When we say ‘forgiveness,’ we often forget that forgiveness should start from within. For us to forgive another, we must first forgive ourselves.
We don’t realise how much bitterness and resentment we hold within ourselves until we face a similar situation. Over time, this bitterness grows into fear, walls, and biases, making it challenging to embrace a different path. But to move on, we must first forgive ourselves.
To forgive ourselves, we must first acknowledge what happened. Sometimes, these mistakes are not ours to bear; however, because of the expectations we place on ourselves to be perfect, we fail to see past the current situation. We say to ourselves, ‘never again,’ and shut ourselves off. Because we never confronted the first situation, we may find history repeating itself as this bitterness grows deep and imprints itself into our hearts, creating burdens we need to release.
Some years ago, my friend called my attention to a prejudice I held so tightly that I didn’t even realise it was there.
What are the beliefs we hold as truths that are actually prejudices?
Just because I’ve had similar experiences with people of a certain gender in the past doesn’t mean every individual of that gender will act the same way in the future.
What happens with biases is that when we hold on to them so tightly, we close ourselves off from a part of the world. In my case, any man driving a car who stops me on the road must want something more. I couldn’t believe I held on so tightly to this mindset, thinking it was the absolute truth. I even mentioned this to my sister on our walk.
How long had I closed myself from love, friendship, or connection because of this bias?
I wept when I finally faced the truth I had been trying so hard to avoid because I felt so guilty that I had to talk to my friend about it. I let myself cry for all the hurt I’d been holding onto; for not loving myself enough to realize that I needed to forgive myself, and for being rude to a stranger whose only crime was stopping me on the road to ask for my friendship.
What follows from here is love, lessons, forgiveness, and self-compassion; love and forgiveness that comes from within; lessons learned from the incident; and a promise to be more open-minded. In this experience, we remember to be kind to ourselves as we work on moving forward.
‘We are a product of our traumas,’ my friend, Biodun, says. ‘Our traumas shape us and make us who we are.’
Imagine we give ourselves time, love, and care to forgive ourselves, learn from our situations, and move forward. Imagine we acknowledge that it is not our fault that these traumas happened to us. And imagine we write the future with so much love bursting through us as a byproduct of the lessons we learned and the love we allowed ourselves to feel and produce when we didn’t let that incident define us. We become love, telling love stories with kindness, passion, and sincerity towards others we meet on our way.
Last December was a myriad of events, as we were all exhausted from the spike in ridesharing fees, congested traffic, and fuel shortage. On this day, we walked a long distance from our house to catch a bus at the junction and then walked even further from the bus stop to the hospital because it was during this time that my brother was ill. After seeing the good doctor, we walked a good kilometre to reach the next bus stop, and it was here that we encountered what was going to be our fate for the next few minutes.
A keke driver appeared, as if by magic, with one passenger on board.
“Ojota!” we screamed in excitement, as it was almost too good to be true. Other buses that had gone by either needed only one passenger or none at all and many people were waiting at the bus stop. We were already on our way from the bus stop as we’d resolved to continue the journey on foot or if we were lucky, we’d find a suitable vehicle to take the four of us. We quickly got in as the vehicle slowed down. “Wole, (Enter)” the driver screamed in pidgin. “Enter sharp sharp, dem dey arrest keke for here! (Enter quickly, they’re arresting keke drivers here)”
We jumped in. My brother Newman and I got into the keke, followed by Bobo, who took the front seat. However, another passenger was already in the vehicle, and the seats were not going to be enough for all of us. The driver, acting as if he was in a hurry, instructed my younger brother Neche to sit on Newman’s lap. The driver had previously apologised for the inconvenience caused by the extra passenger, saying that the man would come down ‘up there.’
In horror, I blurted to the driver. “He’s sick, he can’t carry him.” I didn’t realise what I had said until the driver retorted in pidgin: “how I wan take know? My own na mek him enter, mek we dey go. (How could I have known? I’m only interested in moving this vehicle).“
Of course, how could the driver have known that we were just coming from the hospital?
Newman lapped Neche, and laughter bubbled up from within me, as I shook my head at my own silliness.
“Na true, you for no know. (That’s true. You couldn’t have known)” I responded in a voice that sounded almost like a whisper, in pidgin.
This was me in my element, surrounded by family, full of excitement, and almost forgetting to breathe.
