IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE A TENNIS TOURNAMENT WITHOUT SERENA WILLIAMS

Serena Williams in her element

Long ago, I attended a prestigious girls boarding school which offered us a rigorous academic and extracurricular engagements. Sports, music and arts were highly valued. I was privileged to belong to the school athletics team, netball and hockey teams. I also played some tennis. The experiences endowed me with a love for sports up to today. By the time I left the school, I was a well-rounded student prepared for university and a career.

In the 70s, Arthur Ashe, the first African-American to win the U.S Open (1970) and later Wimbledon (1975) visited Uganda and conducted a tennis clinic at my school. It was an unforgettable event for us. Since then , many of us developed a keen interest in tennis and went on to become regular followers of the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May-early June, Wimbledon in June- July, and the U.S. Open as the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.

The Williams sisters: Venus and Serena have given us tremendous joy since Serena’s first victory in 1999 at the U.S Open Grand Slam singles. Venus last made it to the final of the Australian Open and Wimbledon and the semi-finals of the U.S Open in 2017 but Serena has continued to dominate the game until today. They had to stay competitive with other professionals, they just could not stop playing.

Experienced tennis coaches tell us that it takes more than ten years to really get good at the game because there are so many areas to develop in each individual. People pick up tennis and spend entire lifetimes to master the game. You train systematically and compete in tournaments to achieve your physical best. This is exactly what Serena has been doing for twenty-seven years!

A lot has been written about these tennis greats over decades as they rose to fame and greatness.To understand and appreciate how far the two tennis greats and particularly Serena have come, one has to go back to where it all started.Both of them were introduced to tennis by their father, Richard Williams, a former American tennis coach while living in Compton city, California. Before they turned ten, he had had a vision for them to become all-time tennis greats! In 1991, he moved the family to Florida so that the two daughters could attend the Tennis Academy.

In 1995, he withdrew them from the Academy and started coaching them himself. He was determined to use tennis as a vehicle to change how whites viewed blacks. He defined the girls’ world. They both turned professional before their fifteenth birthdays. King Richard– a biographical sports drama based on the life of their father was released in November 2021.Will Smith starred as Richard Williams while the two sisters served as executive producers.

In September 1999, Serena aged 17, won her first Grand Slam at the U.S Open. She became the first African –American to win a major singles title since Althea Gibson in 1956. At the same tournament, the two sisters won the doubles title; opening up their winning streak as they played to win and to please themselves. At the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Venus won gold for the singles title and the two won a gold for the doubles title! They went on to win 22 titles when playing doubles together of which 14 were Grand Slams , 3 Olympic gold medals. They met 31 times in professional tournaments.

If you can dream it, you can do it .’’ – Walt Disney

Venus, the eldest though more of an introvert, led from the front on the courts. She had speed, grace and fierce confidence, always aimed at being among the greatest. According to Wikipedia, Venus has so far won 7 Grand Slam Single titles, 5 Wimbledon titles and 2 at the US. Open Serena initially followed her big sister until Venus conceded that Serena was the best competitor among the two. Serena then began her meteoric rise, demonstrating her unique play, her prowess, tenacity and drive. Serena has dominated the women tennis game for 27 years! Years of intense pressure and endurance. So far, Serena has 7 Australian Open, 7 Wimbledon titles, 6 US Open titles and 3 French Open ones under her belt. A champion of Champions. Venus and Serena have over the years developed and polished the main traits of a successful professional player; becoming the dominant duo. They continued to polish them as they competed, confidently holding their own even at 40 years of age. The women of the world cheer and celebrate them as their own. The tennisconnected.com website lists the following as the main traits of a Successful Professional Player:

. Confidence- unshakable self-belief in your abilities and skills

.Determination- to push through hardships, struggle to become the best.

.Engaged

.Professional

.Resilient

.Respectful

.Tough- mental strength and physically fit.

Paul “ Bear’’ Bryant, an American college football player and coach said: “ It’s not the will to win that matters- everyone has that . It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

It has not been plain sailing; they have both suffered from occupational-related injuries. Venus- suffered a leg injury during the Australian Open in 2014 and a brutal ankle injury during the Australian Open in 2021. Her general health suffered a setback when she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder in 2011. Serena had left knee surgery in 2003. In 2010, she was out for almost a year due to Pulmonary embolism. In 2017 , she suffered life-threatening issues after the delivery of her daughter. In 2021, she suffered a hamstrung injury during the Wimbledon tournament. On the 2nd September 2022, at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Serena Williams (almost 41), played against Ajla Tomljanovic (29) of Australia in the third round of the US Open tennis championships. It was the final tournament of Serena’s 27 years’ remarkable career. It was a long three hours’ match in a packed stadium. It turned out to be a huge emotion for the two of them. Tomljanovic won and acknowledged Serena as her top role model. Serena waved to the fans and thanked them for their support throughout her long career. Thankfully, she has broken so many boundaries and barriers that she has inspired many young girls to take up the game.

As if Serena’s news of retirement was not enough for the raving tennis fans, Roger Federer, a Swiss and another all- time great is set to retire from professional tennis by end of September 2022. He has 20 Grand Slams under his belt. During his career of 24 years, like the William sisters, he has pushed the tennis game to unimaginable heights and inspired emerging players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. These two and himself had become the dominant trio in men’s tennis. He turned pro at 16 now at 41, injuries and surgeries have cut his career short. He will be remembered for his smooth, effortless technique that turned him into a champion of champions. Like life itself, you cannot control the outcome in tennis but you can only control how you respond to the triumphs and disasters.

The two sisters from Compton, California, driven by their forward looking father, have grown into the games and come to love it. No doubt they have become the symbol of what is possible for women in sports. Their places are secure in the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Over the years, they have developed the courage, the fierce confidence to play to win. They have changed the game of tennis for ever.One local proverb says: Even the best dancer has to leave the stage at one time. Venus and Serena climbed the mountain and each chose when to come down, leaving indelible footsteps along the way for other young women like Ajla Tomljanovic to follow their path. Over time, other players armed with consistency and excellence will rise up and establish themselves as dominants of the game. It will take a while; just like the 100 metres, 200 meters and 4 by 100 metres men’s relay have not been so exciting since the Jamaican track legend , Usain Bolt retired in 2017 after the world championships. As for now, I salute Serena in these borrowed words: “Thank you Serena for defining greatness.’’

There is more to life than our professions or careers – after living your childhood dream, you tend to yearn to open up and grow- you have to leave the world and the experiences you know and look for some spiritual depth and authenticity. Yearning for something better that has eternal meaning. You will not be satisfied until you gain some experience of something real beyond yourself. I have no doubt that Serena, the women’s tennis giant, is starting on the next chapter of her life. For us the women folks, it is hard to imagine an international tennis tournament without her.

QUESTION: As you grow and develop your career, do you intentionally strive to inspire the young generation to want to be as professional as you are?How do you do it?

Educational Educative encouraging enspiring inspiring stimulate you into action Superhero

THE KID IN EACH ONE OF US

For the children, life is a game to play for fun and enjoyment.

August is my birthday month and many times I find myself returning to my childhood. I have very fond memories of my childhood both at home and in the boarding school I attended for fourteen years!

On the 12th of August, I was reunited with one of my childhood friends whom I had not seen for the last forty years! I was in economic exile for almost 25 years while she stayed on but moved to USA almost seven years ago. We met over a dinner of local dishes at one of our classmates’ home in Kampala. The three of us had been classmates since Junior school and at Makerere University, the only university then, we were separated by the different courses that we studied. Two of us were in the same hall of residence but met occasionally amongst the hustle and bustle of my busy medical school schedules.

The three of us, now respected senior citizens, had the evening to ourselves. We hugged, embraced, cried tears of joy, inspected each other from head to toe, sang a few of the popular tunes of our time and tried to make sense of what happened to us during those turbulent years.

