I was craving some fiction after reading two non-fiction books in January and I finally got a book that I have fought to put down. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso shares the story of two octogenarian widows who can’t stand each other until an event compels them to change. These women have faced a lot of hurt that they have carried into their lives making relationships with others and within themselves very difficult.
As I read this book, conversations I have had with some close friends came to mind. A lot of women I know and I am meeting have really rotten relationships with their mothers. I saw it first hand with my paternal grandmother and my aunts. I thought it was an unusual case because, on my mother’s side of the family, my mother and her sisters adored their mother.
As I grew older and spoke to more people I realized that a lot of hurt has permeated across generations from grandmothers to granddaughters. This hurt is poisonous and does distort relationships for a lot of women. Some women don’t actually realize that their bitterness and loathing of others or worse an unusual allure to violence could actually be a subconscious demonstration of an emotional burden they carry with them.
When does it end? The hurt, the negative outlook on life, I have been there. It does end, but I think it’s all about accepting the fact there is a problem. I have shared my story with a number of people. 9 years ago this year I was an extremely angry person, I was constantly ready for a fight, I was always on the defensive and responded rabidly to any constructive criticism. I was in constant survival mode like a Neanderthal, and out to unhealthily compete with others. I even saw my best friend as a competition and threat. It was so bad I almost jeopardized this relationship.
I reached a point where I was just tired of being angry all the damn time. Life wasn’t a constant fight.
Having a best friend like mine is a gift from God because I wouldn’t have stayed if the shoe was on the other foot. Mwikali would graciously point out what I was doing which gave me pause. It made me reflect and dig deep, real deep and genuinely ask myself why I acted the way I did.
In 2009, I started a journey, which is ongoing, to become more aware of who I was, and why I reacted the way I did. I realized that past experiences of emotional abuse from my environment caused me to constantly be on the defensive. And the thing with constantly being out to defend yourself is when the threat is finally removed, it takes a while to remove that default. Shifting your modus operandi is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. I am just glad I went through it when I did and changed for the better.
But, in order to get better, I needed to accept the fact that I was unwell. And that is what I hope more women would actually do. Being angry, tearing people down, allowing yourself to be walked over, or believe you are unworthy only stalls your future. The sooner you address it and tackle it the better. And there are tonnes of people out there more than willing to help – therapists, friends, family, self-help programmes.
It was through the Alabastron programme that I realized my life’s purpose, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a silver bullet, but it was the foundation of a new start and an awareness that makes me more deliberate and conscious of what I do, what I think and how to keep going. And it has been tough as nails the past 9 years. I am still here, still pursuing my dreams, one step at a time.
If you are a woman out there hurting and in need help in Nairobi, I would recommend you try the Landmark Forum (some of my friends have given it a rave review), Alabastron’s Renewing Self programme (what I went through) or even have a chat with my friend and phenomenal counsellor Wairimu. You can get in touch with her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel like this, I found a great channel on YouTube which also does help. This should get you started.
You don’t have to suffer in silence anymore, get the help you need to get you where you need to be.