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!

Be Strengthened…..

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He leads meIMG_0381

A friend recently commented on how emotional she feels when she reads my posts and uncharacteristically requested that I write a happy post. Happiness and Sadness, Joy and sorrow, Riches or poverty, life and death….these are like the two sides of a coin. It is what makes the balance in life, knowing that no matter how thin a slice of bread is, there will always be two sides. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is a declaration based on divine revelation. Many would, if presented with the choice, probably opt not to go through that valley but you cannot be whimsical about the order of things. Like ill-mannered kids, picking only the good stuff from the bag when it gets to our turn to pick, you just cannot eat your cake and have it.

Now this is no dirge or eulogy, this is simply the musings of one who has, not by personal choice, being given the opportunity to reach out and touch lives. Sometimes my feelings want to conflict with purpose but not anymore, as long as this heart beats and there is breath in my lungs. I have not yet had the wondrous experience of walking the streets of gold in God’s celestial city but what I have is the opportunity of witnessing how trials bring out the best in us…..when we do not collapse and keel over in defeat. This is not a journal of every pain and sentiment I feel since I got diagnosed with dystonia in 2012, it is almost impossible to do that – how do you describe accurately the feeling of helplessness as you watch everything that you thought was you being stripped away? How do you chronicle the sheer frustration of trying to rebuild a life from the rubbles or pen down the emotions that well up in you as you are faced with medical bills without knowing how those bills will get paid? How do you narrate the disappointments that come from being told you cannot do this by your own body or illustrate in clear terms that the way and the will are two different opponents that must be conquered concurrently? The proverbial town crier might regale in the sonority of his voice in the stillness of the African dawn but when the market is at its busiest, nobody needs to tell him what an exercise in futility it would be to cry out a message.

Money answers everything but what good will all the wealth of the earth amount to when you are confronted with situations that transcend the realm of physical riches. This morning, I answered a knock at my front door and there stood a delivery lady (slightly dampened by the early morning shower) with a huge envelope. Tucked inside the envelope was one of the prettiest handmade card (the largest I have ever received or thought of making) with the words “Be Strengthened” boldly inscribed upon it. Beautifully crafted between the covers of the cards were signed handwritten notes from several of my College/University mates, twenty names in total, if precision means a thing to you as it does to me. Just a few minutes before that I had hung up the phone, thoroughly exasperated with a call agent because she explained that my phone line would only be restored if a specific amount (to the cent) was paid. Opening that card and reading every note contained in that card was quite emotional because these notes were from my mates, now scattered all around the globe-most of whom I haven’t seen in the last 17years. Hold on just a second, if you may please, almost simultaneously I got an email informing me that my PayPal account had just received some funds from these guys who I know have their personal issues to attend to.

I have always loved surprising people, I would rather surprise than be surprised because the logical and analytical part of me usually categorises surprises as something akin to reading a 300 paged book; but commencing at page 85 and ending at page 200, or a shirt half tucked in (in itself, a very glaring and incomplete design, entirely unsatisfactory and requiring me having to work my way; back to page 1 and forward to page 300). Oh yes, I do have mild OCD, so that really can be aggravating at times and so I tend to tell people right off the bat that I do not like surprises! Juxtaposing mild OCD and dystonia is a chemical equation of horrifying  proportions, it almost always have a disastrous result. However I have learned to change what I can and force myself to walk away from what I cannot change (the walking away part is really difficult but in order to prevent triggering an episode, I must walk away). When you find yourself in certain situations, you must quickly adapt or face the option of getting steamrolled, that is what I have learned on this journey with dystonia. There is so much I have had to learn in order to adapt – I have learned that faith is not just a word, it is a lifestyle. Love is not a word, it is an action. Sacrifice is not just an action, it is a painful decision expressed through actions that are quite unsavoury. And that giving, especially when you have to deprive yourself of something, has a longer lasting benefit than the extremely short high of receiving.

I have learned that worrying only extends inconvenience, all activity and no progress and so being told that I am a source of inspiration by men and women from different origins, categories and location is something that is extremely humbling. All I aim to do with each new day is to make someone else’s life and struggles just a little bit lighter even as I struggle with dystonia. Proclaiming that even though I cannot control the storm, I can smile even in the darkness because the strength to go through each day is not mine to dispense, it comes from an inexhaustible Source. All I try to do each day is choose to stick with the design that He has laid out for me, I choose to acknowledge that even when it seems like the ominous winds of life is about to snuff out my candle light, He is still there with me. I choose to acknowledge that even though I am about running out of resources, He has promised to supply my every need and so I have learned not to bother myself with how or when because He always shows up on time.

