What It’s Like to Lose Your Short-Term Memory

This hits too close to home: I think of Lottie, a sister-friend, a mother to an-in-law’s child, a nieces’s close childhood friend,a member of my family who fights this as she is afflicted by seizures. An extremely difficult condition for those living with it as much as those who loves someone who has to manage it, survive it. As you watch someone who was once so vibrant, so alive buckle under the weight of coping with this crippling, stifling condition, it becomes just so clear that you can only hold on to so much, if time and destiny allows you to.

Thank you for sharing your story, Christine.

Longreads

Christine Hyung-Oak Lee | Longreads | February 2017 | 18 minutes (4,276 words)

Longreads is proud to feature an exclusive excerpt from Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life, the forthcoming memoir by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee. Lee’s story was first featured on Longreads in 2014, for her BuzzFeed essay, “I Had a Stroke at 33.”

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Short-term memory dominates all tasks—in cooking, for instance: I put the water to boil in a pot on the stove and remember that the water will boil while I chop the onions. I will put the sauté pan on the stove to heat up the oil for the onions, and I will then put the onions, which I will remember I have chopped, into the oil, which I remember I have heated for the onions. I will then add tomatoes. While the onions and tomatoes cook, I…

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Trembling

via Daily Prompt: Tremble

Today, I was visited by another of the Education Ministry’s officials. It was expected, as it is a process we have been going through. Though I’m typically relaxed and confident in my delivery of the content I instruct in, on this occasion I felt a little off-centre, perhaps because I was being observed by an individual who knows nothing of the various personalities I am expected to teach, attend to their varied proclivities, weaknesses and strengths. Yet here she was, all serious and no nonsense, evaluating me on what I manage on a daily basis.

It struck me while I walked around, patted this one on the shoulder, encouraged another to supply an answer to the question I asked, as to how unbalanced the process is. Its filled with bureaucracy where persons are expected to fit into and perform roles that differ from day to day. They evaluate you on one role: facilitator/educator, and have no idea as to what that really means. You either love it or you leave it. You see it as a struggle or you see it as a challenge that forces you to reach for every resource within you.

And that I did. At one point I was about to let nerves kick in because I thought ” Am I doing well?” ” Am I following my plan” though this is something I’ve done without second thought, on so many occasions before. Instead, I reached for what I knew – my students and how to get them to where they need to be, reached for the tools I knew would help them get there, took a deep breath and steadied my trembling hands.

I got this.

 

The Audacity of Authenticity

I was going through some of my posts and this one resonated with me, once more, quite deeply. I imagine that it is so because of our current socio-political environment, that would want some of us to be less than our authentic selves.
Have a read once more and be blessed. Shalom.

The Resilient One

Audacity
noun
 a willingness to take bold risks.
Synonyms: boldness,daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage,courageousness, valour, valorousness, heroism, pluck, recklessness.

Authenticity
ɔːθɛnˈtɪsɪti/
noun
The quality of being authentic.
synonyms: genuineness, originality.

In a world where people are challenged to present the ‘best version of themselves’, to be who and what they believe others are looking for, its often hard to determine who is being/keeping it ‘real’ or not. “Just be yourself!” is a phrase we hear all the time, assuming that what you see is not what actually is.

Unfortunately, it too often the case that what you see is not their authentic self.

I wrote in my bio for WordPress that I am on a journey towards authenticity (paraphrased) because I have come to realize that I have been, for the most part, playing a role that has been predetermined for me. The…

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Let’s keep hope alive

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I have not written on my blog in a very long time. I just couldn’t. Not that I couldn’t find sufficient issues to write about but instead I felt as though I couldn’t sufficiently communicate the pain I was feeling in my heart for humanity’s current state. Time after time, news reports confirmed the fact that we seem to have lost our basic humanity and our ability to feel compassion to others.

Waves of despair presented themselves through reports which came relentlessly: one violent or oppressive act after the other often ending with someone’s life being taken away senselessly. I found myself needing to cope with the increasing violence against persons of my own ilk – of African descent, immigrant, black/ brown, female, Christian, working class among other relatable descriptors. It became too painful to read, watch and listen to reports of people being murdered without justifiable cause, of women’s rights being taken away, of our vaginas becoming fodder for gossip and being up for grabs to whom-ever wants to do, well, just that.

