Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thought Picnic: To those who didn't push me

Regimen is not me
When I review a number of things in my life, I realise I do not have heroes and the mentors I have are not mentors in the traditional sense. It is not like there was some clear example to follow, but observation and experience have informed how things have turned out.
I know how much I resent regimented settings, the moment I left boarding school and the regulatory environment of the secondary school, there was no way I could be persuade to consider doing A-levels when I could go where I would be treated more as an adult.
The kick in the back side
Yet, I remember when after a period of almost terminal decline after I lost my home and was graciously offered accommodation for two months free how my landlord then thought I was not doing enough to sort myself out, I was relating my experience at an interview I attended in Berlin when he said, “So, they are going to give you a kick in the butt to get a job.”
I wrote then that I was uncomfortably looking like I was work-shy with to reference to the somewhat successful life I had prior to being stricken with cancer and how difficult it had been for me to restart my life after that.
Not pushed, not rushed
However, my greater gratitude goes to the many people who probably had great influence over my life because of their authority or my circumstance that did not push me, they have me latitude and opportunity to find my way, believing in me, implicitly and explicitly, rarely questioning, but constantly giving support and guidance.
People who refused to impose themselves even if they could, whose gave advice to offer me additional options and choices rather than as instructions to be followed to the letter.
They let me be myself to work things out both in my head and in execution, then came along to cheer me on hinting that they knew I will come out good despite all the odds.
All latitude
The fact is I have always performed well when I have been allowed to set the agenda, dictate my own pace and take things in ways that allowed me to assume positions in comfort and assurance of why I am where I am.
I choosing my career, in finding jobs, in times of flux when I was still finding my feet with respect to living and livelihood, the freedoms many have allowed me has been more than helpful in not being rushed into bad choices and circumstances. I love autonomy.
It does not mean I could not have done better, nor would I suggest being laidback allowed for a sense of lazy abandon to critical issues, I just had people who believed in me enough and never imposed an ultimatum on me.
To them all, I owe a great debt of gratitude.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Opinion: Asking for the opportunity to prove ourselves

This is good acting
I watch very little television if I watch any at all, the things that fascinate me are murder mysteries, educational documentaries, detective series, trains and travel.
However, from the moment I saw the trailer for How to Get Away with Murder starring Viola Davis, I was hooked, by both the title and the drama. When I eventually got into the series, I was quite enamoured by the strength of the character of Professor Annalise Keating as portrayed by Viola Davis, I recorded the whole series.
In the weekend, Viola Davis, unbeknownst to me became the first African-American lady to win the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and her acceptance speech so seriously deviated from the norm by paying a glowing tribute those who had opened the way before her in the quest for the recognition and adoration of their peers in entertainment.
A speech well made
This is the full text of her acceptance speech as transcribed by the New York Times, but one cannot help but excerpt a cogent part of the speech. “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity.
Whilst, I will not be too forward in suggesting I have suffered the loss of opportunity, I can fully understand the sentiment that informed her speech where for whatever indecipherable reasons I have missed out on opportunities not offered to me when for all intents and purposes I am well qualified for the job I interviewed for.
Then again, I cannot put it down to overt racism, yet when having been interviewed and well considered an executive at the BBC in 1991 decides he’ll rather not give me the job because I was not extending myself enough or in his words, I was short-selling myself, you wonder.
Open for opportunity
More recently, it was an interview with a major bank where apparently I did not pass the muster for Miss Congeniality for the job. These experiences begin to introduce doubt and literally beat you down that you have to find strength from within to rise beyond that situation.
Yet, I could paraphrase Viola Davis and say that for many, “The only thing that separates minorities in any society from everyone else is opportunity.” Being given the opportunity to prove that they are both able and capable because some assumption, presumption or dare I say, prejudice has led to people at the gate not letting others into their fold for all sorts of reasons.
She goes on to say that, “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” By extension, you cannot win accolades, praise, recognition or promotion for opportunities not granted to those who generally by default are not amongst the first to be considered for such placements.
Entitlement debasing opportunity
Then again, I see other areas where people who generally get given these opportunities abuse and squander them foisting their sense of entitlement into the situation.
In the light of this, I find myself antithetical to the smart and apparently beautiful Charlotte Proudman and I note the significance of her surname when on being complimented for her looks in connecting with an eminent male lawyer on the LinkedIn professional network took umbrage at age-old chivalry to deem it sexist. [The Student]
There is an element of political correctness in this reading that bothers somewhat old-fashioned people like myself who will have the tendency to compliment, offer a seat to ladies, take off my hat when speaking to a lady or step forward to open a door for a lady – that is the cultured and expected decorum expected of gentlemen and it in no way belittles the professional attributes of the lady.
Try some emotional intelligence too
In a way, I felt quite sorry for Alexander Carter-Silk who being a generation ahead of the lady was slightly conscious of the possibility that a compliment might be taken wrongly and yet chose to make it in good faith. The Internet shaming of the man shows how discretion is no more a matter of valour for another generation. [LegalCheek]
For all the commentary for and against that episode, I will very well understand and quite sadly appreciate that Miss Proudman with all her academic intelligence and feistiness might have blown certain opportunities that would naturally be open to her in the pride that always presages the self-fulfilling prophecy of a fall. The requisite amount of emotional intelligence always helps in communicating umbrage or agreement.
Then again, Miss Proudman because of her extrovert self-esteem and intelligence displayed a sense of entitlement and effrontery that can be both emasculating and aggressively off-putting, she will go far.
Yet, I commend all those who grasp any opportunity they are given to become and excel and for that also I commend Viola Davis.

