struggle

My Name is Funke

Four hundred and seventy-seven pages into Americanah, I saw it. Shocked by its presence, I sat and stared. Fixated so deeply by the letters, they ambiguated into modern hieroglyphics. I couldn’t decipher them. Familiar but distant. I took a picture and what I saw was my name.

Tosin (toe-seen) is a name of modernity. I didn’t actually discover my first name was Tosin (actually Oluwatosin) until I was in 9th grade. For a significant time of my life, I was called by my first middle name, Funke (foon-keh). As a child, Funke lent itself to humorous, but uninspired name calling: funky monkey, funky chicken, you smell funky. The one time, I fought, it was because someone made fun of my name. His name was Caleb Brown, and I hit his head against a window sill. (I won). Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resolve as a child to own my name.

When I transitioned into middle school, I went by Ola, taken from my second middle name, Dolapo (doe-lah-poe). Ignorantly unaware of the Spanish language, anyone reading this could clearly see how Ola got real old, real quick. Unfortunately, I was highly temperamental in middle school, and “Hola, Ola” lost its humor quickly. I never got into a physical fight in middle school over my name, but I did have mastery of a couple of choice curse words, that aided me in my verbal assaults.

In high school, I landed on Tosin. My most preferred moniker. Half of my life, I have answered to Tosin. I love my name. It fits me well. It has a balance of edge, softness, wisdom, and verve. It has followed me through high school, college, and Texas. I have heard “Tosin” pass beautifully through the lips of friends who have loved me like family. There are not any American songs written about girls named Tosin, but I don’t really need them. Tosin is unique for me. I like that when a friend hears my name, they are not filtering through millions of Tosin’s. There is (typically) a singular Tosin, whose name creates some sort of reaction for them. It is me.

So, why was I so startled by Funke?

Two reasons. First, it was awesome to see my name in the pages of a book. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was not thinking of me when she wrote Americanah, yet I felt represented. I joined along with a 1,000’s of other Funke’s who never thought they would see their name in a novel. Dumbstruck and awestruck. I was mesmerized by the idea that me a Nigerian-American second generation immigrant, whose name was caricatured, would see my name as a complex character even for one paragraph.

Second, it brought back memories of childhood. Dormant beautiful memories of Funke, who was spunky and sweet, tomboyish and rugged. Funke, whose mind was a wonderland of colors and stories and weirdness and spontaneity. I don’t revel in my childhood. Reflections of that time period are embittered by abuses and terror. It was nice to get a morsel of it back.

Hi. My name is Funke.

Next to my many names are the proper phonetics for accurate pronunciation. 

Do Teenage White Females Understand Their Privilege?

Last Saturday, I went to Tout Suite to indulge in their infamous brunch and do some leisure reading. As I approached, four young white women stopped to take selfies, bare-shouldered and Birkenstocked. I stood patiently waiting for them to either finish or notice they were blocking me. Eventually, they politely let me pass. I walked into Tout Suite and was struck by the privilege I afforded them. One they didn’t even know they had. They had a luxury most minority girls don’t. In their aloofness and adolescent frivolity, they had been privileged with innocence. This innocence, that made them not a blockade, but just teens being teens. This innocence, that if something happened to them, they would automatically be victims. This innocence, that frees them to be nonspeculative of the world around them. It was a careless and free innocence.

I hadn’t ever noticed it before. I wasn’t angry or upset with these girls. As I settled into my book, I watched them. Lingering in front of the case of desserts, unaware of the line behind them. No one tempting to urge them or hurry them. They took selfies in front of everything. Older couples looked upon them and smiled. One spilled their drink, and several people stopped to help this damsel.

I don’t want to spend much more time discussing these 4 white adolescent females. I cannot speak on their assumed innocence. Rather, I was heartbroken for my own. I work with a predominantly African-American community. I spend a substantial amount of time with black girls. We talk. We laugh. We cry. We do each other’s hair. When I look at them they are innocent girls, but I know the world does not see them this way. Black girls don’t get the luxury of innocence. My girls get hyper-sexualized earlier. I don’t know if it is hitting puberty earlier or the commodifying language we use with black skin. All, I know you never hear anyone saying about little white girls, “Your skin is like a yummy dollop of mashed potatoes”, but there lives a level of impurity and “chocolate sinfulness” in a black girls’ skin.

Those 4 girls, were allowed to be free, and the world accommodated that.

Perhaps, history or society or a blend of the two has placed a filter on the innocence of the black girlhood. Recently, a study was released discussing the Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood. It is a good read. It is pretty spot on. I agree not only based on my experiences but the experiences of my girls.

