Friday, 15 November 2019

15 Seconds on the Soft Shoulder

I’ll cry if I want to
Every once in a while I give my eyes the routine maintenance of giving the tear ducts a flush. There is no switch to set off the channels that bring water to my eyes.
By a deliberate act, I might chop onions and that is hardly a task I enjoy, for years, I used a mandolin and then I found Spar does diced onions, I guess the efficient rather the lazy part of me decided I had hit the gold dust of cooking ingredients. Most of the time, the onions go into the cooking pot rather than the frying pan, I store the diced onions in the freezer and when needed, crack the bag on a shelf and pour in what I need.
Sowing kindness
I started the evening with a Facebook post that talked of a hungry boy who asked for a glass of water and was given a glass of milk. He had only a dime and asked what he could pay for the glass of milk, the lady answered that her mother told never to take money for an act of kindness. The boy thankfully blessed her from his heart.
Decades down the line, the lady fell seriously ill and was transferred to a city hospital where a consultant was engaged to monitor and treat her condition. He saw where she came from and on checking on her, realised she was the lady who gave him a glass of milk, many years before. He dedicated himself to her wellbeing and care until she was well. Her hospital bill came to over $28,000 which she did not have.
The consultant had intercepted the bill and added a note before having the bill presented to the lady. She read the bill and then the note, all it said was, “Paid for with a glass of milk.” The tears welled up in my eyes, how kindness gets repaid, you can never know.
Stories that move the heart
The annual charade of the BBC Children In Need is on again, this charity has raised over £1 billion pounds since 1980 for disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. Gosh! I miss Sir Terry Wogan, but I switched to the channel and it was being presented tonight by Ade Adepitan and Tess Daly.
There are so many stories of kindness, hope over adversity and the overcoming of infirmity, human strength and resilience coming from young kids who have faced cancer, life-changing injuries and all sorts of crises, yet, none have a sense defeat but are living examples of grace, love and fortitude.
Each story told is a miracle of our humanity, those who suffer and those who succour bound together in the refrain of that song, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”
I have been blessed by kindness
In my life, I remember the many who have come into my life in times of need, of great adversity and difficulty, friends and strangers alike who found the common cause of human kindness and unconditional love whose acts towards me have been to carry me, unconcerned about the burden, to the questions that might have crossed their minds, they have answered back, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
What a blessing it has been for me to have means and opportunity, not necessarily to repay the kindness directly, but to others. To each and many, I hope I never have to faint, but be girded with much more strength to say, “They ain’t heavy, they’re my brothers, my sisters, my fathers, my mothers, my aunts, my uncles, my nephews, my nieces, my relations, my friends, my neighbours, my community, my people, my humanity and whatever diversity and inclusivity I am blessed to be part of.”
My tears on the soft shoulder of love
I have shed many a tear watching acts of kindness, things that bring happiness and joy to others, to ease the pain, pacify the perturbed, demonstrate the amazing and incredible, the whole celebration of humankind. For the kindnesses I have received too, my tear ducts have opened like sluice gates and I am not afraid to cry, it can be a wonderful release and expression of our humanity.
Maybe I have found 15 seconds on the soft shoulder, I know one shoulder on which I could cry for as long as I want, he is the one I love, and we hope to soon be together again.

Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Coincidence Demands Its Hearing

Courtesy of the William Kentridge exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town.
Quite unusually for me, my one-month sojourn in South Africa from September into October, whilst beneficial for my wellbeing and love life, it was one in which my blog was hardly a window into the experiences I had. I had taken to what might be called photo-blogging, posting groups of pictures on Instagram with some text to accompany my perspectives.
None of that covered to any detail the various insights of the historical and cultural tapestry of South Africa, this was mainly in Cape Town. For all we got to do, there is much more to do and see.
On one of our outings, we visited The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, in Cape Town, this was a reconstruction that came of out of old grain silos, the height of which once registered as one of the tallest freestanding structures in Africa.
As we paid our entrance fee of ZAR 200 each, I noticed that the annual membership was ZAR 290, having learnt from visits to other museums as the Voortrekker Monument, Liliesleaf Farm and Castle of Good Hope, we have never been able to complete the tour of exhibits with the information provided in one visit.
The absence of booklets, brochures, pamphlets, or guides covering the exhibits meant that we had to consider returning if we needed to gain the full knowledge and experience of the place. Now, I do not know how many people would get the opportunity to visit South Africa as frequently as I have been able to. My visit in September was my fourth in a year.
We got to visit Liliesleaf Farm again, but there is at least one more visit to go, but back at the Zeitz MOCAA we decided on the annual membership and soon had membership cards to flaunt. We believe we would be returning to visit soon.
Our visit introduced us to the major exhibition of the work of South African artist, William Kentridge, which occupied a couple of floors, much of which we did not get to see, but will soon again, as the exhibition titled, ‘Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings To Work’ runs from the 25th of August 2019 to the 23rd of March 2020.
We hope then to get a better understanding of the narratives, yet, on learning more about him, we came upon the legendary story of his father, Sir Sydney Kentridge KCMG QC who only clocked 97 on the 5th of November.
Former lawyer and judge, member of first the South African bar and then the English bars, represented 3 of the 4 Nobel Peace Prize laureates of South Africa, Chief Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he also represented the family of Stephen Biko at the inquest into his death, his cross-examination so thorough, it exposed the culpability of the Apartheid regime.
At least, I had to let the significance of that sink in, and then understand how the scion of a high-profile personality can forge a career in a completely different direction and still make a significant contribution to national history. By coincidence, William Kentridge has an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, running until the 17th of November. Father and son have left footprints in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Some inspiration I gained from the exhibition in Cape Town, will inform some future blogs.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Coexisting with generational shifts by adaptation

