• Sanyade Okoli

Help Me Somebody!

Today was one of those days when it just didn’t all come together. The day started well enough. Woke up at about 6:40am to open the back door for our cook; tried to sit on the patio to “spend time with the Lord” but mosquitoes chased me right back in. A bit of this and a bit of that but a normal enough start to the day.

I had an interview on Arise TV scheduled for 11:45 so the focus of my morning was to prepare both physically and mentally for the show. Now you must remember that we are in these unusual times when so-called “Boss Ladies” are also head teachers, class assistants and lesson teachers – all at the very same time.

Let me linger on this topic for a minute because it is quite relevant to how my day has gone. I believe that I have played a key role in my younger children’s education during “school hours” these last two weeks. With the way everything has been going, I feel like I am an employee of my children’s schools. Hey, attending to school matters seems to have taken precedence over everything else in my life. I therefore thought that come the end of the month I would receive credit alerts from the schools for my salary. Evening has come and nothing yet o! Please, come, how do you all see this “matta”?!

Back to my morning…. I don’t know if I am the only one but during this lock-down period let’s just say that I have had lock-down hairdos that just wouldn’t “translate” on TV. I also had to jog my memory about how to have “just the look” with my make-up.

I think I was getting on with this ok then that wicked interplay between NEPA (for those not “on ground’ with us in Nigeria, that’s our term for grid electricity) and rain commenced. Anyone living in Lagos who is old enough to have any sense (I am talking about anyone above about age four or five) knows that for some reason NEPA and rain are mutually exclusive. As the threats of rain begin you know the implications for your electricity; you just know. This morning was no different except that this time NEPA was actually trying to “change the narrative”. What this means in practical terms is that “they will take light and then bring it back in five minutes and then take it again in six minutes”. This is not the thing that nerves already on edge due to an impending online TV interview requires. “My belleh come dey do me somehow”. You know how nerves can get but I was still trying to keep it together.

The producer of the TV show (with whom I have a mutual adoration relationship) had told me that I needed to be seated by 11:30. At 11:10 I step out of my bedroom to go set up my laptop and mentally prepare – not only was I looking good, I was smelling good. Much to the consternation of my children, I have decided that in these COVID times if I am to have an online appearance then I must not only look the part, I must smell the part.

This is where the morning took another downward step. My youngest child’s class was meant to start at 11:00 and there she was at 11:10 lying on the sofa not “in her class”. As any “good African mother” would, I started gearing myself up to shout. Fortunately for her, she quickly informed me that she was actually trying to get into her humanities class but couldn’t see the link on the platform. Mama, here, steps in and tries. She too doesn’t see the link. She tries clicking backwards and forwards but still no link. She checks the timetable – Thursday, check; humanities, check. Panic begins to seep in…. Mama checks the class WhatsApp group; no complaints from anyone. Haaaa! Wisdom prevailed and so I thought better of posting my challenge on the group. Next best thing? Call the Parent Year Rep who has been such a rock to us all these last few weeks. Phone just ringing. “Who else do I know o?!” I remembered another parent whose number I had. Thankfully she answered her phone. I shared my problem of not being able to get into the humanities class only for her to gently say to me, “I have no issues, we have maths now”. Kai!!! Of course! Humanities was at 1pm but it was only 11:15. My people, can you see what stress can do?!

Ran back to the laptop, ushered “smally” into another room (as I needed her usual work space for my TV interview), clicked on the maths link; and we were in! Yayyy!. Just as we got in we heard the teacher mention my daughter’s name and say “Oh, you are here. Good! Was it your brother or sister who sent me the message the other day? Please pay attention today”. A whole lot of different emotions came over me – guilt (“Oh God, I am a bad mum! My daughter comes to class late having had her mum faff around in the wrong class and then she is being told to pay attention suggesting that she doesn’t usually pay attention”). Shame (“Oh God, does everyone know that I am a bad mum including this teacher?”). Offense (“I sent that email and you didn’t even respond and now you are calling my daughter out like that!”). Hmmmm….

Back on the “Boss Lady” tip…. Now this was not the first time I was making an online appearance during this lock-down period and so I knew full well, from experience, how “NPEPA can disgrace somebody”. Given that they had already been showing their hand I “borrowed sense” and ran outside to sternly warn our gate-man that he should not touch the generator that was “in full flow” until after midday when the interview would be over. For the sake of clarity, “NEPA comes o, NEPA doesn’t come, do not touch that generator until after 12:00pm”.

Do you have a good sense of how I was feeling when I finally sat down at about 11:25 and the WebEx that I had previously downloaded was trying to rattle my already frayed nerves by not showing up as one of my apps? Chimo! (My God o!) Quick! Re-download! Producer calls… “I am on it o!”. Download done, sound check done, laptop screen tilted to get the desired angle….we are good to go!

Or so I thought… 11:47, they come to me. I get asked my question and I “take it away”…. Only to hear the TV tech guys saying that I needed to ditch my “bad headpiece” as they couldn’t hear me. Oh God! Take 2 – I recommence responding to the question and then funny things start happening on the WebEx screen I could see. The image buffering, other random videos showing, etc. My mouth was answering the questions but my mind was going “oh God, can they hear me? Am I still on? What’s going on? Help me somebody!” I have no idea what look I had on my face and I probably may never know as I have no intention of watching the video.

I was so disappointed with how the interview had gone. What made it worse was that I thought that this was going to be “THE SHOW!” I was trying to merge my business career with my inner healing vocation. I was doing this for God! To help all the struggling entrepreneurs out there! Did I mention that not only had I prayed in advance, I had also worshiped to ensure that the spirit would be flowing well well?

Mehn… I was gutted. If I am honest, a little tearful. After I came off air I rested my chin in my hands settling in to feel very sorry for myself. Oh, but wait! I have a midday zoom call with my team…. “Boss up lady!”

Postscript: I had the call with my team and I opened up to them about how disappointed I had been with my interview (experts say, “authentic leadership” abi?). We then went on to talk about transactions, the need for emotional intelligence on the part of managers of people, and clear communication by those being managed at these times. I got a little weepy again on the team call as I proceeded to apologise to the team for all the wrong things I had done to them (yes, even I am cringing as I write this). All this with two kids milling around in the background and me trying to keep poker face as they came into camera view.

Honestly, by the end of the call I was FRAZZLED! So what did I do? I “comot” my “boss lady outfit”, wore “home clothes”, tied my “hair net”, called a friend to de-stress and crept under my blanket. The world is usually a better place after some sleep. Oh wait! I have another webinar in 30 minutes.

COVID-19, die! Die! Die! (Think Mountain of Fire prayers).

By God’s grace, tomorrow go betta sha!


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