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.


Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Thought Picnic: Sometimes, forgiveness is arrogance and ignorance defeated


Giving and getting without the for
The ability to differentiate between forgiving and forgetting was brought home to me again when I visited the District Six Museum and followed the guided tour hosted by a former resident.
She told her story with depth and feeling, it was palpable, we maintained such respectful silence as she relayed how Apartheid dehumanised an entire community in the pursuit of fulfilling a policy of the segregation of races.
She had not forgotten every single detail of what happened to her up to her mother dying within 48 hours of being forcefully ejected from a home where she raised 11 children.
History, not misery
For me, there is a lot to remember and much else I must never forget, all these in their recollections and stories are part of my life, my history, my narrative, and forms part of how my worldview is defined.
We all need our stories and some of us get to tell them in brutal and excruciating detail. Forgiveness, however, is how we allow those experiences to define us. Whether we would allow the wrongs and those who have wronged us to continue to have a hold on our lives and by their presence become an interminable upset brewing unmitigated resentment and bitterness.
People are who they are
This is where I begin to compartmentalise, some people are pathological sociopaths, they would never acquire an iota of emotional intelligence. I know I few and I have extricated them from my purview, our lives have diverged and long may that divergence continue until distance and time has obliterated every smidgen of whatever constituted our encounter.
Some may not know how to empathise, they think the world revolves around them. To some, I have been as blunt as I can be, to others, I have refused to be wrapped around their fingers, to be at their beck and call. I jealously guard my independence, it is with great difficulty that my autonomy would be subdued for longer than it takes for me to realise I am being played.
People are really who they are
I excuse a lot because for all sorts of reasons, the lives of others have followed courses I cannot begin to understand. Once I find a context within which to characterise that expression of themselves, I can deal with the situation. Between taking liberties and making allowances, you find a way to coexist with consideration out of contemplation.
I do not know if I am my own greatest critic, but I have been able to look at myself at certain times and accept I have flaws, faults, frailties, foibles, falsehoods, and foolishness. Some things I am about to do on impulse would be trammelled by premonition and conscience. I hope to be more alert to these guardians of my soul. I have learnt not to condemn myself in the things I have allowed and in that, I find some forgiveness for myself.
Even in the many cohorts I have identified, I probably have to seek forgiveness for things done and said, in omission and commission, it is a process of getting to be at ease with both oneself and others. Have there been times I have come across as supercilious? At times, it is where I have put myself and in others, it is a projection redolent of where they have put themselves. I strive to lift than to debase.
Disabling my ignorance
In terms of hypocrisy, I am of the opinion that it is not entirely a bad thing, it is a source of knowledge, both the person with a speck in their eye and the other with a beam in their eye need the speck and the beam removed so they can both see clearly.
In the process of managing oneself and understanding the work of forgiveness, in the words of the management sage, Peter Drucker, I need to “discover where your intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it.” Take out the word ‘intellectual’ and much more can be done to better oneself, by learning and unlearning with the view to overcoming fundamental flaws in our humanity.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Thought Picnic: In the climes of resentment

The crimes of association
Too many times, the thought of bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly does present itself for self-pitying analysis and a decline into anger. For me, the greatest feeling of being treated unfairly, unjustly, or irritably for all sorts of reasons appear to go back to my parents than anyone else.
For the many times I have bitten my tongue, held my peace or disconnected from that lifetime umbilical cord of familial association, I have tried to convince myself that I have moved beyond it all. There is however a trigger somewhere that brings it all bubbling to the top, a memory too keen as to be a danger to my wellbeing, then with the means to reflect there are avenues of venting one’s spleen by offering what almost ends up a shared experience with strangers.
Control the seethe
Much as I hold few or no grudges; between emotional blackmail and an apparent lack of consideration as others begin to exhibit traits of self-centeredness, you are on the verge of blurting it out, the baggage and burdens that have weighed you down and malformed your outlook in ways that if you’re not careful things become irreparable.
How do you deal with resentment? Resentment borne from childhood abuse in many characteristics from the sexual through the emotional to the physical. In striving is isolate and insulate myself, I need to extricate myself from the need to feel that I can only be approved or validated through someone else.
Much as there is an age-old desire to please one’s forebears and community, it should not become a life suffocating ambition where the failure to meet some objective can lead to and exacerbate depression.
Keeping it measured
Anger also needs to be managed, in finding the measured tone to speak one’s mind and having what you have to say heard, even if it is not accepted. My perspective of things might be myopic, but I cannot ignore what is offered to my sight and the broader experience that gives me the view I have. If that view cannot be ameliorated, it should not be compounded with indifference.
The resent is usually not recent, but so many stories brought into focus at a time when a different focus is required, one with the clarity of purpose, ease of mind and absence of stress. Most particularly, we must appreciate that if we give others the keys to what triggers resentment, we can easily be manipulated to ends and purposes that take away our initiative, independence, purpose, vision, self-assuredness, and self-esteem.
A medium that works
To confront the causes of the different elements of resentment, there would have to be the decision to let bygones be bygones which is one easy exit for my father, but hardly a resolution of the issues we need to talk about. It is usually better to put my forthright views in writing and address the responses or consequences at my convenience. English also reduces the power-distance index allowing for the difficult elements to be suffused in accessible language without the tensions that culture and traditions demand.
It would always be a work in progress, as I learn better ways to control the intricacies of resentfulness when I just want to be at peace with myself.