A Place of No Return

My Commentary on the Book Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking affected me so deeply that the words to express it seem insufficient. I will do my best to explain. Didion writes, “grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it”. She continues by saying that we anticipate death and we expect that when it comes, we will be melancholic. We however fail to see past the few days following a death. We think only of the loss in the moment it occurs and the ritualistic events that follow like the gathering of guests at the home, and the funeral. Didion suggests the mourning and grieving process after the demise of a loved one does not follow the ideals we have bought into. You do not necessarily mourn their death, then grieve for a month or so as you gradually heal. We are incapable of imagining or understanding wholly, “the unending absence that follows”, “the void” when we lose those dearest to us.

The Year of Magical ThinkingAt the risk of revealing too much of myself and altering Didion’s work as I apply her memoir to my life, I will share a personal experience. Until 2018 I had been fortunate in my adult life not to experience the loss of a close family member or friend. I specify adult life because there were deaths in my childhood, but I was too young to make sense of them.

My grandmother was in and out of hospital leading up to her eventual passing at the end of January 2018. In the earlier days of her illness after discharge from hospital, she returned to her home in Kericho, Kenya. She called me a day or two later. It was just before midday. I was staring at the computer screen at the office when my cellphone light started to flash, signaling an incoming call. Batiem the screen read. I hate to admit this: I took a second or two debating whether to answer it then or to return her call later. I answered it. At the end of the call my Batiem said, “Don’t be so quiet Chelang’at. I love you.” I remember musing at her modernity in expressing her love for me. Kenyans do not openly express affection. We demonstrate our love through actions like preparing a steaming flask of strong milk tea or hugging. That was the first time I heard my grandmother use those words. It was also the last conversation I had with her. Months after the funeral when I returned to Winnipeg I reflected on that conversation. “Did she know what was to come? Is that why she said it? Was she making certain that I knew that she loved me?” 

Didion returns to a similar question many times in her memoir. She writes about a time John asked her to jot something down for him to use later in a book he was writing. When she handed the note to him, he told her she could use it in her writing if she wanted. Didion finds herself wondering if perhaps he knew he was going to die. “Did he know he would not write the book?”, “Was something telling him that night that the time for being able to write was running out?”. On one of their many trips from visiting their daughter Quintana at the hospital, John said to Didion, “I don’t think I’m up for this”. She responded to him saying he did not have a choice in the matter. That was the week he died. “I have wondered since if he did” she says. The most striking example of this question of whether the dead know before it happens, occurred (as Didion says) either three hours or twenty-seven hours before John died. John expressed his regret for having wasted time in New York and his dissatisfaction with a lot of his work. Didion writes that, “he believed he was dying. He told me so, repeatedly. I dismissed this”.   

The documentary The Center Will Not Hold (available on Netflix) directed by Griffin Dunne profiles many scenes of Joan Didion’s family life intersecting with her writing life. It is a revealing documentary because both Dunne and friends of Didion echo some of the experiences she shares in her memoir. It brought Didion’s question of John’s knowledge of his upcoming death to life. Dunne shared a story where Didion was staring at John’s clothes in the closet. He assumed they had the same thought, to get rid of John’s clothes. When he said this to her, Didion asked him “but what if he comes back? A question to which Dunne confesses, “at that moment, it didn’t seem farfetched at all. In fact, it seemed plausible”. I listened to Dunne’s confession and recognized his voice was still raw with emotion. I thought back to my Batiem’s funeral when the men with their big shovels began pouring heaps of dirt into the grave. I had panicked as I watched the men working, “but what if she wants to come home?”. 

Didion’s memoir depicts mourning and grieving in the most pragmatic manner. She makes it clear that grieving is not a forward progression to healing but rather a jumbled mashup of good and bad days and random triggers. Her memoir affected me deeply because I could relate so well to her grief. A day or two after we learned of my grandmother’s passing a lady from our church visited. My mother was in her room when this visitor arrived, so my friend and I sat with her in the living room. After a few minutes of small talk, she said to me laughing, “you aren’t crying, you’re taking it so well”. I stumbled for words then turned to my friend who immediately changed the topic. I have never been one to cry in front of people so I did everything I could to hold back the tears. I did not listen to the rest of that conversation; my mind was racing. “It’s okay” the social worker said about Didion to the doctor, “she’s a pretty cool customer”. Didion later pondered to herself, “I wondered what an uncool customer would be allowed to do. Break down? Require sedation? Scream?”. I asked myself similar questions after that visit.  

