Landmarks, Milestones and Trails…..

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“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
I could spend hours dwelling on the ups and downs of life’s unfair paths however it is more beneficial to realize that we are a product of the choices we make regardless of the position we find ourselves. There will always be seasons but the longevity or the brief span it covers is something that we will never be able to control and so it makes common sense that we utilize the seasons to the best of our capabilities.

Within the brief time I have been blessed with, I have known lots of extremes; I have hosted and dined with royalty and nobles and I have huddled together with the hungry for warmth and together, ushered many sincere prayers for security and a hot meal. I have experienced the vitality and exuberance of youthfulness and also known the despair of learning to be dependent on others. I have known and experienced the short-termed high of opulence and also known the despondency of acute lack staring me in the face; an unwanted but inevitable companion. All of these I have since learned are the signs and milestones of life’s journey which we all take irrespective of who you are. I have experienced the wisdom of being a lender as well as the painful lesson of being an ignored borrower. In all of these, a truth stands clear – there is great wisdom learnt in the house of mourning.

Trail

Trail

I have on several occasions learned to ask myself if I was acting from a stance of courage or of abject fear, and the answers have always varied but what remains constant is that there will always be seasons and the choices I make in those seasons determine to a very large extent how quickly I learn the lessons for that season or how patiently I must wait to ensure that my teaching is effective and the feedback appropriate. Life will never be all roses or all thorns however the beauty of life is that even amongst the dying embers of a funeral pyre, a phoenix can emerge. The fragrance of the roses will always waft but woe betide those who in abject ignorance believe that it is theirs forever because that in itself shows a level of understanding utterly ludicrous in itself. Dynamism will always be inevitable and learning how to break a fall whilst in the safe confines of a trampoline in your back yard is an endeavor that will never be regretted.

The beauty of life’s journey usually lies in those moments that will forever be etched on your memory; some will be cherished forever whilst others will be termed experience because of the searing hurt that came with them. As I write, I recall vividly the number of times that I was surprisingly blessed as well as those moments that I was left with my jaw on the floor, stunned beyond words. Dystonia and Myoclonus will be landmarks on my sojourn however inasmuch as it was a transforming moment but in comparison with events like being a Christian, becoming a father, a lifetime companion, it sort of pales into insignificance. Now being able to carefully balance life scales is a skill we learn as we navigate life because the choice to focus on the dark moments as against focusing on the bright moments and looking forward with unquenchable hope to getting to our destination is one that is personalized. The destination that is charted by our purpose on earth should be the star that shines through even in the darkest of nights.

I recently had to weigh in on a trending situation about faith and religion, and trust me, I try absolutely to make my stance clear. There is absolutely no points scored in kicking one who is already down neither is there anything vaguely resembling authority when you hide behind the innocuous threats of a past life in order to pillage that which you are supposed to be watching over. It bothers on the absurd when you manipulate lives that should be influenced by you, and then strip away the dignity and glory from the innocent lives that you can reach. Choosing instead to trample and flaunt as against encouraging and building, the truth associated with that is there will always be a time of reckoning, that is something that is a certainty. In that era of accountability and reckoning, nothing of material value will hold any worth but what transcends every arena is the compassion, kindness and assistance we apply to every situation we find ourselves.

Landmark

Landmark

I recall with a degree of humor, how many people have literally tried to stump me down because I made a choice to be vulnerable with them. I am still standing and the truth is that whilst my bouquet of medication might soar in price, my trust in God soars even higher. I recall these words; ‘What you make (or receive) is an earning but when you give, you touch (or make) a life.’ Now the question so erroneously ignored is that what you earn is entirely yours to do as you please but how and what put the field out there for you to earn from? I am still nursing a damaged rotator cuff because getting it repaired has just not been affordable but I have neither forgotten those who gave of the little they had nor those who chose to ignore. Infact I will always remember how easily man forgets his beginnings and with the headiness of strong liquor, gives because others are giving and then turns around and demands that he be refunded as the liquor bars and the stripper poles are of more value to him. Ignorance? Maybe…..nonetheless when we can bless but through indifference want to curse, we forget that we are spirit beings on a human journey – every action counts.

Do I have regrets? None even though it still is such an intense journey filled with twists and turns but what I can count on is that my destination is sure and each day, I obediently take one step at a time, knowing that His faithfulness is forever. It is almost a decade since I was diagnosed and never have I found myself on the road pan-handling or begging bread even when there was truly no bread in the pantry. Each year in its unfolding gives me a deeper layer of understanding what real priorities are and despite those scary times when the trail stretches unendingly in the dead of the night with no light to see milestone markers or landmarks, I cannot accommodate the thought of giving up. When the taunts of ignorant men, seemingly secure in their wealth, tend to hurt, I remember that even though sticks, stones and words might hurt me but the decision to get up and keep going is mine to make and mine alone. I may not have to give what you specifically request but what I have, I have learned to freely share because not only does it lighten my burden and brighten another’s day, it also frees up room for wisdom to guide me through my journey.

To the many companions and helpers raised in my path, I will forever be grateful because giving is a sacrifice in itself and someday the return on that sacrifice will blow your minds. To the many who choose to be ignorant and believe they hold all the chips, thank you for the lessons in humility and enabling me not to acquiesce to desperation. These are not just fancy words but the expressions from a heart within a battered body, candid and sincere and to all those who feel they must succumb to desperation, despair and despondency in the light of the many who have refused to help, note this – the race is never determined by how swift you are or the victory on the battlefield determined by the strength of an army. As long as you choose each day never to give up, you are chalking up points where it counts and being a beacon of light to the weary, oppressed and downtrodden all around us. We can never change the world but we can change a life, so go ahead and give a lending hand to that outstretched arm and if that is all you do, be content and press on.

