Friday, December 23, 2016

I Wish Us All an Elusive Gift

"Peace on Earth and good will to all men."

All my life I’ve heard this greeting during the holidays and I’ve always thought it made sense to me.

May peace be with you. I thought I understood what this meant every time this was spoken. As a child I thought Peace only meant experiencing silence in the literal sense, or calm and the absence of war in the world.

But now that I’m much older, I’m comforted that I understand more. This isn't to say that I don't struggle with taking it to heart though. These days when I'm constantly bombarded with information on what's going on around the world, when feelings of anger and despair overwhelm me because of politics I disagree with, it becomes deeply challenging to surrender to Peace. There are days when I truly feel depressed and defeated by my inner turmoil. 

I know I choose this and it's a mistake to continue to do so. We all choose this defeat and so my wish for myself and to all of you is to find strength to choose Peace...

Peace…Yes it’s a state of calm. Yes it’s tranquility. Yes it’s the absence of war or turmoil. Most importantly, all these things apply to our inner worlds as much as it does to our external reality.

Peace is to be able to accept things for how they are. It’s the ability to befriend the imperfections that surround you, silence the irrational insatiability that haunts you, or to simply be present in the moment instead of resisting it. 

Peace is to silence the fear within you with faith as you give in to the wisdom that tells you that life is not about control, and that real happiness is not dependent on always getting what we desire. 

Peace be to you. May you embrace the imperfections of your family and practice unconditional love as much as your humanity can allow.

Peace be to you. May you accept and embrace yourself wholeheartedly the way you are now and not a future desired version of your self.

Peace be to you. May you sit in quiet comfort having faith that you have what you need at this moment.

Peace be to you. May you have the strength and wisdom to see what you can control and which realities you need to surrender to. May you triumph over your sorrows by choosing to think and act with your soul instead of your limited earth self.

Peace be to you. May you feel only gratitude and openly receive all the love that is available to you, no matter how flawed the source or circumstance might be.

May Christmas and the spirit of the holidays bring you true and enduring Peace!

*This is an updated version of A Christmas Wish from Catharsis. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Breaking Through the Grief

Sometimes I ask myself why I keep choosing to do this. Must I really remember her this way and in the process taint what's supposed to be festive with something somber?

Six years after I lost Emily, I still include her in our holiday decorations. There is an angel on my tree each year which I bought to specifically represent her, and a tiny stocking has always hung on our mantel for her as well. This year, it's become even more pronounced because my 9-year-old son insisted on finally changing his to a big stocking. He has grown much, after all. Emily never did. 

In the first week of December 2010, I miscarried. It was my second attempt at IVF and after having success with our first one, my husband and I were confident and optimistic. I took it for granted that I was not immune to miscarriages and really thought that as long as my pregnancy took and I remained cautious that everything would end up well. 

It did not and I lost my childwho I was later told was a girlat 7 weeks. 

I've done my active grieving although, as I always say, grief doesn't really completely end but only wanes, ebbs and flows. The tears that needed to be shed have been shed. The anger towards God has been expressed and reconciliation has been found. The echoes of questions have tired and have found their way to serenity. But something always remains and anyone who has grieved can understand this...

The wondering lingers, on some days more pronounced than others. And we all know the holiday season increases one's sentimentality exponentially. 

It's the wondering about how the picture you're looking at and the life you're living might be like had things turned out differently, if the person you're missing were still around. 

It's the wondering about the ripples that person's life would have created and how transformed you would have been if you were blessed with their influence. 

It's the wondering about the love your heart misses, whether you had it for a long time or it only touched you momentarily. Either way the absence of that love carves out a deep crater that you now must tread alongside it carefully, lest you find yourself trapped within it. 

That is why I continue to choose to remember Emily especially during the holidays. When my heart fills with love and anticipation, remembering her forces my heart to see that in spite of the wondering and that sense of loss, Gratitude still wins as I am able to see my life as one that still ended up complete and perfect in its humble way. 

Gratitude shows itself to me when I remember that in spite of the heartbreak and anger towards God, I was never made to feel alone and forgotten; that this God allowed me to find healing at my own pace and realize the wisdom behind how our lives unfold even when we don't understand things at first. 

