The Things We Take For Granted 11

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To live and enjoy your own life, you have to willingly understand and accept the reality of death.

This photograph of a  sweet,relaxed great-grandmother in her nineties was taken by Jane Nannono.

 

Two weeks ago I retired to bed around 11:00 pm fit as a fiddle. I was happy I had at least completed two of the big tasks I had  set out to do that morning. This was a great achievement compared to how things run around here.
To my great shock and surprise, by the time I woke up at 7:30 am the following day, I failed to lift my head off the pillow and my lower back hurt . A quick assessment of the body systems confirmed that I could take a deep breath easily, lift both legs and move them in various directions. I struggled for about fifteen minutes to sit up in bed .This had never happened to me before but then there is always a first time for everything. Finally I got out of bed ,walked to the bathroom and gave myself a long, hot soak in the bathtub. It helped to reduce the back pain. Knowing what I had lined up to do on the laptop for the day, I had to take some simple painkillers.

The nagging back pain demanded that I made an appointment to see a surgeon before the end of the day. By 6:30 pm, the surgeon was giving me a thorough check up then he tried to localize the pain along the vertebral column.It turned out to be muscle pain and we both agreed it had to do with the many frequent trips that I had made to the village during the last three weeks. He prescribed me some pain killers, an inflammatory gel and some physiotherapy exercises. For the following three days, I undertook the physiotherapy exercises but hardly worked on the laptop. I had first to get well to continue with the writing. This is when it hit me that many times we take things for granted: you think you would wake up the following day and get on with your to-do list. The time I spent home reminded me of my mortality and I seized the opportunity to read around life and death. It helped me to appreciate the progress of life from health and vitality in youth to infirmity and weakness in old age.

Life and death are said to be two sides of the same coin. Accepting the inevitability of death helps you create meaning to your own life. Close brushes with death, help you recognize how precious life is and you clearly begin to determine what really matters in life. You learn to give up and let go of everything that no longer serves your life’s journey. From this moment on, you live your life like a marathon runner who begins with the end in mind and then plans the race accordingly. The psychologists also tell us that all the losses suffered in life serve to prepare us for death. So we should learn to die well by developing the ability to accept all life’s losses and disappointments. If we learn this, then we stand a chance of enjoying living our lives.

Mark Twain said: “ A man who lives fully is prepared to die any time.’’
For a few of us, close encounters with death render us so powerless that we give up on life. The psychologists then remind us that what we deny in our conscious minds will possess us. It would take a lot of courage and counselling to get such people to own what owns them. Once they do this, they open themselves up to the possibility of living purposeful lives. They will recognize the greatest irony of life: that death is the source of life.
Kahlil Gibran said: “For life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.”
Since then, the back pain has cleared and I have resumed my normal routine. Each time I wake up every morning and I am up and about, I thank God for the gift of life. As every gift has a responsibility attached to it, the gift of life demands that I use the time to become the best person I can be and to do much more for myself and for the common good.

Thank you for reading this post. May it inspire you to live a purposeful life. I would be grateful if you left a comment about it, shared it with family and friends. I would love to learn how close brushes with death transformed your life.

The Things We Take For Granted

There is an old saying :“ You do not know what You Have Until It’s Gone.” It reminded me of what I am missing most currently.
There are many things that I had always taken for granted until they were denied me or taken from me. Among these was order and discipline.
The psychologists define discipline as the ability to adhere and conform to the codes of ethics and behavior and the ability and stamina to concentrate and focus on what you do which is a fundamental quality to achieve success.
I grew up in a family where my parents like all parents of their time, instilled in us order and discipline in preparation for the challenges of life in the future. They passed on to us what they wanted to preserve in their culture: Unity, integrity,humility, discipline,fairness, humour,commitment, and hard work. They knew very well that order and discipline stimulated creativity potential and stimulated growth and development in an individual. I have no doubt they would have agreed fully with F.D.Roosevelt had they compared notes on parenthood.
“We may not be able to prepare the future for our children but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt. 32nd President of the United States of America.

They say that Charity begins at home but what I failed to pick from home, I was able to pick from the missionary school that I attended for my fourteen years of formal education. I learned order and discipline most as a member of the school’s athletics team, netball, and hockey team. Sports taught me self-discipline, punctuality, self –respect and respect for others, patience and commitment. I learned how to strive to win other than be a mediocre. Through self-discipline I learned how to get more done in the day by staying focused.
By the time I joined the medical school, order and discipline had permeated all aspects of my life. I was quick to understand that any compromise on discipline would slow down my growth and development.
I remember reading a quote about discipline by Katherine Hepburn, an American actress (1907-2003)
“Without discipline, there’s no life at all.’’ I have carried it with me all these years.

