Learning to breathe

Archive for the tag “living”

The Resistance

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.                          – CS Lewis (from ‘The Weight of Glory’)

 

    So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. –James 4:7

Jesus was the ultimate iconoclast; he was rude to religious leaders and treated whores with respect. He was born like most people. He was ordinary and unmajestic in human flesh, wasn’t wealthy by any standards, had no names to drop, no elbows to rub. He was Mary’s boy and James’ brother, a carpenter, a teacher, a friend. He had no car, bike and travelled everywhere on foot. Jesus’ ministry lasted 3 years and when he died in his early thirties, he had no army to champion his cause except for the simple fishermen, commoners and outcasts he spent his time with. Yet his message  grew outlasting empires, dynasties, wars, revolutions, nations. Today Jesus is known all over the world. 3 years. Today on my way back from work, I found myself wondering about my countrymen and why Nigerians are called some of the “happiest” people in the world.

Are we really happy or are we just desensitized?

There is so much life to be lived and we are content with our own cube of earth. We’re fine as long as we’re “convenient”. We’re okay as long as it’s not our relative that gets hacked to death by extremists. Everything is dandy as long as we have our clothes, nice jobs, girlfriends/boyfriends and other pretty things. The corruption, terrorism, fraud is none of our business as long as it doesn’t affect us. I say “us” because I am just as guilty as everyone else. As long as I get to wear my favorite pair of jeans everyday and sing “Halleluyah! God is good” on Sundays I’m fine.

But am I really?

The Jesus that I serve turned the Middle East upside down in 3 years and even after his death, people were (and are) still messed up by the message he brought. I cannot begin to think of where I would be if Jesus had been content with his carpenter pay and being Mary’s boy. What Nigeria needs is a revolution, not religion. We need hearts that can still break not desensitization. We need people who will stand up for something other than themselves, people who will stand up for something greater; our country. We need people to be tired of Nigeria being one of the largest exporters of “convicted felons” to the US. We need to stop inviting the devil to dinner and start resisting him like James 4:7 implores.

Since June this year, a number of people have joined in to pray for Nigeria on the 15th of every month for 10 minutes. And everyday since that first day in June, they have chosen to be the resistance, the rebels, the insurgents fighting  against desensitization, fighting to wake up inside. Will you join us to fight for a truly happy Nigeria? Join  the virtual community, Nehemiah Prayermobs, on Twitter and Facebook.

The resistance is growing.

nehemiah project prayermobs

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Nehemiah Project Prayermobs

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. Actually I’ve been wanting to do this since the Borno killings I don’t want to be numb to the fact that almost an entire village was wiped out in one weekend. I don’t want to be desensitized to the fact that innocent men, women and children are dying every day in the North while I’m down southwest having rollercoaster rides and bumper-karting with friends. I don’t want to keep living like everything is peachy when it really isn’t. It would shock you to know that over 10,000 killings have been linked to the insurgent Boko Haram sectsince 2001*. Yeah, it shocked me too. Then the Boston bombing happened, the whole of America bled for Boston, the city was shut down, investigations were made and suspects were arrested. It was then that my heart really broke for Nigeria and it was then that I really prayed.
Thankfully, my prayers did not bounce off the ceiling and I got a response but not quite the kind I wanted or expected. I wanted for God to raise fiery, popular cover-of-Time-magazine-worthy men and women to do something-to do anything! – to get this Boko Haram menace sorted once and for all. I wanted the SSS to announce on national TV that they had caught the leaders and they were rounding up the terrorists one by one. I wanted for God to just sort them out somehow. I really did not care how as long as I didn’t have to directly get involved. I mean, praying in my room on my comfy bed is convenient and pretty hands on. It’s safe. But the only response I got was “You, Ibukun.”
He wants ordinary, can’t-use-an-excel-spreadsheet-to-save-her-life Ibukun to get off her fat behind to do something- anything! – for her country. I’m not my idea of an ideal patriot so who would’ve thunk it’d be me? Definitely not me
So I prayed about it some more and got ladies over at SRT to pray about it too. And I can tell y’all that there is a game plan. It’s not anything exactly “fancy” but it’s powerful. I’m not about to tell you that God showed me the Boko Haram headquarters in a vision or had an angel FedEx their sponsors’ list to me the next morning. The response was not the kind you’d expect. The solution that I got was…wait for it…prayer. I prayed for a solution and the solution I got was prayer.
God wants people who care enough about their country to pray about it to Him, together as a nation of people that is tired of losing citizens to this madness. He isn’t asking us to join the army, He asking us to seek His face, He’s not asking us to give away our body parts or organs, He’s asking us to give away desensitization. He wants for us to be mad and hurt enough to do something other than criticise the government. And not just about Boko Haram but also about the economy, about the youth, about our leaders, about finding sustainable energy and other major stuff that we have to deal with as a country.
Now so we don’t just talk about it and end up not being about it, we are introducing prayer mobs. Prayer mobs are kinda like flash mobs, only that prayer mobs meet up, physically or virtually to pray concerning stuff at specific times in a month. So now it’s not about when we remember to pray for Nigeria, it’s about counting down to the next time we meet up, physically or virtually, with Nigerians all over the world at specific times to pray to God about unrest in our Country. It’s about Nigerians that have hearts that can break for their country. It’s about Nehemiahhearts.
I may have said this before at some point in writing this but I’m no “world changer”. I’m just an ordinary girl that wants to do something other than live for herself. I waited until now to do this because I was dead sure God had the wrong girl but I’m starting to understand that God is not looking for perfect people; He’s looking to perfect people. So don’t hesitate to identify with this movement. Our first prayer mob meeting is scheduled for 12:00pm, June 15, 2013. Now you can help to spread the word about Nehemiah Project prayer mobs by:
1. Spreading the word on all your social networks, word of mouth advertising still works wonders.
2. Following the movement on Twitter our Facebook and GooglePlus pages will come soon
3. Reblogging this post if you have a WordPress blog
4. Sending me an email at zoe_akin@live.com if you’re willing to design the logo and page for this project.
5. Praying at 12:00pm (W. Central Africa (+1))

