Sankofa – Gotta look back to go forward

2017 was a year of learning and faith building. I had 3 key ambitions:

  1. Clear my debt
  2. Buy my flat
  3. Pass my UK driving test

It is funny the way life goes, you get so caught up in your life that you miss when you start accomplishing your goals because you are so caught up in them. But as I sit here with about 5 days left of the year I can say I have accomplished all my goals and even that realisation has taken time for me to register it and feel good about myself, proud of myself for getting this done.

I have to say that in all of these goals God was fully present because the challenges and barriers that tried to pop up, internal and external, could have stopped any one of them from happening but I prayed and stepped into true faith – letting God take control and listening to that voice within and doing what the voice says.

I’m going to take this lesson into 2018 so to begin I am going to do this Wheel of Life exercise and see what needs working on!

wheel of life 1

This is the one I used but there are more, I added spirituality as that is important to me!

Fun and Recreation – 4 out of 10

This year I stepped out more and put greater effort into having some fun, meeting up with friends and family, going to places I like (theatre, galleries and restaurants) but I want to do more – I love food but less food related activities going forward would be good. I would like to carve out more time to see friends, family and one on one time with my God-children.

I have allowed myself to become quite lethargic and home body like so I am going to switch off the box sets and back to back series and start using my evenings again.

Career – 5 out of 10

My career has been coasting for one reason and another but that will stop now and I will start giving it the action based attention it needs. This means looking at where I am and being brave enough to fully admit where I want to go. It also means putting in the time to learn what I need to know so I can be who I need to be to make my ambitions happen and follow the path God has carved out for me. On this point I have to say I have been meandering along my life path and accomplished some cool things but I have to say I keep coming back to a particular point on my life path in terms of my purpose and I feel it is time I followed through…it’s time!

Health – 6 out of 10

I feel pretty good but I know I can be a lot better. I have been having concentration and memory problems, feeling sluggish and definitely want to increase my general fitness (damn those stairs mocking me!). I am having a health check tomorrow and then I will know where I stand medically. I already know I have to be more disciplined with my lactose and gluten intolerance because it definitely plays a prominent part in feeling the way I have been feeling. Not to mention making me incredibly bloated!

I am also going to introduce some supplements in my life, research has shown me what I need so let’s see. I am also going to work on developing a health regime that is enjoyable for me so:

  • Running appeals to me and setting some distance goals would be good so 5K, 10K here I come and let’s see where we go from there
  • Starting a proper gym programme so I can have guidance, focus and someone I am accountable too
  • Dancing nicely crosses between health and recreation pole dancing or/and modern dancing yes please

I just want to feel good, awake and agile mentally and physically J

Personal Development – 5 out of 10

Financial knowledge is at the forefront of my mind and I have bought some books in this area, what needs to happen is the focus and discipline to learn it (seeing a theme here right?). I really want to have a clear idea and the ability to run my finances properly and those of others who may need it. I have been playing with the idea of a project management course but the tipping point of commitment hasn’t hit yet.

I have also been doing a lot of meditation, reflection and reading on getting my relationship with me on point. Below are some links to some of my favourites. I do feel they have helped me and so I will continue to use them as part of my self-knowledge and enhancing tools.

I still have work to do on my full honesty with those closest to me and to myself I suppose. I also have to work on my anger and irritation thresholds – probably linked with the points just mentioned – toxic emotions and pent up feelings trickle out in negative ways.

Friends and Family – 6 out of 10

I think I have been pretty supportive this year with family and friends and this feels good to me. I think I need to work harder with some as I would like to have/ maintain strong relationships with some people. I want to stop letting the fact that someone hasn’t called or contacted me first or back stop me from seeing or staying in touch with people I care about.

I also want to make new friends this year. Meet people with different interests, knowledge, ways of looking at and being in the world – open my eyes to more.

Environment – 5 out of 10

This is an interesting one. I am in London which I like (for now) but know I want to do more with this city I call home. I am blessed to be able to live where I live and that is the thing I have to think about am I ready to make my home a home or am I going to continue to save and wait for the ‘right time’. Even writing that provides my answer, there is no ‘right’ time there is now and so what is the best thing for me right now?

At some point this year I would like to go and stay in Ghana for maybe a month and see what is going on there and whether there is a place for me in the mix, we’ll see.

Finance – 7 out of 10

I think this may be the first time that my finances do not cause me anxiety or palpitations. I am developing a healthy relationship with money, saving and the ‘importance’ of money in life. This year showed me that money has allowed me to help and support those I care about but God’s currency, my time and attention, has a very high value as well and I must not get them confused and fall in the trap of thinking money is the answer to everything, because it provides part of the answer but is generally not the full solution!

