Bucking the bull…..

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“Bullfight critics row on row, crowd the vast arena full. But only one man’s there who knows. And he’s the man who fights the bull.” – Anon E. Moss

It is one of those days; those days where the storm clouds are all menacing and dark, when the sun has all but extinguished its rays and the air feels charged with static electricity. Those days when the waiting feels ominous and a sense of foreboding surrounds you. Those days when even an umbrella would probably want to take the day off, with defeat waiting to be embraced. It is the calm before the storm but this calm in itself has taken on another definition. This is one of those times when the very thought of just stepping outside the comfort of your home tilts between being adventurous and being insane; and for many, their lives are just an unending series of unexplainable catastrophic events, of harsh storms; winds howling and shrieking, trashing anything she can lay her fingers on. Yes, it is one of the those days.

I have bull-riding on my to-do list along with deep scuba diving, hand-gliding, car racing…..yes they are still on my list because before dystonia, there was the list. Now, I know that for professional bull riders in America, the rider must stay on top of the bucking and obviously enraged bull (hell bent on unseating you and possibly goring you to death), cling to the bull rope with one hand for eight seconds and not touch the bull with your free hand. Now that in itself is no mean feat because those 8 seconds can sometimes seem like an eternity when you are on the bull’s back, but in addition there are conditions to be met and these conditions are what the judges use to evaluate each performance. The bull rope is not something specially made, it is simply a flat braided fiber rope that is wrapped around the chest of the bull directly behind the front legs of the bull. To this fiber rope, the rider must hold on and stay seated for 8 seconds, if for obvious reasons the rider cannot remain seated on that bucking bull for the 8 seconds duration then the judges declare it ‘no score’. Not 7.5 seconds, 8 seconds! Despite it being called ‘ the most dangerous eight seconds in sports’ I still have it on my list because the list on its own is a statement of defiance and declaration that buck all you can, I am going to ride this storm till the end

However, like the wild enraged bull, life can present events that can and will buck you, attempt to unseat you and generally just be the worst thing that could ever happen to you. The question then is how do you manage the bucking bull that more often than not, you are compelled to ride at some point in your life. The difference between the success of your performance as a bull rider is to a great extent determined by the mindset with which you go into the pen. While many are still processing the fact that they are no more spectators, the pen is opened and the ride begins, and I can bet you that many never make it beyond the pen. The successful bull rider prepares himself for just that 8 seconds, knowing very well that it might be the beginning of greater things or the end of a season. Just 8 seconds, but with lots of preparation and a mindset that has so finely tuned itself to time that even if the horn signalling the completion of the ride fails to sound, the rider knows enough to make a dismount and give way to the next rider; either as an inspiration or as example of what not to do.

Being an avid watcher of bull riders, I have watched people tossed many feet into the air and come crashing down to the hard packed earth, I have seen some stomped on by the bull and even with all the distractions and the attempts of the rodeo clowns or bull fighters, occasionally the bull satisfies itself by doing a victory lap around the arena with the unfortunate rider impaled on its horns. A gory death indeed but we are not here to talk about death, gory or not, because death in itself is an inevitability for everyone. Alas, like every other thing; death marks the end of a season and the beginning of another. Back when I was younger, I always stated that it was better to leave this earth in a blaze – with so much fanfare that it would leave a searing impression on the minds of those that were opportuned to witness it. Now I know better, because it is not the moment that is seared in memories but how you lived till that moment of transition.

Dystonia in so many ways, is akin to riding a bull. It just doesn’t stop at dystonia or Parkinson’s Disease, it applies to every storm that you encounter in your life’s journey. And whilst you may find yourself prepared or unprepared, there is that window of opportunity to quickly come to terms with the situation you are in and grab a hold of that rope because that flat braided fiber rope is all you can cling to once the pen is opened. I have since come to terms with the fact that life does throw you curve balls at times but being able to respond and grasp the reality is what keeps you from being just another wounded rider. Am I going to allow myself be the jewel adorning the curved horn of an enraged bull as it trots around the arena or will I hold on until the 8 seconds is up, successfully dismount and give the next rider something to shoot for? Like we all know 8 seconds is not really that much of a time frame but while you are seated on top of that bull, it will seem like eternity. Regardless of how loud the applause is from the spectators, you have to embrace the fact that it is down to just two players – you and the bull.

As the critics holler their disdain for your ride or critic unfairly the style you use, remember that they are safely seated behind a huge barricade and rarely will they do more than just critic. However, amidst the spectators and other players, there are a few who are there to ensure you get done with the ride and dismount without severely injuring yourself. The rodeo clowns will do their bit when the time comes but you have to take charge and remember it’s just 8 seconds. For as long as life exists, we need to apply the right knowledge to situations as they come up. Bull riding is not the time to grab the bull by the horns, it is the time to hold onto that lifeline that you have so graciously been given. The fiber rope could be past experiences, it could be lessons learned, it could the kindly offered advise many years ago, it could be the out-stretched hand of a stranger but you have to recognise it for what it is or lose your seat even before the pen is opened.

And so remember this honest prayer as you press on

“Dear Lord, I have this feeling in my heart
when I slide down on my bull to do my part

It taught me a lot about life and
what it means to hold on tight

It showed me pain 
respect and all that is right

Lord, forgive me for taking my life into my own hands 
Cos being a bull rider has been my life’s plan

So please God, don’t let this bull take my life from me;
in happiness and humility, a winner I will ride to be, Amen!”

Remember that smouldering ashes can either mark the end of something that was once great or it can be the birthplace of the phoenix, the choice is yours to make.

