THANKSGIVING

A lot to be grateful for including this beautiful addition to my small garden-an elegant pink arum lily.

I am a senior citizen, I grew up hearing four magic words in my parents’ home which I later taught my children and they are now teaching them to their children. They include: “ Please’’, “Thank you’’, “I’m sorry’’, “ You’re Welcome’’. As I grew up, they expanded to include, “excuse me’’ and “May I’’. Like the dynamite, they are small but very powerful words. They are used in our daily life and have come to represent good manners across the board.


Good manners are not absorbed but are seen and copied by children as they watch their parents do what they do. Among the commonly used words in my childhood were “Thank you.’’ These words were as natural to my parents as the first greeting of the day and were always part of their normal conversation. They could thank me several times for the same act of kindness. Their behaviour rubbed on to all of us and continues in the grandchildren.
As 2022 draws to the end, I have a myriad of things to be grateful for more so after the unprecedented two-years COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. In a world full of wars and natural disasters: floods, fires, earthquakes, famine and here in my country, Uganda, facing a grim post-COVID economy,
drought in Karamoja , northern Uganda, floods in Kasese and Mbale in eastern Uganda.
And most worrying, the break out of the Sudan Strain of the Ebola disease in two of the districts in central Uganda. Being up and about today cannot simply be taken for granted.
Thanking God by counting my blessings other than my burdens is the right thing to do. If not, I may remain buried under the rubble of life. Practicing an attitude of gratitude irrespective of what is going on around me makes me feel positive and hopeful, energises me to be able to deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in life is the foundation for all ABUNDANCE.’’ – Eckhart Tolle


Among the things I am most grateful for are:
• Being alive- up and about- the COVID-19 pandemic crystallised well how fragile life is.
• Writing- making a difference to people’s lives in my small way.
• Caring for my nonagenarian mother- continued sharing of our lives together and other siblings.
• Motherhood- it never ends. It has now endowed me with the gift of being called “Jajja’’/grandmother.
• Lifetime friendships- making it easier to share highs and lows and to trust life more.
• Being open to continued dreaming and learning- it has taught me that there is no limit to what is possible in life.

According to Mindful.Org
Living with an attitude of gratitude improves our mental health and helps us to appreciate small positive things and little moments in life.
We have all to learn to practice gratitude every day. Here are some of their recommendations to encourage us practice gratitude every day while building our lifetime capacity for gratitude.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal to record and recall moments of gratitude.
  2. Remember the hard times that you experienced before-it multiplies the gratitude.
  3. Meditate on your relationships with family, friends, colleagues at work- Consider what you have received from them, what you have given them and what troubles and difficulties you have caused. Affirm the good things that you receive from others and acknowledge the role other people play in providing your life with goodness.
  4. Gratitude lubricates all relationship as it reduces friction between people.
  5. Share your gratitude with others- it strengthens relationships.
  6. Apply your five senses of: touch, smell, vision, taste and hearing, to express your gratitude for being alive.
  7. Make a vow to practice gratitude every day. It reminds us of the goodness of the people in our lives and builds our capacity for being more grateful.
  8. Focus on the good things that others have done on your behalf- with the aim of expressing and thanking them through gifts.
  9. Notice the people and things around you and appreciate them. Acknowledge gratitude through smiles, saying thank you, writing notes of gratitude.
  10. Spread gratitude through your social media platforms- grateful people are more mindful of others.
    Carry the attitude of Gratitude wherever you go.
    The psychologists tell us that when we notice goodness and beauty and are thankful for them , we experience pleasure. This feeling stimulates the brain to release the ‘feel good hormones’: Dopamine, Oxytocin, Endorphins and Serotonin. Dopamine makes us feel pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.
    Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers, they reduce stress and discomfort while oxytocin promotes social interaction; bringing people closer.
    Grateful people are happy , less depressed, they are optimistic and positive.
    Showing gratitude strengthens our immune systems, improves sleep patterns and makes us feel more helpful and generous.

Observing what is going on around me during the period of October to January, I have come to define this period as the main Season of GRATITUDE.
Harvest Thanksgiving
I am a Christian and I know very well that during the month of October up to early November, Anglican churches hold Harvest celebrations to thank God for the abundance of the harvest of the fruits of the earth. Offering the best of all that your land produces honours God and has great rewards: Proverbs 3:9-10.

