Serenity in Solitude

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The other day I read about a father who sang a song and played the guitar for his dying baby.

I couldn’t stop crying, and just wanted to hold my sleeping Eli as tightly as I could.

There is so much pain and suffering in this world, but since I was 19, I have always believed and seen pain and suffering coming to an end, joy taking their place, and making people stronger, until the next round of pain and suffering comes.

A friend once called me masochistic because I said I liked feeling sad and experiencing pain because the experience made me think and introspect, thereby making me know myself better. And thinking and introspecting always give me peace and the energy to go on living in such an absurd world.

When I am down or just want to vanish from this world, I am blessed enough to remember the only time I had a one-week retreat in a Carmelite Monastery by the sea. It was so long ago, almost twenty years ago when I was at the height of searching for answers to questions that my mother worried were driving me crazy. (She always complained that it took me forever to finish doing the dishes because I was always lost in thought!)

For one week I was mostly alone in a 4-story building that was the retreat house. My retreat guide came to visit me twice and did not stay longer than two hours each time. I had a room on the top floor which was close to the big balcony that faced the sea, where every half an hour, a ferry from the west port would cross to the south port. I stayed out in the balcony in late afternoons and waited for the sky to turn from orange to gray and then black; and then the lights from the ports came on, and I could see the lights from the ferry moving in the darkness. In the morning I went to a wooden gazebo on stilts right in the water connected to the retreat house by footbridge made of bamboo. I would listen to the sound of the small waves as they hit the bamboo stilts underneath, smell the briny scent of seawater, and hear the occasional squawk of a bird overhead. These images, sensations come back to me as clearly as the time I was there.

My theosophist friend with whom I used to spend a lot of time talking TO (she just listened most of the time, bless her) once told me that one reason we miss somebody or something too much when they/its gone, is that when they were there, we did not give our whole self to them. Our mind perhaps wandered to somewhere else, and so our experience of them was incomplete. So that time when I was on a retreat, I made sure I was completely there. I watched,listened and felt my surroundings. I will say I miss being there, but I can also “go back” to that place whenever I need to. I can have a few minutes of peace and serenity just by remembering my time in that retreat house.

I do not mean to offend people who suffer because I, too, have suffered, but I find beauty in suffering and pain. I get energy from knowing that this suffering would come to an end, and when it does, I will experience joy, and it will be very sweet just as sweet food tastes even sweeter after eating bitter food.

But to find beauty in suffering, one needs to get away from everything. One needs to be quiet and look within to be able see better what is outside. This is nothing new, and I’m not trying to sound like an expert on this subject, but I speak (write) from experience.

These days it is extremely difficult to have some real quiet. People cannot get away from their cellphones. For everything that happens in their life, no matter how trivial, they feel somebody else has to know. Or they feel they have to know what other people are up to. People are so concerned with what they look like on the outside that they have forgotten to look within and know themselves, who they really are and of what they are capable. There is more self-absorption than self-awareness    , and it does not help anyone.

I hope we can all find time, especially when we are down, to get away from it all and go to a place –physical and/or spiritual — where we can recharge and be better equipped to face life’s absurdities.

Have a pleasant week!

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Aging and Memories

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Iligan City, Philippines

 

I like being in my 40’s. Of course people will say it’s because I have no choice, but it’s more than that. I have embraced being 40 something, and am loving myself more and becoming more confident than I have ever been about myself. It’s great not to worry about what others think about what I’m wearing. I think that’s the biggest and silliest thing I ever worried about before. I still worry about whether people think I’m stupid. I know I can be stupid sometimes, I just don’t like it when other people say it. I’ve never really worried about what people think about what I do for as long as I enjoy what I’m doing. Especially now that I’ve been living in another country for the past 11 years, I’m not really bothered by what people back home or even in the country I’m in, think about my actions. Being a foreigner has given me the freedom to be what I want to be without hurting the sensibilities of those I care about back home. (Look, mom, I’m 42, happily married to a good man and have a cute little son! I can take care of myself.)

With age people tend to become forgetful. Sometimes I find myself forgetting what I did just a few minutes ago. I have to pause and think (usually aloud!) “What was I doing earlier?” I find that scary. But with age, too, some memories become even more vivid.

A few days ago I had early morning coffee with a friend. It was a beautiful, clear and breezy Monday morning, and the coolness of the air brought back memories of a certain bittersweet feeling that was so strong back then when I was feeling it, and seemed just as strong as I was recalling it. For a few seconds I was back in that spot where I stood 15 years ago, hearing the rustling of the leaves of the tall, thin trees as they swayed toward each other, the crackling of dried leaves as they were stepped on, and the tiny voice inside of me that was saying, “This is all so beautiful, I don’t want it to end”;and then the voice that ended it all when it said — “You know why this is so beautiful? It’s because we know it’s not gonna last.”

There are memories that we wish we could just forget, memories we wish we would remember forever, and memories that just appear when we least expect them. As we live each day we are creating new memories. We have no way of knowing whether they’ll be forgettable or unforgettable ones, but we can try to make good ones as we create them. October 16