For this life, for love,
For the pain and the lessons —
This heart is grateful.
This photo was taken exactly a month ago when my family went to a park. Back then we never thought it would be sometime before we could go out for a stroll again. Our city has been under a “community quarantine” for almost three weeks now. My sister, my nephew and my son have not left our house for almost a month now. I get to go out for essentials.
The streets are eerily quiet; most businesses are closed. The streets and the air are much cleaner, but somehow it is not easy to enjoy the quiet and the clean air when you are very much aware of how people who have lost their jobs are suffering and fearing for their future.
These are very uncertain times.
When I left China in early January, I thought I would be back in two weeks. Now, it’s almost three months that I have not seen my husband, and we still do not have any idea when we will see each other again, or when he will see our son again. Sure, technology allows us to talk with each other everyday, but we all know the limits of technology.
Perhaps it will be sometime before our world goes back to normal. Even then, it will probably be a different normal.
The only certainty is: life goes on. Sadly not for everyone; but for humanity as a whole, it goes on and will continue to go on.
Wishing you a peaceful weekend.
I had planned to let my son stay with us in China for a month in January but disappointed by my husband’s busy schedule at work, I decided to bring my son home after two weeks. Looking back, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life — a blessing in disguise. I don’t know how I would have handled the situation if I and my 9-year-old son with ASD were stranded in China or quarantined!
As it is, we have a longer break from work which means longer time spent with my son, but my husband is all alone in our apartment back in China. I try not to worry but can’t help when I read the news or hear about what’s happening from people who are in the country.
Still I’m optimistic that there’s an end to this, and it will end soon.
I am hoping and praying for it, especially because the people I am praying for do not believe in a power stronger than they are.
So much has happened in the weeks I have not posted on my blog, some I am so eager to share but can’t find time to write as I am busy being a full-time mom. I look forward to writing again and also reading posts from blogs I follow, but right now it is so difficult to find time when I’m home and fulfilling my roles as mother, sister and aunt. As always, family comes first.
I hope you are doing well. Thanks for visiting my blog.
Be still, remember —
Though this life’s rough winds shake you
This storm shall pass.
Today I read a passage about following rules to show one’s faith or having passion about your faith. The writer didn’t like the idea that rules, after being observed mechanically “can be followed with minimal effort and almost no thought.” Passion is deemed more important.
This made me think about how people often prefer the definition of love as an emotion, particularly passion, rather than as commitment, especially in marriage.
Emotions are unreliable.
You cannot force yourself to be passionate about something. You cannot will passion. But you can will yourself to do something even if you have no passion for it.
Marriage is not for grown ups who think like kids. They are not for people who think of their partners as toys they can get rid of once they lose interest in it and find it boring.
Growing up with a mother who had no qualms talking about her problems with her then young daughters, I knew from a young age that marriage had its ups and downs (especially because my mother was such a drama queen and I say that with no disrespect but with a fondness for her whom I miss every day still, even years after she passed on.) There were days when she and my father were this sweet couple, slow dancing to a Nat King Cole song. And there were days she did not speak to him at all
Had my parents given up on each other after their first or hundredth fight, I wouldn’t have been here in this world. And my mother wouldn’t have been there holding my father’s hand on the night he died.
They were married 35 years and were each other’s best friend. I know there were times they both felt they could no longer stand each other, probably questioned whether they still loved each other whenever they had a fight, but as devout Catholics in a country with no divorce laws, they remained committed to staying together, if not for themselves, then for their daughters. And it was the right decision to stay together as they became even closer after my father was diagnosed with a heart disease. My mother took very good care of my father in the last few years of his life, and mourned him for a long time after he died. Even though she complained about my father so many times whenever they fought, when he died, she just remembered how good my father was to her.
If we only rely on our emotions, none of our relationships will be safe from falling apart. Rules may be rigid, but they can help us from going astray. Passions will fade, but if two people in a relationship are both committed to each other, then they will work to keep that relationship strong.
A roadside beauty,
But one who sees, smiles.
May you find something to make you smile today!
Imagined prosperity —
The grass is always greener….
People sometimes imagine a better life somewhere else, unhappy with what they have. They follow their desire and get all excited about their new life only to be disappointed after a while.
Sometimes it’s not a change of place that’s needed. Just a change of heart. Or mind.
Happy weekend! 💕
A cup of coffee
blended with words of love and hate —
The past. Water, please.
Have a wonderful week!
Recently I was told by someone they couldn’t believe I am friends with one of my best friends when we are so different from each other. What did we talk about?
I wasn’t able to give an answer that satisfied them (they have asked me this at least twice), so I got to thinking , why indeed?
The answer really is, we have known each other for years, and in those years we have talked a lot about everything — politics, religion, philosophy, music, movies, our families, our work, our worries and fears, things and people we love and hate — I can’t think of anything we have not talked about.
Isn’t that how friendships are formed?
We become friends with people who may seem different from us at first, but when we spend time to get to know them and for them to know us, we find that underneath the unimportant differences, we have more in common in our hopes and dreams, joys and sadness — in our humanity.
All it takes is listening: we listen to them, and they listen to us.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle
My three best friends and I may have very different temperaments, and we disagree with each other on so many things — but we respect each other’s views and accept each other as a friend with different views on things.
