Browse Category: Spirituality

Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Dear Reader,

I’ve missed this space. But I hope it hasn’t been too long since we last connected. The piece below came to me during a morning reflection earlier this week. I’d been experiencing interpersonal issues with someone very close to me and was wrestling with myself as to the best way through to the other side.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing it… I guess I’m hoping that others who’ve experienced deep feelings of frustration, with their beliefs or themselves, will reach out so we can at least give each other a virtual hug.

Here it goes,


Love as a Revolution Totally Sucks

Leading with Love, especially when you’re hurt, angry, wounded etc, is so difficult, mainly because it’s… well, just plain unfair.

You will not explode, you will not explode, you will not explode...Really, to repeatedly “rise above” the most frustrating, painful, or otherwise emotionally debilitating situations due to racism, sexism, homophobia, other power struggles, or even our personal relationships, practically demands we deny our human instincts: to flee, to defend, to scream in the face of violence.

And all for what? For the sake of “elevating ourselves”, and in so doing, others, to a lighter, healthier place? Why should I have to bear the burden of elevating so many other assholes to a lighter place?? Why should people who continue to wreak havoc upon those with less power benefit from the rest of us trying to be our “best selves”?

On days like these – when I can feel my blood about to boil over, and I have no patience to teach others how to treat me better, and would rather just open my mouth and use my literary talents for revenge, I have to remind myself that the alternative is much worse.

Succumbing to my emotions, placing my own needs above everyone else’s, reacting from a place of anger, pain, and whatever else – especially against people who I do not understand, and I feel so strongly have wronged me in some way – doesn’t make me any better, or different; it just makes me a hypocrite.

And I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I want to use as many tough moments (as I have capacity) to practice re-centering myself in compassion. I want to nurture my curiosity about others feelings and emotional contexts so diligently that it eventually begins to kick in more often than my survivalist instinct to fight or flee.

I want to walk the talk, practice what I preach, be able to look others and myself in the face, and do much better than say “do better”, but “well done.”

That said, I’m human. So, on some days, my emotions do get the best of me, and I clam up, retreat, raise my voice, say mean things, and I let myself down.

Rather than beat myself up, I need to remember that this is okay, too. Because it reminds me that I’m no better than the folks I’m trying to “rise above.” That personal growth is one half perspective, and one half harsh truths. And that the most important thing to remember isn’t the person you are, or even the person you’re striving to be, but the journey that exists between the two.

Don’t ever stop trying.

Love As a Revolution Always Wins

Love Was My Revolution in 2013, But So Was Resilience.

I know it’s been a while. I’ve had a lot going on. 2013 was quite a year – one that I’m not likely to miss but will always remember for how much it grew me.

Why am I writing now? Well, I don’t really have much else to do. I’ve sung through about 4 musicals (Les Mis, Rent, Chicago and Wicket, in case you were curious), played my computer game (The Sims 3) for over three hours, and I’ve run out of credit on my phone to make any more international phone calls.

In Nigeria, it’s a few hours to 2014 and, admittedly, I’m depressed. I’m alone in a city with no friends or community, no furniture in my apartment, save for a very hard mattress, and feeling overwhelmed with sadness at having to spend yet another festive season away from my family (who – as usual, due to geopolitical circumstance – is separated across several continents). I would say that I’m used to it, and it’s probably true; but it doesn’t make it any less difficult, especially with all the music, laughter, and raucous I can hear happening outside my window.

So, yeah, I’m not in the highest of spirits. But I’m determined over the next 90 minutes to work my way back to the optimism and positivity that propelled me so far ahead of where I was just a year ago, that I now have the luxury of complaining that I’m alone in a brand new city, doing work that nourishes me, and with really bright prospects for 2014.

I’m choosing, right now, at this very moment, to not let my ambitions, my personal drive, my impatience at achieving the goals I’ve laid out for myself, diminish my gratitude for all the positive things that have transpired in my life this year. I’m choosing to remain the positive spirit that believes things are what you believe they will be, that I am in control of my thoughts, my outlook, my destiny.

