A Look Back at the Fading Year 2018

Three years ago in the last quarter,  I wrote this in a Facebook post of mine:

“…it’s been almost 2 weeks since I moved into this place which I now call home and share with my son, this time, with my eldest. […] Somehow I feel like a tourist in a strange land. With an inventive mind such as mine, it’s so easy to pretend I’m now in a place like Manhattan in NY. I’m no longer in my house on the prairie which I shared with my younger son and his family […] nor am I in my tiny English cottage by the woods which I shared with my dear feline friends.

“Now here I am in the heart of the bustling metropolis learning to ease out of my reclusive mood. What I get to enjoy is being able to keep house and prepare home-cooked meals for my son […] and having human company to converse  with, not just my plants, or my cats, or my favorite lizard…”

Now three years hence, and I’m still conversing mostly with my plants, my new set of lizard friends, some ants. No cats at all. Not that I mind. My son’s hectic work schedule and his personal life leave me all by myself most of the time.

On one hand, I’ve gotten used to my own company and still preoccupied with my part-time work, personal projects including this blog, my photography hobby, among other things. Yet it can be quite depressing at times.

Looking back, my life’s roadmap this year has been a riveting mix of ups and downs. On the upside, I’ve accomplished many of my goals. Topping them all was self-publishing my first eBook ever, Finding Your Authentic Self: A Path to Wholeness, which took me about 3 months to write.

But circumstances — such as work and financial problems — can be so overwhelming that without faith, I would’ve come crushing down. I must admit times when my very faith comes asunder letting me go on a roller-coaster ride with my relationship with God.

Like a child lost in the woods, I keep running to find my way — yet the farther it takes me away from home.

When doubt assails or bitterness creeps in, I quickly remind myself God is with me, in me, around me. He’s just hidden in the clouds.

My eyes look at the clouds to seek God’s face among them, somehow hoping to see Him in the concrete as well as in a deeper, spiritual sense. When I come to Him in prayer, I either feel empty or full of hope. When tears fall, I know deep in my heart, He has heard my cries, and suffered my agony too.

I find myself grieving still over my Mom’s passing, even after 4 years. As they say, something is taken away from you when your mother dies. So it is with me. During my difficult times, I miss my Mom’s strength and comfort.

I find I’m an irony unto myself. I, who long for human interaction and real conversation, has shied away from most invitations to social events and meetups with friends this year.

But I’m made of sterner stuff. My faith in God remains strong despite some backsliding. My faith in the goodness of others is still alive, my love for my family unshakeable, and my confidence in myself intact despite my defeats.

I’ve come to a few realizations:

  • A structured schedule for each day works best for me
  • I should assign a particular day for each important chore
  • I can no longer lump together in one day chores that use up too much energy
  • Less multi-tasking so I can focus
  • Must include writing practice, learning and reading into my daily schedule
  • Less social media and news reading
  • Back to book reading and journaling
My reading list — books I’ve read (since 2012) and current readings

Through all my ups and downs, God has been my Shield, prayer my best tool. I remind myself my human frailty is the devil’s strength. So I must always keep myself in check and keep God’s hope and promises in my heart.

“They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagle’s wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. –Isaiah 40:31

This is the trajectory of my life this year — and I hope and pray 2019 will be kinder to me, with God’s grace. That like an eagle, I can soar to new heights. I do believe.

I also pray for strength, clarity, and comfort for anyone dealing with their own pain and struggles.

Above all, I hope and pray for greater peace, compassion, unity, less violence and negativity,  as well as maturity in social discourse, especially in this Blessed Season of Christ’s Birth. Merry CHRISTMAS and a Peaceful, Brighter New Year to all!

Soliloquy – An Anguished Soul Speaks Out

You get stuck. Again. Something makes you stuck.  As ever.

And this perhaps is why you never can get your blog off.  Why you can’t attract as much traffic as you want to. As you need to.

Fear. Yes, fear is what keeps you from writing with your whole heart and soul. From conveying as much as you want to – in the way you want to express yourself.

You’re afraid of giving a piece of your mind about issues that matter today.

COURAGE – this is what you ought to have. Yet…

Now look at this quote — it’s supposed to inspire a trying-hard writer like you. Oops, never be too harsh on yourself. Please.

“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”  — Robert Cormier

 

But it doesn’t really apply to you, right? In the context this post is about?

