Clearing Debris II……

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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!

Clearing Debris….

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Sometimes it just seems like our lives are a kitchen sink filled to the brim with clutter- dirty dishes, dirty mugs, used and discarded cutlery. And a few inches above, a window cracked slightly open but with the sill in dire need of attention. More often than not, we do not even realize how cluttered we are until we are desperately in need of a clean plate for a meal that we so longingly crave, as pang upon pang of hunger hits us. Sometimes, we are confronted by circumstances that, had we been given an option, we would not even want to imagine it.

It has been about a week since Hurricane Harvey and although I’m careful not to write about trending issues, (life is more than a carpeted runway in a fashion show) this was a life transforming event for many. The very things that we want to know, in retrospect, have no benefit to us in the long run. Humanity is often clouded by hastily taken decisions, bordering on sentiments that have no lasting power and like the wisps of smoke from an extinguished camp fire, we watch helplessly as the smoke dissipates into the air. We long for the warmth of the fire after it’s put out and usually we are oblivious to the fact that right at the edge of darkness, a pair of feral eyes glinting in the dark is the only evidence that we have been spared from more than just the loss of the campfire.

In my opinion, it comes across as a slight blend of annoyance and irritation when in the aftermath of a storm, someone comes across and without tact, utters the following words beginning with “if I were you…..”. How on earth could you ever be me? That statement in itself is tantamount to ridiculing the order of existence. We are all individuals of unique capabilities and purposes, and therefore flaunting your naivety is not by any standard, a measure of intelligence. To this day, I recall how destructive a storm can be but amidst the storm, there can also be a peace that trounces the storm. In my sessions of encouragement, I usually reiterate how life transforming some events can be. Considering the transformation is probably going to be the content of the next post however how we deal with the transformation tells more about us than we care to share.

Summoning up courage to see the positive in the transformation, a transformation that we all must face in one form or another, is best experienced. It is easy to be cheerful when our bellies bulge with the cuisine of our preference, when our pockets sag with the weight of gaudy trinkets and gold sovereigns. It is easy to encourage another when there are no ruffles in our every day lives but what happens when the very things we inadvertently and often unwittingly depend on is taken away? When our brains freeze in distress and panic and the usual praise songs seem like a burden of irritation? Can we at that point, realize that clearing out debris from another’s house is way different from clearing the debris from our own homes. How effusive our condolences are when the mourning is another’s but the true definition of your values is seen in the nudity of our fundamental beliefs.

Driving around town and seeing streets constricted by the debris and unsalvageable items left in the wake of H.Harvey is yet another learning point. There is no rejoicing over that, neither should there be any guilt that nothing of yours was lost. The basic tenets of life are in full display in the aftermath of the storm. I see the sadness in the eyes of those who have been forced to lose houses, cars, antique pieces. I hear the hollow echo in their words as many struggle to come to terms with the fact that the house that has been in the family for generations has been reduced to rubble. The desperation that comes with the knowledge that there’s so much the insurance companies can do…..then is when the question should be asked, “where have you stored your treasures?” The transient treasures of this world lose value in the face of catastrophic events like receiving a diagnosis of an incurable medical condition. Nonetheless, it is not what we do with our blessings that is the real test, rather it is what we do when the blessings are taken away?

I recall purchasing my very first cellphone, a Motorola Accompli – I had scoured through newspapers waiting for that discount to be published. And when I added up the dimes and nickels, my joy knew no bounds as I pushed open the phone dealership to finally lay my hands on my dream phone. It had taken a significant portion of a year and almost all of my savings, but it was all worth it because now I has dreamt, woken up and achieved the dream. My moment of truth came as I was crossing the street with my new phone cradled under my arm…..”what would happen if my dream phone suddenly fell from my hands, and despite my best efforts, meet its untimely demise on the tarred road?” Shattered with no hope of being put back together, what would I do? That was the defining moment in my life because there and then, I realized that we are each responsible for the extent our blessings hold sway over our lives. That moment of truth shaped my life and regardless of how cruel this might sound, we need to clean out the debris and loss from the storms we encounter.

It’s not ungodly to be saddened by the loss of what we built with our hands but have we taken time to realize that its rebuildable stuff thats been lost and not our hands. There is no sense in battling the undertanding that till we let go of the old, we might never receive the new. It is only when we let go of what we have in our hands, that God can actually use it. And who can better the old but the manufacturer Himself? There is no insurmountable grief, no helpless battle instead there will always be you and I who have, for some unfathomable reason, refused to just let go. And till we let go, we will simply sink further into the bog. Behind every debris is not just grief and loss but there is also open space to truly delight in. Embracing the fact that we are able to trust One who has never and will never hold back the very best for us. We might not see the best as we look at the clutter in our lives but we must look beyond to enable us receive that which will always be His best for us. It is not about us putting the puzzle together, it is more of letting go and letting Him and even if we do not understand now, there will come a time and place where the fullness of knowledge will come upon us.

