RSS Feed

Tag Archives: self-acceptance

Be happy. You never know how much time you have left.

Posted on

An on-set of shortness of breath when climbing the stairs, a strange rapid heartbeat with a simple manual task, an experience of chest pain at night ~ all these made me extra anxious last night. In bed, I lingered on memories of people I know who were around my age dying without saying goodbye. Around this time last year, a 49-year-old friend, the husband of a college best-friend suddenly died of an aneurysm.

It was a different kind of impending doom last night. I was wondering if I would still wake up. Maybe this is a normal passing phase. There is nothing embarrassing about fearing death but I can choose not to let this fear consume me.

Last night before sleeping, my prayer was different. I surrendered myself to God in case I don’t get to wake up anymore. I asked forgiveness for all my sins and entrust all to his mercy. I slept less fearful. It was one of those rare moments of complete surrender.

The next thing I remember is hearing my alarm clock. Half-awake I smiled. I thanked God. I am still alive. I kind of see God smiling also, teasing me about uselessly worrying.

Musing on death at 50 when one has these physiological signs is normal. It’s important that I am in touch with my body. If I need to, I will later consult a doctor.

Pausing as I write is a way of re-setting my inner vault. I know death will come and it is something I have no control over although I can also try to eat mindfully to lower my cholesterol! 🙂 Knowing that there is a LIMIT makes me cherish life in a way I never did in my younger years. I feel a stronger nudge to use “wisely” my remaining years on this side of life. It inspires me to practice concrete loving actions, not to keep resentments, not to hold any prejudice, ill-will, or any other negativities around me. In the light of a limited life-span, what are those toxic energies for?

I will always have uncharitable actions and dark/ugly thoughts, words and feelings but in my desire to simplify and live in gratitude and serenity I will keep choosing to re-set by forgiving myself, others, situations (and sometimes even God).

“Be happy. You never know how much time you have left.”

I have no idea how much time I still have but nearing 50 I can say that I already had a long life. I have outlived Eugene twice over. My brother who opted out.

My nephews and nieces are now transitioning from being kids to their late teens. I am currently privy, especially with the girls’ struggles with self-image, self-worth, loneliness, break-ups and all other battles typical in their age. Thanks to their social media accounts, and their choices not to put me on restricted privacy setting, I am somehow given access to their lives. Witnessing where they are now, I also see my younger self in the 80’s. The blunders I myself did back then allows me to empathize rather than judge.

A niece in her 20’s is now in a relationship with another girl. She claims to be bisexual. The quiet one among my three older nieces, an introvert, she came to see me with her “friend” to “come out.”

Choosing to be loving rather than right, I hugged her as an assurance that I love her even if I cannot yet comment on her being bisexual. I would have wanted her to be a heterosexual and give long reasons why her choice will complicate her life but then she came to seek acceptance and not advice. I wanted her to be at ease with who she is, without needing to defend her choices nor feel unacceptable because of who she loves.

For now, I can only pray and beg for a miracle that one day she falls in love with a man. But even if she remains who she is now, I will choose to be at peace with that. I do not support same-sex relationships but it is not for me to decide who she should be.

I was thinking of all these last night and it came to me that eventually I will disappear from their lives and they will continue on their journey. Like me, I believe they too will have a beautiful life ahead of them in a packaging that God knows will be best for each one. It will not be without “dark-moments” but they will graciously survive as I myself did all these years.

I have been gifted with a long life, solid friendships, peace, contentment, gratitude, self-forgiveness, mercy – in a place, a home, a Community, I have never ever imagined nor expected. I fully believe that God will do the same for them because all of us are HIS BELOVED.

And these are my reflections after worrying of dying in my sleep last night. 

LIFE DOESN’T FRIGHTEN ME

Posted on

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

 

 

PEMA CHODRON’S MAITRI

Posted on

 

I continue to be still and sit twice a day. An Easter gift.  15 minutes, 30 minutes…whatever. The important thing is I am trying not to read but sit still as I gather “ALL OF ME.” This feels right. This idea of “everything belongs” as Rohr put it. Not rejecting any part of my past. I read a line that went like this, “When was the last time you visited yourself?” When I sit I call it home-visit.

Sitting still is not just really about the self but being with God within me, in the innermost silent part of my awareness. It is not self-preoccupation because when I am silent I know I am with God and not just with myself.   Pema might not be saying this in her writings but this is how it is for me, in my own personal experience of sitting down which I call prayer.

