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I received a very honest letter from a friend a couple of weeks ago. It was a short letter, barely two lines long. I guess she wanted to keep it simple, since her life must be getting quite complicated nowadays. You see, she just lost someone she loved, and we all know when that happens, our world generally gets turned upside-down.
Her email asked me a couple of questions, but they were questions that couldn’t be easily answered. Her words stared back at me from the screen and I struggled for the right thing to say. She was asking me how long will the grief last? How long will the pain of losing someone you love last? After a while, I decided to answer her as honestly as I could. Why? Because I wished someone told me the same things when my mom died instead of trying to sugarcoat the reality of the situation for me.
I told her that the grieving will never stop, because there are still moments in my life when I still catch myself crying whenever I remember my mom, but I did tell her that in time, the emptiness and pain will be much easier to bear.
I also told her that she might reach a point when she will get angry with the world and with the people around her — and that’s okay. I was enraged for a long time. I couldn’t believe people could go about their lives laughing and be so blissfully unaware. I mean, how could they enjoy life when someone who used to make me laugh, who used to fill my life with love was now suddenly gone? It just didn’t make sense and it felt so unreal and so unfair.
If I told her about rage, I also told her that unlike pain, the anger will vanish in time. She will learn to smile and laugh again, because if there’s one thing death could make anyone realize is that, life is too short to remain angry for too long.
I also warned her that she might suddenly start to have questions about faith. I told her that when my mom died, there was a part of me that rebelled against God and questioned Him and life in general. I reached a point when I couldn’t hold it in anymore: I ranted, I raged, I talked to Him as if He was in the room with me and I cried. Deep within, from my very core the tears came … I cried out all my fury and my pain, and I knew that God heard me and He listened. I can’t explain how, but I knew that He was there the whole time I dished it out. Yes it’s a good thing that God is a patient and faithful God — He never turned His back on me when this happened. After that, things started getting better.
Above everything else, I told my friend that she will survive. Life will not be as sweet as it used to be, but she will overcome and survive — and that’s what matters most.
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What do you do when the world is spinning out of your control? When things are simply not going your way?
Let’s face it, despite all the pep talk that “experts” are giving out there about how you could always be in control of your space and your life — there will be times when things are simply not going to turn out the way you planned them to. You wake up one day and you realize with mounting horror that certain facets of your life are about to come crashing down. So, what do you do when that happens? Roll over and play dead? Heck no!
If you can’t control the situation, then control YOUR REACTION to the situation. What do I mean? Chin up honey, fight back and never let the negative emotions get to you. Think about it, will things improve if you start moping around while blaming other people and yourself? Of course not, so kick yourself into some positive action. Smile, take a bath, tell yourself you can handle the situation, clear your head — think of your options (there are always options) and get down on your knees and ask for divine guidance. Remember what Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Actually, Cherry, a friend of mine, has a very convincing way of putting it too, she said (through her facebook shoutout):
“Sometimes we can feel down, distracted and so lost, this is how I felt today, but at some point I said to myself, I know that it’s just a passing phase and that I will wake up tomorrow feeling better… so why wait? ….”
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I was munching on some Oreos while watching t.v. the other day when I saw this ad, featuring a well-known actress smiling like an angel onscreen for a lotion commercial, then she said the star-powered tagline, “I don’t want to grow old.”
My Lord, I nearly fell off my chair when I heard it. What the heck was that? Has the viewpoint on aging really gone that bad these past years. I mean, yes, I am aware of all those anti-aging products that are flooding the market nowadays, but it seems to me that people today are not just obsessed about growing old gracefully, but they are actually scared witless at the prospect of losing their youth. This is ridiculous! Aging is a part of life, there’s nothing wrong about it. It’s just the way we were meant to progress as human beings — to grow old is an integral part of our essence. There is nothing scary or awful about aging. It is a phase of life that we should celebrate. Why? Because maturity brought about by our experiences comes with aging. It only means that we’ve lived a full life — and we can share our insights and wisdom with the people around us. I think Morrie (in Tuesdays with Morrie) said it best, when he commented that, “As you grow old, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, its also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”
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I’ve seen them so many times and I wonder if other people see them? A pitcher standing by a windowsill, a bridge bathed in the golden glow of sunset, a child dancing happily in the rain, or a single leaf falling ever so gently and so slowly to the ground. I call them steal moments. I can’t explain why, but there’s always something so sad and so ethereal about them …. like dandelions sailing away on a summer wind.
