I took a long overdue trip outside the country to Lusaka. Where we are staying is breathtaking. So is my current state of life. Change is coming, like peace.
So I’m cleansing myself.
Someone told me to remember always the small things. I did and saw a small African butterfly, black and white, fluttering my way this afternoon. Such transformation from struggle to greatness is the reassurance unleashed along the way.
Instantly, I was reminded that I am living my best life, the journey is still long, few are invited, and in these rare moments, may bliss be our portion always, amen.
May peace too be our portion, for those never created to worry. Those never created to fear anything. Definitely not people, and definitely not change. Rather, we will do what makes our heart at ease.
Become known for profound illumination, plain speaking, spare elegance, deep thoughts, practical wisdom, a poetic voice. Then dwell on 91. Thousands will fall around. Tens of thousands. But you will not be harmed. Angels are in charge. They protect even your feet from stones. The same feet that trampled down lions and fierce snakes.
So become known as the one he protects, the one he saves, the one he will move mountains for, because he called you by name. That your claim to agency is firm, that they pass you by while others elevate you is clear, that you stay creative even in the face of their torment is grace. The joyful truths of these moments are yours. Enjoy it your way. The hidden and hurtful ones too are yours. Keep it for one day.
Until then, know that you are sacred, you are blessed, you are loved, and you are valued. And your children, all of them that surround your table even now, with the one he called to save you, the ones screaming from Zion, are all that matter. For them and always, Iwelunmor. If you know the meaning of my name, you know everything. Keep it.
First, they shoot. They dismiss your look, dim your light, all to erase your name. They succeed. Or so they think. You may stumble, you may fall, you may bleed, you may weep. But your name remains. The thing they can’t destroy. The name they can’t uproot too. Not when the ground belongs to you. The earth and even them too. They exist because you live. They die even as you live. Every single way you restore, you rebuild, you reduce their hate to love. So remember your essence, remember love. That is the power of you, the one named Ralph. The one who endlessly starts over and over again, full of embers, that never die, full of light, that never dies.
Lean into all your complexity. Lean into all that make you chaotic. Lean into your strengths. Lean into your joy. Lean into your pain. Lean into your hurdles. Lean into kindness, for ourselves, the world. Lean into all that make you tender, whether you succeed or fail. Lean into all that make you free, like words strung together, your way. Lean into your specialness, all things that make you glow. Lean into all your feelings, all of them matter. Lean into all the ways you lived and survived. Lean into your bravery. Lean into the source of your rain. Lean into moments of light. Lean into periods of darkness. Lean into definitions of yourself for yourself. Lean into your own worth and possibilities. Lean into things that make you attentive, like leaves, flowers, and poetry. Lean into things that keep you fulfilled, like family and love. Lean into rigorous loving. Lean into the truth about you. But most of all, lean into your power.
We are meant to live our lives full. Demand excellence first for ourselves, then gift it to the world. I’m in a space where only things that make my life richer and full are allowed. I enter this space with grace and empowered to lead others to their fullness too. I do so loving what I do, even in moments when work doesn’t love me back. Yet, I move knowing the value of love, its appeal and how it has helped me live life to the fullest. I call this the uses of power. Modeled this after Audre Lorde’s uses of the erotic.
See, I started writing grants because I was told, it’s the only way to survive academia. You all know the horror stories. You know too, it’s worse from those you least expect it from. Those that dismiss or reject you. Those that would rather suffer than discuss all the ways the system makes us suffer. I choose to discuss and I offer myself always as an example of what can be if we are radically open. The process is hard. I said that yesterday. You don’t ask for millions and expect a bed full of roses. I know what it’s like to not sleep in 24 hours. When the pressure is on, it is in full rage mode. But I also know what it’s like to unwind. Sign me up for blue crystal waters or village living among tall palm trees any day.
What many never see is the balance. I live my life in balance. I also write here almost everyday to release. I may write about the same thing over and over again. It’s called expressive writing and it healing properties are immense. So I enter this space, knowing life can be different. I walk deeply through this space, assessing and reassessing the quality of my life, my work, and how I can let light move in and through it. This personification of love, one born out of the will to create, to live in harmony with the need to tell a different story, is a lifeforce, one that every single grant I have written, those that succeeded and those those that failed, empowered.
There are no two me. Try as you may, but I know my worth. It’s in my middle name, something my ancestors saw long before I was born. You don’t name someone Isioma and expect her to not live out the full potential of that name. This knowledge alone, empowers me and is a lens through which I scrutinize my time on earth. So I step into this space, this time of my life, reclaiming my worth, restoring my power, and knowing deeply, that I can do anything, through him who is the source of this power.
It’s this knowledge, that is deep within, open and fearless, strong and rich within, that I know seek to present to the world. I no longer fear the yes within myself. I no longer suppress any truth about my existence. That I have endured pain is well know these days. That it has come from people I least expected, some I admired and some I called my own, should be plain and direct. But I can’t be docile or loyal to what can or should be. Not when I graciously choose me. Boldly live within the power that is deep within me, and use it to inform and illuminate spaces that have been in darkness for so long.
