“My New Normal: Reflections of a Stroke Survivor” A book review.

We were stunned at work back in late 2015 when we heard that she had had a stroke. What?! Hilary was just 51 and in apparent good health. Heck, I’d seen her that day at work! As the months following that day in November in 2015 changed to years, I’d see a pic or two on her Facebook page. It was evident that her life had changed, literally in an instant. Facial features had changed and mobility was most definitely a challenge. We saw each other once when she visited the office. She was moving around with assistance from a caregiver, but seemed so happy to reconnect with her former colleagues. Then I stopped seeing her on Facebook. I wondered what was happening and thought of her frequently. So imagine my joyful surprise when Hilary reached out to me on Twitter with an invitation to her book launch!

Continue reading “My New Normal: Reflections of a Stroke Survivor” A book review.

My dreams…

“These dreams go on when I close my eyes. Every second of the night, I live another life.” Heart.

I was alone with Luther Vandross on a stage in some sort of concert hall. The auditorium was empty. Luther was sitting at the piano smiling, running through a number of his songs. It was Fat Luther in my dream, clad in acid washed baggy jeans, sneakers and sweater. I was standing, listening to him, hardly believing my good fortune. Luther was happy, relaxed, telling me the stories behind those songs, giving me the low down on a number of the people he had collaborated with. I sang along with him, trepidaciously of course, and he just kept smiling and encouraged me to sing up and sing along. I don’t remember a single thing that he shared, but I do remember the feeling I had when I woke up and remembered the dream. “That was cool” I smiled to myself.

I dream. Regularly. I have recurring dreams. I have dreams that I don’t remember the details of when I wake up. I have gotten up from dreams, fallen back asleep, only to have the dream continue. I have gotten up from a dream, sick to my stomach only to realise with a profound sense of relief that it was just a dream. I have had dreams about the most unlikely people. So glad they don’t know that they’ve made it into my dreams!

As I was thinking about my Luther Vandross dream, I remembered a very similar dream I had in my second year of undergrad studies. I was a passenger on a train. Whitney Houston was singing “Where do broken hearts go”. She had on a navy inspired black and white outfit. She was happy, standing at the front of the car, singing her heart and soul out. I was sitting at the rear of the car, enthralled at what was unfolding before my eyes. I sang along softly, smiling. Miss Whitney called me up. I looked back at her incredulously, Me? She motioned: “come on up”. I went up and she smiled at me and mouthed “sing”. I was nervous. I was unbelieving. “Come on, Girl” she encouraged me. I opened my mouth. I closed my eyes and I did my best to keep up with Miss Whitney. I knew I wasn’t doing a good job. But she wouldn’t let me quit and Whitney and I sang the hell out of that ballad! I woke up with aching jaws, happy as could be, shaking my head with the certain knowledge that it could only happen in a dream.

So when I had a similar dream 27 years after my Whitney dream I searched for the meaning.
I always try to find the meaning to my dreams.  I don’t think it’s hocus pocus. I’m in fact thankful for my dreams, the pleasant and the not so pleasant.  Many times I think my dreams force me to confront issues swirling in my subconscious and act like a relief valve, giving expression to mounting pressures, fears, uncertainties, forcing me to face them, challenge them and move forward unfettered.

The dream where I am struggling to get ready and I can never go any faster or improve my level of preparedness… The dream where I am in  supermarket with a long list of things that I  must get, and the supermarket is about to close and I can’t find what I want or I can’t make up my mind… The dream where I am being chased by a faceless man on a motorcycle through corridors and I wake up just before he catches me…  Those are recurring dreams that I have had at different points in my life. Times when I have been faced with decisions, choices, dissatisfaction with my current state of being, fears about the future. And my response has been to acknowledge those fears, pray about them, challenge them and keep on moving.

There have been dreams where I can’t quite decipher the meaning.  So I try to define my prevailing feelings upon waking up. If I am at peace, I don’t give the dream a second thought. If I feel uneasy or sad or scared, then I pause. I pray. I pray for the people in my dream. And then I keep on moving. I don’t believe that every dream is a fait accompli.  Like I said, dreams can be a relief valve, and I think that dreams can be a portend inviting action.

