Hey, Tiffany’s Here

I came across a video sometime back of Liza Koshy, a YouTuber, where she talks about her mental health. She says that a friend of hers opened up about his OCD, prompting her to bare her soul to him with regard to her social anxiety. This made them connect even more.

“Now we actually have a code name whenever I’m feeling anxious or whenever he’s having his thoughts. It’s called Tiffany, it’s just like, “Hey, Tiffany’s here, she’s freaking here man.” It feels good to be able to label something and put it away in your brain rather than let it become your entire brain in itself.”

That video reminded me of how easy it is to be defined by our mental illnesses. This is is mainly due to the fact that the brain is arguably the most important organ in the body. It plays a role in almost every system in our bodies including organizing and interpreting sensory information, coordinating visual and verbal memory, coordinating movement of our limbs, regulating body temperature just to name a few. When we have an illness that affects our brain, it’s not surprising that we tend to think that there is a fundamental flaw in our being. This is because our brain is basically everything to us. But are we our brains?

John Green’s ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ really opened my eyes to what people with mental illnesses go through. The main character, Aza, suffers from OCD which means that it is incredibly difficult for her to control her thoughts. She has re-occurring thoughts which she refers to as thought spirals. “The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.”

She also says, “But the scary thing is not turning and turning in the gyre, it’s turning and turning in the tightening gyre. It’s getting sucked in a whirlpool that shrinks and shrinks your world until you’re just spinning without moving, stuck inside a prison cell that is exactly the size of you, until eventually you realize that you’re not actually in a prison cell, you are the prison cell.”

Her thought spirals grated me unendingly. I remember reading the book in a bus and I was so engrossed in it that I forgot to alight at my stop. I was thinking of how hard it must be for those who have OCD. That book built my empathy. After reading it, I didn’t ever want to hear anyone say that they are OCD just because they happen to be clean/neat freaks.

Taking medicine for her condition often conflicted Aza. “There is something intensely weird and upsetting about the notion that you can only become yourself by ingesting a medication that changes yourself.”

I used to think that we are our minds until I read Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’. He made me realize that we give the brain more credit than it deserves. We never say that we circulate blood because the process just naturally occurs. Why then do we say that we think when thoughts just naturally occur to our brain? C.S. Lewis puts it even better when he says that thoughts are accidental by-products of the brain. That’s why sometimes you may find completely horrendous and utterly disgusting thoughts occurring to you making you you act quickly to push them away while wondering how in the world you are able to think of such things.

That is why I believe that we are not our brains and that mental illnesses do not define us any more than physical illnesses do. When you’ve broken your arm, you never let that make you feel like everything is wrong with you because you know very well that you are much more than that arm. Of course you’ll feel bad, and the broken arm may help identify you when you are in a group of people but it ends there. You don’t let it define you. It’s just a physical condition. In the same way, being mentally ill does not mean that there is a fundamental flaw in your whole being. It’s just an illness. Period. You can choose to give it a name just like Liza Koshy did so that you are consistently reminded that you are not your mental illness.

“But what I want to know is, is there a you independent of circumstances? Is there a way-down-deep me who is an actual, real person, the same person if she has money or not, the same person if she has a boyfriend or not, the same if she has a boyfriend or not, the same if she goes to this school or that school? Or am I only a set of circumstances?” – Aza (Turtles All The Way Down, JOHN GREEN)

Yes there is. There is a you independent of circumstances. 🙂


There Is A Way To Be Good Again

Dear W,

“My candle burns at both ends;

