STILL WATERS RUN DEEP -exploring timidity.

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From a distance, someone can see me seated. Seated in my chair, the exact same one I did sit on approximately 10years ago. I am eerie calm. One hand comes up and holds above my cheeks. My head tilts to the right and I stare into the air. I let my mind go down memory lane. An amalgam of  memories begin kaleidoscoping through my mind and in no time I’m back to those days.

I can see the skinny girl. Climbing down the school bus with little or no excitement. Unlike other pupils, she isn’t running to class but plodding. Her left thumb is halfway into her mouth and her eyes seem a little shiny; a sharp reflection of sunlight from the tears building up in her lower eyelid. Her backpack seems a little larger than that of the rest. Could it be because she’s carrying a whole library of books? Well from my observation she doesn’t like the company of people. Maybe she’s a little nervous and embarrassed around them. She finds it both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally seek the friendly company of books. She loves to read and write. Besides her diary, she has no real friends.

A few moments later the bell rings. She has to get her skates on to the parade ground. Everyone else leaves the classroom enthusiastically. Suddenly she sees herself as others in the crowd surely see her; a silent, solitary figure, standing apart from the rest. She looks out at the hoardes of singing, laughing, happy children and feels more alone than she’d ever felt in her so far life. In her angst she holds her skimpy uniform trying to cover her already exposed knees and thighs. She seems uncomfortable in it but what can she do? She’s got to join the rest at assembly. She rarely makes the front row, the back is where she loves to stand. Where no one can see her pale face, her small eyes and overly chubby cheeks.

Today is her turn to lead the school in the opening prayer. Before she even takes the podium, trickles of sweat have already formed on her forehead. Her fingers cannot stop shaking, one can mistake them for an alcoholic’s. Since she got to this parade she hasn’t lifted her face. She must have a lot on her mind. Soon she begins to make her way. Everyone stares at her snootily. Of course she doesn’t have savoir faire. She cannot walk with blithe disregard for what others think of her. Somehow, just somehow she has pulled all the stops and made it to the front. She looks resolute to pull this off but judging from how her colleagues are looking at her, surely she must be feeling skanky and soulless.

“In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost…” She begins making the sign of the cross. Her voice is quavery and barely audible. Someone laughs and in the twinkling of an eye everyone else (except the teachers) follows soot. Did she have an accent? Did she say something inappropriate? What was so funny? Was it her hairstyle that is less spiffy? The laughter arouses ire in the little girl and she begins to whimper.

And back to present…

The little girl in my memory is me a decade ago. The peculiarities of childhood of constantly moving through so many different cultures, of always being an outsider, may have made me extraordinarily self-sufficient but it had also bred a certain detachment, a sense that the world was a place to explore rather than truly inhabit. This manifested as a kind of shyness, even timidity. I agree with Scott Anderson. Writing is all I was passionate about. It was something I’d do all alone and nobody would get near me and I didn’t have to talk to anybody because of my shyness. It was the greatest activity for me where I’d be lost in my fantasy world. In this I would create a paragraph of a character that would help me deal with my shyness.

Andre Dubus III said, shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform is truly important to other people. Shy people, like me during those days, will always fear social judgement, they’ll always ve afraid to make a fool of themselves and therefore tend to fall into loneliness. Deep inside them they have very very fascinating traits that mesmerize us when they are unravelled.

Today I have learnt to be outgoing as a way to protect my shyness. It was my first language but the moment I was thrown into the limelight of life I learnt how to cope with it. It was once my greatest stumbling block. I became paralyzed with it but now it has evaporated. The shyness one feels in childhood is often overcome with time. Think about it- there are those kids who hide behind their parents’ legs, but have you ever seen grownups do such a thing? Hiding behind people? No, it just doesn’t happen and if at all it does, seldom. Timid people develop social skills overtime.

