Let’s Begin Again…..

Standard

Anew!

Never been to a real AA meeting however I know it begins with an introduction; name, your reason for attending and as much personal information you are willing to share with a bunch of complete strangers, who with time become a small part of what you may term friends. I choose to say that a very few would become a part of your family. I am an ordinary chap – going nigh on half a century chronologically however physically most days I’m more in the nigh on century milestone. I’m a hybrid which can be interpreted in a varying degree of ways depending on what perspective you look at it from. I wouldn’t say a peacock is my bird of choice although I’m a dog lover and not an avid bird watcher, so a Caucasian Ovcharka would therefore be my pick as my animal companion. I am a Christian with a definitely colorful life – having lived and worked in 4 continents playing a huge role in that. Temperamentally, I am a CholMel (Choleric and Melancholic in that order and mix) and I am living with dystonia and myoclonus – primary generalized dystonia to be a bit specific. I was officially diagnosed in 2011, which makes it at least 8 years with no vacation or holidays in between each day.

Statistics reveal that there are 3 million cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosed every year in the United States where I currently call home. Even with my stint in the navy more broadly, law enforcement, I don’t suffer from PTSD. I still have battles everyday although since Christianity isn’t a religion so it cannot be called an opioid, it’s rather the lifestyle I’ve chosen and live by. I tend to describe myself as a very good listener and like the philosophy that comes with life. I’ve been described as enigmatic, prickly skinned but with a beautiful heart – I guess the point is that my range of description depends on the level of relationship I have or had with you. My IQ is above 100 and I’m conventionally educated (spent about 19years doing that), still learning and teaching where and when its possible. I am heterosexual and pretty good at being and staying one. I love writing (and speaking, if asked to), pretty good at whatever I set as a goal, I still do have a fairly long to-do list which includes but isn’t limited to swimming with sharks, paragliding, parasailing and traveling to 3 more continents and Mars someday. I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder but I control it much better not the other way round. I live with faith and hope and the awareness that life is a series of seasons.

Strewn along

I am quite imperfect and very much a Work-in-Progress, choosing to get up each day with a ‘Thank you!’ rather than ‘Why?’. I have a relatively skewed ratio of good and bad days, in recent times more of the latter which in no way influences my daily choice. I don’t have regrets even though quite a few of my also few friends have transited this earthly journey, their sojourn completed. Admittedly, it’s a really cold world we live in so I’d say the inevitable mudslinging and lemon chucking still hurts probably more now however I do clean up fairly okay. I have about 8 walking canes because I also suffer from intense vertigo and unpredictable bouts of pins and needles, and on the losing end of requiring to get a stroller which in relative terms for me sits a couple of steps above a wheelchair. My regimen of medication consists of a good amount of category C drugs and few Over-The-Counter medications which I lug around with me…….all translating into several discarded shoe boxes of empty pill bottles and a very upset asset of the pharmaceutical industry with an equally rather poor notion of the insurance industry. I know that people rather know how much you care, than care about how much you know.

I am very weary but still I must go on because how you run your race determines what price awaits you at the finish line. There’s nothing that can break a defiant and determined spirit except you give in to it and that’s what I hope to share more. There are no better helping hands better than those at the end of your arms and for my friends with no hands or arms, you still have what will propel you through the rather frequent desolate seasons. There’s no oasis better than that in God who created and created all things with the best quality control, and therein might be my message to myself. It’s not impudent to ask for help but the results are guaranteed when we ask Him because I know He knows what I’m going through and has made the appropriate resources for this sojourn of mine.

There are times when it feels like the end of the road for me, nothing more to give, still nothing more to gain however I know that it’s in those times that He’s closest to me and so even when even the melatonin refuses to work and my muscles constrict in agony, seeking for relief from an overly active brain firing away on all fronts, I still choose to say ‘Thank you Lord!’ rather than ‘Why me Lord?’. It’s in those moments like today that I remind myself with this quote, “I was given this life because I am strong enough to live it!”

עד שדרכינו יחצו שוב, תנו לאהבתו ולעוצמתו להנחות אתכם!

Adios!

Bent not broken….

Standard
See the source image

Beauty of Nature

Today is my birthday! And in line with the actual definition of the word, I was born on a Wednesday and notwithstanding the fact that I was born preemie, I choose to celebrate my birthday every week. In my journey here on earth, I have learned that it  is usually those life-transforming events that shape our character and influence our decisions. And so with this intolerable dystonia, I have learned that more often than not, the frequent insouciance I encounter is a direct expression of ignorance; ignorance in terms of knowledge and ignorance in terms of life’s purpose, while the natural reaction to ignorance can be scathing and harsh, there is still a choice to be made – React or Respond.