Inspired from Facebook
On the usual scans of my Facebook timeline, I came across a post by a good friend of mine about the issue of developing emotional attachments between generations. Much of what he had to say I could very well agree with, but I also had an additional viewpoint which I have extracted from my comment into this blog. [Facebook]
I started with this, “Much as I can agree with you, this part I have thought about for a long time.”
Time and environment
I needed to address this particular statement, “You young people need to be kinder to your parents. They are the products of their time and environment.
It is a good getaway clause, but in my 50s I have learnt I can't use generational exculpation to excuse myself from the responsibilities of emotional engagement with relations across the full spectrum of existence.
I have my generation and the times in which I grew up along with the environments that have helped cultivate my outlook and worldview, yet, I have to coexist with those before me; from when I was a child had parents, grandparents and a great-grandmother along with extended family and other relations,  and those after me; two generations now, of nieces and nephews and their children, along with the extended family that has grown out of the relationships they have cultivated, not only to be relevant but to also have a sense of belonging.
Generational shifts we belong in
My parents have by fate or fortune had to deal with issues they would never have countenanced in their core generation, from the 1960s into the 1980s, but have had to find accommodations for in the three growing generations after them, of children, of grandchildren and possibly great-grandchildren. My father was 80 on Saturday.
We have had our differences, we still do, but slowly he began to recognise that he can't always have his way as the opinions of his middle-aged children begin to dominate and determine the direction of issues. It was hard-won, but education on all sides. I have to learn that difference does not have to exacerbate conflict. Where I am infuriated, I need to find the necessary communication of persuasion, amelioration and compromise, to an extent.
Have a voice that can be heard
Yes, we probably should do more to engender better communion with our parents who are still with us, but if we fail to use our voices at the critical and crucial times, where there are many occasions for it, we would never have a say when it really matters, or when we do, they would be too deaf to hear or heed. Then, it becomes impossible and differences would become irreconcilable. Sadly, the end of this is regret for could have, should have or would have been done give a new opportunity.
We all must coexist with generations, we met here and those we would eventually leave behind, that is the process of our growth it was the process of growth from time immemorial, no one gets excuses to be an island of immunity and impunity, parent, child or grandchild alike. That we must seize the moments and find ways to cherish them would matter for a lifetime.
Make love, not war
My friend ends with this useful, thoughtful and necessary advice, “Your parents wanting an emotional connection may be coming late, but it is what you always wanted, so embrace it now. Seize the moment. Make new memories. Make love, not war. And do not forget to take lots of selfies. Sooner or later, they will be gone.
I guess we need to decide on what memories we want to have of our parents when there is a reckoning of the lives we have shared.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Catching my breath

