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!

Where you are now…..

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Here for a reason

In this era of living on social media, I must honestly admit that I rarely watch videos sent because most times it’s a waste of time. However the weird thing with technology is those spam, unwanted videos, ‘pass it on to 1 million….’ et al still make it through and these days when I pop into my photo gallery, I do a double take because there are loads of new and unknown video clips. And inasmuch as it seems akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, sometimes I just do a quick housecleaning because even I need some space on my devices.

Today, I met Dr Dennis Bentil and even though I chose that today would be a good day, it sure wasn’t turning out that way. Nonetheless I know that regardless of the present circumstances, my choice counts. After about 18 months of thankless, arduous work, I just got shanked and boy, does it hurt. The reason it hurts bad is proximity and shanking go hand in hand, I knew there was always that possibility but if you let the possible outcomes drive you in life then I know the confines of your comfort space is the best location for you. So I’m still standing, re-evaluating the lessons learned and chalking it up to life lessons. Struggling really hard not to commit the fallacy of over-generalization because there will always be rotten apples in every barn but that does not mean saying no to apple cider.

At this moment, I’m counting the things that I’m thankful for. Being grateful is an elixir of some sorts because it drains out the bad and re-energizes you. Admittedly, I’ve had tons of practice but it still does not make it easier and with time keeping tabs, it’s really difficult saying, ‘I have no regrets!’ In all sincerity, even in the basket of regrets, if you search hard and long enough, there’s still that iota of accomplishment that you will find. I am definitely not where I want to be right now but I am thankful that I am here because many have lost that opportunity. Do I let circumstances define who I am and who I am meant to be? Most definitely not, that in my opinion is the life and confessions of a yo-yo, so much activity and no progress.

Leaning not knocked over

I picked up the phone to ask for help yesterday and today and that in itself is something that I am thankful for because even if the response is a ‘No!’, at the very least I do have someone that I can call. My point today is that most times we base our joys and triumphs on results when really the process is what matters more. More than a few occasions in really recent times, I’ve been flayed for my pride in refusing to get a walker or a wheelchair and so I am compelled to get one now because I am more tired of arguing with myself than in searching for anything remotely resembling pride. Does that capitulation signify that I am finally giving in? Definitely not, again I am thankful that there are a few who care enough for me to put up with my long peroration just to get their message across. It is more blessed and rewarding to give than receive because “we make a living by what we receive but we make a life by what we give!”

I am thankful for dystonia and myoclonus because it has brought out more of me than I had ever shared prior to my diagnosis. It is not a blessing in any form (you sure do not want to hear how torrid everyday living can be or how dependent I am forced to be) but it is an avenue where God’s grace and faithfulness is constantly being showcased. One day at a time, one step at a time, one decision at a time. All these remind me that there will always be seasons and so it behooves me to spend my time being thankful for where I am regardless of what I thought my destination would be. Why worry when you can pray? From experience it is less difficult praising and being thankful instead of worrying.

Very rarely have I seen a tossed coin land on its edge and so I would say it’s a wiser decision not to leave your life to a tossed coin because it just has to fall either head or tail up. And being thankful is one of the best ways to prepare for a coin toss.

Bills all around me stacked with lots of room for more

Each bill earmarking an amount owed

However when you acknowledge that bills go on paper

Then can you truly be thankful for the leaning tower of Pisa.

Remember, every knockdown is just another opportunity to take a different stance and no matter how much you combat the hands that want to drag you down, let this fact break through to you – that is just another reminder that you aren’t flat out on the ground. The definition of your life is yours alone but with chin set right and a thankful heart, no storm can best you.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

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!

In the twilight zone……

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In the zone

Twilight

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

It has been exactly 907 days ago that I last found myself in this similar office setting that characterizes most white collar jobs and it can go without saying that I am being flooded with memories from the last decade, some with wistful nostalgia and some with the renewed resolve not to ever subject myself to such distasteful experiences that the very memories almost want to make me bolt out drenched in perspiration and puke, but it all makes for a good telling someday. My back is screaming out from the contusions of my vertebrae, but as usual I will still soldier on, despite the pain because it goes without saying that there can be no pain without pleasure.

