Rocking the boat….

Standard


The capacity of the human brain is a gigantic expanse and a mystery that will never be fully understood by man. Sometimes, I find myself saying things that I honestly do not remember hearing but on the other hand there are those things that were  drummed into my head while growing up that I wouldn’t lose a moment’s sleep (I really sincerely wish for that) if it was suddenly revealed that I used to say it in my sleep, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” That was one of the first proverbial statements I heard as a child especially when I was shirking doing something important and relevant, the abject truth is that even without being stolen, time like the ponderous ferry making its way across the lake, is slowly but steadily leaving in its wake so many dreams, unfulfilled purposes and quite a large number of unmarked headstones. We have slowly but surely become creations of our own flawed and erroneous concepts and sadly, the stench of decay has almost lost its noxious fumes because it is no longer offensive but actually more familiar as we cave in daily to the mounting pressures of life and its frenzied minions. “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness” – Charles Spurgeon. There is more effort put into just existing than actually living, with the resultant effect being that inadvertently, many of us have actually crossed off happiness on our to-do lists. The natural reaction of the human body is fight or flee but these days, lives have been so beaten down that a frightening insensitivity to what is happening around us is beginning to set in. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to be invited to sit on a panel of highly articulate Christian individuals at a growing Singles’ Group; The Summit and over a period of four weeks, there was ample room to share and learn candid, practicable approaches to dealing with issues relating to living a Christian life in a society that has insidiously replaced stunning virtues with an alternate antonym cunningly masked as synonyms. One of the very first questions asked was if there was actually a difference between compromise and tolerance especially in today’s world where we must allow every thought conjured in the heart of man to be given free reign all in the name of tolerance. For me, I am finding it all the more difficult acknowledging that the silver cord is loosed, that the golden bowl is broken, that the wheel has truly been broken at the cistern and so it is becoming alarmingly difficult to draw up water (which constitutes 70% of our body) from the cistern when the wheel is broken. But hold on, life seems to have continued and at a truly accelerated pace – what fuels such activities? Why are there more debilitating medical conditions than ever before? What of the incessant need to acquire more knowledge that is in no way related to alleviating the sordid conditions we live in? How on earth can you be in a boat on the sea of life and hope, with fists clenched and teeth set, that we dare not rock the boat? How does one progress if one is unwilling to move because of the fear of bucking the system. We can tolerate because we are each on a different path with different purposes, throw in the mix of our background, upbringing and beliefs and tolerance just has to be, ‘Seek to be at peace with all men…”. Compromising on the other hand is a complete wilting of the very fundamentals that should make us distinct, the question that begs answering is when are we going to look up and see the mess that we have inadvertently set ourselves in just because we were too afraid to be different. 

Completely undercutting ourselves at the knee and wondering why we are hobbling on inappropriate crutches is no longer a point of concern, we just allow ourselves be swept along with the tide, after all that is a path of no resistance. Allowing our homes to become a continuation of the chaos that is seemingly thriving daily on the outside as we scurry about in the day and night money-chasing and hoping that somehow there can be an eclipse that will keep us hidden from the world we live in. If our foundations are being closely inspected and cracks are glaringly obvious, how long do we have before our lives come crashing down like a poorly stacked pile of dominoes? Who do we have to blame now because we blamed it on the rain in the 90s and the pool of blame options has so rapidly shrunk that we are faced with a grainy image of our features in a little puddle on our path, where we have started finding ‘comfort’ sprawled out like an inebriated teen on a Friday night. One thing I have learned through the years is that the first time to be knocked to the ground, trying to rise up is always a difficult ordeal but as we develop an immunity and a predilection for staying on the ground especially when a bully is standing over us, it almost seems that staying on the ground is where you are actually meant to be – and nothing can be further from the truth than that. We are creations of God’s love and Pleasure and the ground is rarely where the pleasure is. However, in order to enjoy the pleasures, we must first believe that there are unimaginable pleasures that lie just ahead of us and with that shield of faith, we must apply those aching muscles into getting to our feet. “Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading” – Oswald Chambers

I am rarely moved to talk about the many personal videos I receive from social media but this one just literally became that straw that broke the camel’s back. I am going to share the story of a courageous lady who put up a video (I rarely watch them because so many are just a waste of time due to the lack of content). The first thing I noticed in the video was how distraught she was and that just spurred me to keep on watching, I kid you not when I say I felt really awful at the end of the video. Now I am in no way calling for a boycott or attempting to tarnish any image but it is the reality of the life that we currently live in. This courageous doctor, a widow who had lost her husband during his 20-year military service to his country, was aboard a flight and observed that a fallen soldier was being escorted home for burial. And like many of the greatest ideas that have marked our evolution, she had the urge to (and yielded completely) go around the aircraft cabin in mid-air asking complete strangers if they would not mind joining her to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ as a way of honoring the fallen soldier and his military escort as they made their way home where he would be laid to rest. One of the things I truly believe in is that when you lose that ability to feel shame then it’s time to give out whatever meager possessions you might have amassed because that is a life not worth living. And even before Dr Pam Gaudry uttered how thoroughly ashamed she was, anyone watching it could feel the shame she felt…..after going round the aircraft and politely asking if people could join her (of course there were the nays, that’s what makes life unique), she returned to her seat buoyed by the number of affirmative responses she received and glad that she could just maybe inject some hope in what seemed like a hopeless situation.

