Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

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.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 2

Earlier that day, my boss had arrived at the court late, and somehow thought it would be wise to put the blame on me. This was despite the fact that I had found someone to hold brief for him, requesting for the case file to be set aside. I had even notified him about it, detailing what had transpired in court in his absence, and even texted him the exact time the matter would be coming up again.

However, previous incidents of me shouldering blame for faults that were not mine had made me realize I could not continue carrying myself as a martyr. I would only, own up to my mistakes. Furthermore, stoicism wasn’t working for me, because the anguish was ravaging me, from the inside.

That day, a fellow colleague and I were summoned to my boss’ office, to be reprimanded for being incompetent. The lady partner was also present, and all she was doing was fanning dying embers. That is when it became vividly clear, what her intentions were. She did not like me one bit and she would do whatever it took to make my time there miserable as hell.

Unbelieving, and unable to fathom what was happening right in front of me, I explained to my boss all the concerns I had; all of which he seemed to understand. For the first time in a while, I felt the weight on my chest ease. I laid everything bare, detailing the instances they had faulted me for their own mistakes.

Afterwards, my boss went back to how he was in January; calm, and soft-spoken. However, that was not meant to last, as I would later discover. Two weeks ago, my colleague and I expressed our concerns about going to work amid the coronavirus outbreak, seeing how fast it is spreading and our work entailed filing matters in court and serving. On a good day I would spend about two hours in the office. The rest I spent out, running office errands.

The boss’ reply was, if we skipped work without leave, we would not get paid. Given what was at stake, I opted to pass on the money, and so did my friend. We even agreed to quit because the office was becoming too toxic. As my friend had put it, even other colleagues had started showing their true colours.

One thing I’m not sure I like about the legal profession, is that there’s a hierarchy, where someone is regarded, based on when they were admitted to the bar-‘seniority’. In layman’s term, it is an equivalent to how in the society young people are supposed to respect their elders. In this case, an ‘elder’ could be a twenty six year old, who was lucky enough to join the profession early, lording it over a fifty year old, who decided to become a lawyer after completing a PhD in an entirely different field.

Therefore, due to this concept of seniority, the ones at the bottom of the chain such as my friend and I, who are merely pupils, might end up getting overworked or maltreated by the rest. That is something my boss’ partner was keen on implementing, because she told my boss succinctly, that pupils should be the ones doing the bulk of the work.

This is what made my friend and I opt to skip work, given that most of the work assigned to us was clerical work, which ordinarily would be assigned to the firm’s clerk, or a certified process server. Next thing I knew, I was reading a letter of summary dismissal. Honestly, the letter caught me by surprise because I had not done anything to warrant dismissal.

Here’s to… my first legal job: Part 1

Toast to 1

Last year December was not a very good time for me, reason being, I was so anxious about starting my pupillage. See, I went for my interview in mid-August when I was still in bar school. At the time I was still preparing for my bar exams. Ergo, the mere thought of starting on a tasking job was automatically out of topic.

My supposed pupil master seemed so eager to send me on errands, even before I formally started working. Due to this, I feared once I started working, he would overwork me. I had heard several ‘horror’ stories about other students’ horrible experience during their pupillage, so that made me very cautious. I prayed I would not have one of my own to give after my pupillage.

However, when I reported to work in January this year, everything I had worried about seemed like an unnecessary fear. The first few weeks felt like heaven. Every evening when I got home, I would go to bed eagerly awaiting to rouse early the next day, so I could go to work. My job, actually felt like a dream job.

In late January my good work relationship with my boss  turned sour abruptly, and my ‘dream job’ became the sole cause of my anguish. I dreaded going to work, and whenever I sensed my boss’ presence, I would get knots in my stomach. I hated being at work, because every encounter with my boss was awfully stressful.

I bet one would wonder what I did to damage my once good relationship with my boss? Saddest thing is, even if I went back in time, I wouldn’t be able to change a thing; because all of that was not because of anything I had done.

See during the first few weeks, my boss’ partner was still MIA. I had only met her once during an end of year party I had been invited to by my boss. Funny thing is, my instincts told me she and I would have trouble getting along. Interestingly, at the time she had not done anything specific; it was just my intuition.

When she finally started showing up at the office constantly, she and my immediate boss started having constant impromptu meetings. Coincidentally, every time they met up to discuss ‘God knows what’, my boss would become visibly hostile towards me. My guess is, she had admonished him about seeming too friendly. Consequently, he started nit-picking, invariably blaming me for everyone else’s faults, literally. Sometimes I even got the weird feeling he was getting a kick out of making me miserable.