After about two minutes, which felt like ten minutes, I heard the driver ask Newman for a rag behind him. I turned to look at the rag and noticed how dirty it was and wondered if I had my hand sanitiser in my tote bag.
But that was not what Newman was thinking. In fact, I was not privy to Newman’s thoughts until we got off the keke. The events that followed seemed like something that happened in movies. Because I later found out that Newman reached into his right pocket, pulled out his phone, and held it in his other hand before grabbing the rag for the driver from the booth.
Just before reaching the Coca-Cola roundabout at Alausa, the driver suddenly became manic. “Na for that hill I go drop una. I no dey reach Ojota bus stop o. If una want, I go drop una for here, give you change. (I will drop you people at that hill. I’m not getting to Ojota. If you want, I will stop here and give you your change.” In a calm voice, still oblivious of what had happened or was happening, I asked, “Which hill? I’m sure we can get off there.” Neche started to add in Igbo, “Ify, do you know that place where…”
Out of the blue, I heard Newman say in his calmest voice, “Ifunanya, don’t argue. Listen to me. Collect the change and let’s get off here.”
The manner in which Newman spoke caught my attention, and I listened without arguing, which was unusual for me, as I would typically argue with my brother. But, oh well, he called my full name, and anytime he does that, he means business.
We took the change and got out of the keke. The driver then quickly drove away with the other passenger.
Newman explained what happened then. The driver had used an “old scope” to try to distract him. When the driver asked Newman to grab the rag from behind him, the thought was that this would cause Newman to turn and thus be momentarily distracted, which would allow the other passenger the opportunity to try and steal Newman’s phone by slipping his hand into Newman’s pocket. However, Newman was alert and had noticed the passenger’s attempt to steal his phone because the phone was nearly half an inch away from his pocket then. The driver and his accomplice didn’t expect that Newman was familiar with the scope as pickpockets had tried this tactic on him in the past.
Then he asked. “Did you notice that the passenger was still in the keke even though the driver had said he was going to drop soon?”
This experience with my brother was another crucial step in my ongoing journey towards mindfulness. For days, I would reflect on this experience, as I had been oblivious of this side of my brother. As I applaud his ability to slow down in that moment of need, I also recognize how difficult it can be to stay present.
Last year, I became a member of Akanka Spaces—an intentional community of people focused on nurturing a mindset of love, backed by the framework of intention. This framework teaches that everything begins with slowing down, followed by gratitude and responsibility. Adopting this mindset has helped me become more intentional in my life, allowing me to approach situations with a greater sense of purpose and understanding.
Sometimes, we are fully aware of a moment, and other times, we only realise it when someone or something calls our attention to the present, and I wonder how many of such times I have failed to recognise such moments. My answer is ‘probably a lot of times.’
A lot of times, I find myself acting impulsively and absent-mindedly. Much to my detriment, this happens more often than I am proud to admit.
If we can slow down to be present in the moment, we can catch these moments before they slip away. Otherwise, we may find ourselves acting in ways that we may later regret.
Awareness of these moments is a rare gift, and my brother’s actions served as a powerful reminder of its importance.
Since that day, I have made a conscious effort to be more present in my interactions with friends and family. I have discovered that by slowing down to pay attention and be aware of the moment, I can better understand and support the people around me. This awareness has not only enriched my relationships, but it has also allowed me to grow as an individual.
I never knew I could enjoy my company as much as I did on this journey at IITA. Solo travelling is exciting, and I would do it all over again.
I did not go to IITA to have fun. I was on a soul-searching journey. As cheesy as that sounds, I went to IITA to bring myself back to me. I was not in a good place, and I needed to go somewhere that felt safe and familiar, and because I was at IITA in June and liked it there, I knew it was the perfect place for me.
I am not in the habit of travelling; June was the first time I travelled. However, I recommend leaving our safe spaces every once in a while to do something that feels good for us.
As I walked through the driveway at IITA, I found myself reflecting on Fred Minnick’s Experiencing the world through my senses on Meditative Story, and this line stayed with me throughout my walk: “I have smelled eucalyptus hundreds of times, but I have never taken the time to really just become entranced with it. Now I allow myself to let the smell linger in my senses with nowhere to be and nothing to prove.”
After my stay at IITA and on my long nights of walking the streets of my neighbourhood, I would come to understand why Fred Minnick spoke to me.
Coming home to a familiar place: How my senses play a huge part in my upbringing.
