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 ?

Well Survived

On the 11th March 2022, it will be exactly two years since World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 respiratory Disease a pandemic. No one saw it coming and no one could tell when it would end. But then, nothing lasts forever.

As of 05 March 2022, the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Centre gives the following statistics:

Globally

Total confirmed cases       445,221,450

Total deaths                            5,996,046

Vaccines:

Total Corona virus-19 vaccines administered      10, 579, 829, 314

From https://worldometer.info USA has suffered the most deaths: 975,150 as of 1 st March 2022.

Followed by Brazil : 649,443 and then India :514,054. From 1918 to 1919, the Spanish flu infected an estimated 500 million people globally and killed about 50 million people. USA suffered the most deaths at 675,000.

UGANDA:

Total Confirmed cases                            163,383

Total Deaths                                                   3,590

Vaccine:

 Doses administered                           16,672,943

People Fully vaccinated                              2,706,785

Percentage of population fully vaccinated  6.11%.

The vaccine uptake has been slow ; less than the global target of 40% of the population by December 2020.

BOTSWANA

Confirmed case                                                  263,950

Deaths                                                                       2,619

Vaccines:

Doses Administered                                     1,162,835

People Fully vaccinated                                1,162, 835

Percentage Fully vaccinated                                  50.  48 %

Uganda relaxed the Corona virus-19 Lockdown restrictions on 25 January 2022 to open up the economy since the new cases had greatly reduced. More people were getting fully vaccinated.

I sincerely thank the health workers in my country and worldwide for having been on the frontline of this unprecedented war. I honour all those who lost their lives in the course of duty.

It feels so good and liberating to know that as long as I practice the safety guidelines of masking up, social distancing, avoiding crowded places and being updated on vaccination boosters, I can at least get out of my house and do a few essential tasks for myself.

It reminded me of the late 70s and 80s when the civil strife was at its peak here in Uganda.

We would stock dry foods and hide in our houses for days until the new group of fighters overthrew the sitting government and declared their victory over the national radio.

We would then come out cautiously as if walking on thorns and congratulate each other on surviving the assaults, the gun fire, the running, and the ducking.  “Well –survived,’’ we would greet each other.

We have never forgotten those scary days.

If you are reading this post now I am saying to you, “ Well –survived so far.’’

With COVID -19, we have all suffered the mental torture caused by the fear and uncertainty , the many deaths that we could not mourn, the disconnection from loved ones and the fear of the unknown.

The disease affected all areas of our lives; many have died from it, others suffered from it and are yet to regain their health , many health workers died from it in the course of their duty, many especially those who previously worked in the service sector have lost their jobs. The dysfunctional service delivery systems have been laid bare and the marginalised groups in our population have been exposed.

The disease has consumed our time and attention for a whole two years! This is unprecedented. How we have all waited with bated breath for things to return closer to what we knew   as normal.

Now we are living with the consequences of this lockdown period.

Life during lockdown

Reading through the stories of some of the survivors of the Spanish flu of 1918, I found many similarities.

The majority of people endured the devastation caused by the disease and became resilient. Trusting life, they strived to regain control of their lives. 

The rest, like us responded according to their genetic makeup and surrounding environments. A few suffered symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

1.MILD- a few suffered mild symptoms like disturbed sleep, short periods of confusion and detachment.

2. Moderate- living in fear, anxiety and panic. These needed community support.

 3.Severe   – These failed to recover from the terrifying experience and developed what the psychologist call Post Traumatic Disorder. They became severely depressed and anxious and this affected their ability to function in social and work settings and negatively impact on their relationships. A number of them suffered from “ Survivor’s guilt’’- trying to figure out whether they deserved to live while others died.

This group needed psychotherapy with or without medication. It took them years to regain control of their lives.

Thankfully, the majority of us fall under the resilient that quickly come to terms to what happened and  move on. Unlike the Spanish flu survivors, those who  will develop moderate to severe symptoms have a lot of support due to the advances in medicine and increased community awareness of the condition.

I have no doubt that each one of us has learned something useful out of this two-year experience.

I have learned that the most important things in life is life itself- to be healthy, up and about followed by good relationships.

Well researched psychologists’ studies confirm that:

·        Strong healthy relationships increase our emotional wellbeing. They hold us together during stressful situations and when we face difficulties in life.