“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” — Baltasar Gracian
What I am most grateful for in my friendship with my 3 best friends is that they all have taught me, at different periods in my life, something that I find valuable, useful.
Apart from my son, these three have helped shape me into the person that I am now — one that is still not perfect but one that I like and respect.
Wouldn’t you feel blessed to have such friends?
Have a peaceful weekend!
Home — a word, a place
a person who makes you love
life and want to live.
May you find yourself a happy home. 💕
I love looking up at the sky, whether in the day time or at night. I often wonder what it’s like up there looking down, (which is why I follow NASA and the International Space Station on social media.)
To me the sky or whatever is up (or out) there is magical.
Sometimes when I am going through a difficult time, I only have to go to a quiet place — by the lake, on a quiet beach, or my balcony and look up at the sky and remind myself of the vastness of the universe and the minuteness of my life and worries.
Now isn’t that cure magical? 😉
Have a lovely week!
Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.
I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.
Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.
This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!
If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.
But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.
I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)
I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.
But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?
I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.
My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.
Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”
Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.
I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.
Everything else is for another time or others to care.
What matters most to you?
Have a lovely weekend! ♥️
Three years ago this month, I lost my mother. And every year this month, I buy flowers (pictured below) that I put next to her photograph. Every year in March, as I look at both flowers and my mom’s photograph, I am reminded of the uncertainty of life, of its ephemerality and the sadness that comes with being left behind by those who go before us.
This month my musing on the transiency of life is made even sadder by the thought of 2 of my best friends facing serious illnesses. My 3 best friends, unlike me who wanted to die at 20, have always wanted to live long, happy, healthy lives.
For the lovers of life, I hope you never lose that WILL to live even when doctors give you that diagnosis that sounds like a death sentence. I hope in your heart will burn that desire to prove the doctors wrong and that you “RAGE against the dying of the light.” ♥️
by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Yesterday I saw a video called “Life Lessons from 100-Year-Olds,” and it brought tears to my eyes. If you have time, watch it. I’m sure everyone can learn a thing or two from these centenarians.
I think it was fortuitous to have seen that video on the last day of the year, as it reminded me to look back at my own life during the past year (well, I am always looking back, lol) and to count my blessings and be grateful even though 2018 saw me inwardly distraught about a number of things that I could not talk about with loved ones, as I do not want to spread negative vibes.
Today is the first day of 2019. I will try my very best to continue to be grateful and to believe that everything will be all right.
I hope you do as well.
Happy New Year!🎉💕
Thank you for blessing me with this wonderful creature that is my son, Elijah, whom I named after your great prophet, in the hope that he, too, would grow to be as faithful and as eloquent in spreading your word. Though, as yet, he has not been blessed with the gift of words, Elijah, just by being who and what he is, still succeeded in converting the ones closest to him from being self-absorbed and impatient individuals to ones with an almost impossible amount of selflessness and forbearance. Thank you for making him an instrument in bringing out the good in people around him.
I pray for Elijah and children like him who are special in their own special ways, that You grant them the ability to one day, live independently, and not wholly rely on other people for their daily needs.
I pray that one day, they will be able to express themselves without being frustrated at the inability of the people around them to understand whatever it is they want to express.
I pray that one day, they will be able to share what it is they sense that makes them smile that sweetest of smiles, what makes them laugh that most infectious laughter that seems to come out of nowhere.
But should this not be part of the plan, I pray that in Your mercy, you send them people who will love them for who and what they are, long after their parents are unable to look after them.
I pray that You bless them with loving individuals who will guide them in navigating the complexities of life in this sometimes cruel world.
I pray that despite all the troubles they may encounter in this life, they will always have that joy that only they, in their specialness, can find in their own world.
And may they always have it in their unblemished hearts and minds that life is beautiful and that it is worth living.
Finally, I thank You, dear God, for the people who have helped, continue to help and will help Elijah and every special child like him, live meaningful and happy lives.
May you bless them a hundred, a thousand fold for their kindness and dedication.
May they be grateful as I am for the opportunity of having such a special human being in our lives.
And may they praise You, like I do, for Your boundless generosity and mercy.
“..Death tears away the veil from all our secrets, our shifty dodges and intrigues.” – Dostoevsky, Mr. Prohartchin
Taiwushan Cemetery, Kinmen, Taiwan
Death can’t reveal all of our secrets, because some of them we carry to our graves. But death can literally reveal what we keep hidden underneath our clothes; when we die (if our bodies are intact) then our bodies become mere objects seen quite objectively by doctors, nurses and embalmers, all strangers to our bodies. But of course one can rationalize this and say, “Who cares? The dead don’t.”
Perhaps people will say I overthink things when I say this, but I feel nothing but compassion for sick people in hospitals and how their bodies become merely like an object that the healthy can just point to or talk about as if it is lifeless. I felt this the first time I saw my mother being given a sponge bath by my sister. I felt this as I stood next to my mother’s bed as she lay there in pain, while the nurses were changing her clothes. I witnessed the indignity of aging, and it made me feel so so sorry for us, human beings.
Hopefully one day we won’t have to deal with incontinence, hip fractures, loss of mobility, etc. and just go quietly with dignity intact.
Life goes on though it ends for some
This life some love and others hate,
This life some fight for and others willingly surrender.
What is life that you seize every second to live it?
