Tuesday 29 August 2023

Dare I learn to laugh again?

Where is my laughter?

The other day, I wrote about being sad, the sadness about many things as each aspect of adversity seemed to pronounce a lien on my sense of wellbeing. Much as I have struggled with things, I have pressed forward, not with the speed I wanted nor with the progress I expected, but I have kept looking for ways to encourage myself and refuse to allow the negative to take too much space in my space.

Blog: Sadly Sad Sadness (July 2023)

I had forgotten how to laugh, a strengthening power of joy had left me morose and concerned, preoccupied with many things and oblivious to the good, the beautiful, the wonderful, and the blessings that greet every waking day. Even if I deny it, some self-pity was creeping up on my patch, and I needed to get it off my lawn.

Bring back the joy

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! [Nehemiah 8:10 (NLT)]

The part of the joy of the Lord being my strength was registering in my thoughts for a while, but I was unsure of what I needed to do to begin to enjoy the benefits of this medicine of laughter with the healing qualities it presents.

Laughter for the pain

I have written about this many times before, when my Fentanyl patch fell off one Sunday probably when I was at church, the pain of cancer searingly deep came in waves almost too unbearable that as I got home still unaware of why the pain was there and then I began to laugh, not cry, but laugh as I realised how the laughter helped release endorphins that held the pain at bay until the newly affixed patch took hold.

Another experience of laughter was a few years ago when I met a pastor in a park, and we began to chat. He said some incredulous and interesting things to me and about me, much of which not only surprised me but were also as unbelievable to be considered impossible. I chuckled and even laughed just as Sarah in the bible did when she was told at the age of 90 that she would have a child.

Laughter for the winning

Laughter sometimes is an expression of unrestrained vulnerability that can leave in contortions of near embarrassment which when shared with others is a different kind of geniality, communication, and camaraderie. We do need more laughter in our lives as expressions of happiness and more so, joy, a kind of feeling of wellness that overwhelms gloom and presents a new kind of perspective on things.

I know it would do me good, it would heal a lot of pain, it will drown away sorrows and uproot the foothold of sadness, it would lift my countenance and I hold my head up high and in it will come the strength to know that the seasons are changing for a bountiful harvest where the windows of heaven are open for the pouring out of blessing. Delirium, you make think, let’s laugh adversity out of our lives.

Blog: Laughter follows my hospital visit (October 2009)

Blog: Thought Picnic: My laughter and my pain (July 2013)

Blog: Opinion: Where addiction and tragedy can confuse issues (April 2017)

Blog: And I laughed like Sarah (July 2021)

Blog: I was a hostage to pain (September 2022)

Watching a sermon preached by Reverend Richard Roberts he shared his testimony of one day owing no one and the next when he took over the reins of Oral Roberts University, they were $60m in debt and at risk of closing, how the joy of the Lord changed everything and everything changed.

The Joy Of The Lord // Rev. Richard Roberts // May 22, 2019 // Jay Eberly Ministries

Thought Picnic: Those who resort to bastardry should answer for their claims

Refusing to bear the slur

It has occurred to me that there must be a time when you must divorce yourself from illegitimacy and the hold of bastardry predicated on an assessment of your situation with little regard for your lived life and achievements.

Obviously, there were circumstances where children born out of wedlock were considered illegitimate, but it is no fault of the child that they were born into that situation. Unfortunately, the label might dog them in terms of inheritance or entitlement, but what cannot be denied them is the right to live their own lives and set their own course to create their own story.

Other uses of the word bastard might come from attempting to address the child in terms of what they have failed to achieve for wanting of ability and sometimes it is just adversity or misfortune that can happen to anyone, just that someone somewhere seems to be keeping score.

Invariably, anyone can be a bastard, choose to be one or be seen as one. For those who for all sorts of reasons are declared so but refuse to let it define them, the path before them is clear as the light of day. Provenance is helpful, but without it, you can still go on to become the best of who you can ever be for the betterment of people and communities that see you as you are rather than where you are from.

Let them answer for their claims

It is interesting that even royal bastards even with their illegitimacy were rarely without honour or title and many were quite prominent in society without attainder for being born out of wedlock. A child of whom they have been born remains the child of, whether recognised and accepted or not.

