Let’s Begin Again…..

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Anew!

Never been to a real AA meeting however I know it begins with an introduction; name, your reason for attending and as much personal information you are willing to share with a bunch of complete strangers, who with time become a small part of what you may term friends. I choose to say that a very few would become a part of your family. I am an ordinary chap – going nigh on half a century chronologically however physically most days I’m more in the nigh on century milestone. I’m a hybrid which can be interpreted in a varying degree of ways depending on what perspective you look at it from. I wouldn’t say a peacock is my bird of choice although I’m a dog lover and not an avid bird watcher, so a Caucasian Ovcharka would therefore be my pick as my animal companion. I am a Christian with a definitely colorful life – having lived and worked in 4 continents playing a huge role in that. Temperamentally, I am a CholMel (Choleric and Melancholic in that order and mix) and I am living with dystonia and myoclonus – primary generalized dystonia to be a bit specific. I was officially diagnosed in 2011, which makes it at least 8 years with no vacation or holidays in between each day.

Statistics reveal that there are 3 million cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosed every year in the United States where I currently call home. Even with my stint in the navy more broadly, law enforcement, I don’t suffer from PTSD. I still have battles everyday although since Christianity isn’t a religion so it cannot be called an opioid, it’s rather the lifestyle I’ve chosen and live by. I tend to describe myself as a very good listener and like the philosophy that comes with life. I’ve been described as enigmatic, prickly skinned but with a beautiful heart – I guess the point is that my range of description depends on the level of relationship I have or had with you. My IQ is above 100 and I’m conventionally educated (spent about 19years doing that), still learning and teaching where and when its possible. I am heterosexual and pretty good at being and staying one. I love writing (and speaking, if asked to), pretty good at whatever I set as a goal, I still do have a fairly long to-do list which includes but isn’t limited to swimming with sharks, paragliding, parasailing and traveling to 3 more continents and Mars someday. I suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder but I control it much better not the other way round. I live with faith and hope and the awareness that life is a series of seasons.

Strewn along

I am quite imperfect and very much a Work-in-Progress, choosing to get up each day with a ‘Thank you!’ rather than ‘Why?’. I have a relatively skewed ratio of good and bad days, in recent times more of the latter which in no way influences my daily choice. I don’t have regrets even though quite a few of my also few friends have transited this earthly journey, their sojourn completed. Admittedly, it’s a really cold world we live in so I’d say the inevitable mudslinging and lemon chucking still hurts probably more now however I do clean up fairly okay. I have about 8 walking canes because I also suffer from intense vertigo and unpredictable bouts of pins and needles, and on the losing end of requiring to get a stroller which in relative terms for me sits a couple of steps above a wheelchair. My regimen of medication consists of a good amount of category C drugs and few Over-The-Counter medications which I lug around with me…….all translating into several discarded shoe boxes of empty pill bottles and a very upset asset of the pharmaceutical industry with an equally rather poor notion of the insurance industry. I know that people rather know how much you care, than care about how much you know.

I am very weary but still I must go on because how you run your race determines what price awaits you at the finish line. There’s nothing that can break a defiant and determined spirit except you give in to it and that’s what I hope to share more. There are no better helping hands better than those at the end of your arms and for my friends with no hands or arms, you still have what will propel you through the rather frequent desolate seasons. There’s no oasis better than that in God who created and created all things with the best quality control, and therein might be my message to myself. It’s not impudent to ask for help but the results are guaranteed when we ask Him because I know He knows what I’m going through and has made the appropriate resources for this sojourn of mine.

There are times when it feels like the end of the road for me, nothing more to give, still nothing more to gain however I know that it’s in those times that He’s closest to me and so even when even the melatonin refuses to work and my muscles constrict in agony, seeking for relief from an overly active brain firing away on all fronts, I still choose to say ‘Thank you Lord!’ rather than ‘Why me Lord?’. It’s in those moments like today that I remind myself with this quote, “I was given this life because I am strong enough to live it!”

עד שדרכינו יחצו שוב, תנו לאהבתו ולעוצמתו להנחות אתכם!

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!

….bathing in the rain!

