The time had come to be brutally honest, to tell the truth, to take responsibility. This is my story, the journey of how I discovered love for me, unconditionally.
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What did I Learn Today? Lessons on The Journey to Unconditional Self-Love
By Akosua Dardaine Edwards
Balboa PressCopyright © 2013 Akosua Dardaine Edwards
All rights reserved.
Journey to Authenticity
In the breakdown moment, the very thing you have feared, resisted, denied will stand before you shaking its finger in your face and sticking its tongue out at you. It will show you things about yourself that you refused to see or acknowledge. It will tease you, taunt you, push you, pull you to the verge of breaking down. In fact, that is its purpose. In the breakdown moment your defences breakdown, your fantasies shatter, your excuses fail, your resistance erodes. In t-hat moment when there is nothing standing between you and the thing you fear most, you will be forced to step into your greatness because that is what life is demanding of you (Until Today, Iyanla Vanzant)
Show up as yourself—all the time! In Uganda, I was absolutely lucky and privileged to work for one of the brightest women entrepreneurs on the Continent in her Agriculture Seed and Production Company. One of the women there asked me, "Why do you play small?"
My first reaction was that she was talking about my weight as the conversation was previously on the different types of African food that I was sampling.
I responded "I play small because I work out" and I chuckled!
She hit me with a blank stare!! "Do you know that you have a responsibility to yourself, to your ancestors, to your spirit?" Ok now it was getting serious, now it was time for me to pay attention. "What do you mean?" She said "It is your responsibility to excel, to glow, to do what you know you can do. It makes no sense holding it all back! What are you saving it for?
Why do you give one single thought to what other people think? Those who are for you and what you stand for will remain, the rest are passing through on your journey, leave them, and continue along your path! Please, honour your responsibilities, your purpose and your ancestors. There is no way that you will go off course, off target without getting back on track. You said to me that all things are lessons didn't you? Well there it is! It is time!" That conversation arrived and basically cemented my decision to be myself and stop the feeling that I needed to be perfect and to prove that I was worthy, that I "made it". In that moment I knew that to be just be me is and will always be the best decision that I could ever make in any and every situation.
Somehow there was always something happening around my life that had to be sanitised. Ever since I've known myself, I believed that I must only show my good side to "outsiders" as I would be considered less than worthy and I in return that is what I demanded of the "outsiders". I would hear the adults at the house on the Terrace where I grew up talking and the conversation seemed most of the time to be about who was making mistakes and being foolish, who was not being a good mother and wife. That shaped my view on what it meant to be excellent and suitable.
I made up my mind. I would be perfect. That meant doing well in school, speaking well, behaving like a proper lady in public. This went on to me making up my mind to get married, have a good marriage, get a good job and do everything well. There would not be a family conference on me for sure!
Self imposed perfection, can be demanding especially when it's untrue! I found myself working harder to keep up an image rather than working hard on what really mattered like being true, honest and saying how I really felt. I did not let people know where I was or how I felt! If anyone asks, how are you? I'm fine! I wasn't fine! But I programmed myself to say and act "fine"
I was the poster child for having it all together, for being "fine". I did well at school, boys were not even on my radar, I didn't go to parties. I was content to be at home reading or watching football. When I asked to go out, it was rare and if I was told no I would be upset for days and walk around the house in a funk, talking to no one even when spoken to. It drove my folks crazy.
Getting married at a very young age and being the first one in the family for a long time, I strongly believed that there was an expectation, a precedent set. And where did I get that from? I made it up! We make up stories to facilitate our position. Many times the stories are not only untrue, they are negative! Lesson learnt was if you are making up stories make them positive and affirming!
From my family's perspective, I was lucky. I found someone who was young, ambitious and good looking. Girlfriend had hit jackpot according to all and sundry, don't mess it up ok Yaki?
Mess it up? No chance of that and the image of all is well. My entire mission was to keep up the perfect scenario. No matter what happens, everything is fine, and everything will be fine! I will make it so!
I met Jay while we were both at school. The first time I saw him I thought he was scorching hot! Tall and slim with a certain quiet presence. When we started talking, the guy was smart as well. Jackpot!!
We were introduced by one of my neighbours; they were both in the same class at school. It didn't take long for us to become inseparable! Secretly I couldn't believe that someone that scorching liked me, I thought it impossible since in my mind I was still the fat girl from the neighbourhood, but this guy seemed genuinely interested. School was a distraction. We couldn't wait to be independent, then we could do whatever we liked! In the meantime, the plan was to spend every free moment together and anyone who had a problem with that well just too bad!
For my folks they knew something had changed particularly because I usually was not interested in going out or in boys, now I am asking to go out and also inviting a boy to the house.