If then after so having reached adulthood there are some that seek to lay that unfortunate appellation on you, it is for them to then support that with the evidence of why illegitimacy is their refuge of discourse apart from whatever else you have done and achieved.

Smarting from an encounter that elicited reference and allusion in the mistaken need to trigger a response to attendant concerns, it is not the need to continue engagement that comes to mind even if some advice has suggested a bit more circumspection to limited spheres of adverse commentary. 

Rather, one is inclined to cut off communication for the time being, for once again, a line was crossed and if bastardry was a last resort for one, it became the last straw that broke the laden camel’s back for another.

Blog: Thought Picnic: Battling a dimension of legitimacy

On keeping and appreciating the value of my diamond

Working on relationships

There are times I want to believe I have the best of relationships and others where I am doubtful about the strength of what we might have going. The doubts are not about the relationship itself but how to navigate the emotional elements that constitute the relationship to ensure needs and requirements are satisfied.

If there were a rulebook for relationships with 10 Steps to Perfect Relationships, maybe 10 steps would be a bit much, if the whole concept could be condensed to 3 steps or how Jesus paraphrased the 10 Commandments into two of loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself, maybe, just maybe there can be a modicum of assured success.

The demands are demanding

However, human beings are too complex to be subject to the simple mechanisation of rules. The elements that make for a good relationship with anyone are myriad and varied, the commonalities and differences that engender satisfaction for partners would rarely be similar between all sorts of people.

As much as I strive to make relationships work, we all have expectations, some fully and completely met and others quite less so, as to be unsatisfactory. We work at what we have, to make the bad good, and hope to make the good even better or perfect, but there is work involved and communication is key to that.

Making provision for the sulk

Then again, allowances need to be made to vent frustration, anger, or some other emotion in the scheme of things. A quiet spell of being sent to Coventry is probably one of the easier messages to send in the expression of disagreement or more. It is prerogative that members of a partnership are free to exercise at will without the need to answer to anyone.

Not that it makes for any good feeling for the affected party, but these are things that we as human beings need to negotiate even as the burden of disquiet exacerbates stress and unfortunate discomfort.

Seeking a more perfect union

As the old saying, Love is blind, marriage or relationships are the eye opener. My eyes are constantly opened to my inadequacies in satisfying what might be required of me, in as much as they are opened to how people in relationships are flawed people seeking to augment each other to make a more complete union and whole, some of that is in bonding as glue for joinery and at times it is brutal clash of iron sharpening iron with all the sparks that come from the friction.

I guess what matters most is lots of patience and much more endurance to stay the course whatever happens, to prove daily and maybe hourly that the person you have chosen matters more than you have the capacity to express and in the same vein, more than they would ever know. The rest you leave to fate and fortitude, you can never relent in giving your best, the test is whether they trust you enough to accept it as good enough.

When I look back into history, a man was a diamond to a damsel, sadly, the diamond lost its glitter, the amazing gem had lost the colour, the clarity, the cut, and the carat weight that gave it inestimable value, rancour and animosity bedevils that once blessed matrimony. It is a narrative one must prevent from repeating itself.

Monday 28 August 2023

Stewarding at the Pride Eucharist

The Rainbow flag flying on the flagstaff of the Manchester Cathedral.

In the beauty of service

I am humbled by how the call to serve has brought me into proximity and recognition of the powerful. It is a distinctive antithesis of human nature where many have a quest for power rather than the desire to serve.

Whilst one cannot say this is something I would have gravitated to in the natural cause of things, I do remember that when I eventually found a church to associate with in Amsterdam, I found that getting involved in the basics of helping to set up and dismantle the settings for services and worship was something to do because it was needful.

In the process, I got involved during the infancy of the church in finding a new venue, providing storage space, hosting but not leading a prayer group, and was in the ushers and serving team. I however declined positions of leadership that were offered as I was in much conflict about what that entailed.

