Gifts, Promises and Thank-yous….

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Staying aglow

So I did promise myself a birthday gift – going out shopping and giving out gifts to others however I’ve not been able to go shopping. I did something worthwhile though considering this will be the 42nd time (ever since I could count) that I get to try and reset, I took a long cold shower (heat triggers dystonic episodes). I would have gone swimming but I’m nursing a shoulder and a back that has been giving out too many notices for me to ignore. I remember the porch light of my neighbor coming on and his concerned question, ‘why are you swimming in the freezing pool? Are you a polar bear?’ I did try to explain but not many have the time to listen and then try and make sense of your reasons so just do you.

It has been nigh on a decade when my journey veered into terrains i had never imagined. And although I do love traveling however this has been more of putting one foot in front of the other rather than taking in the sights and sounds. The shower was quite exhilarating and the concept of beginning this year spanking clean is really quite nice because all the grime and dirt from the past day gets washed away. Time doesn’t stop, it does however give me the opportunity to document this and I’m truly grateful. In a couple of days, we lose an hour as the seasons continue their transition. I have gained a year and in retrospect, I cannot wait to embark on the adventures of this new year.

Notwithstanding that a lot has taken place, I look forward to the future regardless of how long I have got. Nevertheless I am thankful for the gift of a clean slate, a clean body and an open mind. It is the little details, usually taken for granted, that ultimately define us and I know that I am here now because it all fits into a grand scheme of things. None of the party poppers (sic) et al, I am grateful for the comfort of a silent night even as I write. And with nought but a fairly sound mind, a spirit that refuses to be conquered, the wavering light within and the ability to choose, I begin another chapter. A chapter where I can write, amend what errors might come up and basically differentiate between doing what is right and doing what seems to be right (despite the deceptive allure of what seems right)

I am truly grateful for the friends who have stuck with prickly me, glad for the opportunity to meet and interact with new acquaintances but above all, I am thankful for hope that cannot be overwhelmed. The hope that resonates with the washing away of the dirt of past years and the hope that makes me choose responsibly each day. It’s another 365 days and the count is on, I am careful to back off where need be and doggedly push through no matter how exhausted I may be. My prayer is wherever He leads me, may my obedience be borne from a desire to get the best of what He’s got from me and completely yield in every aspect.

Today, I remind myself that both the warmth of the sunshine and the coolness of the twilight are a blessing. So today, I unfurl my sails and pray for fair winds and when the waves turn choppy and rough, I know that there will always be beginnings and endings.

Adios!

Feasts, sacrifices and puzzles….

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Celebrating in style…

One of my favorite genres in movies is action themed medieval films, especially those trying to reenact history. I do remember that during my growing up years, I loved and dreamed of being born then because it seemed like a good sword fight and banquets with huge boars (or any animal deemed a good catch and unfortunate to be killed) roasting over huge flames went hand in hand. However what fierce battles raged then (some for reasons unknown or lost with time), times when men and women were usually valued based on the formidability of their strength in battle – skill and brains combined. Why go to war if you could win over territories by the sheer knowledge of your previous conquests preceding you?

Approximately between 1050 – 1030 b.c, it was a tumultuous time for the Israelites as they vacillated between the era of judges; some notable for leading in righteousness and those infamous for allowing unrighteousness prosper. You see, it was really quite simple back then as it still is today – 2 options; one based on doing right by God’s standards and the other based on the opposite, the crowd pleaser. God’s standard was not that difficult to discern, much easier these days with the ability to read almost an ability that is taken for granted. I just remember the opulence of their feasts, carving up an entire hog with casks of ale flowing….cholesterol wasn’t an issue, actually they outlived us by centuries and it was definitely not because they lacked medicine (I dare opine that they actually had better and so much more affordable healthcare than we do today).

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve unfortunately been discomfited by frequent (and very painful) back spasms that I’ve been forced to unearth my lumbar belt – a wide inflatable belt with magnet inserts. There are those unfortunate periods when fashion and other trivialities go out the windows as we try to get some degree of comfort in the midst of some medically influencing torrid times. I digress because I trust that the season is over now and thus apply myself to more noble pursuits. One event during the Israelites circuitous journey to acknowledging God’s sovereignty was when their colour party (The Ark of Covenant) was captured. For anybody versed in these matters, your colour party must never be captured in battle because that in essence is who you are. However they (The Israelites) lost it due to sheer disobedience and thinking righteousness could be obtained by lavish sacrifices, just like attempting to put on a slap-on band aid on a gashing cut . Disobedience can never be wiped away with lavish sacrifices because obedience in itself is a sacrifice worthy of God’s attention.

