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.

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?

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?

WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING LATELY

World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID- 19 Respiratory Disease a global pandemic on the 11 th March 2020.  It is now exactly seventeen months into the pandemic.  The virus is continuing to rage havoc in all countries; each one of us has either been affected or infected by it or both.

 As of the 18 th August 2021, data from the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource centre shows:

Global confirmed cases –   208,653,614

Global Deaths –                        4,383,333

Uganda:

Confirmed case –                    97,186 (No access to mass testing)

Deaths                                          2, 905

Vaccine Tracking:

1, 167,733 doses administered in Uganda

4, 129  fully vaccinated ( 2 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine) making up 0.01% of the population.

To reach Herd Immunity in any community, 60-70% of its population have to be fully vaccinated.

As the pandemic rages on, many of us have been driven into some degree of anxiety or depression because of the uncertainty and not knowing when it will end.

One thing is for sure: Life goes on. Time and tide wait for no man so says an old adage. Definitely, we have to become more innovative and creative in finding ways to continue with our lives amidst the pandemic. No more excuses for remaining inactive.

The best place to start is where we are: in our homes.

I have been reading widely about strategies for coping in a situation that you have no control over.

One American psychologist, Jessica Gold, Assistant Professor of psychology at Washington University of Medicine, gives us three main coping strategies. We should practice them daily so as to get better.

They include:

  • Being in the present moment, or the here and now. Intentionally being fully engaged in what is happening at that very moment; not distracted by ruminations of the past or worries of the future.
  • Open up to feelings and uncertainty. What you do not talk about can kill you. Accept what you cannot change and change what you are able to change. This is where the SERENITY prayer attributed to a German-American theologian named Reinhola Neibuhr(1892-1971) comes in handy.

God give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,

 courage to change the things that should be changed,

 and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

  • Focus on who is most important and what is most important in your life. Devote your time , efforts and energy on these.

Having these strategies in mind, I have been taking one day at a time. Having a lot of time to myself, I have focused on honing my writing skills by reading many books and writing several short stories.

I want to share with you, a few of the books that I have been reading lately.

THE CANE PRIZE FOR AFRICAN WRITING 2010 and 2012

These are collections of short-listed short stories from Africa and some other ones written by emerging African writers at workshops sponsored mainly by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.

Each book has seventeen such stories of different genres from different African countries . The stories transport you to the authors’ countries of origin; whetting your appetite for more reads. Countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania are yet to make themselves visible at the Caine Prize For African Writing.

I would recommend these great reads to you since they offer short forms of fiction that give you a lot of expectations and excitement. You visit several African countries in the writers’ eyes. Finishing one story excites you to read the next one. Quick reads which offer a fast way of completing a story. You will feel that you have accomplished something.

For the writers like me, reading such books offers you many genres which give you ideas for your writing. They introduce you to emerging writers to look out for on the continent. I have read enough of them to try writing one for 2022.

Life Beyond Measure/ LETTERS TO MY GREAT- GRAND DAUGHTER

Most of us who are 50+ know Sidney Poitier the icon film star who later became a film director but is now retired. He was the first black man to win an Academy Award in 1964. You must have seen him in any of these unforgettable films: Lilies of the Field (1963), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, With Love, and in the 1997 movie Mandela and De Klerk where he played the icon Mandela.

Life Beyond Measure/ LETTERS TO MY GREAT- GRAND DAUGHTER is not an ordinary Memoir but it is 23 letters written to his first great- granddaughter, AYELE, born on 21 December 2005. These twenty-three letters are life’s lessons as experienced by Sydney Poitier. His goal was to help Ayele and others that were to follow her to experience Poitier’s life and connect to their lineage. He starts with his childhood on Cat Island, Nassau, Bahamas and goes on to capture memories and moments as he savours his life.

Sidney was born prematurely in Miami, Florida, where his peasant parents had gone to sell their harvest of tomatoes. When he was 15 years of age, his father noticed that Sidney had an impulsive risk trait that was likely to lead him into committing crimes so he sent him to Miami, Florida, to live with his eldest brother. He was trying to save him from himself in a place with limited opportunities and choices.

At that age, he was most fascinated by seeing his face in a wall mirror in a shop in Miami!

Circumstances forced him to move to New York and fend for himself. He became a dishwasher. Thankfully, he met a Jew dishwasher to whom he confessed that he could not read well! The friend offered to teach him how to read in between their chores. This friend unknowingly turned Sidney into an actor. Later he tried to audition with a member of the American Negro Theatre and was sent away as he had neither talent nor skills. This motivated him to become an actor. Applying logic and reason, he succeeded in becoming an actor in this hostile environment. As they say the rest is history. In 2001 he was awarded an Honorary Award as the most respected actor of his time. He is now 93 years old and remains strongly attached to his environment at home in Bahamas.

This is a unique memoir which will inspire many people to aspire for greatness while documenting their struggles and successes along the way. Each one of us is unique and each story told, has so much power to impact others. It is one of the most exciting and revealing memoirs that I have read and would recommend it to you too.