To welcome and to steward

As a welcomer and a steward at the Manchester Cathedral, positions I assumed after the long courting and persuasion of others who deemed my attendance as one that suggested enough affinity and the readiness to be involved, even more so when the dean through his wife expressed that I had to be involved because there is no reason not to be, I relented.

At the Annual General Meeting of the cathedral, I was voted on as a steward and soon after in my activities with the Volition programme became a welcomer of visitors to the cathedral.

However, yesterday, in attending the Eucharist for Pride which enjoins to bring the LGBTQI+ community into communion and worship, I arrived early to help, just in case extra hands were needed. At the Dean’s Garden Party two Saturdays ago, he, the dean said there was no way the cathedral could function without the volunteers that help in services and other activities that need doing in the cathedral organisation.

Between right and respect

I soon took over at the door to welcome and hand out the service programme to people who had come to attend the Pride Eucharist and it was notable for the fact that the Bishop of Manchester was also in attendance to welcome, bless, charge, and dismiss the congregation. The clergy that ministered at the altar were all ordained by the bishop too. [The Manchester Pride takes place in the August Bank Holiday weekend from Thursday night through Monday night.]

I had interesting encounters at the door, the cathedral is open to all visitors, and I have probably met visitors from more than 35 countries. However, when there are services in the nave, the church is closed to visitors with a big sign posted at the door informing anyone not attending the ongoing service that the cathedral is closed.

Yet, there are some that ignore the sign and come through the doors insisting they need to visit almost as if it is a matter of right. The difficult conversation that ensues between understanding that the house of God is open and the need to respect that the act of congregational worship should courteously and understandably not be disturbed is almost a battle of wits, reasonableness, and enforcement.

Stand for the open heart

To one lady who was ready to barge in, I told her, there was an ongoing service and except if she was here to attend the Pride Eucharist, the church was now closed to visitors, but she was not going quietly. With a look of incredulity on her face she asked why the church was catering to gay folk, to which I answered that Jesus died for all and the church is an open place of worship for everyone. Much as everyone needs prayer.

She understood as much before we moved on to issues of symbolism and doctrine, by which time, I had to move her from the inside of the church into the corridor of the doorway, with the hope that she would leave peacefully. Yes, we are a Protestant church, the Church of England, The depictions of Jesus or Mary are not venerated in answering other questions before she insisted her sister-in-law was attending the service and she needed to get to her.

Pointing in a direction I could hardly determine, two of a group that was initially hesitant to attend walked towards the door from the furthest part of the seating and they all left the cathedral.

The door of conflict and consent

It soon dawned upon me the precariousness of manning the door, as earlier, someone had left their rucksack at the doorway, which caused a bit of tension that it was inspected by the staff after an announcement did not elicit a response about ownership. Eventually, he returned to claim his bag, but it could have been something else.

Another could barely contain the sense of rage about the church involved in this service, and we have at times had someone come in to disrupt an ongoing service protesting that the gathering was not a reflection of true Christianity, as if disrupting other people’s devotion is Christian in any sense at all.

It was revealed when the Bishop of Manchester in his welcoming remarks stated that one of the requirements that came up in his application for the role was that he needed to be accepted by the LGBTQI+ community of Manchester. I was surprised but what makes for harmony is the welcoming of diversity to the love of Christ and therein the gospel is heard by all rather than limited to a few.

The Pride Eucharist was attended by about 150 people, it was a celebration of Christianity, and many stayed behind for refreshments. Later, the bishop thanked us for serving and stewarding, which included taking the offering and ushering to the communion. A welcoming church allows Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to do their work rather than become gatekeepers and sentries to the grace and gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The cover of the Pride Eucharist programme.

Am I the writer I could be?

A writer unsure

I have traits, abilities, and skills that I probably know, in other cases have been noticed, but I have rarely had the confidence over self-doubt to use consistently and maybe as profitably as possible.

One of those is writing and the ability to convey complex and difficult ideas easily and comprehensibly. Obviously, my turn of phrase and use of expression can be quirky, queer, and unusual. I have decided that is my voice, the range in which it is heard and read is characteristically mine, and so, I have resisted certain requirements to conform to a style guide, my blog becoming my bailiwick of boundless expression.