The smell of roasting chicken and beef filled the air and whetted our appetites as we talked thirteen to the dozen and peeled away the forty years that had separated us as we followed our hearts and dreams.

The inner child in each one of us was awakened to full innate capacity for spontaneity, playfulness and creativity.

For those hours we just lived in the moment, savouring it without wasting energy to grieve for order or meaning.

We were transported back to the age of twelve when we met in that boarding school: young , naïve , inexperienced very much open to imagination and new ideas. We could easily get ourselves in trouble and lied to cover our skins.

As we made choices whether to start with tea, juice or wine and which Luwombos to mix or not, we made the decisions that pleased us.

We took many photographs to capture the moments.

There is a child in each one of us who comes out in front of the person we are most comfortable with.’’- Uknown

My Ugandan-American friend and I, had from senior one to senior six belonged to a Novel reading syndicate. We borrowed books from the big library, from friends in upper classes and had to pass them  on to another member in not more than four days. With the school’s tight schedule that included sports , country dancing and club activities after classes, we had to find time to read and enjoy these books. We hid ourselves in the dormitory’s pantry after the official ten O ‘clock lights out. I lost count of the number of times  we were punished for this by our headmistress. After punishing us for a number of times, she took us to task to find out what we did consistently after lights out.

 We looked into her eyes and said, “We read novels and exchange them.’’

She shook her head in utter disbelief but from then on, she made the punishment lighter like picking litter from the tuck shop area. It could take fifteen minutes at the most and she would allow us to run back to join the morning class lessons.

Thanks to her for unintendedly growing our reading culture.

Through books we would be transported to different countries of the world!

We became top students in literature and the English language, we became story tellers.

We wrote a nativity play with a local touch and some other plays.

Life was sweet

The three of us were in the same stream class; motivating each other and competing with each other in a healthy manner. We played tricks on the young missionary teachers from Britain.

One trick the three of us remembered vividly was when the new geography teacher tried to count us and many of us cried out,   “ please, stop otherwise many of us  will  die. In Africa, we don’t count children; even our parents don’t know how many we are in the family!’’

The teacher’s face flushed red and she run out of the classroom to the headmistress’ office.

That evening as we enjoyed the delicious local dishes, we once again looked upon life as a game and we played it for the fun of it while we caught up on each other’s life.

In the Forty years, life had endowed us with many good things but it had also thrown curveballs at us.  Through these experiences, we had learned many lessons and grown; becoming stronger and better people.

“ View life as a continuous learning experience.’’ – Denis Waitley

We were most grateful for being alive and about; we had lost colleagues in the civil strife of 70s,  to HIV/AIDS and  to the recent unprecedented COVID – 19 Respiratory disease.

 We took comfort in recognising that though our faces had grown wrinkles, our spirits have remained vibrant for we have continued to look for beauty in everything around us.

Once you stop learning, you start dying.’’-  Albert Einstein

We could have gone on reminiscing but each one of us lived in a different part of the city

Filled with good food, good memories and ‘feel good hormones’ we retired close to midnight.

Like the joker in a deck of cards, the inner child in each one of us had shown up unexpectedly, wanting to play and take risks.

In the company of childhood friends who knew each other well, we had let each other be and appreciated each other for whom we were- having long given up living life in terms of achievements, goals, making a difference but instead enjoying living life for its own sake, day by day.

Yes, the child like learner/ dreamer still allows us to dream as we recreate ourselves and find new identities like- being a published writer.

The following day, still buoyed by the inner child’s energy, I decided to read more about the psychology of patterns of behaviour in human beings, inherited from our earliest human ancestors. They include: the innocent, the orphan, the warrior, the caregiver, the lover, the creator, the ruler, the magician, the sage and the Inner child. They influence our behaviour and guide us through life.

It helped me to understand fully why the inner child in each one of us had opened us up for greater joy.

The kid or inner child within each one of us is the individual’s childlike aspect. It includes what a person learned as a child before puberty. Our behaviour as adults is born out of our childhood experiences.

 The psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) first came up with this term of “ the inner child’’.

The inner child is part of each one’s subconscious. It holds emotions, memories and beliefs from the past and hopes and dreams for the future. He/she is always alive at all stages of our lives, keeping the spark in our lives.

It endows us with wonder and optimism and simple joy.

It is full of adventure, lives for the fun of it- without the inner child in each one of us, there is no capacity to enjoy life for its own sake.

When the inner child predominates, you tend to explore the world around you. You are motivated by curiosity. You play life as a game without concern about tomorrow, no concern about what the neighbours will say, no concern about traditions and rules. It is called the ‘ be here now’- always in the moment.

The inner child can lend you strength like finding drama in a negative situation. Regaining your youthful feelings of wonder, optimism and simple joy, your confidence and wellbeing are boosted.

Unresolved trend of childhood makes us frozen at the time and age it occurred.

 The Analytical Psychologists ‘advice on how to embrace your inner child:

  • Live in the moment
  • Be more honest
  • Do not stop questioning things
  • Take a risk
  • Trust more
  • Go out to play- life is a game, played to have fun and pleasure
  • Stop worrying about what others think about you.
  • Be more creative and innovative.

Without the inner child in each one of us, there is no capacity to enjoy life for its own sake.

Between 3-25 years of age, our inner child is highly active- curiosity motivates us to explore and experiment with life. We want mostly to be free with little interest in being responsible.

28-50- Adult responsibility years. The inner child tends to be overshadowed by the responsibilities. We pay great attention to advice and etiquette and stop taking pleasure in the little things that life has to offer. We get wrapped up in achieving our dreams, goals. We are concerned about what others think about us.

The joker shows up occasionally to keep a spark in our lives more so if you are with people that let you be and appreciate you for who you are. On your own, you can tune out the noise of daily life by spending time in nature or journaling to release your emotions. He/she can also show up in our worst moments like the loss of a loved one- you can still find laughter as the inner child reminds us that life is sweet despite the losses.

Middle Age – During this time, you reclaim your power to create a new deeper more enthusiastic sense of self. You change the beliefs about yourself and recreate your life. You give up what no longer serves your growth and add only what really fits who you are. The inner child shows up often and you feel alive , invigorated. Without her/him you feel repressed, uptight, tired, bored , depressed and lacking in curiosity.

Old Age – 60+

During this period, the inner child is very alive and well. Most decisions are now based on the pleasure principle. Do things if it feels good, do not do it if it feels bad. Once again you have a zest for life, for sensuous delights, ideas and experiences even spiritual bliss. The inner child’s hunger for experience and pleasure motivates us.  No longer caught up in people’s expectations- free and unafraid.

Little wonder for me that I picked up Creative Writing seven years ago to awaken this creative part of myself which was lying idle inside me. It is my inner child expressing herself.

No wonder I felt young, happy, contented and grateful in the company of my three school friends.

The poem : When I am An Old Woman I shall Wear Purple by Jenny Joseph (1932-2018) brings out this desire to have fun and freedom in old age. The writer now in her late twenties and expected to live a life of sobriety portrays the kind of life she would want to live in old age – getting away with all the mischief. She would not want to take any more personal responsibility and would be delighted to break the rules, violating the social norms in humorous ways to pay for the sobriety of her youth!

QUESTION:

Are you aware that once you stop taking risks you stop learning and growing?

Are you ready to reconnect with your inner child to keep learning, growing, joyfully to thrive in a fast-changing world?

Apparently Some Things Never Go Away

                                      

A Hummingbird feeds on nectar. Image courtesy of Unsplash.com

At 90 years of age, my mother is overweight. The degenerative arthritis that has dogged her for five years, limits her movement. She uses less energy/fuel from the food she eats and it ends up being stored as fat in the body.  To be strong and well, she needs to be on her feet. Her physician wants her to shed off almost ten kilograms.