it will not last the night

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–

It gives such a lovely light!”
– EDNA ST VINCENT MILLAY, “First Fig,” A Few Figs from Thistles
I found this poem in a book we’ve both read (I’m pretty sure you highlighted that part of the book) and I find it hard to explain the spiritual impact it had on me. I do agree with John Green when he says that our favourite quotations reveal more about us than the authors who wrote them.
Many a times this year, I felt as if my candle was burning at both ends. Each time I kept stooping lower and lower to depths I never thought I would reach. The wick of values that I held on to so dearly kept burning and burning until it was no more. What was left was only a mass of wax, useless and easily disposable.
Only that it wasn’t disposed off. Only that I got me a new wick. Only that I looked back at the bright light my candle gave while burning at both ends and realized that it revealed so many good things about me that were previously shrouded in darkness.
This is my story of redemption. I hope it is the same for you.
There is a way to be good again. (The Kite Runner)
That’s all I have for you today. 🙂
With love,
Dear Lilian,
“There is a way to be good again,” so says Khaled Hosseini. This quote gives me hope. However, I think that seeking for that way may sometimes bring more harm than good if you are too guilt-ridden.
I’m trying hard to come up with a good example but this is the only one that is on my mind, don’t judge: you are extremely rude to a guy and then afterwards you feel too guilty. You ask him what you can do to make it up to him and he tells you to go for a sleepover. Because you really want to redeem yourself… you get what I’m trying to say. In bigger decisions, if there exists something of that sort, our better judgement could be clouded by this bastard called guilt.
What say you?
Hey W,
I just woke up a few hours ago and I’m down with a cold so forgive this mail might not be as well-put-together as the last one. I also haven’t eaten anything today soo…
Anyway, you know being good doesn’t mean making everyone happy? But I get where you come from. Guilt can lead us to do many crazy things in order to redeem ourselves. Actually come to think of it, the Kite Runner quote can be destructive depending on how you look at it.
It is destructive when you let the one you hurt have the power to dictate what you have to do in order for you to be good again in their eyes. They may make you do worse things in order for you to earn their forgiveness, which you might, but what will happen to you? You will go further and further down the path of guilt.
‘There is a way to be good again’ fills me with so much hope. That no matter how far you’ve strayed, you can always come back home. That you can always forgive yourself and cease giving people the power to dictate what you feel. That you can simply tell the ones you’ve hurt that you are truly sorry, without having to ask them what you should do in order to be good again in their eyes. If they don’t accept you back, that is fine. It is up to them now.
|Hotel stationary
Pour your heart out
Your life, your story
Write it down
You gotta write it down
The tear-stained pages
Going up in flames
When the smoke hits the ceiling
Will the memories fade?
Say farewell
To all of your mistakes
Forgive yourself
It’s a brand new day|
Brooke Barretsmith (Farewell)
With love,

Negative Side of Positivity

I was appalled when I found out that there are people who say they are strong to mean that they are sick. Even if they are bedridden and severely debilitated and you ask them how they are doing, they will tell you of how strong and healthy they are and how they have never been better. Apparently that’s a proclamation of faith, because Joel 3:10 (NIV) says: “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.'”

My bad. I was trying too hard not to make any reference to Christianity but I already have. For most of us who grew up/are Christians, we know too well how hard the philosophy of positivity has been drilled into us. We are all aware of the many uplifting verses in the Bible like Romans 28:8: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose and Philippians 4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice. There is nothing wrong with these verses, however, our way of interpreting them might have caused more harm than good, specifically in these two instances: 1. When we take them to mean that we should be in denial of our present sufferings and 2. When we carelessly pelt them at people who are going through difficult times.

I know, I know, kinda confusing. Allow me to clarify further. I for one know that I was pretty good at keeping grudges at some point in my life. For instance, in my first year of high school, I was hurt by some people whom I considered friends and I grew resentful towards them. However, I never acknowledged the hurt. I never allowed myself to feel sad because well, we are supposed to forgive others, right? I somehow thought that my skin was a trampoline, people’s offenses just bounced off it effortlessly. I was so wrong. The pain penetrated and grew into a huge monster that devoured me from the inside. This is what happens when you don’t acknowledge your present difficult situation. It is perfectly okay to feel sad sometimes. You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to cry.

The second instance is interesting because we always have good intentions when we send encouraging verses and positive quotes to people who are in hard times. We think that the words will magically save them from drowning. Sorry to rain on your parade, but most of the times they do the very opposite. You can come off as very insensitive. Imagine you’ve lost a job and on calling your friend, they slap you with “all things work together for good” or “when God closes a door He opens a window”. How would you feel? You would think that they don’t give a flying fig about you. If you want to show that you really care, empathize with your friends. Keep your motivation to yourself for a minute and listen to them.

Okay, so now what do we do? Do we remain sad forever just because our feelings are justified? Do we let our friends sink deeper into despair? I was quite bothered by these questions till Lilly Singh came to my rescue. Here’s what she says in her book ‘How To Be a Bawse’:

“Do I believe you should have fewer emotions when dealing with personal struggles? Well, yes… and no. No, because emotions need to be felt and it’s not healthy to bottle up pain. I believe in crying your eyes out instead of having pent up anger. But I’d also argue that, yes, having TOO many emotions can blind us to the life lessons we could be learning when things fall apart.