At IITA, I felt the trees and plants through their individual scents, and as I walked through them, they hit me, leaving behind a scent that feels so familiar; a smell that takes me home to a time when I was little and walked the woods to fetch water from the stream at Udu Ukpor in my village, and firewoods at Ugwu ekwensu and nri ewu (fodder) for the goats in my grandparent’s house. My memory of fetching fodder may have awakened these senses in me, as I learnt to recognize goat feed through their scents from foddering fetching with my cousins and mama (grandmother). Likewise, I learnt their names and knew not to fetch ata because it was a plant that could tear a goat’s mouth. I also understood that ara ma njino is nutritious and helps with red blood cell production for goats, so we made sure to fetch plenty of it.
This scent from home guided me on my walk through the residential driveway, led me on my run to the forests at IITA, down to the lake, and straight to breakfast as I dashed, first, for the glass of water at the breakfast table. I tell everyone who cares to listen that the water IITA served at breakfast is delicious and leaves behind a feeling of freshness that registers itself in the back of my head. Drinking the water at IITA reminds me of a time my papa (grandfather) drank the water we fetched from Udu Ukpor on a hot afternoon, and the first words he exclaimed were ‘mmiri nke a ná ató nọ òmí.’ In English, it translates to “this water hits the right spot of the brain,” meaning that the water tasted very delicious.
At the breakfast table in June, I had argued with my friends about why I thought the water was pure, and they had responded in utter disbelief, ‘Ify, pure water should have no taste.’ Of course, we learnt in school that one of the qualities of good water is ‘tasteless.’ What if I had said it had a distinct smell? I would have shot myself in the foot by unintentionally declaring that the water, which I had argued was pure, failed to meet two safe water quality requirements. But I am uncertain how to debate that I did not mean ‘smell’ in a bad sense and that I meant it had a good scent. That also would not have bode well, as good water should not taste or smell in a certain way. I could argue that good water should not taste flat. However, please forgive my argument here, as I am not a water quality specialist.
“How do I sustain this feeling of calm and bliss that I experienced at IITA?”
As I journeyed home from IITA, I felt a sense of dread as I wondered how I could sustain the feeling I had on my travel. How do I keep the calm and the bliss I had experienced as I move back to my life of responsibilities?
The first few days after my arrival from IITA, I concentrated more on my hearing, paying extra attention to nature as I walked my neighbourhood. I felt my senses heighten, and I swear I could smell something familiar from the sparsely grown shrubs on the roads. I listened out for birds’ sounds, and their melodies seemed distinguishable from other sounds, and I wondered if there was a time I did not hear them before. I could perceive the freshness of the morning, and I squinted when an unpleasant smell of gas broke the pleasant air.
I focused on continuing the routine I developed at IITA until I realized I was trying hard to maintain the euphoria I experienced at IITA. While meditating with Rohan Gunatitillake, I came upon Lehua Kamalu’s story: Tracking the path of the sun, and saw I wasn’t alone. Lehua also felt the same way on her trip back from the sea when she asked the question:
“How, I wonder, will I orient myself on land? How will I spot the stars, when the sky seems so much smaller from land than it does at sea?”
“I think it would suck if God did not exist. Otherwise, how can I explain beauty, nature, love?”
One sunny evening on my way back from Lekki, as my inDriver steered the car through the roads of Ikoyi, I beamed in delight as I saw a world I may have been oblivious to. Ikoyi was beautiful against the evening sun with the trees and tall buildings. I realized I was letting myself see Ikoyi for the first time. My driver asked if it was my first time visiting Lagos. No, it wasn’t. I didn’t realize we had such beauty around us.
In my journal entry, I wrote as I watched, “I think it would suck if God did not exist. Otherwise, how can I explain beauty, nature, love?”
“No, nature keeps on giving. It’s beautiful out here.”
As I go through my daily routine through life and work, I realize that the experiences I take from my visit to IITA will remain with me if I let them. They are here, with me. I experienced them, and I take them with me. In being here — present, I become content with this place and accept that this imperfect place can be a happy place too.
One of the blessings I bring with me from IITA is clarity. I can listen to the thoughts in my head more clearly. I feel thankful for the people I met at IITA. Even though I may never get to meet some of them again, I feel my paths may cross again with others.
“This place can be a happy place if I can slow down and remain present.”
