HOME IS A CASTLE OF STORIES.

BE STILL: CRYSTAL ASIGE




I am part of an evening class. About thirty folks, we sit in a conference room and argue about copyright law. The class is on a halt since the gava put an end to all social gatherings. If you ask me, the gava is overreacting. Ebola has been next door for years, we’ve been fine.

Anyway, the world seems scared shitless. We can only wait and see where it all leads. Where I stay, it’s already a ghost town. Fellas packed and disappeared long ago. It’s a scene plucked straight out of an apocalypse flick. Few of us remain, walking around, jaded. I picture us as the chosen ones, who will revive the human race after everyone dies. All which needs to happen is I find a partner amid all this destruction, and I’m set.

It’s an interesting class, filled with legal experts and entertainment figures. There are loud chaps who can’t shut up, there are silent chaps, but when they speak, wisdom pours out like an eternal spring. I think I am the youngest of the group, surrounded by age and sophistication. I am learning a lot; I am having a blast of a time.

In the class, behind me, sits this lady. She’s visually impaired, her eyesight wandered away while she was in campus. Since then she’s been finding her way through life while blind. I’d seen her on TV, listened to her music, but I had no idea that she was blind. And you wouldn’t tell she’s visually impaired until you’re told. Her voice, when she speaks, rips through the room like wild tonic. Her music and speeches carry with them life and fun. I learnt of her impairment when our class headmistress, a boisterous middle-aged woman mentioned it.

“One of us is visually impaired, you will shout your names when class begins so that she can know who is in the room.”

Though the class happens in a conference room, and we seat facing each other, in a circle, equals, we have a headmistress. She’s a power woman and calls the shots. There’s punishment for coming in late, for missing class.

Weeks back, I sat down with my visually impaired classmate (Crystal Asige). We talked about life, relationships, her blindness, accepting yourself for who you are and much more. Yet I have had such talks with a couple people, this by far was the most poignant. I could perceive the energy and honesty.

“I had a normal childhood. In high school, I battled to understand who I was. In university, I was still finding myself. As an adult, I am much more comfortable in my own skin. I have been a student of life. It’s been a journey of learning, unlearning, relearning.

They’ve been a number of instances moving me to self-acceptance, the defining moment was when I accepted my visual impairment and surrendered to God. I was 23, at home in Mombasa after several diagnoses. I’d been to many doctors and hopped through hospitals. Everywhere I went, they were saying the same thing in different ways. This couldn’t be saved; the ship had set sail long ago.

The last doctor I saw was quite cold in how she gave me the news. Doctors should learn empathy (Obadiah Kibiwott!) When I went home that evening, I couldn’t stop crying. I cried my lungs out. My tears could fill wells. I prayed to God, fighting. I was asking God what was happening. How could he give me all the talent in visual art, stage, theatre, film and music? How was I going to do all those things without my sight?

I went to sleep. That night, I had a vivid dream. In the dream, I sat cross-legged in front of this brilliant white light. The light put out arms and touched my face. It felt like a long dream, but very little happened in the dream. The light said, ‘Be still.’ The next day, I woke up exhilarated, filled with new energy. I talked to my mother about the dream and asked her what it meant.

We flipped through the bible and found psalms 46: 10 which says “be still and know that I am God.” From that day, I felt I had my answer, clear and precise. God would take care of everything.  

Growing up in Mombasa was fun. Before my sight went awry, I still have memories of the place, which I hung on too tightly. They are pieces of my life I so cherish. I had a lot of fun, with my siblings, fighting and laughing and tears. Mombasa wasn’t that build-up, it was just another island meeting the ocean. I remember the beaches, sand, and beautiful orange sunsets. Murram roads ruled the transport infrastructure, with trees everywhere. It was a simple, warm and friendly town, with lots of barren pieces of land.

One of the neighbours was a Dutch family, expatriates. Their youngest son was a year younger than me. We were best friends with the boy, always together, holding hands. People would wonder, who are these kids? A white boy and a black girl holding hands. 

“Wazazi wa hawa Watoto wako wapi?”

We went everywhere together. Our parents always said that we should hold hands whenever we go out. Don’t let the other person go till you get back. We would pick guavas out of trees while we held hands. He used to pee while holding my hand. He was Casper, he passed away a few years ago. We’d been in touch till then.

There are times I think of the things I could do without the visual impairment. I used to think that if it was detected earlier, maybe it would be stopped, I could have taken medicine, something could have been done. And naturally, as humans, we beat ourselves up a lot. We blame ourselves for things going wrong, I could have, I should have, why didn’t I? I got to learn soon that it wasn’t my fault. It was a degenerative disease that was way out of my control. It’s difficult to accept but my family, doctors and friend have helped in this journey. Sometimes, I think, what if? But then, I wouldn’t have experienced much of what I have experienced so far without this.