Considering the timeline that I have as a result of dystonia, it still amuses me that we still associate pedigree to what can be almost valued as worthless. I had the privilege of speaking at a meeting on what dystonia is (surprisingly it is still relatively unknown even as we wind down another decade in the 21st century!) and what really reminded me of why sharing our experiences is such a distinct honor, was the rapt attention of my audience and the fact that a few would leave with the knowledge to live as humans. The ability to tell ourselves the truth is something that can be trifled with, ending in irreparable sorrow however life is a platform of learning nonetheless as is the case with every academic setting, there will always be the hecklers and those who choose to be distracted.

“Where are you from?” is usually a question imbedded within the first five statements uttered by people to me. My origins? That in itself is a topic for another post however I always strive to comment on the fact that I have been at both extremes – abundance and lack, have had the privilege of living and working in four different continents but despite what many would exclaim in terms of sentiments, the nature of our living is still a continuing study for me. I remember the disaster of a hurricane and the desolate pictures of the aftermath and it is almost mind boggling to reconcile the before and after however what conveys the most poignant message is not in the destruction to property but the resilience of victims. Resilience that even though life chucks boulders at us, and we are utterly astonished at how bent over we are, under the crushing weight of these boulders but yet we can spring upright with the passage of time if we choose.

See the source image

Bent but Unbroken

Hooke’s theory of elasticity does not apply to the human being because like the supple trunk of a young acacia tree, you can bend it till its topmost leaves share the same dirt as its roots however when you let it go, it springs back because its growth is upwards. I can be seen as reticent when there is the heated discourse of how well life has treated us and then the popular game of comparison commences because I know that it takes wisdom for one to acknowledge that life has its seasons and thus prepare for the changes that accompany such seasonal changes. Unfortunately, asking for a helping hand is still largely construed as an opportunity to re-emphasize current economic and financial comfort, however I have learned that the act of bending down to an upstretched arm is also a check on your suppleness.

Even as I watch the huge strides taken by humanity through technology, there is a huge dearth in terms of carrying along all those virtues that make us human. I am bent over but definitely not broken, and the hope of that realization powers me through some really bleak days. With the frenzy of today’s living, we are wont to satisfy ourselves with fleeting glimpses as we rush through life and thus erroneously capture postures wrongly, seeing bent as broken. Alas even the broken can be fixed but when our change-over terminal looms ahead but we cling so passionately to the comfort of the moving train, how then do we ever expect to progress in life. I realize that habits formed can be difficult to break but it is a task that can be made easier when we admit that we are all works in progress and life is a journey; because when we acknowledge that life is a journey then we can understand that journeys mean progression.

There is no standing still and yes the view from the mountain top is so exhilarating and usually lulls one into a false sense of security but remember life and progression go together. The choice to build our fortress on the mountain top simply reveals our lack of understanding because what happens when we must go down to the valley; do we choose to stagnate and decay on the mountain top dulled into a false sense of reality or do we fall over and stay down preferring instead to be content with the diminishing memories of the past even as the present ticks away. There is no joy in the house of sorrow however there is ample opportunity to learn and be schooled for the events of the future. Just as the sun arises each day so must it set so that life can continue, and no matter how long the daylight lasts, the night when there is little or no light must precede it.

Borrowing the words of Albert Einstein, ‘Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.’

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

Adios!

Where you are now…..

Standard

Here for a reason

In this era of living on social media, I must honestly admit that I rarely watch videos sent because most times it’s a waste of time. However the weird thing with technology is those spam, unwanted videos, ‘pass it on to 1 million….’ et al still make it through and these days when I pop into my photo gallery, I do a double take because there are loads of new and unknown video clips. And inasmuch as it seems akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, sometimes I just do a quick housecleaning because even I need some space on my devices.

Today, I met Dr Dennis Bentil and even though I chose that today would be a good day, it sure wasn’t turning out that way. Nonetheless I know that regardless of the present circumstances, my choice counts. After about 18 months of thankless, arduous work, I just got shanked and boy, does it hurt. The reason it hurts bad is proximity and shanking go hand in hand, I knew there was always that possibility but if you let the possible outcomes drive you in life then I know the confines of your comfort space is the best location for you. So I’m still standing, re-evaluating the lessons learned and chalking it up to life lessons. Struggling really hard not to commit the fallacy of over-generalization because there will always be rotten apples in every barn but that does not mean saying no to apple cider.

At this moment, I’m counting the things that I’m thankful for. Being grateful is an elixir of some sorts because it drains out the bad and re-energizes you. Admittedly, I’ve had tons of practice but it still does not make it easier and with time keeping tabs, it’s really difficult saying, ‘I have no regrets!’ In all sincerity, even in the basket of regrets, if you search hard and long enough, there’s still that iota of accomplishment that you will find. I am definitely not where I want to be right now but I am thankful that I am here because many have lost that opportunity. Do I let circumstances define who I am and who I am meant to be? Most definitely not, that in my opinion is the life and confessions of a yo-yo, so much activity and no progress.