I don’t know where is post is meant to go. I have thought about this for a week. It makes me scared for black girls. Worse, if there is little innocence to be given to black girls. I cannot imagine the consequences for black women.

Actually, I can…

God help us.

Specified Lamenting

Sleep. Silence. Wake. Silence. Aldi. Silence. HEB. Silence. Clean. Silence.

A year ago my life was bursting with people. Busy was my normal pace. I packed in school and work and social obligations. I used busyness as a means of avoidance. I became hyper-productive. I still am. You can occasionally catch me in the office until 3 AM working on God-knows-what. Using the justification, it has to get done. People let me get away with it. I don’t really want them to, but everyone has their own busyness going on and I don’t feel the need to infringe.

People get into these rhythms. My weekend rhythm is empty most times. The peak of my excitement is the trip to the grocery stores. I go to Aldi and HEB. While standing in the checkout aisle (in Aldi), I longed for someone to share this rhythm with. I longed for someone to interrupt my rhythm with their own. I longed for a harmonious melody, where two sounds become one song, with seasons of discord of course, but one nonetheless. This thought carried to HEB. I stroll down the aisles mindlessly with tremendous amounts of time to waste, knowing I am only coming home to laundry and meal prep.

It gets exhausting telling God about your longings. I mean. We both know He already knows. Why does He even care to hear them? Why do I have to say them? Do, I even need to say them? Does God give me longings that will remain unmet? I think He does. Why would He do that? He is not cruel. I know He isn’t.

All the while, I hear the phantom whispers of well-meaning Christian singles and their leaders questioning my satisfaction and contentedness in the Lord. Stupid cliches about Jesus being their boyfriend or that they’re dating Jesus. Sarcastically, thinking in my head…“You don’t get to make out with Jesus like you would a human”. Then feeling condemned because positive female sexuality is not really a Wednesday night Bible study class offered in the church. Or people reminding me to live in a community that practices vulnerability. (insert eye roll). Maybe it’s not the community. Maybe it’s me.

I digress…

I don’t know, there was not really a point to all of this. I just felt these words ruminating in my mind over the course of two hours. And, I needed them to come out before I went to bed. Perhaps, I will find God in all of this. I am more hopeful that He finds me. I have not been searching for him. I am feeling a like the one lost sheep and really need my Shepherd to come along. I am a dumb creature, privy to falling off cliffs and being attacked. Please find me, Shepherd.

Words. Rest. Breathe. Rest. Post. Rest. Come rest.

(some)BODY

When I think of my body, the best I can do is not think aesthetically but functionally. If I keep myself concerned with the things my body can do, I never have to worry if it is pretty or beautiful or good. The problem with this is that there are some things my body cannot do. There have been many things people have said about bodies like mine. There are so many more things I have said about my own body.

Running is one of those things that I don’t expect my body to do. All, I can focus on is excess flesh just moving and how grotesque a sight that is for onlookers. Gravity becoming the immortal enemy of my physicality. If I am still enough, then I can maneuver around slowly enough for things to stay in place. It is all one big optical illusion of Spanx and slimwear and clothing in a size too big. It is weird to see the thoughts, I have displayed on a screen, but this is the reality where I reside.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, I had a case of insomnia. It wasn’t even that my mind was running. I literally just could not sleep. At 3:30am, I decided to go to the gym. Most times, I just walk on a treadmill, but in delirium, I decided to run. I ran for 5 minutes straight. I remained on the treadmill for 35 minutes and upon completion, I had run/walked a little over 2 miles. I hoped this would tire me out, but it only invigorated me. I did squats got in my car and departed, for a 4am drive through the city. By the time I arrived at work, I was tired enough to hide behind my desk for a 20-minute nap…..but I didn’t.

Today, I took a half day. I went to the gym and consciously decided, I was going to run. I began running for 7 minutes. At the end of 32 minutes, I had run/walked a little over 2 miles. 16-minute miles are nothing to brag about. In comparison to even the average runner (maybe walker), I am slow. BUT my body ran. It ran and it felt wonderful and it hurt. It is unfamiliar and fascinating.

I don’t really have goals or expectations for my body. I have worked towards a lifestyle that serves my body best. I have made some progress. I am hoping I can remain consistent. Today was just a day, where I just finished running, breathless and sweaty and smiled.

“Damn, I got some body.”

