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!

The Abacus Path….

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Counting

Count your blessings

The abacus? Oh yes and there are many more from where that came – the hourglass, a logarithm chart, a pair of protractors and dividers, map reading with a twine and a rule. It’s usually funny when in the midst of a discussion with millennials, I refer to a word synonymous with my growing-up days and I am confronted with a look of utter bewilderment, on other occasions it could be a look of utter pity. As time passes by unfailingly, there are those times when we wish for some events in the past so that we correct them in the light of today’s world events. However time once spent can never be recovered and so with each new day comes opportunities to create new and better memories. There is really no gain in seeking to bask in the glories of the past, rather live in the present and utilize the experiences of the past. There will always be the memories to cling to and for those bad ones, their poignancy is gradually lost with time, Affirming the truth that as voyagers, we must make something of what life hands us.

It is the beginning of a new month and the last couple of days have been truly horrendous especially with the summer because heat is a dystonic episode. Again I am reminded that with every hello, there is a corresponding goodbye and so I write this piece in dedication to two unique individuals that I have truly been blessed to encounter. There is truly, for me, no greater satisfying endeavor as learning how to count each day’s blessing because the contrary option would be to give in to the chronic pain that has become synonymous with most neurological diseases. And most assuredly, these villains are ready to pile on more strain to an already over strained system and so instead of conceding, I choose to focus on the benefits of each new day. In the course of my many interactions, I have been blessed to rejoice with those rejoicing and comfort those going through adverse times. No greater examples readily comes to mind other than David Moreau & Dan Gearhart.

David Moreau was an exceptional individual, describing himself as the ‘Tip of the Spear’ at MS Warriors of Hope. Despite his valiant battle with Multiple Sclerosis, he always was eager to share another’s burden. With a love for life, he loved to give when and wherever needed. With his catchy statement,”I am not chronically ill, I am medically fascinating” a statement in essence that just bore testimony to a life based on a resolute faith in God. His last post on social media was at 6am CST, August 1st: “OMG…woke up to increasing pain in my chest, this hurts so bad!” and despite being given the all clear by the ER personnel, he succumbed not to the dreaded MS hug but to a heart attack. A heart that was the source of so much joy and inspiration, he was truly inspiring and now he has gotten the victory over the MS that threatened to bully him into submission. For in the bosom of God, there is no pain, no illness, no sorrow. “Farewell brother, you have run your race and finished strong. Now I am more committed to paying forward every blessing I receive!”

Dan Gearhart is a Parkinson’s Disease warrior but despite that, he is currently one of two major combatants in another battle that ensues. Life all by itself is not the ideal standard for fairness, however what defines a man as a champion is learning to navigate life’s choppy waters and never cease rowing. A father of 3 adorable kids, he just got to see them after 65 days of deprivation and is currently striving to ensure that he remains the loving father to his kids despite being ejected from his home. In all honesty, I understand the added strain of being kicked while you are down because I didn’t get to see my own daughter in a period of 42 months, where dystonia was labelled as a mental illness interfering with my role as a father. However that is in the past, because it is futile to be confined to the past when there is the present to live in and make something of. Today, she is with me and it is just an amazing testament to the faithfulness of God, new blessings with each new day. It is unimaginably cruel when your medical challenges are used as a cudgel to bludgeon you repeatedly however true strength is defined by the number of times you get up after being knocked to the ground. Wars are long and hard but victory is not achieved by sheer brawn but by the application of wisdom and the support of allies.

In the course of my own journey, I have learned that today’s achievements were yesterday’s dreams and so in like fashion, our achievements of today should be the stepping stone for those coming behind us. Learning to number each day’s blessing is a more worthy venture than collating the number of times I wince from the discomfort that is peculiar to dystonia. Despite not arriving at a stalemate with my knees and my back, I am careful in my choice to focus and help another rather than focus on the chronic pain that every little movement causes. Even after the boisterous laughter, I choose to smile through the pain and when the groans become too much to muffle, I still press on. Refusing to be restrained by the clinging tendrils of huge trees and the darkness of the forest, I press on towards the glimmer of day knowing that the slight glimmer marks the end of this foray in the forest. From past experiences, I know that it is not about how gigantic the challenge is but rather the assurance of victory by faith. It is not about my dependence on medication or the flamboyance of some medical expert (David was in the ER prior to his demise!) but rather on my acknowledging that victory has already been won.