They are fleeting, distinct memories snatched from the hands of time itself; glittering away in all honesty that they take your breath away … but only for an instant …. Then time would open up its eternal maw and swallow them whole, leaving you with fragments of broken images and poignant feelings. I often wonder how many steal moments pass us by without us realizing how much we’ve lost and how much we’ve taken for granted. Sometimes I wonder if people are aware of the fact that they are alive, that every moment counts, that every breath in this world is worth taking. I wonder if the daily rigors of living and surviving have taken a toll on our souls, that we’ve forgotten that there are things that can never be retrieved, that time has a way of stealing and pocketing precious memories until they are lost and forgotten. How sad, how heartbreaking, to have lost the opportunity to share, to laugh and to love the beauty of this world and of its people. If only we can go back and catch that leaf before it hits the ground? If only we can look back and hear the laughter of a child so dear to us? If only we can recreate moments and embrace the people we love and who matter most to us? If only we can stop the Piper from playing his song? If only … but perhaps it is not too late … and though the clock is still ticking away … counting down the minutes … we still possess the courage to face the passage of time with a smile on our face, guided by the knowledge and the resolution that from now on, we will live every second of our lives to the fullest, with the people we love right beside us. These are our gifts as human beings, the gift to open our minds to possibilities and the gift to redress any shortcomings. All we have to do is take the step forward and reach out in order to re-weave the broken strings of lost chances and missed possibilities, making them stronger by entwining them with the lives of the people around us. After all, our life is made infinitely richer and meaningful by the mere presence and support of the people we love.
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It was a typical afternoon when I was hunting through the shelves of my school library for something to read and as luck would have it, I chanced upon The Fellowship of the Ring, a book that would later on enthrall and excite me. I browsed through the first few pages and pretty soon the images of Hobbits tickled my imagination, and I fell under the spell of JRR Tolkien’s storytelling. I just couldn’t put the book down anymore and I read one page after another, anxiously wondering how Frodo’s quest would turn out and if the people of Middle-earth would survive the Third Age.
After completely reading the trilogy, I suddenly understood the respect and the love other people had for Middle-earth, and for all the characters that lived and died in its pages. I am not surprised that it became the book of the century, although critics may scoff and turn green at the very thought, they cannot deny the fact that Tolkien touched something within all of us, and with his words he managed to make our primordial fantasies and desires come to life. He gave them flesh, breathe life into them and placed them in a world where the child in us would jump at the chance of living in such a mythical land.
It is no wonder then, that last night, the child in me was seized with the sudden urge to revisit that land of mystery and adventure that hovered between the verge of our dreams and reality. For the nth time, I watched the Fellowship of the Ring as directed by Peter Jackson. I was already caught up in the excitement of attending Bilbo’s birthday party, and while sitting down uninvited in his living room area, and idly listening to what Gandalf and him were talking about, I was suddenly struck by something he said. He told Gandalf that he realized, “It is not a bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” I stopped and thought things over; and the wisdom of those simple words dawned on me.
We are always aspiring for one thing or another in life, always mulling over the fact that we don’t have the latest Versace shirt; that we haven’t eaten at this fancy restaurant everyone’s talking about; that our cell phone isn’t the latest model; or that everyone else has an iPod and we don’t — and heaven knows the rest of the brouhaha we are “dying” to get our hands on — thanks to society and marketing of course. We all dream of being rich and famous, always associating happiness with money and fame, that we forget that life is a journey into becoming a person of substance and compassion. That at the end of it all, we will die, our flesh would rot away and that no matter how much we pamper ourselves, the worms would still have their way with us.
At the final stage of our voyage, we will face our Creator, and what would we have to say then? What would carry more weight, our Bvlgari watch, or how much of a person were we to others? Were we fair, were we self-righteous, did we think we always had the right answers, or did we struggle to rise up against our shortcomings to win some fight and lose others? How did we cope in the end? Or should I dare ask it — what did we do?
Life is simple, we just manage to complicate things along the way. Enjoy the free things — the sun, the wind, the sea, the earth … your life … your family … your friends … your essence … your soul, because these were the gifts that the Creator in His wisdom and compassion gave you from the very start. I think, after everything has been said and done, Bilbo’s idea isn’t so bad after all.