I know this might sound like I’m trying to ward off blame, but truth is, my personal work ethic dictates that when I’m working on something, I should give it my best shot. For the longest time, that has been my guiding principle. Even at the office, everything was running smoothly, until that lady showed up. Every time I found myself at the verge of quitting, I would ask God for the grace to push on; because my completion of the pupillage was, and still is, a prerequisite to me getting admitted to the bar.

After a careful deliberation, I decided to have a discussion with my boss. He had to know my perception of things, if we were to continue working together. Thankfully, I did not have to ask him to spare me a few minutes of his time; the opportunity presented itself in a very unprecedented manner.

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!

Why do you believe?

Why do you believe in God? If you heard, say through social media, that your religious leader/spiritual guide was involved in some very shady dealings, would you stop believing in God? Would you stop going to your place of worship? I know it is very easy for people to get discouraged, when they are made privy to unsettling stories about their religious leaders. Question is, should that cripple our faith in God?

A couple of years ago, I shared a post about a priest in my church who got involved in some very murky affairs, and all in the quest to have the parish priest removed from office, so he could be the parish priest.

At the time the story caught me by surprise because the parish priest at the time was a very jovial and kind man of God. He was humble and even in his interaction with people, it was difficult to fault him for any malice, hypocrisy, or anything of the sort. His kind personality notwithstanding, some devious congregants conspired with the assistant priest and came up with very serious allegations that had our parish priest suspended.

The cardinal set up a team, which set out to investigate these defamatory allegations; which included womanising and practising black magic. A couple of months later, a report was sent to our church revealing the findings of the investigation. By then, neither of the two priests was in our church.

Worse still, the entire missionary society had pulled out from our church so now we had new priests. The parish priest read the report to us and just as I had thought, the former parish priest had been found innocent. None of the sixteen allegations against him were confirmed.

On the other hand, we were informed that the conniving assistant priest had been dismissed from priesthood by the Pope. Reason being, he was found guilty of various offences, which were a violation of the sanctity of priesthood, in the strict sense; since ideally a priest is meant to be a representative of Christ on earth.

That announcement made me question many things about the church. I knew there were priests out there who molested children, or even sired children with women, yet a Catholic priest is required to be celibate…Now to add to the list, there was a priest practising black magic.

I thought about my personal interactions, with that assistant priest –for instance during confession- and I felt scared, because I wondered where he drew the line between serving God and practising black magic.

I questioned the effect of him celebrating mass, and worst of all consecrating the bread and wine to turn them into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Had any of that been real given his already tainted soul? To some extent I felt duped.

There I was, dedicating my whole soul to God, yet the person who was meant to be loosely put, ‘holier than me’ was there invoking powers from the underworld. Speaking from experience, it can be really disheartening.

Now fast-forward to the present, I have read online about this disturbing story of a priest who was found dead and it is alleged he was killed by a fellow priest. How do we trust murderers to guide us to heaven? It really is disheartening.

Then following further investigations, there’s been a twist…it is alleged, this priest was in a gay relationship and his supposed lover is the one who killed him. Technically, a priest should not even be getting involved in romantic relationships with women, leave alone men; which part of society still frowns upon. So that raises a lot of concerns, especially where believers imagine, priests are very holy people.

From where I’m sitted, I feel it is very easy to lose faith in God, if it’s premised on the holiness – or lack of it thereof- of our spiritual shepherds. I remember when I was in boarding school, there was this priest who used to come to church with blood-shot eyes, courtesy of alcoholism, and in my infantile mind I found everything wrong with that. As I was growing up however, I realised alcoholism was only the least of a priest’s shortcomings.

So with all these occurrences, how does one still ignore everything and continue attending mass, with the nagging thought at the back of the mind that the priest celebrating mass could be getting apprehended for murder, rape…etc. sooner than later?

In my humble opinion, one should nurture their faith in God, in a way that it won’t come crumbling down the minute news of a priest’s/religious leader’s flaws start spreading on social media. Normally, I discourage those around me from ‘getting prayed for’ by others. This is because, I believe praying is a gift God has given us all for free, so we don’t need ‘middle men’.

Attending mass, from a Catholic’s perspective is highly encouraged. However, one should not just be attending mass for the sake of it. One’s faith should be so strong, such that even when we hear our beloved priests committed a felony, we won’t get easily discouraged. I like to remind myself that all these spiritual shepherds are also human.