A caged bird may be unhappy as it can not fly around but sometimes it is in the very cage that it sings best. Shyness is an inborn modesty that makes us able to live in harmony with other creatures and other fellows. Achievement will never come by denying it but occasionally by setting it aside and letting pride and perspiration come first. When you’re overwrought, tell yourself the truth; shyness is a strength to build on, not a character flaw to be stamped out. If you see a timid child and you begin to worry how they will survive in this world, don’t you worry. One day one time you will marvel at how that introverted, shy, geeky kid blossomed into a secure and happy adult. You will liken it to a metamorphosis. Yes you may stop and wonder, is it the child that changed or their environment? And you will understand that as an adult they get to select careers, spouses and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plucked into. This is something I learned from a quote by Susan Cain.

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THE SILENT FIGHT- in which we explain lefthandedness

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Children. Don’t we love them? Those little bundles of joy that fill our hearts with pride each time we hug them and they enclose their little fingers around our large ones. Oh, and how fast they grow! One day they’re running around, destroying anything and everything they come across, and the next they’re all grown up ready to take the world by its axis; conquer. As they are growing up, parents usually attempt to provide them with all their needs an maybe more, just as they had envisioned in their daydreams; but sometimes their goodwill towards them simply isn’t enough. Yesterday was the 13th of August, a day not many people have an idea that it is the international lefthanders day. I know you might not see anything validly important about this, but let us indulge you for a moment or two about these special kids.

So this child is born, Danny. He is the most handsome, sweetest little one year old you have ever set eyes on. Everyone loves him, and they should, he is just too chic and mignone. Soon, he begins to try his hand, playing with a few toys bought for him. He picks them up with his left hand and tosses them around. You notice nothing. In your eyes he’s like brie. Danny continues with his little bubbly self, seemingly enjoying every moment of his just started life.

He soon turns three. Time to take him to school. You buy him a nice little backpack and uniform that fits snugly into his little frame. The explorer in him is delighted to find himself in a new environment although he is a little scared of leaving you. On seeing other children, he is happy to make new friends and off he goes to class; the first day. Eager to pick him up in the evening, he seems fine, but there’s a certain dark ray in his eyes. This continues for a while. The once curious Danny is no longer interested in school! Always looking for excuses to stay away. He once knew how to count to 10, even before he joined kindergarten, but now is experiencing some difficulty. You decide to confront the teacher. You find out that he is being forced to write using his right hand, being thwacked if he can’t keep up, being punished for something natural, not at all his fault. Quite common a practice in fact, but you can’t see him suffer, so you change schools. You inform the new teacher accordingly. There’s a glimmer of hope in Danny’s eyes again. Mission accomplished, or is it?

The challenge for him has just began. He must now learn how to write. Its not like shooting fish in a barrel. There’s barely anyone to help him. They all try, but they’re right handed, which really doesn’t help. At three, he must develop a way of writing that suits him, with little or no guidance from relevant sources. His writing is not the best, but he is doing great for a self-taught three year old.

He joins primary school, words begin to have deeper meaning. However, all words he hears are telling him that he is wrong, that left is wrong. A friend walking clumsily is said to have ‘two left feet’, comments such as ‘left-handed complement’ which he overhears continue  degrading his self-confidence and for him everything with left is bad. For a child, this is too much to process. Back at home he begins to help out here and there. But he does nothing right. He just cannot clinch a thing, at least not the way you want him to. The child is very clumsy, often criticized. Afterall, children his age can only do so much. Danny struggles silently, with no one to tell him that its not his fault, that his awkwardness is a result of using tools designed for righties. He takes it to heart, heck he can’t even perform simple tasks flawlessly. His self-worth is badly wounded.

But he’s just growing up. You buy him spiral books without knowing that this is a hell you’re making him go through. He can’t write comfortably in them. He has to push the pen to make a writing not pull like the righties do. You buy him jeans, but the zipper conspiracy forces him to twist his hand all the way just to zip them up. He looks at decals, they’re all upside down! He tries using a measuring tape, but the labels are also upside down. Now he’s got to accept that he’ll spend an entire lifetime bumping elbows with righties. He abhors scissors. He cannot stand the sight of them let alone use them. The amount of pain that little tool inflicts on his hand is immeasurable. He goes to college. Yes the trouble doesn’t let him be, the lecture hall desks aren’t meant for him. Not even the video game controllers accept him (though nowadays there are modified ones for lefties).