My faith was and still is being tried when I read of the many injustices that take place daily to the point where some of us seem to have become numb to their existence. It’s become such a regular occurrence that some people shrug and say “That’s just the way it is” because they too just can’t find the words to express their horror. I’ve listened to voice notes of women pleading for their lives from serial rapists and murderers on social media, all the while scrolling through news of a spouse murdering his wife and children because he wanted to get back at her. There are increased incidences of cyber bulling amongst adults, and  most recently of persons being encouraged to commit suicide (see the recent incidents of live suicides of Facebook).

Seriously, I couldn’t deal. It became too much and I had to step away and regroup. I needed to centre myself in the midst of this chaos that seemed to have taken over the world, my world. So I shut it all out, for a while so I could gather myself and steady my footing as I sought to navigate and understand this new paradigm.

What has happened to us? Why can’t we recognize that we have so much more in common than we are different? We are one human race, sharing a planet that we have done our best to destroy with our careless use of its resources. If we took the time out to listen in love to each other, simple though it seems, we could arrive at solutions that are mutually beneficial to us. I am not so foolish that I cannot recognize that its way more complicated than that and thus it would take time. But every worthwhile effort begins with a first step, and I know that we (all of us humans) are worth saving and so a step, whatever it is, is worth taking. The sad fact is however, is that we seem to be without a natural ability or inclination to love each other. We have placed a selfish love of ourselves and the ‘things’ we have and think we need, above all and everyone else.

What a world we live in.

But I dare to imagine that it can and will be better. I dare to imagine gender rights, religious and political freedoms. I dare to imagine leaders of countries, while seeking to protect the rights and welfare of their citizens, actively and judiciously, do so without trampling on the rights of others. I dare to imagine us engaging each other, acknowledging the wrongs we have all perpetuated against each other and seek ways to fix it. I dare to imagine that families and communities can return to or begin to take care of each other and move away from this individualistic, selfish mode of existence. Though my faith in us is terribly challenged, it hasn’t died. Once there’s life, there’s hope.

Let’s keep hope alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Audacity of Authenticity

Audacity
noun
 a willingness to take bold risks.
Synonyms: boldness, daring, fearlessness, intrepidity, bravery, courage,courageousness, valour, valorousness, heroism, pluck, recklessness.

 

Authenticity
ɔːθɛnˈtɪsɪti/
noun
The quality of being authentic.
synonyms: genuineness, originality.

In a world where people are challenged to present the ‘best version of themselves’, to be who and what they believe others are looking for, its often hard to determine who is being/keeping it ‘real’ or not. “Just be yourself!” is a phrase we hear all the time, assuming that what you see is not what actually is.

Unfortunately, it too often the case that what you see is not their authentic self.

I wrote in my bio for WordPress that I am on a journey towards authenticity (paraphrased) because I have come to realize that I have been, for the most part, playing a role that has been predetermined for me. The Caribbean/ Jamaican woman, 6th born of seven, to a nuclear family of modest means; a Caribbean woman of African descent with a few Europeans within her bloodline. A female child  born to a long line of strong  Walker – Cox women who ruled their households as the men were ‘weak’ and often promiscuous. The role of the dutiful, youngest daughter, who is ‘bright and promising’ was thrust upon me. It was one I was glad to take on as it afforded me the attention I craved in a household that was perpetually noisy, busy and purposeful. I became, as a part of Caribbean heritage, the woman who is Christian and spiritual, wise and experienced; the good, loyal daughter, sister and friend,  who takes care of those dear to her.

These are just a few of the labels that I’ve been assigned. Some have become truth as I have grown into the personality and character that these roles have afforded me; there are others (not listed here) that I’ve tried my best to live up to. Or not.

It’s been hard. Living by the terms that society, your family, that culture and circumstances has determined are yours, sometimes causes an internal conflict as they are in direct opposition of how you define and see yourself. It places you into the confines of a box, labelled according to the expectations of others, and the sociology of your people. Though you may have developed your identity and personal philosophies, there are some fundamental truths that belie that which informs  and defines your ‘you’.

When you are told ‘Just be yourself!’, what is being asked of you? Are you being told to air your innermost thoughts, act out all that you have thought of doing secretly, though it may shock and dismay others? Is it to put on display all of your strengths and your weakness, your desires, angsts, victories, failures, certainties and uncertainties, to place them out there for all and sundry to see? Would they or you be able to handle it?

If we were to let it all out, warts and all, that would take a level of audacity.

