07 ноември 2013
01 октомври 2012
05 февруари 2010
20. The end? Or a new beginning....
This story is at a new beginning. One part of it is over and will never return. The past is a silent whisper, reminding me of the road I have had to follow to get here. But the road continues. I await the next episode with faith, hope and patience. I am ready to accept God's will and embrace his plans for me. I have faith in His programme and I know that whatever awaits me is all part of the grand universal plan of wisdom. I need to be strong. I shouldn't be afraid of the future. Life goes on with all its beauty. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes sad but always an incredible adventure. I have learnt a lot but there is so much more out there waiting to be discovered... The blessing of life is a gift that is so difficult to return. A long time ago I accepted His gift, taking the first breath along the journey to come. It has been rough and rugged, tough and frustrating, a magic kiss from the divine... All of that and more. There is always more. I have no idea what lies ahead but I need to go on. Maybe some day I will find the answer to the mystery, called life. I hope you will be there for me when I engage in the next journey. Stay tuned and listen....
19. THE FACE OF GRATITUDE
My daily prayers revolve around the gratitude theme. I feel grateful for all that I have been given in this wonderful adventure called life. I thank God for being there for me and hearing my prayers. I thank Him for forgiving my mistakes and pray for His blessings. I know He is watching down on me and I feel so loved, protected and blessed. God’s will is my leading light and I try to follow the path I have been shown. It will not always be easy but it is my way and I need to go ahead. There is a meaning in the end. It will come to me, I know it will. My belief must be strong . There is no turning back.
18. THE FACE OF THE DIVINE
Just thinking about all the good things I want to have in my life and being thankful for those I have already been blessed with makes me feel at peace with myself. I know God is watching over me. I know He is taking care of me. He hears my prayers. I go to sleep at night with my heartfelt “Thank you!” and I wake up with a prayer for another happy day. I have learnt to accept the pain in life as part of the long learning process that He has prepared for me. All the troubles we face, the illnesses we overcome, the sadness we feel and the tears we shed are all part of the unique process of the soul’s evolution to a higher level. Without them we would be just a physical being with no emotions and no heavenly values. I have seen the face of the divine in my dreams. I have experienced miracles and faced tragedies. Life has given me my fair share of trauma to make me realize that the sun always come out after the tornado ravishes it all…Light after darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel. Call it any way you want, the final countdown is there. We deserve to be happy. We are made to love and be loved. God wants us to feel blessed. I have dealt with cancer threats and psychic disorders, death and depression, loss and despair… The nightmare ends. It does. At some point you wake up and feel the urge to go on. Life is too wonderful to be missed out. The pain remains but you know it will grow weaker and make room for all the divine light to shine through. Love wins in the end. Even death can be overcome by the memory of the loved one. And the belief that He is there for us and will not hand us out more than we can handle. He cares for us. We just need to read the signs correctly. Sometimes what seems like a terrible blow is in fact a blessing in disguise. I am so grateful for being able to read my divine messages in a way that makes me feel He will never let me down. I am His creation. I was not made to suffer and be sad. The compassion needs to come out and spread among the needy. The gratitude must be unlocked and focused upon. The lessons need to be accepted with the necessary attitude. The setbacks are our stepping stones to wisdom. Nothing is forever. Except the face of the Divine, smiling down at us…
17. ALL MY FRIENDS
I have been blessed with good friends throughout these past forty plus years. Both here and in Nigeria. They are not many but they are good friends I can rely on. Africa met me with wonderful, talented, caring people. Interesting, intriguing, from all around the world. I had English friends, American, Irish, Nigerian, Indian, Polish and, of course, Bulgarian friends. The latter appeared at a time when I was completely unaware of my identity and was desperate to fit into a social circle that I did not really understand but desperately needed to be a part of. I think my quest for love and understanding has been a leading force that has always pulled me forward but also one that has played nasty tricks upon my over sensitive being. I needed to feel loved and accepted. I wanted to have friends that needed me and I was ready to die rather than admit I had no such friends in Bulgaria. What was I doing that was wrong? Why was I deprived of the closeness I strived for? The truth, however difficult it has been to accept is that I could not find the friends I needed back home. Maybe I was too old? Or maybe love simply backfired at me? I was struck by lightning when one of my closest friends came to dinner and- right there in front of me and my husband- concluded that she felt really sorry for Slav… The reason? Apparently, the poor chap had to live with my horrible character and had to put up with all my stupidity. Best friends? No, thank you. I never can tell when they will stick the dagger in my back. I wonder why I did not feel this betrayed in Nigeria. Maybe I was really loved and valued there? Why was everyone I tried to get close to here, clinging back as if I had AIDS or something? I often cried myself to sleep at night, convinced that I was the worst person in the world. I stopped hoping to hear the words “ I love you”. I just prayed to FEEL loved… Mission impossible. Sadly, I realized I had to come to terms with my worst fears and accept that I was struggling to survive in an unhappy marriage because I hadn’t the strength to pull away. And go where? Do what? Whose support could I rely on? I was basically a national drop-out, whatever that means…On all fronts. Too much had been lost and I could not see the perspective for happiness ahead. Maybe I was trying too hard. I have this deep inner feeling in me that always trembles when I see someone aching- emotionally. And I can go way out of my tracks to help- whatever it may cost. What if this person becomes my friend eventually? So much hope has gone astray throughout the years. I have been so grateful for crumbs of friendship, that I gave up hoping I could actually have the real thing. Unfortunately for me, I tend to get attached to people and always feel like a victim whenever the next betrayal rears its ugly face at me. Life is so wonderful, it is such a thrilling adventure and it should be such fun to live it. So why wasn’t I having any fun? The truth again- I really had no one to share the experience with.