I, for one, fell ill last year and lost a lot of weight. My physician wants me to gain at least 5 more kilograms of weight if I am to enjoy good health.

One of my childhood friends has for some years struggled to lose weight.

Apparently, phases of heavy and low weight may dog us for life!

“I definitely have body issues, but everybody does. When you come to the realisation that everybody does that- even the people that I consider flawless- then you can start to live with the way you are.’’- Taylor Swift.

Your body weight affects your health in many ways;being underweight or overweight increases the risk of illness. Keeping body weight within a healthy range is essential for optimum health and wellness.

Body weight is related to your age, size and height. The ideal body weight should be within the normal range of age, gender, height, body type and ethnicity.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults.

BMI is calculated as follows   :           Weight in Kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres.

                                                                     The World Health Organisation(WHO) defines overweight as having a BMI greater than or equal to 25 and obesity as having a BMI greater than or equal to 30. BMI applies to most adults 18-65 years.

Overweight and obesity result in abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health and cause more deaths than being underweight.

 Some important facts from the WHO website: www.who.int

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • In 2016, overall about 13% of the world’s adult population were obese – 11% men and 15% women.
  • BMI is the same for both sexes and for all adult ages. For the children, age has to be considered.
  • Overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths worldwide than underweight.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have more underweight people than obese.
  • The fundamental cause of overweight and obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.
  • Obesity is preventable. The best time to start is during childhood.

The most important factors that cause overweight are :

1. An increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in sugar and high fat. 

High sugar content foods cause high blood sugar resulting in type 2 Diabetes, increasing the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease. The excess sugar is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and the rest converted to fat.

High fat content foods increase significantly the risk of heart disease by increasing the bad cholesterol LDL- Low Density Lipoprotein, which causes inflammation and clogging of the arteries. They also decrease the good cholesterol, HDL- High Density Lipoprotein that protects the arteries.

2. Physical inactivity- According to the WHO, the fundamental cause of overweight and obesity is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended.

The consumption of cheap, processed foods that are high in energy, fat and salt but low in nutrients combined with a sedentary lifestyle are a silent killer.

Approximately 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity. Sedentary lifestyles are among the 10 leading causes of death and disability in the world. A sedentary lifestyle increases all causes of death, doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 Diabetes and obesity. It increases the risk of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and depression and anxiety.

Most office workers spend eight hours or more seated on their desks. In some communities there are no sports or leisure facilities. Inactivity affects our health and wellbeing.

The food we eat is digested in the small intestine and absorbed as simple molecules into the blood. Inside the body cells, the molecules are burned up to release the chemical energy that the body needs to function- breathing, maintaining body temperature, circulating blood, digesting food, waste disposal, building and repairing cells and maintaining brain activity.

One gramme of fat has 9 Calories

One gramme of carbohydrates has 4 Calories

One gramme of Protein has 4 Calories

One gramme of alcohol has 7 Calories.

Whatever food you eat – carbohydrates, fats, proteins or alcohol, the excess in the blood is converted into fat for storage in the body. The body can use it later if required. This explains why a starving person who takes water every day, on average takes 45-61 days to die of starvation.

 After the body has used some calories for basic body function, physical activity burns the extra calories allowing a limited amount to be converted into fat for storage. Most of us are aware that if the energy you take in is higher than the energy you expend, excess calories are changed into fat leading to weight gain. If you take in less calories than you expend, you tend to lose weight. The ideal situation is for you to watch what you eat while at the same time undertake regular physical activity to burn off the excess calories and keep your weight within the normal range for your age, gender, height and ethnicity and get adequate sleep. This is what is considered as a ‘’ Healthy Lifestyle’’. It keeps you fit, energetic and reduces the risk for disease.

The benefits of regular physical activity are determined by the intensity, the duration of the exercise and your body size. Vigorous exercises like running, swimming burn up more calories per minute than brisk walking. Physical activity exercises the heart and increases the blood flow to the brain- improving memory and brain function. It also strengthens both bone and muscles and improves balance. To get maximum benefit from exercise, it has to be done every day for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Many children lead sedentary lives by spending hours on the couch watching TV or getting lost in their digital comfort zone; playing video games or just chatting on their smartphones.

 The long COVID -19 pandemic lockdown proved to us that one does not need a gym to stay healthy.  You can schedule an exercise programme at home. You can walk around the home, undertake stretching exercises, skip a rope, dance, ride a bicycle or climb the stairs.  Strong health habits power your health and increase your productivity. 

As they say, “Your health is your responsibility-  Manage your health before the doctors start managing it for you.’’

Low and Middle –income countries have a high risk of underweight due to undernutrition. Underweight and overweight co-exist in some African countries like mine. As I write this post, some people living in the drier areas are starving in Karamoja, one of the districts in northern Uganda. The famine is a result of a combination of drought and displacement arising from insecurity, cattle rustling, poverty and climate change. The area is becoming increasingly hot and dry and the season of torrential rains has become shorter. This food insecurity has affected the children, pregnant women and the elderly most.

 It should be noted that there is no ideal body weight for all people so each individual has to learn to develop a healthy relationship with her/his body as well as cultivate a healthy lifestyle to stay strong and healthy. We have to pay attention to the food we eat since it is burned to produce the fuel we need to be alive and active.

 “No amount of self- improvement can make up for any lack of self –acceptance’’ – Robert Holden

The internal process by which the food we eat is converted to the chemical energy and expended in the cells of our bodies, is known as metabolism and is closely linked to one’s body weight and muscle mass.

I spent years trying to add on some weight until I learned that my Basal Metabolic Rate was on the higher side of normal. Like the hummingbird, I use a lot of energy for any task. The humming bird is among the smallest birds in the world but has the highest metabolic rate of any animal. It burns calories about a hundred times of an elephant and about 77 times faster than humans!

To get the energy to fuel that high level of activity, it needs to consume its weight in nectar every day! It flits from flower to flower sucking up all the nectar.

The likes of us with faster metabolism, use a lot of energy for any activity like breathing, walking. We

tend to eat more food without gaining weight. We struggle to put on weight.

Those with a slow metabolism like my friend, burn fewer calories in activity, storing the excess as fat in the body.  They only eat a little to gain weight but find it hard to lose weight by cutting calories as they naturally require less food to sustain themselves and their body weight. My friend is active; walks, swims, works on the farm regularly and eats little but is still overweight.

As we age, our muscle mass declines and this slows down our metabolism.

Each individual has to take responsibility to control overweight and obesity by :

  • Limiting energy intake from total fats and sugars
  • Increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, what is often called the Mediterranean diet.
  • Engaging in regular physical exercise.

It requires a lot of discipline but it is doable and pays high dividends healthwise.

“You can’t hate yourself happy. You can’t criticize yourself thin. You can’t shame yourself worthy. Real change begins with self-love and self –care.’’ – Jessica Ortena

QUESTION:

Have you accepted yourself and begun living a healthy lifestyle to protect, to promote your health and feel good about yourself?

THE CLOSURE

A sunrise over Lake Victoria. It symbolises new beginnings.

The COVID-19 Respiratory Infection has been with us for 2 years and four months and shows no signs of going away. We have no choice but to learn to live alongside it. Life has to go on for the living. Many of us have been affected, infected with the disease.

Currently in my country, Uganda, the new infections are low and there is no lockdown but we cannot afford to become complacent. The Ministry of Health statistics indicate that for the week between 26th June and July 2nd, the confirmed new cases of COVID- 19 were 468 and NO deaths. This is a result of increased vaccine coverage and acquired herd immunity from previous infections. The variant driving the epidemic now is less transmissible and records show that about 51% of the population above 18 are fully vaccinated.

