Tag Archives: Happiness

Year 2021 is Almost Gone: Part 1

It’s really hard to believe that Christmas day came and went. I had decided not to write a Christmas post this year, after realizing almost all of my former posts are usually very melancholic. Since I can remember, Christmas has always been a bitter-sweet period for my family. For some reason I’m yet to understand, dad has always found it gratifying to ruin it for us, and this year wasn’t any different.

Growing up, the one thing my sisters and I looked forward to were the new Christmas dresses and gifts. Those afforded us a reasonable amount of joy to keep the Christmas spirit alive. Funny thing is, we knew no peace because dad would cause havoc on all Christmas Eves, so my sisters and I would attend mass on Christmas mornings with our eyes red and puffy from crying all night, as we watched our parents fight.

Thankfully, in our infantile minds, the small joys like new dresses and gifts made us forget the pain easily. However, when we got into teenage-hood, the new dresses stopped coming because mom couldn’t afford them and dad was just being the miser I’ve always known him to be.

Consequently, with the small joys gone, we started noticing the melancholy that characterised all our holidays. The one constant thing was fighting, as dad always exerted his dominance over us. Even if we had a good day, the nights would be marred by unmitigated agony. That has always been the Christmas pattern in our house.

This year, as I’ve mentioned, was no different. Dad came home on Christmas day after being away for a month. It’s imperative that I mention this year his behaviour has been very peculiar. As I mentioned in my previous post, dad did not bother to congratulate me when I told him I was getting admitted to the bar. I have no idea why he behaved like that.

Moreover, in late September, he took a two months leave from work because he had leave days from last year carried forward. He did not inform anyone about it, and neither did he show up at home or pick anyone’s calls. When his late brother’s son invited my mom to his dad’s memorial service, dad got so agitated that he wasn’t the one invited.

When mom called him to inform him of the memorial, he sounded bitter. According to him, he’s the one with the money, therefore, he should have been the one getting the invitation and not my impecunious mom. To drive the point home, he said he would buy himself a maroon suit, white shirt, brown shoes, brown belt, and a maroon tie to match the ensemble; and he did just that.

I figured he wanted to stand out because he knew there was a high possibility people would be dressed up in dull colours, given the nature of the occasion. Interestingly, when mom asked him to buy her a dress as well seeing as our relatives are so materialistic and overly critical of people’s appearances, his curt reply was, “You don’t need to wear anything!” Needless to say, she felt deeply wounded.

He did not even come home first so we could go there together. He just travelled from his work place, straight to the church. Nonetheless, after mass he came back home because unbeknownst to us, he’d started his leave. Still, he left two days later and decided to shut all of us out. He came back the week before my admission to the bar, and like I mentioned in the previous post, that was one miserable week.

Again, he went back the Saturday after my admission, and did not come back until a month later on Christmas day. Two weeks earlier, he’d called to say we would be visiting his mother, and since he knew it was my birthday, he asked my mom to tell me my work as an attorney is more difficult than the accounting job he does, therefore I need all the blessings I can get from.

Apparently, that was meant to arm twist me into agreeing to spend my birthday at his mother’s place since he knows we don’t really get along. This is owing to the fact that she chose to disregard me and my sisters, as we are the progeny of a poor woman. She only loves the moneyed, so we did not suit her tastes, sadly.

As my birthday was falling on a Sunday, my sisters, mom and I agreed if he really wanted us to travel, and if it was that urgent, we would travel Monday. However, we did not tell dad. We figured we would tell him when he came home. As it turned out though, he neither showed up, nor communicated he would not be coming.

Ironically, as we’d find out later from dad, his mom had asked to see him so she could inform him she was selling the piece of land she had given him previously, because she needs money. Funny thing about that is, she’s given pieces of land to people who are not even her children; yet somehow, she deemed it wise to sell dad’s piece. We’ve always known she despised him, but this was just cold. Oddly, it felt like karma getting back at dad because of how he mistreats us.

On 24th in the afternoon, his older brother called mom to invite us to a family gathering he was hosting at his place on Christmas day, and to ask mom why we prevented dad from going to see their mom. Obviously mom was perplexed. We did not tell dad we were not going, he just chose to not show up without any explanation.

The Love Thief: Part 3

At the time he was going through some financial constraints, which he hadn’t told me about, so he just pulled away abruptly without warning. For six whole months we did not talk or communicate in any way. I was still smarting over the response he had given me, and unbeknownst to me, he was dealing with financial issues (that he did not want me to know about). He did not reach out, and I did not either.