We talked about it, the plan was to move as far away as possible which would allow for total independence. We just knew we would make it, no matter what! We talked about moving abroad as soon as school was done.
Jay did the groundwork and found a way to move abroad as soon as he was finished with school. There was a programme in the United Kingdom called the working holiday visa that allowed young people to work while having an extended holiday over a two year period.
We both applied for and got it. The plan was for Jay to move to the UK first and as soon as he found a place to live and a job then I would follow. Everything was working swimmingly; I was receiving regular updates from him about what was happening in London. Preparations were going well! His letters and phone calls were always a highlight, he seemed excited to be there, he seemed even more excited that I would be joining him soon.
He would get a job, it didn't matter what type of job it was, just to allow for saving and getting money as quickly as possible. When he saved up a certain amount some would be used to contribute to my ticket for me to join him, the rest would be for us to find a place and live until we both settled down and both had jobs.
On one of the weekly updates, he told me that he found a job at a restaurant which allowed him to save cash on food. The restaurant was close enough to the flat so the transportation costs were minimal. The pay was also good and with tips it allowed him to save enough for a place to live and to travel.
This plan wasn't the most popular one in my house, it did cause quite a bit of tension. The feeling was that I was making a rash decision to fly to another country to live with someone without any guarantee that it would work out and on top of that we were not married. My parents were not in total support of it and I vowed to find a way to get to London on my own. That didn't bother me, I was determined to save all the cash that I could and make it! I finally got the call to make my way to London.
I arrived on a cold Sunday morning. This was my first time to the UK. The airport was huge, busy and crowded. As soon as I stepped off the plane, the chill greeted me. I was shivering and my toes stayed on the plane as I couldn't feel them. I thought I hope Jay brought me a jacket. At this rate I will freeze to death! I was really happy to be making a new life away where I would be free and independent. The weather really didn't matter on that day; all that mattered was that we were together far away from everything and going to build a life together.
He found a place close to central London. It was also close to the train station, and a supermarket, it was also close to the buses and we had a lovely roommate Sam. Sam was a white African guy with long hair, he looked like a surfer. He was kind and thoughtful, never liked to shower much and drank a whole lot but hey, he had a great heart! He greeted me very warmly and made me feel welcome right from the start.
My one and only task was to find a job as quickly as possible! I was a recent graduate with accounting qualifications and there were so many jobs being advertised that neither of us were worried.
We settled into a routine. Jay worked at the restaurant, he had shifts he was off some days of the week. Sometimes we would go to museums, art galleries, restaurants and sampled food that we never heard of back in Trinidad. I was in heaven! What a wonderful guy! So romantic and attentive and supportive. We never made money an issue but we lived better than we ever thought was possible.
Jay came home one day after work bouncing off the walls with excitement! As soon as he sat down he said. "Kous pack your bags we are going on our first trip this weekend!"
"Can we afford it?"
"Why are you worried about that? There are economical ways we can make this trip I planned it well"
"Where are we going?"
"We are going to Paris, Brussels, Brugge and Amsterdam"
"Yes for real"
"Are you sure we can afford this?"
"Girl, we are taking a Eurobus for one thing and we will sort out accommodation as and when we get there. Get ready for ten days of touring Europe!"
He was so excited, I was too but so focused on money and if we could afford it knowing that I wasn't at the time bringing in any cash! I eventually said let me not spoil the party vibe.
We made the mini European tour on our limited budget. It was a lovely time, seeing the Eiffel Tower, the canals in Holland and of course the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam, eating chocolates in Belgium and the wealth of Luxembourg. I was now totally convinced that we made the right decision to move away and build a life together, I also thought that we became much closer after the trip.
Sam would accompany us sometimes on our adventures. He had pet names for both of us, mine was KousKous and Jay was called stud muffin. I heard stud and I asked him "why does Sam call you stud muffin?" His response was "why does he call you KousKous?"
"I don't know?"
"Exactly! I have no idea!"
But it bothered me, I mean why would you call someone a stud without merit. They spent a lot of time going out together on boys nights out. The pet name raised many questions which I asked Jay. He just kept saying to me why would you ever take Sam seriously? It's really not a big deal.
One night I was at the house waiting for Jay to return from work, we were going to watch a football game, it was backside cold, so cold that I was in the house with gloves and scarves on! The phone rang, and our roommate shouted out for Jay, I said he wasn't at home. Then he says they have asked to speak to you!
Who would be calling and ask for Jay and then ask for me? It must be his family, his mum and sister, how nice of his mother or father to call to check up on him. I was feeling happy to talk to someone from home. I got on the phone very happy.
"Hello", it sounded like someone was crying on the phone,
"Hello, yes this is Candy, I just wanted to let you know that I am carrying Jay's baby".