·        They create stability in our lives. They help to us to connect to others, to feel that we belong and  that we are needed and  matter.

·        They help to bring out the “real us’. Each relationship elicits a different response in us helping us to learn about ourselves and grow.

·        Bad relationships can be as destructive as any serious disease. In severe cases, they rob us of our self-worth and confidence, pushing us into depression and anxiety.

Many of us that will survive the impact of the long COVID -19 lockdown are supported by such strong healthy relationships.

As we pick up the pieces, we have to remember not to let our guard down since COVID-19 virus is still with us. It is still considered a public health emergency.  Like some earthquake aftershocks, it could cause us more damage.

So let us adhere to the required SOPs, encourage people to get fully vaccinated while we keep learning and being updated on this disease which has caused so much turmoil in our lives.

“ WELL SURVIVED’’.

QUESTION:

Are you able to talk about this unprecedented experience and are you being kind and patient to yourself and others as you pick up the thread of life?

                                                                      ANYTHING WILL DO

A decorated Christmas tree

Anyone alive today has gone through almost two years packed with uncertainty and confusion due to the COVID – 19 virus. The determining variables that control the course of the pandemic keep changing and we are all learning as we go along. Many are likely to develop “pandemic fatigue”- becoming less motivated to strictly follow the recommended safety guidelines.

Just when we thought that we had moved forward through a combination of full vaccination, masking up and physical distancing, a new variant- Omicron, of the Covid-19 virus shows up on 26th November 2021.It is indeed very bad timing for all of us more so for those who celebrate the festive season. Many of us had started planning how to make the most of a difficult situation.

In my house, a grandson from Canada had confirmed his intention to join us for Christmas and the celebration of our mother’s 90th birthday around the same time, so had a sister in Sweden and another in UK and my son from Cape Town. We last saw them at Christmas time in 2019! 

Recently, we have lived with so much death around us in our communities and worldwide. The unshared pain and loss have drained our empathy, leaving us in emotional turmoil. Celebrating Christmas with a few loved ones would have been some form of compensation to us. The restricted travel movements that followed the emergency of the new variant, have robbed us of this privilege. Our confidence has been shaken once more.

As of now all I have been telling myself is that I am still alive and one event in the year is not my whole life. “Anything will do for Christmas and New Year.”

No doubt, the two years of restricted travel movements and physical disconnectedness have given us time to ourselves. Time to take inventory of the things we have gathered over our lifetimes; people, networks of relationships and material things and how they have contributed to the stories of our lives. Such reflections help us to look beyond this pandemic and look out for rainbows of hope for a better future. Nothing lasts forever. Life’s small joys add up to a fulfilled life.

“You do not develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”- Epicurus

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”- Mary Anne Radmacher.

I am now reminding myself to sing in the rain,

smile through tears

dance in the darkness

and to trust myself in the silence.

All that I am saying is that I am giving myself full permission to examine and rediscover with pleasure the people, the network of relationships and the material things that I have gathered around me over the years.

Not forgetting the many loved ones whom I have lost to COVID-19 and natural causes.

As John Lennon said, “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”

Here are some photographs from my collection to colour your life during this tough festive season.

Some rugged mountains of the Western Cape, South Africa

Tangled up with Nature
The canna lilies- a permanent feature of my childhood

At first I thought they were snakes- Some wild creepers

QUESTION

Time will not stop. How are you planning to make the most of this relentless situation?

Thank you for following my Blog. I appreciate you greatly.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New year.

Sing with gusto for being alive, up and about.

May the good Lord guide us into a way of living with COVID-19 in our midst.

USUALLY IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER

Many times, things tend to get worse before they get better.

River Tana in Kenya burst its banks.

Courtesy of Nation Media Group

We were working towards a new normal in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic- getting fully vaccinated and strictly adhering to the SOPS especially social distancing. Then on the 26 th November 2021, WHO declared a new ‘variant of concern’ of the COVID-19 virus and named it OMICRON.

The virologist tell us that all viruses make mistakes as they copy themselves and these genetic mistakes are called mutations. Viruses mutate constantly especially those that contain RNA genetic material as the Corona viruses and influenza viruses. Most mistakes are so small that they do not significantly affect how the virus works. Those mutations that are significant help the virus copy itself and get into the host’s cells easily. Some fade away and others render the virus weak.