If you’ve ever wished you could do something substantial to change the situation of things in Nigeria, this is it. Be a part of it. Tell people about it. Be about it. It may not seem like much but you’d be amazed at how far praying together with a large body of Nigerians all over the world concerning Nigeria for 10 minutes at a specific time every month can do. The answers to our prayers for peace on the North first, economic growth, leaders of integrity and all round success are just before our very eyes waiting for us to ask for them. Let us ask together.

*The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs To Know, John L. Allen Jr. 2013

On Giving Twitter Up

twitter-7

When I shut my Twitter account down on Tuesday, I remember thinking to myself: “My life is over”

And it was for me. Sometimes it still feels like it is. It’s been five days now and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more disconnected from the rest of the world than I do now. However, guilt for spending hours just poring through my timeline no longer plagues me and feelings of irrelevance and inadequacy no longer torture me when I don’t get new mentions, retweets or favorites. Maybe it’s just the way I’m wired but I think if Twitterverse does not revolve around me then it should not exist…at least not to me. Now that right there is the thought train that sets me up for disappointment.

Not many people know that my Twitter was shut down and those that do don’t see the sense in it. Heck, sometimes I don’t see the sense in it. I think a lot of things set the stage for this deactivating and shutting down business. First, the guilt for spending so much time online, then this post I read on Kelly Minter’s blog, then this post I read on Living Proof Ministries’ blog, then finally this post on The Verge. By the time you’ve read all those posts you’ll probably want to shut your Twitter down too, spend less time on it or like Paul Miller leave the internet. I’m not in any way saying that Twitter is a bad “place”. I’m saying that Twitter is pretty much a reflection of real life. Sometimes it’s distorted and sometimes it’s accurate. I’m saying that there are some people I have met in real life through Twitter that I wish I had never met and there are those that I wouldn’t trade meeting them for anything in this world. Or the next. I’m saying that Twitter gives people the chance to be what they never got to be in real life: popular, witty, “loved”, and adequate and gives them an illusion of security or a pedestal to showcase their insecurity. Twitter allows you to judge a book by its cover or by its bio. Twitter gives you shrinks, doctors, relationship experts, buddies for what looks like free. All you really have to do is give up your real life for it. Twitter says “Have entertainment and a fun virtual life in exchange for entertainment and fun real life”

Maybe I have a serious case of lack of self-control here and I just don’t know how to balance real life with virtual life. Maybe I have more problems being present to the things that are happening around me in real life and I’m more alive to the things happening in my phone or my computer. I never want to miss a thing in Twitterville so that when I get with my real life friends we can talk about Twitter and ignore the things that are wrong with us in real life. More than half my conversations are punctuated with “Were you online when…” or “Did you see what Blah retweeted?” or “Why did you tweet this?” and I begin to address people by their Twitter handles instead of their first names. And my level of respect for you is directly proportional to the number of followers you have on Twitter or how many times your depth (or lack of it) gets retweeted into my timeline. And I’d rather have you mention me than have you call me or I’d rather mention you than call you. Looking at it objectively, most of my existence for the last, what, 6 months has been poured into knowing the latest Twitter gist instead of knowing what’s going on with my friends, tweeting to complete strangers about my father instead of calling him up and asking how life is with him, looking out for interesting or witty stuff just so I can tweet about it. It makes me wonder if any of it is really worth it.