The main reason I married Slav was to have someone, anyone. Wrong choice? Not necessarily. Maybe it was my fault things weren’t working out the way I imagined they would. I always end up feeling guilty for any failure I experience. The family issue is a particularly sensitive topic. Maybe because I always assumed I would have a terrific family, tons of kids, a loving and sensitive husband to worship me and everlasting love…. Not likely! I so detest the person I have become that it really is no surprise no one else feels close to me. Maybe I chase people away? Funny, in Nigeria I seemed to attract people like a magnet. I had friends, family, I was loved… Nowadays I truly believe the only creature that loves me is my cat! Dear Siso is such a blessing to have. I absolutely adore him and the way he holds me and snuggles up to me sometimes makes up for the lack of alternative loving. I am like this old, demented lady, surrounded by her beloved pets that scares the hell out of ordinary people and they back off before it’s too late. Could it be that most of the idiots I meet simply assume that I am a cannibal, having lived in Africa and all? Why else do they run from me, screaming and abusing my sordid being? Why do they eventually betray me? I have become self-sufficient in more ways than one. The way I have learnt to fix my car when it breaks down is the same attitude I have developed to please my inner self. Bottom line? No one else must be involved. Waiting for someone to make you happy is a one-way street. There is complete lack of response. Do it your own way and you will feel happy. Sing, cry, yell, sleep, write, read, jump, walk, pray, stare at one point in the horizon- do whatever you want and laugh. Soon the discomfort will go away. And you will feel at ease with your inner self. Who needs other people when one is at peace with one’s soul. Tough task, no doubt but not an impossible one. I do believe all that I have achieved in my life is due to my efforts only. If I had to thank someone at the Oscars, I really would be at a loss as to who to name. Of course, I will never have an Oscar, so no one needs to know what an absolute anti-socialite I am. Friendship is rather over-estimated. My humble experience has led me to believe that friends can hurt you badly. And that cannot make up for the minutes of coffee time spent together. So- I drink my coffee alone nowadays and feel thankful for the life I have. Even having coffee with a complete stranger can sometimes be a much more rewarding experience than being with a so-called friend that will end up spitting out all his hatred at you. Bulgaria showed me what it is like to feel hated and abandoned. Africa loved me and showed me the meaning of the slogan “All for one and one for all!”.
No kidding. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I will survive, I know that by now. I have been through hell and I am still alive. Maybe I will keep dreaming of my African paradise but I am very much at home now and more than ever determined to make things work. Thank you, Africa, for teaching me to be strong and to believe in myself. Well- it turns out I do have whom to thank, after all…
16. ASK AND YOU SHALL BE GIVEN
The Holy Book teaches us to believe in miracles. It tells us that if we want something badly enough- we will get it. In Bulgaria we have a saying that goes: “Be careful what you wish for! You might actually get it”. See- even out proverbs have a scary angle. Such as- “Too much good is not good at all”. So typical of our pessimistic, cold society! It is as if the whole social system officially forbids happiness and all the subsequent emotions. In Africa no proverbs even give a hint of declining our human right to search for happiness. Africans know how to rejoice. They celebrate life and value death. The wisdom gained in Africa is only a trail along the journey to eternal life. This is why I need to pay a tribute to my African childhood- for the love, the memories and for giving me the vision to see through the façade and sense life, rather than watch it. Beautiful Africa- thank you! Yes, I’m lonely here. Yes it hurts. No, I can never get those days back. I can spend the rest of my life listening to Jon Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” and still be unable to figure out why I had to leave my home, my garden and my love back in the sunshine of my dreams, in the paradise called Zaria… Romantic notion? Not at all. A long gone-by reality that made me what I am today. I learnt to love, pray, forgive and be happy in my first real home. Lessons of love I will cherish until I return back…. Home. When I die, I don’t want tears. I just want Jon Bon Jovi to sing for me and guide my soul back to its true home. Meanwhile, I have things to do. Simple, daily tasks that are important to the people around me. I need to take care of my mum, look after my daughter, love my husband and adore my cats….Quite a lot of activities to fill my days and nights .It is what I want and what I pray for. I shall have it because I know now that He is watching over me and listening to my prayers. And the real miracle- He makes them come true. Thank You!
15. CANCER OF THE SOUL
I recently read that the modern term for depression is cancer of the soul. Our soul is just as important an organ as any other and it can take ill or- even worse- develop cancer. Over the years, the tumor had slowly been eating at my soul, trying to settle in permanently. Would I allow it to take my soul? Would I finally admit defeat after all I had gone through? Not a chance. My father taught me to be a fighter. Admitting defeat now would be like scorning his memory, his love and belief in me. For his sake and mine, I had to go on. I kept reminding myself I have a beautiful child that loves me and that I love more than anything in this world For her sake too, I had to go on. Didi- my daughter- has a wonderful smile. Blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin and a smile that melts your heart. She is such a happy kid, God bless her! What right had I to deprive her of her smile? She loves life, she is joyful and blissfully happy. And she is so young- only fifteen. I am the centre of her life- yet- the loving mom she comes home to. There is no chance I am going to pay tribute to the devil and give him my soul. Not a chance. That is not the life Didi deserves to have. She needs to grow up, being the lovable and trusting person that she is. And she needs her mum there. I read so many books on how to decipher the signals of the soul- the fear in us from past lives, the need to reconnect with your inner self, the way to generate all the strength inside us and leash it out…. It’a wonder no one has claimed me for his personal guru. I am so into this stuff, you would think I have finally reached Nirvana. Alas, not so at all. An unexpected phone call is enough to throw me off balance and erase in half a second all my good intentions to stay calm as well as all the acquired knowledge of my soul’s strength. Which leads me to think that when I was writing my plan programme back “Home”, maybe I did not have exactly this body in mind to carry out all my special missions. I am not complaining, no. I truly believe in the healing power of positive thinking. I also believe in miracles. I have learnt to accept that life is an on-going battle of good versus evil and that after every low point comes a higher level of wisdom and recognition. Depression is for the weak. I am supposed to be strong! I will not give in to the Devil’s constant attempts to provoke my sense of harmony and break down my faith….
It is Christmas. Again. The second one without my father. I love Christmas, the legend, the symbols, the whole cosy atmosphere of hope and belief. And yet- someone at the table is missing. A loved one that should have been there to make a toast and say a prayer. Or maybe he was there? Maybe I am no longer capable of seeing him, since he crossed over. I so need to believe he is here, that a day doesn’t go by without me talking to him or sending him a message. I do not have all the answers and he does. I know he is in the light and I am sure he completed his earthly deeds- he told me so himself in a recent dream- but I would still like to ask him if he misses me, too. And why he left so unexpectedly. Christmas is a wonderful time. But it will never be the same again. In Nigeria, our Christmas was an African affair- hot, loving, unforgettably touching. I remember absolutely everything- the way I felt, what my dad said, my mother’s cooking, the presents I got, the incredible sense of happiness…. In Bulgaria I do not remember such details, even though Christmas here is a more recent affair. I remember the thrill of buying presents for Didi and that is about it. Didi is a teenager now and this Christmas I barely saw her- she preferred to be with her friends , rather than stay home with her parents- dull, boring, predictable. I don’t blame her. It’s a blessing I still have the cat that I could cuddle and fall asleep, dreaming of long gone-by Christmas cheers in magic Africa.
