Relationships

Letter to Dee

Dearest Dee,

It’s been a while. We don’t talk as often as we used to, and yet nothing has changed; not my admiration of your femininity, poise, wisdom, grace, eloquence and uncommon kindness, not your inexplicable fondness for and devotion to me, and certainly not our ability to talk about any and everything – when we do get to talk.

I remember the girl that I was when I first arrived Lagos. When I think of her, and then look at the woman I am today, two words flash before my eyes; God…Dee.

In May 2007 I left my little job in Warri after many months of longing for a better life. I remember walking home from work one day and, in a moment of intense awareness of the sheer ordinariness and tedium of my existence, muttering a quiet but heartfelt prayer: “God, please let me be somebody in this life.” So the next time my friend in Lagos raised the issue of relocating, I said yes without knowing how it would come about.

It turned out that saying yes to myself – yes to my potential, yes to my greatness, yes to more – was enough.

On the 4th of September 2007 I showed up ready to begin a career in Public Relations. I was prepared for work, but I was not prepared for you, Dee. When I first set eyes on you that first day at work, I had no way of knowing how much you would come to mean to me. It still amazes me how quickly we took to each other, even now that I can clearly see it was meant to be. What would a senior colleague, 11 years older than I for that matter, stand to benefit from a relationship with me?

I did not understand it at the time, but I do now. It was through your eyes that I truly saw myself for the first time. It was you who made me aware of my personal brand. My ability to look at a document and spot errors – from typos and grammatical blunders, to double spaces between words – was something I took for granted.

“It’s not about knowing English, Joy. I have a good command of the English Language myself; I was a broadcaster for almost a decade, FRCN trained. It’s the combination of language proficiency AND attention to detail. Don’t take it for granted. My husband’s company would benefit greatly from having someone like you.”

You influenced everyone in the office with your opinion of me. It wasn’t long before the MD insisted that no document leave the office without having been checked by me. You praised me publicly and corrected me privately. You gave me books and magazines to read. You gave me clothes, shoes and jewellery. You shared life experiences with me. And if that was all you did, it would have been enough.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our relationship is the fact that you did not need that job. Oh, everybody who worked there knew that; we all realized from the car you came to work in, the clothes you wore, and the trips to South Africa and Paris for medical checkups, that you were not there for the money; but it was only later in our friendship that I would realize just how much you did not need the money.

You also did not need to keep in touch with me after you resigned to go start a family. You were no longer my boss, and even though I still wanted to be friends with you, it was your call, really. And you chose to be my friend. You chose to drive from the Island to the mainland just to take me out for starch and banga soup. You took my calls and counselled me when the need arose. When it became necessary for me to leave that office, you recommended me for a role in your husband’s company.

The pride you took in me as I grew in my new job meant almost as much as the fat pay check. You made sure to tell me all the wonderful things your husband said about my intelligence, dedication and readiness to learn new things. “He believes you can do more than research. He says he’s discussed with the Consultant to train you as a scriptwriter.” By believing in me you gave me more than a job, Dee; you gave me a sense of worth, a new career, the opportunity to learn new skills and a lifelong mentor who taught me how to write documentary scripts, and more.

You saw my gifts when I couldn’t see them, and you did your best to open my eyes to my own value. I look at my life, count my blessings, and count you 10 times.

There’s no way I could possibly recount all the things you’ve given me and done for me, and all the opportunities I have had because of you. Neither is there any way I could ever pay you back. Still, when I remember the girl I was when I first arrived Lagos, and look at the woman I am now, I purpose in my heart that I will pay. I have made a commitment to be to someone what you have been to me, God willing. I will pay it forward.

 

Love,

Joy.

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Letter to My Friend, The Bride

The Bride

Girlfriend,

I’m so thrilled that you’re getting married, and I absolutely must share with you some things I knew before I got married, and a few others things I wish someone had told me before I got married.

First off let me say that while marriage can be challenging, it can also be delicious! You’re not going to get everything you’ve ever wanted in one man, I’m sure you’ve figured this out.

You need to believe that you CAN be happy in marriage, and this may require you to challenge conventional thinking and make your marriage your own, not a replica of your parents’ or friends’. That you should resist the temptation to compare him with other men or past boyfriends goes without saying of course. Sure there are things they could do that he can’t, but there are also things he does for you that they can’t, so don’t get carried away or let yourself be deceived.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Dwelling on things like leaving the toilet seat up/down and all such will drain your joy. Focus on the good stuff, the things your husband does well, the ways he makes you laugh. Don’t expect to get everything right straight away — allow yourself room to grow into wifehood.

There’ll be days when you’ll still feel single, and others when you’ll be very aware that you’re married. That’s okay, nothing is wrong with you. You are normal. If you ever find yourself longing for the freedom of your single days, or missing your cute little flat and the sleepovers we enjoyed so much, remember how much you wanted to be married and how in love you are with him now. Some days you won’t feel that love but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Love is being a good student of your husband, looking out for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way. So respect him and be sensitive to these needs. It won’t always be easy to meet them, but do your best and his happiness and joy will reward you.

Don’t hold grudges. Try to settle quarrels quickly and make up as soon as you can. Don’t rush the process but be quick to remember that you’re on the same side. Forgive him. Forgive him. Forgive him. Discussing your issues and arguments with other people is an easy way to give the enemy a foothold. Master the art of settling your issues between you both. It’s your marriage, after all.

I know you have a hard time talking and I’m not sure if he’s as good at prying things out of you as I am (in fairness I have two decades of experience in my pocket) but you must make every effort not to bottle things up inside. Communicate, talk about everything: money, in-laws, sex, everything. If you feel uncomfortable about something always tell him so, and encourage him to do the same. This alone will work wonders for your marriage.

Don’t let yourself go, even when the kids come. Keep exercising to stay fit and healthy, and don’t stop paying attention to your personal grooming for any reason. Know the way he likes you to look, and work with what you’ve got to always look that way. Never forget that men are visually stimulated, and there are women out there willing to do anything to please him, get him and keep him, but he’s yours so you must stay on top of your game. You cannot fail God.

And about sex — you’ve heard many times how important it is, so I’m going to tell you something you’ve never heard; it’s SUPER important! And not just for him but for you too. It’s not just about physical release; sex in marriage creates a spiritual and emotional bond that you simply can’t get any other way. It also clears the air after a quarrel just as well as it relieves stress. That said, it’s a basic physical need for men in a way that it isn’t for most women, and your response to him has a direct effect on his ego. So, say “no” sparingly and caringly. True, you won’t always be in the mood, but you’ll find that if you open your arms to him you’ll find yourself warming up and maybe even getting your groove on.

Read, ask questions, and keep learning.  If you aren’t enjoying what he’s doing, gently steer him away to something you like. Don’t just lie there and let him think you’re enjoying it when it does nothing for you. Show him what you like and let him know when he’s doing something right — he’s not a mind reader. Be creative, but more than that be enthusiastic. Few things please a man as well as a willing wife. Even God loves a cheerful giver.

You’ve always been a good girl, but trust me that won’t score you many points in bed. A fulfilling sex life is more vital to a happy marriage than I can say here right now, but you can be sure I’ll mail you again. For now just let go and allow yourself to feel, to explore and to enjoy your husband, and all the wonderful joys and pleasures that marriage has to offer. Big Brother is not watching you.

Love,

Joy.