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  • S.M.A.L.L

    Short read alert.

    I am in the middle of a book called ‘Tiny Habits’ by BJ Fogg. Literally in the middle…but let’s move on. This book makes it easy to break down any task into bite-size pieces that enable one to grow habits that would otherwise be difficult to do. An example of this would be, the popular January resolution that has multitudes of people joining Gyms and hitting the road with all manner of gadgets strapped to their persons. Yes you have it. WEIGHT LOSS. If someone wants to lose weight, the best way to turn it into a long lasting habit is to start small, for example, instead of overhauling your entire fridge and getting rid of the oh so tasty snacks, perhaps the best way would be to remove the snacks from your sight and start by changing your meals by adding healthy items. Example, eat an apple in addition to your usual breakfast. That’s not hard to do, is it? You can pick your fruit of choice. Another example, put a bottle of water in full view at your desk, in your bag, next to your bed…you get the point….and you will eventually increase your water intake.  

    I sat down to think a little and this was my conclusion. Let me give a personal example…In the process of honing my craft, I am required to dedicate at least 2 hours to see the results I want. However, after a torturous month, I finally acknowledged that it was a huge chunk of time which I could not have in one block. So I modified it to include – learning through others (video tutorials and whatnot – these I could do if I sacrificed 5 minutes of my lunch break) and learning to forgive myself if I do not manage to dedicate the full two hours – however, I have learnt to enjoy the sessions – and suddenly, two hours are not so much!

    What is that thing that you want to do but seems too big to do? Break it down.

    What is that habit that you can’t get rid of? Break it down.

    What is that goal that you want to achieve but seems insurmountable? Break it down.

    Break it down.

     

    Simple

    Modifications

    Allow

    Longterm

    Lucrativeness

  • T.I.R.E.D

    I’ll go straight to the short point. Today’s acronym is a double edged sword. T.I.R.E.D

    To

    Improve

    Requires

    Endless

    Dedication 

    In other articles, I have usually hinted that we are a ‘work in progress’. Our task is never finished. We cannot say that we have reached the pinnacle of self improvement and growth. On that journey, getting tired is expected. And that is what prompted this article today. However, the acronym sheds a positive light to it all.

    Yesterday started on the same usual note. Early morning peace and quiet, surrounded by birds belting out harmonious melodies. However, as the day wore on, stress, anxiety and despair started building upon each other…much like the building blocks used by tiny tots. It reached a point where all I could see was a long dark tunnel with no light at the end. I did what I could. I ran and googled my symptoms. Apparently it was an existential crisis!

    What’s the point of the short story? We all have tasks that we have undertaken with the belief that they are beneficial – such as higher education, constructive hobbies and many other projects. Getting tired is a given. Getting to the end of the tether is a given. Seeing a dark tunnel is a given. What do we do when it happens? Throw in the towel? Revert to the comfort zone? Deny that you are tired and keep going until burnout? Balance?

    Of the double edged sword, the ultimate choice is yours.

    Tired or T.I.R.E.D?

     

  • T.I.M.E

    Dear Readers,

    As I pen this letter, I’d like to warn you that it is short. Today we are on a journey. Albeit a short one. A journey that could be magical or informative, or both, or neither! 

    The year began as most year’s do. Complaints of how long the month is, its never-ending challenges and whatnot. However, this year has taken a pleasant turn. It’s not unbearably hot and the days are flying by. 

    I would like to believe that you have been of good health both physically and mentally. 

    Let me get to my point for this week. Part of the reason for my silence has been that I’ve been keenly observing the passage of time. Not ‘time’ as you know it. But ‘T.I.M.E’. Yes it is my first acronym of the year. 

    To

    Improve 

    Means

    Effort 

    T.I.M.E in personal and spiritual growth, in professional and interpersonal growth. How many times have we used the phrases ‘give yourself time’, ‘time heals’, ‘It will happen with time’ and so forth? 

    Time has the uncanny ability to slow down when we are bored, and to speed up when we are having fun. Perhaps that’s another article for another day. Let me get back on track.

    When we are hungry, we are laser-focused on nourishment. When we are ambitious, we are laser-focused on a better tomorrow. In the midst of that laser-focus, we encounter doubts. In ‘Think again’, Adam Grant mentions the benefits of doubt. And I quote… “When you find yourself doubting your ability, reframe the situation as an opportunity for growth. Knowing what you don’t know is often the first step towards developing expertise”. Doubt is not such a bad thing after all, is it? 

    In your journey of improvement and growth, allow yourself to stop and think. Allow yourself time and remember T.I.M.E.