What is life that you just want to escape from it?
Life has meaning only if you give it one,
And believe it and live it.
Find a meaning
In general, there are two kinds of people according to how they view their life: those who continually search for meaning and purpose in life, and those who don’t. These two kinds of people come to the same end, however. They die. We die. But that time just before death is where the dying differ. Those who believe (even without any real proof) that they have found meaning and fulfilled their purpose in life, pass confidently though sadly, and those who feel they have unfulfilled promises or dreams or tasks left undone, leave bitterly.
In my lifetime, I have seen enough number of dying people to see this. It is always sad as I know it is the fate of each and every one of us.
Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” reminds me of that sadness I feel when pondering on the fate of human beings. At first I found this novel disturbing and then extremely sad; and only today, two days after I finished reading the novel, did I finally realize what I found so sad about it.
It is not that the “students” unquestioningly accept their fate of dying young because they are mere clones, created to become organ donors.
It is not that despite their being more humane than the humans who created and raised them, the latter are repulsed by them.
Rather it is that human beings despite their being “superior” to the clones, are ignorant of the real meaning and purpose of their existence, while the clones aren’t. Hence, the former can face death which they aptly call “completing” without fear or regret, albeit with a little sadness. Ishiguro found the perfect word to call death in this novel. When the clones die from having donated their organs, it is because they have accomplished or “completed” the purpose of their existence.
There are people who are convinced that they know their purpose for being in this world – they have faith or they make up their own purpose, but is it really the real purpose for our existence? How will we know for sure?
This is why I envy the clones in the novel, at least there is no doubt in their heads why they exist. For somebody outside looking in, it is a very sad existence, but the “students” in Hailsham had a happy childhood, lots of fun memories, and there was no question in their head as to what was going to happen to them, how their lives would end. As for us, humans, though we know our time is limited, and we attach all kinds of meaning or purpose for our lives, in the end we are all Jon Snow.
We know nothing.
A few weeks ago, I read an article by a writer reminiscing about his friendship with the late Seamus Heaney, and of course his famous last words, a text message to his wife — Noli timere (“Don’t be afraid”). Unfortunately I can’t find that article anymore as I don’t remember the title nor the author’s name, so I can’t give you the link.
That article led me to read about Heaney’s last words as recalled by his son in his eulogy. And this in turn led me to remember what my mother said to me a week before she passed as I cried in front of her, exhausted from all the seemingly insurmountable problems that had befallen me — her worsening health condition, my son’s autism, not being able to get a visa for my son, among other things. She reached for my hand, as she lay in bed, and said to me in a voice full of confidence, “Don’t worry. Everything will be all right. E. is going to be fine.”
I wonder if it is just the dying’s way of comforting the living, so as not to make them worry about what life would be like for the living without them, or if somehow they have some kind of vision of what the future will be like, or if their faith is strengthened as they near that end.
But my mother’s words really comforted me, and I believed her. And I believed her words even more as indeed, after she passed, we were able to find a special needs school for my son, and the same embassy that made it difficult for us to get a visa for him, gave him a travel document instead.
Even now whenever I have a problem, apart from praying, I would think of my mother and how she would have stormed the gates of heaven to pray for me.
As a mother myself, I keep praying for my son. Some nights I lie awake wondering, fearing, what the future would be like for my son. I read articles like this one about a parent describing what life is like for someone with a 13-year old son with ASD , and I fear dying before my son can learn to live independently.
For now I can protect my son and comfort him when he is hurt or scared, but no parent can or should do this for the rest of our lives. Our children grow, and we pass on. But hopefully, our comforting words will live in their hearts and give them courage to live their lives.
BE NOT AFRAID
The sky may darken
And let fall the rain
That doesn’t seem to end
The winds may howl
Like a crazed person
Banging on the window
The lightning may strike
And give you a glimpse
Of the dark clouds outside
The thunder may roar
And cow you into hiding
Under your soft blanket
But don’t be afraid,
Mommy’s here to keep you safe
And warm as you sleep and dream
Of a beautiful sunrise when you wake.
Last month, my son, E. had a two-week vacation in China with us. Before we enrolled him in a school for special needs in the Philippines, he spent most of the first 5 years of his young life in China and probably considers it his real home. This vacation was going to be different from last year’s because this time he would see his nainai (paternal grandmother) again after two years.
My husband had thought E. would not recognize her anymore, yet when I told E. that his nainai had arrived, he rushed to the door and had the sweetest smile on his face when he saw her. He reached out his little arms to her, and when she didn’t pick him up, he held her hand and led her to sit on the couch and kissed her. He kissed her cheeks several times.
There were no words between them, as what little Shandong dialect he picked up from her a few years ago had all been forgotten, and the less than 5 English words she picked up from him had all been forgotten as well. But this did not stop them from communicating in their own unique way. They came up with a clapping game that kept him entertained for the next 6 days.
When the time came to say goodbye, E. did not realize he would not see his nainai the next day or the day after that. As he likes airports, he was just happy to run around in the airport and get on the plane. But hours later, when he got out of the car and realized he was back in his other home (in another country) without his father and his nainai, he became very quiet and in the late afternoon he said to me, crying, “Let’s go.”
