THANKSGIVING

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE KID IN EACH ONE OF US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We took many photographs to capture the moments.

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

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

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

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

Thanks to her for unintendedly growing our reading culture.

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

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

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

Life was sweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It endows us with wonder and optimism and simple joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Age – 60+

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

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

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

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

QUESTION:

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

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

THE CLOSURE

A sunrise over Lake Victoria. It symbolises new beginnings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION:

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

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

FINDING JOY IN THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONS:

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

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

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL 11

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

The Second Phase Of The Second Adulthood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life begins at 60

and  90 is the new 60.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The  2nd Adulthood:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION:

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

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.

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?

THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF LIFE

One moment life may be colourful only to become dark in the next.

I must apologise for taking long without posting articles on this page. I have not been well since April 2021. It has reminded me of the unpredictability of life- one moment I was as fit as a fiddle and then a few days later I was lying in a hospital bed. Generally, medical doctors do not make the best patients due to the reversal of the roles and knowing what they know. We are human too!

What made the situation more complex is that we are in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and are restricted by the Lockdown. Here in Uganda, the new cases are on the rise and so are the deaths.

From the Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Centre, as of the 30 th July 2021:

Global confirmed cases were 197,462,343 and the Global deaths were 4,211,491

UGANDA as of 30th July 2021:

Confirmed cases were 93, 675- We cannot afford Mass testing.

The deaths were 2,661

Doses of Corona virus vaccine administered were 1,143,763

People fully vaccinated ( received the 2 doses of the Astra Zeneca Corona virus Vaccine)were 4,129

Percentage of the population fully vaccinated were 0.01%

For anyone who is 60+, this is not the best time to be lying in a hospital bed if you can help it.

Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 Respiratory Disease, having taken my second dose of Astra Zeneca vaccine in early May. There is still some uncertainty as the virus keeps changing rapidly; forming new variants that spread fast in a community.

Like any other individual, I have continued to lose relatives, friends and colleagues. This has drained me emotionally.

It has been extremely tough on me to fall sick during the Lockdown, my children and friends cannot visit me though we talk regularly on the phone . I miss the direct human connection.

The psychologists tell us that lack of human connection can be more harmful to our health than smoking and high blood pressure. Lack of human connection  causes anxiety and depression. Meaningful human connection helps us regulate our emotions. Once we can regulate our emotions, our self-esteem and empathy increase, making our Immune system function better. A functional Immune system protects us from recurrent infections and reduces our risk to develop cancer.

Within this limited human connection , I have had to make the most of what is available for me:

  • The few loved ones around me
  • Nature
  • Books
  • Communication- video calls and webinars

Exercising out in the  open has its health benefits but it also serves as a distraction from the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic which seems to be unending.

I have had to ‘’slow down and smell the roses’’ as the old adage demands of me.  Spending a lot of time with nature has sharpened my five senses of touch,  sight, hearing, smell and taste. It has also stretched my imagination and made me more creative.

Allow me to share some of the photos that I have taken of the environment around me. I now understand my position in the universe better and my responsibility to conserve and preserve the environment for future generations.

This plant growing in shallow soils has developed buttress roots to keep it stable in the winds blowing from the nearby lake.

Waking up to a lush green view like this wakes up all your senses thus preparing you for the day.

The buttress roots are solid and spiked.

Colour in a garden like this strongly resonates with colour in our souls.

I found these two Japanese proverbs useful and relevant to my situation.

  1. It is the same life whether we spend it laughing or crying.
  2. Be not afraid of going slowly. Be afraid of standing still.   

Last but not least, those who read the Bible know the famous verses in Matthew chapter 6 verse 34 :

‘’So do not worry about tomorrow; it will have enough worries of its own. There is no need to add to the troubles which each day brings.’’

I have learned to live one day at a time; savoring each moment and making the most of it. It has helped to reduce the stress in my life thus increasing my physical, mental and emotional well-being during these uncertain times.

QUESTION :

Has the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic uncertainty taught you to invest in the Present- cherishing what you have in that moment in time?