No playback. No take two. Nothing!

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There must have been a time when I was truly happy and uninhibited as a child. However that memory escapes me every time I try to retrieve it from who knows where. Something shifted. Something broke. Something shook me to the very core and it’s never been the same since. Oh how I wish time machines did exist.

There is a stirring in my heart that never goes away. It hibernates for a while then thaws out and strikes the very core of my being. I can’t even seem to find the words to express myself and it is so frustrating. I have asked myself so many questions and none quells the storm within me.

Why? Why? Why? Why on earth would such unfathomable pain be unleashed on a mother with five young children with no warning, no heads up, a hint…nothing! A day like any other turned into a day that will forever be replayed, as each one tries to recollect and make sense of the day when everything changed. Which day you ask? The day death came calling.

Mutegi Kiriga Kabugu. My father. My late father. Last thing I remember is him driving off and I waving goodbye. Little did I know that was it. Like forever and ever. No playback. No take two. Nothing! That was it!!! A chapter in my life came to an end and it took quite some time for little 9 year old me to realize that another chapter in my life had begun.

I came to realize that I had held on to the belief that my father would come back, for close to nine years after his death partly due to how his death was disclosed to me. Death makes people nervous and they have no idea what to say and if they do say anything, its intended effect may be reshaped to mean something totally different, especially in the imaginative mind of a little girl who adored her father. Death also leaves more questions than answers and more so to little children who are suddenly thrust into one of life’s most painful and testing experiences.

For close to nine years I believed my father would come back due to the fact that one of the comments I heard when I asked for my father was that “ Baba yenu ameitwa na Mungu.”. That did not happen and boy, was I angry at the world. Unfortunately this anger was not meted on the world but was re-directed internally for a couple of years and let’s say, if you meet anyone who knew me from birth to when I turned 18 years, I was as quiet as a mouse and little events would act as triggers and the tears would gush out for days.

I know by now you may have sunk with me into the pit of despair that I found myself in after the loss of my father. Those were trying times whose triggers surround me day in, day out. The one that gets to me even today is seeing a little girl holding her father’s hand or being carried by her father. Loss and grief erased those memories from me and sometimes, it hurts…right to the core.

However it’s not all gloom and doom in my world. Nope. I got to thrive through the love and support of those who helped my family get back on its feet. To them I am forever grateful for through them I found my voice and direction in life. Well, that’s a story for another day.

There is a song in my heart and its tune plays out strongly when I am around children. I kept wondering and questioning myself why everyone else was so comfortable hanging out, hours on end with fellow adults and yet I would sneak off and chat and play with children way younger than I was.

I thought there was something wrong with me. This discomfort was amplified as I grew older and societal expectations were piled high upon my plate. Well, I guess I don’t fit into the typical framework and I bet the questions will keep on coming in the future. But you know what, it’s time for me… me, myself and I coupled with lots of grace, mercy and direction from God Almighty.

I hope I haven’t lost you along the way. I bet you are wondering what the loss of a father and hanging out with children have in common? Well, if I may put it simply, my experience of loss as a child has led me on a path that strives to enhance how children experience their childhood as well as help adults reminisce on their childhood days.

I recently came across a quote that states, “Hold onto the child inside you. You don’t know how important it is. If you lose it you’ll spend your whole life looking for it. And sometimes, it’s gone forever.” The author is unknown but the quote holds so much weight as it is and it partly sums up why I am currently pursuing Masters in Child Development with a major in Child Therapy.

I lost a part of my childhood when death came knocking way back when in 1993. I have been in pursuit of happiness that can only be experienced as a child and since no time machines exist…or so they say…I make do with child related activities that pull at every fiber of my being.

This “confession” may lead to questions as to whether I am only happy when around children. My response would be that I require equal doses of adult and child led-interactions and that would explain why I can relate with almost anyone I come across after “breaking the ice” so to speak.

I am my father’s daughter. That’s a fact that’s brought out each time my closest friends reveal to me their first impressions about me. I guess if careers were to be decided on facial features and friends suggestions, I would be a Senior Resident Magistrate just like my father or a police officer. Well, I’m glad that’s not how we get to decide our purpose in life.

It has been a long journey to be where I am currently, that has been marked by moments of impending doom coupled with moments of utter delight. Sometimes I am baffled and consumed by the scope of the dreams and vision I have for my future that revolves around children.

I am a rebel with a cause and I have decided it’s time to switch on the tune in my heart and dance to the song that’s ingrained itself to the very core of my being. Therefore, this year, after stalling and bidding my time for years on end, I enrolled for my Masters even after being encouraged to pursue other courses because that’s where the money is. Well, I am not after the money. I really need to know all there is to know about children such that I can be the vessel that communicates to all those I meet wherever I am, ways through which they can create enriching environments in which their children can thrive.

It is not as simple as I think it is and this reality hit home as soon as I got my admission letter together with the realization that I needed to get financial resources that seem elusive most of the time. Well, I am a Mutegi, as my youngest brother keeps stating. I am not about to lose this journey to negative vibes or to unknown fears that strive to tap into my experience of loss and grief.