It was about two years ago, I looked at my partner and told her that I wanted – no, needed, to move back home. I missed warm weather, dark soil, tactless conversations, and loud parties. I was tired of people asking me where my accent was from, or thinking that I’d been named after a character on Cartoon Network (yeah, “Dora the Explorer”, don’t get me started).

I missed greeting people in different languages, having fellow Nigerians laugh at my bad pidgin, being made fun of for being the first daughter – a fact they could tell instantly from my name. I missed fried plantain, african music, annoying aunties that poked you in the ribs, and called you fat while hugging you. And, most importantly, I missed being able to be close to my parents, who I’d watched age so fast over the years via the occasional low resolution photo. I was tired of the weight of the Unite States’ xenophobia and racism crushing me, my family, my dreams.

The day I told my partner it was time for me to go home, I knew I would be choosing to swallow the poison of Nigeria’s thick sexism and homophobia for the sake of experiencing the  affirmation of being with my own people: women whose curves looked like mine, who didn’t “eew” at food I liked, who walked with the same grace – as though we each balanced pails of water, golden crowns on our heads, masculinity whose gyrating hips to afrobeat I recognised, however entitled, domineering, flawed.

I don’t regret moving home. Not even for a second. But it hasn’t been easy.

I have no idea how I’ve actually survived in Nigeria as a ‘single’ woman (who isn’t the daughter of a governor, or the wife-to-be of a rich suitor) and managed to position myself for professional success in an environment in which over 70% of women don’t even own a bank account, and men think it’s improper for a woman to travel alone.

I have no idea how I still find the courage to correct strangers when they erroneously refer to the fiance who “put a ring on it” with male pronouns. “She… she’s in Boston,” I say, each time, before holding my breath for either backlash or a barrage of questions at having “met a real one.”

I have no idea how I’ve experienced the amount of blatant exploitation, devalue-ing, and frustration from leadership in the development sector in which I work (which resulted in my near homelessness for over 2 months, waning mental and physical health, and personal finances – but I can’t even get into it), and still come out, relatively okay.

I mean, there was one night I stayed up, out on the street, till 5 in the morning, because I had no place to sleep, and no one to call. I remember crying to my sister on the phone, stating over and over again that I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t. I remember she kept saying to me, “You can. You can. You have. You already have.”

A dear mentor recently said to me, “If there’s one theme I feel that describes your year it’s Resilience.” And you know, sitting here, thinking about everything that has happened to me – so much I can’t even write about – I’m encouraged by her observation, and the fact that she’s absolutely right. Yes, the Love from people in my life was encouraging. But, at the end of the day, “I” had to get up in the morning; “I” had to face Nigeria on my own; “I” had to go home alone, with no one’s shoulder to cry on; I had to learn to comfort myself and. just. keep. going.

Resilience. That’s how I got through the year. That’s how I’ve made it this far. Resilience. That’s how I left my home country at the age of 17 and moved to a physically and politically cold place that could never learn to pronounce my name, let alone recognise the pain of having needed to leave your family to make life better for them in the long run, maybe.

Resilience. And perhaps a bit of stubbornness. That’s how each of us continues, persists, even through the worst of circumstances.

And on that note… when I take a step back, my ‘circumstances’ aren’t all that bad. In fact, they’re pretty great. I’m sitting on my own bed, in my own apartment. Yeah, it’s empty. Yeah, mosquitoes are biting away because the landlord still hasn’t fixed a broken window and they’ve decided to have a party on my legs (cause, oh, I also have no blanket lol), but! After being homeless for so long, I finally have a place that’s mine. And what’s more…

I said I would move to Nigeria, continue to hone my craft as a storyteller, media, and communications professional, and I am doing just that.

I said I would find a way to be closer to my parents (who still aren’t in the same city, but now a 45-min vs. 8-hour flight away), and I did.

I said I would always take big leaps, I would always live out loud in love, and in hope, and I have. I have. I really have.

I’ve been kicking myself for not having the emotional capacity to write about my experiences in Nigeria so far (aside from my cockroach post, which was just so necessary given how many sleepless nights those critters cost me!); I’ve been hard on myself for not being ‘stronger’, maintaining high spirits while adjusting to a completely new terrain, all by myself; but I’ve been ridiculous – I’m human! And we all deserve to experience the full spectrum of our emotions. That is the only way to honour our individual journeys, by being honest about where we are. It doesn’t matter what things we didn’t accomplish along the way; all that matters is that we’ve kept on.

