In the stillness…

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Be Still

There will always be that time when it seems like I can barely escape the shadows. When all else quietens, and the sound of my beating heart reverberates through the silence. It is in those times that I reminisce on the topsy turvy of the journey I call my life’s tale and find true beauty in the ashes.

From the plucky little chap in his bright shorts and shirt, tugging on the leash of my toy doggie; Snoopy. The world in all of its enormity, a conquest to be had with nothing looking remotely like an obstacle. I remember how much of a daredevil I was, mischief twinkling in my eyes with hands and feet that couldn’t stay still for long. Searching for and accepting the craziest dares, it looked like I was invisible but life is a mystery box and when jack pops up – it is either of two options, a heart attack or a rush of adrenaline. Regardless of how neatly life appeared, a neatly stacked line of dominoes, nothing really prepares you for the uncertainties.

Even through high school, when friends were made anew with a promise of always being there, life was like a walk in the amusement park with a pocketful of quarters. Never hungry or butt naked, every phase was a trail to attaining a milestone and life was truly beautiful. Sneaking through the pantry with mother’s catering books, whipping out pastries and trying out recipes, nothing could possibly have been better. However there’s always going to be that turn in the road, when visibility is so limited and despite how hard one tries, you cannot see beyond the turn. Stopping, getting down and re-evaluating is not always feasible especially when the thrill of the ride is euphoric.

I remember the concussion I suffered when in my haste (why I always ran is still unfathomable) I ran through the discus sector and got hit by the discus. I remember having my fair share of being picked on and childhood fights. I remember walking home in tattered clothes because my ‘experiment’ blew up in my face and gave me 2nd degree burns (earning the nickname Acidman). I remember being so sick only to find out I had weird allergies. I remember witnessing a nurturing home and loving relationship being torn apart by folly and the influence of wrong company. I remember my first automobile accident, tumbling over and over. I remember being shot at. I remember waking up one night unable to breathe, the race to the ER. I remember journeys to strange places and encounters best left unshared. …….but I survived because of God’s mercy and love.

I recall the university years, being the enigma to many even as I sought to stay true to myself. Plunging headfirst into as many events as I could, getting the down side of misplaced priorities when I chose to continue my internship despite the fact that lectures had commenced. Grateful for the fact that I could be the ear to those in need, a shoulder to cry on for the broken and the elixir for the depressed. Life was beautiful indeed and with the mixture of highs and low, exhilarating describes it best. Graduating from university and going off to the unknown, I knew I would survive because that was just who I was. A blend of healthy spiritual fundamentals and a healthy body, I blossomed within an awesome relationship with God. I was prepared for anything!

Commencing my work career, I thought I had it all planned out and even when I dropped the white collar job for a stint in the military, the confusions of many was the least of my worries. Parenthood was another season and as always I had it all planned out in my head. Setting up a trust for tuition, acquiring what I wanted, it was all going well but it’s in our nature to plan however it is God who decides. Knowing I had that relationship served as a buffer when things went south occasionally, however I had been raised to believe in myself and so I always did. Just when it seemed like I had it all together, life happened. Series of events that I never imagined started unfolding bringing to fore the idiom, ‘when it rains, it pours!’

The culmination of a life in tatters was in December 2011, all around me that carefully built life in heaps of wreckage and just like a skilled burglar, night had suddenly and swiftly crept up on me. Struggling with those fiercely entwining tendrils of darkness, it was a struggle to make head of it all. And each time, I chose to head for the light, the darkness just got longer. This was no medical condition, this was my life now, almost completely subjected to the dictates of the rare, incurable neurological condition termed dystonia. Then it hit me right in the gut; there were no voices lifted in celebration to be heard, no hand to lift me up, no strength to light a match. This was now my life, like a pariah condemned to dwell outside the city walls, isolation was a welcome thing. However, we are a result of our choices and so I learned to bargain with an adroitness I never knew existed. Learned to lace my own shoes with brow furrowed in pain, every little gesture a battle of wits, things previously taken for granted were now things I had to relearn. Circumventing steps to conserve my little energy, being the object of compassion either as I was wheeled in a chair or as I struggled to make my way home leaning heavily on my cane.

In the stillness, my eyes slowly adapted to the darkness and my ears became attuned to the groans of those fallen around me. This was my life but still there was a purpose to it and regardless of the absence of ‘friends’ or ‘family’, one truth stood out; this was my life and so every choice I made had to count. When the cold hands of depression sought to console me, I chose to shrug them off and in the stillness, I found hope that I hitherto believed was lost. I found friends who became brothers and I realized that purpose is not shaped by your experiences rather it is given more clarity during those experiences. Today, I am not just a survivor but I am a victor because even though I have been scorched by the flames, I am now stronger just by the process of walking through the raging flames.