They say childhood is a unique time. It is special. Once in a lifetime. But why doesn’t anyone tell you it is a time to cherish and remember every single detail because years later it is the only real therapeutic event you can go back to and feel at home?
I would gladly trade my soul for just one day back in Zaria with mum and dad and all the love in the universe that I had back then. Unfortunately for me, the knowledge I have gained throughout the years forbids me to accept the possibility of such a miracle ever happening.
Or maybe not?
14. THE THINGS WE LEAVE BEHIND
It is difficult living without a heart. I left mine in Africa years ago. I also left my childhood back there, my virginity, my happy and carefree days, my first love. I came back “home” without all the necessary ingredients for a normal life. Do I want to go there again some day and see it all? Never in a million lifetimes! I just know the magic will have disappeared, the place is bound to have changed, I have changed…. No, I do not want to ever ruin the beautiful memories I have of that God-given land, of the feelings I experienced living there, of the love and light that embraced me for twenty years. Leaving Africa was the biggest drama of my life. Africa had given me so much, I had to leave some part of me there as a token and gratitude for a life I would never have again. I loved Africa with all my heart. So I left it there….
Now I know why I need all these pills to keep me going. I know why I have high blood pressure, panic attacks, depressive moods, weight issues, nightmares and dizziness. Most of the time the medicaments do not even help. I take them as a prevention for what? Illness? Pain? Death? I don’t really know. I take 5 different kind of pills for my heart- and yet I know I have long lost my real heart. I just have this machine inside me that keeps going on a clock-like principle and keeps me moving- for what? I am yet to find out. I always ask the same question each night before going to sleep: “What am I doing here? Why am I still here?” My father has the answers and has been handing them out in small portions, so that I can assimilate them. One night he sat next to me in a huge lecture room, packed with books to the ceiling and urged me to take notes and write everything I was being told. So I did. Frantically and urgently, I wasn’t supposed to miss a thing. I knew it was important. So I wrote and wrote. Daddy sat next to me and urged me on. Someone that I couldn’t see was reading the lecture in an unknown language but that didn’t stop me from writing it all down. Apparently, the me that was in that lecture room understood the language… Two days later and I am back in the same lecture room, dreaming (or not? ) that I am now taking the examination on all that I had been taught earlier. Dad was no longer there. It was just me and the exam sheets. I laid it all down and guess what? The Voice announced that only I and another girl have successfully passed the exam. Out of a thousand people. I was ecstatic! I woke up and I wanted to hug the whole world. I know the dream was extremely important and I know I passed whatever exam I was supposed to take. I passed! That is why my father was there urging me to pay attention and write it all down. I think I am on the right track. I may have found my way in life that will put me back on the road. I believe that is what my father would have wanted me to do. He truly believed in me and my abilities. And I think he wanted to show me that I am not a drop out. On the contrary, I am handling myself rather well…. Thank you, daddy, for having faith in me yet again.
Then there was this other dream. I dreamt I had lost my daughter- it is every parent’s nightmare. I knew I can’t live without her and just then I saw her in front of me- this shiny white silhouette that was her eternal soul. I woke up screaming. My body was up but my soul hadn’t returned from its astral journey. And then the strangest thing happened. I couldn’t feel my arms, my legs, my skin. I was there and yet my body was not. I put my hand under running water and couldn’t feel a thing. I tried first cold, then hot water- nothing. My pulse was racing, I thought I had died. I wondered if I was visible. My husband woke up and answered my wild question. Yes, he could see me. So why couldn’t I feel real? Why? Maybe that was the next part of the lesson. Our body is just a shirt we take off when we head on to the next level after death. Our soul, though, lives on. Then I knew why I had dreamt that strange dream. I still had to overcome my fear of death.
13. THE FACE OF DISASTER
I no longer ask myself why things happen when they do. I know there is a reason for everything, even the most hideous events. I must have been an imbecile to imagine I could go through life, breaking all of God’s commandments and not face the repercussions. So, when disaster struck me down, I really didn’t have anyone to blame for it but myself. Did I admit defeat? Of course not. I felt betrayed. I blamed Nigeria for stealing the first twenty years of my life. Then I blamed Bulgaria for not accepting me into its society in the next twenty years. I blamed my husband for not caring enough…. Until it hit me: I had no one to blame for my mistakes but myself. Sooner or later, we get what we deserve. And yet- I am thankful for the disaster I faced. Without it, I would not have undergone the change I did. I would not have re-evaluated my priorities and learnt so much from my failure. Without the catastrophe, I would not have become a better person. Life has its own specific ways of showing us we are on the wrong track. All we have to do is decipher the signs.
I have always had an optimistic attitude to life. Youth has its own version of life and it rules out tragedy. Unfortunately, at some point reality beats dreams and we have to face disaster as it comes. In my case, disaster had many aspects. I grew up healthy and content. Returning to Bulgaria ruined my health and developed my discontent to most things and people around me. I would wake up in the morning wondering where I am and what on earth I’m supposed to do. As my sister, Vicky, said once: “Okay, I’ve had enough. Now can we please go back home?” Home to her was Africa. She was born and raised there. No wonder she didn’t stick around for long. As soon as she was old enough to travel, she packed her bags and left Bulgaria- with no intention of ever returning. This was not her home and would never be. She is yet to find out where her home really is but she is in the process of finding out. Whereas, I had the “privilege” of being born in Bulgaria and was considered a true native. My “African” half had to be put to sleep and I had to hope it wouldn’t wake up some day, screaming for recognition! I really tried to forget my past- the sun, the warmth, the hospitality. I faced my new reality- cold, hostile, unfamiliar. Here I was nobody. I meant nothing to people and institutions. I was the unwelcome ”alien”, claiming her right to live like all others. Of course, I was not like the others. And I could never be. The more I tried running away from my past, the faster it caught up with me and mocked my futile efforts to forget. My body was here, but my soul was back in Africa. The result? A series of physical ailments, which was probably my body’s way of protesting against the pressure it was under. I began falling apart- physically. And later on- mentally. Suddenly my body was no longer in the top shape it had always been. Age was not a factor. I was young, but I felt ancient. Somehow I learned to live with my physical indispositions. I drank my pills for each condition and struggled on. Then my head blocked. My mind went wild and there were no pills for that. I admitted defeat. Total and complete defeat! I gave up. The difference between what I had wanted to be and what I had actually become was so overwhelming that my brain flipped. Just like that. I was thrown off board and had to face five lonely years, locked up at home, deranged. I had all the time in the world to analyze my falls, contemplate over the possible solution to the crises. Was it karma? An echo from a past life that I had to settle here and now? I read books, watched films and dug into my brain, in the hope of coming up with the answer. An impossible mission. I found relief in sleeping. That was my therapy. I would fall asleep and transport myself back to Africa. There I could feel the sun and the love I was missing in real life. Waking up to reality was like a cold shower early in the morning. I resented the new day, because I knew I was useless in this world. The place where I had been somebody was just a fragment of my imagination, fading out into a colorless picture.