Later when I sought better opportunities and choices in Botswana , I was the richer. Botswana is an oasis of good governance and impressive economic growth. It is one country in Africa which has tried to preserve its old values of being community –orientated and of high ethical values along with democracy, development, unity and self-reliance. Here things flow smoothly into each other and the people conduct themselves in an exemplary manner. Seeing a government minister in a queue at the Automated Teller Machine or in a hospital is not a rare sight. From childhood, the Batswana are prepared as to how to become good citizens and have learned to work for the common good. For the two decades I lived and worked in Botswana, order and discipline remained with me and helped me to develop commitment to whatever I chose to do.

Fast-Forward and I am back where I started but now in a digitally connected world. According to the Uganda Population Census of 2014, 78% of the total population is under 30 years of age. Those living in the urban areas have phones and are globally connected. They mix things up to create something new without considering the consequences. Order and discipline are being compromised.
There is a lot of disorder and indiscipline around all of us. It causes distractions, frustrations and drains one’s energy. The tangled traffic in the cities makes working in such areas feel like a struggle or sacrifice. Every day you have to decide on which route to take or where to park your car for the day.
For those who have to cross the streets in the city, looking out for the boda bodas – motor cycle taxis which apparently can appear from any direction and suddenly knock you down also drains your energy. When you finally settle down to do your actual work you are less productive since you have already spent your best energy on the less important. The cycle continues throughout the year so your personal growth and development and that of the institution you work for tend to lag behind.

Situations like this make me cry out for the order and discipline that I have always known. You may consider me rigid and locked into old ways but at the back of my mind I know that I have to change a few things to survive and remain relevant in this rapidly changing world. The young generation must have heard of this phrase: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Even in this Information age, you thrive best where there is order and discipline. You start off by trying to manage what you can control under the circumstances. It is still plain and simple: Charity begins at home. You have to create order and discipline in your homes first and then move out to the work place and any other place where you have control. It is the only way you can contribute what is most important and give of your best.
Resigning to the disorder and the indiscipline is like giving up on life itself.
Find comfort in these two quotations:
“ If you dedicate your attention to discipline in your life, you become smarter.’’ Russell Banks, an American writer
“ I am , indeed a king, because I know how to rule myself.” Pietro Aretino, Italian Writer(1492-1556)

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this post. May it inspire you to change what you can other than let the circumstances change you. I would be happy if you made a comment about it and also shared it with family and friends.

 

We Are Products of Our Time

 

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Three generations: Batswana. This photograph was taken by Jane Nannono.
Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s day. It got me thinking about the progress that women have made in the development of our country. Looking around I can see them almost everywhere: they  are mothers, government ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of corporations, universities and are in many jobs previously considered as men’s . It started in the early sixties when more girls were encouraged to access quality education. It increased their options in life by allowing them to take on jobs along their male peers. They found themselves having to work harder in our patriarchal society. Power and authority still belonged to the men. The period of rapid change in Uganda came after the July 1985 United Nations End of the Women Decade conference in Nairobi , Kenya. Those who had attended the conference lobbied the then government to adopt policies and programmes that would promote equal access to education, equal access to employment and equal access to adequate health care services.

By 1987,Uganda had a Ministry of Gender and Social Affairs and a woman in parliament representing each of the 39 districts in the country. By 1990, an affirmative action scheme that awarded female students an extra 1.5 points to increase female enrollment at the national Makerere University was in place. Makerere University established the School of Women and Gender Studies in 1991. Free universal primary education was established in January 1997 followed by free Universal secondary education in 2007.All these schemes are ongoing and are being regularly monitored, evaluated and improved. A few other locally appropriate ones have been added to ensure that the girl child stays in school for as long as it is possible. It will increase her options in life. I thank the government for all these local efforts for promoting gender equality.

It always seems to be running reasonably well until I travel to my own village to visit some relatives. Like any other developing country, 70-80% of the population live in the rural areas and still follow the traditional cultural roles: men lead and women follow. The women are the primary caregivers; looking after their husbands, children, the sick and the elderly. They attach great value to this role and find themselves consumed by it. They hardly get time to take care of themselves.

After the government has put in place what it can to advance and empower women and girls, we the women have to exploit this to the maximum. Any woman who has benefitted from the strategies of the last thirty years has to take the responsibility to lift up the emerging ones. It is our responsibility to teach these women their basic rights, human rights, legal rights and to be made aware of their needs and how to get them met. The women themselves and their children have to be healthy to participate fully in development. Their voices should be heard from their local villages to parliament. They have to be brought into the main stream of things.

You know as well as I do that the struggle to advance the women’s status is an ongoing process; the women of the United Kingdom won their right to vote in 1928, their representation in both public and private sector senior positions peaked in the 1990s and is now 32% far from the desired 50/50 split!
In a few Tennis tournaments, the female players still earn less than their male peers. Serena Williams, the global tennis legend is working hard to change this unequal pay.
Fellow women, we have to live the old adage: All for one and one for all while at the same time recruiting as many men as possible as associate members if we are to get where we want to be in our time.
The struggle continues.

Thank you for visiting my blog and reading this post. I would be very grateful if you left a comment about it and also shared it with family and friends.