    Yours faithfully,

    Nj

  • Reboot

    “To be or not to be, that is the question” (William Shakespeare)

    “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’” (Audrey Hepburn)

    We often begin the year with such inspirational quotes. A lot of hope rests in a new beginning. A chance to wipe the slate clean. I am yet to go a whole month without hearing the question ‘So what’s your new year’s resolution?’

    This week’s article is a continuation of Chef my Omelette where I urged you to be aware of the things that you needed in your kitchen to cook a simple happy life for yourself. I also promised that I would attempt to give tips on mental health. Let me try in my ‘non-expert’ fashion.

    A new year = the promise of a new body. True or false? If you have not done anything throughout the previous year to attain your new body, then the new year has other plans for you. What I’m trying to say is, if you aren’t intentional in what you do throughout the year, there’s no need to put pressure on attaining all of it in one month. Part of a healthy mental life is having a healthy physical life. You were made to move. You were made to improve. Your body is capable of much more than you allow it to do. Disclaimer, be wise and conscious of the need for medical guidance in this world of physical activity.

    A new year = a new me. True or false? We are always changing. No need to put pressure on one month. Yes you can take decisive action in the new year, however, that decisive action has to be repeated in the following 11 months. Taking some time to know and grow yourself is important. I believe that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Therefore, you must ask yourself, what is it that fills your cup? You will be much happier when you look after yourself. Fill your cup!

    A new year = new friends. This holds true for the whole year and not just one month. You need to constantly evaluate your circles. When growing up, we are always told ‘choose your friends wisely’. As a child, you see it to be a nuisance. As you grow however, you discover the wisdom in that nugget.

    The new year offers a time for reboot, however, it also offers a time for repeat. 

    Let me stop here before I add a few more quotes! There is so much more that can be said, however, I hope I have captured what I think is the core.

    So, is it a reboot or a repeat?

     

  • Njiani

    For the love of stories, here goes one. 

    Once upon a time, I fell. 

    The End. 

    In I’mperfect, I wrote about embracing your cracks. Today I’ll try to talk more about it. 

    Is the path you’re walking on a smooth one? Well, yes and no. First of all, you’re not alone on the path. There are people and things. These can make you trip and fall. When you do fall down, what gets you back up? 

    Does the path you’re walking on have guardrails? Perhaps. They could be man made or not. Perhaps you have the ultimate Guard by your side (I sure hope so!). Does your choice of guardrail keep you from cliff’s edge? Or does it make the cliff more attractive? (I should hope not).

    On this path that I walk,

    I desire to have a smooth uneventful stroll. 

    On this path that I walk,

    I desire to move into growth.

    As I walk however,

    I see potholes,

    I see forks on the path,

    I see lonely trails,

    I hear occasional sounds,

    Human sounds of communication, both gentle and harsh.

    I touch fallen leaves,

    I smell the growth of scented greenery,

    I feel a presence by my side.

    A warm glow that tells me ‘all is safe’.

    I feel a hand slip into mine,

    A companion, accompanying and guiding my walk. Our walk.

    I feel the hand nudging me forward when I stumble. 

    Nudging me up when I fall.

    Sometimes I lose touch with the warm glow, but it’s right there. Waiting. 

     

    The poetry today has ended with undertones of love. Let’s attribute it to the season! 

    ‘Once upon a time, I fell. But. There was a hand. Steadfast and strong’. 

    The End.

  • Chef my omelette

    I woke up this morning thinking of recipes, and how a chef plays around with ingredients to get delicate tastes as well those that awaken the palate. It occurred to me that we are all chef’s. Are we aware of it? 

    Most of us fancy ourselves to be chefs in our homes. Cooking something as simple as an omelette can bring out the fancy hat and spices. Why am I talking about cooking today? Well, it’s because we do it daily, whether in the kitchen or not. All chefs also have preferred ingredients that never lack in their kitchens. Walk with me…

    As part of growing up, we are advised on the things we need to do, including the possible outcomes of our choices. Let me be bold enough to attempt to juxtapose a recipe for a near-perfect life.

    Simple omelette

    2 eggs

    Butter

    Half a cup of chopped onions

    Quarter cup of mashed potatoes

    Strips of red and yellow bell peppers

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Simple life

    God

    A handful of trustworthy friends

    A handful of hobbies that make us grow

    A healthy mental care routine

    A purpose

    ………………………….. And more

     

    When it comes to the simple life, putting measurements to the ingredients is rather difficult because we have different experiences and needs. However, what I have boldly attempted to put is what I feel are baseline ingredients that allow the chef (you) to be in the kitchen.