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #8: Body Shaming

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 17. I never dealt with it. I have spoken about it with friends before, but for a long time, I just wished it away. I lived my life. I don’t overeat, but ate normally. As if my body would somehow just magically begin processing food normally. It doesn’t. I have been frustrated with my weight gain in mid-adulthood. I weighed myself on Friday at work. Three numbers on the screen. I quickly stepped down and recalibrated the scale. No one should see those numbers.

Shame infected me like food poisoning. I wanted to throw up. I was disgusted and nauseated. So much work has been done in the body positive movement, but I can’t feel positive about my body. I don’t. My shirt felt clingier than ever. Sticking to every pound of unprocessed meals from times before. I sat behind my desk most of the day. I began thinking of all the stupid things, I ate that week. I ate my lunch and wanted to vomit it back up. I loathed myself.

These feelings are not gone. However, I recognize this. Having PCOS is not my fault. I cannot control that. Not treating it for 10 years is my fault. I could have controlled that. I start Whole30 tomorrow for the 3rd or 4th time. Tomorrow though will be different. Tomorrow’s Whole30 begins with a complete transition into a Whole30 lifestyle. It is what my body needs. I don’t know if I care about the weight as much as I do about the shame associated with it. I don’t want to feel that shame anymore.

On my bedroom mirror, I wrote these words, “You have PCOS. Through diet, exercise, and the grace of God, you can be healed. Choose today to make wise food choices.”

Father, 

The work of Christ removes shame, right? I have so much. You know where it all lies. Currently, it sits within this broken body of mine. I have used humor and wry self-deprecation, willpower and diet plans, but nothing works. Shame comes when sin has occurred. Lord, I could justify why I didn’t do anything. Why I pretended not have a problem. You know those justifications before, I breathe them. Rather, I confess my negligence and ask forgiveness. Shame removal is a work of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit work. 

God, thank you for Your abundant Grace. You don’t see my weight or my shame as trivial, but they are of importance to You. Whole30 is just a diet, but I ask you would work on my from the inside-out. There is a brokenness in my heart about my body. Heal that brokenness. Help me become open to your healing. 

I humbly ask this, in the Name of the Risen Christ Jesus, through the Power of the Truthful Advocate, 

Amen

The Car and The Mechanic

If life is a highway, then I am the car broken down on the side of the road. Flecks of dust and smoke layer my rusting coat as newer, faster, better models pass me by. If rust was my sole problem, then this would not be worth the write. However, the rust is just a symbol of decay covered by dirt. With the simple hope, that no one will notice how bad I have gotten. A new a coat won’t fix the problem; it just hides it. There are still other vehicles. I will still gather dust. That’s what I do though. I slap on a new coat of paint. I smile. I laugh. I struggle pretty. Keeping up physical appearances, but scared to open the hood.

What’s under there? I can’t decipher what is broken and what is not. All I know is, I can’t go anywhere. I can play a tune to keep myself occupied, but singing songs is just a lyrical high. Temporary relief. Mindless redirection. Each song becoming shorter than the last. Until, there is nothing left to play.

What if I can’t be fixed? What if I sat in disrepair too long? What if the damage is permanent? A tow truck should gather me and dump me at a junk yard. Parts of me are good. I can be sold for parts. Tiny pieces carry value. I can play a song on the radio. I can windshield wipe years worth of tears. It’s my best function. Maybe, I can shine a light. Illuminate for others what I cannot see myself. If I can assist a passerby, shouldn’t I? It gives some value to this old broken down truck.

Why is the dump more appealing than The Mechanic? Why dump myself before diagnosed. I guess I’m just too scared to hear how broken I am. To have someone look past the dirt and cheap paint job and check under the hood. Under the hood, I cannot hide behind my tunes or wipes or light. The Mechanic sees my brokenness, and I hate it. Sometimes, I hate Him. I hate that He doesn’t allow me to live in disillusion. He will not let me live in my functional fantasy without acknowledgement to my frailty. He tells me I am broken, and I hate Him for it. Why can’t I fix it myself? I hate the agony of repair. Most of all, I hate the cost. I hate the way it drains my wallet. Repair empties me; repair fixes me. It gets me back on the road. I hate the Mechanic, but I need Him. I need to be repaired and He is the only one who can do it. I hate that, I have to rely on Him for everything. I am a car complexly engineered. I have spigots and gears. Why do I need Him? I guess everyone has a Manufacturer?

I need to be repaired. I cannot be sold for parts. Disambiguated. Being spread apart is worse than being broken.

Call the tow truck. Go to the Mechanic Manufacturer. Let Him fix you. You are broken. You can’t be sold for parts. You will not separate yourself. Be whole. Be repaired. Drive again.

Fixed. A new problem arises.

Where do I go from here?