Danny grows up hearing that his kind never live long, approximately nine years less than other people  (a fact that has since been disapproved) but he believes it. His self-worth is at an all time low. By the time he realizes that it is just life, that it isn’t a huge deal, not an issue at all, the damage has already been done. Irreparable damage to his psychology.

Yet Danny is among the elite few, among the 10%, among the movers and shakers of the world. His kind are overrepresented among the geniuses, the likes of Einstein and Newton. Four of the past seven  US presidents were left-handed, so is the current Kenyan president. Yes, they only make 10% of the world’s population but they make the star interactive sports players, geniuses, heroes, heroines and even presidents. Who knows? Maybe Danny could be the next Bill Gates (also lefthanded).

So today, just for today, respecting a day like yesterday, use your left hand to perform an ordinary task. Use a pair of scissors or a potato peeler. Step into the shoes of this young one and see how much it hurts to walk in a world designed for others.

(This article was co written by me and a growing writer Hampton Macharia) 

KEEPING NEGATIVITY AT BAY.

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No matter how we look at life; whether its from the east or west, right or left, up or down, there’s always some sort of negative energy. This has definitely become one of the most vicious ailments a lot of us suffer from. Sadly, no amount of rationalisation can justify negativity in fact, the more we think about it, the larger the tendency to become more negative. You know why? Because the battle against it isn’t fuelled by the words or actions of others but the mind that gives it importance.

Looking over at our lives, negativity has affected us in one way or the other. It has tried to ravel our lives and left us in ravages at times. It has piqued us and made life less piquant. Nevertheless we need to find ways to curb its animosity and put ourselves at the winning end.

They say every market has a mad man. This couldn’t be any far from the truth as in life we will always have negative people. Always waiting at our doorsteps to deliver the most devastating news. Like a hawk waiting for a chick, eagerly, to pounce on it and show it how its no longer a bird but merely prey. A delicious savoury dish best prepared for noon. It can no longer be a time to dine but one to die. Yes there are gonna be a lot of people we have to plow through but one way to go about their generous share of ignorance is to view the negative contributions as a raindrop falling into the ocean of your bliss. Their comments can’t be any better than a bunch of less-than-perfect thoughts. Surely don’t let that hold you down! They’re just people who do so little for you, but why should they control so much of your feelings and emotions? Please remember that you need to be on a spiritual and emotional diet of self belief. It contains all nutrients that keep you healthy from the malnutrition of harsh utterances.

On the other hand there are negative thoughts. Those ones that we come up with in our minds. The ones that render us pessimists towards the world and suffuse us with paranoia stifling our enthusiasm and disenchanting our spirits. Take an instance, a beautiful painting, as a savvy. It stands there before you, so beautiful in all the colours embellished on it. Made with so much love and concentration that you can feel the labour of devotion from it. It is so magnificent and wonderful. But then us and our negativity fixate our eyes on one overdone stroke of paint. One that is so small almost invisible. I mean why do we do such a thing? This is the exact same way negativity shifts our attention from the beauty and majesty of all the goodness of life. All it has ever given us is a false self that suffers. Giving this old habit up is what gives lives a make-over and creates as much room for creativity as there can be. Beware negative thoughts trim down the imaginative mind, by the time you realise this, you may be remaining with not more than an ounce of it.

