In the stillness…

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Be Still

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

The Flip Side…..

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Age, my dad once said(still hear him) is a matter of the mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Now that I’m on the back end of my race, I appreciate the wisdom within those words however reality bites just when you think you are all alone. It’s the wee hours of my birthday and it’s quite surreal because the silence of the night can either be unnerving or welcome. For me, it has always been the latter and the ticking of the clock reminds me that time inevitably continues its passage and with its passage comes the realization that being alone is not always dreary or boring. I do apologize for the long break however writing without a suitable device can be a turn-off.

I have absolutely no regrets because every time life tries to make me accede to regrets, I choose instead to see a learning point. My life sometimes feels like a hospital corridor, busy during the day and as the day winds down so does the traffic till eventually it is just devoid of human presence. The flip side is not the predictability but rather the incongruous relationship between the interaction that occurs during the day and the silence of the night to muse over. So much to muse about and quite a lot probably still left to do however I’ve learned that life is best lived when you acknowledge that all we have is a collection of moments. Some seized hurriedly, others like the fermenting of wine gradually but surely assuming shape and content.

Contentment is one of those words that should not be used lightly because you can put up a facade resembling it and yet without an iota of doubt, you know that much effort can be applied to things that really do not matter. The worst thing a man can do to himself is convince himself fo believe in a made-up lie. Does the sun cast its warmth and glow on a select few? Do the stars twinkle for just a select few? No, it is our choices in response to the fluid constants of life that determines how much we are committed to being purposeful. Does time and the light of day wait for the man who slumbers all day? Undeniably, he who chooses to toil at night most likely has his own reasons.

I am thankful for the lives I’ve been blessed to encounter. Grateful for the opportunity to empathize with those who continuously battle the demon hordes of sickness, pain and death. To every season, there is always the start and the finish. Where you decide to stack your chips is a choice you have to make yourself otherwise you face an absolutely horrifying life of trying unsuccessfully to make sense of the choices you inadvertently allowed others make for you. I made my own choices and true, not all were right however I did it my own way. There is truly beauty in brokenness and as long as I put the brokenness in retrospect, I can focus on the beauty.

For me, this is a new year and today as always, I reassess and reevaluate, not for lack of activities but rather to ensure that I am still aligned with my identity and purpose. I know that there can be no darkness without light, so I choose to look for the light even when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me. It will never be about how far but rather how well and with that in mind, I choose to wear myself out as against rusting out. No man, to the best of my puny knowledge, has had it all nicely put together like a rubic cube. Regardless of the roughness or smoothness of my path, I choose to make it a path well walked and with every new day, I choose not to give up. And when those times come again when I’m all alone (because they must surely come), I can encourage myself by saying, “I did it my own way!”

Adios!

Crystal clear???…

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“You can learn a line from a win and a book from a defeat.” – Paul Brown

It is such a bright nice day today, definitely better than yesterday just because I am alive to witness it and choose to share every moment with as many as are opportuned to realize what a unique privilege it is. I know what it is because every day is a new one for me as I refuse to succumb to the selfish dictates of living with myoclonus. It is not just a new day, it is a new month, a new half to the year and yet again another awesome reason to live as though today were my last. I am truly grateful for how far I have come and suffice me to say that I have learned many books and still intend to make some of those books a reference for the many that come after me and those that I have the honor of their company albeit for a brief space of time.

One of the most niggling issues that still keep me up in constant bewilderment and consternation is how can we live a life of meaning without a crystal clear purpose and I dare to use the term a little bit loosely because clarity is a function of how polished the crystal is. Now what makes for a well polished crystal? A not very savory experience, having to be unearthed from deep within the bowels of the earth, scratched and not an immediate head turner if you sure do not know what you are looking at. And then there comes the painful process of scouring off the dirt and the abrasions of the polishing before you can then use the word crystal. Now for the clarity, it still remains a thing of choice because we can get all caught up in the beauty of the facets and fail to realize that the longer we hold it up to the light, the more beautiful a spectrum we behold. I have two of such crystals – LBJ and JOIV and each waking moment I am amazed at the kaleidoscope of ‘words cannot define’ beauty that I see, and that alone is enough motivation to pick my weary body out of bed and get a go on life.

We passed through Italy a couple of weekends ago and one of the striking things that endear me to the Italians is their seemingly insatiable love and zest for life – their cooking, their wines, their women, their language and their spirit. I remember how spell bound I was when I took that first spoon of risotto and I made a promise that for as long as I am blessed with life each day, there is so much beauty and love to share around and even when I am knocked down, I will look up and get the strength to pick myself up again. The question is not why am I not a champion but why have you chosen not to be? Because life’s stage is as expansive as it can get and regardless of who or where or what you are, there will be your moment on that stage. What you do with the allotted time is definitely up to you but for one who has been through some life changing events, I dare you not to look at the clock but make it a performance that will forever be remembered.

A few weeks ago, I lost one of my high school mates – Victor Igene and I can tell you that he was so full of life that till today many of us are still stunned not just by his demise or the irretrievable loss to his family but the manner with which he passed on and I know that given a brief peek into the future, he sure would have done the same thing again albeit with extra caution because he just wanted to bring some joy into someone else’s life. Now we are devastated at the manner of his demise but the truth is that to the best of my knowledge, he had the right intent and purpose. Whilst we contend with making his demise count in the battle to bring about a so much needed change in that part of the world, the onus lies on the rest of us to realize that we may never see it coming but come it surely will and yes there will be loads of sadness and grief but ultimately the question will be, what value did we have on those that we were privileged to encounter and leave behind. To all who read this, let it be known that Victor was an amazing person and will forever be missed.

“Generally speaking, I simply ASSUME that the best is always happening in my life; whether it is enough money,a comfortable and nurturing place to live, whatever. In this same line of thinking, I see myself protected and guided by a squadron of guardian angels…so I seem to KNOW when it’s time to let go of a situation because it;s not good for me, and when to embark on a path that is RIGHT.” -Chelle Thompson

One thing I know for a fact either asleep or awake is that we all know what is right and what is wrong but the challenge is how many of us are bold and courageous enough to embark on the path that is right and when we are able to initially summon that courage and then put it to work, I say that you are no longer a faceless, nameless entity globally but a champion in that little environment. Just like the crystal, get ready for the abrasions of life and the searing heat that will want to overwhelm just becaue you have identified your purpose and have chose to be different. However, I have seen the end a countless times and it never changes, there will only be one left standing on the battlefield, all bloodied up but victorious and it is gonna be YOU. Now we may choose to hide behind the innumerable facades (work, peers, fame, career, past failures etc) that are so available in life but are you going to make that choice to be different. Dig down into the earth that you are created of and pull out that purpose that is laying and waiting to be a thing of beauty. Do not be fazed by the band wagon that has become so monstrous and seemingly the only thing in today’s society and dare to be you.

You cannot make a niche for yourself on everybody’s bandwagon but remember that life is not a bandwagon, it a stage, it is an opportunity, it is your journey and path. Make those seconds count with every life taking breath that you use because one day it is not going to be there and you will have either prepared yourself for the next phase or be confined to an eternity of regrets. It is now we make our choice, not tomorrow, definitely not yesterday but now and with my father’s voice so clearly ringing in my ears, I hear him repeating these words – do not put off what you can today for tomorrow because today is the PRESENT; a gift. Let that crystal in you shine forth and allow people the experience of seeing the kaleidoscope of colors that will leave a positive impact on their lives forever.

“For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity.” – Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!

 
 

 

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