Even after six years, my grief still continues to bless me and I see no better time to be reminded and celebrate that kind of breakthrough than during the holidays. The fact is, there is now more peace and love than sadness and loss when I look at those stockings on our mantel. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Things Will Fall Apart...And Then What?

Every morning after I successfully drag my feet to our kitchen to prepare breakfast, one of the first things I see are the ant traps sitting in one corner of our counter top. They've been there for months. We had a minor ant attack in the summer, as if the heat alone wasn't enough to remind me that we do live in the South. Anyway, after a few sprays with diluted vinegar and a friendly visit from our pest control guy, the problem was taken care of. The weather also turned cooler so I really don't expect them to come back until maybe next summer again. 

So why keep the traps? I ask myself that every morning of every day when I glance at those black squares in the corner. The truth is, every day when I see those traps, I feel myself holding my breath a little as a brace myself and wonder if I would see specks of black or reddish-brown crawling around. I know the likelihood is low but I'm expecting the worst and convince myself that this daily awareness, though a torture, is better than being unprepared. 

But is it?

Is worrying about what could happen and perpetually wait for the other shoe to drop thinking you can truly be fully prepared for it, really a better state of mind than the alternative? 

As a self-professed overthinker and worrier, I'm painfully aware of the thin line that separates preparedness from paranoia. It's a very delicate line that if one is not mindful can easily be crossed, leaving you feeling consumed and unable to enjoy life fully.

I have wasted many yearsand still do waste some moments to this date as I work through my recovery—trying to debate if I should let things be and enjoy the moment, or anticipate, prepare and even preempt. 

There was a time when, after having just moved to the South and hearing of news of tornadoes, I did not see the point in decorating our newly built home. I kept hesitating to buy furnishings and told myself, what for if all this can just be destroyed by one bad storm that can hit any time?

More than a decade ago, after breaking up with an ex and then deciding to remain friends and explore the possibility of getting back together, I squandered immeasurable amounts of time debating with myself about the unknown future. I weighed my options and shredded every scenario to unrecognizable pieces, wondering if I should just cut the cord altogether for fear that the relationship was going nowhere and that I wouldn't be able to handle the inevitable second heartbreak that was looming in the corner. I even went so far as to employ the decision matrix à la Pascal's Wager: staying vs. cutting the cord against the two possible outcomes namely ending up together vs. living separate lives. Can one get even more neurotic than that? Yes, the matrix did help me decide, in case you were wondering. However, I can't deny the amount of time I wasted overthinking the whole thing instead of just surrendering to what I felt to be true. 

To say that this entire past year jolted me and thrust upon me changes and realities completely unexpected is an understatement. 

Early this year, a very dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. Another family member received similar news just a couple of months ago.

My parents have suddenly decided to significantly downsize and put our home in the market. 

The United Kingdom voted for Brexit.

My father-in-law passed away.

My two countries, the Philippines and the United States, both elected the less desirable candidates for presidency, men who are clearly not the rational choices in all objectivity. 

Another good friend of mine found out she was going to be laid off after being on that job for more than a decade and all this in spite of doing her work so well that almost everyone in her workplace relied on her. The organization just decided to eliminate her position. 

I can go on and ruminate further on how life has taken me by surprise this year, mostly in unpleasant ways, but the point is this: Indeed, preparing to some extent for the unforeseen  is wise, but never to the point where the future is robbing you of your present. A life lived in a constant state of anxiety about what the future may hold, or one where present choices always feel constrained for fear of a future built on lackfear of not having enough money, not enough love, not enough jobs, not enough friends, not enough time—is not living fully. It starves your soul of possible growth, adventure and wisdom. If you always make your decisions based on your worst case scenarios, you will find yourself fully depleted and yet replete with regrets. You will be left wondering where time went and will be haunted by a sense of mourning, asking yourself why you did not when you still could.

You can really only prepare yourself so much and if you're being completely honest, you know that peace can only be found in relinquishing control. Wisdom will make you realize that there is power in surrender. 

To me, as cliche as it sounds, the key to being present in your Now is to choose what makes you authentically happy. It's not a mindless and selfish way of existence. On the contrary, it requires a lot of introspection in order to define what makes you soulfully happy. And I doubt that the answer would ever lead to anything material. If we focus on answering that question, I suspect we would find it easier to choose to be in the present moment rather than being slaves to our anxieties about the future.