So we went out with my sisters and my nephew (who have been his companions for the last two years.) I was hoping he just wanted to get out of the house for a while, but when he realized we were still going back to the same house, he cried. That’s when it dawned on me that he wanted to go back to China. The second night after we arrived, he was still unhappy and cried again, so I finally asked him, “ Do you want to see daddy?” He didn’t say anything. “Do you want to see nainai?” He wailed and said, “Nainai!”
I right away made a video call to my husband and asked him to give the phone to his mom. When E. heard her voice, he grabbed the phone from me and looked at his grandma and cried and kissed the phone. It was the most touching thing I have ever seen my son do. He didn’t give the phone back to me for a long time. He just wanted to watch them.
On the third day, he probably realized that he could not really be with his nainai, and that a video call is not the same as being with her, that he did not want to look at her anymore. I don’t know if he feels betrayed by his grandma; I hope he doesn’t because she loves him just as much as he misses her.
We have been home in the Philippines for almost two weeks now, and he’s back to his happy self. E. is such a sweet 7-year -old boy that I keep telling him I love him just as often as he tells people, no matter family, friend or stranger, “I love you” right after greeting them “Hi” or “Good morning” or “Goodbye.”
I dread the day, less than a couple of weeks from now, when I have to say goodbye to him again. But I know he has his way of coping — we’ve been through this before and it’s usually I who take a week to recover.
For an autistic 7-year old who is minimally verbal, E. knows how to communicate his love for the people who love him and has an amazing strength to bear the pain of missing them. I am learning so much from my son.
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
I saw this tree trunk from a distance and thought it looked interesting. You might say there’s nothing interesting about this trunk, that it’s even ugly. And you might be right.
I wish I had taken a photo of the whole tree — its leaves were quite green. This tree survived a super typhoon in 2016. The tree itself looked ordinary, but it’s the trunk that captured my attention. This weathered trunk to me stands for strength — something that I feel I have and should not lose in these very busy and stressful time in my life.
What do you see when you look at this trunk?
“The universe is transformation; life is opinion.” — Marcus Aurelius
Weekly Photo Challenge:
As pure as a flower
Growing naturally, artlessly?
Why do we have to pretend
To care when we don’t,
To feel when our hearts are empty,
To believe when we’re full of doubts,
To love when there’s only contempt?
They say if you live in society,
You need to socialize,
Be friendly, smile.
But what if society’s superficiality
Is killing you?
And you’re dying a slow, painful death
With your fake smile, and your fake laugh
And your equally fake concern
For your fake friends.
Perhaps this is part of living.
Perhaps life itself is superficial.
I can see the island from here,
A part of me is eager to see
What it has to offer,
What kind of people I’ll meet.
But a voice inside me tells me,
“This island won’t be any different
From the one you just left.
The stories you will see
Unfold before you,
Will have the same plot,
But the same endings
Because you are the same you.
Wherever you go.
Your story never changes.”
We recently moved to a new apartment, and I am quite happy to have moved. This year has been one of changes and challenges, and I’ve been able to cope with all these sometimes overwhelming challenges pretty well. For this I am grateful to my husband and my sisters for everything they do and are in my life. So moving to a new place is symbolic of a new beginning for me — life without my mother, and living apart from my beautiful son (for a few months.)
Now that I only work 3 afternoons a week, and I do not have my son to look after, I can sit for a few minutes out on my balcony and wait for sunrise as I sip on my morning coffee. Then I go out for a walk and come back to prepare hubby’s breakfast.
Each day, I am trying to be hopeful and look forward to better days. I know they will come.
Every morning is a promise of a new beginning.
Wishing you beautiful mornings and wonderful beginnings. 🙂
“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe
How often have you heard people say: I wish I had done this. I wish I had said that, after someone had left them? I have heard those too many times. I have even said them a few times when I was younger.
Most of the time we just take for granted the people around us, especially those close to us. We care about them, yet daily life makes us forget their need for affirmation. Or perhaps we are embarrassed to express our appreciation or even love for them. Unlike little children who would give a loving parent a kiss or a hug just because they feel like doing so, adults would think twice about showing affection for whatever reason.
When we, unexpectedly, lose someone, we tend to regret so many things. We cry because there are words we had wanted to say to them but did not get the chance to say (because, who knew he would die today?) Perhaps we had promised to visit but never got around to doing so. These regrets and the guilt can last a long time. I know. After 14 years, I still have not forgiven myself for not spending more time with my father before he passed on.
With my mother, my sisters and I were able to say what we wanted to say to her before she left us: we said sorry for the times we made her cry; we told her we loved her; we promised to look out for each other. And she, herself, was able to confess, ask forgiveness, and thank people, and let her daughters know what she wished for us to be and to do.
When my mother passed on, tears were shed. But they weren’t bitter tears. They were tears of sadness as we said goodbye to her, knowing we won’t see her again; they were also tears of love as we prayed for her eternal rest.
We may not know the time we will lose someone we care about, but we can try to avoid shedding bitter tears when they go, by saying those words and doing those deeds meant for them.
One of my favorite poems that I can recite by heart is Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I kept reciting this poem to my baby when I was still pregnant, and even after my son was born. HBO’s Classical Baby The Poetry Show includes a reading of this poem by Susan Sarandon, and it is now my 5-year old son’s favorite part of the video.