A few minutes into the descent, she was approached by the Head Flight Stewardess (Cabin Crew team lead) and told that she could not sing the US Anthem aboard a US airline within US airspace because it was ‘against company policy’ and as she battled with that stunning piece of revelatory information, her question was what would happen to to all those who had without a thought acquiesced to her appeal. Again, in the face of so much uncertainty in t his era of not rocking the boat, she wrestled with the possible outcome if she dared disobeyed the stewardess’ curt warning and of course time waits for no man, so whilst she battled with disobeying an ‘authority’, the aircraft landed and the fallen soldier and his escort were swiftly whisked off the the aircraft. The opportunity was gone, never to repeat itself again, and it was the shame of being compelled to constrain her freedom that was tearing this unique lady apart. I reached out to her and in very clear and certain terms, I told her that it was not courage she lacked – how else would you describe going from seat to seat on an aircraft in mid-flight asking strangers if they would be willing to join her sing the US Anthem, it was the fact that we have become so convoluted as a society that wrong becomes right in the name of compromise. Now that brief video clip got me out of bed even though I meant to take the day off recuperating from the activities of the previous day and feeling the cold, unfeeling hands of Dystonia trying to stifle me. I am glad she posted that video because it gave me a boost to persist even when it seems like I stand alone, because in reality you are never alone – you might not enjoy the physical presence of a fellow sojourner who grapples with similar circumstances but all across time and space, we are bound together not by the shackles of an unknown disease but by the persistence to be different, stand strong in our battles and be proud about it even when we are told that liberty has its limits.


I look around today and cease contemplating how we got ourselves into this quagmire of selfishness and total lack of feeling for the chap next to us, instead I have realized that it serves me better when I can bring a smile to someone other than myself. Let us remember how small we will be, wrapped up in ourselves when there are over 6 billion individuals going through their own hoops and for those who have wrapped themselves in the cocoon of invisisibility, take heed lest you become the Emperor with no clothes on. You might be actually be the only person marooned in your fantasy world because the crowd currently chanting your name will disappear in a puff of smoke when the scales fall of your eyes and you realize that you and you alone have been both the king as well as the court jester. I always opine that it is never too late to begin again however the truth is that you just might be at the end of your journey and what a woeful life it would be that you spent the entirety of your years clamouring for and getting drunk on the cheap accolades of people with no vision or knowledge. It is the beginning of a new day, it is the beginning of making choices that truly count for eternity as against laying sprawled out and hoisted by the naive. I have tasted the sweetness of abundance and dwelt in the caverns of despondency, and today as I take the time to make choices that either make me a better teacher or a better student, I am grateful that there is only One whose summons are my priorities and it is to Him alone that I look unto for the strength to be different. For me, that is what keeps me going each day, faith that regardless of the bleakness of the circumstance or the mirage that shimmers in the distance, He is working it out according to His best plans for me and so here or not – my thoughts are not solely focused on how broken I am but on the fact that even while broken I can be of use, that in itself is so much to live for.

Enough of the flimsy excuses and the fleeting delight in moments of fantasy, there is a path that beckons to me and while I still can, I choose to apply myself as much as I can…and some more, just to let you know that you are not alone. “The hardest thing to remember is that what we each really want is the truth of our lives, good or bad. Not rocking the boat is an illusion that can only be maintained by the unspoken agreement not to feel and in the long run it never really works. Let go of saving the boat and save the passengers instead” – Kenny Loggins

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Taking Inventory…

Standard


Sunday (10/15/2017) marks a significant milestone in my writing career and despite the origins not being specifically auspicious (as viewed by some), like everything else that exists, there was a beginning and it is still going strong. It is highly uncharacteristic in today’s world to associate success without financial remuneration however I have since learned that our views and opinions are a reflection of the experiences that we have had. I take pride in the fact that I have worked in four different continents and with this diverse work experience comes the inevitability of having to improve my interpersonal communication skills, because in order to build a successful team or join one, communication is critical. Notwithstanding my ‘diverse’ work experience, there are actually a few things that really prepare you for the inevitable changes that come along with the dynamism of life. Life in itself is a journey and so many times, we start off with a destination in mind and a pre-planned travel route but the irony (often unanticipated) is that some of us literally have to learn to wing it each day due to the unexpected changes that we encounter.

I started writing as an outlet after being diagnosed with Dystonia, and most asssuredly I can say that it not only helped me deal with all the major changes that were taking place at the same time in my life but it also created an arena where I had to learn that vulnerability is not a weakness. Speaking from the standpoint of one who has had his own stint with the military and law enforcement agencies, being vulnerable was and is still erroneously regarded as being weak. Being a combination of choleric and melancholic, temperament wise, was not that much of a help during those initial dark days, because when one is used to lining up the stars before proceeding on any task, having to deal with the reality that the galaxy is not arranged by my own standards becomes a huge deal. Acknowledging that we may have the best of plans, we commence our foray into the battlefield of life but ultimately our paths are defined by the choices we make when we get knocked down to the ground and there is literally no breath or strength left to stand again. And so when in the course of discussions, I discern that the ignorance being flaunted is not an intentional act but rather one that is borne from the lack of experiences, it is usually not that big a deal to concede and move on.

I have since learned that empathy and sympathy are just words to many of us who have not experienced any storm however the ability to gain wisdom and apply it is a personal choice. Sometimes, wisdom is avoiding making mistakes (not very easy because we are prone to making mistakes as humans) and learning from the experiences of others. Today in church, I was reminded that empathy and sympathy are simply channels for conveying information and so being able to sympathize and empathize is not really worthy of a celebration. These are abilities that come along with being human, choosing to utilize these abilities or put them in cryogenic chambers is one that every person has to make. And so as we trudge along on our personal paths, we are better companions when we can empathize but the truth is that there is a world of difference between empathizing or sympathizing and being compassionate. The former informs you and creates room to be humane while the latter does more than just informing, compassion spurs and motivates you to identify a need and do something about it because remember words are just words until they are translated into action. And so with each new day that I am blessed with, I choose to be compassionate because even if you have the financial muscle to own your own private island, you cannot be oblivious that there is so much hurt and pain around us.

As I continue on this journey of mine, I am continuously learning new things about the limitations of my body, the strength of my spirit and the inexorable dependence on God that has significantly influenced every step of this journey. It is therefore no coincidence that my name means “God is leading me!” and so it should be a no brainer that I yield the wheel to Him. However the glaring truth was that just when I thought that I was doing that, my life after the diagnosis compelled a better understanding of what it really means to trust Him for everything. You really have limited options when you have to combat with chronic pain or deal with the mutiny and uncooperative attitude of your physical anatomy on a daily basis. Need I mention the fluidity of my body clock, choosing to reset itself when it wants to even when my bones, joints and muscles are crying out from sheer exhaustion. There are experiences that require ultimate commitment and completely going off radar just to attempt to put them into words and even at best, the words are unable to really convey what you feel. Despite the obvious shortcomings, I always remind myself that ‘in the effort lies victory’. It really is not all about me anymore, there is so much going on within and around me to make it a completely futile exercise to want to make it all about me. Focusing on myself just makes the journey much more difficult that it already is, and it is just sheer folly attempting to increase the current level of difficulty.