The purpose of sitting/meditating/centering/praying is not to go on a peace ride. It is not to feel good, holy or to escape from real life situations. Slowly I am beginning to understand that nothing will really exempt anyone from the “restlessness/big and small sufferings” of life. No meditation can make our lives problem-free but it can help us see things clearly.

According to Pema Chodron in her book, The Places that Scare You, seeing things clearly is one among the four qualities of maître we cultivate as we sit still or practice silent prayer or meditation.  The four qualities are:

Steadfastness

Clear seeing

Experiencing our emotional distress

Attention to the present moment

What is MAITRI?

Pema wrote that Maitri means unconditional friendliness or being totally relaxed with ourselves. It is relating with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception.  All that makes us feel ugly, small and dirty are now seen in a different light. Self-forgiveness begins. Unhealthy choices in the past towards others and the self is seen with a deeper acceptance and understanding. We realized more and more that  everyone is doing the best they can with the inner resources that they had and that includes ourselves.  It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that  we can let go of harmful patterns in our lives and allow lasting transformation to happen.

Maitri is HONORING our lives, the choices we made and not made.  Maitri is freeing ourselves from our own self-criticisms and negative beliefs that make us shameful and feeling unworthy.   It is givin ourselves permission to be exactly who we are including all the blunders, mistakes, immoralities, weaknesses, failures and all that we see as wrong episodes of our lives in the past and even at present.

Another word I can use for maître is self-compassion. It is a relationship with one’s self where there is nothing to defend or to protect.  This idea of maitri or unconditional acceptance of ourselves embraces all that we are without excuses, without needing to explain, without taking issue with anything or anyone

Maitri is allowing the self to come out from the cave of shame, anger, blame and unforgiveness.   It is our awakening to the truth that all along our sanity and well-being depends on our being our own primary support and best friend.

This stance to life does not fix all our angst, restlessness and issues but it provides a sense of safety and acceptance to be just who we really are. There are no harsh expectations, no demands, and no conditions. There is no need to control.

We begin to be more patient and understanding with our own self as we continue to sit still (pray.)  It is a new experience of knowing our vulnerabilities, all that we believe is fragile within us, all that makes us doubt in our own and in other’s goodness, all that makes life fearful, groundless and unsafe and yet we can be calm, open and kind towards our own self and others.

Maitri is the spirituality of POPE FRANCIS. It is the essence of his “Who are we to judge?” statement.

Maitri is Mercy. God’s face is MERCY.

All along this is what Pema and all other spiritual teachers are telling us: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love others.    This love is a merciful, compassionate love and it starts with our selves.

I often forget this.

Hopefully I can begin again.

 

NEARING 50

Posted on

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.

 

 

NOTHING TO PROVE – NOTHING TO PROTECT

Posted on

“Long for that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.” – Richard Rohr.

Through the years I have this feeling that she is ignoring me.  When we talk I could see the disinterested posture.  But I also see efforts at her end. Maybe my being aloof is quite apparent too.  There is something between us that makes me uncomfortable.

But as I aged I see this connection now for what it is and I have become willing to drop the drama. In life it is impossible to be friends and intimate with everyone. It is not obligatory to be friends with all. There will always be people with whom a smile and slight nod is enough.

In the past it felt like if someone is not friendly with me it means I am not good enough.  It makes me feel small and invisible. The rejection signal is up.

My discomfort with X is coming from a perceived threat which may or may not be real. Memories of the past may be influencing me. I cannot completely marked X with the past and even if this wavelength between us remains the same it is alright.  I always have the choice to step back and be aware of my own responses. We are simply not friends but we are not enemies too.

I wanted to write about this because of my need to remind myself not to cave in into this scenario again.

Growing up I now see that my need to be liked, approved of, accepted and all that feeling that makes me feel good about myself, dictates my serenity. Everything depended on how people around me behaved towards me. It doesn’t always show because I am good at pretending but I now understand how I lived all those years seeking for my peace in the eyes of others.

Do they show interest? Do they listen to me? Are they basically warm or nice to me?  Do they like me?

Bruised by my early experiences in life and human as I am, it is normal that I get hurt when there are situations that make me feel poor about myself but I now have a clearer mind to refuse to latch on those aches. I can nip it in the bud; let it go and refuse to make a drama.