Today, I am yet a witness to the birth of a new day and already I choose to celebrate with friends whose birthdays are today. I choose to celebrate David’s victory over MS rather than wallow in the misery of ignorance. I choose to stand with Dan in his fight for his kids: praying that his strength does not wane and his faith not be relinquished in the face of so many daunting foes. Sending a letter to Governor Butch Otter and Lawrence Wasden to prevent calumny and injustice from reigning is an action that I am committed to, because as long as you are able to discern a need, there will be provision for that need to be met. In my journey, I have learned how to nurture that little glow of hope even when the night is at its darkest because I know that the dawn will soon come and so I better not get entangled and hopelessly stuck in the hostile and marshy territory of this neurological nightmare. I have learned that with each significant hit to my FICO, there is more room to display the significant rise when the time comes because I am confident that someday change will surely come.

It is best that each day is begun with the counting of the day’s blessings or else chaos and hopelessness might just seize that opportunity to reign unchecked. There are experiences that truly cannot be shared through words and so I choose not to devote energies towards trying to make people understand what an average day looks like. Once a need is discerned and there is no action supporting that discernment then it is foolhardy to believe that we are not living selfishly. I want to do something when there is a need and that want will usher in supplies. Without denigrating the lives around us, let the choices we make begin by counting the blessings of each new day and when you do, you will find enough to give to someone truly in need. No man is an island unto himself and with that in mind, I live each day eager to assist another even if we are both marooned on the same island. No better reward exists than standing alongside a friend and helping them along in their darkest times, that is part of the reason that explains our present location and were I to nonchalantly take each day’s gifts for granted then it would be foolhardy of me to expect more tomorrow. It is in the little that faithfulness is born and nurtured, so that when the little becomes large, we will be clear headed enough to do the appropriate thing.

Today is another new day, what better time than now to pause and count your blessings. ‘Shout to the Lord, all the earth’ is not an option, it requires full participation and so if there are doubts that still reside within your heart, be diligent enough to rid yourself of them and truly count your blessings – name them one by one if need be and it will really surprise you what God is continually doing in your favor. ‘What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

When the words dry up….

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https://redzhis.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/When words dry up

A Dry Fountain

In 1998, I was blessed to attend a global Christian conference targeted at reaching Christian students in colleges and other tertiary schools with the primary aim of showing us the need for evangelism (if memory serves me right). It was such a unique event with over 38,000 students representing schools from all parts of West Africa gathering in one location. One of the unique experiences was having to interact with other college students, learn the realities that were peculiar to each region and ascertain what the tastes and cultural values of the different ethnic groups were. Above all, it was such an overwhelming experience to realise that regardless of how fluent the spoken English was or not, there was a common denominator; we were all Christians in tertiary universities united by each person’s unwavering commitment and allegiance to a loving Sovereign God – striving to live a lifestyle as exemplified by Jesus while He walked the earth. Speakers from all over the world graced the pulpit, and when we broke up into smaller groups for further deliberations, it became more profound because then more of us identified our purpose and received the needed empowering beginning with knowledge. It was actually both a spiritual experience and another opportunity to acquire knowledge.

One of the lessons I took away with me was not just the opportunity to meet new people but the fact that there would come situations where you just had to stand all by yourself. And it was not just standing by yourself, it was standing with an unflinching belief in what you believed in. Knowing that come hell or high water, you had better be truly convinced in what your beliefs were or the inevitable result was to be smashed against the rocks of uncertainty, doubt and regret. As the years passed by, more than one of these situations arose and as the pressures (unique to such situations) piled on, whatever you had painstakingly stored within yourself was forced to the fore. I learned that when push comes to shove you had better have something inside of you or you would go sick with dry retching as you painfully threw up nothing because……….there was nothing inside of you. And so it was not just a new lesson, I had already been taught that by my father, it was the chance to apply those basic tenets and whether I was all by myself or not; reveal without a hint of pretention, the real me.