Love was my revolution in 2013, but so was resilience. Love kept me hoping, reaching, but Resilience kept me going.

So tonight, I celebrate my accomplishments against all odds, and my will to continue even when things get hard. I celebrate my courage to persist on a path that is NOT easy, because I know I’m doing what I’m meant to do. I celebrate the LOVE I received from everyone that cheered me on from afar – friends in the US, UK, fans and followers of my work. It is in part because of you that I’ve been able to stand my ground in the face of an environment that has many times attempted to silence me, force me into submission and conformity. I celebrate my rebel, my non-conformity, my humanity, and my convictions. And I celebrate my audacity to strive for more than just surviving, despite all the media propaganda that suggests queer Africans like me are simply lucky to be alive.

Nigeria, I love you. But come the morning, I will conquer you. You’re not even ready.

Nevertheless, till then, the seasons best wishes to everyone, and a very Happy New Year to all.

Keeping the Faith: Religion, Sexuality, and My Best Friend’s Pool Party

A faithful friend is a strong defence: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure. — Ecclesiasticus 6:14

My best friend from college; she’s the woman who taught me how to laugh, how to REALLY laugh… and then, when I came out, we stopped laughing together. We lost each other’s smiles for nearly four years as we both searched for self in different directions; I as an out queer activist, she as a deeply spitual Christian.

It was painful. But Love, wherever it touches, always wins.

My best friend found me again after reading a guest post written by my sister about being an ally; she left three heartfelt comments back to back; I’m sorry, I miss you, I still love you. I was so happy to have my friend back. It was as though no time had passed at all. We were back to laughing, so hard, at everything. And, like my siblings, our friendship proved that relationships are far more powerful than rhetoric when it comes to tolerance; Love always wins.

She recently threw a fundraiser for me in Texas for my #africansforafrica project. Four missed flights and connections, and a desperate additional one-way ticket to TX later just to make the party, it rained, and still we laughed. When the sun came out right when we had set up the DJ indoors, we laughed some more. And when we tallied the donations raised against the cost of planning the party, we laughed then, too.

Amidst all that laughter, I cherished you, and wouldn’t have asked for anything more; I was with my friend, laughing once more before setting off on my way, filled with Love.

So when I received notification of the donation she’d made, I lost all composure. $1000. For me, to go with to Africa where I hoped to heal women like me who’d lost their friends, lost their laughter, and needed to rediscover Love. “Chi Chi, why?” I cried. “‘Cause you’re my friend and I love you and I’m so proud of you.”

There was no laughter then, but for a good reason this time. That crazy woman in the pool. That smile of hers… let it assure you, your friends will come back to you, too. How I love her so.

Join our army of love.

No More Denying: Embracing Positivity for Lent and Spending 40 Days on LOVE!

Happy Ash Wednesday (if you observe)!

Today marks the first day of Lent, which occurs 46 days before Easter, one of my most cherished celebrations as a child, as it involved family, friends, and community, so much Naija food, real live bunnies for us kids to play with, and a mystery hunt involving multi-colored chocolate-filled egg shells!

Lent was also the period of each year I remember seeing my mother — a devout Christian, prone to bouts of depression — at her happiest and most centered. During Lent, as tradition dictates, my mother fasted, eating only once a day for the entire period, and praying two – sometimes three – times a day for everyone, from a friend she’d recently quarreled with to my younger brother who was still insisting his only ambition was to grow up to be a taxi driver.

When my mother couldn’t fast, she’d give up something instead, such as her favorite snacks — Nigerian groundnuts, roasted chicken, wine, etc. — or a behavior she felt guilty about, like gossiping. And, of course, whe would of course encourage my two siblings and I to do the same. So eager to  please Mommy, we would each proclaim our challenge for the next 40 days: my sister may have given up Saturday morning cartoons, my brother, drinking soda (a cop out, as soccer would have been the truest sacrifice), and I would give up hanging out with my friends (many of who I detested anyway) or complaining about my life. ( I was quite the Daria).