So as I celebrate yet another milestone on this unique journey of mine, I celebrate the many lives that I have been blessed to have met. The countlesss stories of ordinary individuals who have been thoroughly bested by life but still have the fortitude to not give up. The periods of silence shared with friends going through horrendous storms, the pleasure of having warm hearts open up to me, scarred and twisted hands stretched out in friendship and just having this unique opportunity to identify with champions from all over the world. That is what I celebrate and although my destination is unchanged, I still have to cope with the ever changing routes with each new day. To all who have refused to give up, all who constantly defy the odds and even the memory of those who have fought the good fight of faith and are currently in a place where pain, sorrow and illness are non-existent, this is appreciating you for accommodating me and my excesses – I am still a Work-In-Progress.

‘Occupy yourself in beholding and bewailing your own imperfections rather than contemplating the imperfections of others’ – Ignatius of Loyola is a quote that serves as a daily reminder that there is still more ahead of me and so it would be reckless to make a career out of focusing on the imperfections of others when I am far from being near perfect.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Your Vantage Point…..

Standard

Your Vantage Point

It is in the nature of human beings to emulate, and most of the values we uphold to this day are those that have been passed down from generation to generation. The rather amusing thing about this ability is that more often than nought, we have not applied ourselves to understanding and so in most cases, there is an application without the due diligence that is obtained from a personal comprehension. The same applies to our spiritual tenets, we take for granted what are actually blessings because we have not taken the pains to develop a personal relationship with The One who blesses and so just like little kids playing on the beaches, we are content with the splashing of the waves when we stand to get a better experience by swimming.

One African proverb that readily comes to heart is this, ‘Parables (idioms, proverbs) are the sauce with which words are eaten!’ The question that so easily comes to the fore is can words be eaten on their own? And would the experience of eating words with the appropriate sauce be more satisfying than if the words were just eaten alone? In almost every cuisine known to man, there will always be some form of sauce (gravy, soup etc) accompanying the main dish that will ensure the exercise of feasting will not just be a dreary one, soon to be forgotten. “Bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold, bean porridge in the pot three days old. Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot three days old!” This age long nursery rhyme so succinctly categorizes man and the differences that make us unique individuals however the truth is that our idiosyncrasies are usually a function of where we stand, contextually.

One phrase that can be quite bewildering is something that I picked up during the early stages of working in the corporate world; ‘The reward for hardwork is more work.” What is the motivation or idea that drives individuals to come up with such phrases? The word ‘reward’ as I know it tends to the positive, just like the word ‘penalty’ tilts to the negative and recalling the basic economics I was forced to learn, Abraham Harold Maslow was the prominent American psychologist best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A theory of psychological health predicated on fulfiling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self actualization. I have since learned that ‘self’ is not the best parameter for evaluating achievements because man naturally is inordinately selfish. And so when you realize that work is defined by whether you classify it as a want-to or a have-to then the reward of more work is definitely suited for the former.

Growing up, I can still remember the day that in a fit of rage, I told someone (cannot remember who) that the person was useless. Fortunately, my mother was privy to the incidence and in the ways that only mothers can, she made me understand that as long as God created, then there must be a use. It almost borders on utter recklessness and abject insolence to tag someone created by God as useless, that is like engaging God in a debate on the depth of His Wisdom and Power. Suffice me to say that after the lesson of never succumbing to the urge to call another living human useless was very firmly passed across, I would have blended very well with a herd of zebras if I were to run bare-assed. Since then, I believe that urge was effectively dealt with and I do not think I have ever called someone useless since then. The truth is that we are all placed in positions and locations either to learn or to teach however the onus of tagging ourselves as useful or useless is strictly ours alone.

Most times, the frustration that we allow to pile on ourselves is not so much as a variable beyond our control, it is rather our inability to see the teachable point of the moment we find ourselves in. Whether it is in the stillness of the night, or the rowdiness of the hospital room, or the unrelenting waves of help sought by another, there is something we can take away from that moment. It could be the irascible nature that surges to the surface when we get cut off in traffic or the sheer ‘audacity’ of not being acknowledged for the role we played in helping another achieve their goal – regardless of what the cause is, we can influence the effect as long as we realize that a vantage point is determined by what we choose to learn and pass on. It is not about the keenness of our eyesight that makes our location a vantage point, it is the inherent and often untapped ability to take a step back, breathe and look again. “The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see.” – Alexander K. Trenton 

Just a few years before I took to writing, a friend of mine who used to blog back then used to affectionately refer to me as her muse. I saw it as a complement and still do even though Hodeejah has stopped blogging however now I know that in every moment of every day, there is something to motivate you to keep pressing on. We are inadvertently constrained by our human limitations but that does not, in any way, restrain us from giving our best each time we are opportuned to be called upon. The privilege of being called upon is not a testimony to your skill or prowess in a particular field, it is rather another opportunity to divest ourselves of the plaudits (their reasons unknown) of our fellow sojourners and show in word and deed that we are social beings. True strength is not an individual index, it is the sum total of the distinctive nature of our diversity when we come together pleasantly, bound by the same goals and objectives. True strength lies in associating ourselves with individuals who are unafraid to love and be loved, unafraid to correct and be corrected and are unafraid to stand back to back with you even in the face of overwhelming odds. That is your vantage point if you choose to acknowledge and wholeheartedly accept that there is a role that only you can play in those circumstances.