The implication of this is that, they are prone to sin like the rest of us. Therefore, one shouldn’t base all their faith in them, but in God, who has commissioned them to spread His Holy word. That way, it won’t matter what our religious guides do backstage when they are not ministering. We should always remember that when all this is over, we will stand before God, individually. It won’t matter if our spiritual guides were murderers, paedophiles, home wreckers…etc.; of importance will be, what we did with our lives…

Humble yourself and God will lift you up

Imagine you got invited to a high-end party…and when you arrive at the venue, you find seats are organized in such a way that all the VIPs have their own special area reserved, as it usually is in most cases. Therefore when you get there, you quietly (without any drama) take a seat at some table meant for the rest of the hoi polloi.

However, when the host sees you, they happily walk over to you and tell you that you’re sitted at a wrong table. Furthermore, they respectfully walk you to a seat reserved just for you at the VIP section. How amazing would that feel? I know I would be stoked.

Then, consider a contrary situation where you’re already sitted at the VIP section, then some ‘big shot’ makes their way to your table, in the company of their entourage. Judging by their flashy clothes and accessories, you surmise they are very, very important persons. In their presence you feel very small.

When almost everyone is in attendance, the host walks to the ‘big shot’ sitted at your table, and whispers something in their ear. You just watch as they rise to their feet, their face awash with palpable rage and shame. Albeit you didn’t overhear what the host whispered to them, you gather from the rest of the VIPs at your table that the person was sitted at the wrong table and should have been at the ‘commoner’s’ area; moreover, the particular seat is reserved for some other VIP.

This hypothetical scenario is based on this past Sunday’s readings in church (Luke 14: 1 – 14). Jesus was invited to the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees. There, on noting the sitting arrangements, He told a parable to the guests in attendance. “When you are invited by anyone to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him.

And he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’, and then you will begin with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’. Then, you will be honoured in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.

Jesus also went ahead to caution the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite friends or your brothers, or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”.

Jesus’ teachings encourage us to be humble. If we don’t go around blowing our own trumpets and seeking praise from others, God will Himself uplift us. In the parable, He would be the host who invites the humble guest to sit at the high table.

Most of us thrive on publicity, and as result we end up doing things that might be deemed despicable. Case in point is Farrah Abraham’s recent ‘wardrobe malfunction’ at the Venice Film Festival. While the jury is still out on whether the ‘malfunction’ was accidental or choreographed, I’m of the humble opinion her reaction was too blasé for it to be considered inadvertent. Methinks it’s just another case of ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity’.

Based on what I’ve gathered over time, some people gain popularity without even trying. I know some people who are so successful in life, but you wouldn’t know unless you deliberately set out on a quest to find information about them.

There are these verses of the Bible I love:

Matthew 6: 3-4: “When you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father who sees what you do will reward you”.

Matthew 6:6: “But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father who sees what you do in private will reward you openly”.

These verses encourage us to carry on with our affairs in confidence. Looking at it from Jesus’ perspective, one needs to be very humble for them not to go telling every one of their achievements. It really takes so much strength to keep good things to ourselves.

Sometimes we go ‘rubbing’ our achievements in people’s faces, partly out of excitement, and partly as a way of showing off. I suppose what Jesus is discouraging is pride. As the saying goes, “Pride comes before a fall”. Logically, one cannot be proud and humble at the same time. So it’s always a matter of personal choice.

 

 

 

Who’s my neighbour?

As a lawyer, I know my neighbour is the person who is close to me, in terms of proximity, that my actions or omissions would cause them harm. This neighbour principle is intended to caution a person to be careful of what they do, or don’t do because they will be held liable for their actions/omissions.

About a fortnight ago, the readings in church were about a conniving lawyer who was trying to test Jesus’ wits, asking Him what he needed to do to attain eternal life. Jesus told him to be good to his neighbour. The rationale is, someone cannot love God, who they have never seen if they cannot love their own neighbour.

In this lawyer’s attempt to outshine Jesus, he asked Jesus who his neighbour is…and Jesus went ahead to tell him the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was done, He asked him who of the three people was a good neighbour.

In a nutshell, the moral of the parable is to be kind, even to those people we don’t know. The neighbour principle discourages us from doing things that might harm others. It teaches us not to do to others, what we wouldn’t want done to us.

That Sunday morning after mass, mom and I were at a petrol station checking tyre pressure, when we heard the distinct sound of shattering glass. On reflex, I looked over my shoulder thinking a driver had rammed into something.

But lo and behold! I saw a relatively young man, possibly in his early twenties, bending forward. He was trying to pick something from the ground, but his centre of gravity seemed very wobbly. His back and forth rocking motion bespoke early morning inebriation.

Then, I also realised, his pants had pooled at his ankles and he seemed to have such great difficulty yanking them up. He would bend, and his entire tall frame would tip forward, then he would attempt to stand.