    Do you have trustworthy friends? The friends who have always had your back? The ones who are not ‘two-faced’? Do you have the friends you can turn to when matters become overwhelming?

    Do you have hobbies that help you grow? Preferably those that take you away from screen time? Those that encourage you to look after your physical wellness as well as mental wellness? 

    Do you have a healthy mental care routine? (more on this in next week’s article – stay tuned)

    Do you know your purpose? What makes you wake up every morning? What are you working towards?

    Let me leave you with those questions…and this final thought. 

    You are the chef in your kitchen. You determine who walks in. You determine what goes into every dish. You also determine who is to be kicked out of your kitchen. 

  • I’mperfect

    Short post alert…!

    The word ‘trust’ is as strong as it is delicate. It is often likened to a glass vase. When you break it, you can attempt to fix it but it will NEVER look like the original vase. 

    Let’s think bigger…

    As I mingle with people….hmmmmm…I trust that people are good at their core. Let me pause here with a tale from the East.

    The origins of Kintsugi

    As the story goes, a 15th-century military ruler, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, sent one of his tea bowls back to China to be repaired. When it was returned, he was disappointed with the finished result and asked a local craftsman to find a more aesthetically pleasing method of repair. The solution, he found, was to emphasise the cracks in the bowl, rather than trying to conceal them. Thus, Kintsugi was born!

    Over time, the craft became so popular that people started deliberately breaking their ceramics, simply so they could repair them using the eye-catching gold laquer.

    We are trained to view imperfections as something bad. However, we do forget that we are who are because we are imperfect. The bumps and bruises that you have acquired throughout your life, have made you the person that you are. Let me pause before I continue preaching!

    A bowl made more beautiful because of its cracks. A person made more wise because of their experiences. A rose more beautiful because its thorns have protected it from being plucked too soon. Think about it. 

    You are sturdy enough not to break into a million unfixable pieces. 

    I started by talking about trust. While we know that it cannot be repaired to its original state, we do know that broken trust can be moulded into something else, of course depending on what broke the trust in the first place. 

    We are imperfect. And therein lies the magic.

    Embrace your cracks!

  • Layers.

    Onion. Wine. White forest cake. Music. Human beings. What do these have in common? Layers. 

    Peel the onion. Taste the different notes of the wine (discover how sensitive your tongue is ..and how magnificent it is!). Listen to the music and watch it reveal different layers of moods and emotions. 

    I have been mute for two weeks because of this. Layers. Poetry time!

    When I peel an onion, I can only but cry,

    The more I cut into its core, the louder the sniffs become.

    Pray, tell, is this how it is to get into my core?

     

    When I eat a cake, ‘the White forest’, I can only but cry,

    The more I delve into its decadent layers, the wider the smiles become.

    Pray, tell, is this how it is to taste a dream?

     

    When I take a sip, wine. I can only but cry,

    The more I sip and taste its layers, the looser the tongues become.

    Pray, tell, is this how it is to taste an escape?

     

    When I listen to music, I can only but cry,

    The weaving of different melodies, punctuated with perfect harmonies, melodious dissonance.

    Pray, tell, is how it is to taste heaven?

    Every day, whether we like it or not, we encounter layers. Within ourselves and with others. Peeling back the layers can be as revealing as it can be daunting. Either way, I choose to look at it as growth. Because without it, there would be no layers to begin with. Let me give an example. How many times have you been frustrated because you can’t just seem to communicate with your friend? How many times have you questioned the ‘substance’ of your conversations with friends? There are people you can talk to all day every day for 3 months…and still not have exhausted their ‘layers’. How exciting!

    I have kept it short this week. Purposely. 

    Layers are a reflection of growth.

    Layers line the pavement of an exciting path…to a great destination.

    Embrace layers. Yours and others.

     

  • Past Present and Future

    “Back in my day…” 

    “Back then, this was much easier to do…”

    Back then…back then…way back when….

    Have you ever just sat down and got lost in your thoughts when you encounter a new problem? Let’s not even call it a problem…let’s call it a scenario. Such a scenario would be at the market place where the battle for organic/GMO is never-ending. Gone are the days when you could just buy a banana without worrying about whether it has been tampered with. 

    Another scenario would be, watching the younger generation become so enthralled by gadgets and gaming that they do not appreciate the simple things like a walk in a forest…or learning a new skill that doesn’t involve gadgets.

    We have all heard how our parents’ walked 200kms to go to school…how they scaled the mountains just to fetch clean drinking water. How the onset of electricity was like pure magic. A mobile phone? Unheard of! They had to use a telephone booth….or be tethered to the wall by a landline!