Leaning not knocked over

I picked up the phone to ask for help yesterday and today and that in itself is something that I am thankful for because even if the response is a ‘No!’, at the very least I do have someone that I can call. My point today is that most times we base our joys and triumphs on results when really the process is what matters more. More than a few occasions in really recent times, I’ve been flayed for my pride in refusing to get a walker or a wheelchair and so I am compelled to get one now because I am more tired of arguing with myself than in searching for anything remotely resembling pride. Does that capitulation signify that I am finally giving in? Definitely not, again I am thankful that there are a few who care enough for me to put up with my long peroration just to get their message across. It is more blessed and rewarding to give than receive because “we make a living by what we receive but we make a life by what we give!”

I am thankful for dystonia and myoclonus because it has brought out more of me than I had ever shared prior to my diagnosis. It is not a blessing in any form (you sure do not want to hear how torrid everyday living can be or how dependent I am forced to be) but it is an avenue where God’s grace and faithfulness is constantly being showcased. One day at a time, one step at a time, one decision at a time. All these remind me that there will always be seasons and so it behooves me to spend my time being thankful for where I am regardless of what I thought my destination would be. Why worry when you can pray? From experience it is less difficult praising and being thankful instead of worrying.

Very rarely have I seen a tossed coin land on its edge and so I would say it’s a wiser decision not to leave your life to a tossed coin because it just has to fall either head or tail up. And being thankful is one of the best ways to prepare for a coin toss.

Bills all around me stacked with lots of room for more

Each bill earmarking an amount owed

However when you acknowledge that bills go on paper

Then can you truly be thankful for the leaning tower of Pisa.

Remember, every knockdown is just another opportunity to take a different stance and no matter how much you combat the hands that want to drag you down, let this fact break through to you – that is just another reminder that you aren’t flat out on the ground. The definition of your life is yours alone but with chin set right and a thankful heart, no storm can best you.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Walk with me awhile……

Standard

Please walk with me….

“We learn something from everyone who passes through our lives. Some lessons are painful, some are painless…but all are priceless.” – Anon E. Moss

There is the familiar story about not knowing contentment in life that has birthed the age old idiom, ‘the grass on the other side always looks greener’ and sometimes we actually and with real intent blur the lines differentiating reality and our fantasies. However life with inevitability brings us around, sometimes dragging us on our butts to acknowledge that there is more to life than positive talk, reciting mantras or forwarding stuff that has a silly condition at the end. Yes, we are saddled with responsibilities every day that we arise but when we align the fact that our being alive today is simply a reaffirmation of the truth that God is not yet through with us then we can truly be grateful for the many blessings we receive (and oft take for granted) or else why are we still here? To live is Christ, to die is gain is a very weighty statement but that is simply truth in its plainest form.

A couple of days ago, I actually felt that I had touched the gold paved cobblestones of heaven because unfortunately the past few days have not just been torrid but have been progressively chronicling a decline in my health. Six months ago, I had a bad fall and sustained significant injuries to my right shoulder (rotator cuff) and just having to deal with myoclonus each day is a full-time career on its own, adding a torn rotator cuff was just adding more to an already overflowing bowl. With the same doggedness that is characteristic with faith, I continue; choosing every day to be thankful for something at the very least. Against what I term my fundamental values, a friend set up a GoFundme campaign because in his words, sometimes we just have to let go and let ‘friends’ and others help. After the dismal campaign ran for a month or two, he had to shut it down as requested by me because we do not decide the paths or channels from where our relief will come from. It is and will always be about His timing – He does make all things beautiful in HIS TIME!

Being the proud father of an amazing daughter, whose life all on its own is simply a testament to God’s sovereignty, I am more than just a soccer dad. Despite the frailties of this body, I tend to want to push the envelope just a tad more. Well, the fall was a result of attempting to push the envelope and even though she bosses and fusses over me, I still know that there are a couple of things I can still do because our children are the best gifts that Heaven has in its store and so I am never going to let a white flag hang from my doorway with regards to issues pertaining to Heaven’s precious gifts. Again, I am a firm advocate of taking care of your body but sometimes it is easier said or written and most times it just goes awry however it is either of two options – Let go entirely and Let God or delude yourself into believing that you have when you truly haven’t.

Well I am still a work-in-progress and tenacity still means loads to me, but ironically where that tenacity is applied also matters. Against plain common sense, a couple of days ago, I dropped my cane in a bid to help her during her training and that was like a culmination of everything bad – the lack of sleep, the rigors of just being fairly active for consecutive days et al. During the night, I was seized with the most severe episode of dystonia – tremors so intense that the king-sized bed was literally absorbing and trying unsuccessfully to contain all that energy, pain so intense that curling into a fetal position did nothing to help, tears of utter helplessness cascading down my cheeks as I prayed believing it was my last along with that scary feeling that I tend to describe as my brain over-heating because as always it was doing the processing and still firing away on all cylinders. I remember telling myself that this was what the end feels like….