 During this period of relaxed restrictions, the tragic legacy of COVID-19 infection is unravelling. The bodies of those who died of COVID-19 infection in the diaspora are being brought back home for burial in their ancestral homes.

It would at least help the bereaved to achieve closure- resolve their feelings and then move on with their lives.

For the bereaved, the period of mourning has been unnecessarily long and painful. Nothing can put this in a better perspective for an indigenous African as the burial of the only known remains- a gold tooth, of the first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Patrice Lumumba was brutally murdered in November 1960 and most of his body dissolved in acid.  One of his killers, a Belgium police officer, kept Lumumba’s golden tooth which was recently officially handed over to the DRC authorities in the presence of the Lumumba’s family. It was buried in a Mausoleum in Kinshasha on the 30th June 2022!

We are ending the mourning we started 61 years ago,’’ declared President Felix Tshikedi of the DRC.

In psychology, closure is defined as: a feeling that an emotional or traumatic experience has been resolved. It is a process and involves having many questions like why, how and what, answered to your satisfaction to help you understand what happened during a painful experience in life like the death of a loved one, break up of a relationship or loss of a job. Not all questions have answers and the process of closure takes long depending on the significance of the loss or the event that happened to you. Some individuals seek closure while others avoid it. Even with people with a similar need to closure like the death of a loved one from COVID-19 Respiratory Disease, one answer does not fit all. Every person’s need for closure is different depending on the circumstances- significance of what was lost. Our personality and values play a big role in how each one approaches closure. The need for closure is also related to one’s faith or religion.

 Mentally understanding what happened helps you to accept the loss and move on with your life. Not everyone achieves closure more so after the death of a loved one. Failing to get closure can cause anxiety and depression.

The psychologists have laid out some important factors to consider while seeking for closure.

  • Many of us take long to get closure.
  • Others never get closure and tend to suffer from anxiety or depression as a result.
  • You are in charge of getting your own closure not anyone else.
  • Often you have to admit that you will never get the perfect answer.
  • Closure is necessary for your own mental health.
  • You have to give yourself time, space to mourn, to try to figure what happened, learn a few lessons from the loss which you can use to inform you in future when encountered with a similar loss.
  • Do not blame yourself, focus on the positives to achieve closure.
  • Closure is a complicated cognitive process. Accept that sometimes things go wrong though it may feel not fair.
  • Life goes on. If you wait for so long, you may run out of time.

“Sometimes you don’t get closure, you just move on.’’ – Unknown

I was driven to read about closure as the bodies of relatives and friends who died of COVID- 19 infection during the lockdown, started being brought back for burial. Among them was my niece Maria Gorrette who had worked as a nurse in Arizona , USA, for over twenty years. She died in the line of duty in June 2020. She was 54 years old and a mother of three boys. To them, she was the strongest and most loving person they had ever known.

I for one was both happy and sad at the same time. I was happy that the ordeal was over- a sense of closure to allow them to go on with their lives. I was sad for having lost someone younger than me and so far away.

Her husband and three sons accompanied the body to lay it at rest in the family home.

Going through the funeral rituals was like opening and old wound.

I shudder to imagine what this family has been going through during these two years of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

As Khalil Gibran said, “The mother is everything- she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.’’

I still have the nagging reminder that my best friend’s ashes are yet to be brought home for the final rest. The family will only do it when ready to go through the ordeal one final time. Her death still tears me apart. I just pray that time will gradually make it easier for me to live comfortably with it. Life is for living.

Another set of relatives who were able to bring back their father for burial in March last year, came back to perform the cultural and traditional last funeral rites three weeks ago.

In my culture, the period of mourning starts immediately after the death of the person and only ends after the Last Funeral Rites have been held. No celebration event like a wedding can be held in that family until the period of mourning has officially ended. Traditionally, it used to take about nine months for the family to organise this function . As times have changed; many people are in employment and many young ones now live and work outside Uganda, this period has become flexible.

 The essence of the Last Funeral Rites is for the members of the same lineage and the heads of the clan to gather and officially mark the end of the mourning period for a deceased family member and be free to move on with life. Usually it starts on a Friday. Grass-thatched huts are built in the home of the deceased, plenty of meat and food is prepared overnight. One special hut is built at the entrance where anyone who is still overburdened by pain and grief could go in and cry one more final time. Friday night is a time for singing, drinking and dancing. In the wee hours of Saturday, following the guidance of one particular member of the family, everyone is compelled to move out of the house to the outside. Traditionally, this is the gist of the function- to clear death out of the house.

Later around 9 am, the chosen heir and his assistant or the heiress are officially installed in the presence of all members gathered. The head of the lineage dresses the heir/heiress in a piece of bark cloth, hands her/him the official symbols of authority, responsibility and duty . The heir is handed a spear, a rod and small gourd of local brew while the heiress is handed a basket and knife. The chief passes on words of wisdom and some money as a token. Other family members and clan heads can also participate in this function.

To move with the times, this cultural ceremony is followed by a church service or Islamic prayers to bless the heir/heiress and the family. Thereafter, celebration and merry making- food and alcohol are served and dancing follow for the rest of the day. By the time the members leave, they are hopeful about the future.

Our ancestors knew that death was universal and that mourning was for a season otherwise we would get stuck in it.

Even the elephants in the wild rumble loudly in distress after losing one of their own, mourn for some days and move on.

“Finding closure opens the door for us to see the new path we will take on our journey of life and living.’’ – Debbie Ziemann

QUESTION:

Have you had to go through an experience of COVID-19 infection –related closure during the pandemic?

How did you manage to gather the power within you to rise above it?

FINDING JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE

The first rains after a dry spell lift my spirits. Little things like this one, add up.

There are big life events like births, weddings, graduations, career progression and there are little things like a smile, a walk in nature, the first rain drops after a drought, finding the perfect avocado fruit, patting a pet, watching the children play and these always add up to give us lasting happiness in our lives.

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace, like those meadow flowers which individually seem odourless but all together perfume the air.’’ – George Bernanos

The death of my 102 years old cousin, Norah Nakintu Nsubuga , on the 22nd May 2022, drove me to look at her life and life in general in a different perspective. She was already married by the time I was born and by the time she died, she seemed to have it all. She and her late husband never owned a car; they had a simple home, she was a simple homemaker whose greatest gifts were compassion and generosity. She excelled in caring for her husband, children and friends. She gave without maiming herself or others.

They lost one child in a road traffic accident before their eyes as she quickly crossed the road to meet my father. They had an epileptic son whom they nursed and is alive today, yet epilepsy was not talked about until the 80s. Norah outlived her husband by 20 years.

But she was a contented woman; always appreciating life and appreciating the love around her. She always wore a warm smile no matter what she was going through. She lived joyously in the moment without worrying much about tomorrow.

“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.’’-  Alice Morse Earle

The psychologists tell us that this deep sense of contentment is a result of the release of the “feel good hormones’’: Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin from the brain. The hormones promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure. They relax our bodies and we end up feeling less stressed.

The Clinical psychologists advise us to find such lasting happiness in our lives by practising the following every day to boost our happy hormones.

  • Be mindful of the small moments, cherish these little moments that often go unnoticed.
  • Practice gratitude every day.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Treat yourself as a friend.
  • Strengthen your social connections of family friends, colleagues. Engage and collaborate with them regularly.
  • Make self-care as part of your routine.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Laugh more often every day.

Joy is simply defined as feeling happy, relaxed and feeling contented with things as they are. You are more engaged in the world around you, you share your feelings with others. You create your own happiness in the chaos or calmness around you.

Norah never went beyond primary school, which was the normal for women of her time and yet she inherently followed the list above. For her, there was never an ordinary moment; each moment was special so she collected a treasure trove of beautiful moments over the 102 years she lived!

