The Hard Conversations – Roe v. Wade: Part 3

In this case, for instance, if ‘no abortion’ is the general rule, then the exceptions to the rule are the varying reasons women have for contemplating abortions. For illustrative purposes, I’ll use Malta. Basically, it’s the only country in the European Union that has a total ban on abortions. This I learnt recently, when I was watching this story on France 24, about a pregnant American woman, who bled profusely when she was on holiday there. She was sixteen weeks pregnant.

The irony of the matter is that she was there with her partner on ‘babymoon’. Before the unfortunate incident, she was actually celebrating the pregnancy. I’m imagining she was ecstatic… anxiously awaiting the birth of her baby. Chances are she even had planned baby names.

Seeing as any pregnant woman would ordinarily be looking forward to holding their little bundle of joy, albeit with a little trepidation because of the birthing process, my lucky guess is that the termination of the pregnancy was the last thing on her mind… least of all, in a foreign country.

The untimely bleeding raptured the amniotic sac, and there was almost no amniotic fluid left. In addition, the placenta was partially detached. This compromised the pregnancy’s viability, with doctors saying there was no chance of the foetus surviving. Shockingly, she was denied a medical emergency abortion, because the foetus still had a heartbeat.

The doctors in Malta were so adamant, that she had to be airlifted to Spain, where abortion is allowed. Though I’m not a medical doctor, I gather her condition made her susceptible to sepsis or haemorrhaging that could lead to death. Then, there is the trauma of knowing she was carrying a foetus that would never develop fully. The anxiety and dread must have been debilitating.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, laws are meant to regulate human behaviour; and seeing as respective states assume the paternalistic role, where rules are imposed on us, in an attempt to promote the greater well-being of the members of society, one could try to understand why we have such controversial laws. Nonetheless, for the simple reason that law does not operate in a vacuum, it is safe to say that any person mandated with the responsibility of making laws, should look at each situation holistically before putting that pen to paper.

I must admit, when I was younger, I thought abortion was about young girls seeking termination of their pregnancies because they got into some sexual relations and unexpectedly got pregnant. At that time, I thought abortions, were a misguided/sinful reaction to an issue that had solutions: use of contraceptives, or plain old abstinence. I thought the solution was to foresee the possible obstacles that could arise and be proactive about it: prevent a pregnancy before it happened.

Furthermore, the gory videos I watched as a teenager in sex education class detailing how the foetus is removed from the uterus, especially when it’s at an advanced stage painted abortion in plain black and white. It was ‘murder’! The defenceless foetus died an undignified death. It just felt wrong. I remember feeling particularly scarred. Worse still, were the health risks I learnt the girl/woman could subsequently suffer.

Now, relatively older me, who’s read on issues revolving around ectopic pregnancies, anencephaly, severe pre-eclampsia… traumatic rapes and incest, and the resulting effects of inbreeding… etc.; and older me, who’s come across heart-wrenching instances of women who’ve suffered the agony of having to lose babies they desperately wanted simply because of health issues, realizes that abortion is not a black and white issue; and as such, it would be a grave mistake to collectively label it as murder.

In any case, it is actually a vast grey area that cannot be put under one ‘no abortion’ umbrella. Doing so would be tantamount to hiding behind a veil of unmitigated ignorance; utter ignorance to the real situations that real women go through in real life. So yes, I support life, because it is sacred; however, when we say life, it is not just about the baby’s life, but the woman’s life as well.

This therefore, in my very humble opinion, calls for all concerned authorities to look at the bigger picture, before repressing women’s right to reproductive health; because while laws are important, they will bring more harm than good if they do not take into consideration the real issues in the society. It is a tricky balance, but one that cannot, in my opinion, be avoided.

The Hard Conversations – Roe v. Wade: Part 2

As this post’s title suggests, this pro-life/pro-choice debate is a hard topic. With me for instance, I am pro-life, not because I do not think women’s right to reproductive health is important, but because I also take into consideration, the unborn baby’s right to life. I believe life begins at conception, and every life is sacred. That said, do I think women should have a right to abort if they so choose? Absolutely!