There are over one thousand COVID-19 variants but few like: delta, alpha, beta and gamma are labelled as ‘ variants of concern’. They cause increased rate of transmission, increased hospitalisation and increased deaths. They also affect the effectiveness of the available vaccines, making COVID-19 hard to defeat. COVID-19 respiratory disease is a new disease and scientists and ordinary people are learning as they go along. It may take another two to four weeks to know what we need to know about this  Omicron variant more so on how it may influence the course of the pandemic.

As of the 3rd December 2021,the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource centre showed the following statistics:

Globally: 265,876, 379 Confirmed Cases

                     5,256 285 Deaths

Uganda: 127,655 Confirmed Cases

                     3,254 Deaths

4,835,777 vaccine doses administered

912, 993 people fully vaccinated ( 0f 47,791,313 based on Worldometer)

% of Population Fully Vaccinated 2.06%

Botswana

195,302 Confirmed Cases

      2,419 Deaths

1,430,084 Vaccine doses administered

People fully vaccinated( of 2,418,722) 508,980

% of Population fully vaccinated : 22.09%

I was among the first 300 individuals  in my country to get the first dose of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford coronavirus vaccine on the 10th March 2021. By mid- May , I had received my second vaccine dose and my “Fully Vaccinated” certificate.

Since then, I have been encouraging the vulnerable members in my community to get fully vaccinated while continuing to adhere to the Ministry of health Standard operative procedures.

Little wonder then that I found the news of the emergency of the highly mutated Omicron variant very disturbing.

My young sister in UK, another in Sweden and my son from Cape Town, South Africa, were planning to join me and my mother in Uganda for the festive season. I had something heart-warming to look forward to since I last saw the three of them at the Christmas of 2019!

With the travel restrictions that have swiftly been put in place, the reunion is not likely to happen this year!

The pandemic has gone on so long that it has somehow eroded my mental wellbeing. I have developed what the psychologists refer to as the illusion of control. This is a tendency to overestimate how much control you have over the outcome of an uncontrollable situation.

My moods have been swinging like a pendulum- one time I feel I have some control of the outcome and another time I feel powerless. I tend to become anxious and more stressed.

I found some encouragement by reading the psychology of surviving in complex situations.

While dealing with challenges in life, the outcome can be controlled by you or external forces

  • If you believe that you have control over what happens, then you have what the psychologists call internal locus control.
  • If you believe you have no control but external causes are to blame, then you have external locus of control.
  • No one can have 100 percent internal or external control in any situation. It is all relative and is in our mind-our thinking.
  • Locus of control influences how we respond to situations that happen in our lives. It motivates us to take action. Without it, we tend to resign to fate and become  passive bystanders.

These factors helped me realise that I still have some level of control over the situation. I should focus on the small things like going in for a booster once advised, sticking to the social distancing and taking good care of my health.

 Doing these things that fit in the big picture, make me feel good about myself and more motivated. Suddenly , I become an active participant that can have an impact on the outcome. It gives me some of my power back and I feel relaxed and less stressed.

One African proverb encourages us to do something however small, in any given situation:

If you cannot fly, run; if you cannot run, walk; if you cannot walk, crawl; but by all means, keep moving.

The psychologists advise us to do a number of things to overcome this illusion of control.

They include:

  1. Try using an outside perspective so that you do not rely on your own thinking. You have to consider credible information from other sources to get a balanced picture.
  2. Think Scientifically- this is the best way to overcome the illusion of control. In the case of COVID-19 pandemic which is yet to go into its third wave, Science and facts from WHO and Min of Health help you make better judgements.
  3. Seek other people’s opinions- knowledgeable people to gain some outside perspective and other factors that you had not thought about.
  4. Be inspired to practice healthy behaviour like regular exercise, healthy eating, regular medical check-ups and having adequate regular sleep – seven to eight hours at night.

I cannot resign that there is nothing that I can do that can make a difference. Let each one of us commit to the goal- controlling the epidemic by investing time and energy in effective, helpful action right where we are.

Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation Director- General, wraps it up neatly,

“We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.”