Basically, I believe in getting hurt efficiently.

This means that I thoroughly believe in crying, yelling, pulling my hair out, and experiencing heartache. BUT once I’m done I dissect the pain and learn lessons from it. Heartache is never going to go away and every person will continue to experience it. Not learning anything from pain because you are too overwhelmed with emotion is inefficient, especially since you’ll continue to encounter pain in life. When you get hurt, use that hurt as body armor for future battles. That doesn’t mean close yourself off and turn into an ice queen (or king); it simply means you should reason with yourself and try to remember that getting hurt today makes you more resilient tomorrow. Pain is good. Heartache is good. These things provide you with knowledge that will help you grow and deal with future struggles. To waste a painful moment and let emotion overwhelm you so much that you gain absolutely no insight is to get hurt inefficiently. Make every struggle count and remember that every experience will always be a silver lining.”

Have an introspective day, will you?


Politics of Fandoms

“I didn’t know you were a fan of Gabrielle Union!” exclaimed a friend of mine after seeing my Instagram post on her book.

“Yes I am, I really liked her book.”

“Since when have you been a fan of her?”

Here goes the Fandom Olympics, I thought to myself. See, your girl didn’t even know of her existence before picking up the book. I just pulled a Pudge (a character in John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’ who enjoyed reading biographies of writers without feeling the need to read the writers’ work). My friend, on the other hand, had known her for a really long time. Compared to her, I didn’t even qualify to be a fan.

Members of the Harry Potter fandom are usually referred to as Potterheads. I don’t even know whether I am part of them because I only read the books and watched the movies last year. There are usually in-fightings among the Potterheads because those who grew up reading Harry Potter usually think of themselves as greater fans and refer to themselves as the Harry Potter generation. Those who watched the movies but did not read the books are seen to be lesser fans. It’s like everyone is clamouring for the ‘biggest fan’ badge and you, my dear, can’t even qualify to be part of the race. I must admit though that I have oftentimes thought of myself as the bigger fan when it comes to bands and musicians that I grew up listening to.

I never knew how seriously people took fandoms until I started watching Scorpion. By then, I had joined Tumblr and so I made sure I partook in most of the Scorpion ‘sub-cultures.’ Every Monday, people would talk about the show, analyze the characters, ship some of them (Waige for Walter and Paige, Toppy for Toby and Happy… haha) and hundreds of GIFs and memes would be posted. It amazed me how different people from all over the world could be brought together because they share a common interest.

However, I know how dangerous fandoms can be. There’s this Christian Hip Hop artist by the name KJ-52 who was always compared to Eminem, just like NF these days. He decided to write a song to Eminem asking him to come to Jesus and I don’t think he was prepared for the reaction. The song blew up and was generally well received by the Christian community. Well, Eminem’s fans would have none of it. They went as far as sending KJ-52 hate mail and death threats.

What do you think of fandoms? Which ones are you part of? I would love to know!

Of Paradoxes and Perceptions

An amoeba reproduces by a process known as binary fission, whereby it replicates its genetic material and then divides into two daughter cells which are identical to each other. In short, it clones itself. Is it still okay to refer to the parent cell as the parent cell, when a very big change has occurred within it? Or are the two daughter cells collectively the parent cell? It still doesn’t feel right. Together, they have double of what the original parent used to have. So… did the parent cell essentially disappear? How? Nothing vanished into thin air. Is this just an issue of semantics? No?

Oh how exhausting mental press-ups are! You may now rest a bit. Why am I even talking about amoebas in the first place? Well, my current read is: A Brief History of The Paradox: Philosophy and the Labyrinths of the Mind by Roy Sorensen and boy does it give you tough mental exercises! I must admit, however, that I enjoy tossing myself into the abyss that is existential crisis every so often and philosophy in general gives me life! I love being exposed to different perceptions and schools of thought. It really helps me interrogate the flaws in my thought processes. It has also helped me understand that not everyone perceives things the way I do, therefore, I cut them more slack.

