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!

In my armour….

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Full Armor

Every armor has a weakness, so choose where you place your trust

There are mountains high enough to prevent you from seeing the hope in the future. There are valleys so low that they completely drain you of the will to push on. We are all sojourners on this earth and just like everyone of us is distinct so are the trials, triumphs and testimonies that we each get to face in the seasons of our lives. It’s not about bemoaning the lack (anyone can do that), it’s truly about recognizing the lack and responding appropriately to filling it. Today, with temperatures still climbing and a heart still beating, I am once again reminded of the transient nature of life and what we choose to call priorities. Jousting is so often associated with the medieval times that the essence in modern times is completely overlooked. A warrior is one skilled in the art of warfare and more often than nought, his skills are required in battles that are not always of his choosing.

Bedecked in full armor, mounted on a war horse, he faces foes on all sides and even as it is still employed in today’s battles, he must find a chink in the protective gear of his foe. Ironically, it’s the same approach that his foes take, because they know without the slightest doubt, finding and exploiting that chink could very well be the determining factor in what separates the victor from the vanquished. In a bid to ameliorate or possibly eliminate completely any chances of being bested, so much effort is put into protecting that chink because every armour has one. However as we channel all our efforts into staying safe, we fail to realize that victory is not obtained by being safe but by recognizing our vulnerabilities and making them be an expression of our humanity.

I had the pleasure of meeting a friend and his daughter, both from The Republic of Congo, as she had come to spend the summer holidays with him. Yes, another victim of a broken relationship but besides that what else can be seen? I saw a beautiful young lady, probably irreparably scarred but still aware enough to pause her farewell to me and utter these words, “thank you Daddy!”. Just those three words said in that unpretentious sincerity you can always find in a child, made me quietly acquiesce to myself that there’s so much to be thankful for and yet so little of thanking that we do. Prior to her uttering those words, I saw a little girl hurting from her inability to understand what she was going through. Why she had to have both parents in different parts of the world? Why did she have just a little time to spend with loved ones before she returned back to commence a new session of school. In the course of interacting with her, I could discern the resentment because I too have been through similar circumstances. Not just as a child but also as a father, and without allowing Nyela to focus so much on what she was ‘losing’, I made her realize how much her father loved her. That was what birthed those three words, “thank you Daddy!” and as she emerged from my truck, there was a spring to her step and a lightness in her voice. That transformation took place in the space of 7minutes 42seconds, just because she allowed herself to listen to me and appreciate the beauty of the moment.

I tell people, as often as I can, without coming across as a kibitzer that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but an evidence of our humanity. When we spend so much time hiding our ‘weakness’ from others, we inadvertently fail to realize the primary reason for our existence – to love another just as much as we love ourselves. Proding and prising apart, searching for the chink in another’s armour is time that could be better spent in standing with another and facing the odds we all must face. It is not an expression of wisdom when we hurl ourselves headlong into battles that could be avoided, instead of forming positive alliances with the soul next door with the objective of running this race and finishing well. A recurring question I always have to deal with when I’m privileged to meet someone who has never heard of dystonia before is “How do you cope with it?” Honestly, because of how often I’m asked, I’m pretty sure that if I were suddenly roused from sleep, my answer would still be the same. I do not cope with it, I’m too focused on making each new day count for something better that it’s only the incessant twinges of pain that remind me of this unending battle with dystonia.

I’ve learned that focusing on helping someone else is more fruitful than reeling out a litany of how my body feels. If I cannot change it, why bother complaining about it, because the sad reality is there’s already enough sadness in the world. You have to make a choice between seeing if your own worries will lighten the already overburdened lives around you or trying to alleviate the present pain and sorrow around you. Pushing your pains and worries to the back burner so that you can make room to assist another person who has just been severely knocked off his horse. Yes, we need to guard ourselves but when guarding yourself overshadows the ability to help another, then I would recommend a rethink in strategy. No army is only made up of one warrior, no team of one ever exists however there is so much strength in the unity of diversity. Wisdom, in my opinion, is realizing that a battle is raging on around us and yet we concentrate on building a chain of lives through love, kindness and hope. That collective armor is what will stand true when charge upon charge by our foes hit our ranks.

