Posts Tagged ‘ life ’

08/08/08 … a new beginning

Today is 08/08/08. Thrice new beginnings! My Christian brethren will understand that, but for those who do not, 8 is the number of new beginnings. So imagine my delight when I wrote the date for today and realized what it was.

Today made me reflect on all of the goodness that has happened during this summer… all of the progress that I have personally made. I have a new beginning. I am so excited about going back to school with a new and improved attitude, with a stronger character, a clearer outlook, more self-awareness, greater confidence, and most importantly, an increased faith in God. I may not have accomplished everything that I wanted to during my time away from home, but I have accomplished this most important aspiration of mine: retrieving and rebuilding my zest for life and God’s promises. What more could I have asked to accomplish in two months?

So, I would like to take this time just to praise God for working in me. For shaping me according to His liking. I am a work in progress and do not wish for His work in me to ever be complete. May I ever be upon the Potter’s wheel.

~ Amen.

Reliving your Parents’ Marriage: Fate or Choice?

My participation in the Singles & Dating section of Yahoo! Answers has encouraged me to come to terms with the role my parents’ marriage has played in my life. I am very good at “self-diagnosing” myself, as I jokingly like to call it. But, seriously, I have a good head on my shoulders and am not afraid of being honest with myself. The last person I want to lie to is myself. What an ultimate betrayal that would be!

That said, I have always been aware that my parents’ marriage could impact me later in my life when I started to date, but it is only now that I am realizing that I have some choice in the matter. I am not merely the debris of their relationship. No, rather, I have the power to decide how I choose to be affected by their decision to remain married. I don’t think many people realize they possess this right to choose. I think many people believe that they have an inevitable and uncontrollable fate to be damaged by their parents’ bad marriage, when, in reality, they can CHOOSE! Someone make a billboard, please!

The major flaw in my parents’ marriage was a lack of respect on my dad’s part. They dated for the latter half of college and for a short time thereafter and eventually married when they were 26. Within their first year of marriage, he and my mom became pregnant with me and I was born a few days before their 1st year anniversary. I think my dad did not fully understand what he was committing to when he married… what his role would be as a husband. My mom shared with my that he would often leave her home and just go out with his friends, without notice of where he was going or when he would be back. His communication was just terrible; very inconsiderate.

My brother was born 2 years after I was. I am glad that I can say that I mine was indeed a very happy childhood. During our youth, their marriage was rocky, but it was better concealed… or, we just couldn’t comprehend its defects. My mom was not happy in her marriage during our youth, but for the sake of myself and my brother, she decided to remain married. She didn’t want her children to grow up fatherless.

As I matured, I became fully aware of the disconnect between my parents. Lack of communication remained a severe fault in my dad. He’s the kind of person who will keep a problem to himself and then in quite literally the 11th hour, seek help from my mom. This, of course, causes her great stress because, had she known about it from the onset, the problem would have been alleviated under much calmer circumstances.

As a youth, I also witnessed their disunity in other ways. I remember appreciating whole-family outings because they were so rare, and their rareness only proved to be proportionate to my age. Indeed, it was a special treat to have my dad accompany my mom, brother, and myself to different events. It was the norm for him not to be there. However, looking back, I must force myself to understand this to a certain extent. He worked the third shift when I was younger, six days a week, which can be taxing on a person. So I must forgive his absence. He was working hard to support our family. And yet, I look at my mom, who worked full-time once my brother was about 4 in age. When she came home, she still had the involuntary responsibility of cleaning the house, cooking for my brother and I, helping us with our homework, and getting us ready for bed. And she did all of this with such love, and such patience. It makes me cry to remember her sweetness. Not to mention that the nature of her job required her to complete a lot of paperwork at home. After putting us to bed, she would stay awake for hours finishing paperwork. And she would wake up the next day, get us ready for school, send us off and go through her day. Such it was, everyday. Now how was it that she was able to do all that, and all my dad was able/willing to focus on was working is third shift? Women cannot be so superior in capability to men. No, I will not make this on the sexes, but rather a battle of will. Why was he unwilling to try harder? I know the truth, or at least what I perceive to be the truth…. and yet, why is still so hard to say? … He was being selfish.

A few years later he developed a heart problem and my mom left work to care for him, while still not dropping the ball one iota for my brother and I. Yes, we felt some fear, but as we truly did not grasp the severity of his condition, we were able to maintain a large degree of normalcy. All by her emotional and physical sacrifice. And yet, I wonder how since and even today, my dad does not show her the respect she so duly earned. How she has shown him love throughout the years, which he has not returned in neither words nor action. He continues to play the passive aggressive card, holding information from her, lying, manipulating circumstances and thus setting her up for hardship. He shows her no affection in his action nor manners. He seemingly makes an effort to embarrass her in the company of her friends and yet somehow cannot see his wrongs. Or if he does, he does not admit them. He is the indelible victim.

It was not my intention to paint my dad the antagonist of this marriage, although it would seem he is largely if I allowed myself to believe it. Many would say that living in the midst of such disconnect and strive would prove irreparably damaging for a child. I have often thought the environment toxic and I even recall a time when I implored my parents to just divorce already! As a teen, I used to fear that I would harbor irreversible damages from their tarnished relationship, including fear of intimacy, lack of communication, fear of marriage, the development of an independent character that would deflect any chances for a relationship, early divorce if I do marry.

