In the Eclipse……

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“The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?” – Oscar Wilde

I remember vaguely the first time I witnessed a solar eclipse, and though there had been the usual fore-warnings, it still seemed very eerie. Suddenly but gradually watching the day turn to night and feeling as though time was standing still. I recollect wondering if that was how the end of the world would look like however several years later, with the benefit of knowledge and the chances I encountered, I know with absolute certainty that we will never tell what the future holds but we can with absolute certainty live our lives each day as though it were our last.

In the space of three days, I have sadly witnessed the passing on of three lives – three individuals who at different stages of my life left an impression on me. Even as I write now, it is still almost unreal however I know how fleeting life can be and how with the appropriate knowledge, we can make our lives at the very least count for something. A high school mate in his 40s, leaving behind a wife and two little kids. An amazing pastor in his 60s leaving behind a wife, two daughters and grandkids and most painful of all, a friend and sister succumbing to cancer just today. How do I feel? Shell-shocked and sorrowful but mourn them I will because it was indeed a privilege to have crossed paths and shared in each other’s life tales.

In the middle of the darkest phase of my life, when I was diagnosed with myoclonus dystonia, I remember how numbing it was to have my life turned upside down. And as I grappled with comprehending this major shift in my life, I desperately wanted to be left alone because I needed the time to process what life-transforming changes were taking place. Nonetheless, it is not unnatural to grieve but how we allow these moments of sheer grief and sorrow shape us is entirely up to each one of us. I remember how painful it was to lose everything that hitherto seemed priceless and begin to re-learn what the word priority meant and what things truly counted in life. I remember listening to the sermon titled ‘An ordinary life in the hands of an Extraordinary God!’ and bawling my eyes out as I sat unnoticed and brand new in Bethel London Riverside Church. For me, that was the beginning of another chapter of my life as I gradually began to make choices that counted for something.

That was where I met Pastor Ken Williamson; soft spoken and mild mannered along with a couple of others that I am truly honored to still call my friends. When I could barely afford the devastating fees associated with dystonia management, least of all muster the strength to feed myself, the church was there (a family of strangers bound together by the love of God) picking me up for service and dropping me off. Getting a welfare package regularly and getting to meet some of the nicest people on earth, I learned that it is really an awesome responsibility when your current location is but a vantage point that allows you see a need, because you see the need in order to attend to it. It is not all about money (that is a vital resource), it is the ability to put your storms/issues behind and stretch out a hand to someone else who is at the risk of succumbing to their own storm. Life is a journey whose distance we will never know and so how wise is it to ensure that each day is lived as an expression of gratitude to God as well as an expression of kindness to the lives we come across.

I remember vividly the first day I met Christina – jaunty and with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes and smile, clad in a simple black skirt and plaid shirt with tails tied together above her skirt. I remember how independent she always wanted to be, yet she never spared an ounce of kindness and concern wherever she was. That was the beginning of a relationship that would span a lifetime, through the good times and bad times. I remember being treated as a son by her parents, their house probably the only place I could get to without asking questions (I really suck with directions/navigation). I remember being there at the start of what would eventually be her marriage (recall her twinkly disbelieving laugh when I told her this was going to be it), and working very hard behind the scenes on her wedding day. Neither of us knowing where our paths would take us but completely eager to live a purposeful life.

And when my storms all but broke me down, she was there with me helping cater to the needs of my daughter and I. Selflessly setting her own issues afar and loving the best way only she could. And even when I got her to talk about her challenges, she did so with that unique style of making it sound as though it was nothing at all. A loyal friend, easy to talk with regardless of the thousands of miles that separated us – she was that friend who sticks closer than a brother. I remember the call, utter disbelief in her voice, informing me that she had been diagnosed with cancer. As always, I listened and together we encouraged ourselves, with me being the one with the ‘most’ experience. Reminding her that medical science can have its say but as long as we never give up, someday the eclipse would be over. Experience has taught me never to ask why because we actually lack the ability to comprehend even if we are privy to the answer. And when she told me that the doctors had said the chemotherapy was not working, I told her what I tell myself every morning – “this is my life and I choose to live it without surrendering!”