I know there’s millions of problems in the world. Most of us tend to dwell on them and cause ourselves misery. We become annoyed, unhappy and dissatisfied -something that translates to complains. We catch ourselves, in either speech or thought, complaining about a situation we find ourselves in, what other people do or say, our surroundings, our life situations, even the weather. We make ourselves victims not knowing that complains invariably carry an unconscious negative charge. We fall into an abyss of anger, loneliness and despair when we complain. Learning to view things from an opportunities end instead of an obstacle one can be a pretty good stepping stone. It helps us transcend and get beyond the grip of all negativity. It regenerates a more positive attitude from within that  comes in handy in the strive to attaining our life purpose. Nonetheless we should remember that if we are not currently experiencing the danger of war, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, the pangs of starvation, we’re ahead of some 500million people in this world. Life really isn’t that bad. It could be worse but we’re lucky. Grateful we should be.

Here I am talking about this brain-eating consciousness. We can’t grow if all we do is shadow box. If all we do is genuflect, deflect, prostrate ourselves and pander then we can’t see beyond the bridge of our noses. No great people exhibit servile importance to negativity. Ellen DeGeneres once said;
“Start thinking positively. You will notice a difference. Instead of “I think I’m a loser” try “I definitely am a loser.” Stop being wishy-washy about things! How much more of a loser can you be if you don’t even know you are one? Either you’re a loser or you’re not.”
Notice how negative thinking just makes you go back and forth for no real reason whatsoever?

So today henceforth, instead of grumbling why roses have thorns shift your perception and be grateful that thorns have roses. Instead of seeing a glass as half empty, see it as half full. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel You into positive action. Focus on the beauty of life, the majesty of nature, the satisfaction of struggle and the calmness of a peaceful mindset. It is no use having a strong aversion for negativity, let’s be phlegmatic. Perhaps it is the best source of motivation for us to work harder, walk faster, aim higher, see clearer and shine brighter.

LESSONS FROM DARKNESS AND MUD

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There’s that frustrating feeling we get when walking in darkness  and worse when we’re walking through mud in it. An endless chain of questions is always on our minds. Am I stepping on the right ground? Will I step on a dangerous animal hiding beneath the mud? Will I fall into a puddle? How many times will my face get rubbed in it? Will I walk into a furze? You’ll always be wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal can dare dream and maybe hoping; a sense of seeing light despite all the darkness.

As you keep walking through it, things happen. At one point your shoes get stuck in the mud and effort is needed to pull them out. At another point you slip and fall but never remain lying there, you pick yourself up and continue walking. In this process your clothing gets soiled and you become dirty but at no point do you give up.

In life everyone has walked in darkness and through mud. We join the game of life hoping for a glimpse of celestial brightness; a nova. It never occurs to us that it might be so small until we understand we are walking in a darkness so deep. For those who’ve walked through mud, these are different life situations. Life can be very slippery and this will cause us to slip and fall from time to time in the quest to gain stability  by reaching a dry ground. These are the highs and lows of life, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures. Whenever we fall due to unavoidable negative forces, we rise with renewed positivity. Our feet will get stuck in the mud (the numerous challenges that we face day in day out). This calls for intelligence (the effort ) to be able to unglue ourselves and steer on. Our clothing gets soiled (the different decisions we make that will haunt us for a lifetime). Whether they’re good or bad they have their consequences pinned on them. By the time we get dirty its evidence enough that we walked through mud. A legacy, a trail that will live on from which our children will speak for us when we no longer have the breath to speak for ourselves.

Nonetheless, we peer funkingly through it. We never give up until we see the light. We let not the darkness nor the mud be the reason that our success is thwarted. It doesn’t become the reason we’re triffled with. At the end of the day, when we get to dry land and in light, we spruce up and furbish ourselves.

New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark. In darkness we learn things that save our lives over and over again. We hammer home lessons that never would have been revealed to us in light. When we stand in darkness and walk through stickiness we begin to have answers to life’s most difficult questions such as; what are my fears and where do I feel them in me? What are my doubts for the future if I decide to tread on a certain path? Why do I wonder about this or that and what keeps me dreaming and hoping? What helps me stay conscious even when there’s no light in my life?