עד שנפגשנו שוב, אולי התענוגות שלו להיות העונג שלך לעשות

Adios!

 

The puzzle of simplicity….

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Puzzle and simplicity

Puzzle & Simplicity!

Ever had this feeling that you have so much bottled up inside you that it felt like the slightest nudge would definitely cause you to metamorphose into a fully functional but uncontrolled fire hydrant? It has become so lame whenever these words are uttered ‘life is unfair’ that sometimes we fail to acknowledge the wealth of wisdom hidden behind those three words. I certainly know how unfair life can be but I also know that there is a world of difference between the perception of the unfair times and the choices we feel compelled to make during those times.

The last few weeks have been very revealing, for the lack of a more suitable term, and like every moment we experience as we journey through life, it also adds more zing to my individual and very unique story. Who we are at the end of our journey is a thoroughly mixed blend of all the various moments, lessons and experiences we encountered in the course of our lives – that is why we are as diverse as the word means. It is such an awesome but completely humbling experience when we are privileged to catch but a glimpse of life and its mysteries;  Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning” – Jedidiah. To some of us, that which we so assiduously pursue with every waking breath, is as meaningless as the chaff that is blown off wheat, to another. So the question is if the same fate awaits each and every one of us, how do we apply our waking moments to ensure that we are not just a very vague memory in the lives of those that we were privileged to encounter?

Tomorrow, my best friend celebrates the beginning of another new year and for me, that transitional phase holds so much potential because it is an opportunity to review our past and appropriately align our paths towards where we are headed. I have cause to celebrate too, because just being honored to share in and witness the beginning of another phase of someone very special is also a reminder that I too have had and will also have beginnings and what better privilege it is when we are given a heads start or a leg boost upwards. And whilst I rejoice and celebrate my best friend, I also realize that the choices I make will definitely influence my own beginnings as the different seasons of my own life come up, so that is mixed feelings right there – what do I choose? Dwell on the negatives or bask in the triumphs of the past or take a chestful of invigorating fresh air and gear myself to march onward.

I recall quite vividly one of the lessons I learned as a youngster during our family devotions, it was a story from the pages of ‘Just A Moment Please’ – A.J Maurus. A father saddled with meeting the dictates of his job also had for that day, the responsibility of attending to the unceasing needs of his little son (baby-sitting). Finding his son’s incessant demand for attention a little distracting, he thought of the best way to keep his little son occupied for a long stretch of time so as to enable him focus more on the task at hand. Quickly reaching a supposedly foolproof solution, he took out a page from that morning’s newspaper with the world map boldly captured on the page that his son had been playing with, ripped it into tiny bits and asked the little son to play an impromptu game of puzzle by trying to put the world map together. Excitedly both father and son turned their attention to their individual tasks, the father believing that the puzzle would keep his son preoccupied for the greater part of the time.

In less than an hour, the little boy shrieked out delightedly to his father that he had completed the puzzle. As expected, the father was stunned that his son who could barely understand the word ‘continent’ least of all the study of cartography and geology had completed the puzzle in so short a time. Believing that it was just a characteristic case of short attention span, he walked into the little boy’s room and amazingly beheld the world map correctly put together. Seemingly at a loss for words, he asked his son how he had so quickly figured the puzzle correctly. With a twinkle in his little blue eyes and that look reserved for ‘disappointingly slow’ parents, he walked up to the put-together map and turned it around, behold there was a picture of a man on the reverse side. In his little bubbly voice, he explained “When I put the man together, the world came together!”

Decades have passed and still I recall that simple lesson: when and if we can put the man (ourselves) together, then the world will simultaneously come together. Pretty simple but undeniably very puzzling especially when you take into cognizance the idiosyncrasies and unique but different values that make us who we are. Today, that lesson still rings true and whilst many of us choose to focus on the unfairness of life, the simpler task would be to get our individual acts together and then watch in astonishment as the world or our immediate environment comes together. It is so much easier to hurl blames at other people for our unfair circumstances, but truth be told, while it is so more difficult to set on the single task of putting ourself together, when and if we do, the results would be beyond what we could ever imagine. “The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity” – Douglas Horton

Recalling the discussion I had with one of my business associates, Johann – I was completely blown away when he said that his objective in successfully starting up his Real Estate Investment firm was not to become a millionaire. Modesty in play? Definitely not! Experience has taught me to recognize sincerity when I hear it, besides I also know him a teeny weeny bit.  It has become (and always was) a hugely growing norm now for people to leap onto the band wagon of someone else’s opinion, tear it apart, poke holes and do as much destruction as they can think up. Once that urge has been satisfied, a complete turn around is done where that opinion carries the day (success) and when failure results, then a search for the next wagon to jump on begins. It requires less work putting the puzzle together when and only if we realize that we are very much a part of that next person’s story, each of us is the man behind the map of someone else’s life and if we devote just a little portion of our time in putting our lives together as opposed to destroying “another’s life/opinion/stance”, imagine how many puzzles we would have succeeded in completing and how much good work little old you would have done.

I, for one, choose to be different and while my end is yet afar off, I opt to work more on getting my own act together. There is a purpose to every life, discovering it is a good start. Remember, the quality of whatever we aspire for or dream of can only be made manifest in the quality of what we give others. We are, because someone gave and regardless of how despondent the circumstances are demanding of you – you still get to choose. Make it count!

עד שנפגש שוב , אני נפרדתי ממךלשלוםוטוב ביותר שאתה לבד ראוי .

Adios!