Catching up
Sometimes, I feel I have abandoned a vocation, yet, it is not because there isn’t much to write about. Other aspects of life have been interesting, exciting, and sometimes turbulent.
For instance, it is almost two weeks since I returned from a five-week sojourn in South Africa, most of it spent in Cape Town with my boyfriend. We had such a wonderful, happy time together, and now we are back to WhatsApp messages and video calls, distance and immigration limiting opportunities for what I believe is just temporary.
Catching faith
Whilst in South Africa, we began planning for my father’s 80th birthday which held just last Saturday with a church thanksgiving service and a feast. I can only commend my siblings on pulling off a logistical and monumental feat that my sometimes impossible to please dad was full of thanks and prayers at how things went.
None of it was easy, as for the first time we had to put our foot down having agreed on what to do that things would not be changed willy-nilly or at a whim. In my case, I was ready to abort all activity if things became untenable, reason prevailed on everyone, in the end.
Catching thoughts
I made no announcement of my impending visit to South Africa as it was at the height of the xenophobic attacks, the few who knew of my plans were not just concerned for my safety, it left me with no other choice but to not inform certain other people who probably would have adjured me under command not to go.
As I ponder what to write about as the year draws to a close, in the moments shared, cherish and remembered with much fondness, you find the time to just catch your breath and get on with life and living.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Thought Picnic: I own my stupid choices to overcome my human weaknesses

Count your blessings
In our seemingly ordinary, uneventful and mundane lives, a bit of introspection, reflection and recollection can reveal a life of adventure and enchantment, in the moments, events, experiences and adventures that have engaged us.
As the old song goes, “Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” The many times we forget to be appreciative of the little and large things that have come into our lives to give us a sense of contentment, maybe happiness or even the joy of living. There is much to celebrate about life that we could so easily forget.
The human misery
Beyond this, there is another matter of serious import that pertains to how we see ourselves in the world, in relationships, in friendships and other interactions in the community, in society, at work and within the expression of the expanse of the humanity we might have.
Each and everyone might have encountered something in the spectrum of adversity, of crises, of infirmity, of incapacity, in failure, in disappointment, in despair and whatever negative situation has tested our sense of self.
Admit your choices
One would not be remiss to state that where many issues might be unfortunate, there are some where we must honestly admit responsibility for. The courage to admit to one’s choices and the consequences that have resulted from those choices then face up to them even if it reveals ignorance, foolishness, stupidity, obduracy, truculence, hypocrisy, vulnerability, selfishness, cowardice, or evasiveness on our part is probably the beginning of self-awareness.
In my own life, I have made many bad choices that have resulted in life-changing circumstances, I am gay, it is no impediment. I chose on certain occasions to practice unsafe sex despite the risks it posed. By reason of this, I discovered in 2002 that I was HIV positive.
Freedom by truth
Then, there was no policy to adopt immediate treatment, out of fear, possibly ignorance and maybe even a sense of invincibility, I allowed over 7 years for HIV to ravage my body whilst I lived in denial of what might happen. Then in early 2009, the discolourations on the soles of my feet which I first ignored and then thought was Athlete’s foot fungus was then diagnosed as Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a kind of skin cancer and a clear indication of full-blown AIDS.
I could say I was unfortunate, yet the truth is I allowed this to happen because of the choices I made and the resulting consequences of loss in many areas of my life that I had to rebuild my life again are part of what I must face as my own folly for which I found remediation and treatment to give me a new lease on life. I own my faults, to first forgive me, to then understand myself better, to learn from my mistakes and misstep and hope that the knowledge gives me a better respect for life, in me and in others along with a spirit of encouragement to impart to others that come across my way.
Our burdensome responsibility
Owning our choices in career decision-making, in choosing partners for friendship, companionship, relationship, marriage, or business is another area where was should not seek to claim all the benefits when they come and be quick to blame others when things turn sour. If it did not work out, such is life, we move on rather than cultivate resentment to others and allow bitterness to take root.
Too many people are hurting from all sorts of experiences, the wrongs we think have been done to us by family near and others not so near in the many encounters we have in life, we tend to think we can assuage our hurt by hurting others. Even in my own experiences, there are things that still rankle and hurt, yet, I must find the peace I need in myself through forgiveness, through not reacting to every provocation, through finding a positive seam in a negative situation, sometimes by laughing through the pain because the apparent delirium is a surprising painkiller.
Lemonade from lemons
Yes, making the choice to walk away after the choice that made you walk into the pit of indignity and every inconvenience that heralds the most uncomfortable place to be is quite within our power to exercise and execute, albeit with difficulty, but it must be done for the story of our lives to get better than they seem to be when enmeshment in turmoil.
Indeed, from where I stand today, I have been given a better story because accepting the humility of my stupid choices have given me the capacity to have a vision, a hope and a path that starts from this moment into a better version of myself and the possibility of dreams coming true.
I count my blessings, embrace my privilege, I do not condemn myself in the things I have allowed, I don’t repudiate my identity, I honour my expression with candour and count myself among the blessed, the fortunate and the lucky. I am full of gratitude and thankfulness; this journey has been one that is appreciative of everyone friend and foe that has taught me to be more human.