In the past I rely on external circumstances to define the quality of my everyday life. Finally I have this inner shift. I see myself turning inward where true peace resides.

It is so freeing not to allow others to dictate my inner weather. No one outside of me can define me anymore.  Wanting to be liked, accepted and approved of is a basic human need.  I am referring to excessive and unhealthy needs here. Sometimes we can get ruined by a slight word of    criticism   or when others simply blocked or fail to approve our friend request in FB.

It is refreshing to finally understand that it is not compulsory, it is not obligatory that everyone likes me. The world owes me nothing. People owe me nothing. Not their time, not their attention, not their friendship, – nothing!

I know I will still get slighted at any sign of being ignored or being made to feel invisible but hopefully I can already cut it short and be mindful of the truth that what I can already give myself: A healthy self-esteem, a positive self-regard, a sense of calm and balance rooted in my own center and not on others.

Long for that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.

I pray that I have already entered  this space where  there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect.  There is nothing around me that should make me walk on egg shells.     I don’t have to please anyone to feel safe, to feel good about myself.  On my own I am safe. On my own I am good enough.

And if I see others stepping back from me or not being warm with me, (for varied reasons I shouldn’t fabricate a story about) I will not to see it as an attack against me. I will try my very best not to equate others reactions towards me as due to my not being good enough. Most of the time, their reaction is about them and not about me. I am not the center of the universe. If people around me opt not to gravitate around me it is okay. I can lighten up, secure in this space of not needing to prove anything to anyone, not even to God. (He loves me just as I am was a cliché when I was younger, now it makes sense to me!)

The bottom line is: No one owes me anything. I am not entitled to anything. And it also helps to remember that people are intrinsically good. Except for completely warped personalities people are basically good and loving.  They too are just caught up with their own personal struggles and self-esteem issues.  Sometimes we can spend so much energy worried about what others are thinking about us when in reality we are not at all in their coverage area.  And those others can go through the same scenario: worrying what we think of them.

When we enter that space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect silence sets in. Our need to uphold an image melts down. The need to define our everyday life as good and bad ends. We settle down. No more defenses, no more pretensions, no more stars, no more dots.

Silence, calm, serenity sets in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PRIVELEGE OF A LIFETIME

Posted on

The privilege of a lifetime is to be you. – J. Campbell

Blogging is giving me the space to be me but obviously I cannot completely expose this “ME.”  How I wish I need not hide behind an anonymous blog.   Nothing beats openness and raw honesty.   But then life is not as simple as that.  For me.

No matter how I want to   connect openly   there are areas in my life that I need to keep to myself.    Maybe others can easily label this as an inability to take a stand and to be held accountable   but it is alright with me.  When we awaken to a felt sense and conviction that no one can  obliged or demand anything from us, and when we have this readiness to be free on how we feel, think and express ourselves we are entering the “privileged realm.”  And in this realm I set the tone and no one can dictate anything to me. I am free.

In my desire to live a serene life I am realizing more and more the non-negotiable truth of being myself. This is a truth that sinks in clearly only around midlife time I guess.  That  I am not going to be like  my mentor,  my friend,  a favorite saint or celebrity or whoever I admire out there. I am not definitely going to be like God!   I will be me.

 As I aged, as issues quiet down, I am surprised how I am becoming more and more my own ally.  I can already “companion” my own self in this gentle awakening towards self-compassion and self-acceptance.  The usual routine of a down time especially when the “you’re not good enough” feeling hovers around is lessening.  I am learning to be kind to this emerging me. It has been a long journey for me. And now it is hard for me to “judge” others whose lives are in chaos especially the young people in my life. It took me over 40 years to begin understanding my own self! What can I expect from my teen-age niece?

I am grateful that I am awakening to the truth that life can be okay even if there will always be inconsistencies. Even if it is a constant rise and fall.

I am grateful too for this  time to go inward. To be quiet as I think of what I am thinking about, to be accepting of the present moment as I   gather again and again my scattered self.   

Praying as in just being quiet in the chapel and not necessarily rattling with words, decluttering, walking, taking a long bath, just closing my eyes and taking a pause are some of the practices I am doing to go inward but mostly it is through journaling like right now.  Writing reconnects me with what truly matters to me and it is in this space where I meet my own true self.

I am grateful to be me.