I got the amoeba paradox from the book by the way. They also talk about roses. That bouquet of roses you will receive on Valentine’s, are they really roses? What is a rose anyway? The flower or the whole plant plus the roots? If you say that the flower is a rose, what about the stem, the thorns and the roots? Light bulb moment alert! One day I will give a loved one stems and thorns of a rose plant and be like, “Hey, I brought you roses!” MWAHAHAHAHAHA…

My attempts at singing when I’m at home are always met with ‘sauti ya chura production’ from my siblings. They say it so often that I have considered it as a name of my production company when I launch my rap career. (A girl can dream!) It will host people with voices hoarser than Future’s without autotune and our tagline will be: listen to the words ignore the voice. What was I saying? Oh yes, my voice is not that good. I used to wish it was angelic, but not anymore. See, if you have an amazing voice, you don’t use it to entertain yourself. We are the ones who benefit from your voice. My friend (who has an equally bad voice) and I usually tell ourselves that we are queens and that singers slave away to make sure we are thoroughly entertained. We are King Saul, while the singers are David. The same friend tells me that writers are her slaves, that we only exert ourselves so that she and other readers may benefit. People really love comforting themselves.

Now that we have already touched on perceptions, let me tell you about the other day when someone asked where I’d be spending New Year’s Eve. I told him I’d be at home and he laughed. Excuse me? Who said I need an occasion to go out? Matter of fact I celebrated my birthday, which is on 8th October, on NYE. I told another friend that I don’t get the hype of New Year celebrations because methinks that time is an illusion and that the calendar is just for the sake of order. He agreed, but added that New Year is an excuse to party and that we all need an excuse. Right there and then it hit me how birthdays too are an excuse to party. A birthday is no achievement, and as someone on Quora pointed out, we are literally celebrating being a year closer to the grave. Chills.

Don’t get me wrong, birthdays are very important to me especially because of the lengths we take to show love to our friends and family and to show them how special they are to us. I love the feelings of hope and desire to make our lives better that come with each new year. I just don’t want them to be limited to a day. You can have make goals whenever you want, you can buy your friends gifts any day and most importantly, you don’t need to wait for your birthday to have cake. 😉

The beauty of the paradoxes of life can only be seen when you agree to see life through other lenses. Ditch your rose-coloured glasses and invest in other ones.

Have a paradoxical week, won’t you?

Something Close to My Heart

I am an INFP, meaning one of my main traits is having a very active imagination. Most of the times I get lost in my own little world. For all those whose smiles, winks, waves or worse still, stretched out hands (or arms) went unnoticed, I take this opportunity to apologize. I am very sorry, it was never intentional. You may think I am walking on the University of Nairobi sidewalks when in actual sense I am shoving past a crowd in Paris, well, at least in my head. I may be looking at you straight in the eye but in my head, I am giving a speech at one of the UN conferences.

“Today I want to talk about something that’s close to my heart, both literally and figuratively. Literally, because it covers the heart and other important organs in the body acting as a shock absorber. Figuratively, because… do I really need to explain that?”

I watch as the audience’s faces light up with anticipation and I smile sheepishly to myself. Then a ‘Lilian, have you heard what I’ve said?’ bursts my bubble and punctures the utopia I’ve created in my head. I get embarrassed and annoyed simultaneously because I am forced to go back to the real world. I love my active imagination, but sometimes it consumes me and gets me in trouble. Some people tend to think that I am a snob which I do understand. Also, I am very oblivious of my surroundings. There could be a petrol station somewhere whose name I don’t even know yet I pass by it everyday.

Okay, enough on my imagination. Today I wanted to expound more on the speech that has been in my head for a long time now. I had tried recording a video on it but I got frustrated midway and had to delete it. I wanted to write on the subject for a long time but I simply could not bring myself to. Setting deadlines and making sure everybody knew when to expect the article didn’t work. I kept thinking that if I were a columnist in one of the dailies I would have been fired by now because of my inability to meet deadlines. Sigh.

Anyway, I bet by now some of you have figured that I want to talk about fat. Being fat.  I have always been the biggest person in the classes I’ve been to. The first time I noticed I was different, I was in nursery school. Some kids started calling me ‘jack nono’. To this day, I wonder where the jack came from. I even did some googling and I came across a nursery rhyme called: Jack Sprat. It goes like:

Jack will eat not fat, and Jull doth love no leane.

Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes cleane.

I know it has no relation to Jack being fat but can we all just take a moment and appreciate the absurdity of this nursery rhyme? Can you imagine 17th century kids speaking Elizabethan English? Me neither.

Many people get called mean names when they are in nursery school and lower primary school because at that age children are very honest and regurgitate all they have been taught at home; the good, the bad and the ugly. As we grow, we learn a few things and we change. Or maybe we learn to hide our prejudices better. Some people don’t change and I get it, sometimes we don’t know better.

