The battle to define YOU personally is raging and tragically, you can often pull the definition of who you are from what society says you should be, what your parents expect you to become, what your friends say is permissible and so on. However, at a specific point you have to change the narrative of your life and come to grips with the potential that lay dormant on the inside.
A certain woman, a second wife in a polygamous setting ended up in an inconvenient relationship where the first wife repeatedly verbally abused her. The husband and supposed provider of love and affection turned out to be a wife beater. Having purposely hidden his fits of rage and temper management issues during their encapsulated courtship, he showed his true colours as time went on in the marriage. He and the head wife, a lawyer, taunted her everywhere she turned. All she had to look forward to was an unhappy, defensive life, caring for a young child under unfavourable circumstances. Her biggest wish was an opportunity to be her own person but she had no fire left in her to fight any battles. The only thing she was good at was the craft of tying “gele” and even that gave her little joy.
But the repetitive practice of tying “gele” yielded great pride in the end for this lady. Earlier in life after her secondary school education, she found herself working in her aunt’s business, exceptionally working the head wraps for customers with great compliments and oversized tips. It was through this skill that a certain explosive encounter would happen.
For the wedding of her niece; a senior lady customs officer who often struggled with tying her “gele”, found herself under the expert service of our abused lady. With each effortless hand movement she tied the “gele” producing an ever so delicate weave of material with the width and glory of a peacock on display.
The Customs Officer marvelled at the ease and expertise of our abused wife and a conversation ensued. “This is amazing work, I am very pleased, where did you learn to tie gele so well?” She asked, but then quickly followed with, “you always look so forlorn and deeply troubled what is it?” She asked.
Now normally this second wife wouldn’t have shared the desperate nature of her family situation but today’s verbal bashing had been particularly painful; being described as illiterate and bush had been hurtful and disarming. So she opened up for the first time ever. The tears flowed like rain.
”You mean you have been going through this for 10 years; you seem very gifted and intelligent, where is your family?” The Custom Officer asked.
The shame was, it wasn’t a very unique situation to hear one’s parents explaining to a returning daughter that “all sales are final”; and explaining that all your distress is common to all women, soothing your confused look by telling you to return to your husband’s home and cook him his favourite meal because the way to a man’s heart is through his belly, and a male child.
The senior customs lady explained: “After the death of my father, I hawked second-hand clothes with my mother till we saved up enough for me to go to University of Lagos. Our situation was very dire as we had nothing, no hope and no one to support us. It looked like our situation was set and there was no changing the path of our lives but we decided to fight through and we got to settle into our destiny. Try never to believe the word of your negative situation.” She stressed.
With those words ringing in her ears she sought the help of her sister, who had always tried to liberate her from the clutches of her disadvantageous position. Finally she had built up the nerve to make a change; the determination not to take what life offers.
Although life is to be lived and savoured, it can also be gruesomely unfair; friends can be cruel, relationships can go bitter and you could work in a hellish job! But there comes a time in one’s life when one has to change the narratives; in one’s favour.
The way I see it is, too often low self-esteem, insecurities and people pleasing tendencies, rob us of our abilities to be fully formed, confident and strong. It should be noted that most of the women we admire were not created as the finished product that we see. At some point they chose to change the narratives.