“No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

QUESTION:

Do you realise that the global pandemic response to the COVID-19 virus begins with you in your home?

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LEARNING, UNLEARNING AND RELEARNING EVERY DAY.

Digital technology has radically changed how we do things  in recent decades. Then out of the blue came COVID-19 respiratory infection which itself has changed  almost all aspects of our lives. For almost two years we have all been condemned to staying at home in our effort to reduce contact with people and reduce the spread of the infection. Two years is a very long time be it in politics, football and in  just simple ordinary lives.

It is now clear to most of us that somehow life and business have to continue as much as possible during the pandemic.

Thankfully, digital technology has enabled us to come up with new ways of doing business, of how we work, how we trade and how we learn. Some of these services were there pre-COVID-19 but the pandemic has pushed them to the fore front.  This demands that we all strive to raise our technical literacy to operate in this new environment.

Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer, futurist and businessman once said:

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

He was warning businesses about accepting and adapting to the dynamic digital transformation to thrive.

I would say that the warning remains equally relevant to each one of us if we are to make use of the fast changing digital technology. Each generation of technology is better than the last.

I for one have chosen to empty myself of what I know so as to be able to learn more for as long as I am able.

 Here are some examples of how technology has enabled me and many others to live some form of normal life during these times of the pandemic lockdowns and quarantines.

  • Connectivity- man is a social animal that thrives best in a group or in contact with others. The lockdown and quarantines continue to threaten this essential element. But then it becomes a “catch- 22 situation”- you have to be alive to enjoy communication with others. Access to the internet enables us to make calls almost anywhere in the world. I can make video calls, online chats, text, and arrange for Zoom meetings with family, friends and colleagues.

I have been attending virtually the 10 am church service at my local church regularly. I have attended many virtual funeral services and burials for family and friends. I have attended weddings too. At the end of it all, I am thankful that somehow I have been part of the function during these times of social distancing.

  • Online shopping- Pre-COVID, I had bought a few things online in Botswana.The conservative in me always preferred that I saw things and even touched them. In  the middle of the last lockdown last year, my phone broke down. Having been away for some decades I am yet to familiarise myself with what is available on the market be it a set of saucepans or knives. I had to buy a new phone to stay in contact with family and friends.

I had heard of Jumia– the largest online retail store in Uganda but had never used its services. I checked it out , then consulted my two sons about the type of phone to buy. Satisfied, I paid for it and had it delivered by a masked courier a day later. My communication lifeline has since then remained open and fully functional. My daughter passed on to me her “old faithful” boda boda courier to help me with grocery shopping and delivery services. He has proved to be reliable and punctual. The mobile phone remains our main way of communication

  • Remote learning- Pre-COVID, I was attending some writers’ webinars to hone my writing skills. Stuck in our homes, we have a lot of time to ourselves. The webinars have increased and can be tailored to one’s needs.

 Many of my young relatives are at university. they have been able to continue with their studies through online schooling. Unfortunately, the same approach cannot be used in primary and secondary education as the majority of students live in the rural areas and have no internet access. The COVID-19 crisis has drawn attention to this big gap between the unconnected and the urban connected.

  • Remote working- as life and business have to continue during these social distancing times, many young relatives working as bankers, lawyers, engineers work from home. Among the challenges they face is the low internet capacity and slow speed.

For those working in the health care sectors, they still have to report in person as digital health care solutions are extremely limited in a developing country like mine.

I stopped taking things for granted and learned to be more grateful for what I have. During these times of lockdown and quarantine, I greatly appreciate how digital technology if not abused, makes our lives easy and faster. Much of what the digital world offers can be accessed for free. Digital technology has kept us connected, informed, educated, entertained and allowed us to share our stories.

Life could have been worse without it. Technology continues to change,to make the changes less threatening, each generation is better than the last. I shudder to imagine the new high end technology that has already started flowing in and how our physical world would have been improved three years from now.

 The Onus is on us, to become responsible users- engaging with it safely, respectfully and ethically   while at the same time opening ourselves up to learn new things, unlearn and relearn. The digital world has a lot of promise.

QUESTION: How is the cell phone and internet access enabling you to live some form of normal life during these times of lockdown and quarantine?