Romance/ Significant Other – 2 out of 10

To be honest even that 2 is hella generous!!! I have played with some online/ app type sites and gone on some dates. I met some very nice people but I have no spark, no excitement and most importantly no in-depth connection. I know it is not just them I have a part to play for sure. Part of my self-development has been looking at my behaviour towards relationships, men, love and I can feel I am getting closer to break through. I have been carrying some stuff that I needed to address head on and resolve, I am going through that as I type so we’ll see where I am on the other side.

This is an area that is important to me and I honestly do want a romantic significant other, marriage, children and all that having a family means, so I have to do my part to help this happen.

This meditation has been interesting on finding your partner.

Spirituality – 8 out of 10

I feel I have been open to the presence and voice of God very much this year. I don’t always understand what or why the things that happen have happened but in all the things good has always come out of it. For my continued growth and relationship with God I will commit to Hillsong and the way this makes me feel a bit nervous lets me know this is the path for me. In fact with all things if it makes me nervous or uncomfortable I know it is something I have to step into with faith, trust and love.

And so….

The life cycle was a helpful exercise actually, glad I did it and am sharing it with you. I am going to keep my goals to myself for now and maybe mid-year or this time next year I’ll let you know how far I got. I wish you a 2018 that makes you feel that you have grown, achieved some things, learnt some things and you are better for it. Just remember what you think you want may not be what you are supposed to have right now so try not to overlook what you do accomplish because it wasn’t part of your plan there are bigger plans in the works.

Much love and chocolate xxxx

 

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Like you only have a year to live

We drift through life, this life in these bodies like we are immortal, like there will always be a tomorrow. I have been procrastinating my way through life like I have the luxury of putting off for tomorrow what should be done, focused on and celebrated today. I don’t do it joyfully, no even worse I chastise myself, I look enviously at others who are ‘just doing’ while I am continually planning and I feel the moments of my life pass by.

I feel I have been receiving messages that I need to stop wasting this life, these gifts that I have been granted and get on with it. I just had the thought that I should live my next year like it was my last. I already had the thought to do 39 things in my 39th year but this other thought has just come to me. Live each day if it was your last, write your obituary now and make it happen, make the most of this life game before you no longer are able to play.

What does this mean? I guess it means I am going to have to stop listening to myself because the little voice inside is uncomfortable with change and doesn’t want us (me, myself and I) to have to deal with rejection, failure, disappointment, embarrassment or any form of discomfort. We all know that is not how life and expansion works, you need the pain of growth, the discomfort of change and the uncomfortability of stepping out of your comfort zone.

I will start to assemble my support team now because I am old enough and self-aware enough to recognise I cannot do this life game on my own and play it the way I want too. I am not excited or scared I just feel resolve, ready and so here we go!

I’ll keep you updated and I welcome words, articles, pictures and anything else of support!

First step my health is my wealth…..

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Self portrait

I can be horrid

I can be down right cruel

I could rival the meanest, vilest vile thing

I can be the worst kind of ghoul
I can be sunshine and daffodils

I can be sweetness and light

I could bend over backwards and forwards 

I can make your life feel right
I am human

Who else could I be 

I am perfectly imperfect yet, made perfectly

I am me
Having one of those ‘confronted with the truth of who I am’ kind of days. It’s no secret, I am quite self aware – I know who and what and how I am. Maybe not to the full extent of how others see me, but I am not clueless or delusional.

I am aware enough to own ‘my shit’ but also not self indulgent enough to take that ‘shit’ which is not mine. My behaviour is my responsibility, your response to my behaviour is yours.

I’m not writing any more lists, I’m not going into a spiral of inner self discovery. I’m going to try a new way. I started writing this morning, that feels good, that way healing lies. 

I’m not going to roll into a ball, I’m going to stretch up and out, I’m going to get out and meet people. Work with my emotions to see what stirs the tempest within, what blows forth the thick clouds of discontent and anger. What or who or how must I be to get back to being the happy, open trusting youngun I was before life stepped in, life and people.

I want to enjoy a hug from a friend, not want to cringe or lash out at a persons touch. To trust and breakdown these walls built high and strong and robust. Fortified with barbed wire around my inner core, my heart. 

My emotions are like an autoimmune disease. In their bid to protect me they have forgotten how to distinguish between the good and the bad, the pain and the promising potential. So all is lost and I am safe in my isolation. 

I am bored of this existence, time for a new one. 

A profound message on a fast food take away chicken shop bag ‘if you could have your life over what would you change?’ has me wondering because I know I can change my life tomorrow if I so choose.

So, what do I choose? 