There is nothing built by man that in indestructible however that which is built by God is. So the choice in where you decide to put your trust in, is entirely up to you. Today, I may not have the resources to give to one in need but what I have is a shoulder to lean on, ears attentive to listen and company for a little while as you journey on. Diversity is what transforms a chaotic puzzle into a beautiful picture and regardless of how impenetrable you think you are, you will need someone else when your storms hit. And so whilst I am committed to burnishing my armor, I am also keen to recognize that not only can I not stand alone, I am here to be a support to someone else. Sometimes, a simple walk in the park holds much more value than a space trip to Mars. The battle is not to the strong, neither is the race to the swift, it is God’s mercies that will ultimately prevail. And if we are recipients of such an awesome gift, why should it be only about you. I reckon, each day, that every blessing I receive is something that can be shared and so with that realization firmly impressed upon my heart, I will always find the courage to press on. Each new day, an amazing gift by itself, is yet another opportunity to stand alongside fellow sojourners and warriors so that together we can beat the odds.

As I remember the victories of today, I am certainly convinced that love, hope and faith are indispensable companions for me. It will never be about how high a stack of corpses you left in your path, rather it will be about how much inspiration you have shared on your path. I may not be able to bring to completion that dream of yours but I most definitely can ensure that the moments we shared will never be forgotten. Life will always be a catalogue of events and as we sail through life’s turbulent waves, some of those memories are the nuggets of indestructible hope that will keep us going. I have always believed that a life devoid of hope is a life that is desperately in need of some love and it never ceases to amaze me how beautiful a rocky path can become when there are lilies growing by it, but those lilies have to be planted first. It is not always about how grand your gesture of magnanimity is, instead it is about how sincere in well doing you are. It is often in the intricate tiny stitches of a woven garment that you find the greatest amounts of love. No matter how fortified you think you have made your armor, someday you most definitely have to get out of it. The question then would be, ‘What awaits you when you have shed your armor? Friends by your side or a gathering mass of individuals who don’t care about what you know.’

Remember, ‘The destiny of man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees’ – T.H White

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת שלו לזרוח עלינו

Adios!

The Way of the Orchid……

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Permit me to say that I have not been as available here as I am wont, not by personal choice but by the weight of events that have suddenly all come together all at once, not excluding the bad bout of flu that I had to wrestle through and overcome. I mean, bring it on! Not to sound blase in my remarks, I say that it has indeed been a wonderful week as usual, characterized by the unpredictability of Myoclonus, I have had my share of good and bad days. Barely had an hour’s sleep in 72 hours and entertained the gawking stares of the unenlightened, the passing on of friends and ‘friends’ and the beauty of meeting unique individuals who in their own little way within those few moments, injected some extra zest to the beauty of my unique personal challenges.

I have learnt to “Be genuinely interested in everyone you meet and everyone you meet will be genuinely interested in you” – R. Ogunlaru and I give special mention to Siham (insha Allah! we’ll meet again), Mary – my own distinct Winnie with her boisterous desire to be by my side as much as possible and my guardian angel who despite the sutures from the operation on her thumb was so reluctant to let me out of her sight. When you give, you receive much more than you have given but for each of you – know that my life would be incomplete without you. And with every passing day that I am blessed to live, I commit to passing on every good deed I receive and burying the bad because hey! the world is already sorrowful enough so why choose to add more when all that is really needed is just that little gesture of kindness to just that one person. Despite the crunching setbacks of huge medical bills, I still choose to enjoy the times I have with my various therapists (Igor, Vas and Richie) because I am convinced that there is always a choice to make and I thank you all for making every new day just a bit more bearable.

Phew! I guess that is what happens when you keep so much bottled up inside that instead of a calculated trickle, there is a gush of all that you had wanted to say but have been unable to.

I love orchids! I recall back in the days, how quickly they could transform an environment both with its fragrance and the beauty of its floral arrangement. And today I still count orchids as one of my favorite flowers, I can still recall plucking off many a flower just to enjoy the sweet nectar contained within.  And then I grew up,……… and fell in love with biology. Now not only did I find a subject that was fun but this was one that allowed me to improve on my drawing (lots of beautiful pictures in the textbooks) but it suddenly explained more of the mysteries that I had come to fruitlessly ponder upon.  Learning about life and the whys have always been a thing for me but I drew the line at going into medicine (it just never appealed to me), now although because of my preferred choice of career, I had to drop biology but it still remains a subject of beauty and allure. I learnt about flowers and got to know more about my favorite orchids.