ARIEL SHARON: An autobiography of the Warrior.

Ariel Sharon (1928- 2014) was Israel’s most famous soldier who rose to become Israel’s 11 th Prime Minister (2001-2006)

Born to Russian Immigrant farmers in Israel in 1928, from the age of 15 participated in all major wars in Israel. Close to 60 years, he was at the forefront of events in Israel. He was admired and hated but not in equal measure. His military achievements and political policies were often considered controversial.

As a soldier, he served in the Israel army from its inception in 1948 until he retired in the late 90s. After retirement he went back to farming but remained as a reserve commander. He was the most daring and successful Commander in Israel; uncompromising, ruthless but commanded respect and love of his troops. He considered the security of Israel’s borders paramount to living a normal life in Israel.

As a politician he was considered a hardliner and always walked in a minefield of intrigue and backstabbing.

This most decorated warrior had a soft side too:  a husband and a father.

He shares their struggle to have children but later they had two sons with his second wife, Lily.

His first wife, Margalit died in in a car accident then he married her sister in 1963.

 In 1967, they lost their first son, Gur, aged 11 years in a freak accident at home. He was playing with a friend with an old short gun given to him by one of the family friends. Sharon never overcame this loss and always mourned for the potential that was buried with Gur. The loss affected the family more than anything else in their lives.

He always struggled to make time for his family.

As Prime Minister, he was considered as one of the most pragmatic. He remained in this position until he was incapacitated by a massive stroke in January 2006. He died aged eighty- five years in January 2014.

Reading this big book where Sharon candidly tells it all, was like reading the history of the Jewish nation of Israel from 1936 and the selfless men and women who shaped it.

I would greatly recommend it as a remarkable story more so to those who may aspire to become politicians in future.

Whenever I finish reading such remarkable stories, I pause to thank God for my late father and my school teachers for opening up a world of magic and wonder for me. It is inexhaustible and offers rewarding challenges.

Let us keep reading to sharpen our minds and to increase our ability to empathise with other people.

As Lailah Gifty Akita ably put it: ‘’IF YOU WISH TO RENEW YOUR MIND, READ.’’

QUESTION: What books have you been reading lately and why?

CONNECT WITH YOURSELF, WITH OTHERS AND WITH NATURE

Man is by nature a social animal, thriving best in a small group. It goes back to the ancient times when men hunted wild animals and gathered plants, seeds, berries and roots for food. Even today, the family remains as the basic unit of a nation. A family can be defined as a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage , adoption who live together.

The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are designed to reduce the spread of the disease in a family, community, nation and the world in general.

Physical distancing reduces human contacts- no hugs, no handshakes, no gathering together to share grief or joy. Shared common experiences help us to address our fears, worries and every day problems. This emotional support is vital for our physical and mental health.

It is almost a year since the necessary COVID-19 restrictions became the new Normal but they have left many of us in social isolation and loneliness. We are all craving for social interaction the same way hungry people crave for food.

90 years-old Margaret Keenan, could not have expressed it better the day she became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioN Tech vaccine in UK on the 8th of December 2020. She received the second dose 21 days later.

She said: “Being the first in the world was the best early birthday present I could wish for. It means I can spend time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”

Social communication is a core psychological need essential to our health and well being. Though we feel lonely and isolated from loved ones , we have to look for ways to adapt and become more resilient during the pandemic. By the look of things, the end of the pandemic is as elusive as the flower of the local Ugandan yam plant and yet life has to go on.

I for one have found the following activities helpful as I tried to increase social contact and engagement during the pandemic.

  • Enhancing social engagement with loved ones and the community. Thanks to Digital technology that has shrunk the world to a global village. I can instantly talk to family members on the phone, send text or audio messages, arrange virtual gatherings on Zoom or WhatsApp. There are many virtual meetings or webinars that I can join to share ideas with like-mined people locally and outside Uganda. Looking through old photo albums awakens the cherished memories I have so far created with family and friends. It helps to reduce my anxiety and stress.
  • Regular physical exercise- I take long walks in the evening and do light weight lifting to tone and keep my muscles strong. It reduces the stress and uplifts my mood while keeping me healthy and strong.
  • Prayer-for any genuine religious person nothing can be as comforting as having an intimate relationship with your Father whom you can talk to about anything and everything. Just like that simple chorus we used to sing in Sunday school donkey’s years ago: Take it to the Lord in prayer.
  • Reading or listening to audio books and music. Books engage our minds and imagination, enrich us , inspire us and increase our empathy and ability to understand others. For some years, I have been a member of Online Book Clubs like the Africa Book Club, Two Drops of Ink and Yours 2-Read. I have also been an

an active member of writing cartels like The Write Practice. It  is very beneficial for an emerging writer to bond with like-minded people.

  • Spending time in Nature- the environment you live in can either increase stress on you or lower it. Pleasing environments like water, trees, plants and animals improve our moods and stimulate our immune functions to work efficiently. Walking outdoors regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes significantly lowers stress, lowers our Blood pressure and increases our heart rates. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors is the best antidote for stress. The beauty of the surroundings, the scents and smells, the sounds like birdsongs, the different people you see, the animals, insects and birds awaken all our six senses of vision, hearing, taste smell, touch and proprioception and we become fully engaged with nature. Gardening offers the greatest benefits in that you are exercising as well as being immersed in nature.

