Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#TuesdayThought....and It's Thankful!

Being that it's Thanksgiving week, I thought I'd share with you some wise words by U2 that have always pulled me through some 'whining-glass-half-empty-times'. It may not always be easy to see it this way, but indeed, 'It's a beautiful day!'......

Original Image by: Viktor Hanacek

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Birthday Gift I Desperately Need

Photo Credit: Joey Gannon

My niece's son, B (Yes, I'm his grandma), celebrated his third birthday a couple of months ago. On that day my niece posted on social media that they celebrated by filling B's day with his most favorite thingsgoing to the arcade, pies, cupcakesall around fun stuff. I thought it made perfect sense to celebrate birthdays this way, celebrating by surrounding yourself with the people and things you love and enjoy the most. 

Last week, I celebrated mine. I pretty much just stayed home all day and struggled with making the day feel special. Sure, I can say that I have an excuse in the form of a husband who just had a shoulder surgery three days prior. Insisting on a celebration while your significant other is walking around with a sling just didn't sit well with me.

But beyond that excuse, the really disturbing reason is that I sincerely couldn't figure out how I wanted to celebrate. If you asked me what my ideal birthday celebration would look like, I honestly wouldn't know how to answer you. In the end, I ended up spending much of the day envying 3-year-old little B. At least he knew.

Maybe a trip to Las Vegas to eat, watch shows, gamble and eat again....But it's Fall...too many germs and viruses this time of year to be in such a crowded place.

Maybe a nice day out with my oldest and dearest friends and family, watch a movie, enjoy a meal, have coffee while drowning ourselves in overanalysis! Yes!!....Oh right...my oldest and dearest mostly live hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Maybe just a shop-'til-you-drop day at the Container Store, different apparel stores and makeup stores...Really? Since when has shopping fulfilled anyone? And to spend an insane amount of money on clothes and makeup and containers?? I feel guilty just thinking about it.

Alright then, I guess I just want to be alone all day and night, lounge and completely free myself of all sense of responsibility and just chillax...Ummm, maybe a lobotomy is what I need to do first for this to be even remotely possible!

As you can see from a sampling of my thought process above, I am really my own worst, most ruthless enemy and critique. For every thought, a counterargument is almost simultaneously fired. It's like my brain is in a constant state of reload, as if I can't shoot down my own ideas fast enough.

After all this, it finally dawned on me that there really is only one gift that people like myself desperately need and that is Permissiona priceless gift that can only come from within.

This is why children have fun and know how to have joy in their lives. They know how to be themselves and really don't need permission to savor their experiences. Everything seems to be novel and as adults, we actually encourage them to enjoy, be amazed and be free of worries. They are in the moment and don't bother with the cost of gifts, the calories each bite is worth, nor the question of whether or not they deserve it. They just accept and say 'thank you'.

I need to give myself permission to relax, to enjoy material things, compliments, and to just savor the moment. I need to give myself permission to believe that I do deserve as many pockets of happiness especially when I celebrate being given the gift of life and more than 4 decades of doing my best to evolve in this earth school. 

We are all just struggling and grinding away in our own ways. I think each of us deserves a healthy serving of Permission every now and then. A little joy never hurt anyone. Go ask the kids.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


There is so much fear, ignorance, and hate going around in the world, especially after the November 13 Paris terror attacks, and so I thought of offering this reminder. 

We need to remember the light and love, instead of giving in to fear.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Scent of Time's Passage

I'm a featured blogger on Mamapedia Voices

I realized something was not right the moment I stepped inside his closet. I was only there to grab his laundry basket and for the first time in years of doing this, I found myself in an unfamiliar zone in my own home. For the first time I felt as if my crossing the threshold from bedroom to closet became more than just a literal experience. Crossing this threshold today both dampened and sent panic to every cell in my body, and at that point, there was nothing worse for me than being able to smell the truth.