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What am I doing? 

That is what I am lying here asking myself as I am a little ill. Also it is the beginning of the year and so it seems inevitable, as well as quite cliche. 

Seriously though I am at a point where I have so many ideas but don’t know what I am actually doing. Or, even what I want to do. No burning passion or perhaps it is so suppressed I can’t feel it, hear it or see it. 

So I’m going to lie here and see what comes. Hope your journey feels a little smoother x

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What a difference a year makes…

‘I’m going to get that sofa and throw it away’ she said. She being one of my best friends speaking to me just a year ago. She meant well but she didn’t understand that my sofa, alongside my TV and access to mindless time consuming programmatic watching was saving me. When I was on my sofa systematically eating my body weight, I was in as close to a happy place as I was mentally able to be. I didn’t have the energy to speak to anyone, do anything or go out…unless it was to replenish my food rations.

I was depressed. I felt hopeless, frustrated, lost, scared and so completely sad. Let me go back a little, back to January 2014. I was living in Ghana, life had finally come together home, job, routine, circle of friends and it felt good and then I got this feeling that by the end of the year I would no longer be living in Ghana. Fast forward to December 2014 and, you guessed it, I was moving back to London.

When I went back I had a conversation with God and said that I wanted to

  1. Go back to working with the Diaspora and improve my knowledge
  2. I wanted to work on new African countries and visit them as well
  3. I wanted to work in the British government because I wanted to be in a space that forced me to have to understand how it worked and who it worked for

I was in a relationship that had been long distant but at the time I thought ‘this is it’ so that was part of my reason for heading home (second to Ghana) with great excitement as to where next. A few months in I was ‘head hunted’ for an exciting role that ticked my diaspora desires and paid better than I had imagined for myself. It all seemed perfect almost too good to be true…and unfortunately that is what came to pass. So almost literally a year to this week I found myself in a position where my relationship hadn’t worked, the job didn’t materialise, I was in debt and had no solid job prospect.

I remember feeling utterly hopeless and spent a lot of time crying and angry. At the beginning of June my current role got confirmed and mid-June I started work. What was the role I hear you ask, it entailed

  1. Working on a humanitarian diaspora project which focused on Sierra Leone, Somalia and Syria
  2. It entailed me travelling to Sierra Leone to carry out research. I have also been to Senegal for work in this same period as well as a number of European countries I didn’t know I wanted to visit. Also just got back from Turkey but more on that later!
  3. I am the secretariat for an All Party Parliamentary Group on Diaspora, Development and Migration – in essence working with the British government

Would you believe I was so consumed with anger, upset and disappointment it wasn’t until January 2016 that I was able to left up my head from the cloud that had been consuming me and see how completely God had responded to my requests. I hadn’t seen it because it didn’t come in the way I had thought/ decided it would. It didn’t come perfectly formed ticking all boxes and it didn’t come when I had wanted it too.

But it came!

So no let’s go even further back to when I was a little girl and wanted to do certain things when I grew up, one of which was to work for the UN and make a difference (save the world if I’m totally honest). Study and experience have shown me that it is not only the UN that can make real differences in this world though, undeniably, it plays an extremely important part. At the moment working with UN agencies and other key global decision makers is where I feel my way forward lies as a change maker, a voice for those who are not often heard.

So let’s go back to current day, Turkey, Istanbul and an event called the World Humanitarian Summit where a little girls dream came true and I presented the important work and role that diaspora humanitarians make.

http://webtv.un.org/search/elvina-quaison-ghana-world-humanitarian-summit-istanbul-2016-member-states-and-stakeholders-announcements/4909147649001?term=elvina+quaison

Diasporans who are simply people who live outside their place of heritage but are connected strongly and meaningfully to this country which they have this connection too. It was an honour to be given the opportunity and to be able, with 5 other diaspora representatives, to reach out to a hopefully more inclusive, more open humanitarian system to improve the way we respond to crisis together.

To make a difference and hopefully change the world a little in the process which could change an individual’s life a lot. This experience has changed me, altered me in a way I want to hold on to and nurture and help grow and continue to move me closer to being the person God put me here to be. It is a delightful and extremely daunting feeling, but I am grateful for it as I feel alive, present, connected to this world in which we live.

For a long time I didn’t and it is a horrible feeling, like standing out and looking in and feeling completely disassociated from all that is taking place with friends, family and yourself.

What a difference a year makes and yet as I write this I think perhaps I needed that low point, those feelings of hopelessness. Why? Because the whole time I was feeling that way so much was laying ahead of me that I could not have imagined. This realisation hit me when I got to Terminal 2 to check in and wait for the other participants. Just that thought ‘wow, remember where we were this time last year?’