A writer constrained

Well, I want to believe that my expression is boundless, but it hardly is, I have to take into consideration the cloud of witnesses, known and unknown who might misread, misconstrue, or misunderstand. Those who have access to me would seek clarification whilst others would run along with their misconception and subscribe to conjecture, over which I have no control.

Then again, I am not writing scripts that need some tight direction, I think I am inclined to the story-form narrative, the way my observations bring forth interesting perspectives and the short blog is a good vehicle for that.

A writer student

I guess I have struggled with the long-form novel, particularly what might become my autobiography. A few chapters have been written but this is where I am beginning to think I need some tutelage or school, something to break through that feeling of incapacity and limitation.

I do not know if that can be taught and learned, but I am quite willing to try. It might be one of the courses in tertiary education I embark on.

For now, I am still thinking of what ideas and celebrations should greet my 20 years of blogging. I do wonder what should be done.

Friday 25 August 2023

Thought Picnic: Battling a dimension of legitimacy

Where it seems to be

There are things and situations that seek to rob you of your peace and invade the witching hours to inflict insomnia on the necessity for sleep. The back and forth of rumination that presents as worry that brings no solution but much bother to the fore.

You wrestle with much about life and desire, the dreams that seem too distant to the reality you seek, yet you cannot stop believing that the possible is not as far away as it seems.

Some think it is a mid-life crisis, sometimes it is much further on than mid-life, just before your golden jubilee, there are considerations that come to the fore, the insurgence of self-doubt as much as the ebbing away of self-confidence. Motivation becomes alien in the scheme of things.

What they expect of you

There is a battle raging in your being in the usually observed futile attempts to get your life back on track. It is a daily war against so many elements, it is by abundant grace that many are not overwhelmed even as exhaustion taxes on both strength and will.

As if that is not hard enough on the individual, there are external pressures in addition to the ones prevalent, familial, familiar, and further afield. Those who are secondarily affected by a somewhat whispering campaign about your situation, more perceived than real, the constant need to keep up with the Joneses than brings you in regular comparison with others whose trajectory has never been of concern until you met some roadblocks.

Who is doing the talking?

How is it that when adversity comes, the support you get is sparse but the questioning about your legitimacy borne of activity and achievement apart from progeny becomes topical? When this is broached directly or in code by those you expect an understanding from, you can be left not only discomfited but also discouraged, despondent, despairing, and disappointed.

It is in terms of that situation that I was advised not to submit myself to such discussions as there is just about enough pressure on yourself trying to find a solution to your situation before carrying on your shoulders the concerns of others simply trying to keep up appearances totally at your expense with little appreciation of your plight.

How I see the future

If not for the unstinting support of my partner and my best friend, there is no telling for how one could cope. Then it is not about coping, I don’t just want to get by even if each day seems a drudge of the unchanging same, I am strong on the will to not only survive but thrive too.

For at present, I have walked and wandered through the valley of the shadow of death, encountering evil in various forms, but in all of that, the Lord is with me and will bring me through it all to the refreshing still waters and luxuriant green pastures. A table is set before me in the presence of my enemies, my cup of blessing and joy overflows and I will yet testify of the goodness and mercy that follows me, all my days. [A paraphrase and adaptation of the Psalm 23]

Tuesday 22 August 2023

The supermarket trolley on the move

In the folly of a trolley

The times that I have chosen to do my walking exercises to avoid encounters with unruly owners with their devil dogs in public parks present a new kind of solitude and quietness for contemplation and reflection. Then again are the observations one makes of the somewhat ordinary and yet attractive.

The uncharted and relatively insignificant life of the supermarket trolley is one that seems to fill me with intrigue and genuine interest. I will use trolley for the rest of the blog.

Typically, a trolley will be arrayed with similar trolleys at the entrance of a supermarket, a refundable charge for use allows the trolley to be detached from its mooring to other trolleys and after usage, it is returned for the click mooring to release the coin inserted to gain use of the trolley.

The trolley quite adrift

In some instances, the customer fails to return the trolley to the mooring post and the coin is trapped in the trolley release mechanism, but that is not the issue here. Obviously, the command and control of a trolley around the supermarket and when wheeled towards a vehicle in the car park can present an irreverent waywardness no matter how much the customer attempts to steer it. It is a wonder that licenses are not required to steer those beasts.