….definitely one of the worst storms but from force of habit, I clung to every promise that applies to me – knuckles whitened from clutching hard, I was able to ride out the storm not by my own strength (that really does not mean so much to me anymore) but because my story is yet to be concluded. In retrospect and as I continue the long and difficult task of recuperating, I bear no angst. No hard feelings for those who in their ivory castles feel comfortable and secure. No hard feelings for those who believe that it is a fair trade to copy and paste a prayer as against doing something more tangible. No hard feelings for those whose ignorance make them all the more ludicrous, no feelings of resentment directed to the world because I know that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. And even though the furnace be stoked more than usual, I choose to be hurled without a fight into the fires confident that God’s got me; acknowledging that His ways differ from mine and so I know that salvation will come.

Salvation not by my own understanding or standard, but rather salvation as dictated by Him with the end result being that I will emerge at the other end so much better than before the journey through the fires. And whilst the waves billow high and angry, and this vessel gets more battered, I choose to make each moment count. Regardless of the darkness that creeps like a smothering garment blocking out the stars of the night, I know that there is still going to be light once this night is over. And so I hold on, not because of the medication that miraculously never completely runs out (even when the funds do) or the fact that there will always be help raised up on my behalf, but rather because I know that there is that one life that will draw a second wind to continue pressing on just by reading my story. There is that one life that was just about to succumb to the darkness and let the little light be snuffed out, that is why I hold on. For every point I get to on my journey, I learn some more and apply that faith that recognizes not only that He exists but that He is also with me through it all. He is more than the worst of storms and withersoever He leads, I submit.

For as long as this breath courses through my lungs, I choose to be a pineapple, standing tall, wearing a crown and being sweet on the inside. Remember that you cannot start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

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

Adios!

A cuisine of herbs…..

Standard

Herbal Broth

“Men of genius are admired. Men of wealth envied. Men of power feared, but only men of character are trusted.” – Arthur Friedman

Character is not a gift, far from it. It is the end result of a process, and more often the process is back-ended with loads of trying and very frustrating times. However it is in the process that character is formed and from an engineering or building perspective, forming or forging is tasking on both the smithy or technician as well as the object being worked on.

Children are truly precious and even though I have heard many rueful comments concealing wishes that babies would stay babies, there is no negation of their pricelessness. But alas even at that, those wishes are an aberration in life because change is inevitable. Several years ago, I recall trying to explain to my 4yr old daughter why she needed to eat her veggies. It was both amusing and just a tad annoying seeing her with brows puckered in a frown, assiduously separating the veggies from her meal. A couple of months later, with a hard fought win tucked in my belt, I remember her complaining bitterly that she was outgrowing her fancy shoes because she was eating tomatoes. Today, that’s a memory that she vociferously claims never happened.

I have come across some very fascinating people (pretty sure I am listed under that category in someone else’s journals); a chap who believed water was solely to be used in CPAP machines, humidifiers et al, another who believed bread was created specifically for culling the human race. However one thing that acts as a common factor across all types is that regardless of our perspectives, in order for there to be growth, sometimes we have to make some concessions. Growth in itself is not always that process that we so eagerly await because with growth, there’s always some form of discomfort however yin yang is one of the many attempts at explaining the process. Life consists of many exercises encompassing the need to understand and appropriately apply balancing.

Most often, the largest obstacle to our growth is the image staring back at you when you stand alone in front of a mirror. Ignorance has never been the best of reasons for the mistakes we often make because we are humans however embracing knowledge is setting ourselves free. No matter how hard we battle with the process, we just have to delve deep into that herbal broth because therein lies the very nutrients we need to grow. The more of a struggle we put up, the more exhausted we become and the more of a delay we unknowingly throw in our own journey. Understanding all things is impossible but in order for us to move on, we must embrace hope, trust and faith in The One who we owe everything to.

Right now, it’s quite a struggle for me, because having a sprained shoulder definitely gives me no edge over dystonia. However it has forced me to search out untried ways of reaching my milestones and attaining objectives. In this season, I have had to remind myself that although herbs might be bitter, I had rather look beyond the bitterness and dwell rather on the intrinsic positives that come with ingesting them. Trying to make head of everything at this moment would simply be an exercise in abject futility and so I am yet again reminding myself that waiting might seem pointless but there’s so much more going on that remains unseen. Someday, like the phenomenon of the Chinese bamboo, there would be a visible and significant change in who and what I am today.