During our unofficial hiatus, I happened to watch the movie, ‘Not without my daughter’, starring Sally Field, and as anyone who’s watched it might expect, it scared me half to death. If that movie was anything to go by, there was so much to be afraid of, in relation to me forging out a path into the future with my Muslim guy. I missed him so much sometimes, but then the fear would dampen those feelings.

It was only months later (half a year to be precise), that he attempted to reach out to me, acting so casually, like he had never left. Subsequent to my inquiry, he told me he had taken some time off to deal with some financial issues. While I sympathised with him, I couldn’t understand how he had just deemed it wise to disappear without warning.

I tried to walk a mile in his shoes, and while I couldn’t excuse his behaviour, I oddly found myself still so drawn him. The embers of our affection were still burning. Nonetheless, I also noted with concern that my carefree attitude towards our religious differences, and the deep affection that made me feel we could conquer the world and be happy together, was all gone; and in its place was these intense anxiety.

‘He has no qualms marrying three more wives after we’re married’, I told myself. ‘And he will disappear again…’ These thoughts drained all my joy; and talking to the guy I once desired, became the bane of my existence. Every time he texted or called, I’d feel so nauseous, that I had to find a polite way to blow him off. All the excitement I’d once felt was gone.

Eventually, I realised I couldn’t keep dodging him, so I figured I had to be frank and tell him what was bugging me. I told him after analysing our situation, I did not have the emotional capacity to be more than friends with him, so we hit reset and went back to being friends. Just like with majority of my relationships, I was ecstatic when we broke up. I felt I could breathe again.

To date, three years later, we are still friends; and while he usually tries to convince me to be more than friends, I usually decline politely. Hard as I try, I cannot see beyond the anxiety I felt when I was with him; and that is usually the dilemma I face in relationships. Hardly do my interactions bloom into full-fledged love, because for some reason, I always feel too anxious to stay with someone.

Due to this overwhelming anxiety, I’m just learning to avoid relationships. The loneliness is overwhelming, but at the same time it affords me a reasonable amount of peace, since I don’t get to deal with issues which could trigger my anxiety.

Just two months ago, I reconnected with a friend. Since then we’ve been talking every day, and just for a short while, I actually felt alive. Since he runs a restaurant, we don’t talk much during the day, so we usually talk in the evening when he gets back home. Normally we talk from around 10pm until one of us says they’re sleepy. Because of this, I’ve been trying to clear my schedule for the day, so that by the time we start talking I won’t have any work pending.

This past Saturday we texted in the morning before he left for work, and we didn’t text again the whole day. I just assumed we’d talk again as usual in the evening when he got off work. By the time the clock was striking 10.00 o’clock, I was already full of anticipation, because I’ve really been enjoying his company.

The Love Thief: Part 1

Being single seems to be my status quo…not out of choice per se, but out of circumstances. Of the said, ‘circumstances’, the biggest determinant is my anxiety disorder. In previous posts, I have delved into my struggle with anxiety: how I started suffering from it; when I was officially diagnosed; and, the numerous struggles I have experienced courtesy of this energy-draining fiend.

As I go along, monitoring myself and all, I’m gradually and sadly realizing the one thing that causes me the greatest anxiety is romantic relationships. I’m almost always ok, until I start dating. In a nutshell, my anxiety shoots through the roof, that I feel physically sick.

Basically when I meet a guy I like, we chat for a while, meet up… and at that point I’m usually fine. However, as days go by I start realizing the relationship is getting serious, and that’s when my problems begin. I start contemplating all the things that could possibly go wrong… and in my attempt to save myself the heartache, I start pulling away; I become distant.

From my observation, when the relationship is in that early stage where we haven’t defined its nature, in terms of whether we’re just friends or we’re dating, I’m usually ecstatic, as the vibrancy of the new found ‘love’ courses through my body. Sadly, I’m also noticing that the vibrancy doesn’t last long enough for me to savour the relationship. A few weeks into the relationship, my anxiety rears its ugly head, threatening to annihilate my relationship.

Anxiety affects people differently. While in some people the relationship anxiety may trigger untamed jealousy and erratic behaviour, mine makes me hold myself back from the guy I’m with. In the event I anticipate the guy might leave me for whatever baseless reasons, I start pulling away until the relationship is decimated.

Normally, some of the triggers include traits in someone that I may not be very comfortable with. For instance, a couple of years ago I dated this guy who was in every sense of the word, ‘doting’. He was six years older than me, and he seemed ready to settle down.