I bet he was so drunk because he took like three steps forward, trying to find his balance, then he took a few steps forward. It was sad really. I would have been tempted to laugh, but the situation was just heart breaking.

When he was still trying to fasten his pants, which thankfully he had managed to pull up, he dropped his phone; and at that point he let go off his pants then bent forward again to pick the phone. Next to him was a broken window of a fast food restaurant, and shards of glass were scattered on the ground. That had mom and I thinking he had something to do with the breakage.

A waiter from the restaurant got hold of him and directed him inside. Then he locked the double glass doors from inside, I guess to prevent him from disappearing before they settled the damages. Though I doubt he would have, given his uncoordinated movement.

I could not help but wonder why such a young man would get himself into such unnecessary trouble on a beautiful Sunday morning. After seeing dad drink for all these years, and knowing the problems this has brought him and us, I am of the humble opinion people should just try to avoid the habit, difficult as it is.

Funny thing is, during mass the priest had said a good neighbour is one who doesn’t do things they wouldn’t want other people around them to do. Interestingly, he gave an example of a drunk man/woman, who comes home after three days. When asked where they’ve been, they turn hostile.

The priest asked, “If you wouldn’t want your partner or children coming home that drunk, why would you think it’s ok to do that to them?” Being a good neighbour means sparing a thought for those around us.

Emotional Scars: Part 1

How do you tell someone who’s been through hell in their life? Do they always have open scars to show for it, and does it mean if someone doesn’t have physical scars to show for the misery they might have gone through in life they haven’t suffered at all? In my very humble opinion, only a myopic person would expect to see physical scars as proof of suffering.

See Saturday night, dad was on the phone with one of his sister-in-laws, and while I can’t say if they have a solid friendship or it’s just one of the ‘fair-weather’ kind, he has this penchant for revealing our ‘family secrets’ to her when he’s drunk. Interestingly, they never talk when he’s sober; but when he’s in a drunken stupor, he’ll call her, even past midnight just to ‘check on her’.

When they talked, dad seemed to insinuate my sisters and I were ungrateful to her for all the assistance she’s allegedly given us so we could finish school because we never call her. To be honest, I found everything wrong with that statement.

For starters, unless there’s any assistance she’s ever given dad, financial or otherwise, behind our backs, I am not privy to such arrangements. In any case, over the years, my sisters and I tried remaining in good terms with her, even granting her the honour of being our ‘favourite aunt, until we realised she might not be very happy about our personal milestones.

When we’re not too concerned about interpreting her actions and reading between the lines, she actually comes off as sweet. It’s only when someone looks at things with unprejudiced eyes that one sees the malice behind her every ‘kind’ gesture. I’ll have to dedicate a whole post for that for it to all make sense…

Anyhu, dad called her Saturday night, complaining about how he had not seen my sisters and I since he came home a few hours before then. In our defence, he had come home so drunk and over time we’ve learned to avoid him because he says really nasty stuff. I cannot sum up the number of times I’ve contemplated hitting him…God-forbid! Or even throwing a bucket of ice cold water on him so he can sober up…God-forbid! That’s how infuriated he gets me…

His complaints ended with, “But you know kids, when they’re in trouble they’ll always come back to the parents”. I couldn’t agree with him more. Children will always need their parents; no matter how old they are. My only problem with that sentiment is, that’s the logic dad has always used to punish us.

Ever since I can remember, he’s always had this habit where he hurts us, physically and mostly emotionally. Then my sisters and I will resolve to never talk to him again…but given that he’s our sole breadwinner, after a while we’ll swallow our pride (if that’s what it is), and we’ll go back to talking to him. So yeah, he’s right…problems will always make children go back to their parents.

However, he fails to understand that such relations are like the houses built by a riverside; eventually they get washed away. I have mentioned it in earlier posts, that our relationship with dad is just purely financial. We have absolutely no emotional ties. Due to this, I usually fear once my sisters and I are financially stable, we won’t want anything to do with him.

After that part of his rumblings, he started talking about mom, telling our aunt that since he married her, he had never inflicted any scars on her. He meant physical ones, and he even sounded very pleased with himself. That’s when it occurred to me how narrow-minded that type of thinking is. True to his words, mom’s body could attest to his words because she doesn’t have any scars per se, that could be attributed to him.

Nonetheless, I know if emotional scars could manifest themselves on someone’s body, mom’s would give Michael Scofield’s tattooed body (Played by Wentworth Miller in TV series Prison Break) a run for its money. She has emotional scars that run deep. It’s only her love for us and for him, strangely, that makes her forget them, albeit pro tem. Sadly, dad seems oblivious to that glaring fact.

