Reclaiming My Sanity
At one time in 2016, I was having a conversation on the progress of this lovely blog of mine with my siblings in a Whatsapp group of ours when my eldest brother Joe Kagigite suggested I analyse what's working and what's not working. That phrase I have displayed in green captured my attention and stuck in my mind as a result.
And two years later, I found myself pondering on that phrase today when analysing a behaviour I have been having for the last ten years. A behaviour I have tried to encourage in myself over the past six months or so under the guise of being unique and different.
Today however, I have resolved to do away with that behaviour because it hasn't been working, so to speak. As in, it hasn't been producing the peace of mind that endureth.
To make it seem more evil, I have labelled that behaviour as "insane". After all, who would want to be known as insane? Not me.
And so, you might be asking, which is this insane behaviour have I been having for the last ten years? Well, it has all been about talking to myself loudly whenever I get excited. Like I can recite some of my favourite ditties, memorized passages or sing out some hymns when walking out there in the streets in full public view.
It has always felt nice of me to talk out loudly to myself whenever those moments of excitement strike. That's why I have relished that behaviour.
In the final analysis though, that's the insane behaviour I have resolved to do away with in an effort to reclaim my sanity, so to speak. I have arrived at that conclusion after viewing the impact of the behaviour from different angles.
First, talking out loudly to myself has never produced for me the peace of mind that endureth as I have already pointed out. That's probably because I never get time to digest, process and relate the information I have been receiving from my senses, thoughts as well as books.
Secondly, I am now of the opinion that most folks out there can't respect me when they see me talking out loudly to myself like a mad man on escape from a mental hospital. And since there is a co-relation between respect and genuinely acquired wealth, that's another reason I have done away with that behaviour.
For the last six or so years, I have actually at times been concerned about people's perception of me when they see me talking out loudly to myself. At one time, I had the impression that President John F. Kennedy wouldn't go around talking to himself as I have done on many occasions.
And I really don't know how I came to have President Kennedy in mind when pondering on that insane behaviour. Or maybe it is as a result of the way I idolized President Kennedy when I was a first-year student at the university in JKUAT eleven years ago.
Like at one time back then, I came across Theodore White's The Making of the President in JKUAT's library. The cover-page photo of the book was of the face of President Kennedy which brought him out as a calm, composed and strikingly handsome president. Whenever I visited the library, I often headed to the library rack where the book was shelved just to have a look at that cover-page photo of President Kennedy.
Around that time, I also came across a photo of President Kennedy with his wife Jackie in GCSE Modern World History which I equally admired with great reverence. Imagine I so admired the photo that I cut it out from the book and glued it in an exercise book in which I pasted pictures of other heroes of mine.
Unfortunately, I tore that exercise book into pieces later on in my second year at the university in a fit of rage after thinking that admiring images of fellow human beings was like worshipping them instead of God.
Anyway, the admiration I had of President Kennedy when I was a first-year student at the university in JKUAT must be the reason I had the opinion that President Kennedy wouldn't go around talking to himself loudly as I have done for the last ten years. So from now hence-forth, with God's help, I will strive to be calm and composed by mentally digesting whatever information maybe clamouring for expression on my lips.
I have thus kind of officially moved my mouth to my mind - to borrow the words of the Book of Sirach in the Catholic Bible which says this in verse 26-28 of Chapter 21: "The mind of fools is in their mouths but the mouth of the wise is in their mind."
Those two verses bear the same message as Proverbs 18:2 which says "a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions" - don't they?
Yes, I have resolved to do away with that insane behaviour of talking to myself loudly and reclaim my sanity by digesting information inwardly. By so doing, I believe that I will attain attain a peace of mind that endureth. Or to borrow the words of a favourite hymn of mine, I believe that I will be "controlled and cleanly night and day".
And as it has been the case with everything I have undertaken in the last two years, I have involved God in my new resolution. I have prayed not only for strength to carry out the resolution but also for love that I may love my preferred new way of behaving.
But unlike before, I have used fasting as another tool of petition to God which also reflects how ardently I desire to reclaim my sanity. So I haven't eaten since today 1.00pm and won't take anything but water until tomorrow 1.00pm.
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How God Healed Me
That evening as I sat in a matatu on my way home from the United States Embassy library where I had borrowed Margot Morell's Reagan's Journey: Lessons From a Remarkable Career, I found myself admiring the biography's cover-page photo of Ronald Reagan walking on a cloister that looked like one of those no-visitors-beyond-this-point corridors. I was acting like some of those high school teenagers who drool over photos of Hollywood movie stars.
