I had to escape the confines of my temporary home. Weary from a week of heavy topics that tested the limits of my emotions and patience, I needed to sip from the fountain of self indulgence! I am experiencing myself in a complex place—straddling the divide between privilege and poverty—wearing designer sneakers. The guilt is palpable, at times suffocating. But is guilt heathy? Is guilt productive?
I know I am not alone in the tug-of-war of guilt and pleasure. Guilt is branded into the soul of a Catholic at birth; remaining seemingly unfazed by years of expensive counseling. You remember those Catholic sayings our parents guilted in to us? The one's I swore I would never use? Well, I unabashedly used them on my kids: "Think of all the starving children in Africa," or, "one day you will meet God face to face and have to answer for all decisions you have made!" I apologize profusely, dear children, for this motherly gift of incessant guilt that you will carry your entire life—and most likely pass on to your children, at least in some similar iteration.
Anyway, it was Sunday morning and I had to go out. I longed to sit in a cafe serving freshly baked gooey, decadent morsels of yumminess that I could wash down with a steaming cup of cafe Americana, served in an appealing ceramic cup and saucer. This was more than a simple desire, it was a mental and physical ache.
I ventured out of my well guarded community, not deterred by the significance of living inside a well guarded community. I stepped in to the freedom beyond the gate, and became immediately captured in a swirling playful breeze, reassuring me that all will be safe, and all will be well.
Google maps directed me to a cafe about 2 miles from the gate. The one concern that slightly nudged my inner calmness, was the very real and dangerous challenge I have when crossing any road without Sister Rose holding my hand. Understandably, I have yet to break the life long habit of looking to the left, then to the right, before crossing any road—a death sentence for any Westerner who steps unaware in to the frenetic Nairobi traffic, where, I will contend, people drive on "the wrong side of the road." Fortunately, it was early on a Sunday morning, and traffic was light.
How do I accurately describe my euphoria as I sat in the cafe at a table located directly across from the glass case brimming with freshly baked, sugar coated pastries, exploding with chocolate, raspberry and almond filling? The glass was slightly steamy, indicating the freshness of the sacred spread. I found myself swept up in the contentment of a Sunday morning—reveling in the melodious din of clinking utensils, cups lowered on to ceramic saucers, and laughter bellowing through the murmur of words spoken between families, friends, and glowing lovers. This is exactly what I needed.
The waitress brought me a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, a side of steamed milk and an extremely cute shortbread cookie with raspberry filling–all brilliantly served on ceramic dishes. Swept up in the delight of it all, I ordered a chocolate croissant, and a plate of focaccia with a side of humus and falafel. Not a bite was left on my plate.
As I happily savored the remains of my coffee, in no rush to do anything else with my day, I fortunately, or is it unfortunately, forgot about my inner struggle with guilt. What I ached for was not the sweet delights, per se. I ached to experience joy.