The wise make it, for the dark is their candle. In the light they are lovely. They shine so brightly because the darkness is present and walk steadily because they can see stable ground under the slippery mud. Barren darkness is special, it gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination. Burst forth into unexpected glory like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon for your darkness is your light and your sliperiness is your stability!

THE POWER OF WORDS

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There’s a moment of orderly silence before a series of well chained imagination begins in one’s mind. Nerves are in position, thoughts are frozen and anything is possible. Then like a traffic accident emotions begin to randomly collide. From the first time the eye sets foot on the first word to the nerve transmission onto the brain for comprehension is closer to four microseconds than five. The words we read begin to change the game of life as we know it. It doesn’t only alter your life but mine as well.

This is not an ordinary article on the power of words spoken but those written and read.

There’s that strange feeling we all get when reading words in a book. We’re drawn into a world we cannot explain. Something comes over us and its hard to remove yourself from the magical effect one is so lost in. You suddenly feel you’re not yourself. Like your head has been cut off and another’s put in its place such that you see the world through a different pair of eyes. Your body becomes extremely frozen not even the hottest fire can warm you up. You begin to feel physically weak and in no time you’re swept by what you imagine. You’re held captive by the words that are manipulated deftly in the hands of expertise. The words wind themselves around your whole body, you can hardly breathe. And when you’re so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts and slowly begin to work their magic on you.

A character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction is whom you create an emotional and intellectual bond with. In the wink of an eye all human relationships are lost and your life just takes a turn. You begin to live among the paper characters. You love some and love others less. You feel what they feel. You know what they know and not only that, but also live through every situation together; both good and bad. You understand them, maybe just maybe, more than you understand yourself. You can tell when they lie and when they’re telling the truth.

Slowly as you blend yourself into the paper society, you begin to figure out things you didn’t know about life. You start to believe in continuity in the strive to live and result in survival. The words lead you to automatically carve concepts out of the experiences of the paper characters.

Words have power. They can light fires in the minds of men. They can wring tears from the hardest hearts. They can put smiles on the gloomiest faces and warm the coldest hearts. They are the coins making up the currency of sentences and there are always too many coins. They open our eyes to a life outside our own, allowing us to be enlightened and in turn enlighten others. A process that changes lives and turns societies.

“Words… they’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good anymore… I don’t think writers are scared, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you’re dead.” A Tom Stoppard quote.

BALANCE IS A NECESSITY

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I know you’ve been hearing this a lot. So does all play and no work make Jack any better a person?

I have boundless enthusiasm for health. It’s just so amazing how our bodies can be a great microcosm of life. I will therefore draw an analogy and comparison from this.
Take an example of sugar levels in the body. For the body to work well sugar levels must be at optimum. Either side, beyond and below, will cause dysfunction and decreased coordination between systems in the body. Hyperglycemia refers to chronically high blood glucose in the body. Persistent hyperglycemia can cause a wide range of chronic complications that affect almost every system in the body. When large blood vessels are affected,  stroke, heart attack and circulation disorders among others occur. On the other hand hypoglycemia refers to dangerously low blood glucose levels. It can cause severe confusion and disorientation, unconsciousness, seizures, coma and even death. The pivot between hyper and hypoglycemia is where the body should be to function properly.

Similarly in academic life, a student must have discipline and maintain a routine that includes proper balance between serious studying and leisure. Psychology should be employed to make sure a clear mindset or attitude is put in place as this is what distinguishes successful students from failures. If any one of these components is missing or out of balance then a student will not perform well and their careers may be at stake.

For most campus students the era when intelligence was a “tourist” attraction is long over. Partying is the new cool. They want to be the most happening people and many want to be linked or associated with such. As a result gangs, crews and cliques are formed. Pretty girls in pretty dresses, partying until dawn. Irresistible boys with mischievous smiles and dangerous intentions. The whole semester is intoxicated and rules flaunted. I guess that’s the motto. Towards the end of four months information is forced into the brain in the quest of acquiring content for final exams. They are high up in the social ladder (hyperglycemic) while their studious behaviour is under sea level (hypoglycemic).
On the other hand there are book worms. These ones work themselves out studying all day and night everyday. Their goal is to have the best of grades in all their units. They let the social world pass them by while their noses are stuck in a book. I bet for them there’s nothing like the smell of books both old and new.

