If writing is thinking, discovering, selection, meaning, awe, and reverence. Then, how might we create a future where writing is excellence? For me, these days, writing is dreaming, like flowers, blooming.
I see flowers taking shape all around my home. They are connecting me to a life where I stand tall and light. They are also serving as a reminder to look always at all the places and spaces where I begin again, like flowers, to bloom again. Flowers are giving me the space and opportunity to tell stories deep within me waiting to bloom. They are helping me to uncover a voice, time and space plus people almost tried to hide. Flowers see me. They see me just as I am. Naked, open, waiting for moments where I become my own. They are in the purest form, all the ways I hope my writing can be. An act of dreaming, becoming, awakening, opening, of something, sleeping, waiting, still for the moment, when we bloom. Keep flowers in spring. When they bloom, they are like writing steeped in dreams.
Sometimes I don’t understand it. How did I make it through the storm and rain? But I see life is working for my good. Grace and the number 5, on this fifth day of May is an overflow moment for me, one that hope to never forget. To see what I have seen today, not once but five times is the stuff dreams are made up. I am determined to make new dreamers in this thing called academia and they will dream wild dreams their way. We will fail. It’s a guarantee. I promise more failures because when your dreams come true then you will be just as speechless as I have been today.
To crown it all up, wild pansies greeted my front lawn today. I am not a gardener. Every plant I keep ends up dying. Yet today, from no where, these wild pansies were in our front lawn. We have lived here for three years and to think that I have never seen them until today is again the stuff dreams are made off. To see who is behind all this, to see him high upon the throne exalted is beyond words. I will forever be thankful to all those who made the journey to get here rough. You came so close to take me in. The reason I’m here is grace. You all have a special place in my heart because this season was tough. I had to let things go, people too, just so I can openly accept all that is coming my way with no strings attached except for family. This is a quest that is only just beginning and wild pansies, with their mission of happiness, memories and spirituality are leading us all the way. Keep them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have ever been invisible, ever been accused, ever been dismissed, ever been muted, even when not in a room, consider yourself lucky to have come this far. Then keep climbing your mountain. For few will see the moon glow as it does for those ignored. Few will understand that they choose their words carefully. Language is a tool to be used wisely. Poetry too is a tool that will make you memorize these word: The moon favors women who know the stories of lions.
See how they glow. Few will know that they are not helpless, not speechless, not ignorant, of the way titles and roles handicap humanity like those of hunters. See some of us were named before anything and anyone named us. If you don’t know, ask about Igbo people, learn about our history, our ways, how legions named us before the world saw us. Then when you are done learning, go back and witness how greatness unfolds for those in alignment with their Chi, see how their Ike, never ends, watch their Ije, and see how even Ani belongs to them. Then and only then will you understand how they flow through Oge, how what holds them is as divine as the primal vision of the bluest skies. Today and always, poetry will serve, nouns will choke verbs used to describe actions. Diagram this sentence too: Those climbing mountains, those who know themselves, those named before anything named them, those Igbo, those like lions too, will burn you a tune you will hum forever. Wait for it…
On the day so many witnessed the double standards black girls and women face, even in basketball, I witnessed the same for myself personally. I have written elsewhere about what it means to be silent and what it means to survive academia as a black woman on your own terms. The future will tell the story better one day. My asks have alway been simple, live and let live. Will I make you work, yes. I work, so anyone around me better get used to that. Will I make you question even your own existence. Yes. We are called to be cities on hills, so your light, at least around me, cannot be hidden. Will it make some quit. Absolutely. Quitting is part of the story. We should always stop when dreams are not in alignment. It doesn’t mean you can’t dream for yourself still, just that everyone needs to find it for themselves first. I did for myself, so it is only natural that anyone should have a plan for themselves. What I can’t I won’t tolerate is hidden agendas. It’s not in my DNA to hide anything I do. I am as transparent with all my goals and dreams as can be, my biggest weakness, because I love to talk. But the moment you begin to hide your own, should be the day you decide to roam this earth on your own. I will always wish you Ijeoma.