 She was calm, had a gentle voice but could be persuasive at times. In all the years I have known her I have never heard her raise her voice!

Our late aunt saw the potential in Norah and encouraged her to join the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA). She learned to grow vegetables, make crafts from local materials like barkcloth, seeds, sewing, baking bread and cakes in a simple locally designed tin oven over hot coals. Eating such a cake, you could not tell how it had been baked.  She was chosen to become a

 life member of YWCA. Years back, under the YWCA Heifer Project, she was given a cow and up to today there is a cow and its calf in the pen. YWCA helped to unlock her potential in working with nature and her own hands.

She had green fingers, always had seeds or saplings for local vegetables and fruit trees to share with family and friends.  She grew trees for fruits like mangoes, guavas, avocado, jackfruit, soursop, java plum and grape fruit.

No wonder, with her generous heart, no one left her home empty –handed whatever the season.

By sheer coincidence, Norah lived along the way to our ancestral home. From my childhood, one had to make a decision to stop at Norah’s place either on your going or your coming back. What made it gratifying was Norah’s welcoming smile and walking through her vegetable and banana gardens to pick the right bunch of bananas or sugar cane for you. In her gentle but persuasive voice, she would harvest fresh maize and roast it over hot coals for you. She was content just to sit and watch you enjoy the fresh sweet maize kernels.

She would then fill your car boot with anything fresh that she could lay her hands on. One time she gave my mother a small cardboard box only to find a puppy inside! Even after losing her husband of 55 years, her love for the little things in life made life worth living.

Even after celebrating her centenary birthday, she continued spending time in her gardens and none of us could stop her ; because that is what she loved and enjoyed doing.

“ The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate’’ – Oprah Winfrey.

During the times of the unprecedented COVID-19 lockdown, she had a way of enquiring about most of us, ensuring that we were safe.

 As a woman of her time, she had twelve children. At her 100 years birthday celebration, she had built her own ‘tribe’ of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!

Norah could be generous to a fault. She weathered many storms but she kept on looking for treasures in her life as she gained more clarity. I greatly admired her attitude of gratitude.

Unknowingly, she lived a big life not only in years but from what was really true about her. By her 50th birthday she really knew who she was- fully human and took responsibility of her life. She became very respectful of herself and then respected people for who they were. She looked inside herself searching to know what was genuinely in her and hers.

She was able to see her inner beauty, intellect, and goodness and used them effectively for herself and others.

“ Let your unique awesomeness and positive energy inspire confidence in others.’’- Unknown

 Out of her love for God, she was instrumental in building the village Anglican church right across the road. In the last ten years of her life she focused more on preparing herself for eternity.

When all the children followed their hearts, she learned to relax and love and be loved.

By the time she died, she had healed herself and others and was committed to truth and had great capacity for joy and spontaneity. She had everything she needed to claim her full humanity. She also understood fully her significance in our lives.

  Her life has been intimately interwoven with our journeys of life. As for her legacy: she taught us to claim our own lives and transform our lives daily.

Indeed, she is worth the company of angels. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

QUESTIONS:

Are you aware that you are creating your own legacy every day by what you say and do?

Do you really have as much as you think you have?

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL 11

My eldest cousin, Norah, celebrated 102 years last year. As robust as the local Mvule tree

The Second Phase Of The Second Adulthood

 This is a continuation of my last post. Worldwide, people are living longer and more are living into their nineties and beyond than at any other time before. Our families and communities have to help us to develop the functional ability that allows physical, mental and social wellbeing in old age. This will enable us to do what we love and enjoy.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 102 years last October and my mother celebrated her 90th birthday last December. Since she retired as a senior midwife in 1994, she had taken up mixed farming. In the last two years, the chronic degenerative arthritis has increasingly slowed her down.

 My father and his sister had agile minds and were relatively mobile. I usually find their centurion niece planting sweet potato vines or digging in her banana garden and no one can stop her for this is what she enjoys doing. Her joy is her strength. The common traits among them is that they chose to focus on what was going right in their lives and engaged fully with what was going on around them. They could be generous to a fault too.

Warren Edward Buffett, the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 91 years on 30th August 2021. He shows no signs of slowing down.

Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.

This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60.

They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.

Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies  have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.

  • The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.

Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.

The sex roles as predetermined by our culture, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.

Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

  • The  2nd Adulthood:

45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.

45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.

This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.

You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.

By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.

In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go.  You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.

 You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.

  • 65-85 or beyond- this is the 2nd phase of the 2nd Adulthood. Also known as late Adulthood or the age of Integrity. All that you have lived through and learned adds up to gift you with grace and generosity that ushers you into the age of Integrity.

You recognise your accumulated skills and inner strength and feel that you should use them to teach, mentor or sponsor the young generation. If you made good use of the mid-life transformation, it will be extremely easy for you to create a new life for yourself. Failing to do this or just leaving yourself to rest on the laurels will turn you into the walking dead- a cause of accelerated aging. You need to stay alive, active, productive and creative to be healthy.

Some studies have shown that repeated creative daily routines like emotional writing, pottery, gardening and painting boost the body’s immune response. Getting absorbed into something creative increases the number of cells that fight off infections and cancer cells in our bodies and stimulates the release of Dopamine – one of the feel- good chemicals from the brain. The excitement of getting a result at the end of the task releases the Dopamine.

You can start all over again by simply embracing your mortality and rediscovering the enthusiasm, creativity and adventurous spirit of your youth. Therein lies your power because the possibilities and rewards are usually beyond what you have experienced before. The kid in each one of us never dies!

As you go along this new path, you drop what no longer serves you and you pick what serves your new growth. Mistakes will be made but who cares, just keep moving forward into the unknown.

After all they say: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.”

With the numerous technology innovations available to us, Mars is now the limit.

Just open yourself to new and more meaningful ways to be alive and do not forget to reach out and connect with others. Real connectedness is vital to healthy living. Studies have shown that the elderly who have close social connections and relationships live long and also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression.

My nonagenarian mother tells me that one of her biggest challenge at her age is losing loved ones and peers but she has tried to fight this by accepting her own mortality. At the same time she says that such deaths put her under the pressure of longevity and push her to do what she has to do for each day faster. She has also developed a sense of radical thankfulness that drives her to celebrate life every day.

Those who live beyond 90 have the following characteristics in common:

  • Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  • Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  • They have a keen interest in current events.
  • They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  • They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  • They are religious- many have found their right place in a universe put together by a Creator.

They all know too well that time is running out but they choose to focus on the present, the now; savouring each moment. Time has gifted them with clarity about what they can control and what they cannot.  They live fully for one day at a time. This reduces the stress in their lives

But all these are things we should try to pick up as early as our 40th birthday.

They say that life is more of a marathon than a sprint.

“ Living life is like running a marathon. It takes a lot of courage and tenacity to keep going till the end.’’- Fauja Singh

“ Life is a marathon not a sprint. Train for endurance not speed.’’ Unknown

Like any marathon, to complete it, one has to start off by planning for the end in mind. You start small and build your mileage over time. You teach your body to adjust gradually to the long distance. It is a process so you have to keep practicing, resting and recovering.

All in all, we are in it for the long haul and if we are to harvest the rewards, we have to start planning for it in our youth.

Jim Rohn said: “You must take personal  responsibility; you cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, the wind, but you can change yourself.”

QUESTION:

How have you planned to get the most out of the next phase of your life?

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL 1

My 90 years old mother with her grandson and great granddaughter

According to the worldpopulationmatters.org, the world population stood at 7.942 billion as of 1 May 2022. Of these, 1.4 billion(11.8%) are aged 60 and above and their number has been increasing gradually since 1990.

The countries with the older adults are:

Japan 28.5 % of the population

Italy    23.0 %

Germany 21.5%

USA 16.2 %

China 11.9 %

India 6.1 % of the population.

