The willingness or ability to go through challenging times with grace. Is it a gift, talent or inborn ability that is sharpened and honed through experience?
I was privileged to have met and worked with some young women who survived the genocide in Rwanda. Their stories of horror, escape, loss and terror can only be heard once. The impact of their experiences on their bio-psychosocial well being was immense. What was amazing about these women was their willingness and ability to share their story. Very compelling.
I also worked with vulnerable families in parts of London. Stories of parents who were hooked on drugs, unable to parent their adorable children confronted me on most days. It was the case of a mother of 3, youngest was same age as my daughter, who had succumbed to the deadly addiction of heroin that broke my heart and I never went back. Their struggle, took the best out of them. Is it these kind of experiences from a distance that make us hold our own with dignity?
Not privileged to compare or contrast the challenges of life, I look myself in the mirror with admiration. I am a fortiduous woman. Am I comparing myself to the above mentioned women? Not at the least. I have been fortunate, life has been kind and God has been gracious. I have been in the ring and He fought my battles. I’m grateful that I didn’t stay down too long for the referee to whistle a defeat. I could have been that mother, but Mercy spoke into my life and stood on my behalf.
In my first blog, ‘Transnational parenting’ I explored the issue of postnatal depression. These sort of experiences, you only realise the depth, once you are the other side. Gods grace and love carries us through in those seasons, when we are just a shell being battered to and fro by the sea waves. One becomes a pearl, a product of admiration and worth through the struggles. What’s amazing is that I was not that aware of His presence and sustainance then. I knew about Him as a God, not friend, helper. That one person I can have a relationship with. He has been gracious on this wonderful journey and I am getting to know Him better.
Our experiences in life may want to define us at times. It is up to us how we deal with that. People around us or those who know us and our story may want to define us that way. Ultimately, the decision lies with you. The woman with the issue of blood in the Bible is one such character. She was associated/ identified with her problem. I guess when she was healed, people had to refer to her as the woman who was healed of the issue blood.
Fortitude takes many forms. I could never have anticipated or imagined the pain of losing a sibling or loved one. It’s crippling! I was confused and literally dying too. The shock, pain and reality of that loss was incomprehensible. Death is painful to everyone but I guess it gets so complicated when you are abroad. The long flight home, being in transit, jet lag, the mourners and the funeral itself. How do you eat the reheated airline food when your heart is sorrowful and heavy?
When you arrive you succumb to the heat, noises, decision making, the crying and ofcourse the peering eyes. They will always be those who want to see what you are wearing and what you brought. I had not even taken a shower! Let alone travelled 15hours, passing through the equator in transit for that matter. Nearly missed the flight due to road works and traffic. How does one deal with all that in one go?
My sister was bright, colourful and vivacious. She loved and understood my family and they got her too. Being single, she could afford the time to be with them whenever we visited home. They loved that, and I did too. The laughter they shared. She cared. She was a dreamer and goal getter. At most, she was a mother to my children that I am not; patient, laid back and a child at heart.
Then there is the other small but equally demanding stuff of fitting into a different society and culture. That, requires courage right there. I know a friend who couldn’t do ‘the London thing’ and had to go back home. She tells me she could not be happier; got a beautiful home in the westen suburbs, lovely job and her children are doing really well in a good private school.
It takes fortitude and a whole lot more to settle in diaspora. It is a far cry from the glitz and glamour most people imagine it to be. It’s grafting in gruelling long hours. I’m reminded of the days I worked on the farm. That was my first job. Boy did I not cry my eyes out on the onion line.
I recall making a long distance call after first day at work to my mother and bowling on the phone booth. If you recall, these were public phones and there two other people waiting to use the phone. I cried for the entire duration of my £5 worth of calling scratch card. Bless my poor mother, she kept saying to me:
‘Taura neni otherwise card rinopera”, meaning please talk to me before the phone credit finishes.
Indeed, the phone credit finished and I went home, straight to bed. In the morning I woke up and went to work. What was equally painful was hearing my then 1year old son babbling in the background.
For me fortitude is an idea and a choice. I choose to be courageous for those who couldn’t. Whilst doing nursing degree I met some middle aged African nurses who had come under the adaption nurses program. These women were dynamic and highly skilled nurses who held positions of authority and high office in their home country. The cultural shift and expectation had left them as a mere pair of helping hands on the wards. Their despair and frustration was not hidden from their faces. It was ‘them’ who silently taught me to be fortidous. It is for them and many others that we stand and are courageous.
Above all, it is for those coming after us. Those who have a privilege of watching us closely, that we demonstrate courage in the face of fear. It is for our sons and daughters.
📌The issues of death, loss and bereavement can be crippling especially when you are abroad where you have to get on with it. The reality of expenses incurred to attend the funeral and the funeral itself can be soul destroying. It’s important to seek help, from family and friends if there are physically and emotionally there. In U.K. that’s quite rare, your GP can refer you on for counselling, talking therapies or to charities that deal with bearevement and loss.
📌The same can be said of issues at work. Talking to someone about the challenges you are facing is good. This may not solve all your problems but it gives you thinking space. Hearing your own thoughts through voice can be liberating and empowering. Many a times, for those who are Christians, we leave everything in prayer. Prayer is great but it needs to be followed by action which is faith. Finding an independent counselling service is better. Your union is a great source for advice and guidance, you are paying them, make use of their services.
In U.K. migrant family support offer great services around the issues discussed. They can be contacted in their website signposted below:
Life is for living. Live it to the full in good health, mind, body and spirit.
Finally, be courageous and confident, for the Lord your God is with you always (Joshua 1, summarised).
Courageous hope ❤