A thought came to mind today as I watched my son give me the sweetest smile when the video clip began. A few months after our son was diagnosed with Autism, my husband wished Eli would not grow so quickly. Today, only for a moment I wished Eli would never grow up, so people can excuse his strange stimming habits, his speech delay and other autistic traits. Every now and then I worry about whether or not he will be able to live independently, when my husband and I won’t be around to look after him anymore.
Frost’s poem talks about how we, once in a while, encounter something that makes us wish could last at least a lifetime, but we all have other things to do — duties, responsibilities, roles to play in other people’s lives — so we have to move on, continue living our lives.
The speaker in this poem though was truly in the moment. He noticed his surroundings: the snow-covered woods, the frozen lake; he heard the sound of the harness bells and the wind. He also used his imagination (“My little horse must think it queer…”), and was quite aware not only of the lack of danger (…He will not see me stopping here/ To watch his woods fill up with snow), but also of his responsibilities and of the life he had to live, (But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep.)
Oftentimes I look at my son and wonder what life will be like for him. Will he ever be able to speak like a neurotypical person? Will he be able to read by himself the books that he loves for me to read to him? Will he be able to write down his own name? But then I stop myself from doing this, and instead do things with him. Not much use wondering about the future when so much of it depends on the present.
What I liked most about Frost’s poem is the idea that though we can (and we should) live our lives — face our responsibilities, fulfill our duties, find our way in the darkness — we can stop once in a while and just enjoy what we have in our lives: food on our table, clothes to keep us warm (or cool), roof over our heads, air we breathe, water we drink, family, friendship. And love. And faith that everything will be all right in the end.
Thank you. Salamat. 谢谢。
I could fill this page
With the same words
According to the number of times
I had to
Barely had the time to start shedding
The pounds from stress eating
And I’m stressing and stress eating again.
Someone once said to me,
When tragedies pile up
Then you have a comedy.
How come I’m not laughing?
March 3, 2016
Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
There has been much debate on the meaning of this sonnet, particularly the last couplet:
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
What is the young man supposed to eventually leave before long: his friend or his own youth?
I will not join in the debate, but I am quoting the sonnet here because I was reminded of it (and John Donne’s Sonnet 10) twice today: first, when I read this poem by John White called Laughing about it ; second, when I read Temple Grandin’s tribute to Oliver Sacks, who also wrote a moving article reflecting on his relationship with his Orthodox family and the Sabbath.
Whether the speaker meant that the young man had to leave his friend or his youth, to me, is not the point, rather that the knowledge that one is leaving something valuable makes one appreciate it or love it even more.
My first real understanding of this line happened one summer day when my best friend and I stood in a forest, listening to the sound of the leaves of the trees as the breeze was passing through, and I said it was beautiful I wish it could last forever; and he said it was beautiful simply because it was not going to last.
(Not long after that my best friend left, and for a while, that memory always made me cry. But with time, I have learned to call on that memory, and it just brings a beautiful feeling.)
If we truly love someone or something –a place, a person, a pet or life itself — the knowledge of our imminent leaving of it/them will make our love for it/them even stronger.
Perhaps it is the best way to live every minute of our short life here: to always remember that we won’t be here forever, that we are always about to leave. Perhaps then we can love wholeheartedly, not only for a minute or an hour or for a day, but for a lifetime.
I’ve never been an adventurous person. When I was younger, I only dared to do crazy things out of love for or silly attraction to some guy, like going up alone to a military camp located on a remote hill in a city where a bomb exploded just the day before, just to get the signature of a colonel on my then-boyfriend’s clearance, or going to a city that was in the middle of a war just because an attractive journalist-friend had asked me if I could go with him, and I couldn’t say no. Sigh. So 15-17 years ago.
I’ve only been in a pendulum ride once, and I am very, very sure I will die if I try it again. The only thing I ever felt the whole time I was in that monstrous thing was FEAR. And after a minute or two of that fear, I mustered the energy to just meditate. So I did, and my two guy friends who were with me and having so much fun, were yelling, “Therese, are you OK?” They thought I had died. Ha!
But a couple of weeks ago, when I saw the zip line at the amusement park my former students had invited me to, I just wanted to give it a try. It didn’t look scary because it wasn’t too high nor too long, and below was a calm river with people on pedal boats. It looked non-threatening enough that I excitedly volunteered we go. So we did. I was the first to get up on the platform, but then insisted that a colleague go first. I was having second thoughts.
And then it was my turn. I wanted to back out, but there was a line of young people behind me, the same ones I had rallied to join me. How could I ever back out? I made the sign of the cross at least five times! Then I said to myself in the same way I did as I was being wheeled to the delivery room to have my first (and only) child, “OK, Therese. You’re doing this. You can never back out on this one!”
So I jumped.
And I screamed in fear. Waaaahhhh.
Then I yelled in exhilaration. Wooo-hoo!
I know it was probably less than a minute, but it was a moment I will never forget. I waved at the people on the river, threw my head back and consequently, spun and saw everything around me. After all that fear, I felt the most beautiful, exhilarating feeling. Andthen it was over. My knees were shaking, but I couldn’t shake off that excitement right away.
Even weeks after that experience, the feeling is still quite vivid for me — those few seconds of joy. And one day, as I thought about that moment I remembered a few lines from three of Dostoevsky’s works.