Being yourself, all of yourself, takes courage. Not all of us are able to face ourselves, who we truly are. Sometimes our truth slips out and we mentally look around to see if anyone caught a glimpse of it. One may argue, and say that they are what/who you see, all of it. But I beg to differ. We all wear masks, hide behind the labels we have allowed to be placed on ourselves, behind expectations and socialized norms and codes of conduct in order to be accepted and not be labelled deviant. We prefer to not rock the boat because the consequences may be too great. We don’t want to be ostracized and be put, literally or figuratively, ‘into a corner’.

But I wager, we lose a part of us when we don’t use it. There are sacrifices to be made in the name of self preservation but what of the eventual consequences to you or me when we deny who we are? Can one be satisfied to live as a shadow of themselves, of their truth? I understand the dictates of society, but I struggle with being starved of the inherent freedoms all were given at birth.

Yes, I am female, born into a particular family, at a particular time in history, to a country and culture. That in itself means so much and at once comes with many expectations and responsibilities. But we each have a responsibility to ourselves first.

There comes a time when we all have to break loose. The so called contentment we have found through living as a mere reflection of our truth can only last so long. So many have lost sight of who they are a long time ago, and will have a difficult journey back to their truth. It has been buried, hidden, layered upon for many years; peeling it all away will take some doing. But it can be done, one just has to be willing.

You are who you are. Whether or not anyone else truly knows you is beside the point. The important question is, who are you? Do you know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Five Second Rule

Carpe-Diem.-Robin-Williams.-Dead-poets-society.-e1408375963379

A couple of times in the last few days, I’ve gotten some pretty cool topics to write about on this blog. However, I got distracted every single time. I have an assignment. Oh, I must read these chapters NOW. Papers to grade. And the best one, “I’m going to sleep for a bit and then get up and work”. Guess what time I woke up? Next morning (of course).

Just like me perhaps you have experienced those times when something good comes your way and suddenly you hesitate. These are what I call  “Pause and Kill it” moments. An opportunity presents itself, a great idea pops into your head, an introspective thought that could propel you into a new and better place, a plethora of things but somehow you take a pause and stop. And forget. Or get passed over. And the moment or opportunity gets lost, oftentimes, forever.

It has happened to me a few times. And it sucks.

Snooze and you lose. Yes.

There is something in us, (I don’t know what it is), that causes us to pause when we are on the brink of a breakthrough. Perhaps it is self-sabotage, but it could be just a survival instinct that prevents us from moving into the unknown, even if its simply jotting down an idea that could open the door to great things.

So how do you get beyond this tendency to ‘pause and kill it’?

We all know the phrase Carpe Diem – seize the day or in this case, the moment. And it is simply that. We have to get up and go do whatever it is that calls us the moment it does. If it’s a creative thought, write it down if you can’t do it immediately (for these things sometimes involve a process); engage in that process that will cause you to move towards that which has been calling you, waiting for you. This doesn’t guarantee success, but you surely will be better for the experience because now you know. It could be that audition, or that important phone call or the desire to write the first few paragraphs of that novel you have been thinking about; maybe it’s that the melody for a song that has been echoing in your mind – whatever that thing is, you will never know what could have been unless you get moving.

Not knowing is worse than trying and failing. You’ll always be wondering ‘What if’, and that can cause us to become stuck. Stuck in a moment that has passed, or has died. For with the pause comes death of the dream. You may think that you paused for just this time, made an excuse just this once but then it becomes a habit. You keep putting it off for one reason or another until it’s forgotten, swept away with the tide of complacency and normality.

Here is what you should do: each time the opportunity presents itself for you do something that will propel you to a new and better place, move in the first five seconds or so. Once that time passes, you will have lost the moment. You could try, but it’s hard to get it back and it certainly won’t be as good as the first. In that moment, the universe is perfectly aligned to receive from you in exactly this way.

Right now is always a great time to move, to do SOMETHING. What are you waiting for? Go on, grab a hold of your destiny. The world awaits you.

 

 

Forgiveness breaks the chain

freedom-through-forgiveness

There are some days when I find it so hard to forgive. Recently, I have found myself being miserable, feeling burdened and tired. A quick survey of my last few months led me to believe that I was being drained by the negative emotions I had brewing inside.

Gasp! ME?! But I am NOT like THAT!

But here it is: Someone wronged me (or so I believed); an incident that I was already feeling sensitive about was broadcasted to others and I was embarrassed and angry. Angry with myself for doing that stupid thing and angry at her for not only being aware of it BUT for telling others! Oh the shame! When you are competitive, self conscious and somewhat insecure, incidents such as these catapult you into a downward spiral of harboured anger and resentment, which can quickly become something physical.