These singing dreams though… So I researched the possible meaning of my happy singing dreams. One school of thought suggests that dreaming about celebrities indicates some yearning to be like them. LOL! I’ve always wished I could sing.  Not that my lack of singing ability stops me. Ask my children, H and colleagues. Poor them ๐Ÿ™‚ My limited musical training and my relatively good ear tell me quite plainly when I am hovering above or below that note. I can hear it quite clearly. And I can also hear quite clearly my inability to translate what my mind knows to be accurate to the sound coming out of my mouth. But this desire of mine to be able to sing has certainly never been an obsession or a life show stopper. So I searched on.

To sing in your dream represents happiness, harmony and joy in some situation or relationship. You are uplifting others with your positive attitude and cheerful disposition. Singing is a way to celebrate, communicate, embrace and express your feelings.To hear someone sing in your dream signifies emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Your mood is changing for the positive as your outlook in life is looking up.”

Well alrighty then.  I’ll take that! There have been some changes for the better in my life, methinks. I have more challenges at work that if I handle correctly, will see me stretching as a professional in my field. I don’t have the dead end, what the hell am I doing with my life feeling that I had 8 months ago. I’ve ticked off some personal goals to do with education and investments. I’ve gotten a grip of some sort on my health. And sure, there are still areas of my life that pose a challenge… that’s how I know that I’m living ๐Ÿ™‚

But as with every dream, good and bad, I keep moving forward. I seek guidance, I seek mercy and I look forward to every new day as a chance to get it right. Selah.



WHY?

I had been following the tweets of #oomf (I shall call her “R”)for a few weeks. I knew nothing about her except what I gleaned from Twitter. We’d occasionally even trade tweets. Here’s what I gathered about her: she had lupus. She had been spending a lot of time in hospitals of late. R had moved from hospital to hospital. Her condition had deteriorated over the past couple of weeks. She seemed to be in pain, all over pain. She couldn’t keep any food or drink down. At first, she was able to tolerate watermelon. Eventually, not even that. Her tweets progressed from mere notifications of her current state, to what felt like resignation to a horrible existence, the absence of hope, the sound of a very weary and battered soul, and in the instances where there was shard of strength, desperate cries for help.

Many of her own followers offered words of encouragement and in some cases tangible help in the form of visits, gifts of juice and doctor recommendations. For my part, I may have reached out in a single tweet trying to commiserate. She was always in my thoughts, and I would check her timeline to catch up her latest news. I prayed for her. Pain can be so debilitating, robbing the victim of his humanity, stripping away composure and erasing hope. As for her nausea…ugh! I had morning (noon and night) sickness during my two pregnancies which started at Day 1 and continued right up to the moment in the delivery room when I pushed my babies out. It. Was. Awful. Enough said. In my case I knew why I was sick. I also knew that it would end, and I knew when it would end. In R’s case, no one could tell her the reason, and nothing was helping. She was being stripped down day by day, dollar by dollar. Yesterday, very early, a lone tweet from her pierced my morning: “Anyone?” Oh God. I scrolled to the tweet before this one, and realised that in the dark just before dawn, R had thrown out a request to TwitterLand for advice as to where she could get a nurse’s aid. Not many people are actively tweeting at that time of the morning and her cry for help went unheeded. I got out of bed and moved to the laptop. I was on a mission. I DMed her and told her that I may be able to assist with a referral. Several FB inbox messages (I don’t have to provide the explanatory link to what FB inbox is, right?) to someone I was sure could help and several DMs to R later, I had linked her with her possible solution. But I was left with one question as I pondered the situation: Why?

I thought about a FB Note (I hope you know what that is too…if you don’t, please stop reading and ask your teen to tell you what a FB note is) I had written November 2009:

Why Me? Why her? Why now?