Remember, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia

עד שניפגש שוב, מי ייתן ובהירות ארשת פניו תמשיך להאיר את דרכך ולתת תקוו

Adios!

Taking Inventory…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adios!

Between two cities…..

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In the course of my remarkable journey through life, I have been blessed beyond measure by the number of lives that I get to encounter. And when I use the word ‘encounter’, I mean it literally – at train stations where there are no escalators or elevators. The chap giving up his seat on the morning train while people are still trying to complete their quota of sleep in an insane bid to multi-task. The fruit grocer who tells me to have an extra pound of grapes even though I just have enough for only one pound. The Procuring officer who, without a hint of irritation in her voice, logs in an extra thirty minutes (off the books) just so I get there on time to finalise my business dealings with them. The charming lady with kids who insists on helping me with my shopping despite my clamour for chivalry. I could list complete strangers who just by their actions with no regards to any form of obligation or brevity of time have become contacts on my phone book. Most of whom, I am fully aware, will continue dealing with their own issues as soon as they get off at their predestined stop.

Those are the family of strangers that I belong to and within the time frame of our interactions, I know that they have inexplicably earned a paragraph, a page, a chapter in my life’s tale. Today, I look at my phone book and due to the insistent demand for independence by my neurological system, I have figured out new ways of getting hitherto simple tasks completed with the least amount of added stress to an already over burdened system. To every name, there is a face to match because just like I was explaining to my daughter yesterday about how the brain is a muscle, I had hitherto engaged in mental exercises that ensured that my memory was catalogued. I do not forget faces or names but with the unrelenting clamour  for autonomy by my nerves under the strong influence of dystonia, I have learned how much of an anguish it is when I try to engage in placing a face when I hear a name or matching a name to a face as we converse…….and so I just reinvent a new method of mental indexing to lighten the associated burden of doing things the old way.

Needless to say, I still remember, and when faces and memories ricochet in my head like a hastily fired off shot from the muzzle of a Springfield XD 3″ sub-compact semi auto pistol in a tiny confined space, I have learned the futility of trying to catch the bullet or limit its bouncing around. There’s no good result regardless of how much effort I make and so I just reinvent new methods. Still there are lives that so significantly interspersed with mine that I cannot help but just put them in a category much more easier to rifle through. Now I chuckle when I remember “there are many ways to kill a rat” because now, it’s so amazingly simple to just open the door and let the rat go find someone else with the energy to alternate between the many ways of ridding the world of just that one rodent.

Within the space of four weeks, I learned of the demise of two men (way past the prime of their youth) who touched my lives in so much different ways as their locations. Two continents apart, one life being the only common factor, mine. One preferred to get from me as much as he could even though he rationalised it by saying ‘it’s because of your condition I am even negotiating with you’ – when in reality, there was no respite applied. The other, was as open-hearted as I have ever seen anyone been and even when he struggled to remember the subject of our last conversation, he would still embrace me and plant a kiss on my cheek while propping himself up with his walker. He gave more of himself than I ever gave to him because when the twilight comes creeping in, we more often remember the givers than the takers.

In response to my enquiries, one passed away alone with no relatives or friends with him until he was discovered by one of his tenants. The other had nothing but a long list of lives he had touched with his humility, compassion and smile; who stayed with him till he transitioned with a hymn on his lips and a smile on his face. Am I in anyway trying to make light of the fact that to every season, there is a beginning and an end? Definitely not, but I still cannot picture how sad it is to exit the stage alone and unobserved by the rows of spectators who watch our lives because in all fairness, we are all called upon to play our roles on this stage of life. And so, I know that regardless of how poorly a role you might have played, the least you deserve is a slight smattering of applause just for showing up. However, my question is why would I settle for the polite applause when I can get a standing ovation, not in response to fame or my gaudy attire but in response to the collection of individual lives that were so impacted by our meeting.

When the final stage curtains are dropped and your role is done, what would be the response? Mere courtesy or deep hearted appreciation, I choose the latter every day and so my intent is not to run around like I’m in a game of tag (well I don’t run anymore) but to ensure that whether the duration of encounter is measured in minutes or by decades, I gave of myself both in cash (when it’s there) and in kind. It is so easy to gravitate towards the company of those who give than the company of takers but remember that you are the star character in your own role, and whilst you may delight yourself in being ‘smart’; there is something within you that is meant to be shared with others. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without wall” – Proverbs 25:28 Of what use is a city without walls, how do you provide safety for those entrusted to you?

We are all cities; size, population etc might vary but a city is what you are, and so in this arena called life, what makes you stand-out? Handouts from your fully stocked cellars and granaries might suffice for a bit but when the curtain falls and your granaries and cellars are pillaged and looted by strangers, the insignificance of your handouts would suddenly become glaring and shameful. We are cities stocked for the long run, and giving is a sacrifice but sacrifices are not a hobby in any location I have been to during my sojourn. Though my walls may be in dire need of a fresh coat of paint, and my watch towers have slowly lost their glimmer, there is still something to share with that stranger who seeks solace in the shadows of my walls. Though the buffet table be removed and the fountains but trickle slowly, there is still enough to parch both our thirsts. Though my blankets have all but lost their fleece, and the chandeliers are but a spot on the ceiling, I know that the warmth of our conversation; true and sincere, will create memories never to be forgotten when the time to part ways draws near.

Remember that time never stands still, but even with its passage when the arms of sleep so tightly embrace, memories will always be created.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!