In The Idiot, Prince Myshkin talks about what actually goes on in his head while he’s having a seizure. He sees beauty and feels immense joy that he’s never felt in his waking life that sometimes he actually wishes he can have a seizure again just so he can experience that happiness, that joy.
In White Nights, the sentimental hero of the story after witnessing the happiness of Nastenka, who asks him not to be unhappy because of her happiness, says he will never do anything to ruin her joy, because he knows how precious that moment is. “My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?”
In A Faint Heart, Vasya is overwhelmed with gratitude and happiness that he goes insane. His friend, Arkady, on his way home pauses by the Neva and, ” A strange thought came to poor Vasya’s forlorn friend. He started, and his heart seemed at that instant flooded with a hot rush of blood kindled by a powerful, overwhelming sensation he had never known before. He seemed only now to understand all the trouble, and to know why his poor Vasya had gone out of his mind, unable to bear his happiness.”
Perhaps Arkady himself experienced this few seconds of happiness or he wouldn’t have understood the cause of Vasya’s insanity.
Some happiness-es just happen. Others can be had by choice. If by choice, we then have to be ready for the consequences which can be either harmless, productive or disastrous.
So many people will tell you to “follow your heart, pursue whatever makes you happy, don’t think, just do it.” If everything turns out fine from an uninformed decision, perhaps it’s only due to luck or coincidence. One cannot predict the future but one can try to make an intelligent guess or infer from the current situation as to the consequences of a particular decision.
When something or someone new comes to our lives, they may bring us so much excitement, and we may feel fear as we think of the changes they will bring to our lives. Some have experienced just abandoning everything for the sake of “love,” throwing caution to the wind, and they make it sound so romantic. And it sounds like it is all good, but life is not a fairy tale that ends with “they live happily ever after.” After that brief moment of bliss, comes reality and more often than not, it is ugly.
If I have the certainty that the consequences of my action would be harmless, not seriously hurt anybody whether I care about them or not, I wouldn’t mind experiencing that few seconds of bliss. Like Camus’ Sisyphus, I wouldn’t mind rolling that huge boulder on top of a hill just to be happy.
But how often are our pursuits of happiness, of excitement and exhilaration harmless? Or, how harmless are our pursuits of happiness, of excitement and exhilaration?
I really enjoyed my first time on a zip line, but even though I know it’s safe and exciting, I think once is good enough for me. (Not adventurous!)
You came home the other day
And solemnly said to me
You wanted to have a long life.
And when I asked you why
You said you wanted to be around
To make sure I would get
A proper funeral.
I would’ve been moved
I would’ve thought, “Aaw, how sweet!”
Had you not forgotten
My birthday yesterday
Had you said sorry
That you forgot.
But you didn’t .
I’m still alive.
Here I am.
Can’t you see me?
Most people I know who love reading novels read at least two books a month. I could not, cannot do that. Excuses: (1) I prefer reading philosophical novels, which require more time (at least for my slow brain) to process, and (2) I have a job, a 4-year old son, and a husband and I do 95% of the housework.
This summer I took a break from reading the Russians (or just Russian, Dostoevsky) and read three “contemporary” (meaning the authors are still very much alive) books – a memoir and two novels. It is quite interesting to me how I chose to read the two novels after the memoir, and only later realized that there seemed to be a link in the order in which I read them.
The first book I read was “Three Brightnessess: The Quintessential Story of Learning Chinese And Falling in Love in China – Over and Over Again” by William Shoemaker. I read it because I know the author, had invited him to my class a couple of times to talk with my students about his short stories which I had let my students read, and promised him I would read his first book.
I enjoyed reading Will’s memoir because, having lived in China a long time, I can relate to the things he wrote about – the place, the people, the culture, what one can like or dislike about them. Several times while reading this book I laughed so hard, and I think that’s a good way to judge whether a writer is good or not – if he/she can make you cry or laugh.
Will speaks fluent Mandarin, dated Chinese women, has Chinese friends with whom he can speak Mandarin. And yet, I don’t think he has ever felt at home or that he belongs.
One of the things he said that resonated with me is this: “In China, no one waits. Nothing stays the same for long. You can try to understand the place, but anything you learn, the moment you learn it, becomes an artifact of the past. The thing that doesn’t change is the memory – the version of the place that you knew.”
If you’re thinking of moving to China or are interested in China or the Chinese culture especially as it is now, read Three Brightnesses.
The second book is called Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones. What attracted me to this book is the quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book The Phenomenon of Man, right at the beginning of the book, which goes,
“Since the inner face of the world is manifest deep within our human consciousness, and there reflects upon itself, it would seem that we have only got to look at ourselves in order to understand the dynamic relationships existing between the within and without of things at a given point in the universe. In fact so to do is one of the most difficult of things.”
The novel is about a thirty-something American woman who is running away from her troubled past (being the beloved daughter of a racist politician), and wanting to start a new life and to find love (in the form of a Chinese man, had to be Chinese), in China. (Why is it so easy for Asian women like me to accept a relationship between a western man and an Asian woman, but we tend to be surprised or even shocked, incredulous when we hear of relationships between western women and Asian men? Well, I know my answer to that one, but I would really like to know how other Asian women think!)