I suppose I should first tell you that I’m extremely olfactory. I’m very sensitive to odors and I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband told you how it sometimes feels like he’s married to a bloodhound. We’ve always joked about that one night early on in our marriage when he went out with the guys and I was told they were headed to the bar. I thought nothing of it and enjoyed the evening by myself and hit the sack early. Later that night, as he sneaked quietly next to me in bed, I was roused from my sleep not by his movement but by the way he smelled. I sat up and sniffed him. Instead of inhaling just the typical boys’ night out smellyou know, that combination of musk, cigarette smoke and alcoholmy nose was assaulted by this heavy, saccharine-sweet, strawberry scent of cheap lotion.

“You guys went to a strip club, didn’t you?!” 

He chuckled like a naughty kid caught in the act and couldn’t believe I was able to guess. It’s such a distinct smell that’s quite hard to forget. I have only been to a strip club once, out of curiosity, and what mostly stuck out for me was not what I saw but what I smelled. From that point on, I had made up my mind that there must be a prescribed stripper lotion. And my husband made up his mind too that denying anything to me is futile especially when odors are left as evidence.

So when I stepped inside my son's closet and sniffed a different smell, I knew the evidence was all around me and that I've just been in denial for the longest time. 

My 'baby' is not a baby anymore. 

Instead of not smelling anything at all, or at times even detecting a hint of baby powdery scent, this time I inhaled the smell of sour, salty, sun-drenched sweat. When I would open that closet door before, it was as if I was being greeted by friendly, happy gnomes who met me with smiles and flowers and a joyous dance. This time, I was overpowered by this vision of a tired ogre, heavy and gross. 

My son is just eight, definitely still a good distance away from puberty. But at this stage I am already definitely detecting the changes, more than I would happily acknowledge. When you're a parent, the changes that you resist make their appearance way before your eyes perceive them. 

It's in the smell of their heads. The scent becomes more intense, more sweat than baby shampoo or the fresh, light smell of infancy.

It's in what we hear, the changes in their voice or their tone when they reason with us and learn to argue. Their words become more complex and so does their logic, which causes you ambivalence as you toggle between admiration and exasperation, pride and regret.

It's what your fingertips feel when you stroke their hair and you know it's coarser and thicker.

It's the slight jolt or confusion you can't quite process when you notice that he now just walks past you sometimes after the school bus brings him back home in the afternoon and you ask yourself, "Where are my hugs and kisses?

And then your heart can't seem to catch up to what your mind already knows when on weekend mornings you start to notice that he no longer enters your room and jumps on your bed as soon as he wakes up, and instead walks downstairs eager to do his own 'stuff' like video games, books or YouTube. All of a sudden you start to think you're losing your mind for resenting having a lot of extra minutes in bed, the very thing you said you'd kill for just a few years back.  

Perhaps children are designed to transform into something less endearing, even a bit repulsive to their own parents, something that would create more distance between parent and child. Perhaps the transformation is nature's way of urging us, parents, to slowly let our children go.

I know I have a few more years before the real stink and grossness all set in. I have a boy after all. But until then, I will continue to enjoy all the baby soft skin he still has, the very few soft and fine strands of hair I still catch glimpses of here and there, as well as the sensation of my son's tiny fingers twirling my hair to help him relax at bedtime. I know every single day brings me closer to the expiration date of all these simple gifts I've been given but I find comfort in knowing that one thing shall never ever change...

He will always be my baby, no matter what. And I am entitled to be in denial about that for as long as I want.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

This Question Takes You a Step Closer to Your Most Authentic Self

One of the most important existential questions we ask ourselves as humans is "Who am I meant to be?Being an overanalyzer, I've always had the tendency to think my way through things rather than act and engage. However, the older I get, the more I realize that life will never slow down or pause for me while I analyze my options. I can't just withdraw from all my commitments because I want to stay in my room, meditate or pray about what the next best step is. It just doesn't work that way. 