All you can think of now is how saddening to see how much the world today is ripping itself apart. Hatred. Violence. Injustice. Destruction of the environment. Loss of respect. Enmity between kin.  Apathy towards others. So much division, disunity, disintegration. So much Evil…

Others may tell you – hey,  this has been happening since time immemorial.

Yes. So you push back and ask —  why then has humanity not learned anything at all from the lessons of history? Is humanity that hardened, dense, fragile, weak …or just plain overcome with EGO? Must we just tolerate the negatives within and around us?

You start to feel at times your faith – in God and in humanity —  slipping. Especially when you read the news. The bad news all over. Or reading ugly debates on social media. You try to avoid these as much as you can. Yet you cannot totally do so.

There — you’ve bared your soul. You’ve expressed somehow that pain in your heart.

This one seems to be a perfect guide for you — by Leonard Cohen

“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

And this is your reflection for now. You do NOT have to be as gifted as others nor try to be like them. For as long as you speak out your Truth. That’s your Life Purpose. Just be your Authentic Self.

For from Love and Goodness you have been created. SO it is upon you to answer that call to be the image of the ONE who has created you and the rest of the Universe. That’s being authentic.

Your authentic self is meant to provide light to those you meet on your life’s pathway. But it’s still your Choice.

To let the LIGHT from within you to radiate to others. And give Hope. It is upon you to share that hope. As you journey with others. You encourage others to grow into the best person they can ever be — by being the best you can ever be too because you have that hope in your heart. You choose to be that kind of person.

Yes you feel anguished, helpless, hopeless about the state of affairs in society. You even start to think that animals have become more civilized than humans, transcending their very nature of just living for themselves. You see how different species – enemies by nature -unexpectedly learning to co-exist peacefully and enjoy each other’s presence. You see and hear of stories of loyalty and love pet animals provide their owners.

Yet do not despair. Remember? Despite humanity’s brokenness and because of that very crack in humanity, the LIGHT of the World has come to save, to redeem us all.

It means despite our brokenness as  human being because we are not perfect – just like everyone else — there is that spark of Light within each of us. Within you.

Still in your own capacity, and with God’s grace – you can help bring the Light, and Hope, and Faith to others. It behooves upon you to rise above your own frustration and anger at what is happening in the world to spread even  a ripple of kind thoughts or deeds.

In whatever way you can. Through your writing perhaps. But remember  you can only do this with LOVE in your heart. Spread the message of love, hope, and joy, especially as it is almost the Season of that LOVE that has come to save.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…  — 1 John 4:18

 

3 Ways To Deal with Change

 

In my previous post, “Change: How To Deal with It” I shared 3 ways by which you can deal with unexpected changes in your life, to wit:

1) Be ready to accept the change, and embrace it for all it is worth.

2) Look at any change in your life as a reflective, learning moment.

3) Focus on and gather your inner and outer resources.

Let us take a look at each of these more closely.

Accept and embrace change

Live each day with openness to all possibilities that may unfold before you. This is not to say you should not hope for or anticipate with eagerness the good that you desire to happen in your life. Yes, live each day with hope in your heart, but give space to the thought that change is inevitable: there are events in life that do happen when you least expect them; there are dreams you have carefully planned for that do not turn out as you like it. And of course, there are the unexpected joys that bring in change, a welcome surprising change that makes adapting to it a lot easier.

How can you accept and embrace change? Continue reading “3 Ways To Deal with Change”

My Saturday Epiphany

We are blessed differently — we Christians recognize this. Yet, this seems easier to think about in the abstract, for what makes it difficult though, at times, is not being truly grateful for whatever we have, — or being unable to accept the situation we find ourselves in.

Times when many ‘whys’ — borne of envy, fear, insecurity — assail our minds and erode our faith in God. Times when anger replaces the love that should fill our hearts, and we turn to put the blame on others, on things, and sometimes, on God Himself for the kind of life we have, never on ourselves.

It’s times like this when we need to pause, and reflect more deeply on how we can overcome such doubts. Where is the envy, or fear, or insecurity coming from? Are we  lacking in self-confidence; do our values lie in only the material? What is in the other that we value so much that we fail to appreciate our own? Do we use them as benchmarks for our lives? Don’t we recognize God’s intended goals for us?

Is God truly present in our lives, in ourselves? Perhaps, we  lean only on our own understanding without relying on His guidance. That is perhaps the reason we commit so many blunders. On the other hand, we should know that from the mistakes we make, we can learn our lessons.

