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Tesfa (Hope) in Heartbreak: Melodies After Tearful Tizita (Memories)

Music is a balm, it is a soothing oil that gives comfort to the distressed and provides meaning when we are going through the billows. This is especially true when anguish is caused by the departure of a loved one. If there is one thing I’ve observed over my years is that pain is the greatest equalizer; prince to pauper, and all in between, no one in this world can escape the excruciating sadness that eventually invades our souls.

There is something else about music that is magical; it is a universal language that is understood by all even if we don’t speak the dialect of the songs we are listening to. If there is one thing that I love as much as I am passionate about writing, it’s listening to music. That’s because music—even more than written words—brings people together. Where articles can be divisive and spoken words can be misunderstood, music is beloved almost universally.

I dedicate this Sunday to music. More importantly, I dedicate this article to the people who suffer in silence and feel the throes of heartbreak. This heartbreak I speak of is not of just unrequited love, I’m referring to anyone who is feeling the pangs of melancholy and the depressing feeling that current lamentations will endure in perpetuity. I write this from experience, whatever your situation is at this moment or your station in life, the misfortunes that weigh you down today will one day elevate you.

Our greatest weaknesses are also the sources of our ultimate strengths.

I am writing this article while listening to a song by an Ethiopian musician named Betty G. I ran into her song a couple of days ago while surfing YouTube on autoplay. The minute I heard Betty G. singing Alaweklegnemwhich means “you don’t know my feelings” in Amharic, I stopped everything I was doing to listen to her magical voice. However, as talented as Betty G. is, it was not her voice that made me pause but the memories of my original sorrows she recalled as she crooned about love that is not reciprocated.

I don’t want anyone but you,

not even in death, but you still don’t know.

This ennui I speak of is not the first love who exited before I was ready to say goodbye. No, my original hurt was leaving my once home Ethiopia and arriving in America as an immigrant. The reason I was transfixed to the song that I’m currently listening to as I type this article is because Betty G. was covering a tune originally sung by Mahmoud Ahmed. There are three things that is almost universally acknowledged by Ethiopians: we love injera, we love eskista, and Mahmoud Ahmed is the king of Ethiopian music. Listening to Betty G. singing Alaweklegnem took me back to my childhood in Ethiopia and reminded me of a time where happiness was my default status.

Even if I truly want to attain peace,

you upset me and you still don’t know

I think of you more than my own life,

but you still don’t understand all off my efforts

Though bleak loneliness consumes my heart when I feel morose, that is just the blues whispering lies to me. The truth is that all of us go through these moments of dejection. I know that a significant percentage of people reading this article are currently going through woes even if they seem exuberant and full of life to the outside world. The same way Betty G. transformed tribulation with a dash of salsa and a dose of tango, here is to tesfa (hope) and the audacious belief that today’s bleakness will one day turn into tomorrow’s celebration.

Bickering aside aaha ha haa

so that love spreads ahay hey heyy

From today on aaha ha haa   

I have full hope ahay hey heyy

This is dedicated to the cabbie who drives at night trying to keep up with the bills and wondering how he will take care of his children. This is dedicated to the mother who feeds her children donated food and cries because her husband is never home. This is dedicated to the 8th grader who can’t fit in and is forced to eat by herself in the cafeteria. This is dedicated to the white collar worker who makes six figures yet can’t find happiness no matter how many possessions he has to his name. This is dedicated to the homeless who shuffle between missions and shelters, indigence their new normal. This is dedicated to the veteran who is broken by wars and the horrors of PTSD. This is dedicated to the whole of humanity, for every man and woman who has tasted from the chalice of tribulation.

This parable all mothers know to be true, after the greatest pains and brokenness arrives the greatest joys.

I don’t want anyone but you, not even in death

But you still don’t know.

My sadness and sorrow in my contemplations,

I’m not favoring myself, my life is for you

So how did I wrong you, be open and tell me,

all of my efforts I put in for you are not recognized

We are not alone in our travels; if we only put aside our differences, we would see that we are all bound by the same anxieties that gash at us and the hopes we have for a better future. Chikichik (bickering) only leads us down the path of bitterness and antipathy, but the minute we look beyond closed doors of selfishness, the universe opens up for us. This is what Betty G. is singing about, she is crooning of a frustration borne out of neglect and a sadness birthed by unmet expectations. Yet, where we are greeted with life’s slings and arrows, it is up to us to turn the displeasure of rejection into the treasures of possibilities. We all get victimized in life, but that doesn’t mean we are victims.