Since my childhood, my spirituality has evolved into a hodge podge of Buddhist philosophies, astrology, a myriad of self-growth frameworks, and a constant reverie about the earth and its elements. But, I’ve also retained elements of the Christian faith that resonate with my values of self-reflection, personal growth, and gratitude; hence, lent is one of them.

For as long as I can remember, I too have “given up” or “gotten off” a variety of privileges and guilty pleasures — chocolate (my vice), meat, carbs, dairy, alcohol etc, and it hasn’t been in vain (in case you think that’s where I’m going with this). What I’ve gained from fasting and denying myself physical pleasures has certainly encouraged a heightened sense of awareness of the many luxuries I take for granted (at least during the lent period, and shortly after). But if I’m  being completely honestly, my denial of physical pleasures has most noteably resulted in physical benefits i.e. a healthier, reduced-carb, vegetarian-ish diet, which has done wonders for my physical health overall, but admittedly also triggered periods of anorexic behavior (which I struggled with for years) justified under the guise of “discipline.” I wonder how many people who have struggled with body issues like me are using Lent as an excuse to express hatred of their bodies in the name of spiritual love, and I worry. But, I digress.

Last year was the first year I didn’t participate in Lent season. Why? Well, for one, I couldn’t figure out what I could give up other than food to make me feel appropriately challenged (and without interfering with my work e.g. Facebook… I’m never giving up Facebook), but more importantly, I struggled to maintain the belief that I could truly cleanse myself, spiritually — not just physically — from such a contrived approach. Could I really attain a higher level of enlightenment (or even happiness) from denying myself Season 5 of Dexter? Or weeknight cocktails (again)? Or sacrificing “date nights” with my partner (she veto-ed that idea by the way). Was the meaning of Lent, simply to give things up?

I received an email from my mother today reminding me about Lent; she hoped as always that I would be participating this year. In the minds of many people — not just Christians — self-denial brings them closer to the divine. But I find myself facing the same predicament as I did last year: questioning the purpose of denying myself physical pleasures when it’s within the spiritual realm I seek clarity, centeredness, change, and positive intention.

All the years I spent starving myself for 6 weeks each year don’t compare to the bliss and serenity I feel from continuously reflecting on all the blessings I have in my life — and most especially, all the LOVE I am surrounded by. For instance, in 2010, I began a tradition of posting Morning Reflections. I wrote between 2-4 morning reflections nearly every single day for a year — about love, relationships, friendships, the power of positive thinking, activism, and much more — and the transformation I experienced has been un-matched.

So, for Lent this year, I am trying something slightly different; in place of denying myself physical pleasures, I am committing to posting positive reflections and affirmations, daily, and ridding my mind of toxins.

In “giving up” the mental vices that block me from being in touch with my inner divinity — negativity and ingratitude — I do believe I’m still keeping with tradition, just in a way that aligns with where I am spiritually, and more importantly, can be shared with others.

I invite you all to join me in experiencing 40 Days on Love, by commenting under my daily reflections on my Spectra Speaks Facebook Page. Or (if Twitter is your drug — I mean, platform of choice), I invite you to share your positive reflections (including images, quotes, links etc) using the Twitter hashtag #40daysonlove. I’ll retweet from my handle @spectraspeaks.

I’ll be focusing my own shares (and writing a weekly roundup of #40daysonlove updates) based on the following breakdown, but you don’t have to stick to this — please share organically if you wish! I just tend to be all over the place when I don’t filter my content:

  • Week 1: Self Love
  • Week 2: Relationship Love (i.e. Family, Friendship, Romantic, Earth)
  • Week 3: Community Love
  • Week 4: Healing Love
  • Week 5: Career / Work / Hobby Love
  • Week 6: Spiritual Love

Remember, the hashtag is 40 Days ON Love #40daysonlove; let us experience, together, how our bodies and spirits feel and interact with each other when we intentionally begin using life’s most potent drugs — love — to transform our lives. The sharing’s already started — check out the first tweets on Storify. I hope you join us!

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