I could not get the kind of job I wanted because I was not educated according to our standards. My family was becoming more of a burden than a source of joy, basically due to my own irresponsible activities. The future did not look good. The past was a mirage and the present was a scene from a sordid movie. I was desperate for a way out. I wanted my life back. I wanted to rejoice in my achievements and not dwell on my failures. Replacing the impending sense of doom with a positive attitude to life required a new philosophy that I was about to embrace.
12. THE CHEATING GAME
By the time it dawned on me that this was no longer a harmless flirt, I was deeply in love. Or maybe it was infatuation. All I know is it scared the hell out of me. The future of two families was at stake. My infidelity was tick-tacking like a time bomb, threatening to explode at any time and throw me off board. Leo was not making it any easier for me. We tried to end it there and then. And failed miserably. The emotions were far too intense to ignore. The feelings were mutual. And the trouble we were in was gigantic. We fooled ourselves into believing that, as long as no one knew about our affair, we were safe. And yet- how do you hide love? It is like the small pox- all over your face, your body and painfully visible. I was glowing, he was grinning. The daily phone call, the stolen kiss, the admiration in his eyes- I was ready to die for that but not give it up. We began wanting more. More time together and less family duties. I was doing something really bad and the paradox was that it made me feel really good. Life seemed wonderful. Our walks in the mountain, passionate dates, the whole fireworks of a love that had hit us unexpectedly as an earthquake. It was all so wrong, yet it felt so right. Maybe if Leo had turned me off at least once or done something to disappoint me, it would have been so much easier to put an end to all the lies…..Sadly, he did no such thing. To make matters worse, he was there for me whenever I needed support. He was the friend I needed and the lover I had fantasized about. He was perfect and he could never be mine. Maybe it was the case of wanting the forbidden fruit? I was too weak to call it quits and we had an on and off affair for another five years. Cutting the cord of our mutual sin was an excruciating job. Transforming the crazy love into a normal friendship was a long and painful process. The punishment inflicted on me was completely worthy of my activities. I had lied, cheated and fooled around. Certainly, I deserved to go to hell. And I did. Only, I was about to find out that hell was here- on earth. And we cannot run away from our sins without getting what we deserve. The question is: are we ready to pay the price for sinning? And the final countdown: was it worth it? I am still searching for the answer….
11. THE FACE OF BETRAYAL
Slav and I had a comfortable marriage. The kind where life just runs smoothly along its tracks, time passes by, the kids grow up and we live happily ever after till we are ninety….Or so it seemed to me. There was no risk, no adventure, no excitement. Love had turned into a cozy friendship, conversation was at a room mate level and his career was a definite priority to him. At some point, maybe subconsciously, I know he took me for granted. I also felt I was putting in more effort into family issues than he was. I had more obligations, more responsibilities towards the family than Slav and, as a result, much less time for myself, my career or my interests. At some point I began to resent his carefree attitude to life. He was free to get on with his life, whereas I had to stay at home with a sick baby or rush straight home from work to cook and clean. I think his motto then was: “Why worry about stuff, when there’s someone else to do it for you?” That someone was me. It was inevitable that we drifted apart. I was not prepared to play second fiddle to his job, nor was I ready to give up on my dreams. My plans were supposed to be as important as his but that is not the way things turned out. Our child was not to blame. I wanted that baby more than anything in the world and she would always come first in my list of priorities. I could skip coffee breaks and shopping sprees for her but when faced with the dilemma: “my job or my kid?”, the answer was: the kid! For Slav it was the other way around. Nothing was more important than his job, his career plans and progress. It was clear that one of us had to step back and stay at home with the child. Maybe I would not have reacted so badly to this stage, had he shown some understanding and compassion for me. But he was so determined to succeed at all costs that my feelings were the last thing he was concerned about. The crisis was complete when I started looking around for another man…
I didn’t know what exactly I was looking for. I just needed someone to remind me that I was attractive and desirable. I wanted to be the most important item in someone’s list of priorities. I wanted to check my female status. To cut all excuses short, I was simply being a bitch. I focused on my target and made it my business to seduce him. I had no idea I was stepping on dangerous ground. I had no concern for the consequences. I wanted a man that would make me feel like a woman. Rather than face a splitting marriage, I found it easier to stray aside. Less trouble, or so I thought and my ego was intact. The flirt was on and the target was shot down. I headed for the best looking man in sight. Tall, handsome and sexy, he seemed attracted to me. I was on the prowl and there was no turning back. Did I stop to remember my marriage vows? Did I feel I was doing the wrong thing? Not at all. I had found a guy I liked and I had to be with him. Did I care that he was married with kids? No. Was I concerned how his wife would feel? Not in the least. And Slav? He was totally out of the picture. Suddenly I felt alive again. The thrill of the hide-and-seek game was so strong, I was like a junkee who just had to get his daily dose of drugs ( extramarital activities ), in order to survive. It was fun. It was exciting. And it made me feel great. We had such a terrific time together that all problems began to fade out. I forgot my husband, he forgot his wife. Leo was my happiness pill. I was his hot temptation. It was just a game, or so we thought. And then something, somewhere along the line went wrong. We had not counted on it but it happened. That was when I realized I could not back out even if I wanted to. I had fallen head over heels in love with Leo...And vice-versa.