I NEED TRUCKLOADS OF IT

Women in a remote nomadic settlement in Kenya. Happily waiting out their turns. Photo by Ian Macharia of Unsplash .com

We are in the nineteen month of the COVID-19 global pandemic and have watched in horror as a health crisis turned into an economic crisis. There is a lot of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion and yet time never stops. Man is by nature a social animal and will most times seek escape from any confinement. The COVID-19 pandemic has condemned us to staying home.

We are in this together and each one of us has to look from within to find something to cling to and move forward within the confines of the pandemic.

I for one would have been greatly depressed if I did not have my faith to cling to . Faith gives me the hope I need to look to the future. From the way things are going and at the rate at which they are moving, I have found myself in great need of another attribute: discipline.

The online Oxford Learner’s dictionary defines discipline  as: a method of training your mind or body or of controlling your behavior.

Self- discipline-the ability to control yourself or work hard without relying on others to tell you what to do so or what is important.

The psychologists tell us that discipline brings stability and structure to our lives enabling us to live in harmony with others. It teaches a person to be responsible and respectful. It promotes good human behaviour and makes society more enjoyable and a place for everyone to live.

We have to exert discipline on a daily basis to create harmony. A lack of discipline results into chaos.

Successful people tend to be highly self- disciplined. Success and self- discipline go hand in hand.

We start developing discipline in our childhood while guided by our parents, teachers, mentors and sponsors  and this continues throughout one’s lifetime.

In today’s Digital world , there are so many distractions around us like Social media, mobile phones and the internet.  Having your goals in mind, self-discipline will help you focus on the most essential in your life. Discipline enables each one of us to get the right things done while at the same time becoming the best ” you”.

During this long period of uncertainty, I have come to understand that I needed discipline more than I have ever needed in my life.

Discipline helps each one of us to focus and to reduce stress as we take care of what needs to be done.

At this moment in time, I need truckloads  of it if I have to develop the patience to wait out the pandemic – as things slowly return as close to normalcy as possible. Time has not stopped during the COVID-19 restrictions/confines so the best way to move forward is to adapt to the main changes and survive.

  • I need the discipline to wake up on time, make my bed and to open my mind and heart to the new possibilities of the day.
  •  To make the tough decisions  like making my will and act on them.
  •  To follow consistently the Public health Standard Operative Procedures ,keeping myself and others safe. As long as the COVID-19 virus remains a threat to our wellbeing and our communities have not yet reached herd immunity through the infection and vaccination, we cannot relax.
  • To ensure that myself and those I love are fully vaccinated and have received their vaccination certificates.
  • To work on my goals every day despite the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • To self –care so that I can stay physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. This can be done by eating a healthy balanced diet, not smoking or abusing alcohol or drugs, taking regular exercises every day, having adequate regular sleep of 7-8 hours at night, taking regular medical check-ups and staying connected to loved ones and friends every day.
  • To live my values despite the stress and anxiety. Spending the day living a relatively normal life within the confines of the pandemic.

None of us can imagine what life would be like after the pandemic but it will come.

Unlike the generation that suffered the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918, our generation should be grateful for the immense advances in science, medicine and technology. They have made it possible to quickly identify the virus , develop a vaccine to it  and some forms of symptomatic treatment. Those of 1918 did not even know the microbe that was causing the influenza as the electron microscope was yet to be invented(1931). Like them , physical distancing/ social distancing still remains our most effective response.

Until life returns to a new normal, it cannot be business-as –usual. Let us  all develop the discipline to rise up and take up our roles in bringing the pandemic to an end.

I have compiled some quotes about discipline to encourage you and I along this long journey.

”The most powerful control we can ever attain is to be in control of ourselves.’’- Chis Page

”It’s not the work that’s hard, it’s the discipline.’’ Anonymous

”Life without discipline is like a ship without a rudder.’’– Ronie Mathew Thomas

”Once you have the commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there. ‘’– Haile Gebrselassie

”Circumstances are beyond human control  but our control  is in  in our own power.’’- Benjamin Disraeli

”The more disciplined you become, the easier life gets.’’ – Stein  Pavlina

”A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.’’- Dalai Lama X1V

”Rule your mind or it will rule you.’’- Horace

”For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories.’’- Plato

”I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself.’’– Pietro Aretino

”It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken away from you, nor by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.’’– Buddha

” If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.’’- Mario Andrette

”Without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to be a top professional.’’ – Jahangir Khan

Self-discipline: ”The road may be hard but the results are priceless.’’– Unknown

”What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.’’- Aristole

”Self-discipline is that which , next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another.’’- Joseph Addison

QUESTION:

How have the nineteen months of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions eroded your discipline to plan and implement thing?