On the contrary, Niger in West Africa, is the youngest country in the world with  50% of its population below 15 years.  My country Uganda  had 46.02%( 2019) of its population  below 15 years. Its population growth rate was 3.6%.

In 2019, the 60 and above made up 1.99% of the Uganda population of 46.4 million people.

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines the elderly as those who are 60 years and older. The average person today lives to 72.6 years.

The United Nations declared the decade of 2021-2030 as the Decade of Healthy Ageing with aim of improving the lives of older people, their families and the communities in which they live. WHO is working with governments  and communities to create a world where all people can live long , healthy lives.

In Uganda, the Life Expectancy at birth has increased from 45.8 years (1990) to  the present 63 years. Algeria has the longest Life Expectancy; 78 years (2019) in the Africa region followed by Morocco and Tunisia.

Worldwide, Hong Kong and Japan have the highest Life Expectancy of 85 years and the  Central African Republic has the lowest ; 54.3 years.

Globally, people are living longer than their grandparents and WHO wants to ensure that the elderly enjoy their rights fully- the right to be treated with dignity, respect and to be protected irrespective of their race, religion, nationality, gender ,disability, mental status, or source of income.

We are living longer because of :

  • Improved medical services- prevention of disease and management of diseases
  • Better sanitation
  • Better housing
  • Widespread use of vaccines to prevent the immunisable diseases like measles, polio, tetanus and others.
  • Education- it increases the awareness for available public health services and helps people to make better informed choices about their lives like not using tobacco or eating healthy diet and daily exercising.

From the late 80s to 2006, the life expectancy declined in most African countries due to HIV/AIDS.

 As of 12 the May 2022, The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre had registered a total of 6,260 434 million deaths from the Corona virus-19 infection and the majority of these were aged 60 years and above. By 5 May  2022, the WHO had revised the total number(1 January 2020-31 December 2021) to 15 million deaths to include the indirect ones associated with COVID-19  pandemic like a diabetic , hypertensive or a teenager in obstructed labour who failed to access essential health care during the lockdown and died. During the pandemic, the health care services were overwhelmed by the number of Covid-19 infection cases to handle other non-Covid-19 cases properly. Almost 74 percent of these direct and indirect Covid-19 linked deaths occured in the 65 and above groups of the population.

As we are living longer, we have to prepare for this long haul from our childhood so as to ensure that we live long , healthy and enjoyable lives.

Warren Edward Buffett, one of the most successful investor in the world, the billionaire who has been giving away the majority of his wealth to charity annually since 2006, celebrated 90 years on 30th August 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down.

Now that we are living longer, it demands that we enlarge the boundaries of vital living.

This has already caught on in the advertisement field and in the slogans we see these days like:

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60.

They are aimed at pushing us to think about life beyond midlife, 45-65 and plan for our Second Adulthood if we are to get the most out of it.

Numerous studies and surveys about longevity have been done and continue up to today. Results from such studies  have divided Adulthood into two stages: 1St Adulthood and Second Adulthood. The second Adulthood itself has two phases.

  • The 1 st Adulthood- this is the time from 30 to 45 years of age.

Generally the body is at its best. We feel young, energetic and consider the world to be at our feet. We have learned to be strong enough to take on life’s challenges and responsibilities so as to make a difference in the world. It is our time to compete, assert ourselves and collect achievements. We immerse ourselves in proving our ability and capacity to ourselves and others.

The sex roles as predetermined by our cultures, demand that the women get married and become mothers while the men marry and become fathers. This is a very demanding time for the women in particular who have to juggle a career and a young family. They are so busy bringing up children, meeting financial responsibilities of a family and trying to make ends meet while at the same time building a career.

Dennis P. Kimbro said : “ Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

  • The  2nd Adulthood:

45-65- sometimes called the middle years and the first phase of the 2nd Adulthood.

45 represents the old age of youth while 50 ushers in the youth of the 2nd childhood.

This is usually the stage of greatest well-being in the lives of most healthy people. The competing, struggling and achieving is pushed aside to make space for finding your authentic sense of self- your core values, what you hold sacred and what puts spirit into your life.

You redefine personal success, take inventory of personal strengths and skills and use them to reinvent yourself. You want to remain relevant, useful to yourself and others and you want to be more and do more. Once you get this awakening , you begin to find ways of expressing your authentic self. You begin by letting go of the belief system that has informed you as you built your first identity. Other changes have to be made too in your career, lifestyle, habits and religious commitment. This is usually called the mid-life crisis. The main purpose is to make the next two or three decades your own.

By the age of 65, we have given our gifts to the world. We have served, we have accepted leadership in our families, communities and work places. We have launched our children , have a lot of time to ourselves which we can invest into expressing our authentic self.

In Uganda , the retirement age in the formal sector is 55 years of age and if one is to live to be ninety, then you have another thirty five years to go.  You cannot therefore just go on leading your life as you always have. It has gone stale or feels confining or empty. Yes, the environment we live in controls us but the yearning for something beyond family, your job or your friends forces you to trust yourself and open up and grow.

 You leave the familiar to experience the unfamiliar. Most times it is a risk worth taking. My childhood best friend, a lawyer by profession and among the first graduates of Makerere University Business School, is now a well established dairy farmer and another friend previously a teacher is an Events Organiser. I am also getting daily awakenings through my creative writing. Doing what we love and enjoying it keeps us young at heart and we just keep growing.

To be continued as the : The Second phase of the Second Adulthood, in my next post.

QUESTION:

What have you observed in your own family? Are your parents living longer than your grandparents?

NEAT STACKS OF CLUTTER

Children’s toys are among the commonest neat stacks of clutter in people’s homes

As we go through life, we gather things, some scattered and others unnoticed. They tell the story of our lives. Taking inventory of what I have gathered so far, they reflect my values, my identity and dreams at the different stages of my life- a baby, a child, teenager, adult, student, wife, mother, and now a grandmother. There was a time in my 40s when everything I possessed had a place, and there was a place for everything  but I set up homes in different countries and places and the children grew up , I have now settled for keeping neat stacks of clutter. Surprisingly, I know where most things are in those neat stacks of clutter.

The Oxford dictionary defines clutter as  a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not necessary or are not being used; a lack of order synonym mess

Every home has some clutter either visible or tucked away in a garage, basement or attic. Clutter is the result of overbuying things or untidiness. It can cause us stress, anxiety and confusion. It makes us less productive and less effective. Hoarding things can also lead to clutter.

The psychologists give us three reasons why we all tend to keep too much:

  1. Fear- this is the main reason for our having too much. Our world has become a consumer society: we buy new goods especially goods we do not need since society attaches  high value on owning many things. A large part of people’s sense of identity and meaning is achieved through the purchase and use of consumer goods and services. Out of the fear of loss of security, loss of status, loss of comfort and loss of love, we tend to accumulate things.
  2. Sentimental attachment- cherished memories are linked to some of the thing we keep and our previous identities like college student, motherhood or fatherhood may be tied to the stuff. In this instance we are led more by emotions than reason.
  3. Belief that things have hidden monetary value. Such people think that they could sell off the items at a high price in future.

It is said that ‘later’ is the best friend of clutter.

The psychologists also warn us that if we keep accumulating things, we shall be overwhelmed by our possessions and be tied down. We all tend to gather things from past careers, relationships and unfinished business like a hobby we abandoned along the way. Over time, possessions become extensions of the self- symbolising our past, hopes, dreams and the better version of ourselves in the future. This explains why we all find it hard to get rid of the things we have accumulated.

 One Finnish proverb says: Happiness is a place between too little and too much.

However, most people who have lost everything through wars, fires, floods, earthquakes and have had to start all over again, have a different perspective of life and have developed the good habit of buying and keeping only what they need and what they can control. For such people ‘less is more’.