IITA has become my sanctuary; it is a safe space for me to slow down and unwind. But I don’t need to go to IITA to slow down. I can recall the lessons from my journey and slow down with myself or my folks at Akanka Spaces. And I can decide to go back anytime, and it does not have to be when I feel my spirit separate from my body. However, I am back to my reality, home, friends, siblings, family, and responsibilities.
While I am back in this very familiar place, I remind myself that this place I have here can be a happy place if I can slow down and remain present. I needed a return home to bring me back to this place of consciousness and intentionality, and I am thankful to be home again.
I started this article to write a good workout tip for a friend and not a blog post, but as the words kept coming, and I continued writing, I decided to publish it on my blog.
The idea behind this blog post started with a single tweet I wrote on 31st, of December 2020 – A tweet, which, I deleted, sadly, with the bulk of my other Twitter posts on 1st of January 2021 with tweetdelete.net.
I had shared a photo with the caption: ‘Once upon a time, I was very thick.‘ I also shared similar photographs of me, and my Twitter friends were surprised because they didn’t know a bigger Ifunanya.
One of my friends, Biodun, asked ‘why, Nanya. What happened?’, and why again when my answer was that I started working out.
Why did I start working out, or why was my goal to lose weight?
Now that I think of it, I started with the intention of losing weight because I felt out of control with my body. I explained a little here in A failing well series #1: Running.
I wanted to get my body to move and to bend without friction.
Losing weight was the intention until I started noticing other changes – My body became taut, and my face cleared, and my skin started glowing, and I started dancing easy.
What apps and tools did I use on my weight loss/ fitness journey?
The apps and tools I use and recommend are:
8fit: (Pro helps with customized workout sessions, coaches, and meal plans. I started with the free plan and tried out the pro for free until I unsubscribed, then they provided a discount)
Noom: (Noom lets you log your weight and track the meals you eat in a day. It is more than just a food tracker as it also gives behavioural insight on diet and weight loss. The pro plan provides an educational approach that helps to understand why some food is recommended more than others with the labelling from green to yellow to red).
Nike Training Club: (NTC is a free app for customized workout sessions, but it can be busy, and the workout plans can get pretty intensive, which is why I paid for 8fit.)
Nike Running Club: (NRC is a running app)
Lose it Nigerian meal plan
Bathroom weight scale: (I check my weight every morning naked before I go to the bathroom to take a leak. I think it’s best to be consistent with the way you weigh yourself. Here’s what Healthline has to say about how to measure yourself.
Kitchen scale: (I’m not consistent with this, but I use it to weigh the food I prepare).
How I lost 15kg Within Two Months
First, Have a Plan – Do you want to lose weight or get fit?
The first thing is to note what you plan this journey to be. Do you want to lose weight, and or do you want to get fit? Do you also want to practice mindfulness while you’re at it?
When I started, I began with the intention of losing weight, because that was the only thing I could see – my weight getting in the way, so I started with 8fit and Noom and Naija Foodie meal plan on loseItNigerian.
It’s best to start with a less intensive plan and then build towards the more intensive ones.
If your goal is to lose weight, it would be counterproductive to keep your old eating habits. What I mean is creating a calorie deficit meal plan is best when trying to lose weight, and you can do this by either eating fewer calories or increasing your physical activity.
I didn’t continue for long with LoseitNigerian, because I have an ulcer, and, I couldn’t take some of the stuff that they recommend, like more habanero pepper (which is healthy, of course, and contains lots of vitamins and capsaicin), lemons, lime, etc.
I also figured out that their method involved eating fewer calories by tricking the body by eating more leafy vegetables, oatmeal, reducing oily, fried, and processed foods.
One of the many things I love about LoseitNigerian is that they don’t tell you to starve your body. They also don’t ask you to eat liquid meals. They encourage our Nigerian meals by recommending you follow a routine of eating less starchy meals, filling it up with greens, and taking nutritious home-made juices.
For example, if you wanted to eat Jollof rice for lunch, preparing a healthy meal plan would start with your first thought of the meal. Understanding that every ingredient you cook with adds to the collective calories of the serving of the meal you eat. After cooking, Lose it Nigerian would recommend going for one serving of the Jollof rice, a protein, and more leafy vegetables to fill you up.
Another thing I did was to cut out sugar by drinking non-calorie beverages like water. I stopped drinking tea and eating ice cream at a point, even though I indulge sometimes. But what I think is finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it.