However, my chronicling of the odyssey of the trolley comes from seeing the trolleys a long way away from the home supermarket, on a pathway, in the river, idling in the fields, or full of rubbish rather than consumer goods and groceries.

Meeting the tunnel trolley

For instance, walking through a pedestrian tunnel three days ago, there was a trolley halfway into the tunnel party blocking the pathway and a bit askew. I did wonder where it had come from. Perish the thought that it had automation, or it arrived there by some poltergeist phenomenon. A certain human being must have got it that far and decided to abandon it there.

The next day, the trolley was on its back, the handlebar and the hind wheels on the ground looking up like the wire sculpture of a yawning hippopotamus. The thought crossed my mind, but I did not dwell on it, as for the questions, there were many to think of too.

The story-making trolley

Then, at another brisk walk through the tunnel, the trolley had righted itself, now on its four wheels and did I notice there was a wheel brake to stop it from being wheeled away from the perimeter of the home supermarket. Yet, it had escaped by velocity, anti-social behaviour, or a quest for liberation. Let’s not wonder too much. It was now well placed at the entrance of the tunnel as if standing sentry.

You can expect, I did expect to see the trolley again as I traipsed through the pedestrian tunnel again, but it had gone. I half-expected to see it along the route between the interconnecting tunnels, footpaths, and bridges, but no, it was nowhere to be seen. Not that I have trolleys for company, but there might have been an unspoken conversation between us that was missed on my last traversal.

The trolley back at home

Another 750 yards on, it clicked, there is a large supermarket and the trolley from its colour scheme must have belonged there. If I had tagged it, as one cannot take the name of the trolley, I do wonder of out of the formation of trolleys in resolute order bettering a military parade, I could have asked the trolley for fallout for a dressing down or a commendation.

Herein is the quandary:
for the trolleys that roam,
a long way from home,
is there any hope,
for how they should cope?

Saturday 19 August 2023

Reflections on a childhood reunion

The mantle that fell on us

The weekend past provided a moment of deep reflection on the quality of relationships and how they endure. In other ways, I thought about how a generational mantle of favour covers us in certain places out of reverence for what our forebears have done long before we became part of the scene. The ability to understand that grace which is not of our ability or achievement is something to reckon with.

I can say I have benefited immensely from much of what my parents have done and the enduring relationships that have grown from those communities. Social media and the wonders of modern communication abstracts from the reality of sight, sound, touch, and hearing in terms of physicality. The convenience tends towards the substitute.

Then back together again

How I felt about seeing relations and friends who I had not seen from about 7 years ago was heart-warming, the catching up and the memories that linger. You feel you have adapted and changed and still much remains the same. What is evident is the mutual love and affection we have for each other, whatever the trajectories of life, what brings us together is strong, enduring, and wholesome.

Further on, there are people I had not seen since the 1980s, and we were gathered to celebrate a landmark birthday with all the siblings of the celebrant coming from the far ends of the world for the festivities. The matriarch, the widow of my father’s closest, best, and childhood friend presided over ensuring I graced the occasion. My arrival indicated much of my features are too easy to recognise, even as I scan the deep recesses of my archives to link and appreciate.

The childhoods that sired this

The greetings and the smiles, I have not attended a Nigerian fare for longer than I can care to remember, we are counting decades and more. In any case, I was being introduced to the new generation to which the reference point was the close friendship of my father to their dearly departed grandfather.

The party managers having marshalled us to the organised settings, I looked up again to recognise another childhood friend, scion of the community of childhood friends of my father. Then he introduced his wife to me, my father had given the eulogy at his father's funeral. That was news to me, that his father had passed on, along with the additional detail.

It occurred to me as it has before that with the blessing of a long life comes the misery of bidding your peers fond farewells with the reminiscing in sadness and warm feelings. The traction of time is perpetual, and our marks in the notches of time’s unending length of totem pole is where we look to reflect on the things that suggest, we need people to gather again for old times sake.