Nonetheless, I cannot also ignore the fact that there are competing rights in every situation that calls for abortion. Essentially, it comes down to making a choice between the mother’s overall health, and the unborn baby’s life. Now regarding the latter, question is, what if the mother’s life is not necessarily at risk, neither is the baby’s per se, for the entire pregnancy term; but, tests show the baby will be born with a serious congenital defect, such as anencephaly (a condition where a baby is born with part of the brain underdeveloped, and an incomplete skull)?

Studies have shown that an anencephalic baby might be stillborn; and, if they survive, they only remain alive for a few hours or days after birth. When faced with a similar predicament, some parents have chosen to have their baby, regardless of the high risk of death, whereas some choose to terminate the pregnancy, and understandably so. In light of this, it is impossible to have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standard, to determine when to choose life.

As a practicing lawyer, the line of work I chose puts me at a crossroads; I’m a human rights lawyer, who is very passionate about the rights of children, women, and the vulnerable categories of people in general. Therefore when faced with a situation where I need to advise on the need for abortions, I would highly discourage it if it’s not a medical emergency. That said, I am of the firm belief, the right to choose whether to have an abortion or not, should be an available option to anyone who finds themselves in that predicament.

Arguably, when it comes to the pro-life debate, most people’s arguments are premised on the notion of induced abortions resulting from unplanned pregnancies, instead of looking at the ‘bigger picture’, which includes medical abortions and other issues such as rape… That is why I find it perilous to maintain a hard-line stance on the restriction of abortions; because there are numerous intervening factors.

In my thinking, the ban on abortions should not be an umbrella ban. In law, when it comes to tendering evidence before court, there are relatively strict rules of evidence, which determine what is relevant, admissible or inadmissible… etc. However, one key thing I learnt in my evidence law class, is that ‘to every general rule, there is an exception’… and that, I’m realizing, isn’t just a legal concept, but a principle that cuts across all facets of life.

In this case, for instance, if ‘no abortion’ is the general rule, then the exceptions to the rule are the reasons women have for contemplating abortions. It is easy to judge women who seek abortions, but unless we walk a mile in their shoes, their plight might be lost on us. Some of us castigate others, until a similar predicament befalls us, or a close relative/friend. We do not have to experience the pain, to understand someone else’s pain.

The Hard Conversations – Roe v. Wade: Part 1

A few days ago, the US Supreme Court, in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson, overturned a previous landmark judgment in Roe v. Wade, which gave women the constitutionally protected right to abort. As would be expected, this has sparked heated debates regarding the pro-life vis-à-vis pro-choice issue. Personally, I see this decision as a giant stride, in the wrong direction. It is retrogressive to say the least.

The impact this has on the society generally, is that it claws back on progressive steps made in the last half of a century, since the Roe v. wade decision was made in 1973. Seeing as court decisions are considered ‘judge-made’ law by virtue of the legal doctrine of stare decisis (a Latin phrase which means, ‘to stand by things decided’) this decision will have a ripple effect, not just in the United States, but on several jurisdictions around the world.

Essentially stare decisis obliges courts to be guided by previous court decisions and there are two types of precedent: binding and persuasive. The former binds lower courts in a particular jurisdiction to the decisions of higher courts. This will be the case in the US, where lower courts are obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s decision in matters touching on abortion.

For other countries, this decision will affect them in the sense that even though courts in their respective jurisdictions are not bound by the decisions of the US Supreme Court, persuasive precedent allows them to rely on its decisions, or decisions made by courts in other countries. As a result, many courts could end up making similar judgments.

Seemingly, this judgment has raised mixed reactions from people, and while some hail it, I find it a dangerous precedent because of the effect it is going to have on societies around the globe; because after all, it boils down to one thing: judicial interpretation. The million dollar question is, will women stop procuring abortions just because a bench of 5-4 judges decided against it? Being cognisant of the defiant nature of human beings, I think not.

The way I see it, protecting a woman’s right to abort doesn’t mean women can sleep around recklessly then resort to abortion when they unexpectedly get pregnant. On the contrary, it means when the need to terminate a pregnancy (for whatever reason) arises, the woman in question can do it in the open, and through safe procedures in an authorized facility.

Ideally, where abortion is legal, it opens the general forum for discussion about what is safe, and what is not. Furthermore, trained medical professionals are given the mandate to carry out these procedures, and giving counselling, thus reducing the chances of having abortion related complications and deaths, and alleviating the trauma the patient could experience, subsequent to the procedure.

