Keeping Up Appearances..

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2020

“A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than a lot of friends who only know your smile.” I do remember my first lesson in gratitude when as a kid, I really did not like the pair of shoes that I was told to put on and with a stern look, my father said, “Someday, you will come across a man who has no feet and then you will appreciate that contentment is a choice.” Those words certainly popped up more times than I can count as I grew up and even though there were several occasions I chose wrongly however thank God for second chances.

It is the beginning of not just another year but specifically it is the beginning of another decade and I am truly grateful to be blessed because chance happens to everyone but not everyone has the ability to utilize life’s chances. Every year, I try to spend the first moments, the first minutes, the first hour in being thankful and then it is off to the races as I attempt to implement the personalized theme for that year. This year was just a tad different because I was confined to my bed for almost 2 straight weeks and so I had to be resourceful even as every move brought a groan of intense agony. Regardless of the limitations of my circumstances and some, it was time to ensure that I was on D (drive) not Park or Neutral and just power through.

What is that (in)famous quote of insanity? ‘Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity or folly’ and so just as the year in itself is unique with lots of mystery, it is therefore important that the past has been reviewed so that the past remains history (moving on with lessons learned) as I deal with the present and look ahead faithfully for the best future yet. No resolutions for me, just a decision to make this year better than the past years and unfortunately that includes backing away from what I would normally (and often bullishly) tackle. The default nature of man is to address people based on their appearance however with the surge of social media, appearances are often a far cry from reality. Is it my decision to be a better sleuth or discerner of people’s intent? Most definitely not, my decision is to separate fact from truth, fiction from fantasy by learning more; meaning that I need to listen more than I speak.

Worry and complain are definitely not on my list of traveling companions, they just suck out the joy of today and deflate the enthusiasm of hope; hope of a better future. I choose to literally implement the words of a young lady who means the world and so much more to me, “stop stressing yourself!” and ironically I have always categorized myself as one who never stressed – talk about how others except yourself see your actions! So instead of thinking that I am not stressing, I am forging a new path by making sure that I am relaxed and chill come what may. 357 days yet to come, each day completely enshrouded with its portion of blessings and evils, with little or nought to do but pray and trust God. My decision is to find and embrace the serenity that comes with each new day, regardless of how little a portion it might be. I choose to accept that the future is such a delight that fabulous really does not capture it, and so my appearance this year is more of what is going on inside me rather than what the eyes can clearly see.

Taking cognizance of the fact that I am flawed and imperfect, yet I choose not to dwell on those imperfections but rather strive to become better each day; forgive more, offend less, be more accessible and vulnerable. This year, I commit to leaving the past behind, with its share of hurts and resentment in order to walk lighter and see a horizon much more clearer than it ever was. I admit that the journey did not even begin comfortably but I am grateful that I can repair what can be mended, discard that which cannot be fixed and truly number my days with wisdom. Thank you for being a part of my journey and I may not know your name however I am thankful for the privilege of encountering you. Together, let us make this year our best year yet albeit in little gestures but more importantly let us learn to live.

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

Adios!

Clearing Debris II……

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Debris

After the storm

“The tides of life are a beauty to behold on a cool spring evening but remember that like many of the elements of life, the mysteries of life can either be utterly devastating or be a panacea for some”-Ryan CC. It has been no intentional act of mine to take a summer break but in the light of recent events, I have been stretched in more ways than one and the frustration of realizing and accepting that there is so little I can do in the face of the many needs is quite a sore experience. Relieving quite a few people who were severe victims of the hurricanes has been an exercise with mixed feelings. Mixed because there are so many layers to life and when you unknowingly choose to disregard that fact, then sometimes the reminder can be quite traumatic. It is in times like these that you understand that sometimes not speaking is more of a solution suitable to circumstances rather than going full steam in expressing your regrets. A simple phone call to check on how another is doing means so much more than asking what the cost of restoration might be, wisdom is absolutely essential.

Why do I write? I write because I am hopeful that maybe just one person, whether you are going through your own storm or not; will find some strength and hope to persevere  through their storms. There are so many learning points, so many peculiarities in the experiences I have had and am still having on my life’s journey. Being a parent, I always say, is not a task for everybody most especially the ill-disciplined and those who lack self-control, because in order to give, you first of all must know what giving is and also have something to give. It is so easy to stand in your cozy den beneath the sturdy roof of your house, looking out the window and feeling some degree of pity for those struggling through the rains, battling with gusts of winds and more often struggling to keep an umbrella open while lugging your bag or briefcase around. It does not usually require an academic degree to empathize (for most people), but neither is a degree required to see a need and do something about it to the best of your abilities. It is your response or reaction when you are in the middle of your storm that to a very large extent lays out the default pattern for your choices and responses to the lives that you have been privileged to be amongst.