At some point he even proposed marriage, but knowing how my mom has suffered in her marriage because for the most part she was financially dependent on my dad, I gracefully turned the proposal down, telling him I wanted to make something of myself first before I could settle down in marriage with him.

What I did not tell him was that in addition to me wanting to be financially stable first, I had also seen how he treated women on social media. He was condescending; treating them like they were little pieces of trash that could be bought off, since he was from a wealthy family. According to him, money could fix all problems, and as such, he thought women just loved him for his money.

Though we were happy at the time, I feared that someday we would start fighting about the usual things couples fight about, since no relationship is without flaws, and at that point in time, I would be the one on the receiving end of his arrogant treatment. Needless to say, that realization, coupled with his marriage proposal freaked me out, and I started planning my exit. Thankfully, I used the proposal as an excuse, telling him I needed to work on me first; and that was how we ended things.

Since then, after the realization that I wouldn’t be comfortable getting married if I wasn’t financially stable, I’ve always avoided getting into relationships, because I already know I would only end up disappointing the man I’m dating, when I start pulling away when the relationship feels like it’s headed to marriage.

What do you want?

Half of the time we walk around…going through life, fumbling…uncertain of what we want. Do I want to go to law school? Do I want to write? Sometimes we have everything we want…but we don’t realize it…so we go through life, searching… and searching for that perfect thing…perfect job…perfect partner…perfect house… perfect family…

Question is, what d’you want? Second question is, is there such a thing as ‘Perfect’? Earlier today, my small sis and I were talking about happiness and success… which of the two would you pick? She picked happiness…then, being the ‘devil’s’ advocate, I told her it’s hard to be happy when you’re hungry… I mean, we should know that better…hunger has been the one constant thing in our life. Smh!

So agreeing with me, she rephrased her earlier statement. “I’d want just enough, to enable me to be happy”. I couldn’t agree with her more. Sometimes we get derailed by thoughts of grandeur… so much, that we become blind to the beautiful things happening around us.

A short while ago we were watching the movie ‘Permission’, starring Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis… It’s about a man (Will), who wants to propose to his college girlfriend (Anna), but on the night he intends to propose, he is discouraged from doing so by Annna’s brother and his partner. They suggest that Anna should try dating other men before she finally agrees to be tied to Will in nuptials.

Will seems reluctant because he is sure he loves Anna. She, on the other hand, is open to trying out new relations. The movie focuses primarily on these two trying to date different people, while they are still together. Sometimes, the focus shifts to Anna’s brother (Hale), who desperately wants to have a child but his partner (Reece) is opposed to the idea.

Towards the end of the movie, Will realizes he loves Anna and does not want to lose her. Therefore mastering enough courage, which he did not have at the start of the movie, he goes down on one knee and pops the question. Unlike the first time when they were in Hale and Reece’s company, this time they’re alone. Anna says yes, but later in the night, she changes her mind and retracts her acceptance.

Hale on the other hand, realises that while he loves Reece, he cannot continue being in a relationship with him because they clearly have different desires. He wants a child but his life partner won’t support him. Eventually he packs his clothes and leaves.

At the end of the movie a dejected Will is left alone in the house he had personally constructed for himself and Anna, as she sets out on her quest to find her happiness. Hale and Reece go their separate ways. I did not like the movie’s ending because it did not have the proverbial ‘happily ever after’…

However, it is a reminder that such is life. We do not always have everything figured out, and even when we do, we don’t always get it. As I watched the movie, one thing stood out: sometimes we spend so much time, trying to find that perfect thing… that perfect moment… those perfect words… For instance, at the start of the movie, Will knew what he wanted; to propose to Anna, but he was too nervous.

I’m thinking, if he had followed his gut then, and made that proposal, he would have known then, if she wanted to be with him or not. Furthermore, his woes began when their friends suggested they try dating other people before settling down.

In my humble opinion, the company we keep is crucial. Sometimes our friends/family mislead us unknowingly, therefore we have to be strong enough to stand by what we want, even if they do not agree with it. If one knows what they want, they should be ready to fight for it even if means they will swim against the tide.

Furthermore, we need to appreciate the things we have and the people in our lives, so we can treat them with the love and care they deserve. Sometimes we take them for granted, waiting for the ‘perfect’ ones to come along, until we find ourselves at the verge of losing them.

That’s when we realize just how much they mean to us, and ‘perfect’ is pretty much a figment of our imagination. In essence, what we need to do is to figure out what we want… and once we identify it, we should fight for it, no matter the odds.