The main character, Alice, being fluent in Chinese, works as translator in Beijing. She translates for an American archaeologist who is doing a research on the Peking Man. Being in China, the American archaeologist has no choice but to work with Chinese archaeologists, one of whom is Lin Shiyang whose main reason for joining the team is to be able to track his wife who was put in a labor camp in the northwest of China during the Cultural Revolution. Shiyang and Alice fall in love, but right after he finds out for sure that his wife died years ago in the camp, he also finds out about Alice’s promiscuities. But that’s not the ending. You will have to read it to find out how it all ends.
It’s a story within a story, as the writer leads us to the story between Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Lucile Swan in the early 20th century, and the love story between Alice and Shiyang in the 21st century.
After reading this novel, I promised myself I would read The Phenomenon of Man.
But I ended up reading Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, which, just like Lost in Translation is a story within a story. The main character in the 21st century is a 40-year old Jewish-American woman, Ella, married to a successful Jewish man and together they have three children, the eldest being in college and the youngest in elementary school. For twenty years she lived what seemed the peaceful and content life of the perfect wife and mother. But one day, she reads a book called Sweet Blasphemy written by a man called A.Z. Zahara, and this book changes her and her life forever. While we are reading about Ella and her life and her consequent meeting and falling in love with Aziz, we also get to read Sweet Blasphemy which is about the spiritual friendship between two Sufi mystics, Rumi and Shams of Tabrizi.
This novel contains so many quotable quotes all from Shams’s Forty Rules of Love. One of my favorites is
“There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.”
In the novel, Ella’s new life entails leaving her husband (he was cheating on her anyway), and her three children, to be with a man she just met and whom she “loves”. I put love in quotation marks, because even after reading the novel and Sham’s Forty Rules of Love, I do not consider passion as love. How can you truly love somebody you just exchanged emails or text messages with? To finally meet that person and find he is even more interesting than the one you have been texting with may be very exciting indeed, but excitement does not equal love. And finally I cannot see any justification for leaving one’s children to pursue one’s happiness. Perhaps if the children are old enough to live without both parents. But for little children, I can only imagine the difficulty of growing up without both parents to guide you and make you feel secure in this world. But I have to say this, leaving a philandering husband is perfectly fine, (also the husband who forgets his wife’s birthday and their wedding anniversary, yeah!) I salute women who do so.
That said, I am grateful for this novel for introducing me to Sufism. I promised myself I would read more about Sufism, after reading about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the Phenomenon of Man, that is.
But Dostoevsky’s White Nights is calling….:)
What book are you reading?
In this life I think we all have good years and bad years. Sometimes when we are having a good year, we ask (like I often do), “Do I really deserve this? Have I been really that good to deserve all these wonderful things?” And when we are having a bad year, we ask (like I ALWAYS do), “Seriously. What have I done to deserve this?”
And I’m having a bad year. It has gotten so bad that now I could laugh at an unfortunate incident my husband and I found ourselves in yesterday. It struck me that my life these past few months has been a black comedy.
The other day while I was doing the dishes, I thought of Job and how his faith was tested. I hope this is just a test as well, and that my husband and I will pass this test with flying colors. And that we will be laughing a real laugh, not the one tinged with pain.
I have always believed, and I know from experience that it’s true that “this too shall pass.”
There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. 🙂
“There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom we ceased to love.” (Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
The words above quoted from Wilde’s novel were spoken by my favorite character in that novel, Lord Henry Wotton
At my age, I find it nothing but mere melodramatics when people say they cannot live without a particular person in their lives.
Of course I have been in that situation myself when I thought my world had ended because a particular person who I had made responsible for my happiness (and consequently, unhappiness) left me.
There is something inherently wrong in the belief that one cannot live without a particular person in their lives. First is that another person can be responsible for one’s happiness. Second, that one’s world would end when that person is gone.
No one else is responsible for our happiness except ourselves, and the world can and will really continue to exist with our without a particular person in our lives. If you tell a jerk (because even a jerk can fool somebody into loving him) that he is your life, your world and that both would come to an end if he leaves you, then you are giving him enormous amount of control over your life. Not smart. And if you tell an honest and responsible man the same, then you are giving him undue pressure and undeserved feelings of guilt whenever you are unhappy (which may be your aim, and that makes you the jerk.)
When you are truly, madly, deeply in love you seldom think clearly, logically. But when that period comes to an end, then it is like you have just recovered from a psychological cataract, and you see, if you’re lucky, the purity and selflessness of your love, or if you’re unfortunate, the silliness of your thoughts and actions.
When you fall out of love, you become this person that is able to distance yourself from the relationship and see yourself and the former object of your affection and the dynamics between the two of you, like the two of you are characters in a movie or in novel whose plot not only you can relate to, but also you can analyze and comment on objectively.
At first you may feel pity for the spurned person, especially if you have “lost that lovin’ feeling,'” but they haven’t. You may feel dislike or disgust for them, especially if they had betrayed you. Or you just may find them irritating when they cannot let go and keep trying to win back your love.
I think most people have experienced breaking up with someone or being let go by someone. If you broke up with someone that you ceased to love, then whatever they say becomes mere hollow sounds to you. If you’re polite, you will pretend to listen and do a mental eye-rolling when they tell you those saccharine words that you used to love to hear them say to you:
You are my world.
I can’t live without you.
You complete me.