The glaring truth we cannot run away from, is that even in countries where abortion is illegal, women still get them. Difference is, where it is criminalized, professional medical practitioners desist from getting caught up in that mire that could have them imprisoned, and their practicing licenses revoked.

As a result, such delicate procedures are left in the hands of untrained quacks. It doesn’t require rocket science to imagine, what tragedy could befall a woman who entrusts her life to an untrained ‘doctor’. It is horrifying!

In my first semester in law school, I learnt three key aspects: first, laws are rules, which regulate human behaviour; two, law does not operate in a vacuum; and three, law is dynamic. In a nutshell, what this means is that laws guide us on what is required of us in terms of how we conduct ourselves.

Where the laws are flouted, penalties are meted out against those who violate them. While most of us adhere to the rules, we do it primarily out of fear of being penalized. Think Covid… most of us walked around in masks and stayed home during lockdowns to avoid arrests and penalties.

That notwithstanding, when laws are being made, they should factor in societal beliefs and practices. Where laws are made blindly then imposed on people, there is usually resistance, therefore the implementation of the said laws fails to a large extent; hence the saying law does not operate in a vacuum.

Thirdly, law is not static; it is always changing, because of the fact that even society is evolving. As society evolves, different issues come up, thus the need to have effective laws in place to regulate them; and more importantly, to have legal interpretation that is alive to the said evolution.

Now making reference to the overturning of the Roe v. Wade case, what comes to my mind is, people in this era are relatively more ‘woke’ than they were 50 years ago. If there was ever a time society needed protection of reproductive health rights, it is now. For that simple reason, we cannot be acting retrogressively, undoing progressive steps spanning decades.

9th Blogaversary!

9th Blog Anniversary

On this day, nine years ago, this blog was created. Time really flies… It’s unbelievable! I’m just feeling super ecstatic! When I made the decision to start this blog, I had so much going on in my head. I’d been slipping in and out of depression with ease, that I feared that was the only life I’d ever know. It was a scary place to be in.

At the time I felt alone, and writing offered me an escape. It helped unclog my mind. Then it occurred to me, that I wasn’t the only one feeling lost in my own troubled mind; and I thought, if I shared my thoughts with people going through similar experiences, they would realize they were not alone, and that would help them fight the depressive thoughts. That still remains my desire.

I see/hear very many stories of people who are taking their own lives everyday, and I feel awfully sad. No one should be in a position where they feel so alone, that suicide feels like the only option. On this blogosphere, I have read numerous stories that have uplifted me; stories that have made me realize that my problems are not unique. Most of us are sailing in the same boat, and it’s only by sharing our experiences that we realize, we’re not alone.

Like I’ve said previously, I find writing very therapeutic; whether I’m writing about some experience I had, or just my thoughts on a certain issue… and the thought that there are actual people reading my posts makes this blogging so much fun.

WordPress Achievement

I’m so grateful for all the likes, the comments, and the views. I never take any of that for granted. Thank you so much for your continued support, because without readers, I’d be too unmotivated to write. So as I celebrate this beautiful milestone, my profound gratitude goes to you all; my wonderful readers. Thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

It is easy to trivialize the role mothers play, until one actually walks a mile in their shoes. Last weekend, my cousin and her seven year old daughter visited. Need I say, the adorable little thing was a handful!

Given that I’m not used to having kids around, it just felt too tasking to be looking over my shoulder every two seconds to ensure she wasn’t running around in the kitchen when the burners were on… or locked up in the bathroom just washing her hands under the running water like a thousand times because she loves playing with soap and water, literally!

Every time she went out to play, I knew trouble could come knocking at any time because she’s very feisty. If she doesn’t agree with other kids on certain issues, she resorts to beating them up; either with her bare fists, or with whatever she can lay her tiny hands on. This latter issue is what has her mother almost petrified. She doesn’t know how to reign her sweet angel in.

She told me at some point she’d gotten so frustrated, that she had decided to quit her job; that way she would be able to keep an eye on my niece whenever she was out playing, because every time the girl went out to play, angry parents would be knocking on her door incessantly, complaining that her child had roughed up theirs.

