Insights into life of working mothers and the pandemic are rare. Not the stories of coping well, but the pitched battle of silence and survival. When I come across these insights (see picture below), I feel seen. The past 11 months of the pandemic has been debilitating slowly. It has taken a lot to make sense of it all. That it shows no sign of abating is terrifying. That most people act like it’s gone, is equally disturbing. But when folks write about working moms, our primal state, then, for one brief moment, I feel seen. I also feel like screaming too.

As a working mom, I have 3 choices with the pandemic: first to ignore it and act as if it is only restricted to places I don’t visit or people I don’t interact with. But that would mean I remain in my own bubble, for what is motherhood or even work without people. For to even feed my household, I have to venture into spaces and interact with people whether at the grocery store or at a restaurant even for takeout. Second, I could be indifferent to the pandemic. It’s been 11 months and counting, so what difference would another day make. A whole lot. No one can act indifferent to the fact that everyday, close to 3000 people are dying from the pandemic. Multitudes more are becoming infected despite the availability of vaccines. It is all around us that no amount of ignorance or indifference will save me if I don’t do my part to stay safe. The third choice is my imagination and it’s possibilities are endless when writing is intentional. It’s where my hope resides, where my learning occurs and my memories are recollected and reassembled so that history would capture my multiple points of views, the impediments of work, family, productivity in the time of the pandemic. Insights on the pandemic’s effect are rare. History will ask questions one day. So it’s extremely important, at least to me, to try and write, even when tired, about the state of affairs for women with children who work during a pandemic.

It’s my hope with this list. The constant reminder I have to try not to diminish my reality or accept established realities of what it means to be a working mom these days. Every keep is my authentic way of remembering, not forgetting, the silence, the survival, all the hopes and all the impediments. It my way of doing the writing necessary building, adapting, securing, and ultimately keeping what matters so history will see us too. Keep basking in your writing, keep it. It matters.

Almost missed a day of writing. I reminded myself not to. Yet it almost happened. Writing is indeed a tough business. It takes dedication and time and I applaud all writers who do this everyday non stop. This post also is short and reminder to myself to keep writing. I realize that it is easy to become tired. It is also easy to let a day go by. But those who find a way to persevere, become the writers they want to be in the end. So keep writing even when tired.

In one of my daughter’s journal entry for school, she was asked ‘what makes her family special?’ She wrote: My family is special because we are always fun.’ I chuckled. But the next sentence made me alert. She wrote: ‘They also understand whenever I make mistakes.’ As a family, we are keenly aware that mistakes are necessary. Almost expected from everyone, including our children. That I fail with work comes as no surprise to my children. They know when my grants for example are not successful. A lot of them are never successful. And they understand what to do to cheer me up. Red velvet cake makes me happy.

Mistakes, failures, are inevitable conditions necessary for living. There are two choices, one can make when they encounter these challenges. One, you can ignore them, or two, you can learn a lesson from your mistakes or failures. Whichever choice you make, know that understanding is a key antidote. One that we do not take for granted in my household. That my daughter, wrote this in her journal is compelling. Understanding is also doing, one that I will keep staying alert to. Mistakes are inevitable with children. Keep understanding even when them make them.

The past few days have been filled with work. Not the kind of work that academics love to do. But the one that people who truly love what they do. It’s sublime, forces you to be still, so the words flow. Word work is becoming my solace in the middle of this pandemic. It’s not enough that you read the words too, but you also hear it and feel it. That’s my goal. Every single word strung together, will be full of grace, full of a melody so smooth, so satisfying like a choir of heavenly angels. Ultimately each word one it’s own or together, should force you into a dialogue with me. Force is you into my path. Force you to take a closer look at my intentions, my purpose with putting these words, my thoughts together.

My son learning to crawl.

As I type this, the sounds of my baby awake in the other room forces me to put anything that comes to mind down in a hurry. My children running water above in their bedroom also forces me to rush through my thoughts. They are after all they treasures I have, the reason for focusing one what matters. Word work requires this. The past few months reminds us all to stay alert to those things that matter, the things we hold dear, like my children, my peace, my journey through a life full of questions, in search of endless ones, all committed to lasting, all committed to putting words together in ways that make tell the story of my purpose. I watched my baby try to crawl the other day and for him, I know that what matters is critical. What matters, even with word work, like learning to crawl is urgent. I may not know the outcome of the exercise, the outcome of each experience, but I am committed. Every word matters. Every word is for you too. To keep what you can or discard what you must. It was always yours to keep. The essence of every essay I write is always with you in mind. Keep, I say, always, what matters. It has always been my intent even on the journey to making sense of words that work together nicely. I hope you join me on this journey.

