On this day last year I ran my first half marathon and got my 11th tattoo.
After the marathon I passed by the hospital to show my mum my medal. I then went home, had an Olivia Pope glass of wine and showered. Yes, in that order. I had not had any wine in November as I was preparing my body for the marathon. If you know me, 25 days without wine is a massive accomplishment. Novinophobia is real! But I chose to make that sacrifice as it was important for me to finish the half marathon. 30 was going to be a big year and I wanted to hit the ground running, literally and metaphorically. That medal, which hangs by my bed, is one of my most cherished possessions. No matter how many marathons I run in future, Standard Chartered XIV will remain the OG.
I am a person who never forgets important dates. A day that has a weighty event is held dear to my heart and does not decrease in significance as the years go by. I am no runner, so if I managed to complete 21 kms I knew November 26 2017 would be a day I will always remember. So I planned my tattoo for later that day. I chose a ‘three little birds’ design because I knew that sooner rather than later I would need to remind myself that every little thing is gonna be alright.
My mum’s battle with cancer was very difficult for me. It was also tough on my siblings, but firstborns are their mum’s best friends. My BFF, who is a last born, told me that in 2014/2015. So I am not being biased when I claim that firstborns are their mum’s best friends. I used to have conversations with my mum that she never had with my siblings. She bared her soul to me and it was both my greatest honour and greatest burden.
My mum sent me that message on 15 October 2017. Man she could not spell! That is in no way an insult but a fact. My mum could articulate her thoughts all too well in speech but not so much in writing. She was always asking me to write texts on her behalf. She also did not know how to correctly use emojis. But how she loved them.
My mum’s battle with cancer is what made me stop believing in the goodness of God. I have issues with God for many things, but letting my mum suffer the way she did is one of the main ones. I believe God exists, but I do not believe He loves all His children equally. He is not “team Lwile” as He has continually let me down in my 31 years.
One of the major emotions I felt during my mum’s battle with cancer was anger. My mum was the best person I will ever know. She was born on International Women’s Day and not by coincidence. She embodied everything a woman is supposed to be. Yet she suffered in a manner befitting someone who had done terrible things their entire life and karma was finally paying them back.
So I was angry with the doctor who misdiagnosed her. I was angry with the doctors that botched her radiation and ended up paralysing her. I was angry at the challenges we faced getting satisfactory home care. I was angry that not a single doctor could do anything about her debilitating pain. I was angry that her husband, shitty as he is, was not there for her and it bothered her.
I was angry that my mum would not walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. As I am the first born, my mum used to say she could not wait to sing and dance to mwana mberi at my wedding. It made me angry that she would never get to do so. In 2017 from time to time she would tell me she wants a grandchild. I had to keep reminding her I am yet to find the father. Lol. One day she said to me “Lwile I must have grandchildren. Whether I am in this world or the next.” I was angry that she would never know any of her grandchildren. She would not live long enough to hold a mini Wanjiku in her loving arms.
As you can see I was angry about a lot of things – past, present and future – on top of the many other emotions I was feeling. So from March last year I started seeing a therapist as I needed some help. When my mum was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in 2012 the doctor gave her five years to live. Coming into 2017 I was aware that my mum might die that year and I was no longer able to deal with my emotions by myself.
I had gone for a friend’s wedding down at the coast and on my way back I went to the therapist’s office straight from the airport. Our first session was well over two hours. I would see my therapist every two weeks or so in addition to having a number of candid conversations with my mum. With time I was able to move from angry to resigned. Life dealt us the hand it did and no matter how badly I wished it I could not undo the past.
But I knew that my mum’s death could easily obliterate any and all progress made with my therapist. Which is why I was deliberate with both the choice and placement of the tattoo. I knew I would need a constant reminder of the progress I had made so I chose a ‘three little birds’ design on my right forearm. Being right handed I get to see it countless times a day. And every day, subconsciously or not, I think:
Don’t worry about a thing,
Cause every little thing gonna be alright.