It’s best imagined what feasts the Philistines threw with the capture of God’s Ark (not forgetting the massacre of over 35,000 fighting Israelites too….). Now nothing can be further from the truth in these words, ‘abuse is inevitable when purpose is unknown’ and so heady with the victory, the Philistines placed God’s Ark in the temple of one of their many esteemed god’s temple. What humiliation Dagon suffered in his temple because the idol was first cast to the ground in the first night and the next night after being restored, not only was it cast down but both hands and feet were cut off. Now, that situation right there is not something you can immediately restore and no matter how much mead or ale has been consumed, whatever fogs still remain are sure to clear. The Philistines knew without a doubt that they were way in over their head…..

The events unfold in subsequent pages but it kind of reminds me of times when I’ve in folly tried to combine two insoluble events together. The results are usually catastrophic and filed under ‘past experiences’ many times, and ironically till date we still make the same mistakes (I often wonder happened to learning from history). We allow the headiness of triumphs (obtained by God and delivered to us) cloud our senses and inadvertently we find ourselves on the seat of our pants, a laughable sight as we try to shake out the clouds of dust from our hair and clothes. In reality, everything around us was created and therefore our response should be a deserved reverence for The Creator but even as life zips by digitally, it often takes a crash to make us aware that the solution to puzzling events staring us in the face cannot be gotten from neither our feeble minds nor our shallow and limited understanding.

Puzzling….in our faces

For some reason, puzzles will always be a part of life’s package and regardless of how much time we spend trying to decipher them, the solution is usually right there just that we fail to see it. I remember a dear friend, with tears unchecked and rolling down, telling me a couple of weeks back, “I just got a call that my father has only a week to live!” Now that I truly can understand because that single call is one of those moments that define you going foward. Is this a storm that you hunker down and wait out or do you take it on head on? For me, that is an alarm screaming for you to pause and be sure that you’re in His Hands because in situations like that, where else can you be? Events like these will always pop up and how they transform you is ultimately determined by how you respond.

I have long learned that emotional stress is a definite trigger for dystonic episodes and so even when everything about me is itching to gear up for battle, I look down and see scars that remind me to pause, step back and reevaluate my position. ‘Anything worth living for is worth dying for!’ is not just the utterance of a mind in drunken stupor but one that should be carefully understood. Preceding every feast is a triumph but the most notable of triumphs are those gotten without lifting a Honjõ Masamune or wielding a C15 M4 Type Carbine (configured like an M4-style carbine with a flat-top upper) from Bushmaster. The greatest weapons are usually largely invisible and most often less thought of.

In our journey through life’s seas, prioritizing is a skill best learned early. Storms are a certainty however our preparation prior to the storm cannot be taken for granted because very many people define success as opportunity meeting preparedness. I define success as being thankful for where I am today and the liberty of making the right choices. Chance befalls us all, choice differentiates us and so taking time to realize how significant our choices will be to a great extent defines how much merriment awaits us ahead. The success of our journeys is a combination of controllable and uncontrollable events and the choices we make.

Enjoy the journey and try to get better every day. And don’t lose the passion and the love for what you do.” – Nadia Comaneci, and remember that “he/she is no fool to give up cannot be kep to gain what cannot afford to be lost” – Jim Elliot.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Whistles, Cheers and a new path….

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Be You!

Happy new year to everyone of you who has chosen to spare a moment or two to read what I write. Without you, there would be no redzhis.com and admittedly my felicitation might be viewed as belated however I opine, ‘better late than never!’ Coming from a Catholic background as a child, “bless me….my last confession was in September 2018!” However thank God for a clearer, easier path to starting afresh. It does seem that writing may not be a very lucrative career however life isn’t all about money. It sure helps but it is not ALL there is.

For the first time in nearly 3 decades, I slept (not rested) through into the new year and it is in my nature to be particular about the little things and details however just that minor aberration gave me something to hold onto. No matter how hard I try to make the best of situations from my own limited perspective, there is so much that I absolutely have no control over. Therefore, I’ve decided to really try hard to take better care of myself because if I don’t, I’m certain at least one person in the 8 billion population would mind. Oh well, it’s never going to be about me rather it is an evaluation of history (2018), celebrating and building on the victories and learning from the upsets. Like a stream, we each are adrift and the least we can do is keep your vessel properly maintained and pray for fair winds.

