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The Values String



Ukpeme Akpan Okon



Copyright 2018 Ukpeme Akpan Okon

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publishers, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine, journal, or online.



The final approval for this literary material is granted by the author.



First printing



All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.





CONTENTS



Appreciation

Foreword

Preamble



Section 1:

No Condemnation


Section 2:

Tripod Balance



Section 3:

Scent from Above


Section 4:

The Unifier


Section 5:

Definitely not alone


Section 6:

Cancel Counsel?


Section 7:

Counsel for Counsel



Section 8:

Valuable Values


Section 9:

The Values String


Section 10:

The End


End Notes



APPRECIATION

Immense thanksgiving to The Almighty, the Giver of Life, Good Health, and Peace.

Thanks to Aniekan, my husband and great inspirer; Eno Grace Nta, outstanding professor; Uwem David Akpan; Honorable Justice Peter Oyin Affen; Amina Suzanah Agbaje; Margaret-Mary Ben Okoko; Ozioma Izuora; Isaiah Bozimo; Glory Uzoamaka Ohagwu; Jitau Mshelia Atiwurcha; and Mirabel Edozie.

Copious gratitude to my marvelous parents—Nsuhoridem Akpan and Sylvia Akpan, and my supportive siblings—Anietie, Iquo, Ini-Odu, Odiong, for instilling good values in me.

Great lessons I learned from my children, Angela and Idara: you can achieve what you desire, if you create time for your goals. No need for excuses. I am thankful for you. I thank you.

To my ingenious brother, Odiong Akpan, whose photographs were used in this book, I write thank you.

Thank you to Ndidi Onyezili and Tina Ochelle, for assisting with conducting the surveys reflected in this work.

Writing of encouragement, I am grateful to my in-laws. I appreciate my entire family, my teachers, my preachers, my physicians, my reliable friends, and well-wishers. I acknowledge the survey respondents for their participation.

FOREWORD



The possibility of my writing this foreword was suggested sometime in April. I felt obliged to accept even though I had not seen the book. I was intrigued and excited. You see, I had read Ukpeme’s scribblings from childhood when she was a Brownie and watched her expand the ability to use words and develop an amazing vocabulary to make her a champion at Scrabble and a formidable public speaker within the Toastmasters International. By June, when the book got to me, I was grieving over the loss of my mother and therefore was tempted to jettison the whole idea. But I am glad that I did not. Why? I needed to touch base with myself and The Values String: A Book on Transitional Life, Compelling Fulfillment, and Profound Peace helped me to achieve that.

How do you handle crisis? What is your usual reaction to failure — in school, a marriage, a nonconformist child, or inability to keep a job? For many, it is a blame game — the society, a friend, or family. What do we do? We keep malice, refuse to trust anyone, and as an extreme reaction, withdraw from society. But Ukpeme Akpan Okon says, “No.” She invites us to look into self and dredge out the strength within as we work through The Values String: A Book on Transitional Life, Compelling Fulfillment, and Profound Peace, a didactic book that adopts a “self-discovery model.”

The book is a slim volume in ten sections. The author’s unique flair for humor comes in the section headings, the unusual collocates she sets up, the memorable songs that close sections one, two, three, four, and nine; and the picture splash that led us to identify our values. In section nine, we find the answers to the puzzles embedded in sections one to four as we are given the practical application to the frames we had encountered in those sections.

The Values String: A Book on Transitional Life, Compelling Fulfillment, and Profound Peace opens with a series of questions in the preamble to set the tone for a soul-searching journey. This, the author refers to as “introspection” which ultimately leads to “restoration.” A series of frames are presented in four sections, to tease out the desirable traits and attitude in different situations, and by so doing have our innate, often disregarded, values reaffirmed.

We meet Uwem, who is a criminal and gets caught. Our focus is not so much on the fairness or appropriateness of the judgement but on what Uwem, and indeed anyone condemned for wrongdoing, does thereafter. How do they react? How do they avoid self-condemnation and move on? The resolve to get reintegrated into society involves a conscious decision. It is the first step to restoration. Don’t waste time on a blame game, but follow through with your resolution, and move on. This resolution means living a good life, henceforth. That involves balancing our spiritual, mental, and physical health — the tripod. Each component of this tripod is to support the others for attainment. Build on your strengths and achieve perfection, as much as is possible. The character we meet here is Salud, a young level-headed woman. Unfortunately, she is handed a death sentence when told she is suffering from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Should she wallow in despair? Our author posits that even under the most daunting circumstance, one should face the world with a smile. When we do, we discover there is unexpected help from within, around, and above. This is what Bernadette experiences after she decides to dump a lifestyle steeped in substance abuse. She typifies our addictions and insatiability. For some it is food; for others, failure in examinations. Bernadettes’s resolve gives hope and lets us know it is possible. There is need to value self and work slowly but resolutely to recovery. Recovery is anchored on the ability to harness internal and external conditions that facilitate it.

