Reflections over a cuppa!
What would happen if you spared a moment or two to speak to your neighbour? I’m referring to one of those regular people with whom you exchange greetings from a safe distance?
For 16 years, I’ve lived in the UK and forged beautiful relationships with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I didn't hold meaningful conversations with most of my neighbours, despite our close proximity. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I would know that mum was on her way back home because she’d greet neighbours, shouting on top of her voice and they’d respond with the same zealousness. Sometimes, mum would get side-tracked and briefly stop by the roadside, just to exchange laughs, usually accompanied with synchronised handshaking and clapping! That was really useful, for it gave me a chance to get my act together, in case I’d been up to no good. Just imagine a house being tidied up within a record time.
Luckily, I have rather lovely neighbours and have been in close contact with one family. As I write this, they have just presented us with homemade apple pie. Would like to think that we’ve been good neighbours too, despite the fact that son has kicked over numerous balls into their back garden. He used to wait for them to post back via the fence but these days, he casually strolls next door and simply asks for his ball back. A few others have watched my kids grow from behind their curtains. Lovely people they are and yes, we’ve briefly chatted here and there. A couple of ladies have commented on how fast the kids have grown. “Just yesterday, they were tiny tots, time really flies indeed!”
Start of Something New
Things were about to change when I bumped into yet another lovely lady while wheeling rubbish bins for collection. That was two years ago. I didn’t know her name, she didn’t know mine, until one November night. We both had the same idea by the looks of things: quickly dash outside and nip back, in pyjamas and morning gowns. We said hello and ended up chatting for over an hour. Introduced ourselves properly we did, retraced our history as neighbours, giggled like schoolgirls and exchanged views on politics, love, religion and everything in between. The ice was broken that warm November night.
It would take us almost two years before connecting again, and when we did, we decided to go for Afternoon Tea. I’m Black African, my neighbour is White and very British. She’ll be 76 soon and proud of it. Had she said 60, I would have bought it without any doubts, she takes excellent care of herself. I’d say we’re both philosophical, can be reserved unless we get to know the other person well and yes, we both retreat into our shells from time to time. We both love beautiful things in life and understand the importance of looking after what we have, no matter how little. Something treasured is always priceless. With her sweet voice and a soul usually powered with a positive outlook, my neighbour has become one of those people who light me up. We've laughed and joked a lot. Our friendship has morphed into one big adventure, and for that, I am grateful.
Two weeks ago, we agreed to go for a pub meal (a British tradition) for lunch. She usually goes to to the same place once a week with her friends but since they were away on holiday, we thought we’d still put that day to good use. Lunch never happened thanks to an emergency on my side. However, we later chatted over the phone, and since we had a story or two to share, she invited me to her house for tea.
Think tea leaves (not bags) brewed in a beautifully-crafted porcelain tea-pot, covered with a cosy to keep the beverage warm during our lengthy chats. Think Marks and Spencer’s Sicilian Lemon and Ricotta Cheesecake (a personal favourite) and a kitchen filled with a friendly country cottage ambience. I immediately felt at home. We touched on several topics like we usually do but this time around, with her permission, I’ve saved a few tasty treats, curated from her words of wisdom for you to enjoy. The words are hers, unless stated otherwise.
Let's talk about love!
I believe for every person out there, there’s one true love in their life. This is the kind of love that your heart knows immediately when you meet someone for the first time. That moment when you just know that they are the one. However, most people are not that fortunate. Indeed, many spend lives living with people they aren’t in love with. It’s possible to be with someone who can be a good husband or wife but still not be in love with them.
Once a honeymoon is over, it transforms into true and endearing love. The 3 most important aspects to a relationship that withstand the taste of time are:
Don’t divorce just because you’ve had an argument. If marriage is worth saving, work on it! Nowadays, people expect fireworks all the time and it doesn’t work like that. Continue to work on your relationship and know that there will be ups and downs. Where there’s true love, there will always be the beloved and the loving. I believe that 98% of marriages are partnerships where one person gives slightly more than the other. It’s OK even if what you get is not a perfect 100%. In most cases, most people don’t mind to be the loving because they know that they are loved anyway.