Didion is careful to preserve the memory of those she lost while at the same time sharing fairly intimate details about their lives. She does not neglect her ethical responsibility to John. The memoir was particularly enjoyable to me because she gives room to the reader to imagine the emotion. Didion does not tell us how she feels but rather demonstrates it. The truth of the matter is one does not understand grief until you are in it. As Didion said, “time is the school in which we learn”. Only experience gives you the opportunity to find the mourning or grieving that works for you. There is no one way, there is no right amount of time and there certainly is no self-help book that will teach you to do it well. The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir that says it is okay to be where you are and to feel as you feel. 

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The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Home is Where We Are

When I was a child, my father worked for the land arm of the Kenya Defence Forces. As a military member, he was relocated to different parts of the country every few years. This meant that there was never one specific place I called home. Continue reading “Home is Where We Are”

Any is Better Than None

There have been many dashing, funny, loving, thoughtful men whom I have crossed paths with who would have loved to have me in their lives.

There have been men whose voices mesmerized me. Whose romantic gestures blew me away. Whose undoubtable desire for me would have caused me to throw caution to the wind and fly away with them.

There have been men, incredibly loving men who looked at me like Continue reading “Any is Better Than None”

DEER + ALMOND, MY SUMMER TREAT

I was at Dear + Almond sometime in the summer and was pleasantly surprised. My girlfriend and I had often walked or driven past their establishment without giving them much thought. The clean white exterior with Deer + Almond in black did not do much to lure us in. We were curious, but not enough to take than next step until one day Saturday afternoon we decided to drive to the Exchange to try something new.

Looking at the menu was like reading Greek to me. Thanks to my able assistant Mr. Google, I settled on grilled romaine with feta, sikil pak and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. Sikil Pak, Google told me, is a delicious thick pumpkin seed dip used in place of guacamole. Google wasn’t wrong to call it delicious. It was a smooth, smokey  and sweet thick paste-a delicate taste. I would choose it any day over guacamole. Although I should probably learn how to pronounce it.

When the chore of ordering was done, I sat back to enjoy Deer + Almond’s ambience. The restaurant has an air of elegance and warmth with a hint of quiet buzzing from conversations around our table.

Most of the tables in the small room were occupied. The diners seemed to be enjoying their meals and conversations. Some were sharing while others ate only from their own plates. It was interesting to observe the meal sharing as I had never been to a Tapas Bar before. Our waiter brought us a bowl of cinnamon popcorn on the house to enjoy while awaiting our meal.

When my food arrived I was a little confused. I mean, I knew it was going to have some lettuce in it. I just didn’t realize lettuce would be the entire meal. I should have known, I suppose. It was a starter, under the title “smalls” on their menu-plus it literally said ‘grilled romaine lettuce’.

I hesitated to take a bite.

After analyzing the food I equipped myself with fork and knife bracing for that first bite. I was transported to another world. That was definitely the best first bite of anything I have ever eaten. The romaine letters were just right, well grilled but crunchy. The thick sigil pak and pumpkin seed vinaigrette added a sophisticated sweetness to the grilled vegetables. The feta added that nice tangy salty taste that brought everything together. It was delightful. And quite filling. For a plate of lettuce I was a rather stuffed. I had no room for the main course or dessert. My girlfriend and I ordered some drinks to wash down our meals. And that was our lovely evening.

Deer + Almond turned out to be a treat. I will certainly pay them another visit!

Budgeting As a People Pleaser

Over the weekend I went to a cabin in riding mountain, Manitoba. It was fantastic.

My family, along with some of our family friends made plans for this trip and travelled together for the weekend. We planned on having dinner at the cabin, going to a concert and having a bonfire later that night. Then going to Clear Lake for the day the following morning. Continue reading “Budgeting As a People Pleaser”

Birthday Month, A Day from Hell & Banking Fees

February is my birthday month. I’m turning 30 in nine days people. I’m so excited. I’ve been on this earth for three whole decades and yet there’s still so much to learn. When I was kid I remember looking at adults and thinking ‘must be nice to know and have everything’. Ha! Little did I know. Continue reading “Birthday Month, A Day from Hell & Banking Fees”

2018 in Review

Last year today, I published an article that highlighted the lessons I learnt through the year 2017. As I went through 2018 I carried those lessons with me. My instincts became my best friend. I made a point of listening to them. I took each day in completely and lived it without holding back or focusing on the day after. Everyday became a new adventure. When I faced challenging situations I remembered to keep on breathing. I made an effort to keep most of those lessons in my mind each day. Because of it, 2018 was a very productive year for me. Continue reading “2018 in Review”

The Fisherman’s Gift

A long time ago when I was maybe six or seven years old  an old toothless neighbour passed by our house on his way home from an evening of fishing at a nearby river. He often passed by to say hello to my father who was his tribesman. Onyango was not concerned about his appearance. His clothes were often tattered as if to represent the passing of time. On his feet he wore akala sandals made from old car tires. Continue reading “The Fisherman’s Gift”

Mothers Are a Gift

The past couple of weeks I haven’t written anything because burnout. I am working two jobs, day and night. So yeah. But I doubt you’re interested in hearing all about that. That’s my problem, not yours. Here goes a little something…

***                           ***                                   ***

Many years ago there lived a girl in a small little neighbourhood in Nairobi, the capital City of Kenya. We will call her Trish.