You are never alone with your thoughts. For those who cannot go outdoors , you can bring the outdoors inside by caring for potted plants or pets and if the worst came to the worst then just look through books on gardening and nature.

Nature has been scientifically- proven to delight and heal.

Here are some photographs of nature from my collection.

A lemon orchard near Cape Town, South Africa

Last week, I woke up to find a crop of these tiny button mushrooms in our backyard. I had to invite the neighbours to harvest some for themselves as the culture demands.
The calm ocean calms your soul and invites you for a swim
My mother has been planting this type of pole beans along her fence since she picked the seeds from her late sister in Nairobi in the 1970s. Its beauty is that the more you harvest the pods, the more new ones are produced.

The mixture of old trees and shrubs and young ones in a garden, remind me of the mixed generations in our communities and nation.

The local small sweet bananas have a unique taste. It is etched in my memory
Ancient cities were designed for people and reflect what was important for the people at that moment in time
The barren desert has its unique beauty too.

Just as the earth has the power to renew itself more so after a drought or a bush fire, we too have the ability to rediscover our inner selves after the unprecedented disaster of COVID-19 pandemic and go on with our lives.

QUESTION:

In this unprecedented and prolonged COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, how have you managed to re-invent yourself and bond with like-minded people?

TIME MANAGEMENT

This post was featured two weeks ago as a Guest Post on the Penandprosperblogpost.com, run by Jennifer Brown Banks , a professional veteran freelance writer and a professional Blogger in USA.

Photo by Sanah-Suvarna-Unsplash.com

I have kept a bedside alarm clock for as long as I can remember.

Good time management remains a big challenge to all of us and yet it is an integral part of productivity at the workplace and at home. It is crucial if we are to accomplish more with less effort.

Most of us have come across the scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes chapter three verses one to eight entitled : There is a Time For Everything .

To me it is a constant reminder that life is short but I have to do the best I can while I am still alive.

Each one of us has only 24 hours in a day and the most productive and successful people among us are those who have mastered the craft of using these 24 hours efficiently and effectively.

Time management is about valuing your time and allocating enough time to work to achieve your day’s goals while leaving yourself some time to play and be with your family.

The old adage : All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy still holds.

I always add that : All play and no work makes Jack as poor as a church mouse.

Our bodies have an internal clock known as the Circadian Rhythm- the Sleep –Wake cycle controlled by the master clock in our brains. This master clock is directly influenced by the environment cues of daylight and night time.

During the day, the light stimulates the master clock to send signals to the body systems to stay alert, awake and active. This enables the body to perform at its best during the day.

At night, the darkness stimulates the master clock to initiate the production of Melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and keeps transmitting signals that help us to stay asleep throughout the night.

Our bodies need this  period  of 6-8 hours of sleep to repair and restore themselves and to boost our immune systems to fight off inflammation and infections and cancer cells. Adequate , regular sleep prepares our bodies  for the increased daytime activities.

 Inadequate sleep of less than 6 hours during the night, causes sleeping problems, high  stress levels and a poor- functioning  Immune system. Sleep deprivation can lead to some mental disorders like depression and anxiety while a weak immune system can cause recurrent infections , slow healing wounds and high stress levels.

Each one of us has a unique purpose and meaning for her/his life – one’s deep story.

The formal education we undertake enables us to identify and to act out our deep stories later in life as writers, teachers, doctors…… We live our own deep story day-to-day ; struggling to fulfill our potential in every area of our lives- personal, spiritual as well as professional.

This can only be done in the 16 hours we are awake each day. Time like death, is considered the greatest equalizer in life. Every day, we draw up to-do-lists, goal lists and Bucket lists which we hardly honour. This comes out of the feeling that time is never enough.

This quote from an essay: On the Shortness of Life written by Seneca, a Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher clearly identifies where the problem lies:

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste most of it. Life is long enough if you know how to use it.”

 To mitigate against this feeling of being short of time and to get more done in less time, we all have to master the art of Time Management.

This explains why Time Management is considered as one of the four pillars of productivity.

The other three pillars are :

.Task management– collecting and organizing all the stuff you have to do.

.Prioritising- what you do first.

. Focus- a way to reduce distractions and accomplish your goals.

For over eight years I have been a faithful student and follower of Michael Hyatt, an American author, podcaster, blogger and virtual coach. He focuses on leadership, productivity and goal setting in life.

This is what he has to say about how to plan and use your time effectively and efficiently:

  1. Rest –Start with enough rest at night- 7-8 hours.
  2. Prioritise- Decide what is most important in your life and do it first. Invest 80% of your time on the 20% most important things to you. Do it day by day, week by week for 52 weeks. Then the “urgent” does not crowd out the most important and it reduces procrastination. It stops you from spending your valuable time on pointless pursuits.
  3. Batch your work– line up related tasks and do them at once. Like replying and sending emails at the same time.
  4. Tame your Technology– technology improves our ability to get things done but set limits to its use when doing important things. Put your phone away or switch it off when doing important tasks. Do not allow yourself to become a slave to technology.
  5. Drop Drudgery– outsource what you do not enjoy doing. It leaves you free to what you love.