As the hours usher in another new day, I am still learning that the path that lies ahead of me may not be what I was once used to, despite that, it is my decision to make each point I find myself at, a vantage one. Borrowing a leaf from the tale of the seven blind men of Bombay as they each described the elephant from their own perspective, let us remember that we may be adroit at what we do but when we refuse to pay attention to the input from another then we mockingly and woefully proclaim ‘my lifestyle is how I deem it to be based on the whimsical cravings of my insatiable self’. For some reason, when you truly apply yourself to a task with all your heart and strength (remembering that our actions should be directed towards pleasing God not man), the succcess of that task definitely transcends the literary definition of success.

In order to succeed at every point and location we find ourselves, it will be relatively comfortable to realize that losing is actually a lesson in winning because until we conquer our fear of failing, then success might not amount to more than the wishes of a child. Our inability to take in life’s lessons is not usually about where we stand but our self-imposed constraint to not look around and see. Even in brokenness, there is beauty!

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris III……

Standard
IMG_20170918_214155_566

Clearing Out

Still on this subject? I am tempted to ask myself that however I have since learned that there is a difference between staring at the same point from the same location and looking at an object from different perspectives – the former stultifies while the latter informs and empowers. I have to admit that it has been a horrendous weekend for me but again in the light of the options available to me, I choose to still be thankful because what I just might consider as ‘granted’ can and is usually someone else’s luxury. I walked into my daughter’s room this morning after the usual protocols had been observed and once again, it looked like The Flash had just zapped through her room. And oh boy, did I learn in unforgettable ways that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ As a growing child. However I now know that the context in which cleanliness is used is in reference to holiness (that is another subject to share on) and so the many unforgettable ways did not really help me until I understood what it meant.

Me : “Why are your clothes strewn across your bed?” Her response was sensible but more of an explanation for not doing what is right, “Oh, these are for washing cos I have worn them before and the others are for ironing…..” well to just sum up the entire conversation, we agreed that anything not properly stored in its place was destined for someone who needed it more because families had lost their all. Well, this post is not from some far off city where the devastation was seen on TV, we witnessed it and we do know families and friends who had to leave everything behind (and lost almost everything) so that they could be evacuated by The National Guard using an RFB. Now, the road to recovery from the Hurricane is still ongoing and may very well be for a long time however with each drive through the city, the debris on the front lawn of homes are still reminders of how we were saved from the storm. Yes, I said saved. The default instinct of natural man is to ‘store for the rainy day!’, but when the rainy day is here, we still find an utterly ridiculous reason to still keep storing and before we know it, we create breeding grounds for pests and put ourselves in harm’s way.

Clearing Debris III

For the dump

It just occurred to me a while ago that we each have varying amounts of debris in our lives and it takes the occurrence of a storm for us to seriously and quickly determine what counts and what can be recovered later. All this going through my mind as I wondered how on earth I still give in to the temptation of sleeping or trying to sleep by laying on my stomach; that was my default sleeping position pre-exacerbation of dystonia and its dx. I can be very graphic at times but when the pain on your lower back feels like your lower spine is in a huge torque wrench, and the lightest of movements feels like that torque wrench has just been given another turn, then attempting to chronicle these frequent episodes is quickly forgotten. In high school, I encountered the term ‘opportunity cost’ and it just made a whole world of things clearer than before. I would gladly defer the option of having a body that sometimes just ‘goes rogue’ for even a popsicle on a winter morning. It is said that some things are better experienced than told, for this case I would definitely call for a timeout on the grounds that this should not even be on anyone’s to-do list!

As I pass through the lives of those that I have been and am still being blessed with, I still find it just a mite disconcerting that many of us have blissfully chosen to ignore the fact that for there to be a beginning, there has to be an end. And most times, endings are not always pleasant because we want to keep hold of what we should give up. Now this is one truth that stares us right in the face but we so often choose to ignore it; until the debris that has built up over the years from bad habits, wrong choices, stubbornness, recalcitrance (the list is endless)is cleared out, there can be no fresh start. I remember what it was, what is and I know what it will be because thankfully the storms of dystonia has compelled me to clear the debris. It is in the middle of the rainstorm when you are drenched and the chattering of your teeth is the the only familiar noise above the storm, that you give no thought to the cost of the poncho or umbrella that you suddenly see. No storm is similiar but being through one prepares you on the off chance that you find yourself in another.

Taking a cursory look at the things I hold dear now is somewhat of a pleasure because they are all intangible, I have seen the utter destruction and loss of material things, I have heard the despondent words that accompany the reality of a hopelesss situation, seen the sheer fragility of our puny strength, witnessed the camaraderie that comes from being in the presence of one who has walked in shoes just like mine, and in conclusion, I know that today’s present state is not a definition of my end. There is no degree of finality that we can conjure up even in the heat of emotions, it is neither our call to make nor are we a creation of our own hands and so if we can comprehend these salient points, then the transformation that births the mythical Phoenix happens. The transformation of the entirety of your being when you acknowledge that we are creations of an Awesome God whose love is never in doubt, is an exhilarating experience with each new day. Those are the things that will never be categorized as debris.

I am not one who spoils for a fight, feeble are the arms that rely on a cane, however I will not quit from a fight and if life with its curved balls and sucker punches deem me a feeble opponent then I am afraid that an error of gargantuan proportions will make its way into the annals of history. What makes me me is not the ferocity of the storm or the loss that inevitably follows in the aftermath of a storm, what defines me is that I have since realised that I have chosen to be on the winning team. Life’s scoreboard might be telling a story to the pleasure and delight of a few but guess what I am still on the winning team and the assurance of victory is what drives me each day. Now I see the glaring ignorance of those who think that they are as indestructible as their wealth safely squirrelled away in the vaults of Switzerland; a generation creates wealth while the subsequent generation spends it completely and so the question that still goes abegging is ‘will you allow the clutter and debris gathered over the years, now out on the side walk determine the state of your life?’