I am particularly grateful for the immense privileges of sharing paths with men and women of such incredible potential, purpose and focus. Grateful for the recent opportunity to be in such awesome support groups, because with every life I have been blessed to encounter, I have come away with truths that truly liberate – truths that are so deeply engrained in the entirety of my being that even when I am knocked down, I know that there is but one option available – ‘Pick yourself up and press on!’  For the bonds of friendships that have stayed true and the accepting hearts that still receive me till this day. The true description of fulfilment surpasses Rupees, Dirhams, Pound Sterlings, Dollars; it lies in the ability to allow yourself become a vessel through which someone is blessed because when the time comes for the curtain to drop, no stack of gold will prevent it from dropping. For those, who like me are struggling through their own storms, I encourage you to share these words with me, ‘Be Strengthened!’ No life yet created was ever created to be confined to the dumpsters of failures, despondency and hopelessness; your life is no different.

And so, as I reel with gratitude from the sacrifices of these few and others who have refused to just be bystanders, I just want to say that every penned or spoken word comes from deep within my heart. Knowing that we are all on a journey, and as you press on and still choose to give freely even if you are yet to get the spelling of dystonia or insomnia or myoclonus or Parkinson’s right, realise that “there is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” – Proverbs 11:24. Within our hearts, desires lie; noble and pleasing but if we refuse to apply our hands, then we amount to nought but mischief makers, truncating the cycle of life. A soothing word, a little prayer, a look of genuine concern, a little token of compassion; these are what should define us as humans. And when a need is seen, do not first concern yourself with the genealogy but rather do something about it, because if you can see the need then you can do something about it even if reality kicks you in the teeth about your lack. Our lives are more than just a string of academic and professional titles, they are more than the string of mansions and stockpiled gems, they are easels that God uses in writing out a message of love, hope and perseverance to those around you.

Do not bask in the euphoria of your acclaimed fame and status because that in itself is no purpose, do not delight in the flurry of high-falutin verbage because that in itself is no purpose, do not pride yourself in your finely honed skill of bashing people with your beliefs because religion is just a word and not a purpose. Instead I choose to awaken myself each new day with a thankful heart for life and another opportunity to make the day count. Remember ‘Be strengthened’ might just be two words but the value of those two words are beyond the grasp of a life that is devoid of purpose.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

Sowing seeds…..

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Blessed to bless

Blessed to bless

Awakening from my restless brainiac world where the best two hours are like being thrust into a Ferris wheel, everything going around in such a blur that you barely have enough time to comport yourself least off all scream in sheer terror…..but that’s what insomnia feels like. Being exhausted and yet wary of shutting your eyes without ingesting that tiny white pill that gives you a blank world where nothing is, just a feeling of nothingness……my eyes snap open and I realise it’s barely an hour or two ago and yet I’m mentally fatigued. Each subconscious thought methodically pulled apart and a maelstrom of thoughts are all ricochetting in my weary brain. Where’s the rest in sleep, I ask? But wait a minute, if I spend all my time chasing the elusive rest, what happens to my purpose on earth?

I did a mite of shopping a couple of days back and am still recuperating whilst striving to admonish myself not to embark on such a seemingly harmless task however that’s what my body has become. An irreconcilable ongoing exercise between my outsides and insides and it seems to be a losing battle but guess what, the opera ain’t over till the champ says his lines and I’m not done with writing my lines. It’s amazing how much life seems clearer when you are down in the rut, grinding it out daily with myoclonus. It’s also amusing when I come across the experts who are clearly flummoxed and yet are unable to admit that simple truth to themselves. I can because I do battle each moment with a neurological disorder that takes pleasure in persistently striving to make you who you sure aren’t however it’s a game of wits. Persist all you may, the call is mine to make – it’s my life not yours.

I have got this lovely DAB/iPod digital radio and bedside clock and each time my eyes are drawn to those fluorescent green digits, I assure myself that there’s more than just bemoaning my present circumstances. I recollect with astonishing clarity the fun I had working with paper machè, gathering all the old and discarded dailies (for many, just some more clutter that needs to be trashed), letting it soak up in a tub of water till it’s all mushy and then mixing it with yucky paper glue. The smell to many, distasteful it might be but for me, it’s another opportunity to put together that messy unwanted mixture into something of a sculpture that when it’s all dried up would attract more than just glances but back in the days, my sculpture would occupy a place of pride and attract those who failed to see the beauty in some old used newspapers.

Now I admit my fingers may no longer be as nimble as they were back then neither do I have the ability to bend and retrieve those discarded dailies, least of all lug them home and get working but I acknowledge that there’s something of beauty in everything around us. The question is how many of us choose to remain on the level of being too busy chasing nothing, to pause and admire the beauty that lies all around us. Many of us may be content with side-stepping the ‘brokenness and discarded’ amongst us whilst we rush away snuggled in our warm overcoats but realise that the fulfilled life is not only one that takes into perspective what they see but willfully determines to make just that little difference in their world. I can luxuriate in the fact that I may not be able to make a paper mâché sculpture anymore but I can encourage those who still can, but do not realise they can, fashion a thing of beauty from their situations of bleakness as they are apt to be reminded almost daily.