And that biography sparked an interest in me to read more on the life and times of Ronald Reagan. So much that I googled his quotes and learnt more about him in a 2004 Time magazine commemorative issue of Ronald Reagan.
I particularly liked a quote in which he gave his opinion on socialism: the system of government used in the Soviet Union that was the main rival of the United States during the Cold War that dominated much of the latter half of the last century. Ronald Reagan said that socialism can only succeed in two places: in heaven where they don't need it and in hell where they already have it.
Now, at least I know enough about Ronald Reagan to realize what it takes to have a remarkable career. Like you need to have a genuine fondness for people, a sense of humour and a faith in God - traits that were so characteristic of Ronald Reagan before some nervous system disease incapacitated him and eventually claimed his life in 2004 at a good old age of 93.
And Ronald Reagan did have a remarkable career for shizzle. He helped the United States win the Cold War that could have potentially led to a nuclear holocaust. He was also a devoted family man as his wife Nancy reported in the 2004 Time magazine commemorative issue I've told you I read.
Nancy reported that when Ronald Reagan was taking a walk one day, he passed a house with roses in front. He bent over to pick one, and the Secret Service agent accompanying him reminded him it wasn't his house. He looked stricken and said, "But I want to give it to my lady!" He picked it and took it to his wife Nancy.
Of being a devoted family man, Nancy reported that Ronald Reagan always advised his children, "If you go into a store and feel that the clerk is being rude, stop and think that she may have had a tough day, and put yourself in her shoes." And he once counselled his son, "A gentleman always does the kind thing."
For me though, the enduring lesson I learnt from the remarkable career of Ronald Reagan was to believe in the Bible. Actually, I have always believed in the Bible for as long as I can remember apart from an interlude in my late teens when I doubted the literary accuracy of the Bible. So Ronald Reagan kind of deepened my faith in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.
And my belief in the Bible has eventually healed me from a poor habit that bordered on disease. It was a habit so demoralizing that I could compare it to the hurdles that world-renowned athletes like Usain Bolt have to jump over in some of those special 100-metre races. Okay, let me tell you the full story.
Over a decade ago when I matriculated at the university in JKUAT, I changed my sleeping habits by going for some nights without sleep. Then, later on, I made things worse by sleeping during the day. And from then onwards, I got into the habit of staying awake on nights I was feeling excited and asleep on daytimes I was feeling bored or something.
I can't really tell what led me to change my sleeping habits. Maybe it was because the university had none of those strict school rules that are characteristic of primary and secondary schools here in Kenya.
Or maybe it was due to the way I tried to understand the engineering course I was pursuing at the university but it all turned out to be Greek to me. That course was actually like learning Greek because it made extensive use of the Greek alphabets: from alpha to omega.
Anyway, for several years, I continued practising those poor sleeping habits. Then later on in this decade, I noted it was better of me to feel down than to feel excited. And you know why?
Because whenever I felt excited, I tended to talk too much to a level that bordered on having diarrhoea. And the problem with talking too much is that you always say some things you'll regret later.
Like one early night a few years back when I was on one of those cloud nine moments, I called my high school classmate named Lawrence who's now a doctor. I came to like Lawrence in those good old days in high school, and that's why I gave him a buzz.
Then I ended up speaking out of the turn by making fun of Lawrence who seemed uninterested in what I was saying. Imagine I was talking excitedly and loudly out there in the field but Lawrence complained he couldn't hear me properly. I know some may attribute that to network issues but it was also probably because I was talking pure nonsense.
Later on in 2016, I tried to make up for that error of judgement by calling Lawrence to prove to him I had grown up. He didn't pick my call.
In this age when people do all sorts of stuff to feel excited, from sniffing glue to smoking marijuana, I wouldn't be surprised if Lawrence thought I was high on some liquor when I called him that night I was on cloud nine. But to tell you the truth, I was just feeling excited.
Several years ago, I discovered the poor sleeping habits had mutated into a disease for shizzle after noting that staying awake all night affected my vitality the following day. And because God - who created the heavens and the Earth, then darkness and light - intended day to be for toil and night for rest, I resolved to stop that poor sleeping habit to a halt.
I have tried all sorts of remedies in fits and starts over the last two or three years to change my sleeping patterns to a level considered normal - at least by most people. And I would have loved to tell you all of the remedies but because time wasting is a vice, let me cut the chit-chat and tell you the only one that worked: reading the Bible and putting into practice all the values it extols.