Today, I got the dreaded message and in this case, the third time wasn’t a charm in anyway. After a year of fighting hard, long after the date given by doctors, she finally succumbed and I envy her because I know for certain that she is finally rid of it all. She is in a place where there are no eclipses, where the horrifying grip of pain and anguish is not allowed….but still I mourn! I mourn because so many have intentionally deceived themselves into believing that money will get them the best boat, boats that have been certified ‘indestructible’ by men just like them. I mourn because amidst a world filled with hurting people, many intentionally turn a blind eye and when they are forced to see, their response is a torrent of meaningless ‘well-wishes’, copied prayers and total apathy. We will not be judged by what we have but rather what we have given, and someday when the inevitability of the end arrives, it will be clear what a life of misery and selfishness we have lived.

My battle is far from over but today I celebrate the lives of my friends whose giving has influenced who and where I am. I hoist aloft a banner of victory on their behalf, praying that when my time comes, someone will do the same for me. As I journey on with tattered sails, a battered vessel, I hear the voices rooting in my corner for me and the only option I choose is to pay it forward, regardless of recognition or reward. I choose to remember the words of William J.H. Boetcker that ‘the difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow’ and so I press on even in the darkness of the eclipse, eyes searching out those who have all but given up. Giving a helping hand, listening ears and a piece of my bread so that together we will press on armed with the knowledge expressed by Elie Wiesel, ‘There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win!’

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

Adios!

Voting with your feet……

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Use your feet, don’t stop at the mouth

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”  – Elie Wiesel

I have just washed down my clonazepam and yet I am still up, the warm eyes of my bedside radio faithfully tell me it is a few minutes past 3am and there is just something really serene about the night-time – it is the best time to actually have a conversation, and I know only One who is up at every moment and I am truly grateful for the alone time because usually it is a time of replenishment especially after struggling through the week on a gas tank that gets depleted faster each time. I really should have gotten round to this earlier on but I just needed to really try to step it down a notch. I take my last 300mg of gabapentin round about midnight and then wait, watch and pray for the sleep to really come. By the way, you know there is this thing about true victory – in the effort, lies victory. And for me, undeniably it has been a full week and just like the tastefully prepared Subway sandwich, there has been loads of sweet and sour and spicy but together it tastes great.  The fact remains that life is all about moments and so we have to choose those that will push us just that lil bit further down our path.

Going by the words of Aristotle “man is by nature a political animal” and therefore the way we live our lives to a very large extent determines what party you belong to – the crowd, the nonchalant and indifferent, the vociferous or the egregious,the nay sayers or the doers. We all each need to truly realise where we are before we can then aspire to be where we want to belong. However this is not a political pitch, I am a firm proponent of being a flag bearer of the truth and therefore in today’s world that makes you alone most times. Beautiful memories of days of activism still serve me and yet I still commit myself to bestir me from the lethargy that so warmly embraces most of us. Just choosing not to do anything and even when there is a need, we prefer to ask more questions (and usually end there) as against just doing something. I would love to appreciate my friend and brother – Uch for giving me the title for this piece and be assured that the word ‘vote’ certainly transcends ballot boxes anyway.

It is always more intriguing trying to express my journey through these words but I am assured that there are many who are presently sitting on a pile of lemons, battered and bruised by the impact of being constantly hit in the face with lemons and just out of ideas and it is really to you that I speak to because there again, you have to vote (and in this context, it simply means doing more than just talking) to either wallow in a putrid atmosphere of rotting lemons or get to work, making lemonades. I just responded to my cuz that the lemonade has become so normal to me now that I have chosen to spice it up with a little tequila……funny right, considering I do not imbibe alcohol. Thank God it is Saturday morning – it is a new day and every morning that I can behold the rays of the sun awakening in its splendour, I know that I can and will make it.  And like Dan Ruther, I would much rather wear out than rust out.

But what happens when you cannot help but acquiesce to the fact that your feet simply cannot go any further? That was the amusing event that occurred on Monday. It takes me about 390 seconds to the shopping mall and as usual, because I do have to really rest, I usually kinda try to make my outings count even though I get to do it alone but hey! we all have to vote and our feet need to take us from point A to B in order to make that vote count – this includes me with my trusty staff of authority that is already showing signs of strain and wear but I dunno about you, every accoutrement of mine says ‘I am still here for you’ and from experience, I have come to actually believe what they tell me in comparison to the deluge of unkept promises and insincere statements that I am inundated with almost daily. And so I decided to see if I could do just a lil bit of shopping as I was almost out of instant meals and fruits. Now the weird thing about this disorder is that no matter how much you would love to ignore it and just carry on for once like the average human being – before you know it, it eerily whispers its commands to my neurological system and the alarm bells go clanging away. The state of independence and emergency rule is declared – you cannot help it.