Engaging in battles with myself when I so obviously do not have all the answers is not moving on. For there to be a move in the right direction, sometimes we just have to admit that although we have the vision, there’s also the undeniable truth that time and chance happens to everyone. Every life; a piece in the puzzle of God’s masterplan, we each must apply ourselves to the circumstances we find ourselves because in doing that, we do not only recognize divinity but we also positively affect the lives around us. Our positions today are a function of the lives before us and so selflessly we ought to also pay it forward. Ridding ourselves of every bit of resentment and bitterness that we allow build up in the face of opposition is usually a step in the right direction, because failing to do that irreparably hurts us and self-inflicted wounds attest to ignorance, naivety and sometimes just plain old stupidity on our part.

No battles have been won without making room for a retreat when the horns sound. And yes, most battles are won by the side that stays longest in their trenches because sometimes all that is needed is to hunker down when the barrage seems unrelenting and wait for the silence and peace that is the prelude to the joys of victory. In our frenetic lives, we get so enamored with the society’s definition of success that we fail to realize that we are trampling underfoot the very herbs we need for nourishment and growth. And so when we are falling headfirst into the chasm that signals burnout, then we realize the utter folly of our wrong choices. Failure to recognize the need for reassessment, rest and a possible detour is entirely nobody else’s fault but ourselves.

Trying new and unfamiliar ways do not in anyway portend emasculation, rather it is the highly undervalued second opportunity that we so urgently require. Today represents another opportunity to realign ourselves with our purpose, today represents another call to wait in trust because His Promises are true and infallible. Though they tarry, they are in no way having the similitude of or are they denials. With the patience of the lapidarist, a trait that comes with discipline, we must be thankful for what we have before us. And when we start to entertain doubts regarding the safety found in the multitude of counsel, there’s One Counsel that is completely devoid of the slightest of shadows.

Nourishment is not fast food engorgement, and whilst the latter is so easily available, the truth is that the herbal broth (though plain looking and bland tasting) is what is needed to initiate the growth needed to occupy the next season in our lives. For us to grow above and beyond today’s bleakness, there has to be an acceptance that every experience can either be a stepping stone or just another stone in the wall that further shuts out the glimmer of tomorrow’s riches. I choose to make mine a stepping stone and even in the silence of being different, I am thoroughly convinced that when the night seems to embody just weeping, surely joy and growth comes with the morning.

Remember, rather than complain about the thorns among the roses, be thankful for the roses among the thorns!

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Meet Chris….

Standard

Meet Chris

Even as I try to chronicle the significant events that occur in the unceasing challenges of living, especially with dystonia, I still find myself deviating on each post towards something that is particularly pressing and in dire need (hopefully) of one other person besides myself. I mean it really would be something akin to the seer who has built a reputation on her abilities to receive flashes (usually in the oddest of places and times) if every time I posted something, it was entirely about an event that happened to me. That right there is one of the main issues I have with the term ‘blogging’ because with the dynamics of today’s world, quite a significant aspect of our words and actions are a far cry from their intended definition and use however that cannot be a deterrent until I choose to allow it become one.

I literally have already had a few eureka points regarding the absurd difficulties that the simple activity of sleeping has become and though I am yet to fully expound on that subject, it usually features a bit in some of my more recent posts. Now, do I write in order to be understood and accepted? The unequivocal and time-tested answer is NO! because I really am not into, never have for as long as my memories can go back, the whole gamut of being a part of the crowd of pressed bodies on the proverbial ‘band wagon’. Oh, and I still am not of the school of believers that proclaim, ‘if you cannot beat them, then join them!’ because it sort of demystifies the whole point of being yourself in a world that consistently wants to make you someone else. I still maintain that being told ‘you are different!’ is till date one of the best complements an individual can get. However in the light of today’s skewed thinking, abject nonchalance and indifference (craftily concealed with the word; tolerance) I want to emphasize that the difference being referred to is based on the fact that there is just only one of you and that God has lovingly crafted you in His Image and endowed with a unique set of skills, a heart unlike none other, experiences that hone those skills, a personality that is distinct (a mash up of family background, environment and inherited genes) and spiritual gifts.

I remember dashing to the comic-book sections in supermarkets (malls) as a child whenever I accompanied my mum on grocery runs, and it may sound funny but the whole goal of dashing there was to try and read the latest ‘Archie and friends’ or any of the Marvel comics. Was I usually able to finish the entire comic?….uhmmm not quite, because inasmuch as I still detest shopping till date, I usually ran out of time either because having my mother search for me after she was done never had a happy ending or that there simply was not just enough time and I knew better than to ask if it could be included in the shopping cart each time. And as was and still is the way of life, there will always be a newer version, a newer edition, a newer model and so trying to keep pace with the new editions was simply pointless and is still is. In all truth, trying to keep pace with the technological changes is an exercise that could literally drive one insane regardless of how affluent you may be, how brilliant you maybe or how much invention ideas ricochet in your brain and blood/genes. One of the wisest to have ever walked the earth, King Solomon was conclusive on this subject, “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity” and I do not whole-heartedly put that in based on a whim but based on the actual experiences of a king in the long checkered history of mankind who lacked neither the warmth of feminine companionship or ever faced the bleakness of looking at an empty or rapidly diminishing contents of a bank vault.

