Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Habari za asubuhi (Goodmornng),

I am proud of myself this morning. Instead of remaining in bed when my alarm went off at 5:45,  I got up (and back down a couple of times, trying desperately to convince myself bed is better), put on  exercise attire, and met up with Father John to do a morning workout. He wanted to learn how to do strengthening exercises with the resistance bands I brought from home.

Having extra, unfettered time in the morning is a gift. At home, I fill my time with "stuff" that empties my tank before I have even left the house. Before my feet hit the ground, there's a list of "things to do" reverberating in my head. I dutifully cram 40 minutes of exercise in not for pleasure, but as a punishment for eating too much the night before, or because I feel fat. Sweating, I rush through a shower, feeling the anxiety of running late–continuing to sweat as I dress. Between the residual body heat from the exercise, the heat from the shower, middle age hormone battles, and the oppressive humidity of Nashville, the sweat is unavoidable, no matter how clean I am. Rushing to the kitchen, I grab a piece of sandpaper known as a power bar, coffee with a bit of almond milk, and in a scattered heap make my way to the car, spilling coffee all over the place along the way. I am off to be a productive, hence worthy, citizen.

To top this frenzied typical morning, my inner critic obviously got a good night sleep because she is relentlessly chattering, mercilessly describing my deficiencies of the day— from my clothes, to my hair, to my body, to forgetting to put gas in the car, etc, you get it. There is an arsenal of negative statements this inner chic pulls from. Getting her to say something nice to me is a chore. I really ought to stop feeding the ungrateful bitch!

However, this morning I took a bold step. I mediated sitting naked in front of my fan. OK...TMI you're screaming... but I promised to be honest about this adventure ... and this blog is about me not you! And it was in front of the fan, because it was so very hot already! I would have never done this at home, especially in broad daylight. You see, I have always had a hateful relationship with my body. Blame it on Augustine and original sin, blame it on the Puritans colonizing the western hemisphere, blame it on the denial of anything to do with sexuality and the body...a torment during puberty.There is a plethora of people and places and magazines and movies, to blame. Also, I am convinced that once one suffers from the disease of anorexia and bulimia, which started for me when I was 13, there remains a residual scar of self annihilation that is always and forever present. Thankfully, after many years of good counseling, I recovered from the "actions of being anorexic," but that little girl who felt insignificant remains deeply held in my psyche.

So, about that terrible body-Mary relationship and meditating naked...the goal is to feel comfortable in my own skin. I want to revel in the fact that I am not perfect but I am perfect. I have stretch marks and saggy boobs and an ever widening ass. (Ok, I admit I recently had a boob lift because my inner critic shamed me enough). Everything about me seems to be heading in a southern direction. I want to understand why I cannot embrace "me." Why can't I adore this body that has carried me through thick and thin, stretched to phenomenal shapes during pregnancy, and has been my constant companion since birth?

I am sure there are a few of you that can relate to the following:  it is truly amazing to watch a man's behavior when he gets out of the shower. He unabashedly walks  across the bathroom floor, stands in front of the mirror in the buff, brushes his hair and his teeth, applies deodorant—all the while comfortably checking out his "guns" in the mirror. With awesome confidence, he can stand in front of you and carry on a mundane conversation for minutes at a time. It does not matter if he has a big belly, a massively hairy chest, or any other characteristic one might assert as negative — he is obviously comfortable enough living in his own skin. I am truly jealous.

I, on the other hand, have to have a towel within reach to promptly cover myself, even if I am the only one in the bathroom. I could not imagine standing full monty in front of a mirror, much-less standing in front of someone naked, carrying on a conversation. I dream of walking across the room in a sultry way like women in the movies, or in Europe. But the thought of it makes me roar with uncomfortable and nervous laughter. I was jubilant when I discovered my husband could not see without his glasses or contacts. He became blind. Such freedom in those moments!

It was a terribly difficult morning exercise, meditating naked. The critic came out in full force, spewing her negativity with such vengeance that I felt it bouncing of the walls in of my room! I kept trying to redirect my thoughts, to say a prayer, anything to move past her. But she is tenacious and unyielding, feeling perfectly comfortable inside of my head. Go ahead, try it one day. I would love to hear how you felt about it.

After that experience, I dressed, organized my room, and went to breakfast. Kenyans treat meals as a community ritual. No one starts eating until everyone is present. No one gets up from the table until everyone is finished. They do not ask, "Are you done yet?" They simply and kindly observe and wait. When they notice everyone is done, someone at the table will reach for my dish and clear it to the kitchen. They do not talk much while eating. Eating is for enjoying and appreciating the food "momma" cooked. Even tea time, a 30 minute ritual everyone does mid-morning, no matter what your job is, sits comfortably silent in community. It is the presence of the other that nourishes. I have finally become comfortable in this silence. Westerners chat. We are uncomfortable with silence and fill the empty spaces with noise.

Breakfast this am was corn on the cob and bananas. Maize is a common breakfast food: served on the cob at  room temperature. I had to take a lesson from my table mates. You use your fingers to pull of kernels and put them in your mouth. Steve (pictured below) said that it is common for African children to take a long piece of corn, wrapped in banana leaves to keep it fresh, to school with them to eat for breakfast, lunch and supper. It is important to keep in mind, most children walk miles to and from school and food can be scarce. Furthermore, it can be expensive to buy at the fresh food stalls, so it is only served when it is in season. With my cup of instant coffee and steamed milk, it was delicious.

my table mates: (clockwise: Sister Rose, Tom, Charles and Steve)
Our bananas. Bananas actually are considered an herb, is perineal, and grows from a bulb. The plants are cut and large bunches stored in kitchen still on large stem. Africa is a large producer of bananas for the global market. These little ones are very sweet!

"Momma" Jedida and our morning Maize
Typical lunch or dinner. Rice, lentils and avocado

Incredibly delicious

Hapuna Matata- "no trouble"

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