Trish was a lovely happy little girl. At the time she must have been about nine or ten years old. She longed to play with her friends after school although her mother was quick to reprimand her for roaming about the neighbourhood. Continue reading “Mothers Are a Gift”

Don’t Feel, Calculate and Other Sunday Thoughts

womenThe other day I was talking to one of my closest friends, I call him my voice of reason. I was ranting, actually. I was not happy about how some things turned out. I was also afraid of what was going to happen. I told him that I had a potential solution to the problem. When he asked me why I thought my solution would help I said that I kept feeling like my current situation was contributing to the issue. He then said three very simple words to me.

‘Stop feeling. Calculate.’ Continue reading “Don’t Feel, Calculate and Other Sunday Thoughts”

I’ve Caught the Winnipeg Jets Bug

Winnipeg Jets

I Admit it.

I know nothing about sports. Like zip, nada. Not. A. Thing.

There, I said  it.

I’m not particularly proud of this but I stopped trying to figure sports out years ago. Honestly, it bores me to death. Sports. All sports, are a total bore to me.

Winnipeg Jets

Now enter the Winnipeg Jets and the current Stanley Cup playoffs. Continue reading “I’ve Caught the Winnipeg Jets Bug”

Winnipeg Is Definitely A Lovely Place to Live

I have lived in Winnipeg for eight years now. The one thing that I hear people say literally every single day is how this place sucks. If we are being completely honest, I too have said that on several occasions. Many times, in fact.

Winnipeg is small. I find that most people live in their little cocoons connecting with only the people they’ve known all their lives. I am guilty of that too. I mostly stick with my family, and friends that I met when I first arrived.

But when I go out to explore different events and interact with people outside of my usual circle, I find that Winnipeg has so much to offer. I have decided that the reason why a lot of us complain about this cute little town we live in is because we don’t give it a chance. And we definitely don’t go out  to explore it.

Lucky for y’all I connected with an amazing photographer @gyk26 who is bringing Winnipeg right to your screen. The Peg is beautiful and it is full of life. Enjoy these incredible photos today. Tomorrow, step out and explore for yourself -after all the winter is behind us. 

Also tell us about your favourite spots at the Peg in the comments section.

Credit Card Debt Could Take Over 50 Years to Be Fully Paid Off

For the past little while money has been on my mind. I want this year to be the year that I focus on saving, growing my emergency fund, completely getting rid of debt and investing more than I ever have before. So far its going really well. The other day I was reading up and learning about credit card debt and stumbled about a very simple detail that got me super excited.

 

Did You Know…

 

…in Canada, banks are required Continue reading “Credit Card Debt Could Take Over 50 Years to Be Fully Paid Off”

A Horrible Tragedy: The Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash

The Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash

In Saskatchewan, last Friday, a tragic accident occurred that led to the loss of 15 lives. There were 28 passengers on the bus. The crash involved the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos and a semi-trailer.

10 players and five team personnel, were killed in the crash. Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published an article sharing specific information about each of these people.  Continue reading “A Horrible Tragedy: The Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash”

Assiniboine Park Conservatory is Now Closed

Assiniboine Park Conservatory
Photo by @gyk26

The Assiniboine Park Conservatory has officially closed today.

The Conservatory has been a part of Winnipeg since 1914 (yikes!). That is a long time.

It was certainly not easy to say goodbye to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park Conservatory this past weekend. Continue reading “Assiniboine Park Conservatory is Now Closed”

Chronic Child Poverty Rates – Manitoba

child povertyChild Poverty in Manitoba

A report published on November 21, 2017 found that child poverty rates in Manitoba are chronic.

In 1989 (before many of you were born lol), the House of Commons made a commitment to end child poverty by the year 2000.

An annual publication called The Manitoba Child and Family Report Card provides progress reports on Manitoba’s efforts to ending child poverty.

The 2017 report card indicates that 59.4% of Manitoban children living with a single parent are in poverty. This is 16% higher than the national average.

The poverty rate among children living with two parents is 17.3% which is 6.9% higher than the national average.

Well, obviously child poverty has not ended. In fact, according to the report, the rate of poverty in Manitoba increased to a chronic level by 19.6% between 1989 and 2015.

Why is child poverty in Manitoba at a critical level?child poverty

  • Manitoba Labour Market is Failing Children

According to the report, if only market income (income from employment and investments only) was to be considered, 36.2% of children in Manitoba would be living below the Low Income Measure.