In life we meet to path, and more often than not, we also part to meet. During these sometimes brief exchanges, what will you be remembered for, what light (or darkness) announces your presence, what compassion drives you to be hospitable to strangers, what strength drives you to give your best and some to what ever you are tasked to do. Now I can boldly say that the pursuit of knowledge is a noble cause but when the storms of life hit, referring to your academic levels will be the last thing on your mind. We are so carried away by life and the cheering of the crowd that we often forget that life is a process and within those processes, there are seasons. When the cheering is over and the crowd is gone, do you find strength in your foundational beliefs or you suddenly realize that you never prepared for that aspect of life. Just as God causes the rain to fall both on the righteous and the wicked so also must we realize that our very best is displayed when we allow ourselves to be used by The One who created us. Regardless of the situation of today, that little role that you have been assigned to, remember to do it not for the praise of men but for the pleasure of Him who watches over us.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine; Keith McDonut took the pains to compile the behind the scene experiences of people living with dystonia and I admit he did a fantastic job. I live with dystonia but I am not defined by it and oh sure, there was quite a deluge of comments and ‘prayers’ but after reading, what do you actually do besides making sure your name showed up on the comments section. It is not the perplexity that is outlined in the furrows of your brows as you wonder if that distant  noise is the noise of battle or just the rejoicing of a crowd, it is the responsibility and courage you display when you look around and help another who has fallen back up to his feet. It is not the applause you receive when you give a fraction of what is stored up in your barns that will count for a lifetime, it is the whispered words of encouragement, the sitting in silence with one going through a horrific time, it is that $2 Baconator fries shared in love…..those are the moments that create memories that last a lifetime.

Admittedly, storms always create an opportunity to take stock, re-evaluate and rebuild and so even as the tears roll down grime streaked faces as we embark on the sad part of taking out debris, be quick to remind yourself that you came into this world without a stitch of clothing and so if people helped you along the line to where you stand today, be sure to pay it forward. Elevators are designed to go up and down, but in order to go up sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the elevator to descend to your floor. It also follows that sometimes the best way up begins from down and so when you get all caught up with the fineries of the 1st floor, do not let this thought escape you; it will only take a storm to make those fancy cars and cellars stocked with vintage wine to become the debris of today. I am confident in certain immutable facts; God designed each person with a unique set of skills so that you can be of use to someone other than yourself and if for reasons best known to you, you choose to hold very tightly what you have been given, the reminder is never a savoury experience.

IMG_0388

Tomorrow

Today is a new day, a brand new blank canvas that awaits the depiction of whatever we choose to and if you choose to adorn that canvas with the continued errors of past years then you just might be like the child who is petrified by the face of a painted masquerade. For me, it is not a default setting; I choose to be thankful for the air I breathe, the friends I have and for every opportunity where I can be of help in making the dreams of someone become reality. Remember this, “Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy” –  Heraclitus.. Yet again, we are faced with the option to choose however I want to state categorically that the former bodes no good but the latter is the pursuit of every man.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris II……

Standard
Debris

After the storm

“The tides of life are a beauty to behold on a cool spring evening but remember that like many of the elements of life, the mysteries of life can either be utterly devastating or be a panacea for some”-Ryan CC. It has been no intentional act of mine to take a summer break but in the light of recent events, I have been stretched in more ways than one and the frustration of realizing and accepting that there is so little I can do in the face of the many needs is quite a sore experience. Relieving quite a few people who were severe victims of the hurricanes has been an exercise with mixed feelings. Mixed because there are so many layers to life and when you unknowingly choose to disregard that fact, then sometimes the reminder can be quite traumatic. It is in times like these that you understand that sometimes not speaking is more of a solution suitable to circumstances rather than going full steam in expressing your regrets. A simple phone call to check on how another is doing means so much more than asking what the cost of restoration might be, wisdom is absolutely essential.

Why do I write? I write because I am hopeful that maybe just one person, whether you are going through your own storm or not; will find some strength and hope to persevere  through their storms. There are so many learning points, so many peculiarities in the experiences I have had and am still having on my life’s journey. Being a parent, I always say, is not a task for everybody most especially the ill-disciplined and those who lack self-control, because in order to give, you first of all must know what giving is and also have something to give. It is so easy to stand in your cozy den beneath the sturdy roof of your house, looking out the window and feeling some degree of pity for those struggling through the rains, battling with gusts of winds and more often struggling to keep an umbrella open while lugging your bag or briefcase around. It does not usually require an academic degree to empathize (for most people), but neither is a degree required to see a need and do something about it to the best of your abilities. It is your response or reaction when you are in the middle of your storm that to a very large extent lays out the default pattern for your choices and responses to the lives that you have been privileged to be amongst.

Taking a drive through the city, it is clear that we are on a long road to recovery after surviving Harvey and I am so grateful to see the resilience of the human spirit and the bonds of compassion that marks us as human beings . I use the word ‘surviving’ because it is about living and not about the ability to make or lose wealth. That is one of the many abilities we each have but again the degree to which it is used varies from individual to individual. It is on the basis of this that I always emphasize that just listening to someone going through tough times is always a first step in the right direction. I have all about lost everything that once mattered to me, and so that poignancy can be quite heart wrenching however the truth remains that just as synonyms and antonyms exist in words, there are always two sides to everything in life. Our definition of ourselves is usually marked by the side we choose to stand or the stance we choose to take, that is something that we either do ourselves or we are compelled to do and I wholeheartedly assure you that the latter option comes with more pain and grief.

Driving through the city, I am dismayed by the huge mounds of debris that line the lawns of homes, seen items that occupied opulent homes now confined to the anonymity of black trash bags; I have been into homes and seen the abject sorrow on faces as home owners still try to comprehend the devastation that they face. I have heard the sorrow come across in waves as friends relate their gut wrenching tales of having just enough time to grab their kids and evacuate the homes that they built through honest means. I can totally relate with that because my first house building exercise was in my late teens and I know the time and effort that went into it. I also recollect vividly the satisfaction washing over me when the house was built, the rush of joy that accompanied the utterance of the words, “Finally, it is ready!”. Regardless of how high you climb, there is always the risk of a fall but does that mean because of the fear of falling, we should not climb? Far from it, however knowing that with a climb, comes the risk of falling, we must endeavor to be careful in our climbs. Ensuring that we leave a kind word with those we climb past because they just might be the same ones who will act as a buffer when you fall. Remember to pause in today’s harried pace, and help someone along because although we each have our own paths, there will always be some intermingling with the lives of others and what we do when those situations occur is very significant.

