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