Taking a drive through the city, it is clear that we are on a long road to recovery after surviving Harvey and I am so grateful to see the resilience of the human spirit and the bonds of compassion that marks us as human beings . I use the word ‘surviving’ because it is about living and not about the ability to make or lose wealth. That is one of the many abilities we each have but again the degree to which it is used varies from individual to individual. It is on the basis of this that I always emphasize that just listening to someone going through tough times is always a first step in the right direction. I have all about lost everything that once mattered to me, and so that poignancy can be quite heart wrenching however the truth remains that just as synonyms and antonyms exist in words, there are always two sides to everything in life. Our definition of ourselves is usually marked by the side we choose to stand or the stance we choose to take, that is something that we either do ourselves or we are compelled to do and I wholeheartedly assure you that the latter option comes with more pain and grief.

Driving through the city, I am dismayed by the huge mounds of debris that line the lawns of homes, seen items that occupied opulent homes now confined to the anonymity of black trash bags; I have been into homes and seen the abject sorrow on faces as home owners still try to comprehend the devastation that they face. I have heard the sorrow come across in waves as friends relate their gut wrenching tales of having just enough time to grab their kids and evacuate the homes that they built through honest means. I can totally relate with that because my first house building exercise was in my late teens and I know the time and effort that went into it. I also recollect vividly the satisfaction washing over me when the house was built, the rush of joy that accompanied the utterance of the words, “Finally, it is ready!”. Regardless of how high you climb, there is always the risk of a fall but does that mean because of the fear of falling, we should not climb? Far from it, however knowing that with a climb, comes the risk of falling, we must endeavor to be careful in our climbs. Ensuring that we leave a kind word with those we climb past because they just might be the same ones who will act as a buffer when you fall. Remember to pause in today’s harried pace, and help someone along because although we each have our own paths, there will always be some intermingling with the lives of others and what we do when those situations occur is very significant.

Debris2

Clearing Debris

And because I have also been opportuned to have lost everything of material worth, I also understand the anguish that often comes with that loss. On the other hand, I have known the realization that losing it all does not translate to losing me but if I were to focus more on the pain of losing what was so painstakingly put together then I just may as well be in a court of law hearing the judgement of “life imprisonment without the option of parole” meted out to me. The cruel truth is that we so often define ourselves by what we ‘create’ (totally erroneous because everything we have is a gift from God, Our Creator) that we completely lose sight of the fact that we are all on a journey and no matter how detailed your trip planning was, you can never factor in the unpredictable events that characterize life. By our own flawed reasoning, we so often confine our lives to the tangible and give no room to the intangible, that it takes only an act of significant value to compel us to reevaluate our priorities. In the same manner, despite our skill in logical thinking and acute analytical reasoning, when the unpredictable happens and we are forced to watch in abject dismay as losses pile up, we become like the stalk of corn that is blown in any direction the wind chooses except we have our roots deeply planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I have learned that as long as you focus on the debris in the aftermath of a storm, you will be unable to see the new opportunities that lie just ahead. The debris after some storms are so highly stacked that it takes only a concerted effort with winded breaths to navigate through the debris so that we can catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. Nonetheless, our navigation skills amount to zilch when we steadfastly allow ignorance and lack of vision to reign because the subsequent result is there can be no joy or satisfaction that comes from fulfillment when we are not even moving. No matter how much you love your earthly possessions, when the rot sets in and the mold spreads, when the air around you can no longer be taken in, then you must clean house or else your life tale will be told specifically to the foolish to enable them gain some knowledge. After every storm, you must clean house – get all the debris out, rip out the sheetrock, get rid of that heirloom because until you do that, you will remain stuck in an island of decay, illness and death. For those who unwittingly find themselves on such islands, a note of warning – life and growth do not exist there!

I can say that things will never be the same again because they will not but guess what, you will be different because life’s processes either kill you or make you stronger, if you choose right. Your wellbeing is not a function of the amount of insurance claims you turn in, the efficiency of the insuring company or the amount of subsidies you are entitled to. Your wellbeing rather, is a function of the foundation upon which your life is built in and where your trust is, and there is no better foundation than a foundation of faith, faith in an infallible God who has got nothing but the very best of you. You are an image created in His Likeness and ultimately for His Pleasure and it is Him alone that everything else is subject to. It is okay to grieve but why grieve if you understand and acknowledge that for there to be a beginning, there must be an end. Grieving ceaselessly over the end keeps you rooted in a spot and as long as you stay rooted, you will not move on to the beginning of better things. It is in the middle of your storms that your foundations are tested and so it is wise to be sure of your foundation because when the storm hits (and it will surely hit), you will either crumble like a pack of ornately designed cards or stand tall and strong amidst debris but with peace and faith that can never be washed away by a storm.

Remember that the treasures that count for eternity can neither be found in the tangible aspect of the world we live in but are irrefutably located in the intangible aspect of life, so it is best to choose what treasures you seek and whilst you seek, take into cognizance that it will be foolhardy not to consider a suitable storage place too.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!