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

Adios!

One day at a time (Parkinsonsfight.com)

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Special thanks to Dan Gearhart for permitting me to share this….


A funny thing has happened to me lately, I have been growing physically and emotionally stronger every day fighting a disease that only takes and takes and never gives. I hate that I have this disease and will always wonder what would be different if it weren’t my fate. The answer is probably not as difficult as I think and really quite simple, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wrote last year on my birthday about not knowing how good you have it until it’s gone; that couldn’t be anymore truthful then it is this very moment. As I watch all my years of hard work and personal investments unnecessarily fade into the black hole of divorce, it’s hard to find any positives.

If I hear one more person say how much better off I will be I’ll just scream! It just stings too deeply, I still believe divorce is such a selfish act, children deserve so much more than what they are being given.

When I look at their innocence in all of this dysfunction – is when I feel the most helpless. Communication is the key to any broken lock and very much still is. Text, email, tweet, instant message, does anyone communicate verbally anymore? We even break up on line with the hidden messages meant to hurt each other. My wife recently removed our anniversary date from her social profile in a final attempt of petty abuse, further trying to nullify the 3 blessings our union created. I simply hate non verbal communication with all the drones staring at their phones texting because no one can truly function speaking to one another anymore. I am just as guilty typing one thought at a time and trying to read body language through a glowing screen and trying to fix something that doesn’t want to or can’t be fixed.

Even with everything that I have gone through lately, I still remain blessed with so much more than many others. I have so many praying for me and my family, not to feel blessed. I know my children’s love for me and mine for them is an unbreakable bond in which at this point can never be compromised and will prevail. I’ve owned nice things, lived in a nice warm house and have a great job all while raising 3 beautiful and innocent children. BUT….. there’s always a but……I have Parkinson’s and it’s teaching me how to be stronger than I ever thought and who my true friends are. In turn, my legacy to my children will be that ‘I Never Gave Up’ and I taught them how to be strong, compassionate humans in the face of adversity. That is so much more than the majority of the world will ever have. I just will always ask myself over and over what could I have done differently? The answer is nothing; which doesn’t really answer my question but makes me want to fight even harder at this part of my story. Hopefully, all this is making me into a better and stronger man. If you’re not growing spiritually, physically or emotionally your just not growing at all and at times my growth has been stunted.

Whatever you can do, I will try to do better. I may not always succeed, but I promise you I won’t quit until someone can prove me wrong or I’m just not capable anymore. Determined is a word that is very powerful to me, and I don’t use it lightly. I have felt a calling to help people in pain and this may be the next doorway that I must walk through. I live with Parkinson’s everyday as I awaken from bed and start my daily routine, simply for the love of my children. You see, I’m still learning and living with it even while it’s being used against me in divorce.

What most people don’t understand about Parkinson’s is it’s a disease that affects 10 million different people 10 million different ways, it has symptoms that come in various forms with no two people alike. Also, for some, it comes with a great deal of physical pain. The physical pain I can take, it’s the emotional which is mostly devastating. However, during certain periods you’d never know I have it, but that

takes work. You have to become an expert at your body, figuring out triggers while at the time trying to remain calm and peaceful inside. The natural reaction when hurt is to hurt back. What would you do if you hit someone and they didn’t hit you back?  Does that make you weaker or stronger? At this point I would have to answer a little bit of both. As this disease keeps pushing me the only option I have is to push back and live with it. It’s made me stronger than I ever thought I could be but has also hurt me significantly. Recently a new friend gave me T-shirt that simply reads, “Hurt people hurt people, Blessed people bless people”. I’ll let you try and figure out which one I identify with.

Even though I struggle to find the blessing of a broken heart and family I question what good can come of this? My children don’t deserve this type of upbringing because my wife and I couldn’t figure it out, the difference is I can look into their eyes and say I tried with every fiber in my being to make it work. I really don’t hate anybody except those who intentionally try to hurt me or my family and pray to the Lord to forgive them as they can’t know what they do. I can only pray for her salvation as the bond we share is our children. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and I wouldn’t hesitate to lay down my life for one of my children to protect them from this ever increasingly evil world.