I am truly thankful for the air I breathe and the oft taken for granted fact that each day we awake is a blessing – what we do with it however is up to each person. I have no regrets because the learning points I received are just pointers to the direction I should take. Things like resentment, frustration, despondency and despair actually don’t appear in my journal, although like the masked burglar, creep in they will regardless of how fortified I think I’ve made my city. Have I been given the all clear from the relentless battle with myoclonus? Nope, experts are hard at work trying to figure it out and it would be foolhardy for me to watch the seconds go by in idleness, tweedling my thumb waiting for some answer from someone. There truly is no phase of life, private or public, that is free of responsibility. The question therefore is, ‘what is my responsibility?’

Self-care, being considerate of others, being kind and compassionate to as many as I come across are pretty much a good place to start from. Undeniably, there will be spill overs from history however our response determines who’s in charge. One of the spillovers I received was from an acquaintance who needed some space (I’m not in charge of apportioning space so take as much as satisfies you) although it brought to the fore this age old quote, “the greatest battle we fight in life is trying to be you in a world that consistently wants to make you someone else.” I will be me, while you be you and if life inexplicably allows our paths to cross then there can be only one of two options applicable. Flee as though the banshees from hell are after you (in my words, blaming anything else but you) or stay awhile and make that brief encounter count for something.

One invaluable lesson I’ve gotten is that regardless of the whistles and cheers, there must always come a time when you’re left to your own whims and if you never gave that some thought then buckle in and get ready for a roller coaster ride. We are each equipped with a distinct set of skills best used by you, however if burying your head in the sand like the ostrich while trying to hide behind a deluge of excuses is your choice, then I must bade you farewell. Just as the sun rises each new day, so also must we, determined and ready to face the day or like Scripture aptly puts it, “stay hidden beneath your bedsheets because there could be a lion outside your door waiting to devour you” (my summation).

Life will not cease because you are so wrapped up in yourself that you forget that neither the wrappings nor yourself are actually yours. However when we acknowledge that the rains fall upon both the good, the bad and the ugly….then that might make us rethink our priorities. In the void left by friends who have transitioned, I see an opportunity to live my life honored to have met them. And when my time comes as surely as all things created, I hope one person can be bold enough to say, ‘it was indeed an honor walking a while with you!’ Now that is no easy statement in spite of the political correctness of our current system, yet truth rings out, incapable of being silenced; we are neither animals nor creatures of monotony. There is a task for me and you, and the sooner we get to it, the more fulfilling our lives would be.

Life’s stage is big enough for everyone however be ready to give the best performance (sincere and without an iota of pretense) of your life when the light is cast on you.

Each morning, I awake with a thankful heart and a new song

And despite the agonies of myoclonus or the lack of knowledge

I pour out myself, desperate to revel not in my own understanding but in an unshakeable trust in My Creator.

Sing me an ode, a ballad or give an eulogy but this life I’ve got now has calls only I can make.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

In the Eclipse……

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“The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?” – Oscar Wilde

I remember vaguely the first time I witnessed a solar eclipse, and though there had been the usual fore-warnings, it still seemed very eerie. Suddenly but gradually watching the day turn to night and feeling as though time was standing still. I recollect wondering if that was how the end of the world would look like however several years later, with the benefit of knowledge and the chances I encountered, I know with absolute certainty that we will never tell what the future holds but we can with absolute certainty live our lives each day as though it were our last.

In the space of three days, I have sadly witnessed the passing on of three lives – three individuals who at different stages of my life left an impression on me. Even as I write now, it is still almost unreal however I know how fleeting life can be and how with the appropriate knowledge, we can make our lives at the very least count for something. A high school mate in his 40s, leaving behind a wife and two little kids. An amazing pastor in his 60s leaving behind a wife, two daughters and grandkids and most painful of all, a friend and sister succumbing to cancer just today. How do I feel? Shell-shocked and sorrowful but mourn them I will because it was indeed a privilege to have crossed paths and shared in each other’s life tales.