However, (and I cannot speak for my brother) upon closer consideration through matured eyes, I can speak for myself when I say that I have learned much from my parents’ marriage and I am a better person because of their flaws. I now know that I will not rush into marriage, as I feel my parents did. And I will not settle for a man who gives early hints of a selfish and disrespectful nature, as my dad revealed during their dating years. I will not allow myself to be taken advantage of a man, as my mother did early in their marriage. I will not allow myself to love a man who does not love me as passionately and with an equal measure of commitment.

I want a partner in life, and will not settle for anything less than that. And I know that I deserve it. I will allow myself to know myself and protect the virtues of my character against any attempted tarnishing by a disrespecting man. No, I feel wholly confident that I will be happy in a relationship because I will not make the mistakes I saw them make.

I thank God that my parents did not put on a show for me. They didn’t raise me to believe that love and life are perfect. They showed me the real, and it is because of that I am certain I will know how to love in a real way, with dedication and effort. I am certain that I will be able to face life’s challenges confidently with a partner who is devoted to me and committed to my happiness. I will know how to connect with my partner because I saw where they failed. I have already lived with the mistakes of a poor marriage, so I know that I will not make them.

Being in college, I have talked with so many of my friends and it is really a shame what charades their parents put on for them. I have one girlfriend whose mother refuses to talk to her about her previous boyfriends before her dad. Because of this, my friend doesn’t have the privilege of knowing where her mom went wrong in prior relationships before her dad. Her parents’ marriage is not a happy one either, but unfortunately, my friend has yet to process it in a way that I have. If anything, she only fears that she will marry someone just like her dad, but I don’t really see her becoming proactive about ensuring that she does not. I have other friends whose parents would argue in separate rooms and do their best to pretend like everything was wonderful, when in reality, it was deteriorating. Why hide your struggles from your children? I think it is healthy for children to gain a grasp on reality, *as long as* you help them to process what they’re witnessing, as my mom did.

Do parents want to set their children up for miserable, failing marriages? Do they want to cycle repeated? Does “misery love company,” even when the happiness of one’s children is at risk?

The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream

Everyone on the face of the Earth has a treasure that lies waiting for them.”

“In order to arrive you must follow the signs.
God inscribed on the world the path that each man must follow.
It is just a matter of reading the inscription He wrote for you.”

“The glory of the world is transitory, and we should not measure our lives by it,
but by the choice we make to follow our Personal Legend,
to believe in our utopias and to fight for our dreams.
We are all protagonists of our own lives,

and it is often the anonymous heroes who leave the deepest mark.”
(from Paulo Coelho’s acceptance speech to Brazilian Academy of Letters)

“The closer you get to your dream,
the more your Personal Legend becomes your real reason for living.”

The Alchemist

For the past two years, I have been searching for some person or word inspired by God to restore meaning in my life … I have found what I was looking for in Paulo Coelho and his novel, The Alchemist. After reading this book, I felt like I came alive again. I had feared that I would not find a way to dig out from underneath the negativity I had piled upon myself, and oftentimes felt tempted to surrender to an ever imminent feeling of defeat. And then, I learned of this book from a friend… it couldn’t have been suggested at a better time because, as I mention in my first post, I am trying to pull my life together.

I had heard of The Alchemist earlier in my life in passing… you know, like one of those books you know the title of and recognized it as a classic work of literature, but don’t know what it is about and don’t really have any inclination to read it. The Alchemist was that to me, until a dear friend of mine just recently suggested that I read it. She had just finished it and suggested that I read it, saying it was a story about a boy’s journey to realize his dreams. Normally, I don’t think that would have really caught my interest, but for some reason, I was intrigued by this description, likely because I am in a state now where I am trying to flush out my dreams and determine in which direction God will have me travel. I would like to thank my dear friend, for she has given me a gift that I could never have anticipated… the gift of hope and anticipation for greatness in my life!

I thank God for the gift of new perspective. My eyes have been renewed by seeing life through the eyes of a simple shepherd boy who had hope and faith in a dream larger than his present circumstances could ever foretell. Despite the immense difficulties that threatened to thwart the realization of his destiny, he persevered and chose to continue his journey instead of accepting defeat. To quote the book, “…he realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. ‘I am an adventurer, looking for treasure,’ he said to himself.” For him, quitting would take the fun out of his journey. As stated in the book, “It is precisely the possibility of realizing a dream that makes life interesting.”

That scenario speaks to me directly. In these past years, I have burrowed myself into a state of such deep regret that it has immobilized me. I have fixated on the mistakes I have made that I have allowed them to hinder me from moving forward. But looking at the shepherd boy fills me with such inspiration. I need to actively learn how to see my mistakes as moments of life experience, moments that carry lessons to be used as examples of how not to handle things next time… the key point being that I should not shelter myself from situations that will test what I learned from my mistakes, but face them head on with a new and greater awareness!