The Brain Function : Use it or Lose It

Learning new things like a skill challenges the brain and opens up new connections between the right and left parts of the brain.

It is now nineteen months since World Health Organisation(WHO) declared the COVID-19 respiratory disease a global pandemic. Unfortunately, this COVID-19 crisis shows no signs of going away. A few countries like Demark, Norway and Sweden have started easing the pandemic restrictions following a three-phased plan. This has become possible after achieving nearly 75 percent of their population fully immunised.

For the developing countries like mine, where full immunisation is less than five percent, we are still depending on the Standard Operative Procedures(SOPs) for preventing transmission of the virus as set out by the WHO:
• Frequent washing of the hands using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
• Proper use of face masks.
• Physical distancing- allowing at least two metres between you and other people.
• Limiting social gatherings and time spent in crowded places.
• Avoiding close contact with other people – no hugging or shaking hands.

The pandemic has gone on for so long that the majority of us have started suffering from the effects of isolation: some form of anxiety and depression. Isolation is affecting our brain health. None of us had gone through such an experience in the past so we are all learning as we go along. It is vital that we promote brain health and wellness during this COVID -19 crisis otherwise we shall find it extremely difficult to cope when something like normal life returns.

The brain which controls everything below it is like a muscle: it has to be exercised every day or else it gradually loses its function.
I covered how each one of us can keep her/his brain functional as an integral part of general wellbeing, in the post of 15th October 2020: USE IT OR LOSE IT. I am therefore reposting it here because of its relevancy and usefulness.

Brain function is one of those things that deteriorate as one grows old.  Watching my octogenarian mother struggle  to play with the Rubik cube box, requiring skill and determination, made me think more about the age-related deterioration of brain function. One renown expert , Dr. Michael Merzenich  Ph.D. of Scientific Learning Corporation in Oakland , California has made numerous studies  on brain function. He tells us that this age-related functional decline can be reversed or be slowed down by engaging into mentally demanding activities. The mentally demanding activities include reading, solving hard crossword puzzles and playing brain games. They stimulate and challenge the brain unlike the simple mundane ones like walking to the neighbour’s or performing any task routinely. 

He also informs us that by the age of 40, most of us are largely using the abilities we acquired early in life. We could be said to be operating in ‘automated pilot’ mode. We are doing things without being consciously engaged in what we are doing. As a result, gradually the brain function begins to slowly deteriorate. We become slow in action and slow in making decisions.

He reassures that we can reverse this functional decline by appropriate stimulation of the brain with new challenges. He therefore recommends  that each one of us should engage in new learning all our lives by picking new hobbies or learning new skills altogether. The best is any activity that engages all your five senses and imagination.

 After the age of fifty, it is essential that we maintain and improve brain function simply by keeping it mentally active. An active brain is a healthy brain. We do not have to wait to grow old to start playing the recommended mentally demanding activities; the earlier we start the better.

Proverbs 19 verse 27 warns us that :  If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.

I for one have started seeing the changes in bits and pieces: how fast I remember names, how fast I make decisions but have found the following activities extremely useful:

  • Reading- I have been a voracious reader since the age of six. I read for fun then read for knowledge.

As a medical doctor I read a lot to acquire new knowledge, to remember what I already know but in my leisure time I read for fun. The Internet has increased access to reading materials to many of us.

I also make time to read my Bible every morning.

I can say that this is the best time to be an avid reader. Reading helps me to concentrate, and engages my brain fully as I follow the characters through the story. It also improves my fluency in the language.

  • Writing- I would have cheated the literary world if I just read others’ books or blogs all this long.

I had to contribute to something which has given me so much joy and knowledge. I have published two fiction novels, several short stories and I am working on several of them at the moment. I have been running a personal blog since October 2016. I wanted to share my wealth of experiences and impact other people’s lives for the better.

