Listening Skills

The older boy munched on a burger with his younger sibling …

"Which do you like better, Jollibee or Macdow?"

"Jowlbee!" the younger one blurted.

"SM or Gaysheno?" his slang was cute.
"Ayaya!" came the boy's enthusiastic reply.

"Yeah, I like SM, too," he smiled, lovingly ruffling his sibling's hair.
“Families are like fudge - mostly sweet, with a few nuts.” —Les Dawson
[Disclaimer: So, yeah, I was eavesdropping on the cute siblings' conversation over burgers and messy spaghetti one lazy afternoon while I waited for my order. It warmed my heart and I silently thanked Him for my own siblings.]

Crumpled Papers

Most would think that writing is only for writers. Not so. Writing is for everyone.

Psychologists have found (few decades ago) that writing is, in fact, very therapeutic. Because it forces introspection, it increases (the writer's) self-knowledge. And sometimes, even, understanding.

Personally, I find it redemptive. So I write to heal.

But sometimes words just don't come easy. Many times when I sit here in my desk—meaning to put my thoughts into words—my mind just goes black, much like the screen in front of me. Monitor going to sleep. My fingers freeze on the keyboard. And I procrastinate...yet again.

But today is different. I've willed myself not to ignore the prompting within anymore. Because you'll never know what you could be missing by ignoring such moments of inspiration. And today I have one such rare moment. Still, I struggle. Here are some I've hastily scribbled on now crumpled papers in my desk before I finally got around to typing out this post...

I remember noticing a huge billboard sign over at the highway whilst driving to work one morning. The sign simply read, “We need to talk —God”, in bold white letters on a solid black background. It sent shivers up my spine.

I just love how our small office have the feel of family about it—we're all girls. Sitting back to back, all eight of us cramped into a 42 sqm space. One can only surmise what's behind the constant giggling ... not to mention all the eating!

When I was younger, I'd easily pour out my emotions into writing. Recklessly, now it seems (maybe age has gotten into me, or that creative expression evolves to something deeper, something more calculated as one gets older). Not long ago, I just quit. Somehow, my emotions, too, have all been filed away. Somewhere. Underneath. I think I have learned to restrain my feelings a bit more. The recklessness and moments of youthful indiscretion may have faded, but then again, I have never been that good at wearing my heart out on my sleeves either.

So there—my thoughts on crumpled papers—out in the open. Yes, i have a penchant for noticing details (that seem to go unnoticed by most) and finding meaning beyond the mundaneness of those details. Then I understand myself a bit better each time.
“You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope of creating something beautiful.” —Gustave Flaubert

Mornings and New Beginnings

Waking up earlier than usual, I instinctively unhooked the guitar hanging above my bed and began strumming a familiar tune that's been stuck in my head all night.

The somber acoustic tune quickly fills my room, each note fading into the distant sound of birds singing and hushed blowing of the wind through the trees …

I played on until my fingers hurt.

Then it hit me. Déjà vu. A light, giddy feeling swelled within me … a familiar feeling I've had a few years back. A memory. Like it just happened yesterday. And I held on to the feeling for a moment.

Ever had those rare moments when an emotion suddenly overwhelms your senses and all you can do is surrender to its powerful grip and lay down your defenses? That feeling. All of it.

With a curious mix of awkwardness and delight at this thought, I realized what it was: the four-letter word that breaks even the most stubborn stoic. Love.

I remember the day it slipped away … And somehow I just let it. It was a choice. A painful one.

Today is different. Many years have somehow blown away the chaff. Life has been sifted through for me. And today, I am ready to begin. Again.

“Perhaps that is where our choice lies―in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning.” ~Elana K. Arnold

Finding Forgiveness, Losing Faith - Part 1

Hanging onto spirituality to make one's self feel good all the time can only take one so far until one succumbs to doubt. A spiritual dead end.

Falling out of faith doesn't really take so much as one tiny crack left unnoticed, or worse, unattended to. Petty disappointments and unanswered questions—all seemingly trivial, insignificant issues—add up over time.

For some, faith is a fragile thing, easily shattered leaving a calloused soul in its wake. Hardened by indifference … and apathy … and scepticism.

It's why we all need redemption. Every. Single. Day.

For it is in our darkest moments that we find ourselves desperately straining for the slightest glint of light. But sometimes all we can do is grope our way out. And find forgiveness.

“I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.” ― Philip Yancey

Finding Peace Through Rough Waters

Life isn't always smooth sailing. Many times, all you can do is row. Life exempts no one.

I’ve had my boat rocked to its core and capsized so many times yet I never got used to all the rocking. It can be anything but boring. (I assure you.) But soon I learned that to survive, you got to rock with the boat until it sails on quieter waters.

Every time I find myself knocked flat on my face for the countless times when fate is so unkind—pulling the rug from under my feet, leaving me sprawling helplessly on the ground—i pull myself up over and over again. And I trudge on brushing the dust off my now calloused knees.

We'll all have our fair share of troubles. Some of us can get easily overwhelmed; some panic at the slightest tilt of the boat, or the mere sight of the crashing waves. Struggling with his own share of rough waters, Dr. M. Scott Peck on one of his bestsellers, The Road Less Traveled, wrote:
Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
Sometimes, all it takes is to look at our present circumstances from a different perspective. To learn that it's not despite of, but because of the times we've been through rough waters, we're now better, and able to handle the worst times yet to come.  That's how we find peace.

“I can't control the wind but I can adjust the sail.” ― Ricky Skaggs

What's Your Mark?

What sets you apart?

I'd like to think I've always been a non-conformist. Some mistake it as aloofness … some, indifference … or simply introversion.

For how does one draw the line between self-confidence and conceit? individuality and eccentricity? authenticity and faked sincerity?

The differences can be very subtle … almost unnoticeable.

So to make one's mark in this life—choosing between fitting in and standing out—one has to do a bit of both. Here's a quick list of ways that have helped me balance between fitting in and nonconformity in my personal life:

  • Respect other people's beliefs especially when they're not your own. We won't always agree, and so we must accept each other's unique ideologies. To each his own. Stand by your own truth, sure, but never try to force it down anyone's throat.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Stop seeking validation other than that which is freely given. It's better to deserve honor and not have it than to have honor and not deserve it.
  • Consider others better than yourself. One may find it (egotistically) painful to admit, but you're not the only person who's really good at something and has an opinion on everything. We all have abilities and useful ideas that are just as important as yours. Strive to be accepting of others, and they will be accepting of you.
  • Be more genuine than sincere. It's inspiring to meet a genuine soul. See a genuine smile. To be shown genuine concern. And receive genuine care. Not faked. Or forced. For while one can appear friendly and pleasant, or smile, worry, and "seem to" care sincerely, one can also be sincerely faked. And forced. And people can tell.
  • Do the right thing with no eye on a reward. Doing the right thing may not always yield the outcomes one desires or expects. But then again, we can never expect good results when we do the wrong things, can we? It just doesn't happen. So don't count on it.
So how are you "fitting in"? What's your mark? What sets you apart?

“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” —Victoria Moran