I've been able to confirm that realization even more so these past few months. The truth is, I've been having serious doubts about pursuing my writing. Quitting my blog altogether has crossed my mind several times. I don't know what happened but I've been finding it more and more difficult to sit down and develop my thoughts into essays interesting enough to read. Self-doubt has been plaguing me more than ever, with the voices getting louder and more incessant, telling me it's all for nothing or that I'm never going to be as good as the rest of them. Every time I make an attempt to write, it never takes long before I get to the point where I'm asking myself, "What good would this do? Will this be of any value to others?" Then the discouragement mounts and I just shut down. 

I hated how I was beginning to feel about writing but at the same time knew deep down that it isn't something I'm ready to just give up. How could I when I know that it's an integral part of myself as a thinker? I could never stop thinking and being an overanalyzer, and writing is my expression of that. One way or the other, I would keep writing somehow, somewhere, whether it's on my journal, some random piece of scrap paper, on my cellphone or wherever. It's still part of who I am and therefore I know I can't give it up, at least not just yet. 

So now that I've chosen my path, how can I get myself unstuck? 
If I feel so lost and uninspired, how do I find my way to becoming the truest version of myself?

The truth is, becoming who we're meant to be and reaching our highest potential has to do with doing, and not just thinking your way through it. This means if you find yourself in a rut and you feel discouraged with the obstacles you see before you, whether real or imagined, the only way to overcome them is through action and not merely endless planning or mental conditioning. Some form of actual energy or force has to be introduced for real movement to happen, any movement in the right direction no matter how small. 

Recently, I read a line from a magazine that stuck with me, one that I feel can help jump-start anyone's journey towards self-realization and identity affirmation: How about asking yourself what things you no longer agree to do? Answering that question jolts your consciousness into accepting change. Answering that question forces you to draw boundaries even when you are not clear what you want to do or what the next step is. By identifying which actions you want to reject, and therefore identifying where you don't want to go, you are also ultimately clarifying the direction you want to take, or options you accept that define who you are. Boundaries tend to do that. 

What are the things I no longer agree to do?

The more I asked myself this question, the more inspired I felt. Forcing ourselves to confront what has not been working for us, strengthens our sense of self-determination and therefore breeds self-confidence. More importantly, the more I asked myself this question, the more I realized that it was a way of honoring my innermost truths. For me it highlighted patterns I've gotten so accustomed to, but which have only served to give me a false sense of security and kept me from taking risks. In so doing, I've deprived my soul from its voice, its truth. Every time we silence our soul, our sacred truths, we die and lose ourselves little by little. If we do it often enough, that's when we feel lost, out of balance, empty.

I'm tired of feeling drained and lost, consumed by self-doubt, and so I've asked myself the question and came up with this:

I no longer agree to compare my journey as a writer to the journey of other writers.
I want to honor my own creativity, my pace, my limitations. I need to honor my own life circumstances, personality inclinations and thought processes that make me who I am, no matter how different that may be from the typical mold of a 'writer'. Not everyone succeeds in the same way and I need to define what that looks like for ME instead of measuring myself against others' achievements.

I no longer agree to start my days with social media, specifically checking my Facebook news feed, and end up spending an insane amount of time on it instead of focusing on what I really want to write about. 
It has also become apparent that reading the never-ending updates from other writers stresses me out too much, heightening my insecurities even more, which then incapacitate me further. Being extremely engaged in 'the game' might inspire and fire up others, and if that works for you, then go for it! However, it's clearly not for me and I function differently.

I no longer agree to deny stories inside me that have been crying out to be told. 
They are part of who I am and though they may not be truths that many others might be interested in hearing, they define my voice and spirit. These are echoes from my past that continue to manifest insights and aid me as I try to construct a road map for my unfolding biography. 

