September 12, 2010

Suportahan ta ka

Past musings that need recalling...

A friend of ours works as a chef in a prestigious restaurant.  He loves his job - not only is he being paid well for it, but he really loves to cook.  He is living every person's dream of being paid well to do something he loves to do, that for him, it doesn't feel like he's working at all.  And yet, a little sadness tugs at his heart.  After more than 20 years, his father still does not approve of what he does.  The father had always wanted his son to be a professional like him.  Way back in college the boy was studying to become a medical professional, but he did not finish the course and instead went off to try his luck abroad.  After several jobs, he finally found his calling in the culinary field.  In their most recent encounter, the father reiterated his disapproval to his son.

Hearing our friend's story made me recall a telephone commercial that used to air on television a long time ago.  It was that of a father who was obviously a successful doctor in the province.  His son was in Manila, and he was supposed to be in college studying medicine.  But during this phone call, the boy had broken the news to his dad that his heart was not really in medicine, and he was instead shifting to the course he loved, which I think was fine arts.  I remember well the disappointment that registered on the father's face upon hearing the news.  But I remember even more the words he said to his son on the phone:  "Suportahan ta ka."  Three simple words ...but they were three very powerful words that show what unconditional love is all about.  In truth the father was saying to his son:  "I may be disappointed because I think you'd be better off being a professional like me.  I may not be in favor of what you are doing.  But I love you, and so I support you."  Suportahan ta ka.

How many times have we been confronted with such a situation?  Is there someone we love or care about -- a child... a spouse... a sibling... a friend... even a parent or mentor -- who has made lifestyle, career or relationship choices that we don't approve of or agree with?  Choices that seem unsuitable or unrewarding and not for that person's good?

Faced with such a situation, did we give that person our love and support, or was it more important for us to be right?  Were we constant in showing our support, unwavering in our desire to love that person... or did we let our own needs and beliefs get in the way?

Soon after, I had the chance to answer these questions myself twice.

A loved one was faced with a critical problem that needed immediate and drastic medical intervention.  After exploring all the possible medical and financial options, he opted for a procedure that to the rest of us, seemed very risky and not the best choice for the situation.  We tried to dissuade him, but he seemed determined that it was the only choice.  That's when I remembered our chef-friend and the TV commercial, and I realized that here was where I could put my heart where my mouth was.  Could I support this person even though I wholeheartedly did not agree with his decision, feeling there was a wiser, better choice he could have made?

As if to test my resolve, just days after, another loved one was faced with a very serious relationship problem that led him to decide on a drastic course of action.  Again, most of us around him had strong reservations about his course of action, believing there were other ways to resolve the problem.  Once more I had to ask myself:  could I support this person even though I did not wholeheartedly agree with his decision?

Both times it wasn't easy, but I tried.  Tried to just be there, being supportive as my loved ones faced their problem, even when inside I was thinking "you're making a mistake!"  It was a challenge all the way, but after the initial struggle, it became more of an invitation.  An invitation to muffle the voice in my head that was saying "you're making a mistake" with the voice inside my heart saying "I love you, so I'll support you and be here for you even if I don't agree with what you're doing."

I realize that in some instances, the choices won't always be easy.  There are cases when the person we love is doing something really harmful to himself or to other people around him, such as when he is into substance abuse, or contemplating unconscionable actions.  In such cases, being supportive entails not just being there with an open heart, but also taking more pro-active steps like helping him find professional help or even turning him over to competent authorities.

Thankfully, most other cases -- like that of our friend and his dad -- are not as complicated.  And yet, how many times did we manage to make them so, just by refusing to love when we could.. and by always needing to be right?

The greatest tragedy in this short and precious life we live is that we could have truly loved the very people we take for granted.  Loved them in a way that says 'Who you are is more important to me than who I am.  Your happiness is more important than my own.'  This is the kind of love that gives life, that is at the same time higher and deeper than any thought, act or feeling we can ever be capable of.

It is not always easy to love this way, because we do have our own needs and beliefs, our woundedness, and all those other blocks that get in the way of letting the love inside us shine through.

But when we finally can, it will be worth all the effort and the pain.  Love would then truly be, as someone once said "a glimpse of the Eternal."

And it can all begin with some simple and powerful words coming from the heart:  I love you.  Suportahan ta ka.



June 19, 2010

Thoughts on Letting Go - a Father's Day Reminder to Parents

Some of the most beautiful verses ever... a fitting reminder to all parents as we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow...

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of
Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with his might that
His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran


March 12, 2010

Was it just coincidence?

Maybe it was. 

At our choir's Monday practice I suggested that we change the final song at our community's Wednesday Mass to "Time to Change." It was an old song, but because it was Lent and with everything that's going on in the country, it felt like a very appropriate song to sing. So that's what we had as our final song on Wednesday. 

After the Mass, my husband Rod said, why don't we sing that also at tomorrow's Mass for Noy & Mar? I wholeheartedly agreed. At the venue the following day, we began practising the Mass songs while waiting for the priest to arrive. Since we were singing "Time to Change" for the first time, I briefly introduced the song to the group. I said it was an old song which I was sure many of them already knew. The choir thought of singing it that afternoon because Noy & Mar's campaign was anchored on the message of change. The lyrics of the song were beautiful and so appropriate. As expected, many knew the song so we had an enthusiastic practice rendition. To my delight I could even hear someone singing in second voice.