Debris2

Clearing Debris

And because I have also been opportuned to have lost everything of material worth, I also understand the anguish that often comes with that loss. On the other hand, I have known the realization that losing it all does not translate to losing me but if I were to focus more on the pain of losing what was so painstakingly put together then I just may as well be in a court of law hearing the judgement of “life imprisonment without the option of parole” meted out to me. The cruel truth is that we so often define ourselves by what we ‘create’ (totally erroneous because everything we have is a gift from God, Our Creator) that we completely lose sight of the fact that we are all on a journey and no matter how detailed your trip planning was, you can never factor in the unpredictable events that characterize life. By our own flawed reasoning, we so often confine our lives to the tangible and give no room to the intangible, that it takes only an act of significant value to compel us to reevaluate our priorities. In the same manner, despite our skill in logical thinking and acute analytical reasoning, when the unpredictable happens and we are forced to watch in abject dismay as losses pile up, we become like the stalk of corn that is blown in any direction the wind chooses except we have our roots deeply planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I have learned that as long as you focus on the debris in the aftermath of a storm, you will be unable to see the new opportunities that lie just ahead. The debris after some storms are so highly stacked that it takes only a concerted effort with winded breaths to navigate through the debris so that we can catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. Nonetheless, our navigation skills amount to zilch when we steadfastly allow ignorance and lack of vision to reign because the subsequent result is there can be no joy or satisfaction that comes from fulfillment when we are not even moving. No matter how much you love your earthly possessions, when the rot sets in and the mold spreads, when the air around you can no longer be taken in, then you must clean house or else your life tale will be told specifically to the foolish to enable them gain some knowledge. After every storm, you must clean house – get all the debris out, rip out the sheetrock, get rid of that heirloom because until you do that, you will remain stuck in an island of decay, illness and death. For those who unwittingly find themselves on such islands, a note of warning – life and growth do not exist there!

I can say that things will never be the same again because they will not but guess what, you will be different because life’s processes either kill you or make you stronger, if you choose right. Your wellbeing is not a function of the amount of insurance claims you turn in, the efficiency of the insuring company or the amount of subsidies you are entitled to. Your wellbeing rather, is a function of the foundation upon which your life is built in and where your trust is, and there is no better foundation than a foundation of faith, faith in an infallible God who has got nothing but the very best of you. You are an image created in His Likeness and ultimately for His Pleasure and it is Him alone that everything else is subject to. It is okay to grieve but why grieve if you understand and acknowledge that for there to be a beginning, there must be an end. Grieving ceaselessly over the end keeps you rooted in a spot and as long as you stay rooted, you will not move on to the beginning of better things. It is in the middle of your storms that your foundations are tested and so it is wise to be sure of your foundation because when the storm hits (and it will surely hit), you will either crumble like a pack of ornately designed cards or stand tall and strong amidst debris but with peace and faith that can never be washed away by a storm.

Remember that the treasures that count for eternity can neither be found in the tangible aspect of the world we live in but are irrefutably located in the intangible aspect of life, so it is best to choose what treasures you seek and whilst you seek, take into cognizance that it will be foolhardy not to consider a suitable storage place too.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

In my armour….

Standard
Full Armor

Every armor has a weakness, so choose where you place your trust

There are mountains high enough to prevent you from seeing the hope in the future. There are valleys so low that they completely drain you of the will to push on. We are all sojourners on this earth and just like everyone of us is distinct so are the trials, triumphs and testimonies that we each get to face in the seasons of our lives. It’s not about bemoaning the lack (anyone can do that), it’s truly about recognizing the lack and responding appropriately to filling it. Today, with temperatures still climbing and a heart still beating, I am once again reminded of the transient nature of life and what we choose to call priorities. Jousting is so often associated with the medieval times that the essence in modern times is completely overlooked. A warrior is one skilled in the art of warfare and more often than nought, his skills are required in battles that are not always of his choosing.

Bedecked in full armor, mounted on a war horse, he faces foes on all sides and even as it is still employed in today’s battles, he must find a chink in the protective gear of his foe. Ironically, it’s the same approach that his foes take, because they know without the slightest doubt, finding and exploiting that chink could very well be the determining factor in what separates the victor from the vanquished. In a bid to ameliorate or possibly eliminate completely any chances of being bested, so much effort is put into protecting that chink because every armour has one. However as we channel all our efforts into staying safe, we fail to realize that victory is not obtained by being safe but by recognizing our vulnerabilities and making them be an expression of our humanity.

I had the pleasure of meeting a friend and his daughter, both from The Republic of Congo, as she had come to spend the summer holidays with him. Yes, another victim of a broken relationship but besides that what else can be seen? I saw a beautiful young lady, probably irreparably scarred but still aware enough to pause her farewell to me and utter these words, “thank you Daddy!”. Just those three words said in that unpretentious sincerity you can always find in a child, made me quietly acquiesce to myself that there’s so much to be thankful for and yet so little of thanking that we do. Prior to her uttering those words, I saw a little girl hurting from her inability to understand what she was going through. Why she had to have both parents in different parts of the world? Why did she have just a little time to spend with loved ones before she returned back to commence a new session of school. In the course of interacting with her, I could discern the resentment because I too have been through similar circumstances. Not just as a child but also as a father, and without allowing Nyela to focus so much on what she was ‘losing’, I made her realize how much her father loved her. That was what birthed those three words, “thank you Daddy!” and as she emerged from my truck, there was a spring to her step and a lightness in her voice. That transformation took place in the space of 7minutes 42seconds, just because she allowed herself to listen to me and appreciate the beauty of the moment.