ON A FINAL NOTE

I grew up with a father who valued time and “Punctuality” became his middle name. My siblings and I are good at managing time. It creates order in one’s life.

Sadly I came back to a country that has lost the sense of time. The tangled traffic jams in the city compound the problem as well as the frequent heavy rains. I waste a lot of time while moving from point A to point B and back. It also drains some of the energy that I should have used to do more important tasks.

But my father would remind all of us to start the journey early enough to be on time and my devoted teachers would instruct us to carry an umbrella and a rain coat at work and at home.

I myself would share this Japanese quote with you : If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is.

QUESTIONS:

How are you managing time during these unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic restricted times?

In which areas do you struggle?

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS

The SUDOKU number puzzle that became popular in US in the 1970s.

There is an age-old adage that says : You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Simply put it means that like animals, it is quite difficult for old people to learn something new. They tend not to be open to new ideas.

For anyone to learn something new, you have to trust yourself and your teacher then open up your mind and heart to learn new things.

Interestingly, the theme for my blog is: Learning is a lifelong process. I chose it because I have always been fascinated about learning new things; I have been motivated by curiosity. As I grow older, I have traded in control or trying to change the world for wanting to understand it. The environment we live in controls our behavior so the more we understand it, the better we enhance the quality of our lives. One good example I can give is that for the two decades I lived out of Uganda , where Malaria fever is endemic, I lost my acquired resistance to the mosquito- transmitted disease . If I went down with Malaria at this moment in time, it would be as severe as in an under five Ugandan child! I could easily die from it. To prevent this from happening to me, I persistently sleep under a mosquito net. Consequently, I have not suffered from Malaria for the three years I have been back in Uganda.

We are living in the Information Age or Digital Age where we have instant access to knowledge and information.

This demands that all of us, young and old have to continue learning to remain useful to ourselves and others and to stay relevant and actively engaged with the world around us.

As Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) an American writer and one of the world’s outstanding futurist, rightly said:  The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

 Every day, I have to learn a myriad of new things, unlearn what is outdated and no longer holds true and relearn what still holds true in this age.

As we are now living longer than any other time in the history of mankind, keeping ourselves literate presents a huge challenge to those in their Second Adulthood : 45- 85 or beyond, more so to those in the last phase of this Second Adulthood (65-85 or beyond). My mother is close to her 90th birthday. I have been observing her closely and watching painfully as she gradually lost control over her life.

 For as long as I can remember, she has been a strong, independent woman with a lot of enthusiasm for life. She was a midwife for almost forty years, retired into mixed farming in the late 90s. I had never known her to fall sick until two years ago when the degenerative arthritis, little by little confined her at home. The inability to go where she wanted to go when she wanted proved to be more painful than the arthritis itself. It was made worse by the loss of her youngest child from cancer of the breast.

There are times when she has been lost in abyss of depression. With the family’s love and support , she has gradually chosen to progress other than decline. We are all trying to help her to achieve a state of successful ageing. Thankfully, she now concentrates on what she can do rather than on what she has lost. She is committed to rebuilding the enthusiasm for her life.

She has always  been the type of person who enjoys touching , holding and sharing affection with us the children and grand children but the social distancing demanded by the safety guidelines of controlling COVID-19 pandemic, has robbed her of this. Being a Digital grandmother, she keeps her mobile phone within easy reach to call any of us at leisure. She ensures that her phone is fully charged and has enough air time bundles to stay socially connected with her loved ones.

I enjoy filling in the Crossword puzzles in the daily newspapers to keep my brain challenged. Two weeks ago, an idea occurred to me: though my mother reads the daily newspapers, books  about the Ugandan martyrs and listens to the Catholic –supported Radio Maria regularly, she had some idle hours and her brain needed to be challenged afresh. That is when I started teaching her how to fill in the SUDOKU Number puzzle in the daily newspaper.  Initially she found it difficult to understand the pattern of the rows and columns and the rules. But I left her to learn at her pace and rhythm not to frustrate her. I gave her an exercise book to record the missing numbers in each column and taught her how to play with those numbers. For two days, we filled in a number of them together as I showed her how to do it step-by-step.

To her excitement, she mastered the pattern by the fifth day and by the sixth day she pushed the exercise book aside and started filling in the missing numbers directly in the blank squares!

Like any good teacher, I cheered her on and celebrated the little successes.

The most touching moment was when she immersed herself in it for about forty minutes, corrected the errors and handed it to me with her trademark smile. “I hope I got a hundred percent.’’

She has become better at it and now scores a hundred percent most of the time. She enjoys doing it and owns the game. No doubt the daily small wins have made her feel good and inspired her to get more done.