Thanksgiving in USA
In 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving day in America. It is a day for family and friends to gather to celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the past year. Currently it is the busiest holiday of the year and falls on the Last Thursday in November.
From economist.com, Thanksgiving day has been celebrated in America since 1621. In November 1620, a group of English pilgrims landed in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and a year later, they had a successful harvest which they celebrated with a Turkey feast. It is a day for being thankful- sharing what you are most thankful for in your life. They also give back by collecting and giving food to the needy.
This year, it was celebrated last Thursday 24th November.

The Festive Season
Out of habit, by early December, radio stations start playing the Christmas carols ushering in the Festive season, centred on the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Familiar Christmas carols like Long Time Ago in Bethlehem, Jingle bells, Silent Night, Joy To the World, We wish you a merry Christmas, and a variety of local ones are common staples that flood my heart with joy; bringing my faith alive. They also remind me of what it was like to be young and to have big dreams.
No doubt this year I shall be most thankful for 65 plus Christmases that I have so far celebrated with family and friends. It is a welcome throwback to childhood as well as a celebration for the gift of Life.
We are now in the Festive season- a season for family gatherings, religious services and gift giving.
The Christmas holiday will be followed on its heels by the New Year holiday. We can all use this opportunity to express our gratitude to God by caring for the needy among us.

There is a local proverb about thanking people for what they do. It says: Ndyebaaza ndya tagunjula munafu. Loosely translated, it means that waiting to thank anyone for a task completed does not motivate lazy people to be useful. Ideally thank someone for the little effort taken towards completing the main task.
The Buddhists consider gratitude as a reflection of someone’s integrity and civility.
QUESTION
How often do you use the short but significant two words: Thank You?
What effect do they have on the people around you?
Thank you for taking time to read this post and leaving a comment.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING LATELY

Reading has been an integral part of my life since I was five years old. It has brought me so much knowledge, entertainment and fun and turned me into a world citizen long before Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn invented the global free Internet.

“ I read books as one breathes air, to fill up and live.’’ – Anne Dallard

  1. I read because it is one of my key attributes.
  2. As a medical doctor of the 21st century where things change fast, I have to keep myself well informed about new advances in medicine, best care practices , new diseases like COVID-19, other disease outbreaks. I have to read beyond medicine to fill in the gaps in my general knowledge and logic.
  3. In this Information Age, where there is instant access to information: fake and true, one has to be well informed to discern the truth about the most important issues and ideas of our time.
  4. As an emerging writer, I have to read to expand my knowledge and unlock my critical thinking skills- all essential in honing my writing skills. I have to read across genres, time periods and cultures since there is a lot to know and understand in the world. Reading as a writer helps me to fill the gaps in my knowledge and logic and removes my biases.
    As I grow older, I have noticed that I seek more to know the truth and understand the world- searching for the reality behind appearances, the deeper truth about life. The old age says, “ That you shall know the truth , and the truth shall set you free.’’
    English is my second language and my main language of writing, reading makes me proficient in the English language.
    This is what I have been reading lately:

THE FIRST DAUGHTER (1996) by Goretti Kyomuhendo
Goretti, one of Uganda’s leading novelist, wrote her debut novel in her early thirties. It is about Kasemiire’s journey from infancy in a remote rural area in western Uganda to working and being a mother in the big city of Kampala. As the story unfolds, it reveals the common issues of the time- children being seen but not heard, the boy child being treasured more than the girl child, arranged marriages, teenage pregnancies and bullying in schools.

Kasemiire, a bright girl in her family of six, passes highly to join the nearest government school. To the surprise of many including her mother, she is fully supported by her father. At the boarding school she struggles to fit in and with the help of a friend, Anita, she thrives and excels. Unexpectedly, youthful and naive, she falls pregnant just one term before she writes her O-level exams. She condemns herself to a life of abject poverty as she is banished by her father while the boyfriend, Steven, continues with his education,
Through numerous struggles some of which befell on her because of her beauty, she is rescued by a Catholic nun who gives her a second chance at life through education up to university level.
The past catches up with her while at Makerere university; when a mutual friend unknowingly to her, connects her to Steven.
She is so determined to break the cycle of abject poverty in her family that she finds it hard to rekindle her relationship with Steven, the father of her son. She learns of Anita’s betrayal over Steven.
Gradually she trusts herself and rebuilds her relationship with Steven. They go on to have a set of twins together, sharing the care for Kasemiire’s mother and family in a very harsh environment.
It is written brilliantly, flowing smoothly to engage the reader all the time. It reminded me of that 1989 film entitled: Consequences. A popular film about teenage pregnancy in Africa with emphasis on the need for parents to communicate with their children at all times.
The first daughter should be read by all young boys and girls to know and understand the consequences of the decisions and choices they make.