Also, in my journey, I realized that, while fruits are very healthy, they can also have high calories. Dried fruits like dates and raisins or dried strawberries are nutritious but high in calories and sugar. Removing water from the fruits concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller form. A practical way to think about this is to look at 109 grams of sliced apple which contains 57 calories and 1 cup (86g) of Dried apple that contains 209 calories.
Eating one medium banana is great, and eating a full bunch of banana is equally good if you’ll fit it into your meal plan and make sure you don’t go above your intended calorie for the day. This understanding is why taking smoothies can be counterproductive as mixing more than two fruits can have over 1000 calories, which might be more than half of your daily goal if you intend to lose weight.
While eating fewer calories might seem like a great plan and help you lose fat, it can also lead to muscle loss, and wouldn’t be such a great plan when you look at it in the long run if you don’t add HIIT (High Intensive Workout) to it. Just sticking to long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce your metabolism, but spicing it up with workout sessions can increase your metabolism and tighten those loose skin. (An aside and a joke: This is why Lose It Nigerian spice up their meal plans with Habanero pepper as it contains capsaicin which can boost metabolism).
Incorporating Mindfulness into your Fitness Routine
Mindful practices can help us understand how to have a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate our body and love it for all that it is. It also helps us see our body as a machine that can flex and move as much as we want it to go.
At my core, I practice yoga in the morning for 10 to 15 minutes, and then I end it with a 5-minute meditation. Just closing my eyes and sitting still can set my day for me.
Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to your breath and body, and sometimes as an observer to see how reality is in the moment.
Incorporating mindfulness in your fitness routine allows you to just be.
It helps you to pay attention to the food you eat and to your body. It also gives you purpose for how you want each workout routine to go. For example, I started my fitness journey wanting to lose weight, and then I lost weight, then, I told myself I wanted to stay healthy, and then, I started working towards staying fit.
Mindfulness also helps you slow down and remind yourself why you’ve chosen to go on your fitness journey. It also helps with remembering that the journey is yours alone and that sometimes, you might not perform as much as you want, and that’s also a good thing, and to remember to turn up and end each exercise on a good note.
There are some posts you read on the internet that make you pause. One of them is from 8fit’s Coach Emily McLaughlin. Emily shared this on her Instagram page, and I have been thinking a lot about it.
“We aren’t here just to go through the motions or simply get physical. We are here to feel.”
Emily, Head Coach at 8fit
It made me wonder what the next step would be when we finally get what we want. What follows then? Do we stop chasing after sunsets or money or love or whatever it is that we have built our purpose around? Or do we find something else to chase then?
T. S Elliot once said, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”
In this same regard, Lee Ann wrote: “We will never reach a point in life where we will have everything we have ever desired. The whole point of life is the launching of new desires and then aligning with those desires.”
Following from the two thinkers I quoted, If we do not get to a time when we would have it all, then, I hope we remember to make time to pause?
Emily’s post made me reflect on the act of pausing. We do too much in the pursuit of our purpose. To make sense of this world, we are nurses, teachers, project managers, digital marketers, CEOs, venture capitalists, engineers, writers, etc. We have many interests, but sometimes our passions might not be our job, yet we need money, and in search of how to make ends meet, we dabble in many things and forget to make out time to stop momentarily.
Do you ever feel like you are living a monotonous life? You wake up with your alarm, rush to the bath, eat breakfast, go to work, get stuck in traffic, eat dinner, open social media, go to bed, repeat.
If you are anything like me, you do.
I will rephrase for those who work from home. Your alarm startles you, and you remember you have a meeting for 9:10 am. You rush to the bath, brush your teeth, run to the kitchen to fix coffee, open your laptop and join your call. You might not get to leave your house for the whole day, so you order in lunch and eat it at your desk. Work is over, you close your laptop, check-in on social media, watch Netflix, go to bed, and repeat.
When do we make time to pause?
Are we going through the motions, simply because? Do we go on and on even when getting on might not make much sense?
Life is difficult. We want what we do not have, and we go to work for it. Then, we have what we had been searching for, and we still keep the chase. It can be hectic to just get by the day, so when it gets to moments like this, remember to pause.
When you are feeling very overwhelmed, and you feel the need to drag through to complete your day, stop everything you are doing and do something different.
This week, I woke up twice in a row without feeling like doing my morning exercises.
Monday passed by, and I tried to work out, but I could not bring myself to.