This is to say that more than 35% of Manitoban children would be poor if government transfer payments were not factored into the statistics.

It is also important to note that the minimum wage in Manitoba is currently $11.15.

  • Government Income Transfer Programs are Failing Helping Children

Federal benefits are equally distributed amongst the provinces and territories. However family structure, age, disability rate and unemployment rate partially affect the amounts received.

The percentage reduction in child poverty through the use of of government transfers is 13.5% below the national percentage.

An example used in the report indicates that a single parent with a 2 year old, would receive lower welfare income lower in 2015 ($17,103) than in 1986 ($17,225).

According the report all welfare incomes in 2015 were much lower than the poverty line.

  • Poor Quality Jobs and Low Wages are Failing Manitoba Children

The irony is that the unemployment rate in Manitoba in 2015 was the second lowest in the country. That sounds good right?

The issue is that while the unemployment rate was amongst the lowest, the average weekly earnings in Manitoba were fifth lowest in Canada. In simple word, while a good percentage of the population is employed, they mostly have odd jobs and/or receive low wages.

The 2017 report card emphasizes that well paying sustainable jobs are required to prevent poverty.

Child Poverty
Winnipeg

What Is Currently Being Done?

The report made a firm call on the Pallister government to immediately start working on a Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The government encouraged Manitobans to complete surveys or to share written submissions on poverty reduction to facilitate the development of an effective poverty reduction strategy.

The window to participate was finally closed on March 23rd after its initial extension from the January 31st deadline.

The government is now going into the next phase in developing a poverty reduction strategy for the province. I cannot wait to see what they come up with.

PS: The data used in this article is from the most recent statistics published in 2015.

Why Relationships and Sex are a Destruction in early 20s

I have come to the conclusion that relationships and sex in early 20s are a terrible idea. Someone once mentioned that having multiple sex partners over the years, is like gluing two pieces of paper together and then taking them apart.

Each piece of paper is left with tears and holes and little pieces from the other paper. This makes each of those papers thinner. If that piece is later taken and glued to another then separated again, it becomes even thinner.

Continue reading “Why Relationships and Sex are a Destruction in early 20s”

Deliberate Dating: Embracing Your Worth in Dating

Deliberate dating is a concept that cannot be emphasized enough. Finding an ideal life partner is a pretty big deal. When committing to another person we tie our lives to theirs. We need to become deliberate about who we date.

I strongly feel that it is important to be very deliberate about the value we place on ourselves as women in the dating market. And of course as a result, who we allow to woo us.

Our society looks at dating as this fun dance where we make each other happy. We buy into the idea of fate, destiny and happily ever after. We think that if we can finish each other’s sentences and laugh at each other’s jokes then we were made for each other.

Movies and books have persuaded us that there is a special person made just for us. We are convinced that when we eventually meet this special person, everything will fall into place.

But when we look at divorce rates the numbers are staggering. An article by Jayne Embree, a divorce coach, says that an average marriage in Canada lasts 13.7 years. Global news published an article on January 2016 that indicates that Canada’s divorce rate is 48% .

According to The Statistics Portal, the average length of a marriage is 8 years in the U.S.A. The rate of divorce however, has not increased since the 1980s.

These divorce statistics only account for first marriages. With the inclusion of second and third marriages (or more for those really brave souls), these percentages would be much higher. Research suggests that subsequent marriages are more likely to end in divorce .

This article is not meant to terrify, but to bring awareness.

Deliberate dating is carefully evaluating the assets possessed by that potential someone. What is he bringing into the relationship? Will that union better you or pull you back?

People walk into marriage with the intention of staying married. But based on the divorce rates above, far too many find themselves divorcing. I strongly feel that to increase our chances of having successful relationships, we need to start deliberate dating.

A woman needs to embrace her value as she interacts with her love interests. She needs to keep in mind the attributes she has developed over time. Things such as beauty and the efforts put into it, educational qualifications, careers built, social status and so on, increase her value on the dating market. These are assets that she brings to the table.

An ideal partner would be someone with all those gushy qualities like (handsome, funny etc) and similar assets in education, career and so on.

Marriage is a partnership, kind of like a business. When signing a business contract, one looks at the individual’s track record, their ability to get the job done, their profitability and the list goes on. One deliberately selects a business partner who shows promise of success. In the same way when dating, one needs to deliberately select a significant other who will bring value to the relationship.

REALLY evaluate the men you would like to date. Do they see your value? Can they match it? There is no point of working so hard to further ourselves only to be dragged down. Don’t settle for less than you are worth.
Know your value and aim higher.

Dating: Romantic coastal getaway
Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. -Rumi