As it so happens, I was put on blast. It was highlighted, quite publicly that I was harbouring resentment and that it was stifling me, pretty much.  Imagine, I was already sensitive about it and now others KNEW how I truly felt! Surprisingly, it was okay with me because I was fed up with how it made me feel. Chained, stifled, heavy, miserable, disgruntled (ALL THE TIME!) and most of all, unhappy.

I am typically a happy, cool, relaxed girl. I had made it my mission, early in life, to let go of things quickly because life was just too short. I have found however, sometimes it’s hard to let go and forgive. Mostly, in those times when you feel wronged and justified in your hurt. You want to lash out and you feel like forgiving is letting ‘them get away with it’. And it’s not as though you don’t want to; but somehow the thought of it won’t let go.

So what to do? I’ve come to know this truth: Forgiveness is tied to blessing and total well-being. You physically harm yourself when you choose not to forgive. Not only is that true, but you are tied to someone who most likely have already forgotten about the incident while you are still fuming inside and harming yourself! A close friend said it best about a year ago: “I don’t know why some people do not choose to be better instead of bitter”. Ouch. She couldn’t have known I would be struggling with that right now.

It’s a matter of choice: you can keep the feeling and stay mad all the time or choose to let go and live.

So today, right now, in this moment, I am choosing better. I don’t like that feeling and I enjoy being happy and free too much. “Whom the Lord has set free is free indeed” (John 8:36). Make the choice to allow no negative incident/experience to limit your freedom- choose to break the chains. As Bob Marley said “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds”. Emotions ties us to the experience and the individual, and we become slaves to a feeling. Enslavement of any kind, first begins in the mind. It is also where freedom begins. The healing starts when we decide to renew our mind and spirit, and take that step towards our inner peace. At some point or the other, we will be wronged or we will wrong another. We will have to decide to forgive, seek forgiveness and also release ourselves from the mistake that we made.  An important part of the transaction is forgiving yourself.  That is something that we sometimes forget to do.

Remember – the shoe will be on the other foot someday. As we say in Jamaica “Today fi you, tomorrow fi me” (today you go through and tomorrow, it’s my turn). Forgive because you too will need forgiveness.  If you want to be selfish – do it for yourself. It’s the only way you will have freedom and peace of mind.

 

When Friendship Dies

How do you let go when friendship dies?

Today, I got a wake-up call that a friendship has died. Even as I write, I hesitate to say that it has. We have shared so much and the thought of how much I grew under the sun of this friendship, makes me want to hang on to it.

I feel guilty because I feel as though I contributed to its demise. There was a time, even with the others in my very small circle, that she and I found time to engage in discourse about particular topics of interest to us. We were always there to encourage each other or to reinforce some important beliefs. For me, she was right for the part of the journey that I was growing through and things had were just perfect between us.

Then life happened: I started studying again, and one day led to several days and then weeks and months of not engaging as we had. I wanted to but I guess the desire was not as great as the need for sleep, completing research papers and performing my many and varied job functions that had me sacrificing meals and plotting when next I could get some sleep. I was just too tired. I still am.

We see each other often but I know our connection is no longer there. At least, not as strong as it used to be. Today, when I stopped to greet her and received a less than pleasant greeting, it hit me. The time has come to move on and let go. I have been feeling it for some time now. I have not felt ready to accept it but the encounter had me thinking about something I read years ago: People fit into either of three categories in your life – people are here for a reason, season or lifetime. I’ll treasure the lessons we have shared but its time to move on.

Friendships,many relationships, are often like that. The key is learning when, what and how to let go. Sometimes we get sentimental because of our shared past and we feel obligated to maintain it. Perhaps we need to recognize and accept that perhaps we were/are here for a particular phase of the journey, to be whatever is required of us to each other, in the boundaries of the relationship. It could be that you/we are meant to be in another’s life for a lifetime, for however long a lifetime is. What we need to do, is be willing: to let go when the time comes, to accept it for what it is, and to define its role in your/our life.

Does it mean you will stop communicating? Perhaps, yes. It may be instead you have an occasional really good conversation, a night out and that’s all you’re meant to. Or perhaps, this is it and you just need to wish each other well and get on with living. Understand that every relationship transitions, morphs, changes.

Even when you are as sentimental as I am, when the time comes, accept reality. Keep the memories, enjoy what was but look towards the future.

It’s waiting there for you.

 

 

 

 

Incomplete

As much as we want to divorce ourselves from our collective history, there is no denying or escaping its impact on our lives.