  When I informed the grand children about our new fun times, they requested me to take several photographs of her working passionately at her ‘‘game’’ and share them with them.

 Since then, they have been calling her to cheer her on. Many of them will be soon sending her a selection of SUDOKU books and jigsaw puzzles from where they are scattered worldwide.

A brilliant student challenges you as a teacher; you do not want her to get so used to what she is doing  that  it becomes a routine. Like the high jump track and field event, you have to keep raising the bar to stretch the contestant’s ability to the maximum.

So I introduced something completely new: I bought the first jigsaw puzzle for her from the children’s book section of a bookshop.

 It was of a mother elephant with her calf.  I went back to the basics as I had done with my own children: starting off with puzzles made up of fewer big pieces and progressively introducing puzzles with smaller pieces as they became better at it.

Through trials and errors, she is rising to the new challenge and loving it. I do not mind whether she takes the whole day as long as she completes it.

To my amazement, I have observed that :

She has grown more confident and daring.

She is more alert and has made a conscious effort to continue learning new things.

She talks more and engages more with the people around her and her old dog. She spends more time walking around in the compound. It is as if she has been given a new lease on life.

It is increasingly becoming easier for her to remember old things than before.

She concentrates and focuses more at her “game” and the jigsaw puzzles. She gets so deeply absorbed in what she is doing that she loses track of time.

She is more relaxed and happier- her Blood Pressure and heart rate readings are more stable than before.

Her enthusiasm for life has increased and she confidently says that she cannot afford to bury herself alive.

My octogenarian mother enjoying her new Number Puzzle- SUDOKU.

 Despite the loss of her two children and a twenty year old grandson, previously she had somehow found something to live for: her children, grand children and great grand children. Now that she is keeping her brain challenged every day, life is no longer dull and draining.

The scientist in me went to work to read more about how to keep one’s brain young and healthy and the health benefits of Jigsaw puzzles.

 Decades of research facilitated by the Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brain (MRI), have shown that as we grow older, our brains shrink in volume. Ageing causes changes in the size, the blood vessels and cognitive processes of the brain. The less you keep your brain active by not doing challenging  tasks like learning  something completely new, the faster it shrinks. The same studies have shown that the brain size decreases by 5% per decade after the age of 40 and much faster after the age of 70. This negatively affects your attention and memory and increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

To slow down the brain function decline you have to practice the following:

  1. Regular physical exercise like taking long walks, running and swimming if you able. The brain changes begin midlife. Exercise is good for your heart, brain and body. Exercise increases the heart rate enabling the heart to pump more blood to the brain.  The increased blood flow to the brain improves cognitive function- a healthy mind in a healthy body.
  2. Reduce the stress- the stress response releases hormones like Cortisol and Adrenalin which affect memory and learning. You can reduce the stress by reading books, regular exercise, gardening, writing, painting, meditation, laughing and listening to good music or playing a musical instrument.
  3. Get plenty of sleep- at least  6-8 hours of regular sleep in the 24 hours of the day.
  4. Eat a healthy balanced diet consisting mainly of fish, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, olive oil and Antioxidant nutrients.
  5. Keep the brain active and regularly challenged. This is what is referred to as giving your senses and brain a daily workout.
  6. Remain socially connected- the bonding releases a hormone called OXYTOCIN from the base of the brain. Oxytocin increases bonding and trust in human relationships.

The SUDOKU number puzzles and jigsaw puzzles entertain and keep the mind active and sharp. As you fill in the numbers or pick the right small pieces and put them in the right place, you are engaging both sides of your brain and most of your senses. It stimulates the brain to grow and develop new connections thus slowing down functional decline. Completing the challenging task stimulates the brain to release DOPAMINE, one of the “feel good” chemicals from the brain. You end up feeling good, motivated and alert.

I clearly understand why my mother now feels energized and more engaged with everything around her.

This interaction with my mother has reminded me that learning is a lifelong process and that it also a two- way process.  As I teach her how to fill the Sudoku number crosswords and how to build jigsaw puzzles, I am also having good lessons in patience, humility and successful ageing. We are having fun together and bonding more as mother and daughter.

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, it just takes longer. How I wish I had introduced my mother to these brain –stimulating exercises earlier on.

Unexpectedly, two days ago I stumbled on a sealed packet of playing cards. I shall not hesitate to use them to spice up our fun times.

QUESTION: The brain changes due to ageing start midlife and the earlier you start practicing daily workout for your senses and brain the better for you.

Apart from what you do at your work place, what brain- stimulating activities do you practice every day?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST 11

My mother at 80, surrounded by some of her grandchildren and myself.

 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.

In my small family, my father died a few months close to his 90th birthday, his young sister died at 104, their niece celebrated 100 years last October and my mother is close to her 90th birthday. 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 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 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.

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.

My octogenarian 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:

  1. Adaptability- at 90, they have all of them suffered big losses and setbacks but they mourn the losses and move on.
  2. Optimism- they look at life as an adventure and are willing to explore. They also have a marked sense of humour.
  3. They have a keen interest in current events.
  4. They have a good memory and would do what it takes to retain it.
  5. They take good care of their health- enjoying exercises and regular sleep of 6-7 hours during the night.
  6. 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; 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.