The thing is, this earth is just a pit stop and I am still the spiritual leader of my family. I’ve questioned my own religious beliefs in the past, struggling to get over my individual faith and hurdles. I still believe everything is part of God’s grand plan and if I am wrong at least I lived a life I could be proud of. My moto is ‘I always try to do the right thing’! If I’m guilty of sometimes being wrong, at least I admit it, but I try to never make the same mistake twice. One mistake I can not afford to make is with the salvation of my children, we have eternity to look forward to together. For now, I will love them as much as I can and be the best father and example I can be along this brutal pit stop. 

I have been afraid to write much because of pending divorce proceedings, but my story will be told and my testimony will be that much stronger as the truth ultimately reveals itself one day at a time! I can only try to be a better man with Parkinson’s than without. Fight Parkinson’s, it’s what I do!

In my armour….

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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…..

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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!

The Abacus Path….

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Counting

Count your blessings

The abacus? Oh yes and there are many more from where that came – the hourglass, a logarithm chart, a pair of protractors and dividers, map reading with a twine and a rule. It’s usually funny when in the midst of a discussion with millennials, I refer to a word synonymous with my growing-up days and I am confronted with a look of utter bewilderment, on other occasions it could be a look of utter pity. As time passes by unfailingly, there are those times when we wish for some events in the past so that we correct them in the light of today’s world events. However time once spent can never be recovered and so with each new day comes opportunities to create new and better memories. There is really no gain in seeking to bask in the glories of the past, rather live in the present and utilize the experiences of the past. There will always be the memories to cling to and for those bad ones, their poignancy is gradually lost with time, Affirming the truth that as voyagers, we must make something of what life hands us.

It is the beginning of a new month and the last couple of days have been truly horrendous especially with the summer because heat is a dystonic episode. Again I am reminded that with every hello, there is a corresponding goodbye and so I write this piece in dedication to two unique individuals that I have truly been blessed to encounter. There is truly, for me, no greater satisfying endeavor as learning how to count each day’s blessing because the contrary option would be to give in to the chronic pain that has become synonymous with most neurological diseases. And most assuredly, these villains are ready to pile on more strain to an already over strained system and so instead of conceding, I choose to focus on the benefits of each new day. In the course of my many interactions, I have been blessed to rejoice with those rejoicing and comfort those going through adverse times. No greater examples readily comes to mind other than David Moreau & Dan Gearhart.

David Moreau was an exceptional individual, describing himself as the ‘Tip of the Spear’ at MS Warriors of Hope. Despite his valiant battle with Multiple Sclerosis, he always was eager to share another’s burden. With a love for life, he loved to give when and wherever needed. With his catchy statement,”I am not chronically ill, I am medically fascinating” a statement in essence that just bore testimony to a life based on a resolute faith in God. His last post on social media was at 6am CST, August 1st: “OMG…woke up to increasing pain in my chest, this hurts so bad!” and despite being given the all clear by the ER personnel, he succumbed not to the dreaded MS hug but to a heart attack. A heart that was the source of so much joy and inspiration, he was truly inspiring and now he has gotten the victory over the MS that threatened to bully him into submission. For in the bosom of God, there is no pain, no illness, no sorrow. “Farewell brother, you have run your race and finished strong. Now I am more committed to paying forward every blessing I receive!”

Dan Gearhart is a Parkinson’s Disease warrior but despite that, he is currently one of two major combatants in another battle that ensues. Life all by itself is not the ideal standard for fairness, however what defines a man as a champion is learning to navigate life’s choppy waters and never cease rowing. A father of 3 adorable kids, he just got to see them after 65 days of deprivation and is currently striving to ensure that he remains the loving father to his kids despite being ejected from his home. In all honesty, I understand the added strain of being kicked while you are down because I didn’t get to see my own daughter in a period of 42 months, where dystonia was labelled as a mental illness interfering with my role as a father. However that is in the past, because it is futile to be confined to the past when there is the present to live in and make something of. Today, she is with me and it is just an amazing testament to the faithfulness of God, new blessings with each new day. It is unimaginably cruel when your medical challenges are used as a cudgel to bludgeon you repeatedly however true strength is defined by the number of times you get up after being knocked to the ground. Wars are long and hard but victory is not achieved by sheer brawn but by the application of wisdom and the support of allies.

In the course of my own journey, I have learned that today’s achievements were yesterday’s dreams and so in like fashion, our achievements of today should be the stepping stone for those coming behind us. Learning to number each day’s blessing is a more worthy venture than collating the number of times I wince from the discomfort that is peculiar to dystonia. Despite not arriving at a stalemate with my knees and my back, I am careful in my choice to focus and help another rather than focus on the chronic pain that every little movement causes. Even after the boisterous laughter, I choose to smile through the pain and when the groans become too much to muffle, I still press on. Refusing to be restrained by the clinging tendrils of huge trees and the darkness of the forest, I press on towards the glimmer of day knowing that the slight glimmer marks the end of this foray in the forest. From past experiences, I know that it is not about how gigantic the challenge is but rather the assurance of victory by faith. It is not about my dependence on medication or the flamboyance of some medical expert (David was in the ER prior to his demise!) but rather on my acknowledging that victory has already been won.