“ If it doesn’t add to your life, it doesn’t belong in your life.’’– Unknown

With a huge and thriving advertising industry that creates the need for products and services, we have no choice but to learn the organisation skills of elimination, categorising and organisation. This means organising your home regularly to create space and order. Everyone has individual reasons for clutter; clutter in our homes is a reflection of our emotions so when we declutter, we free our emotions too. This explains why some people who are completely overwhelmed by their possessions may need a psychologist to help them declutter and move on with their lives.

“ You can’t reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday’s junk’’ – Louise Smith

The psychologists have some simple guidelines for decluttering your home/space

  • Do not buy what you do not need- If you do not have an immediate idea of what to use an item for or who to give it to as a gift then do not buy it.
  • Get rid of what you do not need, regularly, keep only things that add value to your life.

The two years we have spent at home during the Covid -19 pandemic Lockdown, have taught all of us what things are most important in our lives and what we need to live comfortable and enjoyable lives. This has made the process of getting rid of unnecessary items easier for us.

  • Set boundaries- it is your space and you are supposed to keep it orderly and organised so store only your own things. Many people take long to collect what has been stored for them by others.

How to get rid of things you no longer need or enjoy :

  • Give away- things that last like toys and books, can get a second and a third home. Give them to those who will enjoy using them.
  • Hard to give away items – items meaningful to you can be given to family members or friends.
  • Donate items to charities- to support causes you believe in. You give away out of gratitude so you enjoy it.
  • Sell some items- regularly hold a garage sale.  You clear out your home clutter while making some extra money.
  • Throw away-items that are no longer useful, broken or too old and any that do not add value to you or anyone else.  They include old newspapers and magazines, old furniture, expired stuff and things that rake up bad memories.

From my own experience, I have observed that habitual decluttering is generally easier for those people living in countries with the four seasons of winter, spring, summer and autumn. The weather patterns of each season demand for a different set of clothing, shoes and the styles and fashions tend to change every year.

My second country, Botswana, in the Southern Africa region has two main seasons: Summer and Winter. For the decades that I lived in Botswana, I had to declutter my wardrobe at the end of the year and donate the items along with what my children had overgrown to charities like the Botswana  SOS  Children’s  Village. I always left this place feeling good about myself.

The Bible in Acts 20 verse 35 tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Since I returned back home in Uganda, I hardly throw anything away after decluttering. This is because a large part of our population is struggling to buy the basic necessities of life like food, clothing and shelter. Once I sort out what I do not need anymore- from the simplest plastic container to an old phone or laptop, I just recycle it among my relatives and they find them useful and treasure them.

May be I should spare some time and sort out my ‘neat stacks of clutter’ and find a new home for the things that last.

Decluttering is never a one-time event since we keep buying things and decluttering is considered to be part of self-care. You declutter to reclaim your space. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

Remember that you never have to throw away that which you never buy.

QUESTION:

Has this post helped you to see things differently and motivated you declutter your space regularly?

The Power of the Collective

Many hands make light work

Each one of us is born as an individual and dies as an individual. In between these two phases, one has to live effectively and leave the world a better place than he/she found it. None of us can produce her/his best work alone; you need others to teach you, mentor you, and sponsor you and friends to encourage you. Many old age adages, proverbs and quotations attest to this. Among them are:

Two heads are better than one.

Iron sharpens iron.

None of us is as smart as all of us. By Kenwood Blanchard

John Donne’s poem:    “ No man is an island,

                                     Entire of itself,

                                     Every man is a piece of the continent,

                                     A part of the main………………

One local proverb loosely translated says: You need a functional set of teeth to chew the meat.

Former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan: Yes we can.

Even the members of a cabinet in a democratic country bear collective responsibility for decisions made in the Cabinet.

In this Digital era, where the internet has become an integral part of our lives, one needs to check out and belong to at least two groups of like-minded people working towards a common goal. You may call it a Tribe or a Community but your combined efforts motivate and energise  your Community to participate fully and create change in Society.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.”

My late father always advised me to belong to something bigger than myself if I were to realize my full potential. It was not until many years later that I understood what he had meant: It all had to do with synergy-The creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.

Now it is absolutely clear to me after reading Ash Hoehn’s  They told me there is no ‘I’ in the Team .

 He says that when he became the team the team became him. The team absorbs ‘I’………

When the ‘I’ is absorbed then he becomes part of something much more powerful.

 This also reminded me that in any chain link fencing, I can be as strong as the strongest and as weak as the weakest.

In a Kindergarten, children are taught to hold hands and stick together in preparation for how they will later live their lives.

In the wild, a pack of the African Wild dogs also known as the Cape dogs, are the best examples of team work or joint efforts.  A pack of twenty of them or more lives together, hunts together, eats together. They are very good communicators and among the most efficient hunters. Little wonder then that they always flourish wherever they are.

I have been around for a while and the best example of team work that comes to my mind is the organization of the Cooperative movement in my home country, Uganda. By the late 60’s this movement was at its peak and most farmers belonged to a cooperative society in their district. They grew cash crops like coffee and bought it, sold it together and bargained together with the government of the day for the best price possible. These farmers grew very rich; sent their children to the best schools in the country and some of them to universities abroad, built modern homes and bought lorries to transport the coffee and personal family cars.  Farmers have never been that rich. It was all the result of the power of collective action. Later, during the 1979 Liberation War, the Wakombozi of the Tanzanian Defence Forces mistook many of those big houses for government offices where soldiers of the then Uganda Army (enemy of the people) could be hiding. Many such houses were bombed for this reason.

Who can forget the thousands of women textile workers of the Russian Empire who organized marches

that led to the downfall of the Russian Empire in 1917?

And in today’s well connected world, the youths of France organized through Social Media developed an increased political interest. They engaged in the general election of May 2017 and ended up changing the political landscape. Later in June, the youths of Britain actively participated in the general election causing a huge upset in the results.

In December 2018, the military government of Sudan cut subsidies on basic goods like bread and fuel. The Middle-class professionals – doctors, health workers and lawyers, got together under their umbrella organisation, The Sudanese Professional Association(SPA) and organized demonstrations that culminated in the overthrow of President Omar al- Bashir on the 11th April 2019.Since then, they are struggling to work  towards forming a civilian –led transition government.

 It won’t be surprising to us if similar events occurred in other countries.

Today we have many challenges like extreme climatic changes, deforestation, youth unemployment and Substance Abuse. The best way we can develop locally appropriate solutions which we can own is by working together like the Cape wild dogs.

The Kenyans have one proverb that says: Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

Working together, we can help to build and improve our communities.

QUESTION:

Are you a member of any like-minded group of people striving to give back to your community and aiming at leaving the community better than they found it?

The Unimaginable

20/03/22

                                                     THE UNIMAGINABLE

Can you imagine yourself coming from a two-year COVID-19 Lockdown and immediately be forced into a war with your neighbour?

It is like the proverbial “from the cooking pot into the fire’’. That is how the people of Ukraine feel today.

From the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Centre 

By the 25th February 2022, Ukraine’s Covid-19 statistics were as follows:

Confirmed cases   : 5,040,518

Deaths                       : 112,459

Today , 24 th March 2022 is exactly a month since Russia invaded Ukraine ; attacking it by land and sea.

UZHHOROD, UKRAINE – FEBRUARY 27, 2022 – Refugees crowd at the Uzhhorod-Vysne Nemecke checkpoint on the Ukraine-Slovakia border, Zakarpattia Region, western Ukraine.

Atleast 6.5million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, 816 civilians killed and 1,684 have been wounded. Many reports of casualties remain unconfirmed. The number of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the multiple front attacks is not known.

