Being Truly In The Moment

Last Saturday, I attended a wedding of a niece in Mbarara town , western Uganda. Mbarara is  about two hundred and sixty five kilometres from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.I have not been to this place in over two decades so as expected, it has changed beyond recognition. From Wikipedia I have learned that Mbarara is the fastest growing town in Uganda today and among the top five fastest growing towns in Africa! It was a relief to see a few of the old landmarks like: the Agip Motel, Mbarara, the Bank of Uganda offices and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. They helped me to get my bearings once again.

The church service was held at Saint James Cathedral, Ruharo. We the elders dressed in our flowing traditional attires and the men in suits, mingled freely with the young dressed in the latest seasonal collection as we waited for the service to begin.
The young groom looked at his best in a grey suit, white shirt and pink tie, surrounded by his four groom’s men.

My heart skipped a beat as the proud father walked his angelic daughter to the aisle followed by two pretty flower girls in white and four bridesmaids in peach.
With child-like excitement, we all sang the wedding hymns with gusto. By the time the couple said “ I do,” with focused determination to each other, I could not help but get emotional. The Bishop’s sermon was short and to the point: putting God first in their marriage if they wanted it to last and then following it up with love, respect and open honest communication with each other.

Two hours later, the newlyweds , a picture of joy, enjoyed a relaxed lunch with their guests at Wagga Resort, Mbarara. They could not have chosen a better place. It is a magical place full of trees, shrubs, manicured lawns and uneven stone drives and walkways. There are orchards of oranges, guavas, tangerines, lemons, graviola(soursop) and a variety of palm trees. Tall, green trees mark the boundary of the place. Dotted among these are a number of red-tiled holiday cottages.
About seven snow-white medium –sized tents decorated with roses and carnations accommodated us while a live band played the most popular wedding songs of the time.
The trees, the shrubs, the stones and wooden fences reminded me of the farms of the well-to-do in Nyeri central Kenya in the early 90’s. I used to attend training and workshops in contraceptive technology in Nyeri and each evening the organisers would arrange for the group of doctors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to be hosted by one family. I used to be mesmerized by the richly furnished homes , the big gardens and orchards!
Interestingly, I seemed to be at one such place that evening. Over time, I have learned that when I am in such an Alice in Wonderland place, I just relax and soak in all its beauty. I become part of the beauty and this helps to define my place in the universe.

Similarly, my brain switched off everything else and was just in the moment. Being among family and friends in such a beautiful place, celebrating the union of a young couple whose eyes and body language exuded genuine love for one another; I remembered in piercing detail a day like this some thirty-seven years ago! We the parents and most of our friends had added thirty seven years to our lives. We had been changed by the years but we were still young at heart. Noticeably absent were our parents and in particular the grandmother of the bride who passed away a few months back. It was comforting to note that our continuity lay in our sons and daughters now dressed to the nines and accompanied by their well-groomed spouses and equally smart young children.

The bride later changed into a floor-length pink party dress and a silver tiara. She looked effortlessly beautiful holding on to her Prince Charming. In the brief speeches that followed, friend after friend and sibling after sibling talked of the groom’s steadfastness and dependability and the bride’s love and concern for others. No doubt each one had found ‘the Beloved of their Soul’. As they stood beside each other to give their speeches, they looked to be a winning team ready to face the world together. Relaxed, happy and confident, they took to the floor to dance the first dance and thereafter a lot of laughter and surprises followed.

By the time we the elders left at 9pm, my emotional battery had been recharged to the full. It would last me to the next family wedding in August. We left the young to dance the night away on this big day.
All in all, I was so glad that I had been part of this great celebration. My silent prayer was that the couple would live to share in all the blessings that marriage can bring.
Mignon McLaughlin says:“ A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.’’

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Writers Read

I am working extremely hard to live my dream of becoming an outstanding writer who writes great books that are read by many. I want to write the kind of books that change people’s lives for the better.
I am now as busy as a bee, writing, writing and reading and attending live webinars by the masters of the craft to learn how to write great books.
I have been warned by the American author Joseph Harold Bunting of The Write Practice that a writer never stops learning how to write so I have started on this journey of a lifetime.
This same author has come up with 10 steps that a writer should follow to become a great writer who writes great stories. You have guessed it , number four on this list is: to keep reading books; books you fully understand and others you do not understand. He advises that I keep reading those I do not understand until I do!

At one point in my life, I looked for the books I had enjoyed reading while growing up. These included: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations , Oliver Twist
Jeffrey Archers’ As the Crow Flies, Honor Among Thieves, Sons of Fortune.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm
Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers
Peter Wright’s Spycatcher
To my amazement and delight I picked up more meaning and depth from each book and understood the stories better.