The people we work with either as their leader or colleague make demands that could crack our resolution for progress. This was what Victor suffered. We must recognize the uniqueness and gift/talent each has and utilize this for the good of all. Even then, the complexity of human relations sometimes could result in overwhelming challenges. We must not lose sight of the fact that maturity may elude some at critical moments. Offer an olive branch for peace and harmony to reign, but don’t compromise on standards or your goal. Let the leader in you take over; forge ahead as a lone ranger to achieve the goal, while still paving the way for true reconciliation and peace.

No man is an island more so when we consider mental health. The author tackles this often-neglected area in childhood, adolescent, and adult populations. She quotes World Health Organization (WHO) that, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Given the number of those suffering from mental health challenges, this discourse is necessary. The author presents an overview of how this affects the human population and identifies some programs that could make life more bearable for people in this category. Those who suffer mental health challenges are vulnerable either from a sense/fear of rejection by family and society, inadequate funds by family, poor funding, or from the unavailability of the network and care facilities, which exist in advanced countries. To ameliorate the situation, government and non-governmental organizations/ civil defense must collaborate. WHO targets the year 2013 to 2020, as the jubilee, a time to ensure the rights of those facing mental health challenges enjoy citizen rights. To achieve this, government, communities, families, etc., must work together.

Another milestone toward recovery is attainable through counseling. This usually brings immense relief. However, there are those who may not embrace the intrusion of another in their affairs. Ukpeme Okon provides many alternatives for self-counseling. Remember, the goal is balanced health. Even as counselors care for others, others need to recognize their human need for empathy, a listening ear, and the occasional retreat. The counselor is not infallible, the author says.

It’s at this point the author presents the values that saved all the characters from doom and despair. These core values are wisdom, strength, resilience, determination, responsibility, hope, dedication, service, the power of prayer, faith, gratefulness and joy, audacity, beauty, composure, contentment, and self-control.

These values embedded in our hearts could be written and strung together to form a chain from which we select what we need. Is the string physical or metaphorical? That’s an area you must discover in The Values String: A Book on Transitional Life, Compelling Fulfillment, and Profound Peace.



Professor Eno Grace Nta

Department of English and Literary Studies

University of Calabar, Nigeria

July 2018

PREAMBLE



The quest for a joyous end is inarguably a desire of those who live purposeful lives.

Past mistakes and bad deeds responsible for your incarceration are not blackouts to a hopeful future. The ill health or terminal disease you are experiencing is not a barrier to another life, free of physical pain. Your difficult and probably protracted family crisis can be resolved. Your unpleasant circumstance is surmountable.

Where have you been? Where are you now? Where does your journey end? Have you positively influenced people? What is your self-perception? What motivates you? What are your values? What rubric will best describe you in the end?

Pause! Ask yourself again, this time, with sincerity to answer honestly. In your moment of introspection, you will realize restoration is attainable.

Like snowflakes, we are unique as well as our journeys along the paths of life. You are valuable and worthy to lead a valuable life. Discover your value(s).The stillness and peace within you can be enhanced through self-care, reconciliation, and good service to humanity.

This didactic book adopts a self-discovery model. It is not the regular motivational book. Uniquely, its contents are intended to embolden you to utilize your values and enable you to discover, rediscover, and recharge your potentials to live an authentic life. The global impact of psychological problems, counseling, resilience from setbacks, the essence of adopting values and ethical standards, how to achieve peace and strength are themes that are discussed, to assist you to achieve your goals.

You will find my composed songs enthusing and uplifting.



SECTION 1:

NO CONDEMNATION



Uwem was notorious for crime. He competed with his peers for recognition as the master of unlawfulness. He prided himself on his ability to escape from arrests. One memorable day, the escape master got caught, arrested, and arraigned.

“I sentence you to…” the judge’s pronouncement reverberated across the courtroom. The reality of incarceration hit Uwem forcefully. The thoughts of captivity were sickening. Manifestations of regrets overwhelmed him.