Therefore, as I gradually grow into who the Lord created me to be, I will bake cookies, make handmade crafts, share the wonderful world of books, teach, sing and laugh along with children whenever I can because, no matter what may have been taken away from me, I have a lot to give to a world that is hurting yet flawlessly finds an appropriate mask to hide behind.

 

 

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BE CURIOUS BUT DO NO HARM.

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Interestingly, I did not go searching for counselling as my main career. I am still at the point of deciding if counselling found me or if I found counselling. It’s the same conundrum as to whether I am allergic to cats or cats are allergic to me. When I come to a conclusion, I will be sure to let you know.

Therapy became real to me and not just a fancy word when I finally tackled the loss and grief I had experienced as a child and which had greatly shaped my world view. I do agree with therapy being referred to as the “talking cure” due to the very fact that by being allowed to talk freely without judgment or reservations, I emerged stronger both psychologically and emotionally by the end of it all.

As I gradually learnt more about therapy, I moved from being shocked by Psychoanalysis to being challenged by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. At the end of my basic training and practical’s, I professed to being an “Eclectic Counsellor” as I saw there was potential in all theories to help a client live a fulfilling life. My experiences so far have led me on a path that agrees to the fact that many studies conclude that the quality of the therapist- client relationship is the most important driver of successful outcomes. Not the school of therapy. This to me means that I can’t give what I don’t have.  Self-awareness on my part as a counsellor has a ripple effect on the clients who come my way. I have to put in the work as well.  

What to charge, who to charge and who not to charge are never ending questions within therapy circles. It is no surprise that there hasn’t been a stipulated flat rate within the counselling fraternity even after therapy being a mainstream service for several years. What doesn’t augur well with me is that there are lots of practicing therapists who are in it for the money and sometimes cause irreversible harm to their clients and leave psychological scars for years on end. I purpose to be the change I wish to see, despite it being a cliché. Something has to give.

I am cautious about self-directed therapy apps as they may give the client a certain rush of motivation but they may transfer the responsibility of change and decision making to the application or soon tire of it and get back to their self-defeating habits. However, as Mohammed Hersi always quotes, “I choose to remain an optimist”.

Therapy is truly a marketplace icon when it comes to its everyday use in society. It’s true that people self pathologize themselves. What shocks me is hearing a child stating that they are depressed due to not having the latest gadget. This reveals the extent to which certain terms that were originally used by qualified practitioners have permeated into society partly thanks to society’s efforts in trying to Keep Up with the Kardashians while excitedly watching as crime, seduction and other previously shunned upon social ills are justified as self-expression or moving with the times. Truly, we have moved from what was once a restrictive culture to a society whose moral boundaries shift depending on the audience, for the customer is king.

All in all, the human mind hosts an insatiable beast known as curiousity. Therapy helps us dive into the known and unknown, therefore, serving up a palatable buffet that isn’t running out any time soon. Roll the dice, pick a seat and watch it unfold. After all, it pays to have a healthy curiousity about human nature. I know I do!

MY JOURNEY BEGINS

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It has been a while since I wrote down my thoughts on paper aside from the usual to-do-list that characterizes the hustle and bustle of living in our beloved city of Nairobi. Nonetheless, I pray that words will not escape me as I do so.

I believe my journey towards graduate school begun when I was continually in the presence of children within the estate I lived in as well as every Sunday as a Sunday school teacher. Hardly would you find me chatting with the grownups, rather the grownups would find me chatting, playing or making crafts with the children from within the estate and their friends from other housing blocks.

The interactions would leave me with questions on how to have a conversation with a child that did not just ask how their day was or what they would like to be when they grow up but rather facilitate a conversation that would be beneficial to both of us after we parted ways. Special needs cases in Sunday school as well as interestingly unique experiences the children were going through stirred the quest for knowledge on children matters and therefore, I searched for child related courses at Masters level, and well, I guess the rest as they say is history.

Researching on child related activities is something I constantly do to lessen the chances of teaching Sunday school in the same manner every other Sunday. Therefore I come across different issues that leave a hunger for more within me.

I am yet to narrow down on what exactly I would like to research on but I do believe my interests may lie in either of the following areas; “How children process death and how Kenyan cultural practices hinder or help them in the grieving process” or “The role of play and art therapy in the holistic development of children”. I do believe if it isn’t either of these two, I will be interested to find or compile ways to get the children away from television screens and into creative learning in non-formal settings.

How I wish we could revert back to barter trade where in exchange for my talents, I would sit at the feet of a wise old woman and gain the knowledge and practical skills that would best cater to holistic well-being of the children around me. However, legal tender is needed in exchange for the knowledge I seek. I have sort out assistance which will ensure I get to attend the first semester without financial hitches.

I have the best social support network, which is truly happy that I am finally pursuing that which is truly part of my calling and purpose in life. My immediate family as well as my Church school family is excited and truly supportive of my studies. Most especially, my mother, who has always known I have a soft spot for children. I am not alone on this journey. That’s a fact.