For those who cling to a lost love:
The pain of unrequited love is real. But you have to move on because:
1. It’s not the end of the world. Really.
2. You are responsible for your own happiness. No need to pass that responsibility on to somebody else
3. You CAN move on.
4. You WILL move on.
Let go but don’t let yourself go.
“I grow old… I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”
I have a lot on my plate lately, and don’t have the time to be quiet nor to have a good conversation with people I can really talk with, so yesterday as I sat down to rest for a few minutes I thought about how many strands of white hair could be growing out of my head. I decided to just laugh about life instead of worrying about it. I’m not ready to dye my hair.
With every misfortune,
And every disappointment,
And angry and hurtful words,
With every neglect
And every apathy
And unwelcome silence,
I can feel white hair
Growing out of my scalp.
I swear I can hear each strand
As it wriggles its way out.
And I look at myself in the mirror
And I look for those strands of white
There’s one close to the right ear
And another one by the hairline,
And then there’s none.
Perhaps those two came out
Because I worried
That because I worried,
I would grow old.
Rain falls on the yellow gladiolus.
Like gentle kisses on its petals,
Glistening in the light,
Droplets of rain
Draw its beauty out.
Alone among the reeds,
It blooms and opens
And looks up to the sky
And welcomes the rain
That gives it beauty, life.
There’s a white gladiolus
But for now, alone among the reeds,
The yellow gladiolus is happy to be yellow
And to be kissed by the rain.
It was drizzling when I walked to work today. I stopped by the wooden bridge to have a closer look at this yellow gladiolus that stood alone among the reeds by the lake. Beautiful. I thought it looked even more beautiful with the raindrops on its petals.
It rained the other day, and I unhappily walked to work. The sky was gray, the roads were wet, and it was a little chilly. Then I saw the plants and how green they seemed in the rain, and I stopped to look at one tiny plant with droplets of rain on its leaves. It was beautiful. I took a picture of it, and later showed it to a friend who reminded me that without water there’d be no life or growth.
Though I agree with it, I still find walking in the rain in the morning depressing. Somehow it’s different from walking in the rain at night when you don’t really see anything but just hear the sound of the rain on your umbrella, and the smell of dry earth as the rain touches it. And that’s nice.
Looking at the picture of that tiny plant I saw yesterday, these lines came to mind:
“Into each life some rain must fall,/ Some days must be dark and dreary.”
Who wants sadness? “Normal” people will say nobody. But some people actually like sadness as it brings them closer to themselves, makes them see the world and its people from a different perspective, and consequently helps them gain confidence in themselves.
The Chinese often wish their friends “happy everyday”. I would like to be happy everyday, but I am all too aware that it is impossible; so, my awareness of its impossibility makes me savor every second of that moment of happiness when it comes. Its ephemerality is what actually makes it worth experiencing.
Imagine if you were happy everyday: you do whatever you like, and nobody makes you feel guilty for doing so; no one that you dislike bothers you; no one upsets you (especially your boss or spouse or boss/spouse); everyday you have only happiness. I’m almost certain you will get bored with happiness, and you will say to yourself, “There must be more to this life than just being happy.”
We appreciate the sunshine more after the rain. And we appreciate the rain after the drought.
When I look back at my life, I find that all those times I suffered, wept, and felt like it was better to put an end to my life were the times I came to know myself better and to love myself a little more, and it gave me the confidence that I could survive whatever came my way.
Without water there would be no growth. Without rain in our lives, without sad and dreary days, we would never grow stronger, never learn to cherish the little happiness we experience every now and then.
Thank God for the rain (but not for the typhoon!)
I am a morning person. I get up at 4:30 in the morning most days and do my ritual of making coffee, reading the news, mopping the floor, doing a 20-minute workout, grabbing a bite, then taking a shower. If I miss one of those in the list, I get a little disoriented.
These days the morning air is so cool that when I open the kitchen window and hear the rustling of the leaves and the merry chirping of the birds, and feel the cool touch of the breeze on my face, I am reminded of two poems: one by Wordsworth and the other by Hopkins. (I’m serious. If you have ever been taught Poetry by a professor as poetic and romantic as Dr. Anthony L. Tan, and lived in a convent — trying to become a nun– for a few months, then you’ll understand my way of thinking.)
By William Wordsworth
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Even though I am no longer so certain about the existence of God, the beauty of the morning somehow brings back my sense of gratitude to the creator of such beauty, and since in my simple brain, there are no other candidates for that position, then let it be God for now.
Early morning, I find, is much more beautiful than night time. (Or is it just that I am getting old and can no longer appreciate the beauty of darkness where sweet words are whispered and gentle touches are felt?)
When I take an early morning walk, and see the dew on the leaves and feel the damp earth, and hear the birds sing, and smell the grass, I am always filled with that kind of bliss that makes one want to love the world and to desire to be a better person deserving of such wonder. For someone who has been waiting for death since she was 20, this is one of the very rare moments when I am actually happy about life, one of my Sisyphus-reaching-the-top-of-the-hill moments.
The awareness of the ephemerality of these moments is probably what makes people, like me, appreciate them more.
Like everything else in this world, they come to an end, sometimes too soon, when I start hearing the honking of vehicles and seeing people push and shove each other to get on the bus to get to work.
But this is life. I am just grateful to know that there is time, when I need it, for nature to refresh me and make me ponder on how good it is to be alive.