I often read or hear of individuals who, upon becoming adults, liberated themselves so to speak, from their families. They want absolutely nothing to do with them. I used the term liberate, because from what I have gathered, there seemed to be a sort of imprisonment, where the individual was being stifled and needed room to breathe and grow.

On occasions, I too have felt that need.

In households where there has been decades or generations of struggle, secrets, discontent, a culture of poverty and a deficit in vision, there is often a child or two born into the group who ends up being viewed as an oddity or an anomaly. You’re different, so much so that you stand out in every way possible that one can imagine. There was a point that I even wondered if I was wrongfully placed into my family. My views and visions were so divergent, that I despaired of life itself. I felt like the piece of a puzzle that the manufacturer mistakenly placed in the wrong box.

How time changes one’s perspective. After years of desiring to get away, I only want to be with them. Adulthood has shown me just how alike we are. We may express ourselves differently but we all want the same things. Conversations across dinner tables and family gatherings at Christmas (that gets my anxiety level up to a pitch after a few days of being inundated with their company) has revealed a common perspective and set of experiences. There is an undeniable love and respect, one that requires us to speak to each other, all seven of us (two males, five girls), every single day, even for a brief moment (thank goodness for technology  or ours phone bills would be astronomical!).

We are more alike than I thought. I can’t survive without them.

I know much more about myself to admit that despite our connection, I still need my space. I cannot deal with all of our personalities, all at once. I have to take them installments. One of the males is my twin, and whenever we don’t get to speak to each other for extended periods (life happens), I miss him with a pain that is so deep that it becomes physical. I often find myself yearning for their company.

I appreciate them. It is the experience of being a part of this family that has shaped the woman I am today. Pity, growing up I couldn’t appreciate it or them. But thank goodness for the eventuality of a mature mind. It has shown me how incomplete I would be without them.

 

Double the success…

 

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“For you must have double the failures to have double the success”

Just a few hours ago, someone said this in a speech to group of retired educators, their families and friends, at a function in their honour. He could not have known the MANY mistakes that I made in attempting to organize this function and the tears and frustration that accompanied it.

It’s hard to appreciate these sentiments when you are 1. a perfectionist, and 2. someone who likes control.

We humans, are our worst critic. I chuckle at the thought, because I know it to be true. I don’t think that anyone berates us as hard as we do when we make mistakes. Perhaps its imagining the criticism that makes us so hard on ourselves, as we imagine others taking our mistakes apart and wondering “How could he/she make such an error?”.

But there is that word: error or mistake. As much as I hate making them, I’ve come to realize that they are teaching tools, moments in our lives when we are afforded an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves and of those around us. These are occasions that we may term ‘on the job experience’, as we navigate the varied experiences of life, that we have to work through.

You have to go through to grow through – if you never made a mistake in your life it means that either a) you are blind to your own mistakes and your Johari Window needs to be opened up, b)people are afraid of you ( because life always presents someone ready, willing and able to quickly and clearly point out your mistakes) and are talking behind you back or c) you have made mistakes but refuse to acknowledge them. Neither of these scenarios are acceptable for it would mean that our development has been arrested – we are not experiencing growth in key areas of our lives.

As one who has had a few doozies throughout my life, here is my advice:

Mistakes will happen. There is no way to avoid them. Accept them as a foundation for success.

Don’t take yourself or it too seriously.  In Jamaica we say ” If it no tek life and cause death, it no serious (if it doesn’t threaten yours or anyone’s  life or causes death, it’s not that serious). And that is true. Mistakes tend to cause us some periods of emotional and psychological discomfort but that’s how it is. Does this mean you are to be nonchalant? Absolutely not. For some errors do have serious consequences. For those that do have serious consequences, identify solutions, apply them quickly so you can move on to the next experience. The thing to do is learn from it and move on. Don’t allow them to become what defines you.

Learn from it and move on. Quickly.  This part needs no explanation. We already know that dwelling on it only makes it seem worse than it probably is. So if you can, put it behind you as quickly as possible (hopefully those concerned will allow you to).

If you can, don’t make mistakes that you will live to regret. This means that you will have to take care to examine choices before making a decision, if time allows. And time always allows. It doesn’t necessarily mean days, hours or weeks. Just take a moment to breathe and think. Otherwise, it means that you are acting impulsively.

Ah, if only I had taken this advice myself not long ago. But then again, I would not have learnt.

Teachable moments. Such is life.