Seventy times seven

Cold wars are a serious problem in my family and lately they are becoming annoyingly common; for instance, for the most part of last week and the previous week, my big sister and I were not talking to each other. What’s funny is that we’d fought over something so trivial – splitting house chores. At first the conversation had been going ok, but after a while we started disagreeing and before we knew things escalated…next thing we were going our separate ways.

A day later, I’d already gotten over the anger and I was ready to reconcile. My sister, on the other hand, seemed grumpy. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she blatantly ignored me. At some point I started panicking when I realized she was so bent on keeping to herself, that she would use alternative doors, so we wouldn’t bump into each other.

After a careful examination of my conscience, I realized that even though the things I’d told her were true, they were hurtful. Furthermore, the situation had been worsened by the fact that I’d said them with my voice raised. Possibly if I had said the same things calmly under different circumstances, they would not have stung as much as they did. Granted, I had said them in response to what she had told me and that’s why I had gotten angry in the first place. Since I knew she wouldn’t talk to me, I sent her a text apologising.

Still, she did not talk to me. I gave up trying and asked God to soften her heart because I could not understand how she could carry anger around for that long. I missed talking to her, but I did not know how else to reach out. Eventually, she started talking to me after a week. Of utter silence.

Over time I have realised that when I hold grudges, they consume me from within, so if I stay angry for long I end up hurting. That’s why I try not to stay angry for longer than necessary. Furthermore, there’s that reading about not letting the sun go down when still angry; meaning, even if it is alright to get angry sometimes, we should not drag it out.

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day… Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you…

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God as has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:26-31).

Those words keep ringing in my head whenever I’m angry…and I thank God for them because they keep me from holding grudges, even when I feel someone has really hurt me. Coincidentally, the Sunday readings in church the last two Sundays focused so much on forgiveness.

One thing I got from this past Sunday’s reading is that if you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others as well. That is a prerequisite we must fulfil before seeking God’s forgiveness. That got me thinking, most of the time we walk around holding grudges against people, yet when we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, forgetting we haven’t forgiven others ourselves.

Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) teaches on that. In a nutshell, it is about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars, so the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, together with his wife and children. The servant dropped on his knees, imploring the king to be patient with him because in time he would pay everything. The King felt sorry for him and forgave him his debt and let him go.

When this servant was on his way, he met up a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Enraged, he grabbed him by the collar, asking him to pay all he owed him. The poor man fell on his knees asking for more time, just like the servant had begged the king, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. Instead he had him thrown in jail until he cleared his debt.

Other servants saw what had happened and they reported it to the king. Incensed, the king ordered that the unforgiving servant be brought to him. He castigated the servant for not showing mercy to his fellow servant. Subsequently, he had the unforgiving servant thrown behind bars, where he’d be punished until he repaid all the millions he owed the king.

As Jesus told His disciples, that is how God the Father will treat all those who do not forgive others. We should forgive each other seventy times seven times. This is just figurative. What Jesus was trying to say is that we should forgive as many times as possible because our human nature makes us prone to sin. That way, even God will forgive us.

On that same note, we are highly discouraged from avenging ourselves. In Romans 12:17-19 we’re told, “If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it”.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt during this covid period is that being cooped up indoors with your loved ones could easily make them seem like foes, because everyone starts focusing on the small, insignificant things… We need to overlook those trivialities, because it’s in so doing that we can live in peace and harmony…and when fights inevitably break out, forgiveness is key. That way, our humanness doesn’t pull us away from God’s grace.

 

God, where are you?

When is today? Same day as yesterday…and the day before that, right? Nowadays it’s hard telling days apart. Even before this distressing pandemic befell us, when staying home wasn’t the new ‘normal’, I could tell Monday from Friday, because at the least, I had Sundays to break the monotony. Now that is not possible as well because churches have been banned as a way of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In all my life, I have never experienced so much uncertainty as I am now. Each day passes by with every moment angst-filled. Once upon a time, watching TV was fun…but nowadays, there are the incessant live updates about the state of COVID. Nothing’s normal anymore…

I miss going out and not having to worry about touching things because they could be contaminated, or getting close to people…I miss walking into several stores in a day, and not having to rub different sanitizers on my hands before getting in each store…I miss walking outside, inhaling the fresh air, without the irritating inhibition of face masks…I miss walking into a mall, without being subjected to ‘hospital-like’ protocols, such as screening before going about with my business.

I miss waking up to the cheerful sound of children playing outside…I miss seeing jolly neighbours laughing at a barbecue, clinking bottles of beer on a warm Sunday afternoon…I miss hearing the occasional happy birthday songs when my neighbours’ kids are all gathered in one of their friend’s house cutting cake…or seeing them jumping on a bouncing castle… I miss…[sigh]… I miss…many things…I miss normal!