One of the signature cuffs that myoclonus keeps on forcing on me is the inability to really speak for extended periods of time because as I speak, the words are all there but the increasingly dryness of my mouth gradually deteriorates into the seemingly incoherent mumbling of one totally inebriated. And as days come and go, I have forged new methods of circumventing this experience. In addition to always lugging around a bottle of water at all times, I have started carrying around mints, candies, anything that combats the dryness (I have never been a sweet tooth) and so initially while it seemed childish, in comparison to the increasing puzzlement on the face across me when I am talking, there was really nothing to it. I had to choose between the ruffling of mints in my pouch/pocket or the deterioration of my speech which usually begins with my mouth drying up till I am barely able to string a complete sentence together.

In the last three weeks, I have become friends with so many remarkable people; ranging from those who are still grappling with the recently received diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) or Dystonia to those who have courageously stepped out from the walls that they have built several years ago in a bid to focus their all into the daily battle of living with PD or dystonia. I am, still again, reminded of the resilience of the human spirit that refuses to be broken when you acknowledge that your spirit’s resilience can only be activated by choice. Choosing is easy when you are faced with just two options; when you understand the significance of each option. When you realise that the strength and resilience of our spirits is not something that is passed from parent to child, it is something that comes with acknowledging that we’re truly nothing when we are unplugged from our source. For it is our Creator, the Sovereign God that strengthens us when we embrace the fragility of our weakness and our vulnerability as humans.

One of the beautiful things about science is that it does not explain everything and as long as you continue to butt your head with that, wrongly believing that science has all the answers then the beat down is just going to become more frequent. Greatness is both born and made, and I dare say that greatness made is of more value to you than when it is handed down to you on a jewelled platter. Struggling to your feet after a beat down requires all your energies and hurling all kinds of expletives at dystonia would just be an exercise in futility, it does not care about you feel. However, most times, it is not the yell that has more weight or achieves more but the barely heard words spoken on the inside (encouraging yourself to get up) because your mouth is so dried up that salivating suddenly seems like a mirage in the desert. We may all look alike in some way but what truly differentiates us is the response or reaction after a beat down. An experience is not the event, it is the way we respond or react to the event – good and bad experiences are just tags, what we take away from the event is what tags it as a good or bad experience.

Now it has almost come full circle because life has been more than just a quiet and calm sea, definitely not, instead I have been besieged on all sides by what I would never have chosen in my wildest dreams even if it was the only option left. Living with myoclonus has been one of the roughest phases I have beeen through but what makes it so different, apart from it being rare and ‘incurable’, is the unpredictability of its expression and its triggers. And yes, individuals may infer that they are there for you but when dystonia is giving me such a beat down, I can but appreciate the candour of this truth – few will be there to help me to my feet based on the compassion that makes us human beings combined with the fact that everyone has issues. However, it is almost sheer folly wanting more from them during the beat down, there is just one subject of the beat down and that subject is me. There will always be help, probably around the corner, but I have learned that harbouring resentment only makes the entire experience worse and elevates the hurt from just being physical to more of a searing hurt on my insides.

Learning to appreciate the little everyday victories in our yet unending fight with these nasty diseases/disorders is something that must be sought for, nurtured and applied each day. Whether we choose to wait for the drumroll or not, a victory is a victory and the magnitude of the victory is just another human parameter, just as flawed as everything else we make. Words will always count for something; fragrance or noxious, soothing or destructive, the nature is our choice to make but there will come times when those words can barely be uttered and our actions in the silence of those times will inadvertently determine whether we believe that we are created for a purpose or we are just existing for ourselves. Today, help will come, and most often from the least probable source but till the help comes, let us never for a moment entertain the doubts that we are worthless because we are unable to convey how we feel to the person standing next to you. And even when we are sorely reminded by their presence by their elbows digging into you, intentionally or not, let us not base all our hope on things that are fleeting in nature.

May our words be true not superfluous or ensconced in falsehood, and when we can barely utter words, let us remember that our actions tell a tale of a life living with purpose or not. I strive instead to show that I can be a beacon of hope, bearer of light and a vessel of right living and that despite what the circumstances say today, I refuse to be defined by them because I know better days await ahead.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!