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!

 

Trying times… Part 2

Owing to the ‘ambush’, I said I wasn’t going to talk to the politician. I’d just say hi on my way out. However, mom said she’d already told him we were in the house because that was the whole point of dragging him over. Ergo, out of respect I went to greet him.

Surprisingly, when my sisters and I talked to him he seemed very interesting. Though I have never voted for him, I’ve always admired his nonconformist attitude towards societal beliefs and practices. He does things differently and has no apologies for it.

As the minutes ticked away, I actually let myself enjoy the thought that a politician I only saw on TV was just sitted across from me…in our own house. It all felt surreal and the thought was thrilling. It’s surprising how some of our simple childhood delights stay with us even in adulthood.

“I have no money”, he’d warned us. And that obviously was the least of our worries. We’ve never been interested in receiving hand-outs.

“In this house, we’re not interested in getting money”, my big sister assured him.

“We prefer being given a fishing net to fish”, I added. That has always been one of the principles we live by. If someone gives us money to satisfy our immediate needs, what about tomorrow? Will they be there to provide for us still? Funny thing is, most of the people we meet prefer giving someone money…

Close to an hour later we’d discussed very many things with the politician and he filled us with so much hope. He was going to help our big sis get a job and all our problems would be over…or so we thought. Little did we know he was possibly worse than all the other hot-air-blowing charlatans we had previously encountered.

Eventually he took my big sis’ phone number, promising to contact her if any job openings came up. Later when I got back home, I found my sisters all excited. Since I’d been gone, he had assigned my big sis the role of project coordinator in some youth project he was running. He had requested her to recruit some 50 young people who would assist with the research project.

Excitedly, she had brought on board one of our cousins to help with the recruitment…and all was going on great. It had been a while since I’d seen her looking so jovial. That evening he called, telling her he’d be flying abroad; and since he’d realised she would be a great asset in his team, he wanted her to accompany him. We didn’t see any harm in that so we told her it was ok.

Since he didn’t have her personal details, he requested her to send him a copy of her passport because he had to fill out some papers in preparations for the flight and that had to be done before midnight. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t send such personal details to someone we’d just met, especially with the rising cases of identity theft…But as I mentioned earlier, desperation makes people myopic.

Enthusiastically, she scanned the first page of her passport and emailed it to him. We were all on cloud nine. We had finally met some ‘big fish’ like we’ve always hoped and things couldn’t be better. Later in the night he called her making some very ‘unconventional’ requests. He particularly told her he would prefer she dressed more ‘modestly’; that she didn’t have any hair extensions and instead covered her head with a veil…

With regard to modesty, he made reference to how Mary, the Holy Mother of Jesus dressed, adding that, she (my sister) would be better placed to understand why that was important because we’re Catholic. Furthermore, he referred her to 1st Timothy Chapter 2. He expressly said he liked working with ‘religious people’. I found that baffling.

I know my family and I are not saints, but when it comes to religion, we’re very tight with God. With all these problems we’re constantly facing, it would be practically impossible to live without God. He’s been our refuge all through. So needless to say, it felt deeply insulting for someone to throw ‘religiousness’…or the lack of it in our faces.

When he’d visited earlier, he’d found my sister saying the rosary so my mom had to request him to wait a bit; and, by his own admission he’d found that very intriguing because young people do many things, with praying being at the bottom of the list. Additionally, he’d found her in a pair of loose jeans (because she’s lost some weight) and a very decent top. But we understood what he was hinting at…it’s the Mother Mary look.

“I have no issues with dressing modestly, but what you’re asking for is a bit too much. I have my own principles too”, she contended.

“I don’t know what made me think I could trust someone I just met for thirty minutes”, he retorted. He hang up, and after that, all the promises he made vanished just like that as he covertly rescinded them all. He didn’t pick her calls nor call her.

After doing a quick search on Google, we found the person in-charge of the youth project was a fraudster, who the authorities were searching for. He was using an alias and the email address my sister had sent names and contacts of her recruits to wasn’t valid.

It had all been a hoax. Then we realised we couldn’t report the matter to the police because of the politician’s connections. He had the power to annihilate us. At that moment, all our problems felt dwarfed by this potential disaster we were staring at. Helplessness engulfed us!

Two days later since meeting the ‘big fish’ it evidently dawned on us that we’d been duped. Given that the research assignment had turned out to be a ruse, my sister had to personally reimburse some of the recruits for the expenses incurred. Now we know better…