Tuesday came, yet I was still too weak to do anything. Going to work in such state would have sucked, so I left everything I was doing and pulled my body outside, with my headphones, I went for a ride on my bicycle, and I rode the most challenging ride ever on a path I had never ridden before. It was tiring, but I felt sore and better after cycling. I was ready to work when I came back.
Sometimes, all we need to break the monotony is a change of events. If you feel like you are doing the same thing over again, try to do something different. If you are used to sitting in a particular place at a restaurant, sit somewhere else. Go on a different pathway if you have a specific path you love to take. Modify your routine, take a break, and most importantly, do not forget to breathe.
I will start by telling the story of how I started running – a sport I detested with all my might, how I have come to see myself as an athlete, and how I have grown to enjoy and see running as a beautiful sport. I will start with a running story because Abi Booth’s running story was what inspired me to start this series.
When it came to exercise, I was a scaredy-cat. I thought exercise was for a particular set of people – that some people came with an innate desire to want to stretch, while some were not.
I had this mindset in secondary school during Physical education (PE) classes. PE was compulsory, and it also served as a punishment for latecomers and delinquents. Instructors asked offenders to run around the school field many times — an activity that left one breathless and gasping for air. I knew many people who fainted on the playground, and I knew people who came out tops — this further implanted the idea in my mind that exercise was for a selected few. My school chose the ones who did well to represent the school, but I did not come close to coming first, and I did not even come last. I was part of those who stumbled on the way. I did not understand why they made you do PE in school. What was I going to do with it?
The beginning — A little story about my grandmother and how her death moved me to run
My grandmother’s illness started in 2015. I remember coming home from my final exams in school to meet her sick. I remember the scary feeling that things were not going to remain the same. Grandma was present, but oblivious to what was happening around her. She did not know when I came in until someone told her, ‘Look, mama, It’s Ify. She’s here.’ And she smiled. A smile she has always reserved for me, her first grandchild. I asked what was wrong, but she could not make a clear sentence. It did not make any sense to me how someone’s body could, all at once, start failing them.
From there, it led to many trips to the hospital, to her not being able to make coherent sentences, and to us having to feed her. She stopped walking, and we got her a wheelchair.
I don’t know what happened to my grandmother, but I remember a strong woman who instilled values and discipline in her grandchildren. I remember a hardworking woman who started taking care of my siblings and me when my mother died in 2008. My grandmother resumed parenting again when she was supposed to be retiring, and this meant she started worrying over what we were going to eat, how we were going to go to school. It was hard work 201. She went from a hale and hearty person to an invalid. She could not walk to the toilet or bathe herself, and she could not feed herself. If the grandmother that I knew could see herself in that state, she would have thrown a fit.
The last time I saw my grandma was in December 2020, when I visited her in a hospital in Ogun state. She had become a complete ghost of herself. She’d developed a brain stroke two nights before, and was plugged to a support machine. She could not tell it was me.
On March 2, on my way to the grocery store, I received an SMS from my little cousin that announced my grandmama’s death.
I had many questions – How could someone suffer this much for so long? What was the purpose of the human body? Where did things go wrong? Would I suddenly fall ill too?
“Globally, around 31% of adults aged 15 and over were insufficiently active in 2008 (men 28% and women 34%). Approximately 3.2 million deaths each year are attributable to insufficient physical activity.”
I started exercising out of fear of what would happen to my body if it ever breaks down. I had a scare once when I tried reaching for something underneath a couch in my grandparents’ house, and I felt a cramp build up in my upper back. However, my grandmother’s death was what incited the fear in me and spurred me into action.
The fact that I did not understand what happened to her made things worse. She did not live a sedentary lifestyle because she was the most hardworking person that I knew. She always had lots of stuff to do – If she was not going to the market, she was on the farm, and if you did not find her on the farm, she was attending her peer meeting. I have also wondered if she died as a result of extreme stress. Whatever it was, I decided to become more mindful of the things I did. I started meditating, and I started running.
An attempt at running: The first try, my next run, and the lessons
I did not make it up to 3 yards on my first run before I started panting.
There were days when I would get tired and could not make it to the distance that I wanted, and there were days when I would end up in my running gear without going for a run. I’d love to get to a point where I can comfortably run three times a week. The last time I ran was yesterday, and before that, was my run on Friday. However, I believe I am making good progress.
I love going on the guided runs on Nike Run Club (NRC) with Coach Bennett.
