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

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

Bend, Don't Break: Managing Life Resiliently

There will be times when life becomes really grindy, the stresses unbearable. And that deep sense of helplessness … and self-pity … and rage … all at once gnaw their way into your soul, eating you up inside. You'd feel like it's your worst time yet, or so it would seem.

While some of us may succumb to despair and never recover; there are those who can withstand their most difficult times and come through unscathed. Like the lowly bamboos amidst the darkest storms, they bend but do not break. 

In these times, we need to be pliant in order to thrive; and to develop the life skill of resilience. Here are three practical ways we can manage life resiliently:

  • Stop taking (almost) everything personally. Realize that it's not always about you. Most of the times nothing others do or how they behave has anything to do with you or about you (personally). When you always take things personally, you are giving other people more power over you than they deserve or should ever be allowed. Instead, make it a habit to create a space between yourself and your reactions so you can more objectively evaluate the truth about any given situation or circumstance.

  • Stop beating yourself up over (even the least of) your mistakes. We're living in a success-driven, celebrity-obsessed culture today and the pressure to succeed is so persistent that we cringe at the slightest hint of 'failure' coming our way. And there's that annoying voice inside of you berating you for every mistake or failure. This voice often gets the better of you. Because it's a crippling feeling to think that you're not good enough, you sulk and give up. Stop. Just stop, right now. Sure, we must acknowledge our failures and mistakes and correct the ones we can, BUT we must also let go of those we simply can't. Remember, "you" are only what you've got left when everything and everyone else fails (they eventualy will). So, love yourself despite your failures.

  • Start each day with thoughts of gratitude and appreciation for everyday things. Gratitude is a necessary habit. It has the power to pull in a chain of good things into your life if you simply practice it everyday—in your thoughts, actions, and words. From that steaming cup of coffee you get to enjoy every morning to the safe ride home you get into at the end of the day …and everything in between —live it all with gratitude! Your life will be filled with so much positivity and lingering peace that it will be hard to break you down with even the hardest blow life can throw your way.
Today, we're living in such a restless world with confusing values that it's become even harder to find one's own sense of meaning and purpose through it all. We'd get tossed and bent in every direction and means imaginable. Sometimes, life knocks us flat to the ground.

But when you've learned to live life resiliently, you bend but do not break. Because you have the ability to accept all the punches and fireballs life hurls your way, you remain unfazed and holding steadfast to your values and sense of purpose no matter how worse it can get.
"The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm." —Confucius