    Where am I going? Perhaps my destination will not be clear any time soon, because change is the only constant in our world. Change is not such a bad thing. I will stop there because I run the risk of using some more cliché statements that are not mine to make.

    A journey to the past can be one well rewarding with a list of personal achievements, or a list of lessons learnt. This journey to the past can also help one to see the arrows that one missed and therefore allow for second chances. 

    In L-oad, I spoke about this journey which I likened to a road. While on the road, you can move forward, go over gentle bumps as well as the brutal ones that shake you to the core and you can also reverse to correct your way. The people you meet on the road, make the journey worthwhile and also soften the many changes that come your way. 

    At the start of this article, I alluded to how we are constantly comparing the ‘now’ with ‘then’. The appreciation of growth depends on your perspective. Your acknowledgement of change, depends on how well you understand it. 

    @Senses with Nj
    @Senses with Nj

     

     

     

     

     

    As you move on this road, it is my hope that you learn from it…grow from it…improve on what you find. Take the time to have fun, blow some dust!…and always remember to repair.

  • A journey concluded.

    In last week’s article, we had part of the story The pastry guardian. We left off where the writer (Chilumo Mbwana) walked out briefly to check on the state of his violin strings. I then asked you, dear reader, whether you regularly take the time to sharpen your tools…Read on!

    All good. I walked back in and waited for the signal. Almost immediately, Mama Irene gave me thumbs up and shouted

    “Okay everyone, settle down! Settle down! Eugene no cake for you unless you keep quiet! Dorothy no cake for you”

    The children all went quiet and sat round the table. The cake threat was effective, very effective! I couldn’t get my students to keep quiet in class. Perhaps I should be carrying cake into every lesson.

    Mama Irene gave me a look and another thumbs up. I picked up my bow and began to play the happy birthday song.

    As my bow rushed through my strings, Baba Irene walked into the room with a cake with eight candles on.

    “Wow!” the children chanted one after the other

    He placed the cake on the table.

    “Irene, make a wish”

    Some things I only saw in the movies ha!

    Irene closed her eyes for 30 seconds then blew out the candles. She proceeded to cut the cake afterwards.

    As the celebrations ensued, I requested mama Irene to allow me to leave. She got up and expressed her gratitude and excitement.

    “Pardon me for asking but…why allow her to eat all that cake yet she suffers from diabetes?”

    “It is a cake baked without processed sugar provided to us by a baker by the name Brendah Naly. She’s actually here. Can I call her? “

    An astute lady came up to me and we had a candid conversation. Her names are Brendah Naly. She is a nutritionist by profession.

    “Sugar free cake? Really? That cake was superb and sweet.”

    “Yes, well, it was sweetened with fruits.”

    “Fruits?”

    I couldn’t believe it. Turns out this pastry business was a covid-19 baby. She was inspired by the many requests of people who desired to have cake but didn’t want to consume the high levels of sugar. She decided to start baking cakes experimenting with sugar free cakes. After having some of her friends over, she had them try a sugar free banana cake. They were all amazed and thus the journey to sugar free cakes began. As the requests began to grow, she started to experiment with vegetable cakes too, constantly applying her nutrition expertise.

    “Vegetables too?”

    “Yes, Zucchini cake is a favorite”

    “Well, I guess you are a savior, especially to Irene. Imagine if she had to have a birthday without a birthday cake.”

    Even though I wasn’t a fan of cakes, I wanted my family to try out these sugar free cakes. I found her catalogue here. The carrot cake fancied me the most.

    As I walked away, violin case in hand, I was more than convinced on buying a vegetable cake for my birthday.

    Still there oh ye reader? After the all important ‘sharpening of tools’, we have seen that adversity can breed creativity. The covid-19 bake inspiration that resulted in a lot of happy smiles all around the birthday party. When faced with adversity, do you crumble or do the creative juices  come into play?

    In a previous article scent-sible, I spoke about scent enhancers and stinkers. I asked whether you are aware of the difference as you interact with people. Let me get to my point. In the story above, the fruits made all the difference, so much so that the creative juices morphed into vegetable cakes. It is all well and good to know your scent enhancers, but what do you do about it? We have all met a person who makes us grow, who challenges us to change our perceptions, who’s mere presence gives so much hope. But what do you do about it? Do you maintain the status quo? Do you nurture each other so that you both reach your full potential? Or do you strangle the ‘scent’ such that it cannot exist in the same space as you? Do you turn a scent into a stinker?

    In closing, it is my hope that your tools are regularly sharpened..it is my hope that you nurture the scents around you..it is my hope that your creative juices start/continue flowing…because the world needs you.