The Abacus Path….

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Counting

Count your blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

Be Strengthened…..

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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!