Kayengoma

It’s been a while.

Kayengoma.  Sometimes that’s all I’ve got.  Really, I think sometimes thats all we’ve all got.  Kayengoma.

Thanks be to God.  Thats the literal translation of the Mende word kayengoma. It’s a sort of magic catch-all word that is used to answer any and all interrogative questions.  How are you doing?  Kayengoma.  How is your business?  Kayengoma.  How was your night?  Kayengoma.  How are the crops?  Kayengoma.  I’m not nearly fluent enough in Mende to tell you if the conversation would then go on to provide actual details of how you are feeling today or whether the rain is coming in the right amounts to encourage the growth of your rice and cassava.  But the initial question is only answered with thanksgiving to a higher power that is in control.

At certain times in my life, I’ve found this to be beautifully spiritual.  An act of faith and trust to be thanking God in all circumstances and to so constantly bear in mind the absolute power of God in our lives.

At other times, I’ve felt like Kayengoma could alternatively be translated “does it really matter? life goes on.”  And in some ways, I think that is beautiful and spiritual too.

Sometimes I try to take too much control.  Sometimes I let my own little world get far too big.  Sometimes I let all the wrong voices speak the loudest in my ears.  Sometimes I let the anxiety build, the fear that if I don’t make all the right decisions, if I let one fight drag on too long or one detail go uncorrected, I’ll never get another chance to fix it.  I’ll be on an irreparable wrong path.  And I think, in some ways, kayengoma means there is no wrong path.  That God is in control of this world and I am not, and all I am called to do is be a part of it and to love whoever and whatever comes my way.  I can’t screw things up for all eternity, as much as I would love to believe that I am that important.  We’re all important, and we’re all beautiful individuals, but there shouldn’t be that much pressure weighing on our shoulders.  We’re not built for it.

How am I?  If I’m having a bad day, will people stop loving me?  If I don’t have it all together, will I ruin all my plans?  No.  Kayengoma.  How am I? “does it really matter? life goes on.”

How did I do on a paper or a class or an application or a project?  Records get forgotten, new jobs can be found.  New plans can be made.  It will never be the end of the world or the end of my brilliance.  The world doesn’t know how to measure all that well and I’m not going to hang my hat on its decisions.  Kayengoma. “does it really matter? life goes on.”

How do ______ fill in your own blanks here.  We all have these questions, these issues we feel a burning need to control.  But we can’t.  We just can’t.  And we shouldn’t.  Life is what it is.  And sometimes it will go well.  And sometimes everything will seem to fall apart into a million pieces and you’ll lose half of them.  But Kayengoma.  “Does it really matter? life goes on.”  I can live in a world of anxious chasing after daydreams and fears.  I can run until I’m exhausted.  Or somedays, I can accept a slightly fatalistic attitude that takes the weight of the world off my very small shoulders and remember that I can’t mess everything up.  Life will be messy and painful and heartbreaking and hilarious and beautiful all in its own time.  And it will never stop moving.  Kayengoma.

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