I understood her frustration; she is giving motherhood her best shot, trying to keep her little angel in check, but somehow, like children manage to do, the girl is still reeling out of control. Interestingly, my cousin’s reputation as a ‘strict mom’ precedes her. From my observation, even my niece is afraid of her. In light of that, I am still unable to comprehend how my niece gets the guts to do everything her mom tells her not to.

I couldn’t help sympathizing with her. Anyone who hasn’t had the chance to see her raising her child would fault her for being a bad parent, courtesy of the mischief her child gets into; and how wrong they would be. If my little niece is acting up, doing everything she’s told not to do, it’s not because my cousin isn’t doing her job as a parent.

Truth is, children are not robots that can be automatically controlled to act a certain way; they have minds of their own. I don’t know much about parenting to be honest since I don’t have any children yet, but one thing I’m almost certain about is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ parenting style. Chances are my niece is going through a phase that she will eventually outgrow.

Watching my niece reminded me of someone I know; yours truly! At her age, I was also roughing kids up. My mom was summoned by my class teacher a couple of times because I’d fought with kids in school. Then I went to boarding school, and since my mom was far, the kids I roughed up would report me to the headmistress.

Funny thing is, I never bullied kids. My aggression was usually me defending myself if some kid attempted to bully me. It was usually the older kids picking on me, but to their surprise, I was a little firecracker; anyone who messed with me got hurt. Eventually I got tired of the violence and resolved to avoid getting into petty fights, seeing as violence only aggravated the issue.

Needless to say, my cousin heaved a huge sigh of relief when I shared my childhood experiences with her. She’d been visibly worried about her child becoming a recluse. I bet that’s what majority of parents go through; they want to raise ‘perfect’ kids, but kids end up failing them miserably.

Watching my little niece had me wondering if I’m ready to become a mother. The way I see it, motherhood is one of the hardest jobs on earth. There is no educational course on motherhood, therefore one has to learn on the job. Furthermore, it is one of those jobs where one tries to put their best foot forward, but any miniscule ‘error’ (as perceived by society) attracts so much unwarranted criticism.

Mothers bear the brunt of their children’s faults, regardless of how old that ‘child’ is. “Your mother never raised you right”, is a common phrase people throw around when displeased by one’s actions/omissions. Unbeknownst to them, some mothers die trying to be the best moms, but their kids fail them.

It’s in light of this that I acknowledge mothers for the great work they do, but hardly ever get enough credit for. I can attest to the fact that raising a child is anything but easy. So as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I wish my cousin, my mom, and all the moms a very Happy Mother’s Day!

Kids have never failed to imitate: Part 3

Now back to these girls with the makeup, my sis and I started discussing two different scenarios of how the issue would possibly end up when they retired to their respective homes later in the evening:

First scenario: after asking their parents to buy them makeup, their parents would readily oblige, since they wouldn’t want their kids to suffer any embarrassment among their friends. Better yet, they wouldn’t want their children to find other alternative means of acquiring the same; say stealing, or trading in sexual favours with older guys so they can get money… etc.

Second scenario: After asking their parents to buy them makeup, some parents would refuse; since not all parents would consent to buying their children makeup owing to their young age. It could also be because they do not have money to spend on such ‘cosmetic’ things, as my dad would bluntly have referred to such, implying that there are more important things in life.

In such a case, depending on how desperate a girl is, she will find alternative means of acquiring that make up. The parents will be lucky if their daughters are complacent like my sisters and I were. We always wanted things that felt basic like bikes, but our dad was too stingy to buy them, and our mom too impecunious to afford such.

We also contemplated how much power and influence that ‘cool girl’ with the lip glosses wielded, over her younger friends. Seeing how awed they were by her, they would take everything she said as ‘Bible truth’. If she told them it was cool to take drugs, they would do just that just so they can also seem cool. Furthermore, if she said it was cool to have sex, that’s what most of the girls would aspire to do.

The way I see it, it takes a certain level of maturity for someone to realize being ‘cool’ isn’t ‘all that’… and as it is, most kids haven’t gotten to that level of realization. Who can blame them? That’s just how the cookie crumbles.