I choose to be thankful for every new day regardless of how bad or great the night before was, because I honestly am living my life on the basis of certain fundamental beliefs and so it does me no good if with all the troubles going on, I make the wrong choice of starting each day being grumpy and irritable. I get to suffer the consequences of doing that and not only do I negatively impact myself but I also spread more negativity in a world that is already brimming with so much chaos and unhappiness. Yesterday was one of those days where my resolve to be thankful could actually be embodied. I love driving and so it is not really that great a deal if someone nicely asks me to perform a driving related task – cue in Christopher from Indianapolis! I happened to be around a shopping mall, actually a very large shopping mall and the only interesting place in a new suburb, when I got a text asking me to kindly pick up Christopher from a non-American restaurant and drop him off at his home. I have over the years learned that discernment is a gift because without utilizing that gift, you stand the risk of being a nuisance in the guise of trying to initiate a conversation (even though I usually opt for just being left alone, I now know that concern and care for another can be subtly expressed through a conversation even when I really do not feel like having a conversation).

And so in the course of another good day, I obliged and picked up Christopher and we actually got into a beautiful conversation (not a monologue) – remember, at every point in life, we are either teaching or learning. What really sparked off my interest was the context of the text he sent me, “I am blind which means I will not be able to see your car……” that by itself told a great deal because most times we feign ignorance of reality and believe that we can move on. Acknowledging reality and accepting it as your life are not merely a play of words, they determine whether you react or respond to everyday issues. My interest was not that he was blind or the presence of his cane (I have several canes myself) and being a champion over dystonia, I know that when pity is expressed as a pleasantry either in greeting or introduction, it really irks me because I am simply just living my life and I know that pity parties are not beneficial in anyway to anybody. Of course, I was interested in his story and amusingly when I asked him what his story was (behind every success lies a story), his response was epic, “I am blind!”. So here, kindly permitted by him is his story:

just living my life

At the age of about 18 and on the verge of graduating as a Chemical Engineer from one of the few schools for the exceptionally brilliant in Indiana, he started having headaches and issues with his vision. Those symptoms prompted a routine visit to the hospital where it was discovered that he had a grape/tennis ball sized tumor in his skull and that was literally squishing his brain and therefore prompting all those outward signs – again there is always more to life than meets the eyes.

After the barrage of tests following such an observation, it was inferred that the tumor had started growing when he was 10years old and had continued growing undetected until it had become such a size that it was now literally life- threatening. So of course, he had to undergo a major surgery to get the tumor out but then the damage had already been done – his vision was irreparably compromised. He had to go through the whole 9 yards of disbelief, post-op depression and having to make a choice of either staying down or getting up and learning everything anew – he chose the latter. Due to the major surgery, he missed a year however his younger sister was just a year below him, also studying Chemical Engineering and so they moved in together when he chose not to quit and therefore he had both the essential emotional support and the academic support (note taking, class attendance etc) of his sister. With the added benefits of attending a gifted school, he was able to complete his undergraduate studies and continued right on with his Masters program. As is the case, he had chosen to prove to himself that he would not be a victim however parents would always be parents and therefore he also needed to convince his parents that he was capable and so unknown to his parents, he declined the usual offer of riding with a classmate to a mid-point where his parents would then pick him up. He found his way to the bus station, rode the bus all the way to Indianapolis and took a cab to the house, to the utter surprise of his parents and that effectively alleviated the concerns of his parents. Along the way, he lost his father to cancer, even as he had also decided to push the boundaries further by getting his doctorate.

Unfortunately, his school did not have provisions for running a doctorate program and so he persevered until he was able to get the attention of an alumni who was on the academic staff at Rice University, Houston. Along with her recommendation and his results, he was eventually offered a place in the doctoral program at The Rice University however this was even a much more significant change because it was a completely different city and largely unfamiliar. Nonetheless, he had a distant relative in Houston who he decided to use as an emergency contact but life is nothing without challenges and so because of the move, he had to get documented as being legally blind, obtain the white cane and engage the services of a mobility tutor. With time, he learned how to use the white cane to navigate and move around and so 15years after the major operation to remove the tumor, he sat riding with me, sharing his story with me whilst headed to his own residence where he lives alone, does his laundry and all the other activities related to everyday living. As we swapped stories, he remarked with a wry smile that he does get the same “you are such an inspiration!” but for once (in my case, quite thankfully), we both agreed that all we do as individuals living with disabilities is simply just living our lives as plain and simple as every other person who makes the choice to live does. With a firm handshake, after getting his permission to write about him, I watched him make his way to his home after having an evening out with a friend.