I no longer agree to minimize and devalue myself and my identity by believing that I am not an expert on anything and have no background or knowledge that anyone else might find interesting, let alone useful.
I have what many may call a 'nicheless' blog simply because it's a personal blog that allows me to write about a gamut of topics. But I really don't just write about anything under the sun. 
I write about parenting.
I write about insights I glean from daily life viewed through the lens of a migrant. 
I write about marriage and relationships. 
These past couple of years, I've also started writing a little about aging. 
These are my niches. These are my expertise and I need to claim that for myself and give them the value they deserve. 
If I continue to love what I write and write with Love, it will be valuable to someone. 
It will be of help, as Paul Tillich said. 
("There is no love which does not become help").

I no longer agree to focus on being the best in the field or focus on enriching others. Instead I will focus on enriching my own creativity, that is all
Writing is a creative expression and a need I have. If a side effect of my writing is to be able to help others and I get recognition from it, then thank you! But I refuse to be driven by anything else now, especially not perfection, catching an editor's attention, or going viral. I desire to focus only on enjoying my craft and giving my best in expressing my inner world through my writing.  

This is a contract I now make for and with my self, one which I know honors my spirit. I highly encourage you to do the same and ask that one simple questionWhat are the things YOU no longer agree to do? It might surprise you how much growth you can experience simply by changing your mind.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Can Halloween Be Any Scarier?

I knew seeing a police man stationed close to the entrance of the store was not a good sign. At first we thought there must have been a commotion inside. As soon as we swung the doors open though and stepped in, and seeing that the cop was trying to be as unobtrusive as possible yet still visible, I figured he was just there as a deterrent. It is the last weekend before Halloween after all and things can get a little crazy at costume and party stores.

Actually, crazy is a pretty accurate word to sum this all up. 

When we got to the 'wall of fear', it was packed. What's the wall of fear, you may ask? It's the store's wall displaying pictures of all the children's costumes they're selling, from which kids and parents select their costume of choice and take note of the merchandise code so that a sales attendant can grab the package for you from the back storage room. It's not the costumes that I find scary. It's the prices! Costumes to be worn once, all averaging $30 a piecethat's scary. And crazy!

Then the line for fitting was also crazy. If my son didn't bother with a first and second option, I would've insisted not bothering to fit. After 11 years of living here in the U.S., I can finally say that I'm now comfortable with the idea of returning merchandise when absolutely necessary. (It's crazy too that it's taken me that long).

When we finally made it to the fitting 'room', I realized that you can hardly call it a room because it was more like a box. Stepping in there with a child and unpacking costumes with a million components inside the packages was hell! There was nowhere to rest anything on and things just kept falling to the ground which meant you'd have to pick them up. But have you tried bending over in a 3' x 4' space while with another person in it? After 10 minutes, I just wanted to scream and knew I've had enough. If I spent another five minutes in that store, I would've ended up attacking everyone with the overpriced ninja swords laying around before I committed harakiri!

Can you really blame me if I'm not a big fan of Halloween? To me it embodies the height of capitalism with businesses taking advantage of people's desire to participate in a tradition. It's mostly about profit and commercialism. It's not even a real holiday!

I grew up in the Philippines and we celebrated All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. People went to the cemetery to visit loved ones who have passed. Families gathered and prayed. There were no costumes and candies and expensive decorations. I think only those who lived in exclusive, gated subdivisions participated in that but only minimally. At least up until I left the Philippines 11 years ago, Halloween was never celebrated to the extent that I see here in the U.S. 

I'm sure the children have fun. I'm sure the children pressure their parents to give in and the parents (like myself) feel powerless because no one wants their child to feel left out. Adults and children alike don elaborate costumes for one night for the thrill and fun of it. Are we really that desperate to escape from reality and be something else for a few hours even when it means spending unwisely? Or maybe the costumes allow us to be more of who we think we are or who we authentically are deep down? That we need one designated day a year for that and have to spend money on costumes to accomplish something so important is a really scary, crazy thing, if that were the case.