The thing with children, is that they may not listen to what older people say, but they will surely imitate what they see around them. For instance, I wanted to become a nun because I grew up around them. In the same vein, if a child grows up watching a sexual worker who is very successful, that’s what they will want to be.

Like I mentioned previously, children are essentially very innocent. For the most part, they will only see the best in people. While majority of us might be here judging people because of the lifestyles they live that do not conform to our ‘moral norms’, children will see the good-hearted nature of the person, and as such will want to be just like that person.

Such was the case in the movie, ‘The Executor’ starring Markiss Mcfadden and Mischa Burton, where a young boy and his mom are in a shop, when a young man bombs the shop, subsequently killing the woman. His troubled conscience prompts him to adopt the orphaned boy.

As the little boy is growing up, he chooses to become an assassin as well. Clearly, this boy opts to follow in his adoptive guardian’s footsteps, not because he doesn’t understand the nature of his job, but because he likes the guy. This is what happens with children; they imitate what older people do, and as such, it is the people they interact with, who play that vital role of shaping their destiny.

Kids have never failed to imitate: Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, which I published a couple of years ago, I delved into the issue of how impressionable kids are. They learn through imitation, and as it is, they have never failed to imitate. For instance, growing up, I wanted to become a nun. Reason being, I grew up around them. Mom was a devoted member of the church, heading small Christian community groups, and other key church groups. Furthermore, she was as a certified catechist at some point.

Due to this, we interacted with priests, deacons, seminarians and nuns a lot; and one thing I admired about them was their humble demeanour. I admired their way of life generally. The way they carried themselves, lived in fancy houses…

When it was my birthday, or my sisters’, they would bring us gifts. In addition, they visited us at home, and we also got to visit their houses a lot; accompanied them on spiritual retreats that would last for a whole day… If there was an ordination we would be invited. Consequently, I desired to become a nun when I grew up.

Overtime, as I grew up I interacting with them on a more personal level, I ended up realizing that so many of them were very hypocritical, only masquerading as saints. They were mean and bullying; the kind you go to when you’re in need and they turn you away without a care. While some were good, the relatively bad ones made a lasting impression on me. That’s how my desire to become a nun faded away.

Yesterday evening when my sister was going to draw the curtains, she saw a couple of girls gathered together, in what seemed like a small girls’ meeting. Upon careful scrutiny, she realized it was one older girl surrounded by much younger ones.

The oldest of them couldn’t be older than eleven, as majority of them seemed to be between ages six and nine.. Interestingly, she was in possession of a variety of lip glosses, which she kept pulling out of her pocket, and interchanging with other ones. She seemed like the coolest kid of the pack.

Obviously the rest of the girls were fascinated by the variety of the lip glosses because they took turns to apply them on their lips. It was just hard to believe the level of trust kids have in each other, especially during this Covid time. None of them seemed bothered that one of them could potentially be sick; but then again, that’s the beauty of being a child. Raised in the right environment, very little seems to trouble their innocent hearts.

When my sis told me what she had seen, we started dissecting and analysing that situation. Sometimes, parents can make or break their children’s dreams; for instance, these young girls might have run back to their parents asking them to buy them makeup.

I say that based on previous experience. A couple of years ago, I got a pair of in-line skates and started skating around our neighbourhood. Then I made friends with some guys who were already so good at the sport. I was the only girl skating at the time, and it seemed like such a huge deal. When skating alone I wouldn’t go too far, but when in the company of my friends we’d go relatively far, staying out late.

During those instances I was skating alone, the kids from my neighbourhood would ask me to lend them my skates, and even though they were a couple of sizes bigger, I would adjust them to the smallest size and then fasten them, so they could move around in them. Within a couple of weeks, most of the kids had gotten their own skates, so we started skating together. Most of them got really good at it; and as would be expected, I got really popular in our neighbourhood.

At the time I had a phone, but owing to their relatively young age, the kids did not have phones. Then one evening when we were just seated catching our breaths after doing a few rounds of skating, some girls started telling me how one of our little friends, who was five years old at the time, had threatened to commit suicide when her parents refused to buy her a phone.

Thankfully she adored me at the time, because I was the ‘cool kid’, so when I told her not to do such a horrendous thing, she listened. Though they moved a few months later, I reckon now she’s in her early teenage years. Point is, it is at that time I realised kids are very easy to manipulate. If they like you, they will want to be like you, whether you’re good or bad.