One thing I have learnt from running with Coach Bennett is understanding that it is okay to run at a feel-good pace. He says, ‘Every run has a purpose.’ It is better to run for a shorter distance than aim for a higher one and end up feeling disappointed. ‘End the run wanting to run more,’ he says. The first run is all about wanting to do the next run.’ It does not matter how many times you go on the first run or the next run as long as you run at a comfortable pace.
Another thing I have learnt from Coach B is that it is crucial to always listen to our body. Our bodies are always telling us something, and we have to pay attention to be able to hear it. Running is fun as long as we make it fun. If your body wants a 1-minute run, take it for a minute run. If it wants to rest, let it rest. I always run solo because it helps me focus on my training and what I want out of the run. I am not sure I can run with other people, but I am willing to give it a try.
The road to orange level
As a new runner, I would recommend Nike Run Club, as it is what has helped to build my confidence and get comfortable running. I am not sure I would be writing this if I had not given NRC a try.
When I run, I feel the need to move. Sometimes, I don’t understand if I am running from something or towards something, but I feel my adrenaline pumping and pushing my body forward, and this beautiful feeling is what inspires me to keep running – understanding that I can get my body to move.
Every time I go for a run, I keep learning new things about this sport, and I am always amazed at the things my body can do. There is so much to learn about my body, and I am here for all of it. I am glad I took the initiative to start running, and I am also happy that I overcame my fear.
I am joining Abi Booth in his ‘failing well’ series, a series he started, to expose himself to what it means to fail. I will be sharing stories of how I intentionally participated in stuff that I wasn’t good at, my experiences, and my lessons from failing. This exercise would help me get to know me better, and also help me understand my reactions to ‘failing.’
What does failing well mean?
Failing well means intentionally using every stumble you encounter on your path as a component towards learning. In failing well, you celebrate your mistakes, and you look into your struggles, pick up understanding and knowledge, and you come out a better person.
I remember how I had cried my eyes out when things had not gone according to plan at work. This experience, among many others, has taught me how very intense and passionate I can be with what I do, and how having anything less than perfection had seemed like failing to me.
I keep teaching myself that I don’t have to be perfect here, hence, with this exercise, I want to mindfully throw myself into the deep end and explore things that I am not comfortable with doing. I will go to places that I haven’t let myself go to, and I will learn how well I can handle mistakes and how I’d react to letdowns and stumbles down the road. This will be very intentional as I am going to be writing all about my experiences doing these things in my part of the ‘failing well’ series. You can join in and tag me when you do!
Here’s to having fears and conquering them. Here’s to failing well. 🍷
Until I started mindful spending, I didn’t understand what made me so apprehensive before salary day. Salary day was a day I always waited earnestly for because I’d spent everything from my previous salary, and a day I would later come to dread because I would spend all my monthly income trying to balance the past month’s debts. Later on, I’d try to improve on my spending, but it still didn’t matter because I wasn’t spending effectively.
Before I started mindful spending, I tried to remind myself of how much I needed to spend and how much I needed to save. The mind forgets, which is why we need reminders in our daily living. I drew up a plan that I visit every time to remind myself of the reason I started in the first place. A solid plan should be repeatable, organized, and agile.
What is Mindful Spending?
Mindful spending is being intentional about the way you spend your money and how your spending supports your goals. Satisfied Spending calls it lifestyle-based money management.
It is creating healthy spending habits that take you closer to your goals, instead of having your blood pressure rise when you think about what you’ve just purchased.
When you start spending mindfully, it becomes a part of who you are. You start asking yourself questions like these before moving money out of your account:
Is this item in my shopping list?
What is my reason for wanting to spend this money?
What do I intend to achieve by saving this amount of money?
Does making this purchase support my goals and needs?
How do I intend to achieve my spending goal?
I’ve come to understand that many people are not comfortable with engaging in money conversation. However, it’s okay to own up to the fact that our spending habit sucks. Every other thing follows from here.
I started mindful spending with Google Sheets. Google Sheets has a budget template that I customized to my preference. With the 50/30/20 rule, I created a planning sheet that helped me organize my spending into different categories.
The 50/30/20 budget rule states that:
50% of your net income should go to your Needs, e.g. Fixed expenses such as rent, work transportation, health, bills, and utilities.
30% of your net income should go to your Wants, e.g. Lifestyle or flexible expenses such as food, travel, shopping, and even black tax, etc.