In the middle of the darkest phase of my life, when I was diagnosed with myoclonus dystonia, I remember how numbing it was to have my life turned upside down. And as I grappled with comprehending this major shift in my life, I desperately wanted to be left alone because I needed the time to process what life-transforming changes were taking place. Nonetheless, it is not unnatural to grieve but how we allow these moments of sheer grief and sorrow shape us is entirely up to each one of us. I remember how painful it was to lose everything that hitherto seemed priceless and begin to re-learn what the word priority meant and what things truly counted in life. I remember listening to the sermon titled ‘An ordinary life in the hands of an Extraordinary God!’ and bawling my eyes out as I sat unnoticed and brand new in Bethel London Riverside Church. For me, that was the beginning of another chapter of my life as I gradually began to make choices that counted for something.

That was where I met Pastor Ken Williamson; soft spoken and mild mannered along with a couple of others that I am truly honored to still call my friends. When I could barely afford the devastating fees associated with dystonia management, least of all muster the strength to feed myself, the church was there (a family of strangers bound together by the love of God) picking me up for service and dropping me off. Getting a welfare package regularly and getting to meet some of the nicest people on earth, I learned that it is really an awesome responsibility when your current location is but a vantage point that allows you see a need, because you see the need in order to attend to it. It is not all about money (that is a vital resource), it is the ability to put your storms/issues behind and stretch out a hand to someone else who is at the risk of succumbing to their own storm. Life is a journey whose distance we will never know and so how wise is it to ensure that each day is lived as an expression of gratitude to God as well as an expression of kindness to the lives we come across.

I remember vividly the first day I met Christina – jaunty and with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes and smile, clad in a simple black skirt and plaid shirt with tails tied together above her skirt. I remember how independent she always wanted to be, yet she never spared an ounce of kindness and concern wherever she was. That was the beginning of a relationship that would span a lifetime, through the good times and bad times. I remember being treated as a son by her parents, their house probably the only place I could get to without asking questions (I really suck with directions/navigation). I remember being there at the start of what would eventually be her marriage (recall her twinkly disbelieving laugh when I told her this was going to be it), and working very hard behind the scenes on her wedding day. Neither of us knowing where our paths would take us but completely eager to live a purposeful life.

And when my storms all but broke me down, she was there with me helping cater to the needs of my daughter and I. Selflessly setting her own issues afar and loving the best way only she could. And even when I got her to talk about her challenges, she did so with that unique style of making it sound as though it was nothing at all. A loyal friend, easy to talk with regardless of the thousands of miles that separated us – she was that friend who sticks closer than a brother. I remember the call, utter disbelief in her voice, informing me that she had been diagnosed with cancer. As always, I listened and together we encouraged ourselves, with me being the one with the ‘most’ experience. Reminding her that medical science can have its say but as long as we never give up, someday the eclipse would be over. Experience has taught me never to ask why because we actually lack the ability to comprehend even if we are privy to the answer. And when she told me that the doctors had said the chemotherapy was not working, I told her what I tell myself every morning – “this is my life and I choose to live it without surrendering!”

Today, I got the dreaded message and in this case, the third time wasn’t a charm in anyway. After a year of fighting hard, long after the date given by doctors, she finally succumbed and I envy her because I know for certain that she is finally rid of it all. She is in a place where there are no eclipses, where the horrifying grip of pain and anguish is not allowed….but still I mourn! I mourn because so many have intentionally deceived themselves into believing that money will get them the best boat, boats that have been certified ‘indestructible’ by men just like them. I mourn because amidst a world filled with hurting people, many intentionally turn a blind eye and when they are forced to see, their response is a torrent of meaningless ‘well-wishes’, copied prayers and total apathy. We will not be judged by what we have but rather what we have given, and someday when the inevitability of the end arrives, it will be clear what a life of misery and selfishness we have lived.

My battle is far from over but today I celebrate the lives of my friends whose giving has influenced who and where I am. I hoist aloft a banner of victory on their behalf, praying that when my time comes, someone will do the same for me. As I journey on with tattered sails, a battered vessel, I hear the voices rooting in my corner for me and the only option I choose is to pay it forward, regardless of recognition or reward. I choose to remember the words of William J.H. Boetcker that ‘the difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow’ and so I press on even in the darkness of the eclipse, eyes searching out those who have all but given up. Giving a helping hand, listening ears and a piece of my bread so that together we will press on armed with the knowledge expressed by Elie Wiesel, ‘There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win!’

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios!

The reverberation of silence…..

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Silence!