But back to today’s keep, here is how to keep being amazing even when one journey ends just as another begins, even as you climb any mountain on your own terms. Know yourself.
I spoke to my mentor yesterday and even from afar, he knew these moments will come. We have been going on this mentorship thing for over 16 years. We have witnessed the good and the bad, including the death of my father. That he is more than a mentor to me is not an understatement. I run to him when the good comes as well as when the struggles and hurdles come. Here is what he told me, word for word ‘let them head for the valley and you continue to climb the mountain.’ I know my people. They know me well. Chi-chi said change is necessary for growth and so is letting go. I am listening. Everything and everyone is reminding me how poetry is not a luxury. Keep climbing mountains.
June 5th, 2021, our world changed forever. In the beginning, we grasped whatever we could to survive. Words like cancer became etched in our minds forever. Escaping from the science of implementing, I found the science everywhere. The questions too, of how come, why, when, became our only way. You became the question we never knew we could ask. That women die every day from something with proven intervention. Our own Angie, died in a painful way. One week after my dad’s birthday. Another volt that grapples our mind. Why do people we love, die. Yet, if people we love die, if we can push it all aside, then living has to mean more, even if we find ourselves lodging in new places and with me faces. Those who have everything given to them, those who speak too as if they started the journey, forget how the story began. It’s at this moment, that change must come.
Words by themselves are never enough even if the microphone is in the hands of few. We created it only for cities built on hills, working with first lights to spaces, destined for greatness. See while they hide, and deny, they only end up deceiving and destroying themselves. Only thing left is to pass the microphone…The plot and the characters for this next chapter was never meant for those with narrow dreams, those exhausted, those that lack imagination, and those at the end of their own road with all their dreams achieved. According to the epic poem by Ben Okri, ‘there is no exhaustion where there is much to be hoped for, to work towards, where dreams remain unrealized.’ Ben Okri would also say, ‘when you can no longer dream, no longer see possibilities, no longer see alternatives, when you see only limitation, despair and negation, then you are in the way. You are also the problem. The exhausted obstruct, the creation of a greater future. They should therefore clear the stage for new dreamers.’ For new warriors of light too, those focused on justice and healing, storytelling and creativity, so that Angie’s death would not be in vain.
For life for me has never been castles in air. I know what it is like to rest in fields of green pastures and walk at the same time through the deepest valley. The woman we became, with feet anchored firmly to the ground, with no fear, only wanting revolution, really wanting evolution, charged by life, by death, the possible ranges of grief and living, and all the changes it propels is the infinity storytelling we have been waiting to tell. Truth it, you were never meant to tell it with others. Never meant to share it too with anyone. Few will share the vision. Few will believe it in to.
But then there is you. Defiant in your ways without excuses, the tools of the incompetent. You know how they seldom succeed. If you have brought people and things close, the next phase requires arm’s length. No need to question why they rally against your strength, no need to see how they see it too. The narrow, rough roads you must and will climb, even in silence or poetry, for Angie and for others who dare dream, requires that you remember from where your strength comes from, even when things end, even when time and things, turn on you like a violent storm. It’s deep end of the valley, keep walking through.
These days I find myself writing words that pierce the coming days with dreams. If I’m writing here often, then I am taking a break from the bigger things being manifested. While they waste their time with the same stories or indulge my space for my minds stories, know that we have moved on past the deep end of the valley, though darkness is still all we see. The next moments are only for those truly at the table. From where does our strength come from they may wonder: from Angie, from legions, from God, from a life only committed to infinity storytelling my way.
Even now with precious memories that sink forever in our soul. Even as the weight of sadness still remains our world, our torch, our life. Our forces are fully focused, pointing to choices, leading away from the familiar. When I speak of change, I don’t mean only seasons. I mean knowing my story, and they ways I’ll tell it to infinity, not in other to complain or force anyone to listen, but as a powerful and eloquent reminder to keep what matters most, and Isioma I write these words, in their fullness, powerfully, to remind you, to keep you.