Let me sit down for a moment with you. For one minute if you have it. You can close your eyes, if you choose or just be still where you are and stay with me if you can. For one brief moment, know that you are like a rising star. Keep knowing this in your heart. My very own star. Your light cannot be hidden, no matter how hard you try. You are truly amazing. That’s what you are. How you do this thing called life so effortlessly, so easy, so breathtakingly divine with ease, is beyond words. You are one remarkable person. For one moment, I want you to know, to understand that how you live, how you keep doing things your way, even with tremendous challenges and difficulties, but still persevere, still defy the odds, is nothing short of brilliant. Your desire to keep what matters, to build where you can, to adapt if you must, but to keep seeking new ways of being, new things to learn, things that even make you uncomfortable, is superb. You and all of your being, is stellar. I would tell you that the next 10 years would be outstanding. But you already know this. If you doubt me, look around and see just how blessed you are and know that the next 10 years of abundant blessings is only just beginning. See all that snow outside, even if you count every flake one by one, they would never be enough to describe just how remarkable the next 10 years would be. And it would. I just want to let you know this for just this moment, between me and you, know that you are quite simply sterling, and magnetic and captivating and those dreams in your heart, in your soul, will come to pass. All I ask is that you remain you and believe that my plans for you are beyond even your wildest dreams. They are. And if you ever forget, get up again, rise up and start afresh, one day at a time, until you become my greatest treasure, my light for the world to see, my very own star.

You are like a star!

This is a letter to myself that I was asked to pen as part of a new program that I will begin in February. It the altMba progam conceived by the indomitable Seth Godin. The universe is calling me to rise and begin an incredible journey through this thing called life and I am ready. Keep rising my star, keep rising.

All the snow outside is nothing compared to how blessed you are. You are.

‘For there is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it. ‘ These words by Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet from her poem, ‘The hills we climb’ was a delight to hear during yesterday’s inauguration. Amanda herself was simply mesmerizing. She dazzled us with words and performance that was not only divine but truly reflected the best in being a poet. From the beginning these words ‘When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?,’ made me realize how lucky future generations will feel to hear the gift of words from Amanda. She is sterling, significant for our times and a bright ray of hope for a future full of impediments. In an interview with CNN, she noted that when she gets nervous during her recitals, she says these words to herself ‘I am the daughter of black writers. We are descended from freedom fighters who broke their chain and changed the world. They call me.’ Imagine reciting this to oneself on a daily basis and when nervous. I am and remain in awe of her gift that all I can say is keep Amanda Gorman in mind. She is truly one to watch.

Amanda Gorman

On this Martin Luther King Day, may you always dream big and radiate kindness. These words from my son’s favorite shirts are what I am keeping today. Dream big, not of things small, but even things that seem out of reach, things that seem not for you. It’s in dreaming that you realize your full potential. And when you do, radiate kindness. Let it be you. Be the first to say I’m sorry when you can. Be the first to open doors and help people if you are able to. Be kind when no one is looking. Be kind when no one expects it. I know that it may seem overwhelming at first and people may take advantage of you. They will. But when your dreams are big and you radiate kindness, your future is bright.

You are like that dazzling sunrise with all its golden hue. All its glow like no other is you. Day after day you remain. You rise, you brighten, you glimmer, you dwell, and you cast your essence to everyone alike. Ignored or seen, conflict or peace, vulnerable or strong, you are the touchstone by which all that is big with dreams, all that is kind, can be measured. And you do it well. Your gaze is glorious to all those who want to also dream big, who radiate kindness. You give them permission to do the same. And because of you, they too are becoming like the sunrise. Because of you, they will be all right. I have a dream will always be my favorite speech of all times. Because Dr. King dreamed and radiated kindness, I can also do the same. My children can too. Everyone I come across, everyone that works, learns, even builds with me, is able to also do the same, all because Dr King was our sunrise. Keep dreaming big. Keep radiating kindness for you, for others, today and always.

The other day when talking to a friend, I realized that I cherish commitment with the academic side of my work, especially with my research where full attention is given. I care about the details. Every single aspect of it. And if I am not commenting or making an suggestions, then I am not committed plain and simple. Is this what writing entails too? I ask because my ideas are so numerous. I fear without the same commitment to my creative energy, then all of it, especially with my keeplist would be futile.

So in making sense of what commitment entails, I have started to read again and reflect, to understand how the great writers of past and present fulfill this thing called commitment. How are they committed with every piece of work they give to the world? Commitment with language and putting words together in ways that make it seem so simple, but I am sure is not easy. Like Toni Morrison and the idea of ‘slow walk of trees’ signaling hope or Chinua Achebe and his ‘anthills of the savannah’ signaling possibilities. Of course the two of them being my favorite authors makes me wonder when did they even find the time to make this commitment with language. I don’t have the answers yet but I want to believe it’s the same kind of commitment I give to my academic side. The commitment for me included being fixed in one spot for hours day after day and even night until I have the next grant or the next paper written. How I have made this commitment the past years with a bunch of children and a hardworking hubby is awe-inspiring to me. And I still have no idea how I make it happen except to say in my Nigerian way that it is all by the grace of God.