FROM JOURNEYS TO WORDS(2022)- WOBBLY TALES OF Expat Lives by Pearl Kasujja- Van De Velde and Julie Epenu- Robert

Two young Ugandan women: Pearl married to a Belgian and Julie married to a French national, born and raised in Uganda share their real life personal experiences of living as expatriate wives as they follow their husbands to their work stations for over twenty years. Starting off as wives, they become mothers and world citizens.
For Pearl, home is Uganda and Belgium and for Julie, home is Uganda and France.
Living in different countries, they start again every four years or less. Countries like Bangladesh, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, China, Lebanon, Madagascar, Guinea, France, The Comoros Islands.
They have no control over their next destination but have to make a home where thy find themselves.
They honestly share the challenges they face as they live this nomadic lifestyle.
The stress of moving across the world, fitting in , language barriers, learning new languages, lonely lives, the friendships, the food, the climate, cultures and traditions, and safety, health care, finding reliable house helpers, schools for their children , finding employment , raising children in different cultures- third culture kids, struggling to find a sense of belonging.
One constant in this changing environment is the support of the Expatriate community- keeping them together and focused.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown found Pearl and her family in China. Initially, they chose to ride out the storm but 3 weeks into the pandemic they went home only to return seven months later when China opened up at the peak of the pandemic in Europe.
The two ladies , their spouses and children are forced to adjust, integrate while keeping their cultural identity. They have had to let go of some things- apart from their core values and principles, so as to live their true lives
Over the years they have learned to get the best out of each place, become very flexible and thus finding it easier to adapt to any place. They are both empowered and dynamic persons having learned a lot of new things in each place.
It is a well written book; those of us who have lived away from home can relate to some of their experiences.
They carry you easily with them to each new station.
I would recommend it to anyone who wants to expand her/his horizons.
Not forgetting that: Home is where the heart is.

CHARLES- VICTIM OR VILLAIN– By Penny Junor

This book was first published in 1998 to present the true picture of the Prince of Wales after Princess Diana had published: Diana- Her True Story/ In Her Own Words(1997) by Andrew Morton.
I read it by then but I had to retrieve it from my Collection after Prince Charles became King Charles 111 on 8 September 2022 after the death of Queen Elizabeth 11.
I am rereading it to find the reality behind appearances- know the King for who he is.
A lot has happened since that book was written to change the world, the people and attitudes.
It starts off with the shocking, distressing death of Princes Diana on the 31st August 1997 and ends in eighteen chapters. In 18 chapters, it tries to explore what led to the destruction of their marriage of fifteen years. It brings out the pressures that go with position in a modern world. The Prince’s life is controlled by a system he has grown up into unlike Diana, an outsider who had to carve her own path. Diana was never guided through the system more so to understand that she had to share the Prince with his staff, family, United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
From the onset, the media trailed her for photographs and stories to sell to the hungry public. Later it translated into losing her freedom and privacy.
When the Prince and Princess started drifting apart, the intrusive media exploited the inadequacies in their personalities. The media took sides and Diana chose to manipulate it to suit her purpose. At the end of the day, the media profited from it all while Prince Charles’ philanthropic work went unnoticed.
Family, friends and the public watched miserably as the marriage was dissolved. The children themselves also suffered as they lived under cameras and prying eyes, so did the ‘other Woman’, Camilla Parker Bowles.
Diana had the knack of playing the staff of the Palace of St. James, Buckingham Palace and the media against each other. Some marriages of her staff did not survive the storms.
The divorce left both the Prince and Princess badly hurt and her death was a terrible shock to the Prince.
The friction between the Royal family and the Spencers remained palpable.
I respected the Prince for choosing never to speak ill of Diana though she blamed him for the breakdown of their marriage. He lives history to judge both of them. It is not lost on me that the two were human beings living in a modern world.
Thankfully, Prince William and Prince Harry were supported by family and friends to grow into confident men. The two of them wish to see their father recognised for his selfless work to his Trust and want to see him happy. They have accepted Camilla in their father’s life and have moved on with their own lives.
As more books get written about King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, they will help us to make our own conclusions about the Royal family.
The writer asks us the readers/public about the role we play in making the royals into victim of their positions other than villains.

