Slaying the Dragon of Guilt
Suppose you felt some discomfort somewhere inside your stomach, then you visit a doctor to find out what's wrong when the discomfort persists for two weeks. And then after the doctor examines you, the HR manager of the hospital drops on you this bombshell - you have only about six months to live because your pancreas has a cancerous growth that is too advanced to be cured and contained.
Now tell me, what would you do next after receiving that bombshell? Me, I would start writing a booklet titled My Last Lecture in which I would pour out my advice to youngsters still in high school on what constitutes a good life other than having a job and a family. And that's developing a life-long passion for learning and building a network of supportive friends.
As part of my last lecture booklet, I would make it known to youngsters that guilt is one of the negative emotions they will have to grapple with in their adult life, wapende wasipende.
For me, I first had my terrible encounters with guilt roughly nine years ago as a 21-year old young man when I was at the university in JKUAT. It was a natural consequence of the way I had messed up in 2008 after I went astray at the university.
I can still vividly recall one of those first encounters with guilt back in 2009. I had just dropped out JKUAT where my family had prevailed on me to report back and repeat the second year I had failed to finish the previous year after I went astray at the university. A friend of mine at the university named 'Sir' Emmanuel Karanja must have discerned something was amiss with me because he remarked of how sedated I looked after we met at the university that evening.
Then later on in late 2010, I was struck by a similar guilt complex after I went for choir practice at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi on a Saturday. Imagine I felt so guilty that Saturday evening that I couldn't withstand being seen on the streets of Nairobi on my way back home. It was like I was running away from people who weren't chasing me.
Since then, I have felt recurring emotions of guilt but most of which have not been as severe as the two guilt complexes I've told you I felt that evening I met with 'Sir' Emmanuel Karanja and the Saturday evening I couldn't withstand being seen on the streets of Nairobi.
To tell you the truth, I've never done anything sinister to warrant the dozens of times I have felt guilty over the last seven years. Maybe they have been God's way of punishing me for the pain I caused to my family pain after I ignominiously dropped out of JKUAT in 2008 and again when I did the same when I was at the university in Nairobi in 2011.
Yes, those are the only two satanic sins I have committed in my life so far. Otherwise I have never oppressed anyone or conned someone of his money.
Over the past four months since the new year began, I have been at peace with myself most of the times. But something happened in the past two weeks that revealed the dragon of guilt is yet to die in me completely. I did feel a little guilty several times last week - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified guilt which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
I once read in a local daily of one columnist named Chris Hart advising us that we acknowledge and embrace our weaknesses. That sounds like a great weapon of slaying the dragon of guilt that has been alive in me since 2009. So let me now make my main weakness known to the whole world.
And that's my tendency to oversleep whenever I have nothing to look forward to the following day. I tell you, I can get terribly lazy by sleeping from 7.00pm at night to 1.00pm the following day like I did yesterday. That's my main weakness and I am relieved that the whole world now knows about it.
As I've said, I usually oversleep whenever I have nothing to look forward to. I am thinking the best way to remedy that weakness is by posting a story everyday in this lovely blog of mine which has brought meaning and purpose to my life. So as from now henceforth, God-willing, I will be posting a story in this blog for you to read in all days apart from weekends and national holidays.
By the way, I am always delighted and very delighted indeed to see from my blog statistics that people all over the world do take time to read the stories I post here. People from as far as Australia to Canada, from Peru to Japan, from South Africa to Denmark, and from Great Britain to India.
Thank you, my dear reader (yes, you!), for being among those who delight me. Without people like you, I would be having nothing to look forward to on most days. Again thank you. For that, please rush to the nearest restaurant from where you are and order any meal you like. And when they ask you to pay, tell them I sent you!
2ND EDITION: I edited my autobiography - accessible by clicking the "About" link in the menu at the top and at the bottom of this blog. Click it to read an updated account of my life.
 wapende wasipende is a popular phrase here in Kenya which means "whether they like it or not".
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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.