The orchid can be found in almost every continent but one of the amazing things about is this – because of an absence of an endosperm (sorry this is no biology class), in the course of pollination, it has to enter into a funny relationship with a type of fungi (gross!!!) and guess what? these fungi provide the necessary nutrients needed to germinate so that all species of orchids are reliant upon fungi to complete their life-cycles. Now the irony of this concise biology lesson is to draw an analogy that most of us have to face as individuals – were the orchid to be given an option, I am definite that getting involved with fungi would be the least of her choices however we are all subjects of creation and each of us has a distinct path to walk either by acceptance and choice or by compulsion and a higher authority. As I contemplate the past two years struggling with Myoclonus Dystonia, I realize that certain events in our lives are there to ensure that we walk our distinct paths and fulfill our unique purposes. Now, nobody in his or her right senses would opt for some pain or discomfort but what happens when we are thrust into a maelstrom of events that seem to have the singular objective of crippling us, shaking us and turning our little ideal worlds the wrong way up? Do we throw up our hands and let go of the towel or simply roll over and play possum?

The answer is a choice to make however life has a weird way of bringing out the best of us when we encounter some degree of discomfort, let us recall that we are creations of pleasure for a God who truly loves like nobody ever can.  Would it therefore be right to rile and wave our puny fists in His face when we are borne upon the winds, isolated and alone, tossed to and fro by the waves of life, to be deposited in a strange environment just for the sake of being reborn and reformed? For every orchid flower you see, pause and admire it but remember that there is the process behind it that has resulted in it becoming the epitome of beauty that it is. When we, like seeds are in the dark ground, torn away from the shelter and comfort of the world we were born into or we painstakingly created, devoid of companionship (like we were used to) instead of curling up into a ball and dying – let us appreciate that within and around us a chain of events are already set in motion to sustain us through those dark and dreary moments. The nutrients we need to stay alive are inexhaustible and inexplicably geared towards that purpose, the darkness of those early moments are soon to be pierced though by the warm ray of hope and light. We are seemingly unable to fend off the predators that bear fiercely down upon us, through the myriad of pains, twisted joints, trembling muscles, a neurological system that seems to have gone haywire and it sure seems that we have been wrongly created to suffer for no just course. And yet, we are not wholly consumed, for within our tired bodies and palpitating hearts still flickers life and with life, a hope to be chosen.

It may seem like we are all alone but there is never any vacuum in life if only we can choose to drag our eyes and attention from the claustrophobic dankness around us and acknowledge that as long as we yet live, we can choose to hope and dream because just like the little shoot that breaks through the ground, someday it will all be over and then we can truly realize that not only does death exist in life but more importantly life exists in death. As we die to the many comforts and perks that we had gotten used to, let us also realize that birthing and character development is a process and through the pangs of pain and discomfort, insomnia and the jerks, loss of movement in our limbs and a lack of control over our system – a process is being played out and the end is as certain as the sun rise every day. We are not alone through all this, He is working all things together for our good as long as we are totally reliant on Him. Not the ‘friends’ who have walked away from you in derision or the siblings who have prioritized every other thing above you, not the ones who love only in words and cannot find the actions to back it with, not the birds of carrion who circle in futility above you or the hyenas prowling around – definitely not these, but above and beyond them all is the fact that we are creatures of destiny and our destiny and purpose are charted towards good course as long as you give in totally to the One in charge.

There is nothing wrong with the world and its occupants, filled it may seem with a multitude of uncaring souls, just realize that “All true friendliness begins with fire and food and drink and the recognition of rain or frost. …Each human soul has in a sense to enact for itself the gigantic humility of the Incarnation. Every man must descend into the flesh to meet mankind.” – G.K Chesterton.  We are still part of this world and we can make that difference if we choose to, trusting and completely reliant on the truth that we are no freaks of nature but unique beings created and watched over with love by Him. And as we approach each day, unsure of what it may bring, let us also realize that we can make a difference if we choose to and completely astound the multitude of nonchalant and indifferent witnesses that are eagerly gathered around us because we can and because we understand;  A higher calling, A setting apart, A distinct purpose and mission……

“Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your talent and skill and work hard at…something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.” – D. Nicholls.  Arguably, many might ask where the chances are but do well to remember that we do not control the chances but we do control our choices and so endeavor to make those choices count. Live in the knowledge of the truth that life consists of moments and whilst we cannot recreate past moments or create future moments, we can make use of this moment so make the now count and then you can be sure to cherish it even when it is long gone and past.

Remember this “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” –  J.H ‘Groucho’ Marx. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34”
lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!