It is in the stillness that you learn some of the hardest lessons, letting go of pride and ambition whilst embracing compassion and aspiration. It is in the stillness that I have learned that my life is not dictated by the size of material wealth but by the riches of intangible values. It is in the stillness, empathy assumes meaning and pain can be shared. I have known abundance and lack, however I have also learned that contentment is wanting what you have, kindness is giving when all else is screaming, ‘save for the rainy day’. It is in the stillness that I have learned that it is better standing in the rain with a friend or someone in need than struggling not to get wet beneath a poncho. In the stillness, I have learned what true strength is, what trusting God means and what living actually means.

Sticks, stones and words will hurt but the resilience of the human spirit is so much more greater. That is what will define you when all else has gone silent. That is what nothing can take away from you except you choose to let it go. It is all about the stillness….

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Meet Chris….

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Meet Chris

Even as I try to chronicle the significant events that occur in the unceasing challenges of living, especially with dystonia, I still find myself deviating on each post towards something that is particularly pressing and in dire need (hopefully) of one other person besides myself. I mean it really would be something akin to the seer who has built a reputation on her abilities to receive flashes (usually in the oddest of places and times) if every time I posted something, it was entirely about an event that happened to me. That right there is one of the main issues I have with the term ‘blogging’ because with the dynamics of today’s world, quite a significant aspect of our words and actions are a far cry from their intended definition and use however that cannot be a deterrent until I choose to allow it become one.

I literally have already had a few eureka points regarding the absurd difficulties that the simple activity of sleeping has become and though I am yet to fully expound on that subject, it usually features a bit in some of my more recent posts. Now, do I write in order to be understood and accepted? The unequivocal and time-tested answer is NO! because I really am not into, never have for as long as my memories can go back, the whole gamut of being a part of the crowd of pressed bodies on the proverbial ‘band wagon’. Oh, and I still am not of the school of believers that proclaim, ‘if you cannot beat them, then join them!’ because it sort of demystifies the whole point of being yourself in a world that consistently wants to make you someone else. I still maintain that being told ‘you are different!’ is till date one of the best complements an individual can get. However in the light of today’s skewed thinking, abject nonchalance and indifference (craftily concealed with the word; tolerance) I want to emphasize that the difference being referred to is based on the fact that there is just only one of you and that God has lovingly crafted you in His Image and endowed with a unique set of skills, a heart unlike none other, experiences that hone those skills, a personality that is distinct (a mash up of family background, environment and inherited genes) and spiritual gifts.

I remember dashing to the comic-book sections in supermarkets (malls) as a child whenever I accompanied my mum on grocery runs, and it may sound funny but the whole goal of dashing there was to try and read the latest ‘Archie and friends’ or any of the Marvel comics. Was I usually able to finish the entire comic?….uhmmm not quite, because inasmuch as I still detest shopping till date, I usually ran out of time either because having my mother search for me after she was done never had a happy ending or that there simply was not just enough time and I knew better than to ask if it could be included in the shopping cart each time. And as was and still is the way of life, there will always be a newer version, a newer edition, a newer model and so trying to keep pace with the new editions was simply pointless and is still is. In all truth, trying to keep pace with the technological changes is an exercise that could literally drive one insane regardless of how affluent you may be, how brilliant you maybe or how much invention ideas ricochet in your brain and blood/genes. One of the wisest to have ever walked the earth, King Solomon was conclusive on this subject, “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity” and I do not whole-heartedly put that in based on a whim but based on the actual experiences of a king in the long checkered history of mankind who lacked neither the warmth of feminine companionship or ever faced the bleakness of looking at an empty or rapidly diminishing contents of a bank vault.

I choose to be thankful for every new day regardless of how bad or great the night before was, because I honestly am living my life on the basis of certain fundamental beliefs and so it does me no good if with all the troubles going on, I make the wrong choice of starting each day being grumpy and irritable. I get to suffer the consequences of doing that and not only do I negatively impact myself but I also spread more negativity in a world that is already brimming with so much chaos and unhappiness. Yesterday was one of those days where my resolve to be thankful could actually be embodied. I love driving and so it is not really that great a deal if someone nicely asks me to perform a driving related task – cue in Christopher from Indianapolis! I happened to be around a shopping mall, actually a very large shopping mall and the only interesting place in a new suburb, when I got a text asking me to kindly pick up Christopher from a non-American restaurant and drop him off at his home. I have over the years learned that discernment is a gift because without utilizing that gift, you stand the risk of being a nuisance in the guise of trying to initiate a conversation (even though I usually opt for just being left alone, I now know that concern and care for another can be subtly expressed through a conversation even when I really do not feel like having a conversation).