20% of your income should go to your Financial Goals, which includes all kinds of savings and investments.
The 50/30/20 rule is ideal for me because it’s helped me with simplifying and organizing my finances. With the planning sheet, I was able to see how much I needed for what, and how much I should be saving.
I have prepared a monthly budget template for August that you may want to customize to your preference. Click on ‘file’ to make a copy.
Confronting Black Tax with Mindful Spending
In simple words, black tax is the tax every first child pays for being born.
As the first child of my family and the first grandchild on one side, I understand the responsibilities expected of me. Thinking about these responsibilities can be very overwhelming as you receive a text sometime in the middle of the month asking for money. You have a job, so nobody wants to hear you don’t have money. And heavens save you if they have an inkling of your monthly income. It’s okay to say you don’t have, but what about next month, and the upper month?
What I did was allocate some money for black tax under my ‘wants purchases.’ And in case the need is more than I budgeted, I wouldn’t do otherwise because I don’t have anywhere to unearth the money from, do I?
How do you measure what works with the monthly budget template?
As you spend and save, make every change in the sheet. At the end of the month, check back to see how much you’ve spent in the month. It’s okay if you spent more than you budgeted. The key is to take small mindful steps which in turn makes a big difference.
Make a copy of the sheet for next month with adjustment to your spendings. For example, if you budgeted N40,000 for food and you spent more than the amount you budgeted, adjust the expense for next month to the amount you spent this month and follow from there.
If you spent below the amount you budgeted, make the same changes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please fill out this 1 minute survey if you downloaded the monthly budget sheet. I’d love to follow up with you to make sure you find the budget template helpful. Don’t forget to follow my blog so that you don’t miss any blog posts from me. Also, remember to share with that friend who needs this most. Thank you.
“Small things — if not corrected — become big things, always.”
A few months ago, I wrote in my notebook, ‘I want a better understanding of what I want to do with my life.’ I had been battling with procrastination, a feeling of emptiness, and I wanted to be able to hold myself accountable for all of the things that were happening in my life.
I wanted clarity. I wanted to be more intentional with my life.
I was not necessarily a reckless spender, but I didn’t understand what mindful spending was. I wasn’t paying attention to how I was spending my money or where my money was going, and this made me incredibly sad. I always looked forward to saving a good percentage of my money as I entered a new month, but when the new month came, after saving on Cowrywise and Piggyvest, I’d ask myself the question, ‘Where did all my money go?’
I started tracking my expenses. Google Sheets has an awesome budget template that I customized to my preference. When I discovered that I could do this with Google Sheets, planning my finances and expenses became easy. I didn’t need to enter my bank data on some app. It felt like I designed the app myself, and I could do the rest of my budgeting on the go while entering the expenses I’d just made at a Grocery store.
But that was not all. As this aspect of my life improved, I felt I could do anything I wanted. My budgeting wasn’t perfect, there were times I’d fail to enter a record, but then, I’d recover myself, sit at my desk, and go over the sheet until I’d added all entries. It’s not easy to break a habit, but it felt good to be able to stay on top of my finances.
The next part of my life I started looking forward to improving was my health. I am not obese, but I became conscious of the fact that I was gradually losing control of my body, and that I needed to do something fast. It was in March 2020, and I’d just checked my weight. I felt mortified to learn that I weighed 73kg. I didn’t even know I could go that far, and I take all the blame. I hadn’t been doing much activity, given that my job didn’t require me to leave the comfort of my home; I work remotely, and I could decide to stay indoors for a year, working on my computer without needing to go outside. I sought the help of online services to do my shopping for me, and I only went out when there was a need for it.
As a result, I decided to start a morning workout routine. I downloaded Nike Run Club and some two weeks after I’d summoned up courage, I made my first run. Breathless, and not making it to 50 meters, I walked back home. My second run was two days later and better, on a Saturday morning with Coach Bennett, who made it more comfortable, as I ran the first 22 minutes without stopping.
And that, my friends, is how I started my mindfulness journey. I’m sticking to a daily routine while measuring my progress. This morning I checked how much I weighed, and I got 67.2 on the scale.
If there’s one thing mindfulness has taught me, it is identifying my top three priorities and focusing on them one after the other.
Today, I thought about journaling the little steps that I’m taking to finding peace, and here we are. This is my second blog post, and these are bits and pieces about me.