Now this might come across as long winded, however I believe that as you read this, you will completely understand that none of us are born as superheroes but our responses when we get knocked to the ground by the storms of life is what defines us. As I pen these words, I know that in each and everyone of us lies the potential to make our lives count for something other than nought. Simply put and borrowing the words from Chris, all we do is just live our lives and if for some reason, you are inspired by that then I dare challenge you to also live your life and inadvertently become an inspiration to someone else..

Remember that with each new day, we must utter these words, “Now thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [which is. precious beyond words]” and as we face every day with its new challenges, be reminded “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human (existence, my words) experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word – He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” To the temptation of seeing the choice to remain a victim of life’s hard knocks as being the better one, the temptation to become a drain to society, the temptation to wallow in self-pity, wrong-doing or selfishness etc, we already have the victory when we choose to acknowledge and accept them. As for me, in addition to walking in these victories, I choose to be thankful if I inspire you whilst remembering that my life is far from being ordinary and not only all about me. We are all inexorably linked one to another, let our lives not be the weak link in the chain of lives that we are part of.

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

Adios

Out on a limb….

Standard

Out on a limb

Every action is preceded by a desire, and without mincing words or trying to fancy paint it, I really wish I could be more determined to more regularly writing. However, there is the inevitable issue of life and its unpredictability, and just having to navigate each day is a victory all by itself. It is another Wednesday; my own personal holiday and suffice me to say that while it is just another day in a week of days, it holds special value to me and along with experiences from the past, I chose long ago to make Wednesday my special day. From the viewpoint of someone who has worked in four continents, I have since realized that acknowledging that our bodies need rest is not a thing of shame because on the flip side, when we fail to acknowledge that, the long mounds of broken bodies littered along the road as we journey through life will definitely remind us that we just might end up as another broken body if we do not apply wisdom and caution.

One of my daily slogans is ‘life is all about moments and it is either we are bold enough to seize them (if we can but recognize them) or we spend the rest of our lives ruing those missed moments.’ Last week, I was at the hospital again for my bi-annual routine check-up and this is really always a big deal because I don’t like hospitals or crowded places at such (it is a proven trigger for a Dystonic episode). Now what makes this particular visit special was that it was to have taken place in the first quarter of the year but when you are confronted by bills of all shapes and sizes, the associated cost of just living a life especially one like mine that is rife with special needs, you need to be very careful about what you bite and chew. In line with the uniqueness of this visit, whenever the reminder popped up on my calendar, it was almost natural to cancel and reschedule whilst believing that the funds for yet another expense would be made available as promised by God. And so, I kept on rescheduling, even when I knew from the warning signs of my body that this was not an event that should be placed in the category of ‘to be done during leisure’. And then there is that niggling voice that keeps on nagging you about the growing changes associated with the journey of one battling dystonia, that I sort of had to belatedly admit to myself that faith is not an easy activity. In the words borrowed from my devotional, it is going out on a limb.

Oh the joy of childhood, when there were no bills to pay, no accounts to balance, no praying for the kids, nigh on zero responsibility save for that of ensuring you came home with an academic result. Not just any result but one that would like a grand jury, justify to my parents that the legacy of good education was properly being bequeathed to me and that I also properly understood that even though as my parents, they were obligated to invest in me but I also had to hold up my own part of the bargain. And so in the summer holidays, during those long trips to my (actually paternally influenced) hometown, there was always that giddy headiness of being free to run around more (just a bit more than was ordinarily allowed). Not that I was allowed to run riot, far from my imagination anyway, but there was just that teeny weeny bit of slack with regards to the daily structured regimen of waking up early, diving straight (still half asleep) into family devotion and then off to the races; daily chores, prepping for school, school itself (and the added but necessary skill of avoiding being bullied by senior students), home (lunch, siesta and homework), preparing the family meal (I was responsible for Wednesdays and Saturdays), more study, night devotion and bedtime (with the regular foray at night into the sitting room to watch the late night movie while everybody was asleep). Childhood was fun and just adds credence to the truth that we should be childlike in our walk with God, not childish but child-like.