What makes us individuals isn’t just the obvious fact that we are acclaimed to be top of the mammal/primate chain but I’ve seen animals go out of their way to assist an unrelated specie. I’ve been privy to witness love in deeds by those far lesser than us on the evolution ladder. A sparrow with a broken wing being nursed by a raccoon, I’ve witnessed abandoned pups being taken under the motherly care of a lioness and so if we truly are top of the chain, what acts of love define our everyday actions. ‘Saying a prayer’ via comment on social media for an ailing neighbor, friend or family when it cost you nothing to drive out there or send out a card or even place a call. Waiting for the call from that chap who obviously needs a better pair of shoes to warm his feet during the winter, mind you, he can barely afford to place that call. Waiting for your neighbour who’s past her prime to call out to you to please check on her and bring some joy to her life even if it is to help with her groceries. “Love sought and given is good but given unsought is better” – William Shakespeare. The list of little acts of kindness is endless, the question is what if that call never comes, are you absolved on the grounds of ignorance?

My hands hurt and I have to give this body some rest for there is yet a journey to continue on and so I cherish the little seeds of kindness i choose to place on my path because it sure is gonna look rosier to the next person that journeys behind me. That’s the choice I make every conscious moment with each day I yet draw breath, to let things go that truly don’t matter that I might devote myself as much as my body can take, to the things that truly matter.

Remember that giving is truly receiving, what’s that you’ve got in your hands – God wants to use it if you are willing to lose it.

פרידה עד שנפגש שוב בתזמון שלו עצמו

Adios!

Friend or foe………

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FriendshipIt is the wee hours of this beautiful Saturday morning and already the birds are first tweeting their excitement even though they have no inkling of what will come the next moment – now that is TRUST. I can literally watch/hear the dawning of this new day and what a blissful experience it never fails to be. Now is it that I am unable to sleep, nope it is simply due to the fact that sleep comes from GOD and what better way to put these waking moments to use despite the fact that I have already ingested 20mg of clonazepam as part of my daily regiment of drugs. Yeah, it is dystonia and it is real but that ain’t the subject matter.

My best friend Joiv is currently attending the wake keep of a departed friend and colleague, who in less than 6 months before her demise had to lay her husband to rest. Sad right? Now she is gone leaving behind a couple of kids who currently are running around greeting the few ‘uncles and aunts’ who have turned up to pay their last respects. Emphasis on the word ‘few’  because we can afford to be casual and indifferent about the pain of others as long as it ain’t close to home and my heart does go out to these little ones who have seemingly had their world shattered because right now, their care is dependent on folks who are not their biological parents and I can assure you that  “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans” – Peter Drucker.

Friendship is one of the most distorted words ever uttered by man because under the guise of friendship, many a mortal blow is dealt and amongst every twelve there must be a Judas. Taking a brief backwards or downward glance into the lives of some of the great historical names we were weaned on, their end was at the hands of those whom they called friends. For these little ones, I am confident and of the indisputable fact that children are a gift from God and ultimately He alone has worthwhile plans for them (although I also tend to draw the line at the modern day values where children are rapidly becoming a negotiating chip and the end result of two fools engaging in something honorable just for the fun of it).

I am blessed with awesome duty of stewardship of these bundles of blessing (well mine is a bundle as of date….) and it is amazing what responsibilities lies with this duty, for we will be judged not by the accolades of the ‘friends’ we amass in response to our philandering or philanthropy but by the achievements in our own home. Having just read a post of facebook by a lovely lady, I was forced to comment on the topic “for all mothers” because again in my opinion “to give alms is nothing unless you give thought” – J, Ruskin and so the status of motherhood should be further elaborated as not every lady who suffers the pangs of delivery is a mother. One of my most favorite and earliest learnt latin phrases is “cucullo non facit monachum” meaning “the hood does not make the monk”

Now it does seem I am digressing however bear with me, the heart is so filled that words are simply an inadequate form of expression however it will do for now. Taking an indepth look at the rising perils faced by these little ones, it is so disheartening that life in China seems like an option where the number of kids per family is determined by the state ( they have their own reason anyway, we know it). The astronomical rate of child abuse is traceable to those closest to the child, our friends, right? Many like Tia Sharp have had their lives bestially ended by ‘friends’, Ariel Castro was a friendly neighbor, the Hospitaller Order of St John of God was supposedly a place of haven and the list is endless.

The question that begs answering is who is your friend? For me, I opine that you choose wisely because there are friends who stick closer than brothers (take it from me) and in the long run, just like the string at the end of a kite being tugged by the hands of a child, your friends are those who enable you sower above whatever dreadful circumstances you may be in. They stay longer after everyone is gone and remain even when in moments of desolation and despair, you cast them away. They never leave and whilst we are keeping our enemies closer, realise that just one friend is worth a thousand foes.

I have found one even after 2 decades and just like the cacti, they may not be the most ornamental but they last and survive in some of the worst climates. Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are for birds of similar plumage……We were never meant to walk alone (I am no Liverpool FC fan :D…) but “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” – H. Nouwen

Be a friend today. Adios!

פרידה עד פעם מפגישה אותנו שוב