I miss going about with my normal routine, and not having to constantly worry about the people close to me, who I cannot see every day; because Corona is like an armoured thief lurking in the dead of night, waiting to creep in when someone’s guard is down. It’s like being in the battlefield, and knowing any bullet fired could be the ‘one’…

I miss days when one could just cough or sneeze freely, without fear of being suspected of having corona. I miss days when COVID-19 updates were not the main focus on TV. It’s even more disturbing, thinking all those numbers denote actual lives… It feels like we’re in a twilight zone…

Million dollar question is, when this invisible monster is ravaging the world at a terrifyingly callous rate, where is God? Of the things I have learnt to appreciate during this imposed ‘quarantine’ period, is the fact that I can ‘travel’ to the Vatican any day I want and attend mass, celebrated by His Holiness, the Pope.

One of the memorable masses is Good Friday’s mass, where the homily was given by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. He said something that answered that million dollar question, which I believe so many people around the globe are asking, “God, where are you? If you’re real, why have you let this monster run loose?”

Fr. Cantalamessa said, “The pandemic of coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence. A Jewish rabbi has written that we have the opportunity to celebrate a very special paschal exodus this year, that “from the exile of consciousness”. It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us…

While he was painting frescoes in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist James Thornhill became so excited at a certain point about his fresco that he stepped back to see it better and was unaware he was about to fall over the edge of the scaffolding. A horrified assistant understood that crying out to him would only have hastened the disaster. Without thinking twice, he dipped a brush in paint and hurled it at the middle of the fresco.

The master, appalled, sprang forward. His work was damaged, but he was saved. God does this with us sometimes: He disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is the not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus!

He Himself says in the Bible, “I have…plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others? No!

The one who cried one day for Lazarus’ death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every father and like every mother. When we will find out this one day, we will be ashamed of all accusations we made against Him in life.

God participates in our pain to overcome it. “Being supremely good”, wrote St. Augustine, God will not allow any evil in His works, unless in His omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil”’’.

The homily was relatively long, but in a nutshell, Fr. Cantalamessa assured listeners, that God does not bring about disasters. You know that concept of free will given to man by God? Nature was given that freedom to evolve as well. This is because when God created the world, He did not intend things to just function mechanically, in a manner that would be so predictable.

I know these words won’t do much to calm all the anguished hearts, but I pray, they will bring some slight comfort to all those who are afflicted and grieving over the loss of loved ones. This is not easy, but we will triumph over it, the same way Jesus triumphed over death. God is with us.

Joy of Christmas

Every Christmas I find a Christmas carol which rings in my head the entire season. In most cases it’s a reflection of my feelings. It’s not something I do consciously; I just hear a song and depending on my mood, I’ll find myself singing it over and over again.

This Christmas, two songs have stood out: John T. Williams’ Home Alone 2 (movie) version of ‘Somewhere in my memories’ and Pentatonix’ ‘Where are you Christmas?’ The former fills me with nostalgia as I remember the happy feelings I always have on Christmas.

The latter on the other hand, is an expression of the turmoil in my head this season:

Where are you Christmas?

Why can’t I find you?

Why have you gone away?

Where is the laughter you used to bring me?

Why can’t I hear music play?

My world is changing

I’m rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Yesterday was Christmas day…for some reason however, it did not feel quite like it. In the evening I looked at my phone, and obviously the date on the screen was 25th December. If I didn’t know better, I would say my phone was malfunctioning, because the day itself just felt ordinary. I was not bubbling over with my usual Christmas cheer…and neither were my family members.

Light-heartedly, I said, “My phone shows it’s 25th….and that’s Christmas day!”

“What?” My big sis, getting what I was insinuating feigned surprise. Mom however, did not get my drift so she said it was Christmas indeed.

“Of course it’s Christmas,” I affirmed. “It just doesn’t feel like it”. Christmas is usually a big deal to me. It is my favourite season of the year. To me, it represents hope. My sisters and I have this tradition of watching Hallmark Christmas movies. For anyone who’s into them like we are, you will notice they are relatively predictable.

Most are usually premised on a love story, where a lady and a guy meet. Over time they develop feelings for each other, but then they run into what feels like an insurmountable hurdle. With determination either from both parties or just one of them, they find a grand solution to the problem and they end up together. Sometimes there’s a dash of Christmas magic…

My sisters and I are big on happy endings. Therefore it’s not hard to understand why these movies are so appealing to us. In a way, they are a representation of hope: broken families are reunited; lonely hearts find love, people who had stopped believing in the Christmas magic find a reason to believe again…  The movies are simply inundated with hope, and that’s what Christmas is all about; the wonderful gift of hope.