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?

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE’S HARVEST

24/08/1972- The Beauty Of Youth

On the 24th August , I celebrated my birthday following the COVID-19 prescribed health and safety guidelines. I had a hearty meal and spent some quality time with a few members of my family among them my grandchild aged almost one and half years. It turned out to be my perfect gift for the day.  I closed my eyes briefly to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God, the giver of all the perfect gifts in our lives. The emotional nourishment that I received will fill my tank for months! I had that satisfying feeling that I was loved, treasured, appreciated and respected. I relaxed and basked in their applause.

In my country, Uganda ,  the statistics from the  Uganda Bureau of Statistics indicate that the life expectancy  of a woman was 55.35 in 2008 and rose to 65.17 in 2018 while that of the man was 54.98 and 60.66 respectively.

According to Statista.com , in Botswana it was 58.97 for women in 2008 and 54.42 in men. Then in 2018 it had increased to 72.5 in women and 66.2 in men.

From the www.ons.gov.uk the life expectancy in UK was 82.9 in women and 79.3 in men in 2018.

In all counties of the world, women live longer than men by 4.5 years. Among the explanations given by researchers for this gap is that the female hormone : Oestrogen  lowers the Bad cholesterol – LDL while increasing the good cholesterol – HDL thus reducing the risks of chronic heart disease in women until ten years after menopause when they catch up with men .

By Uganda standards I qualify to be a senior citizen though I cannot collect the Allowance for the Elderly until  after celebrating my 80th birthday! Surprisingly the minimum age of retirement  for formal employment in Uganda is 55 . The judges of the high court do not retire until they clock 70 years of age.

Each birthday that I celebrate, I thank God for the gift of time and the power to go on, my parents as my mentors, my family and lifetime friends. I thank him for all that I have lived through and learned, the gifts and achievements and the wisdom I have acquired with the experiences. I thank God also for the tough times which challenged me and turned me into a resilient woman and for my small contribution towards making the world a better place.

Thankfully, I was an athlete during my school days, I have never smoked, I exercise daily for a minimum of thirty minutes, I enjoy my glass of red wine and healthy diet of plenty of fruits and vegetables, cereals, low-fat dairy products and more fish and chicken.

In the last fifteen years, I have suffered losses of loved ones; mourned for a season and moved on. I would call myself an optimistic person who sees the glass half -full. I strive to find a gem in each experience. I now know myself drastically well: I thrive best when connected to family and friends . I have a troop of loyal friends. Disorder and chaos derail my thinking, creativity and productivity.

 I never forget my responsibility to give back to the community I live in just as my parents taught me. I call myself a staunch Christian woman. I continue to live with a positive attitude and to live in gratitude while looking for beauty in every one and in everything. I accepted my flaws and strengths many years back and love who I have become. I am sure I now represent the deeper core attributes of survival and resilience so when I create works, they come from the depth of my soul and express whom I am at that moment in time.

For over a week, I have given myself time to reflect on my life and to read more about aging with grace and dignity.

By the time I celebrated my 45th birthday, I was a wife, a mother of three energetic and curious children , a full time medical doctor and a volunteer  at the Francistown SOS Village  in Botswana.  I had proved to myself and others that I had the capacity and ability to wear several hats and to deliver as demanded of me. Then one day it dawned on me that I had lived half of my life.  It forced me to step back and take stock of my life honestly.

 I asked myself a number of questions but 4 in particular needed urgent answers.

. Was my life all about being a good wife, a good mother and an exemplary doctor?

. Was there anything important missing in my life?

. Would I still be contented and satisfied when my children left for university and I had become an empty nest?

. Should not I start thinking of finding another way of being a winner in future?

Over the following months, my spiritual well-being suddenly became more important to me and  I was able to answer those questions honestly. I needed to allow myself to be myself and let myself have what I truly wanted. Yes, I could create myself a new identity and have new big dreams. I had nurtured others for all those years, I needed to make a conscious effort  to nurture myself and once again do something that could challenge me and joyfully keep me awake at night because I wanted it badly. I just had to look from within myself.

 I had been an avid reader of books since the age of six and at that moment in time, I felt that I had read enough books to write my own. The demands of motherhood and the medical career had repressed my creative side.The reflection pushed me into making the decision to create space for myself to write.

Three years later, I was involved in a nearly –fatal accident, I broke three bones in the neck.  After some weeks of neck traction and two open operations on the neck , I was up and about. I survived by God’s grace and because Botswana had an excellent  health care system , I had the love and support of my family and friends and I was strong and fit. The road traffic accident made me confront my mortality and directly pushed me to find out who I really was – my core values, what I held sacred and what put spirit into my life.

 After acquiring the virtue of authenticity, I started on my spiritual and creative journey. I invested more in my creative writing by attending training workshops, webinars, joined Online writing cartels and opened myself to new experiences of entering creative writing competitions. I was determined to become a remarkable writer through continued writing practice and reading.