Altruism or Unity?

Altruism or unity? What would make the world a better place? That’s the question my small sister asked me yesterday when she was taking one of those personality tests she’s so ‘obsessed’ with, for lack of a better word. That got the cogs in my head turning; and immediately, my thoughts jumped to the debilitating war in Ukraine; the war in Yemen; the war in Syria and Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

After doing a quick analysis, I realized there was no doubt in my mind that I definitely desire for the whole world to be united. Then a thought occurred to me; in every society, there are divergent thoughts and opinions, so for there to be unity, there must be a certain level of constructive consensus. In other words, people should be big enough (personality-wise) to set their hard-line bargaining skills aside and be willing to meet each other halfway.

When I think of all the wars going on in different parts of the world, I get the impression there is so much going on behind the scenes, that I may be faulted for purporting to say who, in my opinion, is right, and who is not. Nonetheless, what I am certain of, is that irrespective of the side of the political divide one could be on, there are reasons they feel justify that choice.

Furthermore, the glaring truth that none of us can ignore, is that whatever reasons are there, there are scores of innocent lives getting lost. That begs the question, how can world unity be achieved? How can people stop fighting and killing? That’s where in my humble opinion, altruism comes in.

In my understanding, altruism is that selfless desire to do something, purely for the benefit of another. Many of us have that innate desire to have people acknowledge the charitable things we do, and that essentially, is what defeats altruism. So in my estimation, while unity is vital, it is impossible to enjoy it if we do not put other people’s needs first.

If I’m a person in authority, say in government, I need to ask myself, how the decisions I’m making are benefiting and/or affecting others. If I took my intended personal gains out of the picture, would I still make those choices? Altruism is what defines that very thin line between charitable behaviour inspired by self-ambitions and true kindness; and, unity starts where there is that selfless care and kindness.

Last year when I was catching up on movies I missed on when I was in law school, I watched the animated drama film, ‘The Breadwinner’. It’s one of the numerous movies produced by Angelina Jolie, and it revolves around the life of Parvana, an Afghan girl. She lives in Kabul, which is under the Taliban rule.

In a nutshell, the whole movie is heart-wrenching, because it highlights the struggles of women and girls in Afghanistan. Seeing as women are not allowed to walk the streets without a male guardian, Parvana’s family suffers a major setback when her elder brother dies and her dad, who is the breadwinner gets arrested.

Parvana, who lives with her mother, older sister and her infant brother, goes to the shop to buy some food. Lamentably, the male sellers refuse to sell her the items she wants, afraid of the Taliban’s retribution. This leaves the hungry family helpless, and their only option is for Parvana to shave her hair and dress up like a boy. Interestingly, she is able to move freely when she’s masquerading as a boy.

The movie paints a very bleak picture of the life of an Afghan woman. It is not a life anyone would wish for. That same week, I watched a documentary on France 24 News, where an Afghan woman was arraigned before a Taliban tribunal and subsequently received 40 whip lashes for allegedly talking to a man on the phone. As a human rights lawyer, all I could think of were all the woman’s rights being violated at that point in time.

My mind could not comprehend, the reasoning behind the finding of guilt, or the reasoning, that made the men feel it was ok to strip such a woman off her basic human dignity. In essence, that is what the promotion, protection and respect of human rights seeks to achieve; to protect human dignity. Human rights are inherent to each person, irrespective of their race, religion, sex etc. In addition, they are inalienable, meaning one cannot infringe on another person’s rights, without demeaning their worth as human beings.

I wept, when I heard an Afghan woman saying dejectedly, “No woman in the world would want to be an Afghan woman”. Having watched the Breadwinner movie, I had an inkling of the challenges women there go through, and I could not agree with her more. I just wondered, if everyone applied the ‘Golden Rule’ in their lives, ‘Treat others the way you would want others to treat you’, who on earth would want to be on their knees, with two men brutally raining lashes on them?

Sometimes, we can only understand another person’s predicament, if we walk a mile in their shoes. That Afghan woman is just an example of people suffering all over the world, because some few people in authority failed to be altruistic. For there to be peace and unity in the world, huge sacrifices must be made; not the sacrifices that benefit only a few individuals at the detriment of others, but the sacrifices made by a few people at the top for the benefit of the majority of folks at the bottom of the proverbial food chain.