10. THE FAMILY GAME
Having my own family was a dream I have had ever since I can remember. The only thing I was not absolutely certain of was the number of children I should have. Two or three? Two boys and a girl or the other way around? Part of my childhood fantasies involved playing house- like any other little girl. Growing up and actually living out that fantasy turned out to be no fairy tale. After refusing Kyn’s marriage proposal, I assumed I would never fall in love again. It was the kind of love affair I assumed struck you once in a lifetime. Kyn had his own theory on the matter. After I had made it quite clear I could not handle the cultural and racial consequences of our affair, he seemed genuinely heartbroken. He was certain he would not be able to love any other woman again- not in the way he loved me. His last letter to me had a stamp on the envelope with the following text: “Maybe twice in a lifetime”. After we broke up, I burnt all his letters and threw away all his gifts. I did not want anything to remind me of him. I was young ( twenty ), I felt on top of the world and I was sure that falling in love was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. I was back in Sofia, where the only people I knew were my cousins and meeting new people and making new friends seemed like an exciting activity. I was hungry for fun and excitement. I wanted everything out of life and I wanted it right away. I met a lot of men, who made it clear I was of interest to them. One of them even said I reminded him of an exotic African flower with my tanned skin, flowing chestnut hair and sparkling green eyes. Men thought I was beautiful and sexy and sought my company. Unfortunately for them, or for me, I also had a functioning brain, which could not ignore the obvious fact that most of these guys just did not measure up to my expectations. Kyn had set the standards high and finding a man I could respect and look up to, as well as being attracted to him turned out to be no easy task. Sure, I could go to bed with them. But then what? What could we talk about? My world was incomprehensible to them and theirs seemed extremely shallow. I was not ready to compromise. Not yet. I wanted it all- love, friendship, trust, understanding, sexual and intellectual compatibility, marriage, kids, a home, a career and “ they-lived-happily-forever-after” long years ahead… Wishful thinking? The inexperience of youth? Or the fantasy of a writer-to-be running wild? Not really. I had actually seen such families in Nigeria. They were a reality there. Bulgaria was not so obliging. Three years after my return home, I had to admit to myself things were not working out the way I had imagined. The idea of being a beautiful bride and walking down the isle with the man of my dreams was beginning to drift away like desert mirage. I was finding it difficult to communicate with the people around me. Different backgrounds, upbringing, ideals and dreams were only a small part of the cultural shock I was experiencing. That was when it first hit me- even though I was Bulgarian, I came from a completely different culture and blending in was going to be a problem. It never occurred to me back then that it was actually going to be impossible to do it. I had missed out on the first twenty years of living in this society, and the next twenty were about to strike me with the full impact of my failure to become a true Bulgarian.
Why was I so desperate to blend in and be a part of the society that made it quite clear it could do without me? The truth is, I felt a passion for my country that had nothing to do with the bureaucratic barriers I faced every day. I love the Bulgarian countryside, I love our mountains and the seaside, the flowers and the trees, our heroic past and specific traditions. I love our poets and novelists, Bulgarian ballads and songs, films and artists. We have a vivid culture that I was eager to accommodate. Maybe I had been deprived of it for too long and needed to get back to my roots. I adored Africa and could never forget the incredible years I spent there, but it was of a vital importance for my soul’s harmony to learn to be e real Bulgarian.
My marriage to Slav at the fragile age of 22 seemed like my passport to becoming “one of them” at long last. Having a Bulgarian husband and a family was a desperate wish come true. Slav was easy to fall in love with. He was intelligent and good-looking, easy-going and kind, with a sense of humor that would be of a vital importance in moments of crises. He was the man of my dreams, the one I thought did not exist or that I would never find. We were a beautiful couple, we still are, though “beautiful” may no longer be the exact word that describes our relationship. We had a fairy-tale wedding, a house of our own, lots of good chemistry between us and- four years after the wedding- a wonderful daughter. We both had stable jobs. I was a lecturer of English at a local College and he was just getting started into the construction business. I had so much to be grateful for. And yet- despite my objective perception of our marriage- something deep inside me rebelled at all this “sheer happiness” and waited for the “bubble” to burst. Years later, it did….
9. THE FACE OF SUCCESS
I have had my fair share of success. Probably like most people. The problem with success was that what Africa considered an enormous achievement, Bulgaria discarded as trash. In the eighties, Bulgarian policy was to disregard all that was different, unfamiliar and a threat to local concepts. The victim in this case was my “foreign” education. Having spent nearly twenty years in Nigeria, naturally I was deprived of “solid” Bulgarian education. However, I had degrees and diplomas that spoke well of my academic abilities. I had taken the General Certificate of Education from London University and had five “O” Levels and three “A” Levels to show for my skills. That got me straight into Ahmadu Bello University of Zaria, where I could major in English Literature and develop my artistic inclinations. I loved every minute of my studies in the English Department. It was no surprise to anyone when I graduated with flying colours and top of my class. I received the University’s Literary award for best graduating student in the whole Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The future looked tempting and I was enthusiastic to get back home and put my knowledge to practice. My parents were extremely proud of me and so were all my colleagues, lecturers and friends. Africa had me high on the pedestal of personal success. Bulgaria kicked me down and mocked my achievements. The fall hurt. It was painful, unexpected and shattered all my dreams of having a successful career in Bulgaria. This was just the beginning of the painful and futile process of reintegration into Bulgarian society that I would have to undergo. A society that would never let me forget my “betrayal” of its rules and would always remind me that I was “different” and, therefore, an outsider . The country I had longed to come home to, made it quite clear I could not fit into any of its social corridors. My education was a fake, as far as the Ministry of Education was concerned, I was “illiterate”, as I had not attended Bulgarian school, I could not be trusted with a job due to my “foreign” contacts. What was I supposed to do? Commit social suicide or jump on the next plane back to Africa? I chose to stay and prove to the community I was not an enemy for having lived abroad. It was a tough task to prove I was well educated and capable of being a good worker. All I wanted was to be given a chance to show that I am not a fake; my life is real and Africa is not a mirage. Being young and optimistic helped me stick to my values. I was not ready to give up and admit defeat. Not at that stage, anyway. How foolish do you have to be to believe that one person can change a whole society? Society changes in its own course- slowly or not, depending on the changes taking place within it. For people like me, society had one solution: get lost! Every tiny step forward required gigantic efforts on my behalf. An excruciating task!
