Bent not broken….

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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.

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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!

Associating with knowledge……

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“A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving” – Albert Einstein

For the last two weeks, I have not only been in a roller coaster of emotions enhanced by the unpredictability of Myoclonus but had to shake off the feeling of being a dilettante and bestir myself from the bleakness of the present and focus on the beauty at the end of the tunnel and I must apologize for the short break from writing. Talking about the very things that constantly and endlessly swirl through my brain, which is one of the effects of insomnia, I choose again to make my life of some meaning whilst I yet trudge through this solitary journey, enjoying the company of the very few that God has placed in my path. In the last fourteen days, I have terminated some relationships, renewed some, re-birthed some and made a few new ones. For the very journey we all engage in would be as desolate as the cemetery without the presence of the variety of individuals we all come across – the good, the bad, the ugly and the different.

A couple of Fridays ago, I was opportune to attend the Old Students meeting of my alma mater, and expectedly it was a beautiful reunion; meeting with individuals after 2 decades and some odd years ago. Many had passed through before me, and ironically I was the baby of the group however there is nothing like a fora where you get to mingle with individuals, some of whom had left legacies or feats of daring and probably stupid acts. And as Pope John XXIII stated “Men (and women) are like wine – some turn to vinegar, the best improve with age”,  it was a stunning display of truth as we all mingled and regaled ourselves with old tales. Generations mingling with generations without the limitations of the dictates of high school. I was fortunate to attend one of the best Unity High Schools back in the days, of course with the usual mix of tyrants, bullies, the fair, the weirdos, the geeks, the beauties and the hotties. Unsurprisingly, each of us had some story to share and it was a beauty to see many who have distinguished themselves in their chosen paths.

Unerringly, tales swirled around experiences back then, the lives of those who had passed on and the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with some who we had received a few slaps from, with those who had meted out corporate and non-corporate punishment. Standing with those whose names back then was enough to send us scuttling for safety. I recall vividly a couple of chaps who I felt were personally assigned to make my life a living hell, and also recalled the privilege of walking the same paths with the progression of years as those who had before us. I recall that as newbies, we were forbidden to walk on the pavement in front of the classes belonging to those in Upper Six (someone had aptly painted it red, so twas the red carpet for us and woe betide you if you had the boldness to step on the red carpet). We looked upon some as though they were giants and adored the likes of those who were remarkable enough to overcome the predilection for juvenile delinquencies and grasp the opportunity to positively impact the lives of those below them. Looking at schools today, one can weep because in our bid to give our kids what we didn’t have as kids, we have absolutely forgotten to also balance it with what we did get as kids – as a society, we are hopelessly shirking our responsibility as parents and as generations pass by, the kids have become the parents and we have devoted ourselves to doing their bidding.

One of my greatest appreciations is the years I spent in my alma mater and even though, back then it seemed as though it was horrendous especially in the early years but as the years progressed, I realized that without the experiences received back in the years, I just may not be who I have become today. And that is exactly what life does to us, sometimes it seemed as though we were (and are) being continually and persistently punished for just being there but guess what, our cores were being formed and just like I always say, we were making choices to be who we wanted to be regardless of the birthing pains of character development. Life is a process! I made friends, many I have lost contact with but the few who I am in touch with constantly sing the same tune – what a privilege it was to attend Federal Government College, Warri. What an association of brotherhood (and sisterhood) has been formed, one that with the years, forges bonds that are so strong but can yet be stronger. Scattered all over the globe, are individuals who were thrust through the furnace of FGCW and have emerged stronger and better. some more vile, a few departed but alas we are still a result of our choices.

Primolevi says “In modern times, it is only by the power of association that men of any calling exercise their due influence in the community” One truth rings clear, we must exercise our due influence in our community but the question that always go unanswered especially when men and women gather is what does our community really care about – how much we know or how much we care?