It wasn’t until the Chair at the WHS called my name (some information glitches made me a married woman and gave me a promotion from project manager to director…from his mouth to God’s ear perhaps) that I realised that this personal ambition was coming true and I was so far from where I had been emotionally, professionally, mentally and spiritually. That low point taught me faith and it is that lesson that keeps pushing me to believe in more and work to achieve more because anything is possible and when it comes to all the good that is waiting for us, we know nothing.

So I want to encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing and being open to that voice, call it your gut, call it the holy spirit, call it what you want but if it is encouraging you to take an exciting but scary positive new path, listen, trust and follow it. After all what have you really got to lose?

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Review: The Black Farmer’s Burgers

I had given up on burgers in terms of buying them and cooking them at home. They never tasted as good as the fresh, meaty, flavoursome offerings at burger restaurants. Now I was already a fan of The Black Farmers sausages and so I did look forward to trying his burgers…and I was not disappointed.

Burger and kale

I first got all bougie with my burger and made a fancy breakfast of sautéed kale with onions, chilli, coriander and a little garlic. I cooked my burger in the oven and then topped it with an egg. It was absolutely delicious. The burgers are succulent and have none of that weird gristly bits or greasy chewy bits that many store bought burgers have.

I also tried my burger for dinner in the classic way. Hand cut chips, my burger and lovely grilled red onions on top. One of my other favourite things about The Black Farmer is as a person who is lactose and gluten intolerant it is such a relief to find burgers, which you would think should be safe to eat with these dietary requirements, actually being safe to eat – scary to think about all the random nonsense they put in our food. I definitely would recommend these burgers to anybody, as they are packed with delicious beef they are quite filling. I was able to happily eat one per serving.

Really looking forward to their next offerings! Try them and tell me what you think.

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That time is now

Time-Tracking-Software

There comes a time when

there is no more planning

or waiting

or visualizing

or strategising

or budgetting

or getting everything just so

 

There comes a time when

you realise that all of that is great

and can be necessary

but unless you just do something

it will all be for

nothing

 

There comes a time when

the time is now

 

That time is now

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Theatre Review: The Colour Purple

This review can be seen on Afridiziak

the-colour-purple-01

The Color Purple is the Broadway remake of the famous Pulitzer prize-winning Alice Walker novel of the same name. The book was turned into an Oscar winning/ nominated film, 30 years ago by Steven Spielberg and made famous by well-known actors such as Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, one of the producers of the Broadway theatre production.

It was with anticipation and a barely constrained attempt to manage my expectations that I attended British director John Doyle’s production of The Color Purple in New York on Broadway. The cast caused me great excitement particularly the presence of Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery, her voice alone made me want to up sticks and cross an ocean to go and watch…which I did!

It was however the talent both vocally and as a strong evocative actor that the lead Cynthia Erivo as Celie stole the show. Her voice is truly awe inspiring, with an extensive range both musically and emotionally making it hard for any audience member to leave unaffected (as we found out from a fellow theatre goer who had been to see the show four times…it only opened officially in December 2015). Cynthia played the role of Celie in the UK at the Menier Chocolate Factory theatre in London where The Color Purple ran and one can’t help wondering what would it have been like to see Erivo there on home soil, if you like, as Cynthia is British with Nigerian heritage.

The production exhibited an excellent use of theatre space and well thought out retelling of the original story so it translated well onto to the stage. This production carries a strong cast, however if in the first half Jennifer Hudson’s character seemed to be lacking a certain degree of presence her voice didn’t and in the second half the audience was treated to a much stronger and humorous Shug Avery.

Danielle Brookes of Orange is the New Black fame in the role Oprah made famous as Sophia was strong, sassy and a pleasure to watch. Her strong bluesy/ gospel inspired voice was unexpected but suited the character and personality of Sophia as a no nonsense woman who was constantly doing battle to assert her right to just be safe, be respected, be treated like a human being. In the period the play is set just to achieve these things we often take for granted today as a woman was a major struggle and still is for many.

The Color Purple was a complete production with a strong cast, vibrant score with two particular songs that struck a chord ‘The Color Purple’ sung by Cynthia Erivo and ‘What About Love?’ a duet between Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo. The set was intriguing with its backdrop of wooden chairs (a staple of any circa 1900 farming home) and a strong script that combined the nostalgia of memorable lines from the film yet maintaining its own voice and personality which brings the audience a new pathway into Alice Walker’s phenomenal story of self-discovery, faith, growth and love.

This musical is a must see whether you purposely hop on a plane for a cultural New York break or take it in while there for other reasons. Moving, funny, dramatic and incredibly entertaining The Color Purple is a winner.