Not every person is capable of showing affection through kissing, hugging and touching. Just because someone is not affectionate doesn’t mean that they’re not deeply in love. Some people are touchy-feely without being in love but ultimately, people show that they care in different ways. You don’t have to like the same things as a couple. In fact, opposites can keep a marriage together, but if the other person is not touched, then it might create a problem. I’d say always try to find and maintain a balance.
Who they are as a person is more important than what they are, although that could just be me on a high horse again!
Here's my take...
I think she raised a critical point. How many people have fallen for someone’s charming ways, only to realise that they are not who you think they are. This kind of man was accurately portrayed in a movie called Madea’s Family Reunion by Tyler Perry. Carlos (played by Blair Underwood) ticked all the boxes: investment banker, gentleman, well-groomed, well-spoken and absolutely good looking. The kind of man who would impress anyone he came across with, aunties would be so thankful for such a wonderful man. But Carlos was very abusive both physically and emotionally, controlling, manipulative and downright evil. No one else knew, except for his fiancée. Sometimes, people with ugly personalities come packaged in lovely wrapping paper!
If you carry it around all your life, it will ruin you. I’ve seen what it does to people, and one thing I’ve asked God is never to make me a bitter person. I’m not saying that you don’t have a right to be angry, just learn to let go and forgive, for your own good. Some people are so selfish and will use others to extend their bitterness such as using children as weapons during a divorce, just for revenge. It ruins children’s lives instead. Don’t do it. Get your life back instead.
It’s unfortunate that other Christians use their religion to look down on others. I think they need to take a more in-depth look into their hearts, I bet most of them would be ashamed by what they’d see. Know your strengths and weaknesses as a person. I’ve learnt to take a good look at myself and be honest, I can’t lie to myself anymore. God knows all of us inside out so, what’s the point of lying? I also believe that there’s more to this world than what we see.
However, one should have an open mind. I don’t think that if you have faith, nobody should change you. In the same vein, let’s respect other people’s religions. I certainly do not believe in hurting other people to express your beliefs.
Being rich cannot be measured in monetary terms. I have wealthy friends who sometimes can’t comprehend that I sometimes struggle, because we come from different backgrounds. They don’t go through what I sometimes go through. Still, we’re good friends. The more good friends you have, the richer you are. I’m not talking about fair weather friends, I’m referring to the ones who rally around when you’re in need. Also used to be a people pleaser but have since learnt to live my life the way I want. I’ve also let opportunities go because of fear. Don’t let fear hold you back, go out and let loose. Live and let live!
If you love someone, go for it! Try not to read too much into what others say. Sometimes people face resistance from a parent, especially mothers. Some find it difficult to let go of their sons for all sorts of reasons. It’s not specific to one culture, it runs across cultures. There’s a lot of bad press about mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships, but I’ve seen a fair share of harmonious relations between both parties. However, we also need to understand that most mothers mean well, and some don’t realise the damage that they’re causing by interfering. We also need to reserve our judgement and understand the situation from their perspective, you’ll be surprised by what you learn. It’s equally essential for daughters-in-law to respect their in-laws regardless. However, in such cases, the son must be willing to make it work. If he truly loves someone, nothing will stop him.
I’ve seen a lot of cheating in my years with most women attacking the other woman. I think it’s vital that they hold their husbands accountable because they knew what they were doing. A lot of the times, people see single people as threats, without realising that the same people would never be with a married man, being single doesn’t mean desperation. It’s about values and principles. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of married men cheat with other married people.
If you don’t keep pace with your companions, it’s perhaps you hear a different drummer! We’re not always on the same path, some may rush and some not. Just because you don’t live your life the way they do, it doesn’t mean that they’re wrong and you’re right.
With that ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of our tea time chats. I hope that you will perhaps be inspired to take the courage and speak to one of your neighbours, especially for those of us who reside in the developed world. Statistics show that we have some of the loneliest people on the planet. I think it’s about time we reached out, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. It will do you good and possibly open doors you never thought possible!
Although we hail from different cultures and backgrounds, we shape each other's journeys through learning and interaction.