Today, I still find it amazing that I have never broken a bone (or maybe I do not remember breaking one) because I still remember how swanky it looked with an arm in a sling or a limb immobilized within a cast. Why the amazement? I was quite the plucky adventurous kid with a daring attitude that almost bordered on insanity – leaping off , balconies and buses just for the fun of it, accepting the dare to roll under dump trucks as they were passing and for my grand finale; almost burning down my high school science laboratory and myself because I was surrounded by all types of acid reagents, no teacher and the curiosity that has killed many cats (after-all Sir Newton, Robert Hooke, Henry Le Chatelier, K.F Braun allowed that curiosity to drive them into becoming science legends). Mine was a childhood that was far from being uneventful, but my dabbling into my memory cauldron is specific: remembering how beautiful life was when the trees bloomed with fruits. I remember learning how to scurry up a tree, adrenaline dousing the pain of the grazes, scratches and the occasional wasp bite just to get out on that limb in order to reach and retrieve the fat juicy mango, guava or Indian almond. The objective was the fruit at the end of that tree limb that was somehow so hidden that attempting to pluck it by hurling stones, twigs et al was an exercise in futility, and regardless of how tiny the limb looked, getting the fruit was all that mattered at that moment in time. Oh, I remember how many times the limb snapped because of my added weight but the stars that swung around in my head after the fall was nothing compared to the fruit in my hand. That was what childhood encompassed; learning how to be street savvy, learning what my interests and dislikes were, learning that each of us is as distinct as the stars in the sky and learning that loyalty, blind trust in God, faith that good will always trounce evil and relationships were values that each person needed to learn in preparation for the life ahead.

Faith is....Doing!

And so today, when it seems as though my responses to life’s challenges are extraordinary, it is just an embellishment of the truth that the best laid plans are those laid by God. I am simply an ordinary bloke in the hands of an extraordinary God, with each day another opportunity to just trust God and get out on that limb. As I got myself ready for my neurologist, I asked (with bated breath) Amanda at the front desk/window, “how much would this consult cost because at the moment, I do not have any insurance?” Her response was matter of factly delivered without even looking up and since the option of paying by check was available, I opted for that, believing that before they cashed the check, I would have the funds ready. I have always maintained that I believe that I’ve got the best neurologist in the world and so as the consult went on, every new change discussed and medication reviewed, I just voiced out how difficult it was getting any form of meaningful medical assistance especially for people living with rare conditions. That was immediately acquiesced by her and then she asked how much I was charged, now that right there is a rarity because most doctors are completely unaware of the fine details of billing. In response to my answer, she said she would go see what could be done because naturally she always wants to know what activities (especially in terms of income)I am engaged in with respect to the symptoms associated with the horrendous fiend known as dystonia. Suffice me to say that as I exited the consulting room and went to get the next appointment date, the bill had been reduced by 45%!!!

Now it is not all about me, however I can only share my own experiences and that moment (the entire consult) was literally me going out on a limb not because I knew I could wheedle some discount but because I am reassured each day that as I long as I remember that the battle’s victory is not defined by the parameters of strength and might, nor is the the race victory defined by the swiftness of feet then I know that His mercies and provisions are there for the asking. Most assuredly, I say that being logical is one of my strengths but when it comes to just waking up each day and living life, I refuse to allow myself be restrained by the limits of logic. As long as I see a need, I am convinced beyond all doubts that there is something I can do; it is not always about the material things you can give rather it is those intangible things that you give when the material is lacking that make the most meaning. Just having the time to listen to someone else going through a storm might just be what is needed to get the bilge pumps turned on and subsequently prevent his vessel from going under. Most times, we fail to admit that we don’t always know the answers, heck we do not even know what the next moment holds for anybody but we can acknowledge that in the effort lies victory and sometimes that victory is right at the end of that limb. All we need do is step out on that limb! You can drive yourself crazy by applying all known theories, calculating the relationship between our body weight (oh remember that also involves getting a scale etc) and the physical traits of the branch but until we stop and put aside the white board, the text books, the calculators, we are just just going to remain at one end engaged in pointless reasoning and failing to realize that we are not even moving. And if we are not moving then how can our steps be guided? If our steps are not guided, then how do we know that we are not just wandering around in tiny circles? Seeing the same things every day and not even aware they are the same things because we are so preoccupied with attempting to solve things using our puny brain and brawn.

Today is another new day, another rare opportunity to make our lives count for something. Staying all swaddled up in the ‘security’ of our comfort zones is not it because remember that the rain falls on both the good and the bad so who says that where you are today and the accompanying luxuries are yours to keep forever? It never ceases to amaze me when I am confronted by ‘experts’ with their fail-safe solutions prattling non-stop and inadvertently gloating also. The neurosurgeon says that Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is the answer to dystonia and my follow-up question is have you undergone the procedure? Do you have dystonia? Hold on for just a second and listen because wisdom is not exclusively categorized by how old you are. We do not create, neither do we hold the plans and answers but what we have are a pair of hands and a pair of ears and my self recommendation each day that I am blessed to see is that I ensure that I use what I have been blessed with to bless just one other person. Remember that it is impossible to change the world we live in at once but we can start that change by beginning with ourselves and letting others see that change because whether you choose to admit or not, someone is watching you. Be less of a talker and more of a doer because doers evoke change and everyone needs some respite from a world that has suddenly been besieged by a horde of talkers who have completed murdered their ability to listen. Kindly stop!….and just get out on that limb, that is the very least you owe yourself.

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

Adios!