Last but not least, I have the best news for readers and writers of African stories; Leap Publishers of Uganda, an African –Christian publishing Hub, launched a Digital Bookstore in September 2022. The aim is to have a one stop centre where you can buy and publish your stories as you preserve the African heritage. Emerging writers can be assisted through the publishing process at an agreed cost and terms and published writers can be helped to have their work reach a global audience. We are living in the Digital-driven era where recent studies have shown that in 2021, Africa had 591 million Internet users with an estimated 800 million by 2025. Digital technology has made book publishing a huge business that will continue to grow. Currently in Africa, 53% books sold are digital, 43% printed and 0-4% Audio.
The new eBooks store is found on : AfricanBooks.com
Its publishing Platform: AfricanBooks.pub
Email: info@AfricanBooks.com
eBooks can be bought in the Ugandan shillings using Mobile Money accounts or in USD using VISA cards.
As a writer, I have checked them out and found them solid and credible. My fiction novels : The Last Lifeline (2014) and And The Lights Came on (2015) were published on this new platform last week under my pen name : Jane Nannono.
AfricanBooks.com currently has writers from Uganda, Ghana, America, Nigeria, Australia and Kenya.
It has made sales in Kenya, Ghana, America, Sweden, Tanzania, Rwanda, Europe and Uganda. Opening an account on this platform is free. The youngest writer on the platform is a 10-year-old primary school student from the Rainbow International school, Uganda.
Now let us sharpen our pencils, dust off our laptops and turn our minds into an open playground where our imagination can run wild. The Digital Book store is on our laptops and Smart phones.
“Reading is a free discount ticket to anywhere.’’ – Mary Schmich.

LIVING A LIFE OF CHARACTER AND BLESSING

Human beings are works in progress. (Photo from creative Commons)

Indeed, it is true that storms in our lives always take us back to the basics and laws. The first week of October has left my peers battered and bruised forcing us to reflect on our lives.

In a space of two days , we lost two irreplaceable  classmates Mrs. Joanna Nakalema Kamanyi – Abowe and Mrs. Joyce Aedeke Acigwa. 

56 years ago, 56 young, innocent, driven girls were selected from all the districts of Uganda including the remotest then, Karamoja, to join the oldest and most prestigious girls school in the country. Before the Junior Leaving examinations, they had proved that they were gifted, had the potential of becoming leaders and agents of change.

They were divided into two streams of 28 girls. Among them were Joyce Mary Aedeke from Teso district of Eastern Uganda and a chubby, ever smiling Joanna Nakalema Kamanyi from Buganda in Central Uganda.

Joyce was tall and lean but rather shy. Even at that young age, we knew that her father was an Anglican Reverend in the Ugandan army, but found it too difficult to comprehend.

Being in the right environment, Joyce, soon blossomed into a confident,  open-minded,all round student who was a delight to be around. She excelled in chemistry, physics and biology. She played tennis and she and I were members of the school netball and hockey teams for some years. At A-level , she passed brilliantly to join the faculty of Medicine of Makerere University, the only national university then. Two years down the road, she was determined to follow her passion for agriculture other than continue doing what her father wanted for her so she applied to cross over and she succeeded. Three years later, I graduated in Medicine while she graduated in Agriculture.

She immediately joined the Uganda Commercial Bank and worked diligently to become a chief manager in a male- dominated environment. Her brilliant mind, big heart, her strong Christian values and loyalty kept her confident and emotionally strong.

“ A good heart and a good mind are always a formidable combination.’’ – Nelson Mandela

She got married to Mr. Acigwa and they had five children. Unfortunately, the husband died of natural causes early on. Some years later, she lost two adult boys; a lawyer and an administrator. Her strong Christian faith enabled her to gradually heal and move on.  She was instrumental in the building of the Agape Baptist church in Ntinda.  Riding on her wealth of experience in banking, she was head- hunted to work with the renown Ugandan  economist and banker, Ezra Seruma and others to start the Uganda agency for Development Limited which later became a microfinance bank- UGAFODE. A bank founded on Christian values to help the Active poor in our communities- the poor engaged in small businesses like selling a sack of charcoal to help themselves out of poverty. These poor people could not secure loans from the traditional banks of the day. Joyce went on to become a board member of many financial institutions like Uganda Development Trust, National Social Security Fund. She served  devotedly and with fierce loyalty until her death on  4th October 2022.

 At home she was a hands- on mother; loving, nurturing and caring but cautious not to maim herself in the process or lose her children’s trust.  She died a proud grandmother.