Freedom became a luxury. Vexed at his misfortune, he walked ungainly toward nowhere, his mind absolved in endless “had I but knowns.” He bumped into another pedestrian. “Watch your step!” she exclaimed. Wearing a gloomy face, Uwem whispered, “I wish I did, as well as the steps I took that led me to step on you. Will I ever be absolved of this crime?” he retorted.

A strong-willed Uwem will keep moving forward. Aligning himself with the determination to undergo reformation will augur well for him.

Do not condemn yourself even when you have been condemned. Sing the redemption song. Open your mind, open your heart, forgive yourself, and ask for forgiveness. Envision a future of eternal liberty. You can be leavened bread. You can rise.

Irrespective of your character taint, your high aspirations for worthy aims of purposefulness and sincerity will hasten your approximation to integrity. Acting heedlessly and becoming habituated to bad deeds or engaging in deeds that smear your good character are valueless. Yet, you can prevail over your shortcomings. Prevail, you shall.

Feelings of worthlessness, wasted time, or regrets could inhibit your firmness of purpose. Would you lie in a quagmire, if you fall into it? You would try to wriggle out of it, clean yourself, and move on. To the predicament you are facing or will face, disengage yourself from the dirt, bathe your willpower, and experience freshness to continue your journey in life. Do not be abased by misfortune but practice self-restraint from vices. When you experience retrogression or series of relapses into insatiable passions, wake up. Get up. Rise up. Progress.

Making dynamic attempts for revival can unquestionably be tough. Are you determined to make the effort? Are you among the group that chants, “Waiting for the perfect time. I am busy, very busy. This can wait until tomorrow. I can’t?” Make the effort; it is not horrendous. Do not procrastinate. Have you had a meal, a bath, broken wind, emptied your bowels today? Were you “too busy” to eat, bathe, urinate, or defecate? We can create time to do what we want and need to do.

There are lots of items adorning my to-do, can-do, and not-to-do lists. If I did not create the time to apply the energy to write this book, The Values String would have been in the compendium queue seeking for attention to be completed.

There is a resultant strain that comes with procrastination. For instance, you have twenty tasks to achieve in five days. You plan to achieve four out of the tasks, each day. On the first day, you achieve one task, congratulate yourself, and consider the other three to be easy and not as important as your completed assignment. There was no emergency justifying your deferral. You ended day one with a soothing cup of nicely infused tea.

Welcome, day two. You have seven tasks to accomplish. You succeeded in concluding two. Day three — there are nine things to do but you decide to give yourself a work-free day treat, to rest in order to revitalize for the next day (because you need the super strength for the remaining work). On the fourth day, you become inundated with unforeseen situations. You make efforts to create time to carry out your outstanding tasks, but with no success. On the fifth day, you have seventeen unaccomplished tasks. Anxiety, strain, and exhaustion set in.

In utmost disappointment, you may lose your self-confidence. No condemnation. Your task list can be remade. If clustering tasks in one day is ineffectual, reserve one or fewer tasks for each day and be committed to finishing your seventeen outstanding tasks.

Prospectively acting, match your motivations with techniques to actualize your objectives. If you are motivated to eat wholesome foods, make the move, rather than visualizing your desire to be healthy. Lead your visualization to actualization. Try new ways, if techniques you have applied were unsuccessful. Do not give up. Your aha moment is nigh.

The good message is: despite the mess you have gotten yourself into, in spite of the mess you are in, regardless if you are about to make a mess of your life, you can progress. Being distressed and stressed is retrogressive.

In murky waters, fishes still thrive. Creatures survive in mud. Camels adapt to dry desert climates. Birds fly in the rain. Some people lived in unreasonable conditions but conquered austerity to lead reasonable lives.

Sit tight, stand firm, walk boldly, run the good race, fly high, land well.

For a person in dystopia, whose life book seems eluded by chances of emendation, useless, taunted, daunted, discomposed, are some of the feelings that fill the book’s chapters. This life book can be rewritten. “A Foretaste of Redemption” will be a fitting title.



Let us sing: (create your tune)

Leavened Me


[Verse 1]

Composed, I am poised to rise

From blame, shame, and strife.

Shackles may constrain me,

Still, within, I am free.


[Chorus]

No condemnation.

Flee exculpation.

Did I hear me say? Hear you say?


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