I remember one day in high school I was walking really fast because I was running late to class. An acquaintance caught up with me and told me she was very happy to see me trying to lose weight and went on to tell me how research showed that walking fast burns more calories than jogging. People tend to assume that I am trying to lose weight whenever I do something different. I don’t feel like eating breakfast? I’m advised on how that is not the best way to lose weight. It is very irritating, to be honest, especially if the comments come from total strangers.

Oh how I love our society and its double standards. A society that tells you to love yourself the way you are and then the next minute tells you that you are not allowed to love yourself if you are not a certain size. I’ve seen big people embracing themselves and preaching body positivity on social media only to be told to shut up and take care of their health first. People love to use health as an excuse to body shame people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the health risks that come with obesity and I do try to lead an active lifestyle. However, I know that losing weight is not the key to happiness and self love. And I know that if I don’t love myself with what I have right now, I won’t love myself when I get what I want. So please, allow people to love themselves? Also, don’t go preaching about weight loss to total strangers and acquaintances. It’s annoying. We do talk about that with people who are close to us, who actually matter.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have insecurities. Don’t we all? Sometimes the comments get me. I laugh them off just to conceal the hurt. But most of the times, they don’t. Years of getting hurt and brushing off mean comments made sure I grew a thick skin. Like my friend Allan said, ‘I got used to brushing them off and with time, like a rock at the bed of a river, the current just flowed above it.’

That’s it. I feel like I should have said more. So many stories left unsaid but I hope what I’ve written is enough to bring the message home. Let’s be kind to one another. 🙂


I do love the good-humoured teases though! 😉

Logical Fallacies

The other day I mentioned in a WhatsApp group I’m in that I didn’t like a certain person’s music. I told them that I found it depressing because it left me in a worse mood. It was just not my cup of tea. Now, this is a very popular musician among the group members and I knew very well that I would be attacked for saying that. I was right, someone retaliated by saying that my cup of tea consists of ‘5 lines mumbled a thousand times.’

While I don’t deny that I enjoy trap music, I did not quite get the comeback. I understand that he was offended, but he committed a fallacy which most of us are guilty of: argumentum ad hominem: the error of attacking the character and motives of a person who has stated the idea, rather than the idea itself. Instead of adressing the matter of the artist’s music and give me his dissenting opinion, he chose to attack my character: loving trap music. This is no way to win an argument.

The whole purpose of a debate or a discussion is to help us see both sides of the coin, and therefore reduce bigotry. However, logical fallacies defeat this purpose. I see this a lot with politicians. That’s why I sometimes cannot bring myself to watch the discussions on television regarding the current political climate. A lot of logical fallacies are committed either knowingly or unknowingly. I will bring some of these to your attention in a few.

Maybe I should first say what prompted me to research on this. A certain lady had commented on politics and as always, some people were offended. They called her a whore, a bimbo and many other deregatory names instead of saying why exactly they disagreed with her. I had settled on chauvinism as the main culprit but then I realized the problem was much bigger than that. What is the source of  chauvinism? A flaw in reasoning. Our thought processes account for who we are. To deal with a problem, we must first change our mindset. It is important we know of these fallacies so that we avoid commiting them, point out those who commit them so that at the end of the day we engage in a meaningful and fruitful discussion.

That being said, the next fallacy I want to bring into focus is Post Hoc (ergo propter hoc), claiming that because something happens after something else, the first caused the second. In other words, saying that because two things correlate, one caused the other. This takes me back to my primary school days, when a certain teacher happened to be in a mood for caning us whenever she donned clothes of a certain colour. We would conclude that the particular colour was the cause of her bad moods. In retrospect, I believe that her moods dictated her choice of clothes. Not the other way round. Another good example: your company has been doing very well since a new manager was appointed. You attribute the success to the manager yet he hasn’t done anything new. In fact, it’s the one in charge of marketing who should take the credit since he or she has been working overtime.

Another common fallacy is Argumentum ad numerum,(appeal to numbers), where if many people are of the same opinion, then it must be true. Well, those many people could be wrong! Our argument must not be wholly dependent on the numbers, we must take other factors into consideration.

The last one I want to mention is Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority), assuming that because a public figure has said something, it must be true, even though the said person has no experience whatsoever in the area. For example, concluding that slimming tea helps one lose weight just because a certain celebrity said so. Most of the time, they have been paid to promote the product.

There are so many others I have not mentioned. You can read about them here and also here.

Have a fallacy-free time, won’t you?