It’s three thirty in the afternoon. The sky is dark with storm clouds, and since the first deafening crack of thunder twenty or so minutes ago, the overwhelming noise from the market has subdued slightly. I’ve already set the candle and matches out knowing losing power is a distinct possibility. The windows are open, the clean smell of impending rain mixed with cooking fires is being brought in on a gentle breeze and mixing with the intoxicating aroma of baking bread.
When I sat down to write this, I had no idea the direction it would take. I was thinking along the lines of everything I have to get done before travelling to Douala tomorrow and then Kribi the next day for a much needed break from reality. My list included things like laundry, repacking, making cookies, and making sure my friend’s cat was pampered with fish and cuddles. Sitting down to write this blog post was just another thing on the list.
There are a million and a half things I could talk about. I could rant about my frustrations from work, my continual immersion into the Cameroonian culture, or the things happening at home that I am physically removed from. I could write about my irritation at once again spending three days alone in my office this week because my coworkers just didn’t show. I could tell you about every little thing in my apartment that is broken or the promises that have been made and not followed through on. I could tell you about the construction on my building that seems to happen at the strangest hours. I could tell you about the ninety thousand marriage proposals I received in the market this week and hitting my wall when one of the guys grabbed my arm. Let me assure you, he won’t be doing that again. Although, I don’t know if he was more afraid of me, the woman whose stall I was buying vegetables from or the man I buy my phone credit from who saw…
Maybe what I need to do is touch on a little of everything. Maybe sharing some of the things that irked me recently will add more power to the point: sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down, breath, listen and experience. Find peace in the chaos. Learn to take compliments. Realize the power in yourself to inspire.
For the second or third week, I honestly can’t remember now, I have been alone in my office most days. My boss is in Rome. No one knows when she’s coming back. Another co-worker a list of things she wants to get done – most of which involve non work endeavors with many extra people in the office. I have opted to work from home three Fridays in a row now just for a break from the constant stimulation. I can’t focus on my thought train let alone accomplish much when I am continuously inundated with unnecessary…stuff. I can handle music, a movie playing in the background, one on one conversation but when your tiny office has seven or eight people laughing and yelling over each other… Working from home on Friday is a mini vacation.
It’s emotionally taxing and compounded with an uncomfortable mattress and odd hour construction in the unfinished apartment above me, I find myself more and more likely to detach the second I walk through the door. I have to remind myself that I have more than I need when something else breaks. I have to remind myself to be patient when my emails go unanswered or things aren’t attended to. Things are crazy right now, and until things level out, the water heater that hasn’t worked in two months, the broken toilet, and the lack of light in my kitchen from water damage have been set on the back burner, and I’m okay with that most of the time. When you’re walking that fine line between doing great and running head first into an illusory brick wall, you never know what it is that will set you off. You never know who or what the tipping point will be, and your anger will rear its ugly head.
Last week, my aunt told me I was her best friend…her hero…her role model…her strength. I got something similar from a woman I’ve never met in person. My grandmother reminded me that I am the master of my own ship. What can you say other than “thank you”? How can you convey to them the power of their words is breaking through the self-imposed stone castle? How can you reconcile your inner demons with the value other people see in you? The negativity seems to evaporate and the sunlight breaks through. Everything is made better in an instant.
This journey I’m on is life changing. You cannot surrender yourself to a mission-minded life and not change. The change happening within me is helping me appreciate simplicity. It’s helping me to appreciate smiles, conversations, and the power of dreams. I started making bread again, a process I enjoy with every fiber of my being, but at home, I fall into the trap of “I’ll just buy it”. I miss gardening. I miss sitting on the front steps and talking to grandma while she takes care of her orchids. I miss having a dog. I miss lots of things, but I wouldn’t change this for the world.
In the last hour and a half I’ve been sitting here working on this, I have closed my eyes and listened to the rain. I have pulled the scent of fresh bread and rainfall into my lungs and filed the wonderful feelings associated with both into my memory to be recalled when I need some peace. I have had my lap overtaken by her majesty Miss Kitty who vacated her throne only when she felt I had given her enough love and undivided attention. I slowed down. I listened to the rain, the ticking clock, and constant ruckus of the market. I heard sirens and drums from a funeral procession. I heard honking horns and laughter. I heard music and life. I found what I needed today. I found peace.