I tell people, as often as I can, without coming across as a kibitzer that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but an evidence of our humanity. When we spend so much time hiding our ‘weakness’ from others, we inadvertently fail to realize the primary reason for our existence – to love another just as much as we love ourselves. Proding and prising apart, searching for the chink in another’s armour is time that could be better spent in standing with another and facing the odds we all must face. It is not an expression of wisdom when we hurl ourselves headlong into battles that could be avoided, instead of forming positive alliances with the soul next door with the objective of running this race and finishing well. A recurring question I always have to deal with when I’m privileged to meet someone who has never heard of dystonia before is “How do you cope with it?” Honestly, because of how often I’m asked, I’m pretty sure that if I were suddenly roused from sleep, my answer would still be the same. I do not cope with it, I’m too focused on making each new day count for something better that it’s only the incessant twinges of pain that remind me of this unending battle with dystonia.

I’ve learned that focusing on helping someone else is more fruitful than reeling out a litany of how my body feels. If I cannot change it, why bother complaining about it, because the sad reality is there’s already enough sadness in the world. You have to make a choice between seeing if your own worries will lighten the already overburdened lives around you or trying to alleviate the present pain and sorrow around you. Pushing your pains and worries to the back burner so that you can make room to assist another person who has just been severely knocked off his horse. Yes, we need to guard ourselves but when guarding yourself overshadows the ability to help another, then I would recommend a rethink in strategy. No army is only made up of one warrior, no team of one ever exists however there is so much strength in the unity of diversity. Wisdom, in my opinion, is realizing that a battle is raging on around us and yet we concentrate on building a chain of lives through love, kindness and hope. That collective armor is what will stand true when charge upon charge by our foes hit our ranks.

There is nothing built by man that in indestructible however that which is built by God is. So the choice in where you decide to put your trust in, is entirely up to you. Today, I may not have the resources to give to one in need but what I have is a shoulder to lean on, ears attentive to listen and company for a little while as you journey on. Diversity is what transforms a chaotic puzzle into a beautiful picture and regardless of how impenetrable you think you are, you will need someone else when your storms hit. And so whilst I am committed to burnishing my armor, I am also keen to recognize that not only can I not stand alone, I am here to be a support to someone else. Sometimes, a simple walk in the park holds much more value than a space trip to Mars. The battle is not to the strong, neither is the race to the swift, it is God’s mercies that will ultimately prevail. And if we are recipients of such an awesome gift, why should it be only about you. I reckon, each day, that every blessing I receive is something that can be shared and so with that realization firmly impressed upon my heart, I will always find the courage to press on. Each new day, an amazing gift by itself, is yet another opportunity to stand alongside fellow sojourners and warriors so that together we can beat the odds.

As I remember the victories of today, I am certainly convinced that love, hope and faith are indispensable companions for me. It will never be about how high a stack of corpses you left in your path, rather it will be about how much inspiration you have shared on your path. I may not be able to bring to completion that dream of yours but I most definitely can ensure that the moments we shared will never be forgotten. Life will always be a catalogue of events and as we sail through life’s turbulent waves, some of those memories are the nuggets of indestructible hope that will keep us going. I have always believed that a life devoid of hope is a life that is desperately in need of some love and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful a rocky path can become when there are lilies growing by it, but those lilies have to be planted first. It is not always about how grand your gesture of magnanimity is, instead it is about how sincere in well doing you are. It is often in the intricate tiny stitches of a woven garment that you find the greatest amounts of love. No matter how fortified you think you have made your armor, someday you most definitely have to get out of it. The question then would be, ‘What awaits you when you have shed your armor? Friends by your side or a gathering mass of individuals who don’t care about what you know.’

Remember, ‘The destiny of man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees’ – T.H White

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת שלו לזרוח עלינו

Adios!

Balancing the scales…..

Standard

https://redzhis.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/balancing-the-scale

Give a man a fish and you satisfy the hunger pangs of his stomach for but a day. Teach him to fish and you assuage his fears of being hungry” – Maimonides. I grew up with dogs, ever since I got Snoopy as a birthday gift; with his floppy ears and wheels attached to his paws, faithfully following me everywhere. Since then I’ve never looked back, that the dog is man’s best friend is still a fact in contention but not for me, because life has shown me that you find the rarest of gems in the most unlikely places…..if only you can recognize it when you hold it. As a parent, I believe that owning pets was my parents’ way of instilling responsibility in us and I am passing that lesson on to the next generation. Ofcourse not all of my biological siblings share my passion for dogs, however I’m talking about me. One item on my to-do list is becoming a canine consultant, owning a farm where I can breed dogs, socialize them and also be a refuge for strays….that box is half-checked because dystonia swooped in and like the carefully arranged dominos, all my dreams started unraveling while I helplessly watched.

One of the very first erroneous lessons I learnt was that if you wanted a male dog to become bigger, then you took a trip to the vet and tearfully watch your dog being emasculated. Nursing the dog back to health was a responsibility borne out of love and compassion. Despite the emasculation, I cannot recall having a dog with such a growth spurt that it learned credence to that lesson. The dogs could do everything but when it came to reproducing its kind, that was a ledge it could never ever get to and so I’m forced to think that it was just a way of instilling birth control. Immediately I became independent, I waded into dog breeding and the subject of emasculation was an anathema. Yet again, life happened and I had to go through the painful process of being stripped bare so I could learn that no matter how analytical and logical I want to be, there is a limit to what I can do. I learned that trust and faith were more than just words but they embodied a concept that we barely grasp. It is always in the dark nights, the fiery furnace, the valley of desolation, the house of mourning that much wisdom is learned. It is in those times that you realize how little you know of life and its seasons because some lessons just have to be acquired through sheer persistence.