One thing is certain. Even though as Americans, we're really not celebrating anything significant on Halloween, businesses will continue to have a lot to celebrate with this 'holiday', that's for sure.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Our Parents in Us

As my husband and I stood outside my son's classroom waiting for the start of a school affair, papers hanging on the wall caught my eye. On display was a class project where the kids had to come up with synonyms using the letters of their name. Immediately I searched for what my son came up with and though it's obviously not perfect as you can see below (e.g. spelling), I am intrigued and fascinated by the thought process behind it.

First of all, I completely agree with the adjectives he chose to characterize himself. But more importantly, I'm actually impressed by his choices and happy that he didn't choose Nasty, Nutty, Neurotic or Narcissistic. Or even Anxious, Absurd or Abused (by a recovering perfectionist mother). 

What screamed out to me, and what I find most amusing, is that it's become obvious how he feels defined by being organized, or at least aspires to be. And look at that illustration he came up with! It's him sweating it out in the organization process. Papers, markers, toys, games and crayons all in their rightful spots...and contained in bins no less! What sense of accomplishment indeed!

There is one question I'm left wondering about after seeing my son's project. I'm now left thinking of how much of this is true for him, independent of what he knows I want him to be. In other words, are these qualities he truly believes he possesses or qualities he tries to possess because his parents approve of them? He could have written 'nervous', 'obedient', 'adorable' or 'affectionate' and 'happy' or 'helpful'words I easily associate with him. But he chose what he chose and it makes me curious.

Consequently, isn't it also worth asking ourselves how much of who we are or have become as adults, truly and authentically represent us and not just qualities we think we have, simply because we still aspire to possess them for the sake of having our parents' (or any other significant other's) approval?

If you say you're 'ambitious', are you truly that or are you pushing yourself to be that because it's what you've been taught to aspire for?

If you say you're 'compassionate', is that who you are to the core even when no one is looking or judging you? And is this something you freely chose?

Are you really 'funny' or did your family assign that role to you and you never really wanted it in the first place?

Or maybe we all somehow turn into versions of what our parents wanted us to be and end up internalizing their ideals.

I understand that we are all products of our socialization, especially the socialization process we received through our families. I understand that we become who we are because of what we learn, what we see and that it's all these things layered on to us and eventually define us.

But I still wonder how much of ourselves are simply reflections of our parents' desires for us. How much of myself can I claim, with utter certainty, as completely devoid of my parents' fingerprints or echoes of their voices. If we were all to make a list of five qualities we believe define us, how many of these can we say are independent of our parents' aspirations for us? In addition, which trait do you wish to drop or disassociate from, if only you could, because it's really more just a reflection of what people expect from you rather than something that you feel is authentic to you? Are there any?

I don't have firm answers to these questions yet, and am still mulling over them. 

What are your thoughts? I would love to read them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No More Routine Response

I am terrified.

If you live in the United States, and assuming you've not been living under a rock, I'm sure you understand why I feel the way I do. You probably all the more understand this sense of terror, the anxiety and anger if you are a parent.

On October 1, another mass shooting happened at a community college in Oregon where 8 students and a teacher perished. Nine others were injured before the gunman, also a student, shot himself. 

The following day, Friday, an 11-year old boy accidentally shot his 12-year old brother at a target shooting outing. A man who was with the boys at the time left a loaded gun on a picnic table when the younger boy picked it up and fired the weapon, fatally shooting his brother in the head. 

A day after that, on the evening of October 3, news surfaced of yet another 11-year old boy shooting an 8-year old girl just because she wouldn't let him play with her puppy. The girl is dead. This was in Tennessee and just felt a little too close to home. 

Insanity aside, my husband and I wondered what it is that might explain the shocking rise of gun violence in our society. My Sociology background makes me most certain it can't be explained by a single socio-cultural variable, although I firmly believe that easy access to guns accounts for a lot of it. 

And it's not the amount of mentally unstable people out there that terrifies me now. What terrifies me is that I see hints (to say the least) of the type of parenting that engenders the kind of behavior that makes an 11-year old think it's acceptable to hurt another human being because he didn't get what he wanted. 