As I write articles to post on this blog, I read widely about each topic since I am writing to inform, educate and entertain the readers. The more I read, the easier it becomes for me to bring out the good and ugly about anything. Reading opens my mind to other people’s view and opinions and this helps me to understand the world better. It also stretches my imagination which in itself helps me find the significance and beauty in my life. Once my imagination is let loose then I can be more creative in my writing and my capacity to create stories in dreams and fantasies in enhanced. I keep learning new things then I change and grow. Reading makes my writing better, more detailed and more lifelike.
Joseph Harold Bunting advises a writer to learn about anything without becoming an expert. He is of the view that once you become an expert, you can no longer learn anything new and once you stop leaning anything new, you become stale and uninspired.  By sheer coincidence ,the theme for my blog is : Learning is a Lifetime job.
This same author believes that a writer never stops learning how to write.

The books I read influence my style of writing so if I read great books by great artists then my writing would get better over time.
In this respect, he quotes T.S Eliot, the great modernist poet: “Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make into something better or at least something different.’’
It is normal to steal ideas from great artists. This is step number six on his list.
He also advises me to build my own community of people who inspire me and some of these should be writers for no one becomes a writer on their own. Creating great art requires maturity, skill and wisdom.

As a writer continues to read and write, he/she has to be a keen observer of her/his surroundings to draw attention to the injustice, evil and deaths and good things around.
The pain, loss and suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those around us shapes our lives and influences the stories we write.
The author Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.’’
And author Madeleine L’ Engle said: “A book too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”
Let us keep reading and writing to grow and develop at a deeper level. After all, learning is a lifetime job.

Thank you for reading this post. I would be extremely grateful if you left a comment about how  reading, reading and writing have transformed your life.

 

Reading to Remember

Many times I have watched my octogenarian mother walk to her bedroom only to come back empty- handed and bewildered. Then she would look me into the eye and ask,  “What was I looking for?”
Occasionally she forgets what she has forgotten. It is a frightening place to be.
This age-related forgetfulness has been creeping in slowly and her only consolation is that she is still mobile, independent and remembers the names of most the people around her. We both know what this is all about and that it will get worse as time goes by. I try to reassure her, encourage her to use her brain by reading some of the books she has collected over the years. Being a traditional Catholic, she has many books about the Church in Uganda and about the Uganda martyrs. I have been encouraging her to read all these books mainly to engage her brain and slow down the age-related memory loss. I know very well that just like any primary school child who assumes that the teacher knows everything, my mother would trust her physician more than me. So each time she visits her physician, he reminds her of the need to keep her brain active.

“We age differently. As we grow old, the brain function declines,’’ he has explained to her a number of times. “Like any muscle in your body, the brain cells need to be stimulated. The more you engage your brain, the slower it takes its function to decline.
She has taken this as a law so she will not allow anyone to help her find a contact in her phone. So far so good. She is concerned about the body aches but content that she can do many things for herself.
The physician advised her to spend at least thirty minutes exercising every day. Physical activity improves mood and sleep. Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of the brain cells. He advised her to eat the oily fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acid at least three times a week. The Fatty acid improves central blood flow and reduces inflammation. She also takes a supplement of Omega 3+6+9. He advised her to eat plenty of spinach and kale for Magnesium and Zinc necessary for good brain function.When the physician and his patient are discussing such important issues, I the attendant fall silent.
“What about prayer ?’’
“It relaxes your body and mind so it is good for you too.’’

Juan Rulfo said: “Nothing can last forever. There is n’t any memory, no matter how intense that does n’t fade out at last.’’
As we travel back home, my mother is scrolling through her phone contacts quietly. It gives me time to think of what I have taken from the whole experience. Twenty years from now, I could be where my mother is now. However, I could slow down the brain aging by keeping the brain as active as possible. I could take up some new skills or even learn a new language like Swahili. Thankfully, filling crosswords is one of my staples. “What about trying SUDOKU , the number puzzle video game?’’ I ask myself out loud.
I have been a voracious reader since the age of six and now I am doing a lot of writing. I believe my brain must have grown big enough to resist showing signs of memory loss for long.

Suddenly I remembered that my youngest son installed a Brain Workout CD from the HAPPY-neuron Website on my Desktop four years ago. I should even be ashamed to admit to you that I have never gone beyond “Warm Up” training exercises. From Warm Up, there are Coach exercises: chosen for me by my Brain Workout coach. These are followed by “Challenge” to test my skills. At the end I was to get a personalized analysis and feedback from the website.
I shook my head in disbelief, “Sure, I’ve never begun. I need to do more with my mind to slow down age-related memory loss and maintain mental function. It is my life and the choice is entirely mine.
As they say : Forewarned, forearmed.

Norman Doidge said: “Not all activities are equal in this regard. Those that involve genuine concentration- studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading and dancing- are associated with lower risk for dementia. Dancing which requires learning new moves, is both physically and mentally challenging and requires much concentration. Less intense activities, such as bowling, babysitting and golfing are not associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s.’’
I would add that like learning a foreign language, the earlier you start the better.

Thank you for reading this post. Kindly leave a comment about it and feel free to share it with family and friends. The biological clock is ticking and demands that each one of us prepares for the future.