 Since October 2016 , I have been running a personal blog: https://www.apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog, to hone my writing skills while at the same time sharing my skills, knowledge, talents , gifts and wealth of experience to influences  the readers positively. It has given me a complete new sense of self-worth and importance.

Someone somewhere once said: “ The hunt is never over until both your heart and belly are full.”

I cannot describe the satisfying feeling I get when I read my short stories in the  Africa Book Club Anthology, Kalahari Literary Review Magazine, Yours 2 Read Platform and Two Drops of Ink, a platform for collaborative writing. My two fiction novels: The Last Lifeline  and  When The Lights came On  are available on  Amazon.com.

I consistently post a new article on my blog every ten days, beating this deadline keeps me joyfully awake at night. I approach this challenge with same youthful enthusiasm that sailed me through the medical school.  It leaves me with no doubt that I am on the right path of finding more purpose and meaning in the last part of my life.

 Maya Angelou rightly said: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

 I know it very well that to give birth to something new, you have to let go of something in you. It allows you to open yourself up to new possibilities and new growth.

 My biggest challenge has been: giving away a part of the medical career for my creativity. I am well aware that if I just keep on adding, things may get complicated for me.  I am yet to throw myself into it to lead a fulfilling and effective life of a writer.

 It is a long process but I have not done badly as a part- time writer.  I trust myself and believe that a combination of my love, passion for the written word and my inherent enthusiasm, courage and discipline, will get me on top of my new career. Thanks to the Internet and the ever increasing technology innovations, for making writing a lot easier. I research all my topics, write them out and share them globally without leaving my desk!

After reinventing myself as a writer, I feel more relaxed, fun-loving, joyful and adventurous. I feel that I have made the time after 50 my own.

24/08/2020- Mature Beauty

While researching material for this post, I read a lot about what the psychologists say about aging gracefully and with dignity.  Worldwide, we are all living longer than the majority of people in the last century.

Immunisation against the common childhood diseases like measles , access to effective health care services and  good nutrition, our increased understanding of our environment , the availability of antibiotics and essential drugs like insulin, advances in science  and technology and medicine, have combined to increase our life expectancy. However, at the same time new challenges keep cropping up like emerging new diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS and now COVID-19, food insecurity, environmental degradation and climate change.

The psychologists have continued to study the behavior and responses of human function in different populations and have come out with guidelines to help us live meaningful; creative and productive lives after clocking 50.

 By sheer coincidence, right here on my desk is a copy of  the UK Sunday Mirror Magazine with a radiant and confident woman of 60 advertising spectacles for Specsavers with the slogan : Life begins at 60. So does a 25% discount at Specsavers.

In the 90s the slogan was : Life begins at 40. This goes to show that we are staying alive for so long.

As many people are now living into their nineties, Adulthood  is considered to run in two phases:

1st  Adulthood and 2nd Adulthood.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST.

Meanwhile strive to stay safe and keep healthy. Your health is your responsibility.

EVERY DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN AND GROW

A baby learning to walk.

Life itself is about lessons learned through what we go through, what we see and hear and what we read in books. We also learn by observing others and Nature around us.

During the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic difficult and uncertain times, we are being forced to learn things quickly mainly to stay safe and healthy. We were all caught off guard and unprepared  for how to handle the pandemic so the more science we learn about the disease and the more we learn from other countries which have fared better in the pandemic, the more we shall understand and be able to protect ourselves and others.

According to the Johns Hopkins University  COVID-19 Online Dashboard on 13th August 2020,

 20,939,967 cases had been reported globally and 759,928 deaths.

 In the Africa region, South Africa had the largest number of reported cases : 572,865 and 11,270 deaths.

My second home, Botswana, had 1,214 reported cases and  03 deaths.

As of today 13th August 2020, the Ministry of health of Uganda has reported 1,353 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease, 11 deaths and  1,141 Recovered patients.

On a personal level, the lockdown left me socially isolated, financially insecure and emotionally drained. I have come to accept my vulnerability and mortality and have been pushed to surrender control of my life to a higher power: God my creator. The Bible has always taught me that God teaches us letter by letter, line by line and lesson by lesson. Isaiah 28:10.  A combination of isolation and mind solitude plus what is going around me and the news from other countries worldwide, has forced me to   think and reflect on my life and to have a new perception of the next phase of my life.

 From March to June 2020, Italy was the epicenter of the COVID-19 disease, the shocking and troubling pictures of  elderly patients fighting for their lives in the Intensive care units are still engrained in my memory.  627 elderly people majority of them men, died in 24 hours on the 21st March, 87 percent of these were patients over 70 years of age and 99 percent had associated chronic medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. They died alone in ICU or in nursing homes.

Other countries like USA and United Kingdom soon caught up with Italy and even went beyond.

Currently USA, Brazil, Mexico and India are grappling with the biggest number of new cases and deaths.

 I truly appreciate that life is a gift that has to be celebrated every day. Each day I wake up fit; up and about, becomes a time of possibilities and potential. My responsibility is to make the most of it.