An old Swedish proverb that once hung down the rafters of ‘Ye Old Tavern’ Ronneby, Sweden says that ‘happiness when shared is double happiness, and sorrow when shared is half sorrow’. Looking around, we are witnesses to so much sorrow borne by ourselves and others and whilst some of us are capable of handling theirs, many around us are almost consumed and overwhelmed by their portion of sorrow – be it physical, emotional or spiritual. There can be no clearer appreciation of the labors of other men in our lives if we choose to turn a blind eye to those who are in dire need of a shoulder to lean on. There are needs to be met, and  it takes a supreme effort and a clear understanding of our purpose on earth to go beyond just asking ‘what is wrong with you?’ and actually do something. Yesterday, as I shakily boarded the bus, Madge (the driver) bellowed several times “Can someone please give this disabled man a seat?’ and as I made my way to the vacated seat, I cringed at the obvious term but I have refused to allow that becloud my ability to convert the little I know into expressions of care. Associating with my family of strangers, be it for a few stops or a few minutes, to let them know that I will not succumb to Myoclonus and there is enough joy to go round the world……if only they make the right choices.

Despite my struggles with Myoclonus, OCD et al, I choose to  do what I can with the little I have in making that one life just a little bit more bearable because I know that my core is and will always be strengthened by The One who alone can be relied upon. It is my core that remains unflinching in the face of all the bleakness, and whilst my body tries to adapt to these unpredictable bouts of incessant painful changes and weaknesses, my core remains strong in Christ alone and I can boldly tell you that regardless of what you are passing through ; Andrea, Shannon and the rest of us who are battling this, realize that I associate because I truly care. Putting aside my own troubles and pain and tremors, to share some humor and care to as many as I come across. I do not need good luck because I know that my end is pre-determined and there is only one outcome – no white flag is ever gonna hang from my door.

Remember that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. Make a choice to live for something worth dying for. Do not be a dead sea!

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!

 

Little Gestures…..

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“You know about a person who deeply interests you more than you can be told. A look, a gesture, an act, which to everybody else is insignificant tells you more about that one than words can” – Henry D. Thoreau

Wednesdays are my favourite days – I was born premie on a Wednesday, it marks the middle of the week (an opportunity to improve and turn around from antecedents), it deviates slightly in nomenclature and it describes me perfectly and I wanna share this one.

“Whenever you are not living on the edge, it simply means that you are taking up too much space” these are the words Morgan Freeman has striven to adhere to since his encounter with Clint Eastwood and those same words resonated a chord within me when I heard them on Sunday because I have learnt that everything about life is a balance, and that balance is clearly evident in the beauty of the life and creation that surrounds us. And for me, living on the edge is a delicate balance that we all should strive to either by choice or by compulsion. I am greatly moved by the number of feedback that I have received from this simple but thoroughly enjoyable self assigned task of writing, and to the number of unique individuals all over the world who I have been privileged to come in contact with….I doff my hat and applaud them. Being different, even in little gestures by following this blog, liking a link or actually posting a comment, is such a monumental task especially in a world that consistently wants you to just be part of the crowd.

Yesterday was the service of songs of an old schoolmate of mine from High School, a sad loss because he was still in his prime and I recall my conversation with my old classmate about how much a living hell he almost made my life back then but what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. So thank you, Tabana (Tagbo Chuba Agbim) – may your soul truly find bliss! Going through Facebook, I was awed at the size of the crowd that were able to make out the time to make their presence felt (unfortunately I missed that of my friend, Debbie). In the words of my old classmate – Andy, someone who has also tried to be there for me, belonging to such an awesome group like the alumni of your High School is such a profound experience and at my last count, there are over 2,000 FGCW facebook members and this is no mean feat because I have also met some truly wonderful individuals there. Dee, you are always in my thoughts and HCM, thanks for the love.