Well both extremes have their own limitations.

I’m afraid we tend to underestimate how much maintaining balance contributes to living life successfully and productively. If you study too much without giving yourself sometime to replenish your brain, you may go into what’s called a nervous breakdown and you’ll expose yourself to the audacious risk of losing mental agility. I’m of the opinion that yes we only live once and we should live life to the fullest. However, everything has its boundaries. When you step over the line then it becomes poison. You may become a maniac! And it goes without say; the biggest betrayer is a man’s mania. Balance is learning to keep one’s mania within bounds.

Our lives can be regimented at times so it’s a good idea to do something out of the ordinary every now and then and learn to give our daily routines a break. Don’t focus too much on either extreme because this will cause problems in the neglected areas. Life is all about working smart and having fun. You are your greatest asset therefore, enhancing and improving yourself by maintaining a clear balance physically, mentally and spiritually will ensure your career continues to develop at its best.

Aristotle once said; “it is better to rise from life as from a banquet- neither thirsty nor drunken”.

HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF IN A METATHINKING QUALM?

I bet there’s no normal person in this world who doesn’t use their mind each day to produce thoughts and ideas, an act we all refer to as thinking. As crucial as inhalation and exhalation is to the breathing system so is thinking to our brain life. What do you think would become of man if they didn’t think? Personally, I think man would be no different from a robot. A little programming here and there and maybe that’s what we would call life. What a sad world it would be!

Before diving deeper into this article, let me ask another question  (I clarify this article is not all about questions and I’ll try not to ask many of them). Have You ever found yourself in a queer situation? Probably in an art of asking why and attempting to look beyond what is on the surface? (Oops those were two).

Looking over your answers, if my guess is correct and you said yes. You probably have found yourself looking at an object and you begin to ask yourself why the creator of the object did what they did. When you look at something you go above and beyond what people think instead of simply seeing what is in front of you for what it is.
Well is that merely a coincidence or do you draw any inferences from some past experiences? If you do then congratulations you’re a metathinker.

People who know me know that I like to think. Anytime an idea springs up in my mind I like to split it and think further about the small pieces. I had never realized I was a natural metathinker until one day, sitting at a career workshop I began thinking about thinking. Reminiscing the fateful occasion, a workshop that was about the issue on writing CVs. There were two ladies from lions of science and that was the subject of my thoughts. I began to wonder why the founders of the organization called it lions of science. Why the name lions? And why science? I mean it could be life or innovation or technology or anything but why did they choose science? I did think about it for quite a while putting myself in the shoes of the founder and thinking about their thoughts. Sometimes I would think about the thoughts that would come to my mind if I’d ever meet the beautiful souls. What I would ask them? How they would react to my questions e.t.c.

I slowly began to realize that asking those “why” questions helped me understand the behaviour of people around me. Their inspiration, dreams, motivation and even challenges. This most of the time keeps me at peace with myself and my environment. Through this kind of understanding I feel a natural intellectual bond with them And would value their feedback because I could attach a stronger emotional components to it. After much questioning I elicit people’s fears of troubles that come when they’re unsure of themselves, when preparation hasn’t been done for such situations and when their confidence in the inevitable responses of other people is flagged.

I confess I have my own fears about my metathinking behaviour and that I do recognize that with every good thing, comes along a bad one no matter how small. But hey the dangers of metathinking is a whole other story, best fit for another day. Bottom line is if you are a metathinker and maybe you’ve been feeling like it’s crazy, let me be the one to inform you that there’s a method to the apparent madness- you just have to look for it to prevent yourself from over thinking. You’re not alone we’re in this together.