So much has taken place between my birthday (a couple of weeks ago) and now, and truly it just seems that in all reality, life’s most significant changes occur in the space of moments but the question is that most times, we are so blithely unaware of the changes that we spend the rest of our feeble days toiling with the effort of trying to grasp the changes that have been so magnanimously wrought on our behalf. I am so not concerned with my lack of ability to do so many things because, life is much more fruitful when I concern myself with those things that I can still do with this weakened but yet living body. I began the year on a good note and I still intend to stay true on that path…..recuperating from a sudden bout of allergies and the seemingly gradual route towards getting better care for this body are things that I hoist above my head and this movement disorder, try as hard as you may, I am not yet done.

Talking about change is a subject that is as vast as time itself however when these changes are wrought by no willful choice of mine, then it usually seems to be a mite harder to cope with but what makes for difference is that change is inevitable but what we do with that change is our own signature trademark that we have passed through this life not just as an inanimate pawn but as a piece who is aware that life is one to be lived. I was in the company of one of the nicest orthopedic surgeon and nurse on this side of the continent and he remarked that he was blown away by my personality (as a child, I thought that superheroes were always super cool anyway but I guess it is a thing of choice or else why would there be villains) but I explained to him that we always have a choice to either complain or just make the best of whatever life throws at you. Now this was no carefully scripted media piece but one borne from my experiences as an individual struggling with a rare, incurable neurological disorder. We can choose to see life as a suction pump inexorably sucking out our juices and leaving us with so much bile that we are indifferent to the lives that surround us every day or we can choose to see life as a funnel with which we can share as much of the goodness, grace and blessings that we inexplicably receive each day. Again, it is a choice to be made.

One of the very first idioms that stuck with me all through childhood is that regardless of how thin a slice of bread is, there are two sides to it. Now the question that haunts me especially in my dealings with majority of people is why the vast majority of us are so stuck in twilight zone that we feel obligated to infect others with as much as gloom as possible. Where has all the love gone to? Smiles back in the days were free as in the word free, what is with all the false warmheartedness that so thinly conceals gall and bitterness in today’s world. I always deem to stick with the two simplest rules – love your Creator with all that you have got (it was a gift anyway) and do unto your neighbor what you would wish done to you (if the shoes were reversed), and from my candid opinion, it can not come any simpler than that. Life is like a leaf gently being blown in the winds of spring and just when you think what a splendid time the leaf is having, a gust throws it down the drain and its gone for good. We will never know what number our days will be but we can choose how we number them – making each moment count for the good of someone else because it is only in giving that we truly receive. The best thing to do in times of despair is to give as much as we can and feel a sense of elation and lightness that we not only did but that we were able to.

Would I have done things differently without the scourge of this disorder? I dare to say that I am privileged to be in the position where I can say that pain has no hold over me, it may just make me do things a lot slower but it sure gives me more drive to do the very things  that make just that other person a little better. It has given me the rare opportunity to realize and acknowledge that family is not based on blood only, but in the ability to reach out and acknowledge that each of us is here on earth for a time such as this. Does it suck as much as it sounds? Yes and more, but being able to pick myself up everyday and refuse to remain in the twilight zone where indifference is the theme of the period is what I choose to do each and every day. Being indifferent has never gotten anyone anything, it is definitely not going to change now and so whilst it may seem like the normal thing to do, shake off those eerie chains that so tenaciously yet invisibly hold you back from being a productive you and be different, take a stand for something, dream something and work at achieving it. Stop being bound by the isolation of your office work space and the confines of your work hours (which you most likely hate) and do something else that screams out ‘I am here and I choose to be purposeful’.

Break out of that mould that you have placed yourself in and begin today, it is better late than never. Do something nice for someone else who may never be able to repay you back and watch the seed you have so bravely planted, blossom into such a thing of beauty. Cut a swathe of cheer and happiness as you walk through life and see the gloom of the twilight dispel in your face. Now is the time to make hay because very soon the sun will go down as it must and then you can truly be glad that you did.

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!