Twenty years later, I have come to realize the price I paid for staying here was too high. Even though I have more or less “sunk in” the local scenery, I now know that if I had a second chance, coming home would not be an alternative. Forgive me, daddy! I know how much you wanted me to stay here and have a wonderful life but even your unconditional love could not protect me from all the downfalls I had to take. I could not have known what lay ahead for me. I do not blame anyone or anything. Life is always a risky adventure. And yet, deep inside, I feel that Africa would not have let me down. She would have given me the life I wanted. I only had to make a choice. Just one choice. I chose Bulgaria.
8. THE FACE OF DEATH
I spent nearly 40 years with the most wonderful and caring father in my life. I was blessed with a love so unique and beautiful, it is impossible to imagine how life will go on without him. I think, deep inside, I never wanted to believe that some day I would have to deal with his absence. How could I have been prepared for the shock of losing him in an instant? How could I have known the cutting pain that I would feel, facing the eternity of death? I can see him in my dreams but it is not the same feeling. I want to hug him. I need to hear his voice. I want him alive. The notion that I can never see him again seems a cruel and meaningless lesson of life. Something I do not know how to cope with. A punishment so painful in its intention, that it seems pointless to go on from here. Go where? Do what? I prefer to stay numb. Letting my feelings out would be like Armagedon for the soul- total destruction of everything I have ever believed in. So I have tried to bottle up my agony and put on a happy face. No one knows the amount of tranquilizers and anti-depressants I have to absorb, in order to be able to go on with my routine duties. Cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, taking care of my child and my widowed mother, and the hardest- trying to find a reason to get up in the morning. Almost one year has passed since his unexpected death and, unfortunately, I have not yet come to terms with the new reality. It is as if some hidden part of me is still hoping all this is one scary nightmare that I will wake up from. To make matters worse, death reared its ugly face twice in the past month and deprived me of my pets. I lost my nine-year-old dog that I was terribly fond of and who had seen me through all my periods of suffering. He died of a heart attack- just like my father. Before I knew what was happening, my oldest cat- an eighteen-year-old sweetie died three days after the dog! Something just snapped! Where was my God? Why was He putting me through all this? Why were all my loved ones disappearing out of my life in an instant? Alright, the cat was old and the dog was ill- but that did not mean I was ready to say goodbye to them. During the past five years, my pets were all I had to lean on for support. No member of my family really understood the demons I was battling with. Psychic disorders are not an issue people are willing to discuss openly. I do not blame them. The shame and ignorance and futility of the situation are strong enough reasons for any one to back off. Depression and panic attacks are the new social syndromes we have all heard of but are unwilling to recognize in our loved ones. Maybe people believe that by refusing to acknowledge a given problem, it will disappear on its own. That way they do not need to get emotionally involved. Sadly, that is not the case. My inability to find adequate human support in those rough times made me even more dependent upon my pets- three cats and the dog. Their first-aid care worked miracles for me. Animals can really heal. That is not my own discovery but a well-known scientific fact. Losing them was like a slap in the face from fate. I could almost hear her snarl in my face: “ Okay, smart girl, let’s see you now! “ My pets were completely innocent. They did not deserve to die, so that I could be taught a lesson. I know I am weak. I am aware of the fact that I find it difficult to stand up to life’s challenges, and yet- why kill my two friends who loved me dearly and never judged me?! I am particularly sensitive to the subject of pets because, leaving Nigeria for good, made me have to say goodbye to my cats back there. How could I have known that twenty years after my departure, I would still be dreaming the same nightmare- packing, parting with my pets, my home, my childhood dreams? I am haunted by this dream whenever I feel lost and out of place, which Bulgaria has given me plenty opportunities to feel. My hometown never lets me forget I do not really belong here. And, just when I think I have built some sort of defense system for myself against the alien society, the face of death reappears and wipes out one of my supportive crutches. Now I can only hope that both the dog and the cat are up there with my dad, watching over me. On my 40th Birthday, I woke up feeling old and lonely. That was the first of many Birthdays I would have to face without my dad. No phone call, no present, no flower…Why are we so afraid of loneliness? Why were we created social beings, always craving for a soul mate on a temporary basis? No one has the answers how we are supposed to go on when the soul mate disappears. Birthdays and Christmas are particularly painful periods. It is as if everyone around you is full of joy and laughter, whereas you are supposed to figure out how to get through the festivities without falling apart. So there I was- aged 40 and fatherless when this kitten jumped out of my car. White and cuddly- like the one my dad wanted to look after but never got around to. Was this his gift to me? Definetely! And the flowers? A rose bush I had planted in our garden a week ago was smiling at me with a beautiful rose. My father always gave me roses. There was my rose and my present. Thank you, daddy! My rational part knows I shall never see him again. My heart tells me to stop thinking and start feeling. The soul lives on. Love lives on. Only it appears in different shapes and sizes. I have to go on with my life because I still have things to do and a daughter to bring up. Perhaps the future will have some nice surprises for me after the death cycle wears off. In the meantime, I can only be grateful that I had a father who meant the world to me and I was blessed with a love that should keep me warm for the rest of my days. The hardest part is the knowledge that I have lost that love forever. And will not be blessed with it again in this life. Not now, not ever…. Period.
7. THE FACE OF MERCY
Only two years after the birth of my child, I was faced with another dilemma that would seriously put to the test my belief in God’s almighty power. My father was taken seriously ill. He spent a whole year in and out of hospitals with no definite diagnosis and all sorts of malignant prognosis. During that year, I had a miscarriage, dealt with a breast cancer threat and lost my beloved grandmother. The prospect of losing my father was not an option I was willing to consider. The day I found out he would have to undergo surgery in order to remove the tumor, I barricaded myself in church, cried my eyes out and stayed for hours on my knees, praying for my dad’s recovery. Official science was against his recovery. God was not. He heard my prayer. I needed my father, I was not ready to lose him. More than anything I wanted him to live. And the miracle happened! Again. I felt deliriously happy. I knew I was on the right track. I had felt God’s blessings and seen the face of mercy. My father recovered and lived a meaningful life for another ten years. God gave us ten more years to be together, to love and cherish each other and taught us to believe in miracles. I shall always be grateful for the mercy He bestowed on me. Sadly, I was about to learn that not all prayers can be fulfilled and no one, no matter how much you love him, lives forever….
