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LIFE DOESN’T FRIGHTEN ME

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My 8-year-old niece recited Maya Angelou’s “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” for her English class subject. Her mom posted it in FB and I watched it in full admiration for her ability to memorize and say the words with clarity and expression.

Listening to her poem felt like entering a door inside me.

It was the first time I heard “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” and it came at a time when life seems to be frightening me more and more.

The ongoing war in Aleppo, Mosul, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East, the genocide in Myanmar, Trump rising, chaos in the government, a plane crashing killing an entire football team and their coaching staff and journalists because of lack of fuel, earthquakes in Italy, Japan, Indonesia and elsewhere, the appalling migrant crisis in Europe, human trafficking and many other tragic news seems to pull me strongly to be scared about life.

When I heard my niece recited the poem I realized how this past months fear has crept in heavily on me.  Some are saying its best to skip the news and stay unscathed by horrifying stories around us. Yet this is not how I want to live. I cannot not read simply to protect myself from the pain of knowing.

With the advent of the internet though there is a tsunami of visual bombardment of graphic information. Some are really way beyond what the heart can receive. The other night I deliberately did not look at the video of a teen-ager in Mosul whose body was dragged before a tank. The article said it crushed the boy’s head.

Apparently it came from the very same photo-journalist who posted the iconic picture of a young boy from Syria who sat stunned, bleeding and motionless in an ambulance which captured the hearts of global viewers. If it was the same photo-journalist who participated in the death of an Iraqi teen-ager and in bringing out the iconic photo of a young boy in Syria to blame Assad’s regime then it is truly frightening. The media may not be telling the truth also. I also think of Bana Alabed, the 7-year-old girl mom who kept posting with her mom’s help from the war-torn Syria since September. I also am confused how could they continue to have a Wi-Fi access when everything else was taken from them by the atrocious civil war?  It frightens me to realize that we don’t really know what to believe anymore. Propaganda initiatives is making a fool of all of us if ever even Bana from Twitter is a fictitious character.

Life also frightens me knowing that Trump will very soon take office. It frightens me that there were really people who voted for him. For real.

Life frightened me recently too when I heard that my brother needed to seek a specialist for a health concern.

Life frightens me as I hear news of my mother having  forgetful episodes already. I think of the possibility of her having age-related illnesses such as dementia. I pray it will never happen. I know what ravages Alzheimer’s can do to a person having lived with someone for the past ten years and counting.

Life frightens me when I see an introvert, shy-looking teen-age niece who is studying in a Catholic school, suddenly posting a picture of her almost naked self in a skimpy swim-suit in social media. 

Life frightens me when a once bright-eyed, bubbly and highly smart  nine-year old girl I know as a baby  drastically  changed into a  violent, extremely anxious, verbally abusive and depressive person. Her inability to cope after a bullying experience at school and her teacher’s refusal to acknowledge the incident shattered her not even a  decade old spirit. She now  refused to step out of the house for months already and never went back to school. This week she has to be restrained and brought to a psychiatrist.

Life frightens me whenever I am having a chest discomfort. ECG result did not show a need for further test and a doctor told me it could just be an acid reflux. But it still frightens me as I still have the pain now and then.  I read that at times the first sign of a heart illness is death.

Where were the years when I don’t have these morbid thoughts?

Where were the years when I read or watch the news and not really feel affected by it?

Where were the years of my life when cholesterol, triglycerides, SGPT were not part of my vocabulary?

Where were the years when death is seen only for other people?

Aging, maybe aging is doing this to me. Now I know more clearly that death is real and time here on earth is limited. When your young life seems to be forever.

But who have I become through the years?

Why does life frighten me  when I’m supposed to be a woman of faith and with a life completely surrendered to God?

Is it because of my regular reading of news nowadays, both locally and abroad  which I was not really doing in the past?

Is it because I have acquaintances and friends near and far who had sicknesses or some even died already?

Is it because a most beloved friend/mentor is aging and I know I am apprehensive about being on my own when she dies because of  her silent heart related health issues?

Conditions may not also be according to how I wish things are at the home front and I may also be having a quiet, pervasive and long-standing down time. I know I am going through a deeper sadness in my own life as I enter my 50’s and yielding, struggling to the re-shaping of a deep celibate friendship as his life’s work and geographical move has to be respected.

Am I grieving for the seeming loss of a familiar regular conversations which circumstances is asking me to let go?   Am I in transition as I realized more and more that ultimately I am and will be ALONE? Yet I know this is what is being asked of me.  It’s  my  path towards my own authentic inner freedom and emotional/spiritual maturity at this time of my personal journey, this what I call yielding mode.

It’s been many months too since my last period. I may also be in a pre-menopausal chemical imbalance mode. I can also be affected physiologically and it may be coming out in my tendency to dwell on life’s harshness and attachments to old ways.

I don’t know but the truth is it feels good to be able to name all this. To say fully that life frightens me ironically feels freeing at the same time.

I am not ashamed to name how I feel.

I am not feeling apologetic too  that this is where I have found myself now. In a space where  I am not supposed to be “seen”as dictated by how others expects who I should be. As a nun I am expected to be without fear. Only faith.