I always research what I write about so this opens me up for more reading and acquisition of knowledge. I have made lifelong learning a priority. Posting articles regularly on my personal blog teaches me the discipline of remaining consistent.

As I write, I am fully engaged and my mind is taken off everyday worries. I am alone with myself so it helps me to decompress and unwind too.

  • Crossword Puzzles- I usually solve the crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers that I read and those in the magazines I buy regularly. I have been doing this for a long time but while researching about crosswords I noted with great interest that the first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World newspaper in December 1913!

As I try to solve the puzzle, I am fully engaged and focused on what I am doing. The hardest puzzles are the most engaging and challenging. Completing such a crossword puzzle gives me a sense of satisfaction. The feeling causes the brain to release the ‘feel good factor’ known as Dopamine , in several areas in the brain. It is the Dopamine which makes us happy and motivated as we go through life. Small jobs and achievements throughout the week naturally keep up my Dopamine levels. Low levels of Dopamine are associated with feelings of apathy, depression and low energy.

Of late I am trying to solve the number puzzle called SUDOKU, it is based on 9by 9 grid and MUDOKU, based on a 16 by 16 grid. It  exercises my brain immensely and has improved my memory and my number skills. Such puzzles open up new connections in the brain; making it more active.

Dr. Merzenich‘s team of top scientists has developed some brain games to improve the brain function.  You can look them up at BrainHQ. Playing them regularly sharpens the brain and as a result you think faster, focus better and remember more. Who would not want to remember more? I am at the beginner’s level but just like any learned skill, the more you practice, the better you become.

Next time I have a full house, I will dust off Chess,the board game. It is an engaging game that demands total concentration and intense focus. It tests your memory too.

The pandemic has brought online activities like teaching, webinars to the forefront. These are intellectually challenging.

Regular, quality sleep is most essential for brain health. Good sleep improves concentration and productivity and enhances memory.

Mark Twain said: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not.’’

And Thomas Fuller said:   “We all  forget, more than we remember.”

QUESTION:

How fast are you at making decisions or remembering things?

Has this post helped you to see the need for keeping your brain active during the COVID-19 restrictions and thereafter?

AND IN THE END IT’S NOT THE YEARS……..

Makula with her dad in Papua New Guinea

Thanks to the Internet; our graduate class has reached out to one another and formed a strong fraternity. The seeds were sown decades ago during our five years in the medical school during Idi Amin ‘s reign of terror, 1971-1979. To survive and thrive, we became each other’s keeper. These strong bonds are still intact and are being fully exploited. Recently, we came up with a project to give back to the Makerere medical school that shaped us. We are ordinary doctors but we chose to buy 108 Research desks for the new extension of the Post Graduate section of the Sir Albert Cook Medical Library, established in 1924. Slowly but surely, things are falling in place.

Come March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic descended on us and is showing no signs of going away any time soon.

We are now all 65+ and fall under the senior citizens bracket of our population. Sadly, we have lost two of our best: Dr. David Sennoga, a veteran paediatrician of Durban, South Africa and Dr. Sam Mutumba, a paediatric Surgeon, to COVID. The deaths left us rather helpless.

 Due to the civil strife of the 70s and the fact that our Class was the last one to admit international students, we are scattered in several countries: Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, USA, Canada and Australia.

We were still struggling to come to terms with the deaths of our colleagues, relatives and friends, when our colleague: Dr.Sekkade Kiyingi of Brisbane, Australia lost his daughter, Makula(gorgeous)) to cancer of the bowel on the 7 th August 2021.

Makula was only thirty-four years old! She was in a specialised paediatric training programme.

Her elder brother, Kulumba, described her as a kind, ever smiling doctor, radiating positivity and optimism. She enriched the lives of all those around her.

 She had a brave heart and a strong spirit and these carried her through the six years of fighting the cancer. She had fierce loyalty and protectiveness of those she loved.

Makula as a teenager. She loved life and had a good sense of humour.

I cannot begin to understand what the Kiyingis have been going through but I have seen my elderly mother almost go to pieces after losing her youngest child to cancer of the breast, four years ago. If she had her way, she would have willingly chosen to die and let her daughter live.

On Saturday 21 st August 2021, I was woken up by the alarm clock just before 5am local time to attend Makula’s funeral at 12 noon Brisbane time. I just felt that I had to be a part of the ceremony for my own ‘closure’.