I am continually in the presence of children and more so, my nephews are dear to my heart. Ensuring that I become the very best child therapist but more so their creative and fun aunt is continually my motivation despite what life throws my way.

I will be a better me that they may be the greatest version of themselves.

I CAN I WILL

 

QUICKSAND!!!

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Life is surely full of surprises. No wonder one of my favourite phrases is “Wonders never cease”

Sometimes the sun stays hidden in your life that you may truly appreciate its warm and radiant rays when it finally beams through the dark clouds. 

Looking beyond your circumstance is easier said than done. 

Negative thoughts are like quicksand. Break free of the fruitles endless cycle by being grateful for what you already have. 

33 life lessons @ 33! (Part III)

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23. Karma is real. Karma may take its time but when it hits…you won’t know right from left. Be kind to all who you meet and relate with. Be kind.

24. You are blessed to be a blessing. Pesa ni maua. Don’t hoard money for selfish reasons. Help those who can’t repay you. Basically…don’t be a Grinch/Uncle Scrooge.

25. If your dream doesn’t scare you, its not big enough. I  am learning this first hand with my blossoming cookie business (https://m.facebook.com/parcelsofdelight)

26. Tithing and giving your offertory is a personal choice and decision. (PROV. 3:9–10)
(Mal. 3:10–12)

27. Chocolate, Cake and Chicken.In no particular order. Anyday…Anytime.

28. Vegetable samosas or those stuffed with potatoes or ndengu…will place you on my hit list with no chance of ever being pardoned…unless of course you come bearing medium sized spicy meat samosas. Then, I might just reconsider.

29. What you don’t repair…repeats itself. If you keep doing the same “unproductive” stuff over and over again, you need to pause, reflect and adjust accordingly. It curtails regret creeping up on you contantly.

30. Indecision and overthinking steal your joy. Pause…flip a coin and get on with it. I know..its easier said than done.

31. Everyone has got their special thing that floats their boat. Don’t be too quick to judge and don’t be too quick to jump into the boat with them. Stick to your lane.

32. There is never enough time…but there is now. Enjoy each and  every moment.

33. Reason is an enemy of Faith. Faith rarely makes sense. God loves us unconditionally and seeks to have a relationship of loving obedience with us. Step out in faith.

….this and many more life lessons have played out in my life.

What life lessons have played out in your life?

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33 Life lessons @ 33 (Part II)

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12. Serve humanity wherever and whenever you can. Start with your time, skills and worthwhile input before looking at monetary assistance.

13. Save money from your first salary/paycheck. Start small…save every 20sh coin or every 50/100shs note then gradually increase etc. Discipline and self control ni kila kitu.

14. Surround yourself with colleagues/friends from various fields/professions/interests. They broaden your perspective and sometimes crash your “rose coloured glasses”.

15. Enjoy life…don’t just endure it.

16. Death leaves more questions than answers. They mostly go unanswered.

17. Disuse atrophy is real. If you don’t challenge your mind, you gradually lose it.

18. Wishing to have children, having children and raising children are 3 different “ballgames”. You have to put in the work. Quite literally.

19. Children come fully packaged and equipped to pull at your heartstrings and sanity in equal measure. Truth be told, why else would a kid be a cuddly angel one minute and a miniature raging bull the next?

20. The boy child is an endangered species. The girl child is an empowered species. Boys are lacking ethically sound role models. Girls are increasingly getting spoilt for choice when choosing role models. Purposeful mentoring at home, in school and in church is paramount.

21. Have friends who are of the same age, younger than you and definitely older. You get to be the cool aunt or teacher who knows the latest gadgets and info plus you shangazaa them when you talk about old school stuff. Older friends tone down your ego and help you realize the universality of human experiences.

22. Social media…partake of it with a pinch of salt. Define yourself before you the world defines you. Stick to your lane.

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33 Life Lessons at 33

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1. Life is about sharing… during valleys and peaks in our lives. Its all about enriching relationships.

2. Family is everything. Like for real. Enough said.

3. Don’t be too hard on yourself…life is crazy but navigable.

4. There is power in what you say…Never speak out something negative about yourself or others

5. Don’t burn bridges…just unscrew the bolts…you never know what the future holds.

6. Time is fleeting. Time is precious. Time is emotion. Manage time…success follows suit.

7. Don’t bottle up your emotions coz you don’t want to look weak. Find your “person” or people who you can be free with…like be non-judgementally be free with. Its so refreshing and empowering to speak out.

8. If you are lost as to what your passion is,  ask friends and family what they think your strong suits are…reflect…then hit the road running.

9. Love songs truly do hit home when you fall in love. Plus they scorch and burn, when you’ve fallen out of love.

10. Don’t point fingers at others when things go wrong or don’t work out in your favour. Regroup…note down what went wrong, what life lesson do you pick then move on.

11. Kazi ya Bwana Yesu usifanye ili uonekane. Your labour/service should be prompted by love and love for God alone. All else fizzles out in due time.

#Part 2 is on its way!

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