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It is exactly 12 years to this day that I unilaterally took a leave of absence from my cozy job with one of the globally recognised brands in the banking/financial industry to sign up at the orientation/boot camp for the Direct Short Service Corp into the Navy. To many, it would have come across as an act bordering on the vestiges of insanity but for me, I had become completely fed up with the monotony of the regular 9 – 5 and just needed something more adventurous. Being put through the paces was no exercise for the faint-hearted especially after the daily wailing of the bugle interrupted whatever respite I was trying to have. Nonetheless, this was what I wanted.

Today, I have no regrets because from that decision, my life took on so many twists and turns that being in a maze would not be too much of a stretch for the mind. Five years after that decision, my neurological system opted to become autonomous and I plunged headfirst into an unfamiliar world of neuroscience, neurologists, dystonia, myoclonus, sciatica, insomnia. Pain, both external and internal, became constant companions and suddenly my to-do list which included setting up funds for my daughter up to university levels suddenly became just a scrap note. Struggling to understand what and how I had started occupying a niche in the opposite extreme from the fiercely independent, highly analytical and logical fellow to becoming someone who pride meant little or nothing to as I struggled with the simplest of tasks like getting out of bed. It seemed as though there were myoclonus triggers hidden behind every simple chore

I can still recall how unreal it sounded (returning from my weekly visit to the chiropractor) as I boarded a crowded Bus 379 from Ilford to Dagenham, when the driver (bless her soul) turned around in her seat and announced “could somebody please get up and give this disabled man a seat.”….Oh yes, she was referring to me and even though I still did not see myself as being disabled, that was me and the picture people saw. It is kind of crazy when you have these flashbacks and suddenly huge waves of nostalgia tend to drown you. How did I get here? What happened to the detailed plan I had? But there I was, all alone, each day a constant battle raging within my soul as I strove to overcome the limitations of my physical strength. Mind over matter! Mind over matter! The mantra did not seem as easy as it was when I wrote it down or told someone else.

Fast forward to this day, I can attest how topsy-turvy this journey has been and I mark today as a notable one because it has always been about the choices God helped me make each day. Refusing to give into the waiting arms of hopelessness and depression, realising that my life meant more to some other person besides me, that even when the clouds were so dark that it could pass for midnight and the gales of the biting cold winter buffeted me so much, I just had to persevere some more even if it meant calling out to or accepting the help of a stranger. Today, I realise that as many strangers came up to me to thank me for inspiring them, they were infact the very ones who were a source of inspiration to me. Strategically placed by God for times when I wanted to just give up, today they are my family.

From those dark days, the light now shines and yes there are still dark days (obviously) but I look around and realise that the options I had back then are still the same two – quit and sink or struggle as hard as I could and stay afloat. We all go through life and what we eventually become is a reflection of the everyday choices you and I make. That the very bleak times we sometimes face can either be a garment that we get lost in or we can use them as the opportunity to train our eyes to see that tiny glimmer of light ahead. We could use those times to lose the individuality of our person or we could use them to further understand that to every limit and constraint, we still get to call the shot because we all were created for a purpose. We could use those times to understand that we were not created to walk alone as against using it as a benchmark for all the bitterness and pent-up resentment just looking for an outlet.

I woke up today, realising that when it is pouring outside – it presents an ample opportunity for me to just get out there and wash off the grime that has built up from listening to the wrong people. To wash off the grime that comes from basing my actions on thinking that my efforts will always be appreciated. To wash off the grime that comes from succumbing to the heat of the moment and letting scathing words do damage, if I choose to. To wash off the grime that comes from engaging in thankless tasks and expecting other people to be grateful for what I do. Today, as always, I choose not to stop because these very ones are there unwittingly to further propel me to heights yet unknown. The rain will always pour, what we see it as and what we do with it is best left to each person. Notwithstanding what we do with it, it will surely rain and as each peal of thunder reverberates through the heavens and the lightening slashes through the skies, it is up to us to choose on what side of the line we want to stand and live.

Remember that it is in the house of sorrow that much wisdom is learnt and it is in the times of adversity that you best count your friends. For on this journey called life, there will always be a meeting and a farewell and so make every opportunity an event that will never be forgotten.

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

Adios!