These days, I am motivated and empowered from within. I share all of this here to use for my own good. Your own too. Never forget humble beginnings, they say. I don’t intend to. But I will move past them. I will not look away, even if you do the same. I will write and heal and write and heal until there is only writing, only healing too, my way. It’s this healing, this writing too, that allows me to purse change within my world, rather than settle for lip service. I step into this next phase of my life, in the fullness of the power, that I know is deep within.
Listen, the work is hard. Every single one written. Years of failures. Years of tears too. Every single experience, especially the ones I failed at, stretched me to my fullest. If I was intense with the process, if I was hard too, plain and direct at times too, know that all that mattered, was how to claim space, a foothold, platform, voice among voice, anything to be a lion, to tell the story of the hunt my way. There were moments of anguish, sleeplessness, frustration, hope, wild dreams, high on Jeremiah 29v11, because the plans even in pain and limited sleep, were for good. So we pressed on, shattered original thoughts and created new ones in span of weeks. Some were written in days. Two days being the craziest streak for an idea that still failed. Of course time would have helped. Prayers too. But when the ideas start to dream for themselves, even the dreams are nothing but themselves.
Wild as these experiences have been, nothing trumps what we went through mentally last year. Nine. Some, back to back to back. Ideas came out of nowhere. Some as if our lives depended on it. The ideas dreamed on, pulling us towards our finest hour, one that I will never regret all the ways the journey lead to this moment. Perhaps this is the end. One chapter ends, even when we all seek to keep it going. Ideas will come and go. Teams that bring it to life will come and go too. Every single experienced has pushed me to my zenith, one where there are no regrets even as this chapter closes.
So here is the truth. If I am silent or different these days, it’s because change is hard. The most difficult thing I have ever done. But the urgency of the moment is the ultimate. We still have to claim space with folks that truly see us. Those that know what can be if only we get the support we need, the investment too. The other day, someone said they wanted to invest in me. I cried. To be seen in this manner is the light I know that is deep within in me. It can never be hidden. Those in light see those bursting forth to their own. They propel them upward, so that their radiance, their brightness, their brilliance, is crystal clear. Perhaps this is the hope, that ideas brought to light, with the right people, a small circle of safety, no matter how long it may take, by their nature, will remain in light. Keep this reflection you now see in the mirror. It’s the light in you. Here is to smaller circles too, as I play Davido’s Unavailable song on repeat. Dem no Dey see light people ooh. Ooh and here is to this DREAM phase of life.
One song has been ringing in my head lately. Tiwa Savage’s Stamina. The idea of living to fight another day for one is a plus. That and the fact that there are still so many things to do. So it matters that I have the stamina and freedom always to show what I carry, my way. When you abuse that freedom, get in its way, or even attempt to thwart it, then I pray you have stamina too. Either way, I am living to fight another day.
I heard these words today. From the poetry of Robert Lowell. Keep saying what happened. Even when tired, say it. Even with backs turned against you, say it. Whether happy, say. Or sleepy, still say it too.
Some of us may fall into rivers, splashing waters all around us. But when we rise, not matter how wet we may seem, we will still say and share all the ways life and you pushed us into the deep end.
I paused deep in Nimo, the other day, to see the palm trees again, to see the red earth too, to watch how fruits cling to trees, to eat only things my soul desires. Then we went up the stairs, to a top balcony where the palm trees and I greeted ourselves again. I stood in silence and watched as the trees served me grace, wrapped me with love, reminded me to stand, even as they blew gentle kisses, of the softest breezes, my way. My eyes were busy gathering their love, gathering all the ways they rustle the air. The trees were busy stretching my being, stretching in a sweet embrace, all the ways I rustle like air. I left, centering my core, to the rhythms of time, rhythms of the palm trees too, knowing still that Nkiruka, what is ahead, is still greater than all I saw in Nimo.
While the children played, and the adults ate, and the teenagers laughed and the dogs barked, the day of the risen Christ was full of hope, like the sounds of a talking drum. If this is Christ risen, then let our meeting forever be permanent. Happy Easter.
We paused today, with ourselves and looked at the day, with a single purpose, to wait for time. In silence and in thankful contemplation, strangely at peace, we said thank you when the moment arrived. There still is no clear time in sight. We don’t know how deep the valley is. Either way, the urgent future awaits us. Every single moment points to our freedom.
When we retrace our steps, and we end up on Zik road, in the land where the earth is red, and the walls and the streets are red, and the roads are full of people trading wares, there shall still linger, the steps that forged our years, eyes shall still remember a voice they once heard, a name now distant, but near. Some will linger and stare, for it cannot be the same eyes they saw those years, the same hands that carried lives upstairs, the air still lingers with memories of blazing sun, memories of a distant time that shaped and formed you, like the slow walk of trees. Even though death’s chorus lingers in the air, even though we gather with eyes veiled to retrace our steps, it’s the lessons of how paw paws cling to trees, that unifies our gaze. Keep remembering the paths that formed you.