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May the coming months be merrier.

May the coming months be merrier.

It started with a single picture. Then collection of old blurry birthday pictures all taken in May of 1991, 1992 & 1993. Some had the lustrous backdrop of the beautiful SB Bakare’s Mansion on Queensdrive Ikoyi, others the bustling Maxi Class restaurant on Olu Obasanjo at D-Line in Port Harcourt and some, inside the glossy emerald green walled-dinning room of my Lagos Island residence. Boxes of pictures I came across during early spring Covid19 Lockdown while decluttering my garage.

Oh, I could tell it was a festive period and my yearly impromptu birthday celebrations, as it had several young adults mostly dressed in jeans and colorful t-shirts, either on break from various Universities or recovering from the Jamb rejection letter and had gathered at my place on the Island or in Port Harcourt, at a chosen venue to celebrate my birthday.

My face lit up with joy, as I remembered the faces, then immediately was replaced with pain and sorrow.. amidst the depressing pandemic going on, I’d realized that several of the happy faces radiating warmth and youthful outbursts from the pictures were either so far away or just…No More. 

They’d passed away.

Good, Young, Cordial, Vibrant, Dear Friends: Gone! at their prime!

Even as their memories live on in the pile of pictures I carry with me, or with their immediate family members that were almost impossible to reconnect with, a feeling of despair resonated deeply within me!

How do I want to be remembered when I become just a memory in someone’s pile of picture collection?

How do we create memories? Will I be defined by my character on a good day? or be shamed by my weakness?

While happiness can be temporary, and so easily stolen by the circumstances in which we live in now, joy cannot be stolen; it can only be handed away. It is our decision to either live in joy or walk in constant disappointment.

I’ve always picked joy, sometimes it finds its way in the crowd to nominate me, I guess, ‘while been hopeful. How about you?

To fully wrap our heads around this precept, we must first understand the difference between happiness and joy. 

Happiness depends on outside circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is an internal decision we make based on the conviction of things we believe will come about, but that our eyes have yet to behold.

Even as this rogue and ruthless virus has swiftly stolen so many pre-planned joy-filled events and people robbed us of very special occasions and memories we hoped to have. Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe what we were all feeling, but we shouldn’t give up.

But I’m sure you could relate your own story of loss which occurred within the first few months of this pandemic. Graduation ceremonies, weddings, birthdays and vacations were cancelled, sports championships were sidelined, jobs were lost, businesses failed, money vanished from retirement accounts. 

Relationships are rebranded! Sex life for married couples received an instant memo of resuscitations for detour! Marriages once on eggs shells are either cracked-up fried or nurtured by test of time!

Close to my heart, there’s an uproar and alarming rate of isolation for families with special needs children while healthcare disparity tightens hopes for families awaiting conception. I’ve had to counsel and give hope to those who’ve gone through miscarriages, a topic that has always been surrounded by silence and pain, while COVID-19 has made the experience feel even more isolating.

Aha, all these trials, those very ones which ruthlessly steal our joy, they can act as maturing agents in our lives, if we manage to hold onto our faith through them. 

So, even in the midst of it all, Is it still possible that one more brutality piled on, like so many before it was finally too much?

Is it possible that this is a turning point in understanding and addressing the ways in which racism eats away at an entire society while ravaging some far more than others?

Is it possible that the past week is the beginning of real change?

 That, this is a struggle with a long history, but a struggle that must succeed.

Is this our new NORMAL?

Adaptability and Hope.

No matter where you are. No matter what you are facing. Step out in faith! May your next month, and the month after, and the one after be full of cheerfulness, gaiety and laughter; to cause or raise happiness and unspeakable joy.

In Memory of All We Lost Along The Way. . .

Yours in HOPE

OlaYinka

 

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When you meet Julia, you SEE AMAZING!

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When you wake up to a new day, what do you see? Well, apart from blurry eyes and snotty noses due to sleep deprivation, congestion or insomnia, what makes you just, ‘want to keep waking up?

If you are in love, or still thinking of it, I guess you’re probably saying…’duh, my lover of course! If you are missing someone, you’d probably say…’dang! Oh precious beloved, showeth thy face!! Where hath thou!! (in your magical imaginary soberness).

And if you are like the group of people I meet weekly for support coordination therapy…’Aha! Slowly and gently rise from your slumber, squeeze your pillow and whisper into the hollow of your palm (oh please ignore your distinctive breath) and say slowly, ‘Today, I will do better, because I will See Amazing”

All said and done? Yes? C-o-n-g-r-a-t-u-l-a-t-i-o-n-s! You made it into another day! I am also cheering you on….’as I subconsciously cheer myself on too!

So, a couple of days ago, yours truly turned 45! Like…’yeah, the big 45! And I wasn’t sure if it was worth celebrating or not. Thank God for caring people around me who raised the roof and made it rock! #NoviUnconditionalLove

The much-younger me would have jumped on the next train to NYC to be consumed in the awesomeness of the city, sometimes, it’s just that train ride that does it for me, a more one-on-one time alone with me, myself and I! Just meditating  (I bet you can’t keep a city girl out of the city for long, how I missed my early years growing up amidst the hustle and bustle of a typical Lagos city amusement!) or as my parents have always dreaded all those years…’Oh, she’s started another birthday party in our living room without informing us! Phew!

But not this year… ‘This time around, it was all about Julia. The new #See Amazing kid on Sesame Street! Have you seen her? All cute and so peculiar…’representing every child with special needs…more so, Autism!

Why now? I’d ask myself over and over again. Yeah, why now Yinka?

Awareness. Acceptance. Because just as I celebrated my birthday, my childhood bosom friend and neighbor also turned 45! And happened to be the Julia we all never knew or could understand….’45 years ago!

Did we (children) know she had a unique personality? Or did we just assume she’d always been a difficult child with mental illness? Who knew about the features of a child on the spectrum then? I bet none of us did. All I knew was that I eventually got used to her mannerism as her parents were my God-parents who mentored me all through my sacramental classes at Holy Cross Cathedral then.

So, please meet Cecelia, 45, a daughter, a sister, a friend and childhood neighbor of over 40 years with autism, a rare one that survived the stare, stigma and slur but prevailed with the support of her loving and caring family in a society that condemns such ailment and is so quick to label, castigate and if possible ostracize.

Or perhaps, you also know a Cecelia?  a Julia of my generation, that stood out without condemnation even as ignorant as we were then of her uniqueness, still managed to join in the street play, still managed to attend mass every 6am with her parents, still managed to attend St. Mary’s convent, managed to get her feelings out even when she’s oppressed by lack of consistent vocalization techniques.

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Today, as I watch sesame street and I see how the world is embracing the new character of Julia – the chosen voice from the autism community, my eyes well up with tears and my heart is unable to contain the joy and excitement of knowing that finally…’every child deserves a place of acknowledgment and acceptance, and not one of isolation or disparity!  Thank you Leslie Kimmelman for the digital characterization and Stacey Gordon for the performance. Thank you autism community for starting the discussion.

When you awake to a new day, what will you be thankful for? I am grateful to God for allowing me to see amazing in every child I encounter. Tantrums and all, I still see amazing and acceptance first.

Yours in HOPE as I share Sesame Street’s ‘Meet Julia’

Yinka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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