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.