This year though, I have been running low on the Christmas cheer. I know a huge contributor to that has been this awful fatigue that’s been making me feel so worn out. This year has been a very busy one for me. At the start of the year I got into bar school and I only managed to come up for air when I finished my bar exams in late November.

Seemingly, the fatigue has aggravated my anxiety so I’ve been feeling on edge these last couple of weeks. Everytime I try to shake off the angst but the general atmosphere at home hasn’t helped the situation. This, I think, is what has robbed me off my Christmas cheer this season.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like the song by Pentatonix voices out their emotion, and there are several reasons this could be attributed to: it could be a family feud that has members distancing themselves from each other; or it could be because one has been hoping by the time the year ends they will have found love but they haven’t yet.

It could also be because a couple was hoping to get a child this year but they haven’t; or someone was hoping to get an end of year promotion but it didn’t come. It could also be because one’s fallen behind on paying their debts now they are drowning in arrears…the list is endless.

During the third Sunday of Advent, that is last Sunday but one, the priest gave an uplifting sermon about the joy of Christmas…and yesterday in church he reiterated what he had said then: the reason for this Christmas season is Jesus Christ.

We often think that having everything in life will make us happy. However, that is a fallacy. I remember watching Alladin, where Will Smith, who plays the genie cautions Alladin against drinking from the cup of voracious power because, not even all the money in the world could ever feel enough. That is true. The more one gets, the more they want…

In reality, the things we think might bring us joy might just turn out to be the bane of our lives: the child a couple thought would bring them joy might be the one who brings them tears and immense sadness; the spouse one waited for, for so long might be one who causes them anguish.

In light of this, we need to realize that all the joy we need can only be found in Jesus Christ. When one finds the joy of Christ, they can be happy even when they’re sick, childless, hungry…etc. That’s the joy we’re reminded to find this season. Speaking from experience, I know that’s easier said than done…but when we find that joy, everything will feel right…

I sort of got stuck on the first part of Pentatonix’ song, but towards the end, lies the answer:

Christmas is here… everywhere

If you care

If there is love in your heart and your mind

You will feel like Christmas all the time.

As we’re nearing the end of year 2019, I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous Year 2020!

Beautiful December

December just came and has flown by so fast, I’m having trouble accepting 2018’s almost over. I had been waiting for this year’s Christmas since last year but how it just came and passed quietly has really astounded me. We’re practically doing the countdown to the ushering in of the New Year and I’m here wondering how the Christmas festivities eluded me…We have a half-decorated tree to show for it.

However, the Grinch is not to blame for our failure to have a ‘proper’ Christmas. On the contrary, this month has been a beehive of activities…and good ones at that. The month basically started off with my birthday celebration. Then while we were still feasting on the birthday cake, we started preparing for my graduation. Last Friday, I was conferred the degree of Bachelor of Laws. In light of this, this is my first post as a lawyer. It still feels so surreal.

With my graduation behind us, Christmas was at the doorstep, waiting to be let in. By then, my family and I were recovering from the graduation fatigue. Given how much time we spent on the preparations, by the time I was graduating I hadn’t been sleeping enough; and my family hadn’t either. As Friday approached, we were eagerly waiting for the day to pass so we could go back home and rest. Therefore, when we got back home later in the day, we just slept.

Since then we’ve been squeezing in time for siestas in between meals, after mass…pretty much while transitioning from one activity to the other. For the first time in almost forever, I slept on the afternoon of 24th December. I hadn’t planned on that but when sleep came knocking I couldn’t resist. That day I had woken up early, made buttermilk pancakes for the family and shortly after, I was counting the Z’s.

I slept through lunch and later that evening I got up, prepared supper for the family and it was Christmas Eve. By then, we hadn’t found the time to put up our decorations. Though we’d attempted to a couple of times, we hadn’t quite gotten to do it. We had tried putting them up on 23rd. However, we found out our Christmas lights had stopped working and therefore needed to be replaced.

That evening mom and dad went to buy new ones but as is common with late shopping when things are on high demand, the lights were out of stock everywhere they checked. Before then, it had never occurred to me that the Christmas lights might be impossible to find. That’s why our tree ended up half decorated, because once we realised it wouldn’t be glowing like it should, the psych for decorating went out the window.

For the last four years I hardly celebrated the holidays because I was too busy reading for exams or trying to complete some assignment. Since I finished law school, I had imagined this would be the best Christmas. Little did I know it would just be overshadowed by school-related stuff, again!