God allows us to run the course of our lives through our free will –and when we fail, or stumble, He only wants us to stand up and try again and again. Like a child who is learning to walk by himself, he slips, stumbles, falters – with his mother or father silently watching so the child can get up by himself, and walk again. Like a baby bird who hesitates before he can fly on his own, we are just the same. Through our weaknesses we become strong. Through our mistakes, we become a little bit more perfect each day.

At the same time, too, God invites us to listen to Him, to let Him lead us, or let Him walk with us — yet many times we run away, or hide from Him. Then when we fail to reach our dreams, our goals in life, we start asking — why?

On the other hand, we may indeed be faithful, putting God at the center of our lives, and living the Gospel values. Yet, the more we seek Him, the more we feel God is nowhere — we experience what St John of the Cross calls “the dark night of the soul.” Hence, in our self-pity at times, with weakening trust, we cannot but feel unloved…

I for one have experienced many times being assailed by my fears and doubts, by my lack of faith. I sometimes feel so unworthy and so much unlike the great saints of the Church — that I cannot be like them, and so much away from God. I truly admire those whose faith is unwavering, whose faith even gets much stronger in the midst of suffering — physical or spiritual.

Yet, how good my God truly is — for on countless times in the darkest of nights, He makes His presence known to me. Like the glint of the early morning sun after a night of rain, God comes to freshen my soul.

took this photo in my father’s place one early morning after a long night of rain…

I love you, O God. Amen                                                                                                

My Reflection on “Finding God at Home” and “Finding God in the City”

I had just been going through the first few paragraphs of the 1st chapter of the book, “Finding God at Home”, when it startled me to discover I was reading something about myself, or rather something about my quest for something akin to what the author calls ‘Life on the Edge.’

A longing to meet a deeper reality could aptly describe that stage in my life when, without my recognizing it for what it was, the need to overcome or resist some norms in my normal Catholic upbringing started to surface. A high school student at the time, I didn’t know the reasons for such need. Nor do I now remember exactly what those norms were.

I had been brought up in a deeply religious Catholic family, and had been educated in an exclusive (all-girls) Catholic school run by nuns. Later, I pursued my Psychology course at the oldest university in Asia, a pontifical university. All throughout my childhood until I got married, life at home had been characterized by daily family prayer-time, regular Sunday Masses, and various church activities like singing in the choir.

My parents were both active members of our parish with my father as a lay minister and a member of the Knights of Columbus, while my mother as a member of the Apostleship of Prayer. One of my younger sisters is a member of the contemplative order of the SSpSAP (‘Pink Sisters’), and a brother is a priest.

Perhaps then, even in this kind of family atmosphere, I had not been able to define what ‘Spirituality’ was, because honestly, I thought it only belonged to the priests and nuns. At the same time, I had prided myself for being a part of such a family.

Years later, I slipped away from that kind of religiousity, and went on to question some practices like praying the rosary, ritualized prayers, and novenas. Although by not praying in my traditional way, I also felt not Catholic,and I felt some guilt and fear because I no longer had a sense of belonging.

Yet, I kept moving between the Church and some other Theosophical thoughts. I once thought I was perhaps looking for some easier way to connect to God, or for some justification why I shouldn’t be praying the traditional way because at times I found them tedious or too much of a ritual.

Becoming a mother didn’t stop me from that kind of “search.” I even experienced what the author described in the chapter on “Life at the Center” as ‘to feel energy, talent, hopes and ambitions all being slowly drained’ because I felt I was always another person for someone else, for some people, never for myself.

If our lives are our gifts to God, our offering to Him, then I didn’t somehow realize this, as it was like I was full of many things, but was nothing at all.

However, after more defining experiences that brought in wisdom and maturity, answers – good answers have started to take shape in different ways. Now a single parent and a grandmother, this book seems to give more meaning to what I am now. I may be like the first kind of soul: I am a bow in your hands, Lord, draw me lest I rot.’ Reading the book, I have realized here are newer and fresher insights.

The article “Finding God in the City” is a very good example for me of life being lived ‘on edge’ and ‘at the center.’ The author’s 7 principles are inspiring and worth living by, too.

Like crystal waters, the thoughts and examples presented by these two authors came to clear my mind of some doubts.

 

Note: I share this as one example of how students can write a personal reflection based on an assigned reading. It was a personal reflection I wrote as a requirement for one of my courses at the graduate school. Again, students are advised to follow their professors’ specific guidelines/requirements.