6. THE FACE OF FAITH
I cultivated my belief in God throughout the years of misery, pain and insecurity. Gradually, a need arose for something I could lean back on that was permanent, forgiving and caring. That is when I discovered God. The first twenty years of my life were carefree and happy. Like most loved and well-cared for children, I felt pampered and took my joy for granted. Yes, I was naïve and young. And, no, that was no excuse for being blissfully ignorant as regards to global disaster. Maybe I simply did not want to look around and see the face of poverty, sickness and suffering. I felt protected in my own little limited world and foolishly believed I could stay there forever…Getting kicked out of my shelter in my early twenties was one of the most painful experiences I had to undergo. I had to face the fact that not everyone loved me and not all people meant well. I got married at the age of 22. I met a wonderful boy in Sofia, fell for him and a few months later we were married. It all happened so fast, I sometimes felt like I was sitting amongst the audience in the theatre, where this talented actress was playing the role of my life. She was a wife and a daughter-in-law and a mother-to-be but all of that somehow was not me. It did not feel like me. She did not behave like me. The woman performing my marital role was confident and practical. She knew what she wanted out of life and pursued her goals with astonishing gusto. Whereas, me, I was this scared, small child that was not in the least bit ready to come out into the adult world and behave like a grown-up. I did not feel grown-up, I was not ready to face the responsibilities of adulthood. Like I had a choice! Playing house with my new husband was okay but the prospect of childbirth fascinated and terrified me at the same time. Don’t get me wrong- I wanted a child more than anything in the world but something inside me told me that would be a drastic change I was not prepared for. Maybe that is an adequate explanation for my three years’ failure to conceive. Physically, there was nothing wrong with me. My husband was fine, too, as the tests showed and yet- no baby on the horizon for what seemed like a century! All my friends got married and became pregnant, while I had to face yet another unsuccessful month for conception. The prospect of being barren and remaining childless was so scary, I would wake up at night soaked in sweat, not knowing whether I was dead or alive. My self-confidence took a serious blow. So far I had been brought up to believe I could have anything I wanted and for the first time in my life I was facing a wall I could not jump over. To make matters worse, my mother-in-law decided to take matters into her own wicked hands and make my life hell. I don’t know if I will be ever able to forget the scorn, the hatred and the accusations she piled over me. It no longer hurts and I have certainly learnt to forgive but the memory of those difficult times will always haunt me. At that point I started going to church. I needed to believe someone would hear my prayer for a child. It was pitifully obvious I could not cope alone. I had my husband’s support but the disappointment in his eyes after every false alarm was more than I could face. I was terrified of losing him. My family meant more to me than any career prospect. Ever since I was a little girl, I had this idyllic vision of myself in a house full of children, a loving husband and endless years of happiness. The notion of losing all that was a nightmare I was unable to overcome…
Then I came face to face with my God. He was understanding, gentle, loving. Standing in the church, with a lit candle in my hand, I prayed for the miracle to happen. I believed the miracle would happen. And it did! One year later, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl and felt the happiest person alive. My daughter was my reward for the faith I had in God. She taught me never to give up hope, keep my faith alive and my senses open to all the signs He would be sending me in the years to come. I just had to learn to decipher them.
I have vivid and explicit dreams. My world at night is the real key to what lies ahead for me. I have received warnings and encouragement, help and explanations to situations in real life. My dreams are what I am- the inner me that I am sometimes unable to understand. The important people in my life- both alive and dead- participate actively in my dreams and often show me the way out of complicated and intangible dilemmas. I have been blessed with a gift to receive the answers to my daily torments in my dreams. They have never led me astray Of course, it took me many years to learn to decipher their messages, but now I am lucky to know things that many people cannot get to. The information I have helps me overcome my problems and gives me strength to move on. During the night I am free to roam the astral, meet my beloved ones that are no longer physically alive and be certain to have their full support on the thousands of issues troubling my soul. I often wake up, rid of all pain and fear because I have received their assurance that I will get through this, too. Of course, not all dreams are so optimistic. Whenever I dream I am back home in Zaria, packing my luggage, kissing my pets goodbye and hugging my friends with the inner awareness that I’ll never see them again, I know I am in for yet another tough experience. Sadly, I have come to realize that no matter how much our lost beloved love us, they cannot always save us the pain that we have to go through, in order to reach a higher level of cosmic knowledge and be closer to God. Pain, in all its dimensions, is the key to being real, unique and human. Beyond death there is no pain. My grandmother, who passed away ten years ago has made it quite clear she lives in an extremely happy environment, devoid of all earthly mishaps. On one of our mutual trips to “her” place, I begged to stay with her and she just laughed and was quite firm: “You know you can’t, not now”. So- back to my bed and hallo new day! When my father died last year, I was absolutely devastated. I loved him dearly and couldn’t imagine life without him. He was my love, my hope, the one person I was sure would always be on my side, no matter how hard I flunked. Losing him was like falling out of a plane with no parachute and landing in shifting sands. I forgot who I was, what I wanted out of life, and had no idea how I would go on from there. Fear reared its ugly face again and caught me by the throat, threatening to suffocate me. I should have known better than to doubt my daddy. Of course he didn’t leave me. He was there for me- every night, holding my hand and leading me on. I dream of him and get all the comfort I am unable to receive in real life for one reason or another. When my dog died, I was numb from the pain. I had lost my best friend, the one creature that loved me unconditionally and was always by my side. He was part of my family for nine wonderful years and losing him was yet another slap in the face from the evil face of fate. Then I fell asleep and dad took my hand and led me back to my childhood home- just the two of us- and reminded me how happy we had been. I was back in our Nigerian home, running in the gardens, feeling warm and loved. The healing had begun…I have learnt to deal with pain in my own special way. I just have to fall asleep and I know my father will be there for me, reaching out to enwrap me in a veil of sunshine, security and blissful innocence. All I have to do is have faith.
