I just did a Tom and Jerry 360 degree head turn.
I was 47 a couple of weeks ago.
I am still reeling from the shock of tottering on the edge of 50. How did I turn the 40s corner so quickly? I can see and smell my 19-year-old self, coming down the Legon Hall stairs, trying unsuccessfully to walk daintily in those black suede moccasins I got for a song at Starlite Supermarket whilst casting furtive glances at an imaginary audience looking disapprovingly at me fidgeting with my skirt, involuntarily riding up and showing more skin than I bargained for. The smell of Avon’s signature, Far and Away, the communal perfume that I shared with my roommates and life -long friends Try and Anna, lingering in the distance.
In those days, even being 30 seemed like light years away. I was so certain that I was going to be eternally uniformed in mid-thigh skirts, doing a balancing act on four-inch "gravity-defying" high heel shoes. These days my constant refrain is to bellow for everyone to hear, the details of my new diet and exercise plan destined to transform me into a chunkier version of Angela Basset. May be someday I will pull off a semblance of a What’s Love Got To Do With It or How Stella Got Her Groove Back figure! I still have some time. Then even more pitifully exciting, are the times shared in front of hotel bathroom mirrors with Anna, comparing the laugh lines gently contouring our cheeks and the crow feet tip- toing around our eyes. We assure each other that these unavoidable imprints of aging are only visible to the two of us. Then like clockwork, we burst into laughter, and giggle like the schoolgirls that we once were many years ago.
But indeed, it’s great to be older and to be more than epidermis deep. As you approach your 50s, birthdays go by without the self-engineered fuss and frills, leaving you with reminders of what you have learnt and the many lessons you need to learn before God calls you home. The liberation of contentment and the power of mercy keep tugging at my heart and my mind.
Like everyone else I have had my share of pain and disappointment, but I am a happy person, and I give contentment a thousand halleluiahs for that. I see raised brows and eyes boring into the text on my blog page– loud unspoken cynicism. Of course you should be content, you have family and a career. What else can you be but content? I am almost tempted to close my trap, agree and slide in the back pew. How dare I talk of contentment when I have been blessed with so much already! But if contentment was only about what we have, what we have achieved and the realization of our dreams, then I know a motley lot who dare not even whimper and people who should wail in chorus. Being content is never about having enough, neither is it about minimizing yourself and your potential, it is not about settling or a lack of ambition. It is being grateful for what you have and where you are in your journey of life.
But if we would be gracious enough to admit , we may all have had moments when we have been caught up in a seemingly unending race , looking over our shoulders at who is quicker, slower, fitter and who is gaining in on us. Sometimes, we may have gloated at our wins and sometimes, we may have shrunk wrapped ourselves into diminutive versions of us, that only we could see.
But it’s exhilarating to be in competition with no one else but yourself, to be genuinely excited about other people’s successes which tower above your own, to have no green-eyed monster lurking in the shadows of your mind ready to pounce on whoever shines too brightly. But contentment is not always paid a glowing tribute, it’s bastardised too, as the lot of the unambitious, the complacent, the cowed, the fearful, the unadventurous. And indeed, maybe it is the escape of some who delude themselves into believing that they are happy with who they are, whilst they shed tears under the hidden film of their irises, craving for what others have that still eludes them. One thing I know for sure- true contentment is liberation.
And then there is mercy which keeps beckoning me kicking and screaming to succumb. In the last year , I have been inebriated with a spiritual awakening which demands that I be anything but what my base nature cheers me on to be. I wish I could say that I have been so possessed, that my latent Mother Teresa proclivities have taken control of my life. I am a very long way off. But I do know this - showing mercy is easily the greatest test of ones humanity. It will tear at your insides, it will scream injustice, it will call you names - weak, stupid, spineless, witless! You can go on and on.
So we applaud ourselves when we temper justice with mercy, and dispense forgiveness to the broken and contrite. We forget that we ourselves have been beneficiaries of mercy or have escaped judgment because the light has not shone on our transgressions. It is easier to show mercy for the weaknesses of others that you go to bed with at night. Mercy will test you when the flaws of others are not reminiscent of your own, where there is no remorse from the pain bearer, where you are justified to settle into unforgiveness.
Indeed! Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7, KJV). Showing mercy will birth new life around you in miraculous dimensions. Conquer yourself and forgive that hurt, that betrayal, that pain that you can still taste in your mouth. Appreciate that sometimes being let go or letting go of someone may also be an act of mercy not rejection.
Contentment has always been second nature to me so I claim no applause, only gratitude for the peace of mind it engenders, but what God knows I have to be rewired to embrace is showing real mercy. I know I will fail sometimes, but, the great thing is that I am determined to.
What is speaking to your heart today but battling with your mind and at war with your pain? Please don’t stall. We all don’t have as much time as we think. Decide to do it! You may start with a shuffle, a trot, a skip, a run, whatever, just begin! It will be life changing, I promise you.