Know When To Push And When To Let Go

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

dalai lama

I did not take a break from writing.

Simple things in my life have been quite hard to get by. I have been endlessly procrastinating for a while now. I have idled and wished things away. But even when I tried to marshal enough energy to start writing or doing some other stuff, I found everything more complicated than it usually is. Working, learning, walking, and even sleeping demanded more effort.

I just couldn’t write, no matter how much I tried, because writing is usually very hard. Someone thinks they can write until they start writing. On many occasions, I planned to churn out content, but I never got the least mojo to get started typing.

Mid-year hands me a nice blend of seasonal struggles.

Looking back at my life patterns over the last 17,000 days,  I realize that July has always been a hard month for me. This is not superstition but an observable trend. In Julys, I have achieved great things, built great memories and enjoyed life in many ways. It is the season when maize gets ready back in my village. The time to enjoy mutungo and mahindi choma. The boiled and charred poor man’s snacks. My best food even today. Freshly picked and perfectly boiled or grilled village corn on the cob unites my urban spirit with my deeply buried village soul. It strips me of townie sophistication and reveals the simplicity of the everlasting villager trait in me.

July reminds me of my primary school days. When maize was the main classroom snack. Our dusty classrooms stunk with the aroma of cold corn in our pockets, fused with a thick smell of nauseating gases from heavily bloated tummies. It was also the season for threshing dry beans. Village roads and farms were dotted with heaps of dry, pounded bean stalks. Occasionally, my gang and I roamed around stealing maize from farms to party. We cleverly yanked the longest cobs and buried them underneath the crushed bean stalks. Then lit a bonfire which sent hellish smoke and soot spiralling up to the clouds. After burning, we combed the hot ashes with long cowherd sticks to fish out the hot cobs, now covered in blackened skins. Underneath the charred sheaths was a golden, smoky and tastiest version of cooked corn-on-the-cob.

The month sometimes became too cold for our skinny bodies without warm clothing. To keep ourselves warm while herding cows, we hand-made stoves known as nũgĩ. An empty cooking fat tin was punctured with a rusty nail at the bottom to create a mesh. At the top, we fixed a long, looped handle made from a recycled steel cable. We would then fill it with dry, threshed maize cobs or caked cow dung and light a fire. To occasionally keep it burning, one had to swing it round with a stretched arm until dizziness became unbearable. This stove not only warmed our bodies on the go but also grilled fresh corn on demand.

Last July brought a different experience.

Recently, I had some of the most challenging and unexplained mental, physical and spiritual struggles. There were deafening Kenyan election campaign roadshows everywhere I went. They showed up from nowhere. My environment just became unbearably toxic. There was bad news even for those who never give a damn about current affairs. There was no injury, sickness, bereavement, or other forms of ‘evil’ predispositions on the personal and family front. Instead, good things caused total confusion about some critical life choices. Instead of making decisions and moving on, I got entangled in a yoyo of conversations and indecision. I had a severe brain drain capsulated in an exhausted body.

The not-so-wise man in me tried to divert attention to fun sideshows, like watching the WRC Safari Rally in Naivasha. It was a weekend of shouting and choking in dust for days in a quest to clear my head and get back to business. Instead, I got back to the city more tired and depleted. At the end of it all, I was lost in what I could do to overcome my mental and physical fatigue. At this point, I concluded that nothing needed to be done about the situation. Because life is not that serious to warrant constant pressure. So I decided to be for a while and go where my fate determined.

There was no form of help anyone could extend.

Maybe therapy would have come highly recommended. Therapy has never been more crucial in the history of human existence than now. We are surrounded by people struggling with unmanageable psychological burdens and undiagnosed psychiatric disorders. We cannot decipher the help they need because this is a new breed of sickness in our society. We are ignorant of mental disorders or unknowingly suffering from anxiety or depression. At some point, I wondered whether something of this nature was looming.

But my situation would not merit a visit to a shrink. Frankly speaking, I would have declined any offer or counsel. Because sometimes, I feel that professional therapy, just like prescription drugs, is on the verge of being globally abused. Our society seems to have agreed to substitute every biological disorder with modern treatment. Instead of enjoying more sleep, better nutrition, nature walking, morning sunlight, relating and all other naturally regenerating antidotes, we opt for prescriptions. Expensive, dependent pills replace what is given free by mother nature.

In my case, I would be required to see a therapist to help me manage mental and physical fatigue. Instead, I opted for self-prescribed psychosocial rest and recovery and braking on exhausting physical regimens. I decided to lower my expectations, be grateful for the small things I was achieving and live more intentionally. I decided to offer myself some greater compassion than I usually do. I decided that this was my season to let things roll independently.

This season has taught me new lessons.

July shifts my body into hibernation. It is my month of low energy, exhaustion and brain fog. I guess the cold freezes the contents in my skull and the red juice in my veins. I may be excusing lethargy, but most unlikely, because how the whole thing felt was real. My new philosophy says that this body is customized for the warm weather because I am genuinely African. My dark melanin cannot allow weak sunrays to penetrate, so my body cells remain asleep even during the day. This may sound laughable to my friends from the upper continents, but how else can I explain this struggle?

Village science aside, life is a matter of seasons. There are times for hard work and times for slowing down. Our bodies know this better because we are customized for cycles. This cyclic calendar is something I never pay attention to when setting my annual goals. When I look at my previous goal logs, July is a moment of struggle, the season when my plans face the most significant test. So, I will pay more attention to slowing down halfway through the year in the coming year. From now on, I will set lower expectations for myself around this time to avoid unnecessary misery.

But no matter how well I plan, hard times will always come.

So how can life be pleasurable? Because the earth is problematic. The journey of life must be occasioned by intermittent falls. Any path taken will have patches for slipping, tumbling and falling. Life plans occasionally falter because we cannot see everything that lies ahead. But what is essential is how we respond when things get difficult. That is what separates achievers from dropouts. To achieve this, one must get used to falling, rising, dusting off, and keep going.

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Knowing when to push things hard and when to exhale and cool off is a technique for elite performance. But it doesn’t mean that you must immediately rise to a sprint when you fall. At times, you need the intuition to know when to take it easy so that you can re-energize, re-strategize and build momentum for achieving bigger things ahead.

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Published by Kariuki Mugo

I live cherishing the outdoors, especially green, rugged and watery spaces, but still enjoy the city life. I dedicate in and cherish a family system that provides the foundation for nurturing strong, loving relationships. I trust in thriving communities that provide a better life for everyone, and I am highly committed to creating knowledge. I am a husband, a father, a friend, a development worker, and a teacher to many!

2 thoughts on “Know When To Push And When To Let Go”

  1. Ada says:

    Beautiful! encouraging and real!
    I love. It has encouraged me today.

  2. Koigi Mugo says:

    This is a great read!! Indeed life is a matter of seasons and it is how well we recognize the season we are in that helps us appreciate it and make something out of it. Keep up the good work👏👏.

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