I recently came across an article that stated the top 5 greatest regrets of the dying – Wishing you had the courage to truly express your feelings, Wishing you had stayed in touch with your friends (now it is pertinent to correctly define a friend as one who is neither scared to correct you when you are wrong nor scared to stand with you even when you are all alone) and Wishing you had let yourself be happier. Now how scary are these wishes because they epitomise the very fears that plague many of us today and still a countless number are too lily livered to confront their fears. Need I remind us of the inevitability of death? “Maybe the fact that when we do admit that death is inevitable, some of us may be bold enough to lead meaningful lives” – the sands of time will always be there if we acknowledge that making our lives sublime will ensure we do leave footprints behind when we are gone. And as I marvelled at the size of the crowd at Tabana’s funeral, I asked myself ‘why do we always wait till people are departed before we are bold enough to show those little gestures that go a long way than mere words or being just an attendee at a funeral?’

Each day arising in its splendour provides us with ample opportunities to be more resourceful in the lives we have been privileged to encounter, with special attention to those who we know are going through a tough patch at that point in time. Regardless of how irrelevant we choose to be, considering that your pocket list or to-do list begins and ends with you, one thing stands sure – you will either be remembered for what you did or what you did not do? John Ruskin says ‘A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package‘ and all around us, extremely tiny packages are bustling about, trapped in their fears of being unable to liberate themselves from self-centredness. How expensive is a kind word offered to someone in pain? How close to bankruptcy will sending a bouquet of flowers or a get well card or a gift to someone who is ailing bring you to? How fulfilled do you feel when you don your well pressed garments and sit in attendance at the funeral of someone who you were blessed to know, knowing that there were so many little gestures you could have chosen from to say ‘I care about you’ whilst the deceased was still alive? When do we actually bestir ourselves to actually begin to live a life as opposed to just existing?

I have the profound privilege of experiencing one of the countless blessings from God after staying many years with one of the lowliest individuals that can ever be found (and you really have to search for this category of individuals – they are committed to a life of misery, woe and an inevitable end), one who contracted the deadly HIV from her clandestine amorous affairs and sought to desperately pass it across by attempting to conceal it from me. I stand unscathed and stronger, and I can say without an iota of pride that when you truly give, you can never ever be disconcerted or discomfited. What is it about this 6-letter word (GIVING) that causes the pride of creation to suddenly choose to become a blithering being – a far position from your real position? And how much consolation will the sudden effusion after the life is gone really bring to you? WAKE UP! Look around you, the Tabanas, the Debbies don’t give a hoot anymore – you had the chance but you chose not to. Making that persistent choice to just be a face in the crowd and maybe if you aspire hard enough, an image in a group picture is definitely not the way to live a life sublime, least of all leaving footprints in the sands of time.

It is such an honour that I am living on the edge, and encountering unique individuals who are also doing so, even with the botox shots and the bouquet of medication whose side effects are often scarier than the effects of the drugs themselves. Individuals who despite their cramped fingers, painfully distorted muscles and limbs and tremor-giving ‘moves like Jagger’ can still find time to show those little gestures that tell you that they are still willing to give even when they ought not to. Being un-scared to talk about their fears and still be bold enough to see hope in the hopelessness that seems to assail them on all sides. I recall my last conversations with my attorney and solicitor and friend, and with regards to their question about how I was coping with the bills and related issues – I can say honestly thank you to all those who chose to say no and do nothing because like Albert Einstein, I also can say I did it by myself – strengthened all the way by Him who delights in me. We are all presented with opportunities daily to do something right, give of ourselves without fear because in truly giving, we experience not just happiness but joy (and I assure you the latter is definitely better and longer lasting).

I choose not to focus on the nay sayers or the dead seas that surround me, but instead reach within me and still give irrespective of how little these gestures may be because I am wholly convinced that my little will be transformed to  much in the life of just at least one individual who desperately needs it. And so I say, to you, feel free to call on me and you will have a listening ear in the first instance because I know what a lonely road it is, being different and living on the edge, and how priceless true companionship is and together we can each proclaim “I AM STILL STANDING, bring it on!!!”

Remember, to live a life or simply exist is a choice that must be made, nonetheless the fact is we were created for purpose.

פרידה עד שנפגש שוב בתזמון שלו עצמו

Adios!