“Be (known as) a person of persistence and endurance. One person with persistence, commitment and endurance will accomplish more than a thousand people with interest alone.” – J. Mason

When and where we are birthed is not a decision that provides room for our opinions to weigh in. We emerge, most times, angry at the doctor or nurse who swatted our bum while we also vociferously complain at the change in our residing address. That really does nothing to the process of childbirth and/or family building, we eventually get to accept (some of us pretty early and others pretty late) that there are things/events we can change and others that would be a manifestation of sheer naivety and wrongful application of energy were we to attempt changing them. That’s where serenity comes to play, giving us peace to go through those events we have no control over however wisdom is a prerequisite to enable us tell the difference.

I recall my first solo Christian outreach as a University graduate some 16years ago and was it an eye opener indeed. Not only did it satisfy my urge to go to new places but it also made me realize that entitlement is a unique word and not the very best to use in our common, everyday conversations. There I was, in a little village populated by about 100 families who had chosen to question the predominant religion. No schools, no water, no electricity but all around them these same ‘necessities’ were available to others, a reward for their conformity and reliable apprehension at rocking the boat. I juggled having summer classes, learning the language, helping on farms and talking about intangible treasures that are stoutly backed by infallible and unbreakable promises. Talking about streets of gold to someone who had never seen an asphalt road is not just a gigantic stretch in imagination but it also kindles hope, strength of purpose and incomprehensible peace.

Trust is something that is inevitable to life. From the moment you open your eyes to a new day to the moment you shut them at the end is a journey of faith. You unknowingly believe that you will live, you believe the atmosphere can sustain your respiratory system, you believe that your feet will hold you up……you believe without an iota of doubt because that’s what science says. Who made science? There is always a source, an origin if we choose to apply ourselves to searching however there will always be the plethora of unanswered questions that make life more of a mystery than just a monotonous exercise. And those unanswered questions, we believe will be answered someday. That in a nutshell was one of the minor reasons that made me enjoy my stay and plan another visit the next summer.

On the faces of children and adults, I could see contentment and unbridled joy because they chose not to dwell on their lack (they were not anticipating a turn around so soon or the coming of a messiah) but rather focus on The One who holds all of life in His hands. They could relate with that! They could relate with the fact that life in itself is a season, and just like every agricultural community, they understood seasons – every season begins and ends someday. From the starry eyed kids in their worn-out clothing to the fierce gleam of defiance in the eyes of adults, I learned that what we need the most in life is companions that are eager and willing to walk some way with us as we journey through life. And not just any company but the distinct few who walk in agreement with us, come rain or scorching heat. I learned the beauty of silence, not the silence of indifference and nonchalance, but the silence that brings the realization of our existence as humans devoid of all the frenzy of the big cities and wholly dependent on Our Creator.

Like Spinoza says, “no matter how thin a slice is, there will always be two sides.” We may choose to butter both sides and deal with ensuring we don’t get dirt on our faces and clothing or we may choose to be thankful for that slice regardless of the availability of butter or not. I recalled this life changing experience because once again, I’m embarking on something completely foreign to me as I grapple with dystonia. An entirely unprecedented chain of events for those who know me just a bit. However with a life as unique as mine, you develop the knack of ignoring the bumps (& associated pain) from the thrown lemons and focus on making some lemonade. It’s not just trying to survive (a puny task I dare to opine), it is instead recognizing the circumstance and adapting to ensure your purpose is not derailed. The purpose always counts, and what we put in today and tomorrow will always determine if we are striving for excellence or just pretending to enjoy (while cringing internally in absolute terror) the waters as we are hurled along in no direction by the strong currents of life.

…..and you are???

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – MLK Jr. No life can be lived in isolation and although we do not get to pick our families but we do get to pick our friends, and yet again we believe that most of them will be there for the long haul despite the occasional squabbles. The journey we all embark on will have its fair share of storms, and sometimes during those storms, what we crave the most from our friends is not just a deluge of words alone but sometimes that walm hand that is quietly slipped into your hand, reassuring you that you are not alone. So many times, we are so unsettled by the silence that we fail to see and appreciate how consistent and little our true friends are. Their actions are not preceded by a definitely not-so eloquent speech or a forwarded ‘do not break the chain’ prayer (insincere and bothersome). True friends are found in the silence.