At this moment, I don’t know for sure that I want to delete my Twitter permanently…mostly because I’m scared that I will no longer be relevant than because I don’t want my followers to think that I’m dead. For now, I want to explore real life. I want to find a new coping mechanism, a new stress reliever, a new hobby. I like to try new stuff and maybe this is just a phase for me like Facebook was. But I want to bake cakes with my Aunt Tolu and know what’s going on in her life, I want Kiki to sniff my nail polish, like me and not bark at me so much, I want to have my mind in the room when my dad is talking to me, I want to be actively involved in conversations I have with Peju, Seun, Tobi, Seyi, Dunni, Femi and Dare, I want to experience the good stuff for myself no longer so I can tweet about it. Maybe some moments are meant to be treasured for me and me alone. And maybe some pictures are meant to be taken by me and for me alone not for some three hundred people that will never really know more about me than the fact that I talk too much, like red lipsticks and short boyish hair. Again I’m not saying that Twitter is a bad place and you should pack up, shut your Twitter down and follow me to the Promised Land. I’m saying: live-really live– your real life. Sammy says I might lose friends and contact with people that really care about me so if you’re one of them you can mail me zoe_akin@live.com. I’m not turning into a hermit. I still post journal entries twice a week, I still laugh till I start to cry and my tummy hurts, I’m still in coffee rehab, I still post stories, poems and random stuff here on Learning to Breathe, I still read people’s blog posts, I still work at Aphroden, I still meet up with a bunch of guys Thursday evenings for Bible study, I still swim and I still like Rihanna’s hair. Oh and sadly, I still use a Blackberry.

Unfortunately, no one is paying me to stay off Twitter and blog about my new experiment (I would have liked that). I just want to explore this side of life so that if I ever decide to come back to Twitter, I can use it and not have it use me. In Jon Foreman’s words, I’m somewhere between who I am and who I could be, between how it is and how it should be.

Photo credit: http://www.arts.vcu.edu

So I got nominated for a Liebster

So I got nominated for a Liebster award. I think I’ve already stressed enough how much I think “Liebster” sounds like exotic European food on Twitter so I won’t do any stressing on here. Y’all should know at this point that food is very very important to me. Like I actually have real-life feelings for food, I get sad when we break up and I watch sloppy movies and cry into my pillow and all that but I digress. I’m s’pose to answer a series of question that Ore (the giver of my award) asked so I can win the food I mean the award. It really hurts that there won’t be money attached to the award, or food even so I’m going to print out this picture and frame it so I can tell my future Dalmatians their mommy is smart and she won a Liebster. So here it goes…

If you had all the money in the world but still had to have some kind of job, what would you choose to do?

I’d write short stories and attempt poetry. Then I’d do small concerts (like 100 people max) where I get to sing my experiments to the audience without having stage fright because there are only 100 people in attendance. Then I’d want to model for a boot company. I like them cowboy boots a lot and I think it’s really unfair that the weather in Nigeria won’t let me buy them, much less wear them. So, yeah, I’d like to model for a boot company cos I love boots. I’d have 3 jobs (score!)

What do you believe stands between you and complete happiness?

Self, a lot of times. Self sabotages

What small thing could you do to make someone’s day better?

Give them one monster hug and refuse to let them go even when they pretend to be dying. It works every time.

Is the Country you live in really the best for you?

In all honesty, no. Maybe last year it was the best for me but these days half the time I’m biting my bottom lip wishing I could attend Living Proof Live in Texas, intern at Passion Church (in Texas) sit in Starbucks and write like Angie does (in Tennessee) make snowballs and play with friends in the snow, etc. You get the point.

What life lesson did you learn the hard way?

That some people won’t always love me back no matter how hard I try to make them

Which activities make you lose track of time?

Swimming, eating, sleeping (duh), blog hopping, tweeting, singing, writing

What is important enough to go to war over?

War

What is the most desirable trait another person can possess?

An honest-to-God love for God
Bonus: a ridiculously delightful sense of humour

What is the simplest truth you can express in words?

That grace is free and true love exists.

What are you proudest of in your life?

My faith

So the deal is I have to nominate other people for the Liebster thing. Here’s my list:

Okaima: because she’s a great short story writer and I look up to her and cos she has a ridiculously delightful sense of humour and cos she loves cake and Coke
Efe: because he’s young enough to be funny, old enough to be wise and man enough to believe in God
Tomi: because she gets to travel to exotic places and gets to twitpic tulips and I don’t (boo)
Adora: because she’s got an artistic mind and she thinks black lipstick is crayyy
Dami: because he made me look at the Creation story differently, more clearly
Sammy: because he writes pretty well and isn’t afraid to ask questions
Tokunbo: because he never has time to write on his personal blog
This interesting (like, salad kind of interesting) collection of people gets to answer my questions *insert evil laugh here*

What is most important to you right now?
What is your love language?
How do you feel about food?
What’s the one quote you live by and who said it?
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
What do you do when life gives you lemons?
What/who is God to you?

