I have been staring at this magnificent hill for about twenty minutes trying to gather courage to write. At 6.00am, the sky is dark and the hill only appears as a silhouette. I imagine that suddenly the curtains will fall and this script that I have driven so far to find will magically appear on the hill, like the Ten Commandments.
When daylight streams in, the hill gradually becomes visible. Sadly, there are no writings on it. Instead, I see it graciously curving inwards from the sides and rising tall in the middle, as if attempting to kiss the sky. Its curves and contours slowly reveal themselves. I see several troughs resembling conical pockets and I wonder whether they hold any water. A cloud that has been moving eastwards is now floating directly above the hill. I am jealous of its bird’s eye view.
Between the hill and the edge of the cliff where I am perched is a precipitous ridge that reminds me of the Grand Canyon, only that this one has shrubs jutting from the surface. I am seated on a tall stool at the edge of the terrace, my laptop resting on the ledge. I find myself swinging my right leg aimlessly. Suddenly, I become aware of the fact that if my sandal slid off my foot and fell off the terrace, I would have to mourn its demise. That’s how precarious my position is, which is both exciting (because of the view it affords me) and scary (because one uncalculated move would send me rolling down the cliff). I look behind me and through the wide glass door, I see the mister and the babies curled up in bed under the duvet. I feel sorry for them and turn my head back towards the hill, allowing its beauty to arrest me once again. I snap a few pictures and send them to a friend.
‘”Stunning! Jealous.” She writes.
“It’s my turn to eat.” I type back.
“Are you writing?” She asks, obviously trying to get back at me for showing off.
“Gathering the courage.” I write back and sigh, the burden of this monstrous task weighing heavily on me.
“If that view doesn’t give you courage, nothing will.”
I put off my phone, get back to the house and grab a James Patterson book from the shelf. Cautiously, I take the steps down the cliff to this outdoor bathtub. Curved out of a rock at the edge of the cliff, the bathtub is a fortress of solitude and tranquility, sheltering the inhabitant from the world yet allowing them this grandiose view of the world. I ran a bath, and slide in with the book in one hand and a glass of wine in another, never mind that it’s 7.00am.
Studying, as a working mother, is frustrating and daunting to say the least. I would wake up at 3.00am on most days with a head full of sleep and a heart that was anxious and unsettled. Some mornings I was on fire and once I sat at the dining table to study, I was convinced that I was hot to trot. But most nights, the concepts that I had spent days mastering evaporated like dew on a hot morning and my mind went blank.
At the library, I saw several mom’s enduring a similar struggle. They would have to walk out every now and then to check up on their kids, or dash home at 5.00pm to tend to them and tuck them in before getting back to their books. There’s one lady who had to find breaks to express milk from her gorged breasts. Her newest baby was one month old!
The aftermath was even worse. For a whole week after sitting the exam, I felt like I was permanently jet lagged and my brain was numb. I could not even do basic arithmetic. I had lunch with a friend two days after and in one of our conversations, I struggled to work out how long it had been since I was in my second year of uni.
“2006 to date should be 13 years, right?”
“Jeez Joy. Did you lose half your brain?”
“I lost more than that. My soul, my waistline and my creativity!” I snapped back.
Two weeks later, Xena had her end of term assessment at school. You know the stuff that four-year olds cover in school. Recognition, writing and addition of numbers and spelling. Addition is her forte and I always enjoy supervising such assignments. I love how her fingers suddenly sprout from clenched fists, and how she uses her mouth to add up all the fingers. Always a spectacle.
We rehearsed all the assessment points over the weekend without much trouble, except that she would always interchange some numbers, like 21 instead of 12 and 63 instead of 36. She would ace at least 46 out of 50 numbers though which was quite good. On Sunday night, before going to bed, we decided to give writing numbers 1 to 50 a quick shot. Unbelievably, she messed up all the numbers from 12 all the way 29, interchanging digits as she saw fit. There was no point going past 30.
I was furious and convinced that she was testing my patience. I wanted to tell her bad things like she would be last in class and she would never be able to buy herself Kinder Joy and that Mombasa would be a town she would only see on TV. The neighbor’s TV because she wouldn’t own one.
But then I remembered my struggles when revising for the CFA exam. How on some days, most concepts would seem completely alien. I then imagined that Xena was probably going through one of those anxiety attacks, so I took her to bed, said a prayer for her and tucked her in. In the morning after breakfast, we gave it a shot and she scored 48/50, only missing numbers 19 and 40.
Whether at 13 or 31, every point in life presents different struggles. The magnitude of the struggles vary, and their relevance differs. My struggles last month taught me to appreciate everyone’s battles and offer support without being flippant, however mundane some of them may seem.
Your four-year-old will have 478 questions for you every day without fail, some of which will make you quake with homicidal frustration. Xena once asked me whether I was “now a boy” because I had cut my hair and I found myself rolling my eyes at her. Once when stuck in traffic, she wanted to know what would happen “if cars remained at a standstill forever” and why the police are always controlling traffic. “Don’t adults know where they are going?”
In your 30s, you will most certainly struggle with striking a balance between furthering your education and career, and being fully present in your kids’ development. At 60, your folks are struggling with something, perhaps how to make the most of the remainder of their lives.
What is it they say about the more things change? CFA may have taken away half my brain alright, but it left me with sound life lessons.
Feels good to be back!
Olohoro Onyore Ndogo House in Champagne Ridge, Ngong Hills-Kajiado
[…] The last time I struggled this hard was in July, right after the monstrous CFA exam. I went to Champagne Ridge in Ngong, stared at some hills from 6.00am for about an hour and finally mustered the resolve to put my […]
Great to have you back! I was really looking foward to another of your great pieces…Your writing is just always on point and the sceneries…wow!
Thank you for reading and for your complement, Jane.
Am so inlove with the view and yeeeeiy ,welcome back Joy !! i had missed your sense of humor and picking one or two lessons from all your hilarious tales.
I doubt I still have my sense of humor though! Its hard being funny lately hehe
I love love your writing.Talking of exams, i can’t wait for this year to be over. I am preparing to seat my national exams( KCSE).Currently on my mid-term break and in those 16 years of my existence this is the toughest moment but its worth it. I really admire how you write,it helps me improve my writing skills in school too.
Your comment has humbled me, Wanjiru. To know that my posts actually inspire you to write better in school gives me immense motivation to write often. I had no idea my audience stretched as far as high school and now that I know, I will try and throw in inspirational content for the younger generation once in a while.
KCSE is tough but with ample preparation, you will ace it. All the best!
Very nice read.left me wishing i had kids already to ask me 437 questions.i saw you struggle am happy a lesson came out of it.
Be careful what you wish for Betty!
Happy to have you back. I have been through the struggle of being a working and studying mum and survived and I’m so proud of you for showing other mums that you can do it all. Where were the photos taken? The views are so beautiful!
I think women give stoicism a whole new meaning, Lolo.
Welcome back. That was a refreshing read.
Like a cold coke? Hehe
Such beautiful prose.
Its quite true that unless you have been in the same shoes before you can never quite understand the struggles that come with certain responsibilities.
I hope you are keeping well madam phenomenal woman!
I feel embarrassed for feeling overwhelmed with my school work and a few other activities that I’m in at school.. Considering I’m 23 years old and childless… That’s little compared to what working mums go through. I’d really missed your writing and started wondering if I was missing post notifications
Now you know Becks. It gets harder so make the most of now 🙂
You’re super woman for balancing this life act.
I love the breathtaking sceneries, the beautifully written piece and I relate to Xena’s struggles.
So are you, mummy of three 🙂