Today, I am yet a witness to the birth of a new day and already I choose to celebrate with friends whose birthdays are today. I choose to celebrate David’s victory over MS rather than wallow in the misery of ignorance. I choose to stand with Dan in his fight for his kids: praying that his strength does not wane and his faith not be relinquished in the face of so many daunting foes. Sending a letter to Governor Butch Otter and Lawrence Wasden to prevent calumny and injustice from reigning is an action that I am committed to, because as long as you are able to discern a need, there will be provision for that need to be met. In my journey, I have learned how to nurture that little glow of hope even when the night is at its darkest because I know that the dawn will soon come and so I better not get entangled and hopelessly stuck in the hostile and marshy territory of this neurological nightmare. I have learned that with each significant hit to my FICO, there is more room to display the significant rise when the time comes because I am confident that someday change will surely come.

It is best that each day is begun with the counting of the day’s blessings or else chaos and hopelessness might just seize that opportunity to reign unchecked. There are experiences that truly cannot be shared through words and so I choose not to devote energies towards trying to make people understand what an average day looks like. Once a need is discerned and there is no action supporting that discernment then it is foolhardy to believe that we are not living selfishly. I want to do something when there is a need and that want will usher in supplies. Without denigrating the lives around us, let the choices we make begin by counting the blessings of each new day and when you do, you will find enough to give to someone truly in need. No man is an island unto himself and with that in mind, I live each day eager to assist another even if we are both marooned on the same island. No better reward exists than standing alongside a friend and helping them along in their darkest times, that is part of the reason that explains our present location and were I to nonchalantly take each day’s gifts for granted then it would be foolhardy of me to expect more tomorrow. It is in the little that faithfulness is born and nurtured, so that when the little becomes large, we will be clear headed enough to do the appropriate thing.

Today is another new day, what better time than now to pause and count your blessings. ‘Shout to the Lord, all the earth’ is not an option, it requires full participation and so if there are doubts that still reside within your heart, be diligent enough to rid yourself of them and truly count your blessings – name them one by one if need be and it will really surprise you what God is continually doing in your favor. ‘What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

Lasso’ing Sleep…..

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Lassoing Sleep

There will be always those days when it seems like this journey will overwhelm and crush me and in those times, knowing that there are people who are going through similar trials is always a much needed boost. In the last 8 weeks, I have been divinely privileged to have become a member of so many support groups, and just the realization that you can be yourself amongst others without the looks of derision, pity or disgust is quite profound. Acknowledging that for every thinly concealed nonchalance, there is a friend who knows what you are going through. And when you see a request for prayers from a new friend, it is not a gesture for fame or recognition, but a sincere request from someone who is going through torrid times.   With the medical capes of Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Dystonia, MS, Parkinson’s Disease and similar villains associated with the neurological system casting shadows, you can truly appreciate the warmth associated with being in a group of defiant individuals.

One of the support groups I belong to is aptly named ‘PD Night Owls’ because there is one common denominator with all these vicious medical conditions and that is the inability of the body to get its much needed rest. In addition to the ravages being wrecked on my body as a whole and the adverse influence it can have on my social life and activities, I still have to confront those little horrors that come with such conditions. Just like the mythical Peter Pan, I will claim my own shadow someday, (because the shadows of these villains just seek to further highlight mine) even if it requires patience, endurance and skilled needle work. As a child, one of my fond memories is darting around with friends trying to escape been tagged or trying to tag someone else depending on what your role in the game was. With the passage of time however, all the fun associated with that game is stored away as cherished memories even as I attempt to dole out some much needed discipline to a little rascal termed ‘Insomnia‘. The futility of playing that game in present times is more than just age-inappropriate, rather it is one where the odds are so unfairly stacked against me that it would be foolhardy to even contemplate it.