After we were through singing, the lady in charge of the Mass went up to me and said, do you know that the composer of that song is here? "What..?!!!" I wasn't sure I heard her correctly. I'd always thought "Time to Change" had been composed by a foreigner. Yes, he's here, she said. He's Atek Jacinto. Wow, I thought. What an amazing coincidence! 

We introduced Mr. Jacinto and asked him to speak briefly to the group. He said he composed the song "Time to Change" in 1968 when he was 18. Just recently he thought of offering the song to be used in Noy's campaign, so he approached Philip Juico. Mr. Juico suggested that the song also be sung during the Mass, so Mr. Jacinto came armed with a guitar and several copies of the lyrics to give to the Mass-goers. The two were very pleasantly surprised to find that the group already had the lyrics in its songbook and was about to practice singing it! 

After Mr. Jacinto spoke to the group and we began singing the song a second time, that's when the remarkable "coincidence" of it all really sank into my consciousness and I found my hair standing on end! Several ladies in the group echoed my feeling. It was beyond remarkable and amazing; it was uncanny. I told the group later: imagine, on the very afternoon that we were first going to sing a song that we felt was speaking to our hearts, the composer suddenly walks in, intending to teach it to us! 

Was it just a coincidence? With God, nothing ever is. 

by Atek Jacinto 1969 

It's time for us to make our dreams come true 
A guiding voice will tell us what to do 
It's the time for us to change and show the world 
That we still care for men and we'll lead them there. 

We'll lead them to a place beyond the sea 
A place of love where everyone is free 
Don't despair the path to happiness is wide 
If we must change our ways, call on God for our guide. 

(Note: We found out later that Mr. Jacinto used to be a member of the Circus Band. "Time to Change" is the only spiritual song he has composed; his other compositions were pop songs.) 

February 6, 2010

Growing Older... So What?

Last week our choir sang at a thanksgiving Mass for a gracious lady who was celebrating her 90th birthday. During the homily, the priest turned to the celebrant and asked her how she was feeling. We were all expecting her to say "happy," "grateful," or "blessed." Instead she quickly answered: "excited!"

Of course, she later continued to say that she was also grateful to still be alive and in good health, and to have her family around her. Perhaps the fact that her family and friends had just surprised her with an intimate party at an elegant restaurant in the metropolis made her feel excited. But I could tell from the spring in her step and the sparkle in her eyes, that she was a woman who had not allowed the years to let her lose her sense of excitement at life's little joys. 

"Wow," I thought to myself. "To be 90 and still be excited, hey, I'd like that, too!" 

Then this week, my husband, brother and I went to visit a 69-year-old friend of the family in the hospital. He had an accident over the weekend while on an out-of-town trip with his motorcycle buddies. 

I marvel at him. He has a youthful demeanor, and does not look like a 69-year-old at all. Just a month ago, he, together with my husband and two of my brothers, had gone on a road trip to Baguio on their bikes. They had dropped by our house and I noticed even then that he was fairly agile and sprightly for his age. I later found out that he also does yoga, and that in his sixties he could still do a head stand!

Despite his injury, he had a positive attitude. He told us, "if I wallowed in self-pity, nothing would happen to me." He remains upbeat that when he recovers, he could go back to motorbiking - but concedes that he may have to do it at a slower pace. I admire how he has not allowed age to stop him from pursuing his passion and living his life fully. 

I'm thinking of these two recent encounters as I sit here at my desk contemplating turning another year older. To be honest, I feel age creeping up on me. I not only have bifocals now for distance and reading, I also have to have a separate pair of glasses for the computer. My back and joints feel achy in the mornings. And the so-called "senior moments," well, I'm having more of them than I care to admit. 

But the 90-year-old lady and our 69-year-old family friend have inspired me to look beyond the veneer into what enables them to live their lives undeterred by age. 

Having passion. Being excited. A powerful force at 19. Powerful still at 69 and 90. How do you get it? No book can tell you. No life coach or counsellor can mentor you into acquiring passion and being excited. Sometimes someone can inspire you. But mostly the passion and excitement comes from deep within, like a wellspring that just suddenly fills up and you can tap into. 

I've had my own flings with having passion or being excited about life in general, and about certain people, activities and events. But I can't tell you how I get the feeling or how I arrive at it. I just know that it comes and goes and when it's there, it lets me experience life in living color. It puts the spring in my step and my life's dance is no longer a slow drag but a hip-hop. 

And so through it all I pray that even if my body and all the parts left of it no longer operate and cooperate the way they used to, may my heart, mind and spirit never grow old. May I never lose that sense of wonder at life's many little joys, that excitement about life's possibilities. May passion and purpose both get me up every morning and sustain me through the day... and contentment put a grateful smile on my lips before I sleep. 

I acknowledge that life is not all bliss. Some days will be better than others. Not everything that I want or plan for will come to pass. 

But if I can keep in my heart this hope, this trust, this sense of excitement and of possibilities... then growing older will come to mean not just a diminishing of time but also gaining a better foothold into eternity. 

Every passing year simply brings me closer to where we were all meant to be. 

Then I can truly say of growing older: ...So what?