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Theatre Review: I See You

This review can be found on the Afridiziak website.

i-see-you-02

I See You by Mongiwekhaya at the Royal Court is a play I was excited about seeing due to first time director  whose acting triumphs have had me curious about her. Having seen the thoughtful and innovative direction of I See You it is clear she is multi-talented.

I See You takes place in post-Apartheid South Africa on what should have been a normal Friday night out, but spirals into a series of poignant life lessons for university student Ben played by Bayo Gbadamosi, when he is arrested for a crime he did not commit.

This is a powerful play with a strong and talented cast that tackles face on the issues of human struggle, race, class, pain, identity and so much more. During the course of this night these themes are explored with Ben, ‘Cheese Boy’ being the middle class young black male, with no real idea of what South Africa was like under Apartheid, no real perception of the struggle blacks went through to achieve change and a personal pain that makes him wish to reject his culture through the loss of his mother tongue.

Ben encounters Jordan Baker’s Skinn in the club, a sassy street-smart white girl, who bounces between English and Afrikaans. There are a number of moments where various South African languages are spoken with no translation, yet rather than isolate the audience it helps the non-understanding audience member empathise with the confusion of Ben who also doesn’t understand, a situation that is used against him, viciously.

Through officer Buthelezi we are able to see the impact of the aftermath of fighting for and achieving something so big and meaningful it can’t help but leave scars. Scars that keep you awake at night, scars that throb leading to lashing out violently, scars that can leave a person angry, isolated and in pain even though the battle was won. Desmond Dube’s Buthelezi has us thinking at what cost and is it worth it?

The production begins with the characters breathing heavily, as the production goes on the breathing becomes significant as we question what did it mean? Trying to catch breath after exertion, trying to breathe though you feel restricted, trying to find peace to breathe easy? We have all been there and as we journey through each characters own challenges and demons we recognise the struggle of trying to keep your head above water, of trying to just keep breathing, keep living though the pain of doing so can be its own struggle.

I See You intertwines humour with serious themes that no matter how uncomfortable need to be addressed. The challenges class and privilege raise between people of colour who are supposed to be part of the same struggle, too often this is not the case as Buthelezi says to Ben ‘You know white people think we are the same? We both look black. But only one of us is black…Speak to me in your mother tongue and I will let you go.’

I See You intertwines humour with serious themes that no matter how uncomfortable need to be addressed. The interaction between Ben and Buthelezi highlights how human interaction is often based on misconstrued perceptions, you see a person and fill in the blanks of what you believe to be their life story. Some parts may be correct but if you look deeper you discover you and the one before you are not so different. First we must recognise as Buthelezi says to Ben ‘we are agreed you know nothing’ and then do the work of trying to understand another no matter how distasteful, alien, painful and scary this endeavour may be for us we must do it until you get to that point where you reach the core of the person, you reach the place where you can understand and love that person. That point where you can genuinely look the person in the eye and say I See You.

I See You is an excellent production based on a real encounter, there are a number of messages to take away but perhaps the one I shall be reflecting on is to see others clearly we have to look within and see ourselves for who we are and begin the work there.

 

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Theatre Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

ma_raineys_black_bottom_v2

It was with excitement and anticipation I went to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I love a musical, I love big diva voices and I love black theatre (well I love all theatre but particular interest in black stories).

The theatre was packed, the staging imaginative and the stage was set for a great evening, unfortunately for me the great evening just didn’t really come in the way I had hoped. The play just never took off for me and then it was finished. I understand that the conversations taking place on the stage while the characters are waiting for the great Ma Rainey to arrive to her studio recording session is where the essence of the play lies. However I was not grabbed thoroughly enough by these conversations to get rid of the feeling of waiting for…well…more.

That is not to say when Ma Rainey did put in an appearance the play shifted gears, because it didn’t I still felt like I was waiting for something.

The performance by the session band characters was good, my all time favourite Lucian Msamati was very good but not as great as I have seen him be. The other cast members were new to me, I was captivated by the voices of Giles Terera as Slow Drag and Ma Rainey herself Sharon D. Clarke but I have to say those were my highlights.

There are strong messages within the play surrounding, jealousy, discrimmination, self-belief and self worth, it even mixes in a bit of same sex relations to keep you on your toes. Yet still there was something missing that made it difficult for me to connect. I did not lose myself in the performance I was aware of every use of the n-word (of which there was plenty), perhaps there was discomfort in the use of the word by the actors and this came through as it is not my first time seeing a production based around this era.

I am glad I saw Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but I wouldn’t say it would be added to my must see again list.

 

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