By Kelvin J. Shachile
“In every dark experience, check within it a lesson and determine your strength.”
Home isn’t a House
“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey was the first on the list of books I read after the realization that things weren’t going back to ‘normal’ any soon. Within its pages, I read this line which I will rephrase; the spaces in which you stay, to some extent, have a reflection on the kind of spirit that resides within you. This line spoke to me intimately as I realized how uncomfortable I was for the whole time I was at my village home.
This is a place with all that someone would love to have, a brick house, wide lawns, a clean and calm neighborhood. A home sandwiched in between a small planted forest with handsome hardwoods, fenced to a height enough to guarantee privacy. A house with a big home library- something I do value- and all that you too would love. But here, I woke up each day planning for when I would return to our townhouse. “As soon as I go back there, I will write something.” I would say. After reading Winfrey, I sat myself down for an evaluation of what lacked in the space at our village home that was so significant for me in that small stuffy town house with noisy neighborhoods. The final answer was that, it was me who lacked in that space.
It dawned on me with the kind of revelations that the kind of space I had created in the town house was more of a reflection of what was in me. My love for art, connection with the distance that lived between home and the neighborhood and the kind of essence it brought when I woke up to a certain kind of sounds. The intimacy I had sitting in that small window in my room looking at nothing. Were these things so far away from me? No, they were not.
With the decision, I made up on that very day to step out and create another safe space for myself, from visiting neighbors to planting new flowers in the backyard. Clearing and renewing things, to adding more portraits on the wall and rearranging a few things. A month later, I wake up to the sounds of birds, the chilly morning flavored by the view of the new flowers shining in new health, the vision of everything. I have come to realize that in me, exists a spirit that struggles to marry the space within which I exist. I guess we all have to learn to modify spaces to create within ourselves the right spirit, the right motivation and intentions.
Health is Wealth, You Shouldn’t Die Poor
“Nourish what makes you feel confident, connected, contented. Opportunity will rise to meet you.”
On a bright Sunday morning, the village has no idea that this used to be a church day. Instead, most of those on the road are talking about buying masks and staying at home, because the government had said that is the only way people will survive. I am dancing in a realization of what it is that makes them want so much to survive, because health is wealth, you can only be productive when you are in your best self.
Opportunities do exist when you are in the position of having a nourished health that guarantees you productivity. The fear of the people around me is not death rather the kind of disabilities in the economy and life that the virus will bring if they fail to observe the directives. If health brings you to the chance of creating wealth, then dying poor is a decision people make when they disregard the concerns of their health.
Never Seen Fire Quench Another Fire
“I have since then realized that fulfillment is the greatest reward for those who risk giving up their pride to renew their peace and humility.”
—Kelvin J. Shachile
Pre-Covid for me was about myself. Living with myself for myself. But now with the restrictions and everything, I have found myself in the company of other people, some who I wake up to everyday, others who I have to meet regularly. I am living life with people and sometimes, I am living for this people. Within these people’s mind, I am an object that is required to meet certain expectations for them and other times, they have to meet my expectations of them. But here goes the outcome of failed expectations; disappointments. Something which comes from within us with anger.
Within the pressures of this pandemic, I have come eye to eye with the roughest moment of my life. A great disappointment coming from a great expectation. What happened is that for once, anger arose in me and was close to winning my entire self to rule what would be a bitter outcome. One thing I thought it would do for me was that it would speak for me in a much clearer way of how it felt to be disappointed at a moment when I had expected much. I wasn’t going to be the weakest, I had to roar and be heard and fight for what was mine. Pride was within me, it ruled me and defended itself through anger that I wasn’t going to fail at that expectation.
What happened was a great diversion from my values, but before it went far into a failure to respect them, I stood in the realization that I had to swallow that pride, quench that expectation and take on my humility back into learning why anger has never been a winning tool. I apologized even when I felt I had been wronged. I apologized because I had acted stupid and I had to swallow that huge lump of anger from my throat and allow myself to be vulnerable to what life was, to respect my values and to stand by what would set a light that the fire I had wouldn’t quench another.
Did I look stupid and weak? I did. But, when I went to bed that night, I had a free heart and regretted nothing. Rather, I felt the fulfillment of a promise I had made and prayed over for years, my need for inner peace. I have since then realized that fulfillment is the greatest reward for those who risk giving up their pride to renew their peace and humility.
Love Comes From Self
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
—Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Covid took me back to the history of my bloodline. The greatest finding from this expedition into the records was the inter-generational struggle of people wanting to feel love. Breaking ties and recreation of a certain kind of hidden hate. What comes from it is another generation of hate deeply in need to feel loved. And now people are at home, all there with each other, some with hate, and some with love yet we all need to feel this little love that only few are willing to share. I read some of what the great Rumi had to say about love, that “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I do believe and I have witnessed the manifestation of the famous adage “You get from the world what you give to the world.” And so if you give love, if you break the barriers within yourself that have built against it, then we find and feel the kind of love we do desire.
The Spirit from Within
“Spirituality is attached more to our hearts and its manifestation in our personal feelings more than it is to religion and our actions. I think.”
—Kelvin J. Shachile
An idle mind isn’t always a devil’s workshop. Without much to do, spending hours and hours indoors and very few hours in the farm revealed to me something about silence. It is a safe space where we run to when we have to first think for ourselves before we think about or for others. On an evening walk in the backyard looking at nothing really, my mind which is so idle with nothing to do wants to have a conversation with me on what comes after I have within me the right kind of spirit. I haven’t been to church for so long, I am here alone hence I have no one I need to act good or bad for.
Why should I then keep the right spirit within me? It is because of my heart and the kind of feelings I do desire for myself. I need to feel this peace, I need to feel joy, love, happiness, fulfilled, grateful. I am in the search to realize where really does my heart feel at home. Genuinely, it feels at home by having inside me that kind of spirit that is great to me first before it gets better for someone else. I act in a great way because inside me I feel great. It begins deep inside me not from church. Even my actions happen from how I feel within.
And so feel great and be safe, we still have miles to go on this journey.
Kelvin J. Shachile is a Kenyan artist, designer and an author of two books (Hell in the Backyard and Other stories and the author of Game of Writing.)