MY cousins' dad — Aston “Oney” Shirley — was buried like a king in his very own mausoleum earlier this year. Nicknamed Oney because of a terrible accident that cost him his leg, Aston Shirley lived his life on one leg as if he had eight. There was nothing that he did not do. He moved about with his disability, exuding the same energy he did before the unfortunate accident. His youngest son did not know him with two legs and shared in a tribute how he only came to the realisation at twelve that his father had a disability when a security guard directed him to park his vehicle in the handicapped section. The picture of this man with his crutches swinging out of the driver's seat of a big truck tells a story of resilience — a story of a man doing it despite the challenges.
His life was an inspiration to his children and his community. He defied the odds and drove heavy duty vehicles, ran a successful construction business, and gave back to his community through numerous charity projects. His story may not be unique, as we witness individuals with less-than-perfect circumstances rise above misfortunes to success.
If they do it, why can't you?
We all may be experiencing a moment of empathy with those who are more vulnerable as we adjust to physically distancing from each other, income losses or reduction, and home-schooling our children. Most of our engagement — work, personal or otherwise — is now online and the past eight months have been overwhelming for many.
How do we remain motivated despite the odds?
I have spoken before about accepting 'what is' as a first step in dealing with this pandemic. Now is the time that we prove ourselves undeterred by challenges. It may be difficult, but you may have to ignore everything else and just do it. Completely focusing on a specific task at hand sometimes requires that you remove yourself from the 'noise' and zone in on what you alone must do. Of course, you may have to explain what is happening to those around you, so they understand that you need your space and trust that they do not take it personally.
Recognise, too, that you may have to overcome mental blocks or challenges and break down these internal barriers. We are sometimes our worst enemies and we see obstacles rather than solutions. Tell yourself that you can do it and when it seems impossible, do not be afraid to seek assistance or support. The tasks may sometimes seem daunting, but the important thing is to keep at it and, instead of feeling overwhelmed; build a mountain of positivity around you. Connect with positive people who urge you to continue and celebrate your little steps along the way.
I believe we have two choices in these times — FEAR or DESIRE. I remember being afraid of lizards as a little girl and the trauma I experienced sitting in the swing only to discover a lizard on the ground in front of me. I could not move, and no one was around to shoo the lizard, who was not moving either. I had to overcome my fear and jumped from the swing. Of course, the lizard ran away as soon as it sensed my presence. The fear disappeared almost immediately. I learnt in that moment that fear paralyses action and shuts our brains down. I urge you to choose desire over fear. A desire is really a want and wanting something motivates you to action and gives you something to look forward to.
We can forge ahead in these challenging times by defying the odds, to get up and go despite it all. This is not the time to lose hope, to become lost. It is a time of hope, a time to rise to the occasion and manifest all the wonderful things you have always desired by just doing it.
Coleen Antoinette is an arts educator and lover of culture and people. She is currently the director of marketing & communications at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. You may share your thoughts or own experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.