Boy weakness when man strength is required

What am I to do?
It is probably one of those feelings of helpless abandon when one is overcome with some incapacity or infirmity, the inability to complete a task.
Earlier this evening I thought of putting together another concoction with my NutriBullet blender, I almost foresaw the end of my impending pleasure as I screwed on the blade assembly to the beaker, that last twist did it.
I had meticulously taken off the hard brown skin of the coconut pieces just to use the white solid of the coconut, poured in milk, then vanilla yoghurt, some garlic flakes, almond flakes and hulled sesame seeds.
I thought of adding some organic honey but forgot and screwed the assembly shut and set it on the NutriBullet blender for a few minutes. In the last week, I have had a few portions of this delicious food-drink for dinner and liked it.
For now, I can’t do it
However, my frustration is compounded by the fact that for the past 90 minutes I have been unable to unscrew the assembly and have my drink. I even tried putting the assembly in hot water without must success, it is all plastic.
Progressively, I have realised that my grip and twisting strength has been failing to be efficacious at the first few tries, but this has been the worst experience of realising I cannot do a simple domestic activity and yet it is no one to call in the emergency services.
I probably will get to open it eventually, though I have one had a lady in the house do what essentially we would expect a man to do without a fuss. I have my weaknesses and really, I am not afraid to ask for help, it gets difficult things done.
I thought of this over an hour ago, I finally donned my Roeckl leather gloves which are stowed away for the winter, this gave me the grip I needed for the twisting action I required. I will have the pleasure of the food-drink and have this in mind for the next time.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A certain death from cancer loomed large