So there I was, after barely being able to cross the road, plunked down on a road bench wondering how I was going to get home. And I really cared less for the little groceries I picked up, I just needed to get home but how was the issue. The cab companies were not too forthcoming and so I prepared myself to wait for some miracle to take place because miracles do occur every moment. And then It hit me, I had scheduled a house call by my friend and brother and so immediately, with barely responsive fingers (thank God for bluetooth ear pieces), I called out and he rushed to my assistance – helping my quivering  mass into his car and home. Phew! that was really a close call. Anyway we got talking and at the end of the nice company, absolutely unexpected gift and him being there for me, I took away that phrase that until each of us begin to vote with our feet, we are pretty much consigned to a world where anything goes. A case of whichever goat cries the loudest is taken to be the hungriest. And here again, I am completely flummoxed….why do we spend more time making all these neighing noises and yet still standing where we are. One of the fundamental principles of life is that a real man puts his money where his mouth is and in this case, money represents action. We are constantly inundated with words from all sides but the real difference is the ones that actually get put into action.

Like I said, it has been a week – commenced the novel Redcord therapy (redcord.com) here in the UK and undeniably it is something new and worth a shot. Why curl yourself into a ball, throw a pity party and allow yourself be thumped into submission when you can simply get up and actually do something about your present circumstances. Vote with your feet, enough of the semantics and the speeches – it is time to do something and even if it has to be baby steps – get your feet moving. In a bid to fight insomnia, I have downloaded ‘Sleep Time by Azunmio’ which helps record my sleep cycle and tell me how I am faring and even though the stats are not very encouraging, at the very least I am doing something about something. Thanks Vas! I do understand how difficult is it make you understand how difficult it is to really get that sleep but I am thankful for the few hours I do get to notch because I am aware that there are a few who cannot even get an hour. So irrespective of how beaten down you may be, just take a second to realise that there is someone out there who could with a sincere expression of love, humanity, kindness and compassion because it is only in giving off ourselves that we can truly make room for something newer and different.

I recall the teenager who after loads of tests (as usual) was finally diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia, which is an entire reverse of insomnia but I applaud her resilient spirit because nobody can take that from you. And what an awesome experience it has been for me, choosing to place that resilience (it needs upping sometimes) in the Hands of the One who is sure to stand by you through the gloom of the valley of the shadow of death because there is really no hiding place from Him but you have got to vote with your heart and feet and then trust Him to do the rest. It is definitely no bed of roses but you know that you are never walking alone, and that feeling is priceless because no matter how much, a friend, brother, acquaintance pledges to be there for you – this is your journey and they have got yours so save yourself those heart- wrenching moments of despair when they just cannot fit you into their plans, remember it is their plans, not yours and there is only One whose plans for you are true and He will also be there walking you through them but you have to vote with your feet and heart, begin with a sincere conversation with Him and give Him room. I have done that and it sure keeps me going when all else fails.

I have learnt to continue giving for as long as I have got something to give and amazingly there is always something to give but you just cannot let the thought simmer forever in your heart, get those feet moving. Stand for something at the very least or like the crowd on the bandwagon, you will fall for anything. If you have truly experienced the pleasure of seeing that glow light up another’s face when you can share something positive in deeds then that alone is a dead ringer that you are more than just mere statistics. As each day affronts us with its myriad of opportunities, let us do less of words and more of action because you will be remembered not by the words you spoke but by the actions you took – and it begins with casting off that indifference and nonchalance and actually doing something. Thank you for the likes of gorgeous Ure, Funsh with his persistence even if he always has to say the last word, Estee for simply wanting to be different, solid Lola, amazing Shirls, Dee and HCM and a host of many who have been raised up for times such as these. I am giving back too and will continue to because life in itself is a test and you either choose to take it or be forced to take it. It is such a beautiful day indeed and yet again, I see hope even as the morning rays make their way into my room. Grab the opportunity and actually do something for a change – givers never lack and that is why I have chosen to be one. Anyway I really cannot afford to lack more than I already have but with each day, I know it is gonna be better than the last.

Remember what woes of miseries betide they who are simply existing when you can truly experience a life of purpose.  I cap my thoughts for now and see what catnaps i will get 😀

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!