What terrifies me is that I see around me, on an almost daily basis, adult and parent behavior that could explain why some gun owners refuse sensible changes to existing gun control laws simply because of their desire to protect their right to own guns. Their guns. Their rights. It doesn't seem to matter that there are other voices out there, other more important rights to protect. What's theirs trumps all other cards on the table. 

I'm well aware that I've ranted quite a bit on this site about parents behaving badly in school, specifically in school pick up lines. But if you think about it, it is this same sense of entitlement that potentially creates who we now call 'monsters' or 'evil' after they pick up their guns and shoot innocent and defenseless lives.

It's okay to teach our children that they are special, as long as we don't forget to add that everybody is too, in their own ways. What's not okay is to model behavior that teaches our children that our needs are more important than others'. Or that we are better than everybody else and can get away with anything. 

It's okay to help out our children in times of need. What's not okay is to forget to teach them that actions have consequences, or forget to demonstrate to them how the choices we make create ripple effects and that we are all connected

I'm terrified and I know a lot of you are too. But none of us can afford to let this sense of terror paralyze us. Don't give in to routine responses anymore as our President astutely stated. That would just be tragic and morally irresponsible. 

I decided long ago that I would avoid, as much as I can, any political discussion on this blog. But I can't do it this time. I need to challenge my own routine responses even on this site. If I want to remain authentic, I need to be able to write about what rings loud and true inside me, and at present this is it. I don't want to be numb. Neither do I want to feel and yet do nothing, say nothing. I hope you will not give in to your routine response either if it translates to passivity or indifference. 

Speak up and take a stand. And I hope you will stand up for the right to live, the right to go about your daily lives without the crippling fear that you or those you love will succumb to senseless gun violence. It doesn't make sense that in the U.S. more preschoolers die from gun violence each year than police officers on duty. We can't keep saying that the status quo works because clearly it doesn't. 

Say NO to routine responses, and YES to stricter gun control laws. Change needs to happen at every level. We need to look at not only policy or legislation, but also how we live our daily lives within our families. How are we raising our children? What values are we teaching them? What behavior are we modeling? Are we creating monsters who are disconnected from the world around them and don't fully understand the meaning of humanity? Ask yourselves these questions.

There are a lot of questions to answer and a lot of introspection that needs to happen. But it must be done if we want something to change. In the end, all of us are responsible for each other. Let's not forget that. 


*People magazine released contact information for all 535 voting members of the House and Senate on this link. Please take the time to contact your state representatives to let them know how you want them to act on this issue. Feel free to share the meme and hashtag above (#NoMoreRoutineResponse) on social media.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Remembering Ivy

I’m not sure why I remembered her today. Maybe all the Facebook posts of friends having friends who passed away triggered it.

I met her way before the Facebook age and in a lot of ways I’m glad we did. At the time, writing real letters was the only way to keep in touch without spending a ton of money, and I remember how I eagerly awaited all her letters and postcards from a place that seemed so alien yet so fascinating to me.

Her name is Ivy.  I met her in 1992 when I was a sophomore in the university and I had just shifted majors from Molecular Biology to Sociology.  I didn’t know any of the other students but Ivy took it upon herself to be my ‘buddy’.  She was very friendly and I just remember her making me feel at ease.  As the semesters passed, we would always find ourselves in the same classes and we’d always sit together, mostly in the front row.  We would share notes, be project team mates, review buddies during exams and whenever I had to miss class due to illness or for whatever reason, she would always be there for me to tell me what I’ve missed and let me borrow her notes so I won’t fall behind.  She was that kind of personvery helpful, accommodating, reliable, and highly intelligent.

It did not take long for us to become friends.  Sometimes we would hang out in campus or even go to the mall to catch a movie during our long breaks.  I later found out that she had a Japanese boyfriend ("T") at the time and that things were pretty serious.  Soon after our college graduation, she got married and I was one of her bridesmaids.  It was a quiet yet meaningful ceremony.

