to the car. I let my spirit go and made it crystal clear that I refuse to ever use my own money to buy him ice-cream. Ooh that I know my roots. I know where I am coming from and from this day, if he will ever pull that stunt ever in church or anywhere else, then he will let the world know too the roots that formed me.

Needless to say my spirit was broken today and I feel like a mother running out gas, running of being nice and kind too. In the end, they will always come first, always be loved and adored, but I know my roots. We did not hail all the way from Onicha Ugbo to raise children who have no idea where they are going to. I concluded by reminding him of his name. Olisa. It means God and he did not bring us this far, just for us to stain his name. My vision for motherhood is still clear and I will still wait for the opportune time, but until then keep mothers in mind, especially on days when our spirits are broken.

We were told we were obstacles. Something like impossible. For how are we possible, when all we seem are never clear like a dream. So we lived like a dream. Like a difficult stream with no beams for barricades, only palisades as blockades and surrounded with stockades that leave you with no accolades. Confined now to roadblocks that clog, obstacles that block, and stop, we became more like stumbling blocks. We suffered through more flops, that seem like shocks, every time we saw an opening out of luck.

See every time some path seemed to open from nowhere, every time it seemed all our stumbling blocks were finally going somewhere, all the loads, finally unloading, we were met with more obstructions, ditches with no instructions on how to snag out of complications turned limitations, and impediments, turned frustrations. No instructions too on how to dig out of enclosures that seemed more like restrictions, delays that seemed like hindrances or setbacks for life constantly dealing with a barrier.

Now, it may seem like this is a book of barriers. Maybe, but we write to share that all we faced, all the hurdles, that seemed like turtles in a chortle, every single manacle, and shackle, all the restraints that seemed like a life full of deterrent, none of it was a detriment in the end. For we are warriors. Something like warrior women. And this, this is a book of warriors.

I watched The Woman King. Nothing else to say except what came out of my spirit above and well, go watch it.

Ezi-okwu. Truth. We were told we are light. Something like a book of light, with pages that emit rays, with words that stream, gleam and beam, like the sun. Truth. We were told we are like the sun. Our glow, like our flicker shines lucid, with a spark, a scintilla, that flashes, and sets us a blaze, like a flame or fire. Ezi-Okwu. We were told we are like fire. Forever serene, truly luciferous, and built like a lighting blot. We never lack luster. Truth. We always shimmer, glisten and gloss everything till our brightness emits brilliance. Ezi-okwu. We were told we emit brilliance. In full splendor, our sheen, like our sparkle, dazzle, in a luminous reflection, the kind that kindles, illuminates, brightens, air, days, so we stay glorious as we radiate this radiant splendid life we choose to clarify and make clear in every single way, about how we are like light. A book of light. Ezi-okwu. Truth.

Something about this light, Lucille, something about all the rays it emits, both short and long, something about its glimmer, it’s glow, it’s everlasting shine, has me wishing for days when truth is life. Ezi-okwu bu ndu. You are truth, Lucille. You are.

Dedicated the above to Lucille Clifton.

I started my day early. I set out with a goal too. I was supposed to finish the approach section of a new grant we are working on. Yes, it’s the only thing I do these days. Anyways, I was done with aims 1 and heading to aims 2 when I did the unthinkable, I didn’t hit save as I closed the document by accident. I literally felt like pulling my head once I figured out my mistake. Crying was not enough. I felt so helpless that I literally went to my bed and just wailed out loud to myself. I was overwhelmed and tired as this grant is so painful to write and I am in that uncomfortable space of deciding whether it is worth it or not. It feels like it isn’t these days and it scares me. I never want to stop writing grants. I hate that I can write and make costly mistakes like this. When I summoned courage to get back to my laptop, I looked up and say all the rays emitting from my little light fixture in my room. They were speaking to me in ways that made me feel, almost instantly, that everything would be worth it in the end. The mistakes are still painful, but when you are a book of light, even these mistakes have lessons the emit rays so brilliant. I am leaning on light.

Beyond the tears, beyond the sighs, beyond the frustrations born out of nothing, something, everything, there is a child, waiting to be seen, hoping to be heard, wishing to be held. See them, hear them, hold them. Something must yield. Your hope, your flesh, your future, dwells too in this child. Dwell in them. We are in a space where we know how the roots hold the tree. We keep holding too.

With the Archbishop of St. Louis!

We spent our Sunday in somber reflection on what it means to follow Jesus like St. Matthews the tax collector. The Archbishop of St Louis paid our small church a visit and we learnt first hand that following Jesus was for everyone, tax collectors, mothers, all of us fighting never ending battles of wanting to pull your hair. Sunday’s are tough in our home. The in between a great weekend and back to school mode can be tough. But I still choose to tough it out, knowing these are my roots and they must dwell in me.

My son repeats himself always. He is on the spectrum so we expect this. But these days I have been working to channel all his repetition into something useful. Enter writing letters. Today he woke up saying the same things he wanted yesterday, his toys for Christmas. I told him to take a piece of paper and write a letter to me indicating what he wants. He did. Here is his letter. We still have work to do, but I think I am on to something. Keep writing letters, even from your children to you.

P.s. he is also reading to his baby brother. His first time doing so. This one brought a huge smile to heart.