Over seventy mourners gathered at the Belgian Gardens cemetery to send off our Makula Agnes Nabbosa of the Ndiga/sheep clan. There were several young women of Makula’s age , reflecting on Makula’s character; a leader and a friend to many. There were many of our age group- parents mourning the passing of one of their children. The gem in this somber mood was seeing my young sister Juliet and her husband John among the mourners. They have lived in Perth for over thirty years and had become like a brother and a sister to the Kiyigis. They had flown in two days earlier to console their friends. It was comforting to see a few women dressed in our traditional wear.

Half way through the Mass, Dr. Sekkade Kiyingi was given an opportunity to talk to the mourners. He stood up tall in a dark green African print shirt over black trousers and in a clear voice gave a brief tribute to their daughter then thanked all the mourners wherever they were for joining them at their daughter’s final farewell.

In my heart of hearts, I was crying as a bereaved parent- In Africa, a child is raised by the whole village. I was crying for all the potential buried with her.

It was sunny but so windy that the flowers on the coffin were bending in it. The coffin was then placed in a vault and the mourners were invited to place a few flower petals at the rear. The burial was over in twenty-five minutes! Life goes on for the living.

Instantly I remembered Abraham Lincoln’s quote: ” And in the end it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the life in your years.’’

Makula in her short life had lived a life of meaning and purpose. She had lived a full life. Having lived a life of purpose had created passion and made her effective as an individual. She had lived with hope till the end.

I left the virtual funeral happy that she had rested from the pain and suffering but at the same time, her inner beauty- looking out for the beauty in each individual had enhanced her external beauty to her family, friends and colleagues.  It was her inner beauty that had given her the confidence to be herself. This was a life well lived.

I spent the day thinking about death and life.

Kahlil Gibran ,the renowned Lebanese- American philosopher once said:

”LIFE IS A TEAR AND A SMILE.”  He knew that it was the tears that made us more human.

He also believed that life and death were essentially two sides of the same coin. There is no life without death- accepting your mortality helps you to live a meaningful life and to enjoy your life more.

I for one accepted my mortality twenty-three years ago when I was involved a nearly fatal accident. Since then, I have learned to live as a person deserving that second chance at life.

At my age, I know with absolute clarity that I have lived more than three quarters of my life. This has made life so valuable to me. It has given my life a deadline so I have stopped procrastinating instead I just get on with things. I have had to reorder my life by getting my priorities in life right: relationships and my character. I devote 80 percent of my time on these two and they have given great meaning to my life. I have learned to use my life for something good for myself and others. I have also learned to take joy in all the small things that each day offers.

Comparing now and fifteen years ago, I am doing less and yet it translates into more done because I am focused and therefore more effective and productive. After all I am human; I cannot do everything.

The greatest tragedy in life is not death but living a life without purpose and not living a life you want for yourself. The latter leaves you with a lot of regrets in life.

This quote by Myles Monroe says it all: ”The wealthiest places in the world are not gold mines, oil fields, diamond mines or banks. The wealthiest place is the cemetery. There live companies that were never started, masterpieces that were never painted. In the cemetery are buried the greatest treasures of untapped potential. There is a treasure within you that must come out. Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within YOU.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked for several years with terminal care patients observed the top five regrets of the dying. They include the following:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Many dreams were unfulfilled because the person feared to make certain choices or left it too late.
  2. I wish I had not worked so hard– many missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship because they failed to balance work and family.
  3. I wish I ‘d had the courage to express my feelings– many had suppressed their own feelings to keep peace with others.  They lived mediocre lives. At the end they carried a lot of bitterness and resentment.
  4. I wish I had stayed in contact with my friends– many got so wrapped up in their own lives and let the golden friendships slip by over the years. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier– happiness is a choice but many of these people had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits and forgot how to look for laughter, fun and adventure in their lives.

We all have our regrets at this point in our lives, but it is never too late to change and have a happy ending. Arise, play and dance to the music of life.

 If I picked anything from Makula’s short life it is : Absolute clarity about life gives you focus and purpose and that we all need hope to cope.

Rest in eternal peace, our beloved Makula. May God give the family the strength, courage and inner peace they need to go on with their lives.