However there will be those times when ego has even gone to ground (for fear of identifing with you) and your outstretched hand is completely ignored. It is in those times that silence, if permitted, becomes a complete set of percussion instruments all wailing in discordance. That is when silence becomes a banshee whose voice threatens your peace of mind. It is that silence that cuts the most deeply, leaving a wound that may seemingly never heal. And still, even as the silence reverberates all around you, there is still a choice to be made – give into the insanity that the cruel, intentional silence of friends offer or find that quiet place deep in the recesses of your mind where no hand can touch. Retreat there to ponder on the fact that life is a process and it is the approval and relationship of God that counts the most. On the many occasions when friends align with the enemy through their silence and it becomes nigh impossible to differentiate friend from foe, then you are forced to remind yourself that no man has a plan that makes total provision for you, it is then you just must find Him.

I learned from that first experience, even in the silence, beauty can still exist. When the words from the lips of companions are like the falling of brown leaves, lifeless, insincere and meaningless. When their gestures threaten to extinguish the sliver of light you have because their intent is not to act but to be seen as being active. It is in times like these that I cling fervently to the promises of a good God who is not man that He would dare cast shadow on His Word. I remember that it is not the seeming abundance (just provocatively beyond your grasp) around you that counts but the ability to bask in what you have been blessed with; hope, purpose and a destination, that is what counts when the silence descends on you.

Remember, We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

In the stillness…

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Be Still

There will always be that time when it seems like I can barely escape the shadows. When all else quietens, and the sound of my beating heart reverberates through the silence. It is in those times that I reminisce on the topsy turvy of the journey I call my life’s tale and find true beauty in the ashes.

From the plucky little chap in his bright shorts and shirt, tugging on the leash of my toy doggie; Snoopy. The world in all of its enormity, a conquest to be had with nothing looking remotely like an obstacle. I remember how much of a daredevil I was, mischief twinkling in my eyes with hands and feet that couldn’t stay still for long. Searching for and accepting the craziest dares, it looked like I was invisible but life is a mystery box and when jack pops up – it is either of two options, a heart attack or a rush of adrenaline. Regardless of how neatly life appeared, a neatly stacked line of dominoes, nothing really prepares you for the uncertainties.

Even through high school, when friends were made anew with a promise of always being there, life was like a walk in the amusement park with a pocketful of quarters. Never hungry or butt naked, every phase was a trail to attaining a milestone and life was truly beautiful. Sneaking through the pantry with mother’s catering books, whipping out pastries and trying out recipes, nothing could possibly have been better. However there’s always going to be that turn in the road, when visibility is so limited and despite how hard one tries, you cannot see beyond the turn. Stopping, getting down and re-evaluating is not always feasible especially when the thrill of the ride is euphoric.

I remember the concussion I suffered when in my haste (why I always ran is still unfathomable) I ran through the discus sector and got hit by the discus. I remember having my fair share of being picked on and childhood fights. I remember walking home in tattered clothes because my ‘experiment’ blew up in my face and gave me 2nd degree burns (earning the nickname Acidman). I remember being so sick only to find out I had weird allergies. I remember witnessing a nurturing home and loving relationship being torn apart by folly and the influence of wrong company. I remember my first automobile accident, tumbling over and over. I remember being shot at. I remember waking up one night unable to breathe, the race to the ER. I remember journeys to strange places and encounters best left unshared. …….but I survived because of God’s mercy and love.

I recall the university years, being the enigma to many even as I sought to stay true to myself. Plunging headfirst into as many events as I could, getting the down side of misplaced priorities when I chose to continue my internship despite the fact that lectures had commenced. Grateful for the fact that I could be the ear to those in need, a shoulder to cry on for the broken and the elixir for the depressed. Life was beautiful indeed and with the mixture of highs and low, exhilarating describes it best. Graduating from university and going off to the unknown, I knew I would survive because that was just who I was. A blend of healthy spiritual fundamentals and a healthy body, I blossomed within an awesome relationship with God. I was prepared for anything!

Commencing my work career, I thought I had it all planned out and even when I dropped the white collar job for a stint in the military, the confusions of many was the least of my worries. Parenthood was another season and as always I had it all planned out in my head. Setting up a trust for tuition, acquiring what I wanted, it was all going well but it’s in our nature to plan however it is God who decides. Knowing I had that relationship served as a buffer when things went south occasionally, however I had been raised to believe in myself and so I always did. Just when it seemed like I had it all together, life happened. Series of events that I never imagined started unfolding bringing to fore the idiom, ‘when it rains, it pours!’