Of all the battles of my life, this one is the biggest, it’s an ongoing fight. It didn’t happen and end. It’s there every day and I have to be ready with my sword and an iron will. There are voices in my head, emotions, memories, feelings. It’s like when a person dies. You don’t forget the person completely. You still think of them. It’s similar to losing my eyes. The pain fades away with time. Ultimately, you learn to live with it, the pain becomes manageable. I have stayed with the pain so long that it’s almost like a roommate. Some days it’s overwhelming, so we go back and forth, tugging at each other, fighting.

Before extravaganza happened, (featured by the Sol generation), my eyesight was very polarizing. Some people disappeared and others drew closer. For me, it was like a filter, the weaker ones were filtered away. it’s like when there’s a thunderstorm, the loose leaves and branches fall away. only the strong and pure remain. I don’t keep many friends anymore. I learnt how fickle human relationships can be. People will be there when it’s convenient for them and the good times.

Human relationships have taught me about depth. It’s about how deep you go with people. It’s not about how many people you know, but how deep you go with the few in your life.
I’ve also learnt about non-judgement, compassion and understanding other people, empathizing with their situation. Because you never know what someone is going through. When my sight started waning, people couldn’t understand how I could look at them, but not see. I also realise that it’s not okay to judge people by the first encounters. We should be patient and give them second chances.

I no longer compare myself to other people anymore. Eyes are windows to the world. they distract us, make us desire things we don’t need. I don’t follow fashion trends. I don’t desire cars. I live a much simpler life. I sometimes joke with people that I have fewer problems because I don’t see many things. My life is simpler, I listen and use my other senses. I connect more with people’s energy and vibration. Eyes can cheat us.

Sometimes though, I wish I could see the people celebrating me, especially when I am up on stage. See the looks on their faces and smile back at them. Unfortunately, this isn’t for me, so I find other ways to engage.

In the next phase of my life, I want to keep on trusting in God. That dream from many years ago still rings steady in my mind. I have named my white cane, ‘Faith’, she’s my eyesight. At 1.35 metres long, that’s how far my faith goes. I must keep forging forward, if I stop, I wouldn’t know what lies on the other side. I keep on leaning into life, leaning into opportunities, leaning into pain. It’s similar to driving at night in the fog. The headlights can only see so far. But you have to keep accelerating to see the next 10 metres and so on. That’s why I named her Faith. I walk by faith, not by sight.

Music has been my ground zero, the foundation and pathfinder which has opened me up to the world. Speaking opportunities have emerged, participating in campaigns and spreading awareness about glaucoma. By the way, this month is Glaucoma awareness month.

I don’t limit myself to music. The beauty of life is staying open to possibilities. I don’t know where I am headed but I know it’s going to be better than where I am now. That’s my mindset, last year was great, but 2020 can be even better. I’d like to open a guide dog training centre for the visually impaired. I’ve never seen a guide dog in Kenya, blind people don’t have the means to be self-sufficient. I also want to win more. I want to bag Grammys, Oscars. Other folks have won, why can’t Crystal do it? Why not, man?

There are different types of Glaucoma: Juvenile, Congenital and general Glaucoma for the elderly. Mine is juvenile. It has no symptoms. There’s no redness, no pain. Years go by and you’re like, ‘I can’t see that painting on the wall.’  It doesn’t alarm you. You think maybe it’s the light, maybe you need glasses. Five years later, you realise you can’t see the painting all together, something is terribly wrong.

In Kenya, we have three Glaucoma specialists and we have over 2000 cases a year. That’s a wild ratio. Hospitals don’t have the equipment to test. There’s no cure to Glaucoma. It’s either stopped or slowed down. Also, it’s more aggressive on black people than white people. There are testing centres in Aga khan, Coptic, Kikuyu, Kisii and Mombasa.

I think that life is simple but we make living complicated. We bring in emotions, thoughts and negative people. The principles of life are out there in nature. You throw a seed in the ground; it has to disintegrate to grow. Things have to break for something new to grow.  Like a river rushing, if you resist the wave, you’ll struggle, but if you let go with the flow, you’ll have a much easier time with life.

Don’t try to control too much. When my blindness kicked in, I was really fighting, going to all doctors, praying for a miracle. One day, I let go, things started looking up. I was flowing. I got sudden power when I let go.”  

The class about to begin, she asked me what I have learnt from interviewing people. I sat there, looking out of the window, piecing together, my flighty thoughts. What had I learnt? The more I talk to people, the more I realise that we fret about things which don’t matter in the grand scheme of life. Mostly, we are not in control of the major events in our lives, worrying about them doesn’t help. And ultimately, we humans, as a species, we face similar life problems.  

I turned to face the front, the headmistress spoke, loud, straight to the point. I looked around the class and wondered, what stage of their lives was everyone? What were they thinking? There was a blankness in their looks, all staring at the headmistress. Crystal answered a question. Her voice rose with a bubbling sense of possibility, a frothing volcano of energy.







4 comments:

  1. Home is really a castle of stories!Day after day,time after time the castle gets better best.The spirit of a dedicated architect.Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Am inspired by this one . Well crafted

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