Now with 2019 edging closer, I’m thinking about all the expectations I had for this Christmas. While most of them only remain dreams, I’m still thanking God for helping my family and I celebrate this one. It wasn’t what I had in mind…but the phrase, ‘count your blessings’ comes to mind. Though I know this Christmas could have turned out better, I also know given the circumstances, it was actually the best.

A day after my graduation, one of my lecturers called to congratulate me and I was just lamenting about how my Christmas had just slipped through my fingers since we didn’t have any plans for the festive season; and he comfortingly told me in life we need to do what needs to be done. Christmas comes every year but graduations only happen rarely. I saw the sense in his words.

Most of December was spent preparing for my graduation and even though that wasn’t what I had anticipated, I’m still so grateful because my mere graduation was a colossal blessing to start with. God made everything fall into place. So all factors considered, December has been a very beautiful month… I turned a year older, became a lawyer and got to celebrate the best holiday of my life, Christmas.

One major thing I’ve learned is that though things may not always go as anticipated, God makes everything alright. Like a jigsaw puzzle, every little piece just falls into place gradually. We only need to be very patient and open-minded…to love and appreciate things as they happen according to God’s will, because His plans are the best.

Given that we’re still celebrating the holidays, I wish you the happiest…

And a very Happy & Prosperous Year 2019!

 

If wishes were horses… Part 1

Sometimes my life makes me question the way things work…for instance, I have this friend who’s been raised by a single mom. Though I never tried prying, I put one and one and together and I sort of figured out how she ended up ‘fatherless’. Her mom’s a staunch Catholic, and her dad’s Muslim. Given that I almost got into a relationship with this Muslim guy I really liked, I understood why such a relationship would be laden with insurmountable hurdles…

Given the nature of both faiths, it would take huge sacrifices by both parties for the relationship to work. Then there’s the pressure from family, where they come with impossible demands, like for children to be raised in their faith and not the other… it could be an impossible relationship. Long and short of it is, my friend ended up without so much as a surname.

Though she normally wears short dresses and skirts, she occasionally dons hijabs, especially during Ramadan. It’s actually one of those instances that had me probing into her wardrobe. Then she went on to explain to me that though she was raised Catholic, she feels more Muslim; and true to that, though her names are Christian, her signature is a Muslim name. The first time I saw it I presumed that would have been her surname had her parents ended up married.

Interestingly, it’s her story that discouraged me from ending up with my Muslim sweetheart. Though at the time we were very close, slowly it dawned on me that in the long run things would get very complex… one of the basic differences in our faiths that posed a challenge from start was that in Islam marriage is a contract, whereas in Catholic it’s a sacrament, where two people are joined together till death.

Additionally, there are other sacraments like baptism, where it’s highly advisable for infants to be baptised, to rid them off of the original sin. So I found myself constantly wondering how we would resolve all the challenges arising from our different faiths if we ended up together… our children would be the ones to bear the brunt because they would be caught up right in the middle.

Then I thought of my friend; she could have been the fruit of a very strong love, but somehow she was caught in the middle, where I get the feeling she really yearns to have a present father in her life. I’m not sure I made the right decision, but I didn’t want to subject my children to all that.

My friend is one of the many people I know who grew up ‘fatherless’ and who seem to feel their lives would have turned out much better if their fathers had stuck around. However, knowing my dad and the life I’ve lived, I would beg to differ with her. Sometimes even when a parent sticks around, it’s not always a guarantee they’ll do good by their kids.

With my sisters and I for instance, we did grow up with our father, but I wouldn’t know where to start if I was to enumerate the pain and anguish he’s put us through.  Earlier today, he got into a heated exchange with my big sis. Thing is, when our small sis was opening school he gave her incomplete school fee, so my big sis made an arrangement with the school to have the money paid in instalments.

However, given how my dad’s mind works we could not tell him the money could be paid in parts because that would make him slack off next time since there would be no pressure to pay. Since she is a research assistant in her Alma Mater, she therefore told him she had a lecturer from her school loan her the money to clear the balance and dad agreed he was going to pay it back.

However, given that he was supposed to pay up today, he said he didn’t have the money. Distraught, my sis told him she was going to get in trouble with her lecturer, and the words that left dad’s mouth had me wishing I had a better dad. “Tell him you don’t have the money. He can have even go ahead and call the police on you”, he barked pitilessly. And I found myself wondering what kind of a father wished for their daughter to get arrested.