The pain, the pain
Six years ago today and it was a Tuesday too, I was wheeled into hospital by my partner, in excruciating pain and unsure of whether I had the hope for respite or not.
As we left home, he suggested I take a change of clothes just in case I am kept in hospital for observation, but all I did was take a change of underwear and I did not even take my trusty little notebook.
Before this, I had seen my doctor and the people at surgery, I was on painkillers that did nothing to kill the pain and this was my second referral in the space of a week.
To a bed, I was led
My left foot had taken on an otherworldly life of its own, something innocuous as a summer affliction of athlete’s foot was browning, oozing, serious and killing me.
The consultant internist came down to see me and he had no doubts in his mind that I was not going home that day and he came to the decision within minutes that they had a bed for me upstairs.
To him, I was a sight he had seen many times before, a bit of neglect, ignoring a seemingly little thing, wishing and hoping it would go away with the encumbrance of religious presumptuousness that a miracle is more efficacious than what medicine can offer, we expire almost unsung having fought a fight of failure and foolishness that gets rewritten as a fight of faith.
The iniquity of my stupidity
I knew better, yet it took a long time for me to be re-schooled to an alternative, I was about to die of stupidity if smarter people had not arrested me with palliative care at first, whilst I traversed the realities of the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief as applied to disease. I was in denial, in all my pain and suffering, I was still in denial that I was at death’s door.
I was settled into a bed on the sixth floor in Ward B at the Onze Lieve Vrouw Gasthuis in Amsterdam which doubles as a teaching hospital and if I could look in a particular direction, I would have been able to see my apartment block from my bed.
Within the hour, I was wheeled out to a theatre where my blood pressure was taken at all extremities to determine whether my condition was diabetes related, I guess we all knew, it wasn’t, it was just the need to eliminate other variables.
Some morphine, an intravenous drip to address a fungal infection, I read up later that it was to treat fungating tumours, that was the first time I realised I probably had cancer brought on by another diagnosis I had received 7 years before.
It is now history, for to tell a story
The more we learnt of my condition, the more it was clear that I could have died anytime from when I arrived in hospital to a maximum of five long weeks, if I had received no treatment at all. Phew!
Six years ago, I had cancer, six years on, I am telling my story like I have done many times before of the amazing wonder of medicine, the good fortune of landing the hands of competent medical staff, of friends far and near who stood with me in my most trying times, of getting to the point of acceptance beyond which I could begin to see a future.
Each day after I left hospital on the 9th of October 2009 has been a blessing beyond compare and I am thankful for each opportunity to speak of hope beyond adversity, of life, of love and of kindness, of knowledge, truth and understanding that we are all stories of the amazing force of humanity.
Blogs from the 23rd of September, 2009 to the 9th of October, 2009 were written when I was in hospital.

Essential Snobbery 101: To reach and to retch

Friends frightened
Sometimes, a good telling off will not eventually end up with smiles or friendship in the future and this is what I meet each morning on the train, the stony faced silence of people I have upbraided for bad behaviour in a public place.
Some have been subjects of my Essential Snobbery 101 blogs not only in the way I told them off for putting their fully shod feet on seats, but also for the way they responded and reacted to being told they were in the wrong.
The trains also have a way of bringing together a broad spectrum of society, from the well-groomed to the unsophisticated, all of whom one can find a means to engage and converse with, it is the downright dirty that leaves one literally weak and speechless.
Of the yuckiest sort
This morning, I sat across from such a person, as I was leafing through my issue of The Week magazine, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him stick a finger in his nose, bring out a string of the yuckiest colour of mucus and deposit it in his mouth.
I can only wonder why I was destined to be a witness of this nauseating spectacle, but there was more to the problem that I had to resist the urge to look again. He had a sniffling running nose and nothing to with which to blow his nose, so he devised this means of rubbing his nose with sides of his forefinger and discreetly licking it off, like a cat grooming itself with its paw.
The only thing was, it was neither discreet nor surreptitious and it makes you wonder about where the age-old parenting and community moderation breeding fell off the rails. Things like covering your mouth when you cough or yawn, sneezing into a handkerchief and well, not picking your nose – at least not in public.
Some good old advice
I guess many do subconsciously pick their noses and do nasty unprintable things with the stuff, and I am not against people doing what they are wont to away from the public glare, as it will cause no revulsion in others who are unequipped for the ultimate reaction to the revolting, which is reaching for a sick bag and retching uncontrollably until emesis creates a total evacuation of food seen again after mastication.
It makes one suggest that every man and boy, just as the girls and the ladies do, must never leave home without a handy pack of tissues for the emergency of blowing their noses.
Much as this matter called for an intervention as I was quite ready to throw my pack of tissues onto the paper his was reading rather than politely offer him a sheet or two to blow his nose. It would have been almost too aggressive, but I cannot end up making so many enemies on the train just because I am being old-fashioned. The times have indeed changed. Good manners in public are too much of a rarity today.