What I also love about how Paulo Coelho depicted this situation is that he was very real about it. Before coming to this state of hope and determined persistence, the shepherd boy was tempted to yield to the resistance created by his mistake. After being robbed, he thought regretfully to himself:

“When I had my sheep, I was happy, and I made those around me happy. People saw me coming and welcomed me, he thought. But now I’m sad and alone. I’m going to become bitter and distrustful of people because one person betrayed me. I’m going to hate those who have found their treasure because I never found mine. And I’m going to hold on to what little I have, because I’m too insignificant to conquer the world.”

I absolutely LOVE that Paulo wrote him realistically. I know that everyone of his readers must have been able to relate to this feeling of despair and utter regret, knowing that we had things better a time before our present misfortune and disparaging ourselves for allowing us to get to this state. It’s human nature, and like us, the shepherd spoke ill of his future and for a short time there, was tempted to believe it. He even thought to blame God for his misfortune, saying that “this was the way God repaid those who believed in their dreams.” But instead of succumbing to the temptation of quitting, he realized that his destiny still remained and that a treasure was waiting to be found, by him. So instead of stopping his life story there, he had faith in his destiny, proclaiming to himself, “I am an adventurer, looking for treasure.” This unfortunate event was only a mild pothole along the road.

His outlook of transcendence is an example to me, to us all. He acknowledged his part in his misfortune and decided to learn from his mistake of so easily trusting a stranger. Yet, he did not fixate on his mistake. Rather, he looked for beauty in the seemingly lowest of moments. He focused on the positives of his experience, centering himself on his accomplishment of reaching Africa and coming that much closer to realizing his destiny.

I hope that in life, I can face each day with such optimistic vigor. In every day, every moment, every breath, there lies beauty. There is always something to be praised. The challenge is to train your eye to see it. Once you can accomplish that, beauty is all you’ll come to see, in every circumstance. God is EVERYWHERE. He is not hiding. Rather, it is our human eye that fails to recognize his presence in every living moment. Here is an analogy to better explain my point. Don’t credit this to me; I may have heard this from somewhere a few years back. I am realizing this now: When you are driving, your hands naturally guide the vehicle to whichever point upon which your eyes are fixed. So if you are fixated upon the car approaching you in the opposite lane, your hands will naturally reposition the car toward this oncoming car. But if you are focused on the lane you are in, you will continue to safely drive the course. I have been focusing on my past mistakes, and have thus been living in the past. My life has been unable to move forward because my gaze is pointed on what is behind me. I feel closer to God after reading this book.

I may have finished reading this book Friday, June 20, 2008, but its words and the images it evoked still replay in my mind. I am certain that this book and its author have become bright threads in the tapestry of my life journey. The story was especially affecting to me as a Christian. I felt closer to God after reading this book, and that feeling still remains. Reading it, I just knew that Paulo Coelho must be a Christian because he speaks in the language of Christ. I cannot even express how much this blessed me. As my faith diminished during the last two years, my relationship with God grew gradually more distant. It was not until last January that I felt an undeniable separation from God, which truly scared my. I committed myself to seeking the Lord and have been praying for redirection in my life. I was feeling like my life was headed back in the wrong direction when I learned about The Alchemist. Reading it, it was as though my soul was being cleaned throughout and uplifted in encouragement. As I said earlier, I felt closer to God, which I so desperately needed. I heard Him through the words of his creation, Paulo Coelho.

I know that I am destined for something amazing! I was under so much spiritual fire in these last two years and at the point of almost succumbing fully to its will, when God sent me this light to guide me back to the path on which He has destined me to be! Wow… my destiny MUST be something amazing and important that the Universe conspired at this exact time to remind me that my dreams are realizable… the time when I most needed such encouragement! I just have to trust undoubtedly in the strength God has put within me and trust that He has portioned me more than the right amount to surpass ALL of resistance’s efforts to prevail against me. Thank you, Lord for this new view on life! It is the same life, but ahh… it looks SO different to me now. I never thought that I would reach this point of sublime certainty in my clarity and clarity in my certainty of Your truths in my life. But Lord, am I ever paying attention to Your signs now.

I highly recommend this book as a read for EVERYONE. I especially think it should be a necessary read for school-aged children, whose dreams are so vibrant and fragile, full of fervor but slipping so easily to the wayside as they grow. The lessons it teaches are invaluable. Also, I particularly recommend the book to those walking with Christ. You will be greatly blessed to see how God’s words flow through His faith-filled creation, Paulo Coelho.

I feel it only fitting to end this post with the words of the man who inspired both this post and this blog. Be blessed and may God bless you and Paulo Coelho, right where you are now.

Life

What is this force that drives us far from the comfort of the familiar
and makes us take up challenges instead,
even though we know that the glory of this world is only transitory?
I believe this impulse is called the search for the meaning of life.
Over many years of seeking a definitive answer to this question in books, art and science,
and in both the dangerous and easy paths I have followed,
I have found many answers.
I am convinced now that a definitive answer will never be given to us in this life,
but that, at the last, at the moment when we stand once more before the Creator,
we will understand each opportunity that was offered to us.

– Paulo Coelho