Thursday, December 16, 2004

Goodbye Mama, I'm sorry

My grandmother (Mama to her grandkids) died in her sleep about four months ago. She'd been getting progressively sicker for the better part of decade so I cant say it was totally unexpected. Somehow it still managed to blindside me. We weren't particularly close, I saw her on sundays after church (back when I went to church) and she lived with us for a brief while. I hadn't actually seen her since the last time I was in Ghana, almost three years ago. I always had mixed feelings about her. Truth be told, I hated her for a while. She hurt my mother more than once and treated all her daughters far worse than she treated her sons, even though her daughters took care of her. I'm not a vengeful person by nature. Generally I'm good at letting stuff go and not holding grudges. Except if you hurt my family. The things my grandmother did hurt my mother deeply and I never forgave her. After she died, I didn't mourn. A part of me felt happy in a perverse sort of way. Mostly though, I was conflicted.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited my aunt. While I was there, she handed me a huge stack of pictures she had taken when she was in Ghana for the funeral. Most of tham were pictures of family. My parents, cousins, uncles, aunts, family friends. Buried somewhere in the middle of the stack were two pictures of my grandmother in her casket.All of a sudden, old memories rose to the surface. I when I was a child, my mother would pass by her house every sunday after church. I'd run up to her and give her a kiss on the cheek. Then I would grab whatever sweets she had for me and run into her sitting room to watch cartoons and read my grandfather's old encyclopedias. When she got really sick for a while and came to live with us, she would be sitting on the porch every morning reading her bible. I would go by and kiss her in the cheek and watch her smile. Whatever she did in the past, she's still my grandmother and I'll never get to see her smile again. That hurts alot more than I expected. Wherever she is, I hope she can forgive me for carrying this grudge around for as long as I did. I'll miss her.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Random musings: smoking and the '' ads

One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that I may have saved a man's life. This is actually a story my father tells a lot. When I was about eight years old and equipped with the fearlessness of childhood, I talked one of his partners into giving up smoking. We were visiting his home one day when I noticed him holding a pack of cigarretes and proceeded to point out how unhealthy the habit was for him and especially for his newborn child. With hindsight, I suspect now that part of my reason for calling him out was the fact that my grandfather, who I adored though I never really got to know him, lost a lung to a pipe smoking habit. Either way, I argued with him for a long while, reportedly showing an eloquence far beyond my years and thoroughly embarrasing my parents. A couple of weeks later, my father told me that he'd quit smoking beacuse of me.
Why did I tell you this? Partially because I always thought it was a good story and partially to note that as an eight year old in a developing country with limited access to information, I already knew smoking was bad for you. Anyone who picks up the habit now has no excuse for blaming cigarette companies. I'm sure they really are evil soulless bastards who would turn us all into addicts at the drop of a hat without losing a moment's sleep. Most large corporations are the same way. The fact still remains that we don't have to buy their products and in this day and age there is no excuse for not being aware of the dangers. People blaming cigarette companies for their lung cancer are like people blaming fast food restaurants for their weight problems. As mature adults we are responsible for what we put into our bodies regardless of how much advertising surrounds those products. If we choose to be ignorant, we can't blame people for exploiting that ignorance. Granted they aren't nice people(I believe the term 'soulless' might have come up in this post) but they are dependent on our ignorance for their survival. They lose their power the moment we choose to take responsibility for ourselves and stop listening to them.
Might I suggest, therefore, that instead if ads telling us about how evil tobacco companies are, we try a simpler approach. "Smoking may look cool, but it will probably steal away years of your life and a large chunk of your money. It will also hurt those around you. If you are prepard to live with that, good luck to you"
The End

Fear and self esteem: a promise to myself

I am having a hard time studying. I start working on a topic and then lose motivation, wander off and do something else. Usually I begin to get motivated late at night or close to deadlines and manage to get just enough work done so I do okay in my classes. I never fail, I just never do well or even begin to live up to my potential.
Intellectually, I know what to do. I know how my time should be organized and what I should be working on. The problem is confidence. Somewhere in the back of my mind, the idea has taken root that I am not particularly intelligent or attractive or worthy. This fear has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don't ask questions in class for fear that I'll look stupid. I don't study because I'm afraid I won't understand the material and this will prove I'm an idiot. This despite the fact that, when I do study, I tend to have a quick mind for concepts and a great memory.
I have horrible interpersonal relationships with people because I'm afraid they won't like the real me so I either ignore them for long stretches of time or I pretend to be the kind of person I think they'll like. This despite the fact that those who have gotten to know the real me generally think better of me than I do of myself.
I also run from the merest hint of conflict, even if I'm right. Fear of losing keeps me from malking an honest attempt. This has been my largest failing in every martial arts I've ever taken. Despite being from a family of natural athletes, I hold myself back for fear of failure. Everyone I've ever trained under has said I have a great deal of potential. I'm just rarely confortable enough in my own skin to live up to it.
I hate constantly almost failing but the idea of true success scares me. I guess because it would mean creating a new image of myself and I'm confortable with this one.
Either way, I'm done with this version of myself. I owe it to myself and to those I love to strive for my full potential. I might still fail, but at least it will be honest failure, not a sham where I barely try. I'm also going back to my old kung fu school. Hopefully I can still patch things up with Master Wang. I owe it to myself to find out if I have the potential he saw in me. I'm going to put 2 hours every day to meditate and train. I'm going to put in the time that my studies deserve. This blog will, among other things, chronicle my journey towards living up to my own potential. See you on the road

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Wire (R.I.P Stringer Bell)

I took my standard sunday night study break to watch tonight's episode of HBO's 'The Wire'. It would have been a better study break if I had actually gotten any real work done before midnight but that's another story. I'm a huge fan of the storytelling on this show and of the writers' willingness to take chances like killing off popular characters. Their willingness to make strong statements about the futility of the war on drugs and honestly depict the politics inherent in law enforcement don't hurt either. That said, I will miss Idris Elba as Stringer Bell.
Favourite moment of this episode: The opening scene where Omar and Brother Mouzone have a western style face-off. The dialogue and chemistry between the two characters was perfect.
I hope there will be a season four. Television needs more shows like this.

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Hello all.
I honestly have no idea how many people will ever read this blog. Hopefully i won't be the only one but even if I am, the act of writing down my thoughts in a public forum should do me some good.
Either way, welcome to my blog. Enjoy.