4. THE FACE OF FEAR
Fear has haunted me all my life. I can not remember a time when I was not afraid of something. The symptoms were always the same. A paralyzing state of body and mind where all normal perspective is totally lost. Dry lips, a pounding heart, blurred vision, nausea and an increasing sense of despair. I felt like I was looking up at an avalanche and waiting for it to sweep me off the face of the earth. I admit- I have been a coward far too many times. And I paid a price for not being able to control my fear. A price that nearly cost me my life. God let me live. I am still trying to find out why…I had my first panic attack at the age of 35 in Sofia, on my way back from work. At that time I taught English in a local College and I had just finished my classes for the day. I was driving to pick my kid up from school when I heard the news on the radio. A child had been strangled in some school and was later found in a container. The identity of the child was not revealed. I felt the blood rush to my head. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t move, I thought I was about to explode. I managed to pull over and sat in the car, shaking in hysteria. What if it was my child? Could it have been my child?! A vision emerged of my little girl lying dead in a dustbin, so hideous and scary, I threw up. No rational thought crossed my mind. I was strangled in the ugly hands of fear and, had I known I would be forced to stay in them for the next five years, I am certain I would have ended it all there and then. The depth of a sick mind is one of medicine’s serious limitations. Psychiatrists are yet to find out just how crazy one can get when faced by immediate and impending disaster. I still ask myself what went wrong that day. Was I so tired that I couldn’t think straight? What made me forget there were half a million children in Sofia? What sick joke was my mind playing on me by putting the horrendous thought in my head and jamming it in? Why did I not resist the devil’s own foul game but fell such an easy prey? Obviously, that is not how a normal person would react. Mobile phones were not yet in use and at some point it occurred to me I would have to drive on. I started praying. To Mother Mary. To God. To all angels. Please, keep my baby safe! I drove off in a stupor, not really knowing where I was going and what I was doing. I do not remember how I got to my daughter’s school. The only thing I remember is seeing her walk out of the classroom, smiling at me, small and fragile, my one and only reason for living…I grabbed her and held on to her and cried for the first time that day. Huge tears rolled down her new red dress- tears of gratitude that my baby was in my arms and tears of despair that another helpless child would not be attending school the next day…
When I woke up the next morning, I knew something was wrong. My head was spinning and my legs refused to hold my body up. I couldn’t talk. I felt numb and dreadfully tired. I just wanted to be left alone to sleep. I slept throughout the next three days. I didn’t know what day of the week it was. My husband took over the house and the child and decided I was simply exhausted. The worst part was when I finally got up and realized I didn’t have the strength to leave the house. Every time I tried to walk out of the door, the same horrifying feeling of fear would rush back in my blood and leave me shattered all over. I would run back to bed and hide under the blanket. I felt safe there but my social life was lost forever. Over the next couple of years, I lost my job, freaked out completely and practically became a self-imposed prisoner in my own home. I was unable to go down to the store and buy a loaf of bread! The ordeal of leaving the house proved too much for me to handle and so I sat back and left myself to the overpowering force of fear. My family thought I was being dramatic and had no real idea just how ill I was. My own perception of the situation was inadequate. I would lie in bed and wait to die. Then I would pray to be able to fall asleep, so I wouldn’t have to think about the state I was in. All I wanted was to forget my illness, forget my life and just be someone else somewhere far…. Where could I go? Back to Africa, of course. To my shelter, my love, my safety. To the sacred home of my childhood where children would run around happily and the sun would heal the wounds in my soul. How could I get there? There was one way only: by my dreams. I have vivid dreams. And healing dreams. I rarely have nightmares. Maybe because my real life resembled a nightmare, God had mercy on me and let me dream my beautiful dreams of salvation- all the way back to Africa. Once again, Africa didn’t let me down. Africa let me dream of her and gently caressed my soul, starting on the long and slow process of recovery… My memories of Africa healed my broken soul.
3. THE FACE OF LOVE
Nigeria is a wonderful place to fall in love in. It is so easy to stay in love in a place where people are friendly, warm and caring. Hatred is not a word you can apply to the campus community of Zaria. By the time I fell in love for the first time, I was already a first year student at the University, majoring in English Literature. I had successfully passed my “O” and “A” levels for the London General Certificate of Education and was proudly attending lectures at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. My lecturers liked me and valued my work. My colleagues sought my friendship and were interested in what I had to say. People cared for me and wanted my opinion. I felt significant. It was a feeling I would struggle to find within me when I got back to Bulgaria. Back home, I made a habit of being nobody and feeling useless. A day wouldn’t go by without someone making me feel out of place and looking down on me. I still don’t know why Nigeria loved me so much. But the truth is that feeling was mutual…Love was a free commodity in Africa and people thrived on loving and living happily. The man I fell in love with was a lecturer in another department. He was a good deal older than me, single and extremely intelligent. I guess we clicked right from the start. For him it was love at first sight. For me it was a whole process of maturing and discovering passion. When I was with him, I felt beautiful- both inside and out. He made me feel desirable, important, cherished. He really cared how I felt. He listened to me. He loved me. Three simple things I took for granted. My only excuse is that I was young and inexperienced. And unwilling to compromise. Long after our love affair was over, I would go frantic in Bulgaria over men’s inability here to care for a woman. I thought I was cursed never to find true love again, having let go off my first love so easily. Not that the separation was not dramatic but the build up to it was like a silly soap opera with a bad scenario. Kyn was fully aware of the problems a black and white relationship like ours could evoke but he believed his family would accept our marriage. I was not so sure about mine. I soon found out that my family would rather see me dead than married to a Nigerian at the age of seventeen! That was when the hide-and-seek games began. I was reluctant to contemplate marriage but determined not to give up on our relationship. Even though I was strictly forbidden to see him again. I was young and in love for the first time. My hormones were running riot and there was not a force on earth that could keep me away from him. We agreed to stop planning the future and just enjoy our love for as long as we could. Secretly, of course. It was a small town where everyone knew what the neighbors were up to. Meeting him far away from people’s eyes was a tough mission but not an impossible one. The idea was to keep a low profile. I had solemnly promised my parents I would never meet him again. No one was supposed to even mildly suspect we were still lovers, even though the whole campus community knew of our drama. Remembering all this now, I feel warm and alive. Almost like being seventeen again! It was wild. Forbidden. Dangerous. And madly exciting. Why was it so difficult to experience those feelings again later on? Were they just a priority of teenage love? The magic of first love? Or the futility of forbidden love? Ten years later, when I was already married to a wonderful Bulgarian man and had his child, I experienced the same wild emotions towards an older man who vaguely reminded me of Kyn. It was like Fate wanted to check if I had learnt my lesson the first time. Could I walk away from a man I couldn’t be with and who would certainly hurt me in the long run? Would I have enough sense in my head to end a relationship that was against God’s will and save a lot of people the pain they did not deserve? Unfortunately for me, I was about to find out that, despite my academic achievements, I still had a lot to learn about life. It was not a lesson I enjoyed.