The value of life becomes more meaningful after 50 years of age when you realize that you have already lived more than half of your life or at any age when you survive a threatening illness or accident. The reality of your age, your own place in life and your own mortality crystallize out.

This is what I am living with every day and two good things have come out of it. I have made a conscious effort to love with no regrets and to stop procrastinating.

LOVING WITH NO REGRETS

Those who died alone in ICU without anyone holding their hands had relatives but by the very nature of the disease which was even less understood by that time, they could not be by their relatives’ side. It left many of those relatives with a lot of unfinished business.

Such a situation would leave any of us wondering:

When did I last visit my relative?

When did I last talk to her/him?

When did I last tell her/him that I loved her/him and that I appreciated her for the way she touched and enriched my life?

Did I ever tell her/him that I loved her/him?

The answer to these questions is what hurts the living most in our fast –paced world. Our world is dominated by work; we tend to put off many things like calling a parent or a friend. Birthdays and Christmas still come once a year!

The regret of unfinished business is particularly oppressive, even haunting in its oppressive grief.”– Donna Lynn Hope.

I lost a relative who had worked as a nurse in USA for over twenty five years. In the latter years she had developed Diabetes but was well controlled and leading  more less a normal life. She died in June at the frontline of the COVID -19 pandemic. While in Botswana, we were in regular contact but when I relocated back home, I got wrapped up in my own survival and assimilation. The next thing I heard was that she was fighting for her life in the Intensive Care Unit. Her death left me drained emotionally; I cried out of grief but more for what I never said to her or what I would never be able to say.

I needed to immunize myself of similar regrets in future so I am training myself to learn to tell the important people in my life what they mean to me as often as it is possible. As love is more of action than words, I am focused on doing small acts of kindness whenever an opportunity presents itself.

After all genuine love enriches both the giver and the receiver and makes everything possible. Happy people make others happy too.

That is why I have decided to love with no regrets even if it means loving the difficult ones at a distance.

No regrets, just love.” – Anonymous

 STOPPING THE PROCRASTINATION GAME.

Procrastination can be simply defined as putting off things.

It is considered and rightly so as the “thief of dreams”. We are all guilty of it in one way or another.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was deliberately disciplining myself to stop procrastinating but instead do the most important things in my life as a matter of urgency. On a scale of 1 to 10, I could score a 7 ; I was working hard on it every day.

The psychologists tell us that each one of us needs both self-control and motivation to get things done in a timely manner.  Self-control allows you to push yourself to do things while motivation offers  the reward to your efforts. Most times the reward comes in the form of satisfaction of getting one thing on your  “to do list” done.  It brings  you closer to  a sense of completeness in life.

Studies on human behavior show the following as the commonest cause of procrastination:

1.Rewards that are too far in future

2. Not having a clear picture of your future self

3.Feeling unwanted.

4. Anxiety

5. Perfectionism

6. Fear of Failure

7. A perceived lack of control

8 .Lack of enjoyment

9. Lack of motivation

The commonest among these is the fear of failure, not being motivated enough and just being lazy to perform what is yours to be done.

In the recent past, I was putting off things because I had too many demands on my time. I was unnecessarily postponing decisions and actions and getting little done. I took inventory of my life just as I had done in my early thirties and recognised that that I was not “super woman’’.  I had to prioritise things by defining the 20 percent most important things in my life and give them 80 percent of my time. Once again , I was in control of my life and laughed more often.

On returning home, I found that most essential systems were hardly functional; simple things like acquiring or renewing an essential document, took long to be completed. Many people have forgotten the importance of punctuality; they seem to have an extra four hours in a day! The heavy traffic jams in the city drain my energies and emotions. All these affect my motivation and increase the likelihood of procrastination.

I am fighting to ensure that the demotivating factors do not outweigh my self-control and motivation and tip me over into a cycle of procrastination.

“Procrastination is one of the common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” – Wayne Gretay

As a senior citizen, I am aware of the reality of my age and yet curious about the possibilities of life from midlife to the end.   I have to do what is mine to do and fulfill my highest purpose in life. I work on it every day. Death is with us all the time but I can still see a future beyond COVID-19 pandemic and this gives me hope.

The COVID-19 Lockdown made me realize that there were a number of things that I could have started and completed before the uncertainty and unpredictability of the COVID-19 catastrophe set in.  I am now left with only four months to the end of 2020! As things stand, COVID -19 is not going away anytime soon but it is my duty and responsibility to protect myself and others .  I remain hopeful that the scientists will be able to find some effective drugs to treat the disease and a safe , effective and affordable vaccine.

Gradually  we shall figure out the best way to get on with our lives amidst the COVID-19 disease and its effect on our health and economies.

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Over time, I shall relearn to trust myself to start creating again while pushing procrastination to the back burner. I still have much to look forward to; I have new dreams for my life.

 Who knows, I may be able to catch up on the lost months of 2020. As for now, staying safe and healthy is my top priority. It should be yours too.

QUESTION:

Did the time you spent in strict lockdown force you to relearn of the urgent need to do important things in a timely manner?