This book includes an interview with Chinua Achebe on commitment (see quote/excerpt below.

That commitment is creeping up in my mind of late is truly remarkable to me. I want to bring it to my creative side, to this journey I am beginning to take. Commitment to the unknown world of what it takes to be a writer. The idea of commitment over everything may explain how writing gets completed. Commitment to the vision, the truth, the story. Commitment to every single detail, even to excellence of the language used to weave the writing together is sterling to me. I don’t and can’t tolerate non-commitment in my academic life. It’s a betrayal to myself especially when I know that if I truly commit, I can be ambitious with everything I do, whether I succeed or even fail. I welcome the failure even because it’s another reminder that I am human after all, with flaws with my academic writing and not the commitment to it. And so I am prepared to make the same commitment again until I get better. Chinua Achebe himself in a 1987 interview with Jane Wilkinson in the book above, once described commitment as ‘the root of a writer’s being.’ I believe and I am hopeful that if I keep it, my vision of a writer as I understand it will prevail.

I learnt the other day, the importance of being silent, eloquently. It’s mesmerizing, the audacity of silence. Coming from someone known to be a talkative, being silent is divine. I am learning this day by day. Even my husband would be proud. True story, I remember being whipped in primary school in Nigeria because I talked to much. In other words, talking and nonstop about things I know and may not know is how I have lived this thing called life to date. I have been whipped so bad for it. But I am learning now that there is power with being silent. Power in choosing it, framing it as you like but ultimately, being it. I will be silent.

The prolific author, Bell Hooks, once wrote that ‘we all need to choose or identify spaces where we begin our process of revision…where we push our boundaries…where transformation is possible. This choice is crucial because it shapes and determines our response. Also informs how we speak about the issues we choose.’ I choose silence. It forces me to move out of the familiar. Silence is uncomfortable for me. It’s my space of radical openness, where my mind dances, the site of my anthills and nests. Silence is wisdom for me. Not because I don’t have much to say, Lord knows I can still talk up a storm if need be. I will be silent because the moment needs it, no demands that I share nothing, not a word or even an opinion. Just my silence. If not for anything, then at least for me. I will be silent so I see. In silence, I see reality. In silence, I am sustained. All my hopes and impediments become clear.

And so the hardest thing I will ever do, the hardest I have ever done will be to remain silent. It is harder than giving birth. In labor you scream even in the most difficult pain. The most unbearable pain, demands a response whether audible or not. Not silence. It demands nothing. Except only that you practice it. Say these words if you must; I will be silent. And for me. I seldom take me, my feelings, my thoughts into consideration. But the moment demands that I do. Not because I don’t have much to say. On the contrary. But because my silence, my eloquent silence is the only power that I own. They can’t take what they don’t know. I and not them, choose silence.

In silence, I am able to reflect. In silence, I am able to plan with the right people. In silence I am also able to learn or reflect, to adapt or change if I must or nurture or keep what truly matters to me. In silence, I plan. The next move, the next adventure, the next question, whatever the journey, for I won’t miss my way, when silent. It’s a mesmerizing thing when you practice it intently, when you channel all your talkative energy to being silent, to seeing it as a plan. I am also learning that it demands that I am still and know. I am still as I bask in what I know for sure. They can’t take what they don’t know and I can’t give myself to anyone or anything when I am silent. It is a powerful realization, this thing called silence when you practice it for yourself and I intend to fully keep, eloquently in 2021. For if I can be silent, long enough, effectively, even eloquently, then silence would become me. So, I will be silent. Not because I don’t have much to say, but because in silence, I plan. Keep silence eloquently.

The enterprise of being you, a complete individual, unique in your own way and in your own thoughts starts with being complete. I am complete on my own and in my own terms. This is the lesson for today. Keep being complete. It’s a lesson I learnt after looking at an assignment my daughter completed for school. Her teacher asked her to make a coat of arms, something to illustrate what makes her completely unique, in her own way. My daughter focused on four words: Be True, Be You. I smiled. She is indeed my child.

Not only does she love her home and ice-cream and her tablet and bunnies, she reminded herself about the significance of being true to her complete being. The significance of being whatever she wants, so long as she stays true to herself. I am learning even from my daughter how to keep being true to myself, the power of being me. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. Focusing on my parenting and productivity requires a shift in priorities. A shift even with when to stay silent and when to survive. The point of every keep is to never solve a problem. But instead, they are big reminders to myself to do as my daughter suggests and keep being true, keep being me, on my own terms. I am complete when I am me. I hope you would learn from this bright 8 year old and do the same.