The culmination of a life in tatters was in December 2011, all around me that carefully built life in heaps of wreckage and just like a skilled burglar, night had suddenly and swiftly crept up on me. Struggling with those fiercely entwining tendrils of darkness, it was a struggle to make head of it all. And each time, I chose to head for the light, the darkness just got longer. This was no medical condition, this was my life now, almost completely subjected to the dictates of the rare, incurable neurological condition termed dystonia. Then it hit me right in the gut; there were no voices lifted in celebration to be heard, no hand to lift me up, no strength to light a match. This was now my life, like a pariah condemned to dwell outside the city walls, isolation was a welcome thing. However, we are a result of our choices and so I learned to bargain with an adroitness I never knew existed. Learned to lace my own shoes with brow furrowed in pain, every little gesture a battle of wits, things previously taken for granted were now things I had to relearn. Circumventing steps to conserve my little energy, being the object of compassion either as I was wheeled in a chair or as I struggled to make my way home leaning heavily on my cane.

In the stillness, my eyes slowly adapted to the darkness and my ears became attuned to the groans of those fallen around me. This was my life but still there was a purpose to it and regardless of the absence of ‘friends’ or ‘family’, one truth stood out; this was my life and so every choice I made had to count. When the cold hands of depression sought to console me, I chose to shrug them off and in the stillness, I found hope that I hitherto believed was lost. I found friends who became brothers and I realized that purpose is not shaped by your experiences rather it is given more clarity during those experiences. Today, I am not just a survivor but I am a victor because even though I have been scorched by the flames, I am now stronger just by the process of walking through the raging flames.

It is in the stillness that you learn some of the hardest lessons, letting go of pride and ambition whilst embracing compassion and aspiration. It is in the stillness that I have learned that my life is not dictated by the size of material wealth but by the riches of intangible values. It is in the stillness, empathy assumes meaning and pain can be shared. I have known abundance and lack, however I have also learned that contentment is wanting what you have, kindness is giving when all else is screaming, ‘save for the rainy day’. It is in the stillness that I have learned that it is better standing in the rain with a friend or someone in need than struggling not to get wet beneath a poncho. In the stillness, I have learned what true strength is, what trusting God means and what living actually means.

Sticks, stones and words will hurt but the resilience of the human spirit is so much more greater. That is what will define you when all else has gone silent. That is what nothing can take away from you except you choose to let it go. It is all about the stillness….

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

CEO, Inspiration Inc…..

Standard

To start with a rueful comment about how frustrating writing can get is right about apt because how else could I tag the emotions I felt 7 hours ago? Finished up a piece and was putting on the bells and whistles, suddenly Shazam!it’s gone and when the device in use is my back-up, suddenly the realization of how much I miss my laptop is suddenly brought to the fore…..Oh well, since I do not want to ‘join’ the vanished piece then I guess the best course of action is to shut down, call a time-out and welcome the new day. That I would categorize as being one of the unsavory duties of a CEO, there is no other table for the buck to go to. This event along with the ones happening in recent times make me question how busier can living be? How can I live without writing? It started off being an avenue to channel all the hurt, bitterness and resentment in a positive way but now it is becoming a vital part of who I am daily.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those men who dream in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the morning to find it was but vanity but those men who dream by day – these are dangerous men, for they dream with open eyes to make their dreams comes true.” – T.E Lawrence. Right off the top of that, I think I class myself as being ‘dangerous’ and were it not for the constraints of dystonia, I probably would have pursued a career in which danger played a huge role. Why? Danger lurks around every corner so why not best it as quickly and as often as you can however it is essential that you know yourself – stick to the shallow side of the pool if that’s the extent to which you can push yourself.

I have since learned not to view myself as strange whenever I tell people that I do not dream (and this is whenever I am able to wrestle insomnia to submission) but dreaming due to the heavy influence of lofty aspirations and objectives, that therein is a totally different subject matter. This is what I do when life chucks lemonades at me, I pick myself up, ignore the bruises and welts and find the nearest food processor and make some lemonades (summer is fast approaching anyway). Although turning and tossing, watching the hours slip by elusively is no fun but rather than give in to grumpiness and full-blown irritation, I dream and then act because I know time is no servant of any creation. Developing that uncanny ability of identifying the pros and cons is not very difficult but transforming the cons to pros is where the heavy lifting is done. Can all men dream? Most definitely! Can all embark on making those dreams come true? That is a question best posed and answered by individuals whose lives are greatly determined by their personal choices.