In the early 90s, one of our classmates from West Nile district, lost her husband and was unemployed by then. Joyce in her thoughtfulness allowed her and her three children to stay in one of her houses in  Kampala for two years for free until she found her feet again. Joyce felt that she could not have done less for our classmate!

As for Joanna , her and me were neighbours in our village in Mengo.  Our fathers used to ferry us in weekly turns to the nursery school near the King’s palace. We both joined the primary section of the prestigious girls’ school the same year and qualified to join the secondary school in 1966.   Joanna was among the youngest  in a big, close-knit family She was so loved and cared for that she trusted herself to go out and love others unconditionally.  She loved life and lived it every day. Her energy was infectious.

 In the secondary school what she lacked in sports prowess, she made it up in music, dance and drama. She spoke impeccable English like her father. She wrote plays and acted in them. She was an avid reader.

She sang as she bathed, as she cooked and as she worked. She was a joy to be around. She excelled in the Arts subjects and joined Makerere University for a Bachelor’s degree with Education, majoring in English and Literature.

After her masters, she joined the department of literature and also lectured in the department of Music, dance , drama and film. Open-minded and free-spirited, she thrived most in the performing arts.

 She met her husband, Abowe, while working in the department of Literature.

Due to the civil strife of the early 80s, they were forced to flee for their lives to Botswana where she was appointed a lecturer in the biggest college of Teachers’ Education. 

Like Joyce, she lost her husband early on but with her tenacity, she took on the responsibility of raising 3 sons in a foreign country. They became extremely close to each other; looking out for one another. 

She willingly gave fully and completely to the many children she raised but always being aware of her own limits and her own priorities. To her credit, she raised three loving, independent, disciplined and responsible sons. 

She was promoted to senior lecturer in  the Department of  English  at  the University of Botswana, established in 1982.  Joanna served willingly, wholeheartedly and joyfully for all the years she worked there. She guided and nurtured many of her students who needed mothering.

At one time I asked her why she had to squeeze herself like a toothpaste tube while helping others. She told me that she was doing it out of gratitude for God’s grace in her life!

She retired in 2019 after a distinguished career and returned home.

A month before her return to Uganda, she gave me a surprise call asking for my passport details.

“Why would you want them? I asked,  greatly puzzled.

“ I sold sixty copies of your books after you left. I want to send the money by MoneyGram.’’

I was at loss for words but then that was Joanna in her true colours.

COVID-19 Respiratory Disease struck just when we were trying to figure out how she could apply her skills and wealth of experience in Uganda’s Book Industry.

She had helped me edit my first novel  The Last Lifeline  in 2015 and even helped me to sell it.

Our parents and the school gave us a firm foundation for honesty, integrity and serving others joyfully.

Both Joyce and Joanna served as role models wherever they worked- never telling people what to do but instead by their actions, they showed the young generation what was right and how to do it. Their love and loyalty to those around them made them succeed during that difficult period of our country. The Duka duka(run for your life) days that lasted till  the end of the late 80s. 

They were teachers, mentors and sponsors who worked for the success of those under them. They were never distracted by their personal tragedies or made to compromise on their Christian values and principles. They belonged to  their time but also to the future.

 Every day, they wrote their lasting legacy of : leaving their families, their communities, their country and the world better than they found them.

I lived in their time, watched them work professionally and diligently to the top, I can claim to understand them.  I give them a resounding applause.

Jim Rohn said: “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.’’

And Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be humble, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.’’

If each one of us worked diligently at her/his part that fits in the big picture, the world would be a much better place.

As we the peers mourn Joanna and Joyce, I keep asking myself whether I have done enough with my life so far.

The answer is ‘’NO’’ and for the simple reason that each one of us is a “Work in Progress’’ that can never be finished in a lifespan. I still have a big capacity for growth that will change me into the best person I was created to be.  I have to keep doing more and wanting to be more-improving and repackaging myself as a product. I shall keep looking for the beauty in people and situations, listening to the voices within and without and reading and writing more to become the best me.

I thank God for giving us these 56 rewarding years together. I celebrate my two classmates as ordinary, God-fearing women who unknowingly turned themselves into extraordinary women of their time as they followed their hearts and dreams. They lived a life of character and blessing.

They will live on in their children, all those they inspired, motivated and influenced, in our hearts and in all the treasure trove of memories we created together.

May God rest their souls in eternal peace.

QUESTION:

The psychologists tell us that one constant in our lives is change.  Are you giving yourself permission to change with time and grow into whom you were created to be?

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?