For anyone in Africa, Ukraine sounds so far away and many may not know where it is located but thanks to the internet the destruction and the disruption of life is beamed live into our living rooms. The pictures of the most vulnerable: women , children and the elderly escaping the war tear your heart.

I have lived through the civil strife of late  the 70s and early 80s in my country,  Uganda, to make some observations on wars.

  1. War is very costly in terms of human lives, it maims people, causes the destruction of infrastructure
  2. The consequences of any war linger for decades.
  3. The most affected are the children , women , elderly; war is characterised by extreme violence, aggression , destruction and mortality and morbidity.
  4.  Wars and life threatening conflicts cause mental health problems in the communities.
  5. Some wars are started because a group wants to put things right and yet end up causing a lot of carnage.

As Ernest Hemingway rightly said in 1946 after World War II: “ Never think that war, no matter how necessary, how justified is not a crime.’’

Last week we watched live in horror the destruction of whole streets in Ukraine, much of it in  residential areas!

We can never know the number of people who died.

Lord Rothermere ,  then a British journalist said in 1917 after WWI : “We’re telling lies, we know we’re telling lies; we don’t publish the truth that we’re losing more officers than the Germans, and that it’s impossible to get through the Western Front.

“ Truth is the first casualty in war.’’ Hiram Johnson, Republican senator in California during WWI claimed.

The actual war at the frontline is always supported with Psychological warfare. The propaganda machine which fights to influence the hearts and minds of the people. It influences the values, beliefs , emotions so as to reduce the opponents’ morale.

With the most advanced weapons like the nuclear arsenal available to Russia, we are all worried that this war could turn into World War III.

Who can forget the atomic bombing of the two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 by USA. It ended Japan’s role in World War II but killed   an estimated total of 130,000- 215,000 people . Not forgetting the lingering effects of radiation on the people and environment.                                                                              

WWII ended in September 1945 after the defeat of the Germans by the Allies. It is now 77 years and there has not been another World war because of the New World Order that was created after the war; to prevent other world wars. These checkmates included  the United Nations (1945) and a series of treaties drawn up on how to treat prisoners of war(Geneva Convention) and limiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare.

From the Wikipedia Historical archives

WORLD WAR I

Date June 1914- 1918

Cause: It was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria during the struggle to end the Austro- Hungarian rule over Bosnia and Herzegovonia. It set off a chain of events that pitted Germany, Austro –Hungarian , Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Canada, Japan and USA. The allied powers won at a huge cost.

Official deaths: An estimated 16 million deaths of soldiers and civilians. The war also facilitated the spread of the Spanish flu of 1918 that resulted in the death of over 50 million people.

Outcome; The League of Nations was formed( January 10, 1920 )  and it was thought that there would be no more World Wars.

“This is a war to end all wars .’’- Woodrow Wilson 1917. USA President.

WORLD WAR II.

Date: 1st September 1939 – 2nd September 1945.

Cause: It was sparked off by Adolf Hitler of  Germany invading Poland to regain lost territory. Great Britain and France declared war against Germany then other countries joined in to stop Germany from invading other European countries. The Soviet Union joined later after Adolf Hitler had breached the Non Aggression pact the two countries had signed in August 1939.

It evolved into  a world wide war and became the deadliest military conflict in history. Germany and France lost 80% of the male population of the 15-49 age group!

“We shall fight on the beach,

We shall fight on the landing ground.

We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight on the hills ; we shall never surrender.’’- Winston Churchill, 1940. Prime minister of Great Britain.

“ Defend Paris to  the last, destroy all bridges over the Seine and devastate the city.’’-Adolf Hitler August 1944.

It ended with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945: Victory Day. 

Deaths: An estimated 50-56 million people both military and civilians and an additional estimated 19-28million deaths from war-related disease and famine.

Outcome:

WWII transformed the USA from a middle global power to the leader of the “ free world’’.  Born out of the need to protect the new found power and freedom.

Delegates from  50 countries created the United Nations Charter on 26 June 1945 with the aim of preventing  an outbreak of another world war.

Surprisingly, by March 1947, a geopolitical tension had developed between the USA and the Soviet Union. It fanned many other proxy wars in Vietnam,  Korea and Angola . The tension lasted until December 1991 when the Soviet Union was dissolved.

 The dissolution created 14 countries out of the Soviet Union. The Russian President Vladimir Putin often refers to these countries which were once part of the Soviet Union as being Russia’s “ sphere of Influence’’. They include Ukraine. Russia continues to influence the politics of these countries.

Other significant wars include:

The war in Kosovo( 1998-June 1999)

The war is Bosnia(April 1992- December 1995)

The controversial War in Iraq ( March 2003- December 2011)

We seem not to learn from history and keep repeating it because we forget quickly.

AFRICA

Africa has also had its fair share of civil wars. Organised groups within the same country or state fight against each other. There has been an increase in these civil wars.

the root causes include: 

  • large population and low income levels
  • Low rates of economic growth
  • Recent political instability
  • Poor governance- inconsistent democratic institutions
  • Small military establishments that are too weak to defend their territory
  • Western powers looking to secure their interests by fomenting conflict.

THE WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE( 1977-1992)

Caused by weak public service delivery , poverty, unemployment, corruption and meddling by world powers and their proxies.

THE WAR IN SUDAN( 1983-Jan 2005)

This is Africa’s longest civil war. It lasted twenty-two years! It started when the military regime tried to impose Sharia law on all Sudan. The South is dominated by Animists and Christians while the North is dominated by Arabs and Moslems. The war was between the central Sudan’s government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. South Sudan became independent in 2011.

THE BIAFRA WAR ( July 1967- January 1970)

This was a Nigerian civil war between the central govt and the South eastern provinces of Nigeria – which had seceded and declared independence from Nigeria as self-proclaimed Republic of Biafra. Led by Ojukwu Odumegwu, Biafra surrendered after 30 months of fighting and rejoined Nigeria.

This is a war that Nigerians want to forget. It caused so much destruction, aggression and extreme violence.  An estimated 100,000 military deaths while 500,000- 2 million Biafra civilians died of starvation!

THE BUSH WAR OF THE LUWERO TRIANGLE IN UGANDA( Feb 1981 – 25 January 1986)

I lived through this war and this is one period of my life that I want to forget.

The NRA led by Yoweri Museveni fought to overthrow the authoritarian  Uganda government led by Milton Obote.

An estimated 500,000 people including combatants and civilians died  during this five-year Bush war. Many people were displaced and many of us suffered a lot of fear and anxiety.

THE RWANDAN CIVIL WAR ( October 1, 1990- July 18, 1994)

The rebel, Tutsi- dominated  Rwanda Patriotic Front  fought against the predominantly Hutu government. The RPF won and formed a new government. The propaganda machinery was at its best: as the Hutus were incited to kill the Tutsis- “Cut down the tall trees’’ while the Tutsi were incited to kill the Hutus: “Crush the cockroaches’’.

The United Nations took long to intervene resulting in an estimated 500,000- 1million deaths of civilians. It is now known as the Rwanda Genocide.

Currently there are many conflicts and wars going on in the world like Libya, South Sudan, Ethiopia.

The most recent and  most heart wrenching is the war in the Ukraine that started on the 24 th February 2022, pitting Russia , a super power, against Ukraine, its neighbour. Putin considers Ukraine as “  one of Russia’s  spheres  of influence’’ since it was originally part of the Soviet Union.

In my simple mind, I feel that many of these wars can be prevented by genuine dialogue and negotiations– finding   a path to peace. War is very costly , we can achieve peace  through nonviolence. We should all strive for peace not war.

 As H.G Wells said in his novel , The War of the Worlds, February 6,2017:

“ If we don’t end war, war will end us.’’

QUESTION:

Do you believe that there is no peace without peace of mind? Are you aware that wars and conflicts create a lot of mental health problems in our communities ?