And so in the course of another good day, I obliged and picked up Christopher and we actually got into a beautiful conversation (not a monologue) – remember, at every point in life, we are either teaching or learning. What really sparked off my interest was the context of the text he sent me, “I am blind which means I will not be able to see your car……” that by itself told a great deal because most times we feign ignorance of reality and believe that we can move on. Acknowledging reality and accepting it as your life are not merely a play of words, they determine whether you react or respond to everyday issues. My interest was not that he was blind or the presence of his cane (I have several canes myself) and being a champion over dystonia, I know that when pity is expressed as a pleasantry either in greeting or introduction, it really irks me because I am simply just living my life and I know that pity parties are not beneficial in anyway to anybody. Of course, I was interested in his story and amusingly when I asked him what his story was (behind every success lies a story), his response was epic, “I am blind!”. So here, kindly permitted by him is his story:

just living my life

At the age of about 18 and on the verge of graduating as a Chemical Engineer from one of the few schools for the exceptionally brilliant in Indiana, he started having headaches and issues with his vision. Those symptoms prompted a routine visit to the hospital where it was discovered that he had a grape/tennis ball sized tumor in his skull and that was literally squishing his brain and therefore prompting all those outward signs – again there is always more to life than meets the eyes.

After the barrage of tests following such an observation, it was inferred that the tumor had started growing when he was 10years old and had continued growing undetected until it had become such a size that it was now literally life- threatening. So of course, he had to undergo a major surgery to get the tumor out but then the damage had already been done – his vision was irreparably compromised. He had to go through the whole 9 yards of disbelief, post-op depression and having to make a choice of either staying down or getting up and learning everything anew – he chose the latter. Due to the major surgery, he missed a year however his younger sister was just a year below him, also studying Chemical Engineering and so they moved in together when he chose not to quit and therefore he had both the essential emotional support and the academic support (note taking, class attendance etc) of his sister. With the added benefits of attending a gifted school, he was able to complete his undergraduate studies and continued right on with his Masters program. As is the case, he had chosen to prove to himself that he would not be a victim however parents would always be parents and therefore he also needed to convince his parents that he was capable and so unknown to his parents, he declined the usual offer of riding with a classmate to a mid-point where his parents would then pick him up. He found his way to the bus station, rode the bus all the way to Indianapolis and took a cab to the house, to the utter surprise of his parents and that effectively alleviated the concerns of his parents. Along the way, he lost his father to cancer, even as he had also decided to push the boundaries further by getting his doctorate.

Unfortunately, his school did not have provisions for running a doctorate program and so he persevered until he was able to get the attention of an alumni who was on the academic staff at Rice University, Houston. Along with her recommendation and his results, he was eventually offered a place in the doctoral program at The Rice University however this was even a much more significant change because it was a completely different city and largely unfamiliar. Nonetheless, he had a distant relative in Houston who he decided to use as an emergency contact but life is nothing without challenges and so because of the move, he had to get documented as being legally blind, obtain the white cane and engage the services of a mobility tutor. With time, he learned how to use the white cane to navigate and move around and so 15years after the major operation to remove the tumor, he sat riding with me, sharing his story with me whilst headed to his own residence where he lives alone, does his laundry and all the other activities related to everyday living. As we swapped stories, he remarked with a wry smile that he does get the same “you are such an inspiration!” but for once (in my case, quite thankfully), we both agreed that all we do as individuals living with disabilities is simply just living our lives as plain and simple as every other person who makes the choice to live does. With a firm handshake, after getting his permission to write about him, I watched him make his way to his home after having an evening out with a friend.

Now this might come across as long winded, however I believe that as you read this, you will completely understand that none of us are born as superheroes but our responses when we get knocked to the ground by the storms of life is what defines us. As I pen these words, I know that in each and everyone of us lies the potential to make our lives count for something other than nought. Simply put and borrowing the words from Chris, all we do is just live our lives and if for some reason, you are inspired by that then I dare challenge you to also live your life and inadvertently become an inspiration to someone else..

Remember that with each new day, we must utter these words, “Now thanks be to God for His indescribable gift [which is. precious beyond words]” and as we face every day with its new challenges, be reminded “No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human (existence, my words) experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word – He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].” To the temptation of seeing the choice to remain a victim of life’s hard knocks as being the better one, the temptation to become a drain to society, the temptation to wallow in self-pity, wrong-doing or selfishness etc, we already have the victory when we choose to acknowledge and accept them. As for me, in addition to walking in these victories, I choose to be thankful if I inspire you whilst remembering that my life is far from being ordinary and not only all about me. We are all inexorably linked one to another, let our lives not be the weak link in the chain of lives that we are part of.

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

Adios