As a kid, barely holding my emotions in check, I remember those visits to the vet. Those memories are so vivid that even if the city was rebuilt, I am certain that I can still locate where the vet clinic was located. Today, I understand that life is like a pair of scales, and each day, we must utilize our abilities and limitations, carefully applying them in the right proportions to get the scales balanced. It’s about learning how to prioritize, emotions and sentiment in check, because until you attain the right measures, you just might spend endless hours fluttering from one pan to the other. And since time is always constant in its passage and many of us unfortunately are yet to understand the word ‘balance’, how then can you apply sugnificant and needed actions? Actions based on a preconceived and largely wrong understanding & foundation will never get you anywhere. And so sometimes, just when you think that you’re on a roll: all stations manned, all hatches properly secured, retirement plans drawn up, that’s when the storm hits you and shakes your very foundations loose. It is then the realization dawns that you are neither The Architect or the Landowner, but just an actor on the stage called life.

Living with dystonia has tipped my scales. Now I find beauty in the stillness of the dawning day, I appreciate the opportunity to help another in need even when I am barely able to support myself. I understand that it might seem alright to bask in the bliss of ignorance but in reality, ignorance has no bliss. It is an empty gourd that must be filled and if you choose to dance around with your empty gourd, convinced that when the drought hits, there will be something in your gourd to quench your thirst, then what a significant display of folly awaits you. The emperor with no clothes on! Even though your meagre wealth has gathered a train of sycophants, the harsh truth is that proudly strutting in your nudity is what is amusing the crowd around you. And someday when your barns are empty and your cellars dry, those sycophants will flutter off to the next ‘big’ thing, leaving you to come to terms with reality.

I know what it is to have and not to have, I know what it is to have people tracking you just to gain your attention and lay out their woes, desperate for some token from your money belt. I also know what it is to be ridiculed because of lack, to be derided because of one’s disabilities, to be scorned because I am different. I know what it is to shed tears of frustration because you know that you cannot get on or off the bus all by yourself. To discard ego and solicit for the attention of a caregiver, to swallow the bitter bile of pride and accept a much needed meal from a stranger. I know what it is to watch with teary eyes as a friend goes fund raising from strangers and people she’d never have spoken to just to ensure I can keep my next medical appointment. I know what it is to realize that the trust set aside for tuition for my daughter is in the negative, when I have to rest after taking a shower so that I can recover just a bit in order to get dressed. I know what it is to listen to the unanswered ringtones and voicemail on a friend’s phone because it is assumed that I am calling to ask for financial aid.

Dystonia emasculates; forcefully taking from you those things you taught were part of your birthright. Things like being a man: providing for your family, doing whatever it takes to cater for your loved ones. Emasculation is not circumcision! They are both processes occurring around the same area but that is all they have in common. The society’s definition of a man can batter the senses as it struggles to readjust your roles as a man living with dystonia. Rather than attempting to corral the chaos, choose rather to dwell on the little details that make life beautiful. The ticking of the clock, the slight scent of the evening breeze, the scurrying of the chipmunk…they might be too insignificant to catch your attention amidst your busy life but those things assure me that there is beauty in the ashes, gold in the blackened hearth, hope and inspiration from my life.

My ability to reproduce or not isn’t what defines me as a man, neither is it in the color and number of my credit cards, it is not in my inability to do a regular 9-5 job or the constant weakness that plagues me. My abilities and inabilities don’t define me, it is what I’m being used for by God that defines who I am. My ability to embrace my caregivers whilst answering the barrage of questions my daughter has as she grows up. My fatherhood is not measured by how long I can stay in the suite that houses my business (waiting for that big break to come), rather it is in the little fun activities I can still painfully participate in with loved ones. It isn’t measured in the dismay that the elevator is not functioning and my office is upstairs, but rather in the silent company as I prepare myself for that one torturous attempt climbing the stairs. It is not measured by the fact that I am barely able to wear my shoes but rather in my daughter’s excitement as she helps me put on my shoes. It is not measured by my inability to play a round of basketball or soccer with her but rather in the slow walk together to the park and my coaching from the bench beneath the trees. I have received numerous ‘recommendations and suggestions’ from friends but they are unable to grasp the everyday challenges I face; that even on my bed, I have to be careful in laying down so as not to set off a dystonic bout.

I am a medical enigma because I am not fazed by what the limitations of dystonia are, I set a goal outside of my comfort zone and even when I am being told, “you should sit this one out” I choose to press on because it’s just one shot I have and so I am committed to making it my best shot in the present circumstances. Yes, there will be the inevitable price to pay as my body painfully tries to re-establish an already skewed equilibrium point, but I gave it my best shot. Like the night owl, I sit quietly and watch, with limited movement in my neck not so much as to gather wisdom but to carefully apply my strength when it’s mustered because I know that regardless of the uniqueness of my situation, I must attain that balance. I do not have all day to spend because my efficiency is indirectly proportional to my time. It is not wisdom trying to redefine laziness, it is laziness trying to appear wise when this is my own race to run.

With every need that arises, a balance has to be attained but in order not to embark on some frivolous wild geese chase, I must first apply wisdom.  Your genealogy might stipulate that you should be tall, intelligent and athletic however your circumstances dictate something else. To grasp the definition of my boundaries, I must first of all acknowledge that there will always be boundaries but what I do within the parameters of my boundaries is a function of the choices I make. To either shine bright like a diamond and amaze or glow dimly like the coal embers and give off the much needed warmth, that is a choice to be made. And even when ego wants to reassert its place, I am careful to remember that ego is like the bliss of ignorance. It is available but not necessary for this season and even as I struggle with the mild irritations that occur as a result of my impaired boundaries, I must choose wisely.

What miseries lie ahead for the one who embarks on a journey without first learning from the experiences of others who have plied a similar path? For many have developed an ardent distaste for courage and are eager to put the blame for their limitations on every other thing including life and its inherent mysteries. Skipping around from stone to stone in the shallow stream is an obvious display of enthusiasm and excitement but it will serve me better to curb that outward display and instead use it in celebrating those who have greatly sacrificed their pleasures for my sake. Nonetheless whilst we struggle with our imperfections, let’s strive to inspire others by making every of our shots count. Even as we take the center stage, our caregivers are an irreplaceable aspect of our journey and without their selfless sacrifice, our journeys would have been choked to an untimely end.

Remember “no one can go back and make a brand new start, however anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending” – Anon E. Moss

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת שלו לזרוח עלינו

Adios!