A part of me felt it may have been too early. She was fresh out of college and she could still do a lot of things and accomplish much.  Was she ready?  But at the same time, a part of me knew that she was a mature person, strong and capable of whatever life threw at her.

She migrated with T to Japan after getting married.  T’s job was there and of course it was the practical choice.  When Ivy moved, our correspondence began.  I’m pretty sure she was the one who sent the very first letter.  She would send one, I’d reply and send one out.  Then I’d eagerly await her next letter, telling me of her new life in a foreign country.  It was helpful for her adjustment to be in touch with me and it was a wonderful experience for me as she opened my eyes to a bigger world filled with possibilities.  I was a curious and indulging friend and audience and I was always thrilled to learn about her adventures.  We were both in our early 20s yet I knew how vastly different our paths were.  I have always found living abroad on my own a seductive thought, attending a foreign university an exhilarating possibility, and there was my friend living all that.  The choice to live vicariously was a no-brainer for me. 

Her earlier letters were mostly about adjusting to a foreign culture (language, customs, religion, etc).  Then there were letters about adjusting to married life and it did not take long for her letters to then shift to motherhood.  Eventually it became about balancing family life and career as she found work as a teacher and writer and I am certain she excelled in both.  At the time, these were not my realities.  But now that I am also with family and living in a foreign country, I realize that I can find a wealth of wisdom in her letters.  I read her words now and they might as well had been written by me!  Her angst, her struggles with motherhood and its rewards, issues with her spouse, all seem like my own echoes, only these echoes preceded my realities.

In late 2004, the same year I migrated here to the U.S., a devastating tsunami hit various countries in Southeast Asia.  Ivy, with her husband and three children were vacationing in Phuket, Thailand at the time.  It was around Christmas when all this happened and by the New Year, I received news that she died when the tsunami hit. Her husband and three very young children were never found and eventually presumed dead.

None of this made sense to me.  How can this happen?  She was so young, had so much promise, was just starting out, had such young children.  How can this wonderful, almost magical human being leave this earth so soon, so tragically?

Still, none of this makes sense and eleven years after the fact, I still feel my insides grieving for her and her lovely family. I now imagine how it would have been if we were both on Facebook, constantly sharing our writing online, pictures of our children, and inviting each other’s families to visit. I’ll never know, will never find the answers.  All I am grateful for is that in the short time she lived, I knew her and was touched by her beautiful spirit and wisdom she always so selflessly shared. She may be physically gone, yet her presence, her mark, lives on in each life she has touched along the way.  That, I am certain of. 

In one of the science shows I watch, where the topic was the possibility of life after death, someone suggested that this merely refers to the legacy we leave behind after dying. An idea was proposed that each life can be likened to a mosaic, an image made of tiny pieces, details put together in a beautiful way.  While we are alive, those we touch around us, those special to us or to whom we are special, are able to make a ‘copy’ of that mosaic. Though the pieces are much larger, less complex, less intricate, and therefore more blurry and less precise, what results is still a copy of the original, albeit less perfect.

I find comfort in this idea. Now that Ivy is gone and I read her words as she shared her life as a mother, wife, writer and thinker in a foreign country, I realize that she has been living within me and through me all this time. She died young but I could never say that her life could have been better, could have been fuller or more meaningful. She took great risks, loved deeply, thought profoundly and lived passionately. Is there really anything to regret?

She continues to inspire me, nudging me to do my best to try to make as many worthwhile copies of my own mosaic while I still have time. And the numbers don’t matter as much to me as the quality of these copies. I wish them to be as intricate and as pronounced as they could possibly be. After all, life is indeed measured not by its length but by its beauty, by how you touched others' lives and the value you have added to the world during your borrowed time. In the end, it boils down to lovehow much and how deeply you knew love and never feared to live it and be in its presence in all that you do.

Thank you, my friend. Thank you, Ivy, for loving life and allowing me to witness how gracefully you did it.

*This essay was previously published on Catharsis on 8.5.2011 under the title Her Vibrant Mosaic. It has been modified for this current publication.