Till I have something remotely interesting to blog, later guys!

Red

goth-haircut

On this side of the world, your clothes stick to your body in an uncomfortable embrace and the sun is not familiar with mercy. The nights are no different as the moon and sun are in an eternal conversation; they hardly ever disagree and hardly ever give us respite from the heat. The clouds on the other hand are quite sympathetic…empathic to unfriendly degrees. The clouds shed tears because the Sun and Moon are not merciful to us. Somehow, their tears become unmerciful to us; taking houses away, children too I heard in the news last night and grandparents. What use are tears if they aren’t shed in moderation? They just cause more pain and heartache.

It is unusual how I woke up this morning thinking about the elements.

Maybe it was because I could not get more than two hours of sleep just a little before dawn. If it were possible to shed even my skin so I could have gotten proper sleep, I would have without thinking twice.

My name is Teniola Red. I’m half Nigerian and the other half of me is British and French. I have fair skin and hair that is strawberry red. Both my parents are dead and I have lived most of my life in France but a few months ago I moved to Nigeria with the hope that I will find myself here. I have tried modelling, acting, singing even dancing and failed terribly so now I’m trying my hands at writing. The publishing firm wants the first draft of my book in a month and I don’t even have a plot yet.

“Ugh.” I fling the pen out my flat window and light a cigarette while finding myself a spot beside the window. My neighbor’s husband all but drops his briefcase when he sees me barely clad in underwear and a cigarette. He rearranges his face before his wife sees him gawking.

“Good morning, Mrs Akinyemi!” I call from my window with mischief shining brightly in my eyes.

“Good mo-“, her greeting catches in her throat as she raises her eyes from her phone to look in my direction…ultimately at my body.

I see shock, jealousy, anger and malice flash in her eyes in quick succession before she hisses and says: “Dapo je ka ma lo. Ki lo n ranju mo?! Wonu moto fun mi, my friend!

I wink at Mr Akinyemi shamelessly and continue puffing my cigarette as husband and wife hastily enter their car and drive off.

“Hahahahaha! That was a good one. Totally worth it.”

My laughter is hollow and it echoes through my house reminding me that I’m the one who is alone and not Mrs Akinyemi.   I trudge towards the refrigerator and pour myself some vodka, letting it burn a trail down my throat and allowing it make a fireplace in my stomach.

What is wrong with me?

I rummage through the untidy pile of clothes on my bed for something comfortable to wear in this heat. I finally settle for a tank top and a pair of shorts. I reach for my wallet on top of my wardrobe, feeling around for the leather possession. My hand finds a nylon bag.

Nike’s coke

A smile claims my lips as I grasp the nylon bag in my hand, walking towards the living room table.

I may not have to go out after all.

I remember Nike left her coke here before she traveled to Abuja. I watched her snort some of the stuff before she collapsed on my sofa swearing softly.

“What is it with you and this stuff?” I asked her as I offered her a glass of juice.

She was looking at me but she wasn’t really seeing me. Her eyes were hazy and she had a new moustache of white.

“You can’t understand till you’ve tried it”

“Pshht! Not my thing.”

I eyed her as she lay on the sofa with her head thrown back. She looked content.

I arrange the powdery substance into three lines as I saw her do that day. Only the lines are thicker and a little shorter.

Was this how she did it?

I can’t be precise in these things. I am not familiar with them.  I close my eyes and count to three preparing myself for the euphoria.

One…

Two…

Three…

Oh my God…

Is this euphoria?

 

My head feels light. Very light…

Did Nike snort all three lines at once?

Did the room spin?

Were her fingers tingling?

Was her skin cold?

Did her heart threaten to burst out of her ribcage?

Realizing that I still have control of my legs, I hurry to the kitchen and run water over my head, hoping it will return me to normal condition. But now the kitchen is spinning and the water won’t stop running.

Am I turning the tap the right way?

I hold on to the kitchen sink for dear life before the water, the flood, pulls me under.

Why is it so dark?

Am I dying?! Oh my God! Am I dying?!!

Oh my God! Oh my God!

The darkness is suffocating. The darkness is thick. The darkness is palpable. The darkness is an entity.

Somebody help me!

The darkness is coming for me! It’s coming inside me!

Can anybody hear me?!

Silence…

There is a…bright light.

A very bright light

 Photo credit: http://www.creativefan.com

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