Candy was a friend of Jay's from school. He introduced me to her and the three of us hung out a few times. He told me that she was really a good friend to him and he knew her entire family he became close to them just before he left to come to the UK. I really thought nothing of it, I mean, men do not only have male friends do they? He would hang out with her and her family often I did not even give it a second thought! I admit that I was not paying attention. I was certain that Jay was committed to me and our relationship, what I envisioned in my mind was that men who run around treat their women badly. He treated me really well. Men who run around were emotionally unavailable, Jay was the most loving man I met in my short life thus far, always cuddling, expressing his feelings. I just had this picture of how a man who ran around would be and look, he just didn't fit my view.
"Didn't he tell you? I am having his baby and he told me that you just won't go away so I thought I would tell you so that you can leave him. What are you doing in London? We have been together for months now"
I'm really not sure what happened next, all I remember is that I wanted to throw up, I felt physically ill! I went outside in the minus temperature and walked to the train station which may have been about five or ten minutes away, I wanted to meet him as soon as he stepped out of the train, I wanted answers, I was feeling like a complete fool, played! Stud muffin eh! Ok! I must have stood there for about fifteen minutes in the cold.
I finally saw him coming out the train eating fried chicken wings and steam coming out his mouth looking happy and content. He saw me there standing outside of the train station, his expression changed immediately and he started running towards me.
"Kous what's wrong, you're out here it's like minus one degree and you have no coat on, have you gone mad?"
"Is Candy having a baby for you?" I said it as calmly as ever but I was so scared inside, I was thinking about what my family would say, thinking that I came all the way out here and it's all going to blow up in my face, I could not, in fact I would not let it happen!
"I said is Candy having a baby for you?"
"Kous what are you talking about, Candy? No!"
"Candy just called and told me that she is, how did she get your phone number?"
"I don't know, she's a mad woman. Do you believe her? I am telling you right now that she's talking shit. Let's go home I am going to call her now and sort this out. Come out of the cold you will get sick"
Up to that moment, I didn't shout, get mad, curse, nothing. I am thinking to myself how do I fix this? How do I make this work? Let me just hear what she says when he calls her and then I will make a decision.
We get home; he gets on the phone right away. I'm standing there waiting to hear how the conversation would play off.
"Why did you call here? Don't ever call here ever again" and he hung up! That was it.
He said to me "it's taken care of. Let's just forget about it ok Kous, you're here with me now"
I said "ok"
He said "let's focus on us"
I never ever brought it up again in the time that we were in London; I never even told anyone what happened. I just focused on getting a job, finding a place for us to live and settling down to life in London. The following month we went out for dinner at one of our favourite places in Covent Garden and Jay proposed and said to me whatever and wherever you want to get married that's what we will do!
I was half expecting a marriage proposal I just wasn't sure when it would happen! He seemed so into the whole arrangement of living together, there was help with all the chores, there was attentiveness and time set aside for us to talk, there was just everything that I never had, never seen, always read about. We also had a recent conversation on "our future plans" I told him that I couldn't see myself living out here long term without being married and wanted to know what was in his mind on how we would move forward. He listened and didn't say much. I What Did I Learn Today? Lessons on The Journey to Unconditional Self-Love guess his actions did all the talking. In the small and intimate Calabash restaurant in London, over a meal of pounded yam and egusi, he asked me to marry him since I was and will always be the best thing that ever happened to him!
Plan A well in effect, thank you Jesus!
I wanted a small wedding with very little fuss, part of that was my obsession with saving money, knowing that we were paying the most of the bill. My family was happy to hear that there was going to be a wedding. I just wanted to get over with it soon and start living. Being far away and planning it also helped, I could say no easily to the requests coming from all sides.
Two months later, we flew back home to Trinidad to get married. Going back home the first time since leaving was going to be interesting. What would be our parent's reaction, what would be our reaction?
Our family members who came from abroad helped to deflect the attention from us. Sam, our first flatmate also came to Trinidad with us for the occasion. We were going to spend two weeks having fun in the sun, the wedding was just an icing on the cake.
Excerpted from What did I Learn Today? Lessons on The Journey to Unconditional Self-Love by Akosua Dardaine Edwards. Copyright © 2013 Akosua Dardaine Edwards. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
My Early Years.................... xxiii
Journey to Authenticity.................... 1
Journey to Gratitude.................... 21
Journey to Intuition.................... 37
Journey to Balance.................... 53
Journey to Stillness.................... 67
Journey to Courage.................... 81
Journey to Self Confidence.................... 91
Journey to Letting Go.................... 103
Journey to a Bounce Back Spirit.................... 115
Journey to Unconditional Self Love.................... 131
Journey to Release of Ego.................... 145
Journey to Forgiveness.................... 157
The Journey continues.................... 167
Journey to Kampala.................... 177
Thank You for My Journey.................... 185