When leaders stop acting solely for their personal benefits; when they start walking in the painful shoes of an average citizen; when they stop taking part in charitable events only when cameras are rolling; when they put other people’s needs first, that is when, in my opinion, we will all enjoy unity in its truest form.

Waiting for the right time

Life happens when you’re busy planning life’. I’ve heard that so many times before; problem is, I keep forgetting it. Sadly, I get reminded about it under awful circumstances. Two weeks ago I was cleaning out my room. I had so much stuff lying around and some of the things I was seeing just needed to be tossed out. Therefore I decided to get busy and throw out what needed to go.

For the longest time, there was this beautiful doll sat atop the window. She’s been there for so many years, and every time I saw her I’d think, “I’m saving that doll for my kids”. I’ve watched so many movies where parents pass their toys down to their kids; not because they cannot afford new ones, but because of the toys’ sentimental value.

This doll was a gift I received about two decades ago from a pen pal. She was very beautiful: Caucasian with strawberry blonde hair and brown eyes, wearing a beige and green flowered dress. Seeing as she was my only doll, as my other toys were primarily teddy bears, I adored her; and, owing to that, I was very reluctant to play with her, lest I ruined her.

I’d seen other kids playing with their dolls until the eyes sunk into the head, all the hair fell off from too much brushing, and in worst case scenarios, they would have their limbs amputated and heads decapitated. That was never going to happen to my ‘Antonina’ (as I fondly named her), I swore to myself.

True to it, I would seldom brush her hair and redo her pigtails, and occasionally I’d wash her dress, just so she’d look clean and neat. Other than that, I never quite played with her. She was just too perfect to play with. This other day when I was cleaning my room, I just took her from where she’s been sitting for years, and I must say I was very disappointed to realize her once beautiful hair had weakened because of the wind and dust.

When I figured I was too old to play with toys, I stopped doing the routine maintenance, and somehow hoped she would withstand the test of time. How wrong I was… I tried fluffing the hair, and it broke easily when I ran my fingers through it. Previously, I’d just clean the window and then put her back, thinking, “I’ll dust her up next time”.

For a few seconds I just stared at the doll, wondering if I should just toss her in the bin… and at that moment, I felt disappointment rush through me. I missed out on a golden opportunity to play with this doll because I wanted to save her for my kids, but here she was, with hair breaking at the slightest touch. I regretted not playing with her until she got worn out, because either way, she still got ruined.

That same day, I picked from the closet, this pair of beautiful golden shoes I’d bought a couple of years ago. They were open-toe heels with a ribbon ankle strap. When I bought those shoes I was working in a lingerie store, but then shortly after I quit. Since I never go out much, I figured I’d just save them for fancy occasions since they were awfully conspicuous.

Needless to say, I rarely wore them because soon after I got into law school, where I was almost always in comfortable ballet flats or sneakers; and the occasional boots, when it was chilly or rainy. My beautiful goldies were just seated in the closet, waiting to be picked for an auspicious occasion.

I think I only wore them twice… or thrice at most; and now as I looked at them, I realized, though they still looked new, their quality had patently deteriorated. When I tried wiping them, the golden colour peeled off easily. I didn’t want to focus too much on the gnawing disappointment, so I just tossed them in the bin. I thought to myself, ‘If I haven’t worn them for this long, I certainly won’t need them’.

That had me thinking about my life generally. I miss out on opportunities, waiting for a ‘better time’. For instance, I rarely dated in my teens because I was too afraid of screwing up. I was so afraid of getting knocked up, and the dire repercussions that would subject me to.

Therefore I opted to not date entirely. I remember telling my best friend one evening when we were headed home from law school, that I never last in relationships because once I start feeling like things are getting serious, I run for the hills.

I didn’t delve into my anxiety issues, so I bet he never quite understood why I run. His reply was, “Don’t be a cynic”. He went on to tell me how men are not all the same so I should not be afraid of giving someone a chance.

Nowadays when I think of dating, I feel very lethargic. I’m afraid of getting my heart broken, and it doesn’t help that the few guys I’ve tried dating usually end up disappointing; and even when they haven’t disappointed me yet, I tread cautiously, anticipating they’ll disappoint me eventually.