Of the values, I talk of praying regularly and faithfully, working hard and smart during the day, entertaining noble thoughts in the mind every minute of the day and cultivating the virtue of love, in every sense of the word.
And putting into practice those values in my life has turned out to be the best medicine for the poor sleeping habits I had developed. Like for the last two weeks, I have religiously risen at about 4.30 and turned in at around 9.00 (from dawn to dusk, that is) - the kind of sleeping habits expected from a healthy, wealthy and wise person.
To give one example, I was feeling excited at the early hours of the night yesterday but that didn't bother me because I knew God would reward me with a good night's sleep for a day well spent. And he did reward me because as I was seated on my desk at around 10.00p.m., the emotion of sleep crept into my being.
At around that time, I also felt some gas in the lower parts of my digestive system clamouring for release. Now that I know air occupies space and has weight and also because there was nobody else's nose in my room to offend, I released the gas and went to bed.
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Bidding a Friend Farewell
Who was your best friend when you were a child? Mine was one neighbour's kid named Stephen Kamau. He calls himself Steve Wanyee these days on Facebook, and that's his actual name which I didn't know back in the '90s when we bonded while grazing cattle on a piece of land my father bought some time in 1993. He was a true friend, in every sense of the word.
I recall most vividly and fondly two school holidays in the '90s we spent most of our daytime together on that piece of land. The first was the December of 1993.
Steve Wanyee came regularly during that holiday to join me as well as my siblings Paddy and Symo as we grazed cattle. Being the innovative kids that we were, we ventured into building dainty huts using the tall grass that sprouted and flourished on the piece of land back then, perhaps to keep us from getting bored with staring at the cattle as they feasted on their favourite meal: grass, that is.
Paddy, the eldest member of the gang, led us by instructing us on which kind of grass to cut and how to fix them into a hut. And that must be where he acquired some of the leadership skills that compelled Dr. Geoffrey Griffin, the respected founding director of Starehe Boys' Centre, to appoint him a decade later as the '04 captain of the school's Kirkley House.
By the way, it's like someone bewitched that piece of land that was the theatre of our fun back in 1993 because it is full of useless weeds these days; useless in the sense that no cow can eat them and live to see the next day. My brother Bob Njinju has been trying to galvanize us into reclaiming it to profitable purposes but it's like everybody has his own business to attend to.
The other holiday I vividly and fondly recall bonding with Steve Wanyee was the April of 1997. Those of us who were alive and kicking back then remember that to be the year the witty, charismatic and beautiful Princess Diana was killed in a road accident somewhere in Europe.
Like 1993, we also spent much of the daytime of that 1997 holiday grazing cattle on our father's piece of land. But I can't ever remember Paddy being part of the gang; maybe he had realized he was too old to keep company with such little kids as Steve Wanyee, Symo and I.
What comes to my mind when I think of that holiday were the heavy rains that pounded incessantly. Later on (and I didn't know why), I often felt that no other April holiday had as much rain as we had in 1997. Or maybe it's due to the global warming that has been the talk of the town.
I also recall one evening that holiday when I accompanied Steve Wanyee to his parent's home which is a stone's throw away from where we grazed cattle. When we reached their home, we happened to pass by a clothes line that had underclothes hang on it. Steve Wanyee confided to me that they belonged to his elder sisters, and when he noted my eyes fixed on the underwear, he cautioned me, "Don't look at them for too long!"
That was vintage us back in the '90s. We are still friends with Steve Wanyee who occasionally likes these blog's stories of mine when I share them on Facebook. But we no longer spend time together which I think is why the other day he slowed a sedan he was driving to a halt so as to greet me. He requested me to pay him a visit one of these fine days, then accelerated the car to wherever he was headed.
Yesterday evening as I was doing something productive and enjoyable in my room, which I once contemplated of christening "War Room" but now sounds silly and stupid, my mother called out my name and asked, "Thuita, do you know Muchene?"
"Yes, that's [Steve Wanyee's] dad." I replied, alarmed at what she might say next.
Then my mother blurted out what I expected, "He's dead."
"Doooodo!" I exclaimed, mindful not to use the Lord's name in vain.
And since yesterday, I have harboured a myriad of thoughts on death. All I can now say is that I have believed what I have always thought of life as a series of partings. Steve Wanyee's dad has parted us and I wonder who's next in my circle of friends.
For the time being, I will pay Steve Wanyee a visit some time this week, God-willing and weather-permitting, to give him solace as he prepares to bury his also fatherly father. Adieu!