Bickering aside aaha ha haa

so that love spreads ahay hey heyy

From today on aaha ha haa   

I have full hope ahay hey heyy

The only regret in life is living in regret, all other mistakes are opportunities to learn and do better next time. Every day, we make choices that lead us towards purpose or derail us into vindictiveness. This is not to make light of depression and serious mental health issues; there are some people in this world who get subsumed into unending woes through no fault of their own other than the cruel fate life dealt them by way of genes and family inheritances. Yet, even for people who struggle mightily with depression, I write this missive to you as well. No matter the darkness, do not withdraw into solitary confinement; fight the lies your sadness tells you and don’t let shame condemn you into loneliness. I say this not out of theory but from first-hand experience. The times I endured depression, the feeling of hopelessness only intensified into a category 5 tribulation when I withdrew into myself.

I don’t want anyone but you, not even in death

But you still don’t know

Even if I truly want to attain peace,

you upset me and you still don’t know

I think of you more than my own life,

but you still don’t understand all off my efforts

On a broader level, we are headed towards a planetary crucible if we do not change course soon. From my native land Ethiopia to my new home America and beyond, tribalism and the dispensation of self is taking us closer and closer to a global conflagration. We are communal as a people, but the more we focus on what makes us different, the more we get away from the melodies of andinet (togetherness) and instead samba to the sounds of chikechik (bickering). Brother versus brother, sister fighting sister, it’s as though humanity is intent on fulfilling prophecies of calamities written a long time ago.

People united by can overcome injustice, this is the theme we will be celebrating next Sunday at a special event at Meaza. Click to RSVP.

I don’t want anyone but you, not even in death

But you still don’t know.

My sadness and sorrow in my contemplations,

I don’t think about myself, my life is for you

So how did I wrong you, be open and tell me,

all of my efforts I put in for you are not recognized

Yet, despite the desperation that seems omnipresent, we have a choice—we don’t have to give our hand to despair. The same way Betty G. transformed a sad song into a soaring and joyful ballad, we too can change our present circumstances, as individuals and as a species, into hopefulness and pass on peace and joys to our children. All it takes is love to transform the world; if only we listen the melodies all around us instead of letting the clangs of politics and the cacophony of our differences lead us into the gutters of ego and pride, we could have a modicum of peace and prosperity for all.

Bickering aside aaha ha haa

so that love spreads ahay hey heyy

From today on aaha ha haa   

I have full hope ahay hey heyy

Yesterday’s tears can eventually become our greatest joy. You see, Mahmoud’s song Alawekshilignim was once the breakup I listen to when my ex used to say goodbye. What is past is past, I wish her well but where one door closed, a universe opened up for me. That same song was covered by Betty G. and inspired this article. The verses you see interspersed within this write up is the song translated by my love and my wife Bethlehem. Do you see the poetry in that, Betty G. the singer covered Mahmoud Ahmed, Betty my wife covered old wounds—life is beautiful when understand the melodies found in hardship. We heal when we listen to the music of tesfa (hope) instead of drowning our sorrows in the tizita (memories) of the past. #Ethiopia #America #Humanity #Tizita2Tesfa Click To Tweet

Listen to my interview on Selam radio, I was invited to discuss my lineage to Emperor Tewodros. I took the occasion to discuss how love and unity can mend our brokenness. Meshesha Kassa and I appear on the show starting at the -25.00 timeline towards the end of the clip.

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” ~ Bob Marley

Since today is a day of worship for believers and a day for love for those who don’t believe, no need for chikichik about who is right for none of us know, I ask you to give kindness to someone who could use it instead of contributing to us. You can read more about Liliana’s story by clicking HERE or clicking on her picture below. Give as we are given, let us help others who are less fortunate then us. Who knows, one day we could use the same kindness, I know I once did. Be the light to others and give tesfa to people who need it the most, including ourselves because giving is the greatest way to heal thyself.

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal. He is currently the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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