I know my anxiety has played a huge role in the choices I’ve made so far… and while I can’t go back in time to do things over, I wish I had made different choices, because I’m really learning that life happens when one is busy planning life. Sometimes there’s never really, a ‘better time’. So one has to make the best of the present moment, because sometimes, that’s the best one gets.

The Price You Pay in Exchange for God’s Favour

God’s will, will not take you where His grace won’t sustain you!” This is the great message I got from New Year’s Mass.

On New Year’s Day, we were celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God. Such a great title that one! As a Catholic, one of the biggest misconceptions I find people have about Mary, is that we worship her. Truth is, we revere her for the great role she played, in her immaculate conception of our Lord Jesus, and the untold suffering she went through as a mother, during the Passion of Christ.

This moment is accurately captured in the Pieta, a great chef-d’oeuvre by Michelangelo, which is a depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of her son Jesus. According to the Catholic Catechism, she was born without sin because God had already picked her to be the mother of His Son Jesus.

The Pieta by Michelangelo

Even when we recite the proverbial ‘Hail Mary’, we say, “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you amongst all women…” If you think about it, it is such an honour to be the Mother of God. However, the truth is, this title came with unmitigated hardship.

She wasn’t just relaxing at home, oblivious to everything, when her son was being crucified on the cross. On the contrary, she walked the entire journey with Him, and watched as He carried the heavy cross, and as He was mercilessly whipped and jeered by the crowds of people.

She watched as He was stripped naked and nailed to the cross; watched when He was stabbed with a spear on His side and disdainfully bedecked with a crown of thorns… she watched as He called out in pain, asking God why He had forsaken Him (Matthew 27: 46).

It must have been a harrowing experience for a mother to see her beloved son go through so much pain, and not be in a position to do anything about it, because that was His destiny. In light of this, it’s only right that she is venerated as the Mother of God, and the Queen of Heaven. She intercedes for us, given her close relationship with our Lord Jesus.

Mother Mary’s pain, is what the Priest focused on as he gave his homily on New Year’s Day. Other than the dazzling display of fireworks as the cross strikes midnight on December 31st, the other thing synonymous with New Year celebrations are the messages of hope shared. We all hope for better days, for God’s favour to be upon us.

However, there is the age old question… While we are so ready to receive the blessings, are we ready to accept God’s will in our lives? Mary acquired the title ‘Mother of God’, the instant she accepted God’s will in her life, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done to me according to Thy word”.

The priest was saying, sometimes God will make you a refugee in another country, before His favour is made manifest. Case in point was how Mary and Joseph had to flee with their son Jesus to Egypt, when they found out King Herod wanted to kill the child. For someone like Joseph, the son of Jacob, he was thrown in a pit by his brothers and sold off as a slave in Egypt (Genesis 37:2), before being promoted to administrator. That was the equivalent of a prime minister.

The priest was saying, “You pray for a job, and when you don’t get it you stop praying, and you stop going to church because you feel God has failed you. Little do you know, God saw your future and realised that job was going to kill you. You meet a person you like and you decide that’s the person you want to marry. But when you don’t get that person you stop praying and stop going to church. Again, God protected you from that person because He knew that person would kill you”.

Praying for God’s favour means trusting in Him, and accepting His will. He only has good intentions for us, but as it is in life, those blessings are usually preceded by difficulties and misery. Jesus, His own Son suffered. While He was praying at the garden of Gethsemane, He asked God the Father to take away the cup of suffering from Him… yet, He still asked for God’s will to be done (Luke 22: 42).

What this shows us is that sometimes, God’s blessings are preceded by hardship. Nonetheless, what we should focus on are the benefits; the triumph. What we need to remind ourselves is that God’s will, will not take us, where His grace is not sufficient; where His grace won’t sustain us (Psalms 91).

Therefore, as we pray and hope for a Happy and Prosperous New Year, we need to remember that if we want God’s favour we must be ready to submit ourselves to His will. It may not always be pleasant, but once we trust in Him, we will eventually rip the beautiful benefits like Mary, Jesus and Joseph above. Thus, accepting God’s will in our lives is the price we have to pay in exchange for His abundant favour.