Some weeks ago, I posted something on social media and one of the many comments (in interpretation and in literal candor) was ‘you are an inspiration!’. Well dystonia or not, compliments are a pretty good boost to one’s psyche however over the years, I have somewhat become adept at separating the default comments from the sincere, unreserved comments. Now I do get to hear that comment frequently but for some reason, this particular day’s comment got the huge wheels in my head churning (which is something I try very hard to avoid because of the adverse consequences, it is so wearying getting them to stop) and I alluded to the fact that inspiration is a lifetime career with a lot of pomp and allure but ironically no financial remuneration. Oh, that sounds really grim especially when today’s world operates on the measure of tangible wealth that translates to an individual’s net worth. I do opine however (and most assuredly this is not borne from a place of lack) that if we were to tag everything in our lives with a physical cost, that would be utter shameful because then it would be most uncomfortable explaining why many lives are constantly in the red.

I remember that during those ‘ship-up or ship-out’ regular exercises as a growing child, one of the oft repeated phrased associated with those exercises was, ‘this exercise will help stop you from behaving like a gutter bred child!’ It took me a couple of years to completely decipher the meaning especially since it was associated with those frequent exercises and despite the fact that I truly was a ferocious reader and hungry for idioms and definitions but even those were not strong enough motives to ask a visibly upset parent to explain what that phrase meant. In the acquisition of knowledge, seeking the truth and/or definition yourself usually is the best way to go because when you do get the meaning, you somewhat get a personal patent that ensures nobody can take it away from you. And so attempting to tag a price to everything we do is akin to behaving like a gutter bred child, however the gutter has never been ranked on the list of suitable accommodation for humans. So get the heck out if you think you are in one or have been told most of your life that the gutter is where you deserve to be.

Every new day, I am thankful for the countless opportunities to be inspired by the lives and events that occur around me but most especially I am inspired by the false facade that many put up because when you just genuinely show some humanity, then you are confronted by the turmoils that many face and are trying to hide from by concealing them beneath this thin veneer. Just as the trickle on the surface of an aging dam is a sure sign of the torrent that will follow closely, so is the certainty that someday that facade will crumble underneath the pressure of trying to avoid charting your own path. It takes little or nothing to travel on a well worn path but remember that just as our DNA varies so do our purposes and so investing energy into determining your own purpose amidst the jungle of society and swinging at it with a machete will ensure that you forge your own path and help another begin theirs. We are all interwoven at some stage in life and we may begin together but remember that ‘in life, we meet to part and part to meet’

Life is an exercise in attaining balance; giving vs receiving, listening vs talking, empathy vs cynicism, kindness vs cruelty…the list goes on and at every milestone we attain in life, we must choose what side we want to be on. Seeking ensures finding, asking ensures knowing and knocking ensures access to doors we hitherto presumed were non-existent. It is no easy feat living your life but jumping on the band wagon is not an option because you really have no say as to the direction of the wagon. Being an inspiration means that more often than we think, we give a fellow traveler some company for some distance but then she/he must veer off when the time comes. Sprawled on the canvas of a boxing ring after a flurry of jabs, hooks and flush upper cuts does not give me the license to remain there and be counted out and so despite the urge to remain there, I must get to my feet and give it all I have got and some. And even when it is just the rings that are keeping me upright, there is a person or two out there who can truly draw strength from your fight, so keep at it until the bell rings.

With every new day, I strive to push myself just a tad more than I did yesterday and even when my body is playing out a symphony of agony and pain, that is not enough reason for me to stop, I just have to rest a while and then forge on. And when the inevitable opportunity of meeting a fellow traveler down on his back shows up, I will yet lend him an arm and pull him up. With arms interlocked, feet struggling to keep going, I can still whistle up a jaunty tune to make those moments worthwhile. We are a sum total of many parts and lives, and so to everyone who has played some role in my story, I say, “thank you for being an inspiration!” Because although today seems like it could be my last, I know with certainty that my destination is a place where the constraints of this feeble body will be no more. And so I apply myself as much as I can, without the lurking shadow of doubt to scare me, knowing fully well that ’tis but one chance I have got and so regardless of the cards in my hand, I will do the best I can with them.

Remember that “the real measure of one’s wealth is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money” – Zig Ziglar. Now that is a tough pill to swallow but as long as we remain adrift on the sea of life, we must acknowledge that time and chance happens to all.

פרידה עד שנפגשנו שוב בתזמון שלו, וייתכן שאהבתו של אלוהים להיות אמיתית לך!

Adios!