Saturday 12 August 2023

Taking friendliness to heart

In patient endurance

In a telephone conversation that I could not wait to end that there was an urging in me to ask what the particular purpose of the call was, I held on still to allow it to come to its natural end.

It was not a conversation, I was on the listening end of everything and the work inside me was one where I rationalised to myself that it was a test of my resolve, I had to recalibrate my ability to engage my friend even when my eyes begin to glaze over and my neck stiffens in obduracy to avoid being swallowed in the mental chasm of his chaotic and yet charmed existence.

Then again, I was somewhat vindicated when he said that chatbots could not understand him, this is not just because of his accent which is quite distinct, much as I hate to use the word torrent, his speech is like a waterfall of words without attempted enunciation, you strain with much difficulty to understand him, you begin to tune out.

A burden of care

Beyond that, I had begun to associate this ‘speech impediment’ and it has to be that if we are speaking the same language and yet we cannot understand each other, with mental exhaustion. It is energy sapping with all the wringing of anything you can wring if caught in the web of this engagement.

Yet, my love for him is undiminished, as a friend and I will support him, where I can calm him down enough to have a conversation, and understand where he needs my support, he can count on me.

With all the tendency I could have to assess, I have come to another appreciation of what I need to do in terms of endurance and patience, there is much work to be done in being more longsuffering, for I have been forgiven much more than I have dared to forgive others.

Wednesday 9 August 2023

Sleepless in prose

What questions at crazy times

Many a night is spent sleepless,
Even at times, one is quite listless,
As midnight gains hour on hour,
The brain seeks stuff to scan and scour,
What could I do at this strange hour?

Then inspired by what I just read,
For quite a while not woven a thread,
Of words and thoughts within the mind,
To test a skill of wit, prose, and kind,
What is it that we might find?

In a bed, I sleep without that warmth,
Of arms that wrap around like cloth,
Those hands that soothe a good back rub,
Or when we shower, I get a scrub,
What in the morn is in my hot teacup?

My daydreams are walked all by the sea,
With winds and sprays that bring me glee,
I know my dreams prepare a way,
A foretaste of true living into the day,
What they ask makes them happy and gay? 

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Thought Picnic: Going back to the basics

Back to the basics

I find myself reviewing much of what I know, appraising what has worked in the tried-and-tested life experiences, and relearning the fundamentals whilst seeking to improve on things that are not working as they used to.

It is as much a spiritual journey as it is one of the development of skill and expertise to meet the challenges faced daily and over periods of time as seasons and expectations.

The power of example

I do not express much about my innate beliefs as I think example demonstrates person, personality, and personableness. Seeing how life is lived makes for a better indicator of everything else, whether in times of adversity or advantage.

What I am learning from the many who provide examples for living that I follow from their testimonies is that they return to the advice, admonition, and example of those before them that have mentored, shepherded, or led them. The building blocks still remain the foundation from which each and everyone can individually and uniquely create their own story.

Thursday 3 August 2023

Thought Picnic: Seeking my authentic voice

Seeking the right voice

There is a lot I give thought to, that churns constantly within from conflict through confusion and seeking confession. Not confession in the sense of admission, but in the cause of affirmation, a profession of belief in the understanding of who I am.

Then, I think back to the absence of voice in the many things I could have voiced as opposed to the few times I have spoken without accentuating the better views, painting myself in the most unfavourable light to find some sort of agreement in understanding the afflictions I have entertained.

What I see that I have talked myself down, talked myself out, talked myself done, and talked myself lost, when there is much talking to do to talk up, talk in, talk better, and talk positive. Where is my voice of prayer? I ask.

Imagining the impossible

I have given myself to hearing, hearing for encouragement and support for the faith that comes from hearing. I hear more than I read, I listen more to understand, I understand even to act, and act to succeed.

There is a vision that replays in me with the conviction of the possible. I am on a journey that I am receiving the strength to conceive of what is totally beyond me and yet is the mystery of faith.

Let me understand even more how to be impactfully the best I can ever be in the walk on earth, that is my prayer and where my voice needs to be, day and night, in the full assurance that what I have imagined is possible.