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!

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!