Even with a plate already over laden with all these nasty medical challenges,  insomnia finds a way of converting itself into a sauce that trickles through, further tainting the package with extra foul taste. Ideally, life is a series of decisions and choices and so instead of partaking in an unfair game, I choose to witness the birth of every new day. Again perspective plays a significant role, because perspective is a result of a choice being expressed and so I do not detest the approaching darkness of twilight signifying the end of a day or envy the stillness of the dawning that marks the beginning of a new day. Instead I count myself blessed that I am able to witness the birth of every new day, that is a choice I make, instead of devoting energy towards battling a foe that acts as the reconnaissance agent of a massive horde. I have learned that it is better to study your foe(s) for any signs or weakness and when you do find one, not to let a moment pass by without any action from me. Alternatively, I re-access my armoury, evaluate my relationships/allies and utilize what I have even if it requires a little bit of tweaking.

Most battles are won through the application of wisdom rather than just sheer brawn, and so instead of engaging with insomnia every day, I have learned ways to circumvent participating in a seriously skewed game. It is no longer rocket science that the body as a dynamic system requires a minimum of 8 hours of sleep to enable it reset and be ready for the next day. In recognition of that, what do you do to a body that is thoroughly exhausted and in need of sleep? When the habits inculcated in earlier years of running around in a Ferris wheel, have now turned around to nip you in the derrière. I try to lighten the situation by explaining that the brain is such an amazing creation, and so like a commander in charge on the battle field (safe and secure in the skull); it is still strategising, processing, sending out signals and assigning tasks to a neurological system that is almost buckling beneath the onslaught of neurological disorders. And in a bid to prevent a total collapse of this structure I call my body, I must find a way of reining in this magnificent commander lest in its efficiency, it pushes the body way past its limit.

A warrior in the heat of battle is confronted with two choices; live or die, and inadvertently the choice for life must be backed by commensurate actions or else death would gladly swoop in, ever ready like the vulture circling above patiently waiting for road kill. There is always the option of taking a short cut but again the ignorant will find that short cuts are never the fastest or the safest, and so we realize that depending solely on medication usually has a predictable route. With every dose, the body responds by building a resistance to that dose with time, and so we increase the dosage or switch medication. However, just like the fool belatedly realizes the folly of his ways, more often we belatedly realize the folly of borrowing an hour or two from Sleep time in order to accommodate that last meeting, finish up that work task that could not be left in the office or just tidy up that little assignment that is tied to a deadline that is usually unfeasible. There is no reward that can be obtained from cutting off your nose to enhance the beauty of your face, because if we do not adequately cater to the needs of our bodies, someday just like the Merchant of Venice, that pound of flesh must be required as payback. Contentment is not weakness, it will always be at conflict with the inordinate ambitions that characterize today’s world but it is an inseparable companion in the pursuit of noble aspirations.

Just like the daily battle with insomnia, there is the constant need to keep that tricky balance between living healthy and taking proper care of the body. For me, that balance is key because any slight external influence will not only destroy the balance but the chronic pain associated with daily living would assume proportions frightening to even conceive. You do not have to be sick to appreciate health, and so the same scenario plays out in lives everywhere: feign wisdom and take from tomorrow to assuage today’s needs. Most of us are undeniably guilty of that crime and inevitably the pretentious wisdom we applied will someday be revealed in all its entirety as sheer folly.  For every ill-advised action we take today, there will be the corresponding consequences tomorrow and it is not foolishness to be different. Sometimes we are placed in situations that did not require any input from us but to triumph in those circumstances, we need not embark on actions that are immediately associated with thought process of a child. There has to be an acknowledgement of what is real to enable us choose what we know the finality to be.

There is still time each day for that last valiant charge, a charge that has its distinct base in an unflinching faith in a Sovereign God and Commander. A charge that is not dictated by the size of this ragtag army but rather dictated by the promise of a sure victory ahead. And so, I will emerge from the trench – besmirched with dried mud, eyes red-rimmed, joints aching and clad in what barely amounts to a decent garment. With all the air in my tired lungs, my bugle will ring out across the mountains for just one final time today, notes marking the last valiant charge. Conveying in very clear notes to the foes arrayed all around that there will be no conceding victory today, there will be no terms of surrender and even if I have to be borne on my shield; I will seize that victory that is sure. There will be no ambiguity in my proclamation, ‘dystonia, there is no victory for you today and though you rave and rant as much as you want, there is no victory today, tomorrow or for as long as the battle rages.’

A charge more valiant than yesterday’s, my colors loftily raised in victory, a determination in the cadence of marching feet, there will be a prisoner of war but rest assured that it will not be from my ranks.

For just as your ranks ripple with number, and your fancy capes adorn you, so will they disperse in defeat, heads bowed in defeat, victory snatched.

To friends and allies alike, there is yet hope renewed and though the war be far from over, our anthem booms loud and clear, there is no giving up – not today, not tomorrow for as surely as the sun rises from the East, none will fall by the way because we depend not on the strength of men.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!