Interestingly, when he was arrested last December for drunk driving he was very quick to call mom so she could go bail him out. Then, he was so afraid of being locked up, yet today he didn’t seem to have any issue getting my sister arrested. I genuinely felt let down, because for some unfortunate reason, whenever dad has to come through for us; to act as a loving, protective father, he bails in a heartbeat; without the slightest hesitation.

War, a dream thief: Part 2

The fourth interviewee was a youthful rapper. He explained to the two boys reporting what rap is, since they had never heard of it before. Rolling his jumper’s sleeves up, he explained that someone should be free and at ease. When they got the drift, he asked them if they wanted to join in and he taught them a few lines.

Much later in the interview, the rapper performed, joined by the boys, a young girl, who was also a reporter and another young man who sung the chorus. The lyrics were sad because they talked about how no one would pay attention to the music with the ongoing war. Their background only accentuated their plight. They were standing in what seemed to be the remains of what was once a huge building before it collapsed; and, one could barely see the floor beneath them as it was all covered by debris. It was an ominous scene.

The two boys visited a children’s ward in a nearby hospital. If it weren’t for the fact that the wounded occupants of the beds were manifestly young, the first impression one got was that the patients were soldiers who’d been injured during battle.

One patient was a young boy. He explained to the two young brothers that he’d undergone 13 surgeries: 11 to reconstruct his arm and 2 on his thigh. When asked whether he was afraid of airstrikes, he reflexively bended his knees, bringing them up to his chest. He said he was so scared of them that every time he heard them he would cover his ears with his hands. It’s not so hard to understand why he was so petrified… he lost his brother in one of the attacks.

Another boy showed an extensive scar right across the middle of his head, explaining that a flying shard cut him so he had to be stitched up. The scar left a hairless patch on his head. Right next to him was a girl crouched on her wheel chair. She couldn’t walk because her leg was in a cast. Furthermore, she stretched her hand, revealing a missing finger. My heart ached…

As I looked at those children, all I could see was helplessness… how callous the world could be. These were fledgling human beings, who had so much potential… but all their dreams seemed to be going up in smoke… they were not even assured of seeing the next minute, with the constant airstrikes.

The boys’ next stop was a refugee camp. People there were living in very unsanitary conditions after being left homeless by the airstrikes. The children there were not even going to school. It was horrible. Bad as the situation was in Yemen generally, the two brothers realised they were living in much better conditions because they still had a home.

A four year old girl was the last interviewee. She was seated on a swing that was suspended on a tree branch. She was alone, looking so forlorn, which is not typical of a child who’s out playing. The two young brothers were in the company of a girl, who I imagined couldn’t be older than ten. She carried a big beige teddy bear under her arm.

When they got to the little girl, the older girl gave her the teddy bear, just to pep her up. Her interview tugged at my heart strings most. When asked where she lived, she pointed her finger toward the direction of a pile of rubble. Every one of her family members had been killed in the missile attack.

Hidden War in Yemen

She took the three reporters to the debris, showing them what were once her mom’s clothes and cooking pots. One got the feeling she was still trying to comprehend what had happened. Though she was not crying, she seemed robotic, which was very ‘unchildlike’… the war had done that to her.

When asked whether she had anyone to play with, she shook her head, saying she had been waiting for her little brother to grow up. She explained his baby brother had also been killed. The reporters, curious to know how she had survived, she explained to them that she had been out there on the same swing when the missile hit their house. That’s how she narrowly escaped.

She further explained that before her dad died, she heard him calling out, “Nadia”. That was her mom. After everything had calmed down, she went to check what had happened and she saw her mom’s hand dangling from the debris. I was moved to tears.

This four year old girl had, in her very short life, been through what most people only see in horror movies. Her uncle had taken her in… however, after such a traumatic ordeal, I can almost bet life will never be the same for her, no matter how much love and comfort her uncle affords her.

In my very humble opinion, no person, leave alone a child, should have to go through such a traumatic experience, especially taking into consideration that the situation could be avoided. The war in Yemen is not a natural disaster that cannot be prevented.

Most of us take peace for granted. We go to bed at night and wake up to the beautiful sound of birds chirping… however, what I saw in that documentary made me realise that peace is a blessing. The people in Yemen barely sleep, and when they do, they are woken up by deafening explosions. Some never make it out of their houses alive…

When I’m feeling down, the hope of achieving my dreams keeps me psyched up and I get the strength to push on. So it was heart-wrenching to see so many dreams go up in smoke… people were not feeling motivated enough to do things that made them happy, because just as the satirical writer said, it was impossible to be happy when they were surrounded by death.