November 1, 2009 at 1:12pm

It’s always gratifying to see your children socialising and being participatory. This morning my Firstborn sang with her school Glee Club at a mass of remembrance for Pia. For those who do not know, Pia would have been 19 today, and it exactly 1 year since she died. Pia was accidentally shot by her father as he ran out towards Pia and her mother who were being held up by gunmen outside their Kingston suburban home. He slipped and fell in the melee and the gun went off, the single bullet piercing Pia’s stomach. Pia was the school’s head girl and an active Roman Catholic. As I observed her family supporting each other this morning, and the love and support of the Church community, I reflected on the whole notion of suffering.
Some of us suffer because of poor choices that we make. Others of us suffer and there is no rational answer to the question: “why?” Why did that one bullet hit and kill Pia, what anguish assails her father, why does one person get cancer and not another, why does one person get HIV infected and others engaging in risky sex escape, why, why, why? What about those of us who have misery beset us because of our own poor choices? Do we have a right to hope for mercy and redemption? 

It was a very moving service that prompted these musings. I certainly did not leave with the answers, only a feeling of gratitude for the blessings that are still there in the middle of sadness, loss, regret and despair….a certain knowledge that His ways are not our ways, and that redemption is available and possible for all. 

It somehow seems easier for us to reconcile consequences to actions. If I put my hand in the fire, I will get burnt. Inevitable. Painful, but expected. And we roll with those punches. But if I am walking past the stove and it somehow explodes, burning that same hand, I now contend with the same pain and then some, asking WHY… why did this happen to me? After all, I didn’t get burned through any fault of my own.  In fact, some of us, having made poor choices and even wrong choices, welcome the fall out as a sort of penance for our wrong doing.

Life, though, exists and manifests with inter-relationships that we have no control over. Here’s a simple illustration: two of us are sitting perhaps 2 feet apart at the side of a pond. The fool to my left decides to pick up a large stone and throw it with force into the pond. His decision, his action. So he throws it in and there’s a huge splash. I’m pretty sure he expected that he would get splashed. And sure enough, he gets splashed. Here’s the problem though: I’m only 2 feet away, so I too get splashed, my only part in this mess being my proximity to him. The stone that he pelted into the water, startled the King Fisher about to get his morning meal in the form of a hapless fish swimming merrily in said pond. The fish escapes death, the bird goes hungry. Ripples are created and radiate outwards all the way to the other end of the pond. One single action by one person has affected, in one way or another, several other situations and persons.

So we ask why. My wise Aunt Jeannie (the same person who shared laughingly while shaking her head I as I shared with her some of the settling in pains of our first year of marriage: “Men are simple you know, Kelly…accept that and it makes it easier to deal with them…”) once replied to one of my “why?” moments with this counter: “WHY NOT?”

This is life: inter-connectedness that we will never understand or even know about… actions and consequences, some our own, many having nothing to do with us.

Last week, the parents of a student at Little Master’s school were murdered. My godson sits beside that student and his mom, my friend G, called me to talk about it. “How do you think we should deal with this situation, Kelly?” she asked. We agreed that acknowledging what had happened would probably be best, without going into the gory details, and that providing a safe space for the children to ask questions and express their feelings would be useful too. G told me that my godson had challenged her recently: “If God is supposed to take care of us, why do bad things happen? Does it mean that God is NOT taking care of us properly?” That “WHY?” again… I was naturally curious as to her response to my obviously thinking and intelligent godson. Here’s what this wise mummy replied:

God created all things and allows situations to happen (big fish eat fish). Humans are different from the rest of God’s creations as we can think and reason at a higher level. Our job, as His people, is to do the right things in our lives.

I can’t answer every single “why?” that crops up as I make my way in life. My faith allows me to reach out and ask for and accept grace when I am faced with the consequences of my own actions. That same faith challenges me to reach out and ask for grace to deal with circumstances that are created without my participation. I don’t believe that my life is a series of random events. I try daily to embrace My Story. There are lessons I’ve learned. There is a God that I’ve come to know. I believe that I have grown as a person, and I think that I have been able to journey with people though their own story, sharing strength and insight that I gained along the way through my own experiences. I believe that even though I may not be able to answer “why?” today, there may come a day when I possibly can. I believe that every single thing happens for a reason, and that as at today, it’s not all over…”the story nuh done yet.”

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