I call this a home-visit. This is me visiting my own self and finding her afraid and yet it is alright. I know I don’t even need to explain myself to anyone. I just wanted to write and acknowledge that life frightens me. This is my own truth. Right now. I am grateful for having come across Maya’s poem.

As I listened to Maya read her poem in You Tube it has a soothing, calming effect on me. Yes, I have fears but here comes Maya saying that there’s another mode of living. She’s not giving a list of assurances of a terror-free existence in her poem. She’s simply saying it doesn’t scare her at all.

And if she can live that way I know I can too.  Maya has Faith in God. She has Faith in herself. She has Faith in LIFE.  Without needing to convince myself the words of Maya Angelou quietly gives me hope and an abiding sense that I am safe and will continue to be safe and need not fear life.

In life and in death I belong to God.

LIFE DOESN’T FRIGHTEN ME

Shadows on the wall

Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose

Lions on the loose

they don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
on my counterpane
that doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
so they fly
I just smile
they go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight

All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
with their hair in curls)
they don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes

And listen for my scream,

If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
that I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
and never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

– Maya Angelou

 

 

NEARING 50

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There is sadness.  I feel floating.   Not really lost but unfocused, scattered. I have no one to hold on to.

Is this midlife transition?

I don’t run after friends. I prefer to read a book, watch a movie, and be by myself.  I don’t go for connections. I am okay not to be in the know, not to be involved, not to be consulted, not to be a part of anything. I am okay to be just on my own.

I want to be quiet. 

My life is passing by. I am nearing 50.  

Is it also possible that my desire to retreat is out of fear of the pains of life and not out of love for life? 

Balance. This is where I want to be. How?

It is important that I come to terms with my own inner noises. I feel good learning finally to listen to what is most real and meaningful for me and not just let others define it for me. I don’t hold the complete picture but more than anyone else it is I who knows  myself  best.

As I near this 50 marker how do I continue living in this path of longing for that “space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect?”

Serenity is what I want but I don’t want a pale, bland, so-so serene life.

I know by now that life is not as simple as I wish it is. 

Serenity is not an empty, shallow, uncomplicated  space. It is actually for those who dare to be brave. Serenity sounds   peaceful and quiet but it is not really like that. It takes self-awareness, commitment and a lot of healing of our relationship with ourselves and others.    

  • to hold oneself in the midst of darkness and alone-feeling
  • to consciously opt for what we have chosen in spite of its unpopularity  
  • to gratefully accept that this is the life that has been given to us and to let unlived childhood dreams go by
  • to let go of all that is already shattered and all that will never be due to circumstances we cannot and have no control at all

… These among others are what I believe makes a serene life. It is not easy. No one told us it will be. The choices we are making in our late 40’s, in our 50’s to be happy, to be serene is NEVER easy.

Nearing 50, I hope I can really “practice” in real life what I am writing about serenity. There’s a huge gap between knowing and actually living. Right now I am grateful and serene.

 

 

LONG BEFORE HER FUNERAL SHE IS ALREADY DEAD

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Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer's patient in No...

Auguste Deter. Alois Alzheimer’s patient in November 1901, first described patient with Alzheimer’s Disease. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her life is about to finished and it is really sad. It is very sad that long before her funeral she is already gone because of Alzheimer’s disease.

Anger. Resentments.

I used to think that I have already forgiven her but lately I am getting in touch with the same emotions I have for her. It was as if I was telling her “You should have done this and it’s your fault that our life is not as good as it should be when we were young.”

But it is over.

I want to already forgive her for everything. It is useless to hold on to whatever pains I have because of her. She didn’t know any better. She was not just hard on others. She was first and foremost hard on herself.

I don’t exactly know the kind of life she had as a young girl that made her who she was as an adult. I do not know where her fears came from. I do not know why money became the sole focus of her energy and rarely relationships. I do not know her really. All I know is the controlling woman whom others are afraid of. All I know is the woman who have no qualms saying bad words about others, shouting, yelling and embarrassing people. Money is her priority. She is a miser, a very stingy person.  She lies a lot. She speaks ill of other at a drop of a hat.   In spite of her money she has no heart to help others.

I think my grandma is a very fearful person and she take security in her money.     In time she will lose her mind completely and none of what she acquired and saved would matter anymore.

Grandma is just reaping what she sowed. There was so little love, so little bonding with others, so little good memories.

But I feel that I am being asked right now  to beg God for the grace to forgive and let go every single trace of my resentments. I need to let go of all this for my sake and not for her. By this time we are steadily losing her already. In a short while she will be off. It is really a tragic end. Who would have thought that a person like her would end up wearing the same shabby, foul-smelling duster for two to three months, sitting outdoors  and just stare at people like those abandoned elders in the street.

I see her and I know with all my heart that this is no more the time to hold on to any negativities. Whatever faults she committed on others she might already be paying for it. Or maybe there’s no such thing. Maybe she is who she is now because of her choices in the past. It is not about being punished. It is simply as it is.

One day her mind would shut down and that would be her freedom. Meanwhile she is suffering from loneliness and abandonment. She is ending her life in a very sad tone. Alone, dirty, hungry and filled with darkness. Maybe there are no regrets for her. Maybe she doesn’t really know what she has missed or is missing.

All along maybe she never knew what it was to love and be loved.

Now in my own adult years I see more and more that she is the best example of the person I don’t want to be. I still have time to know love and be loved.