“Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”
― Mary Oliver
Whilst 2013 was a year of loss and grief for our family, 2014 turned out to be a year of spiritual loss for me. We began 2014 still reeling from having lost our loved one, and the subsequent disintegration of our sense of place in this world. When someone you love got yanked away from you violently, suddenly and inexplicably, what follows in your mind and heart is confusion and despair so big that you lose your bearing. You are a disoriented, discontented, disjointed, kaleidoscopic nightmare.
Sometimes, when you get blown into grounded dust, it seems like there were no pieces left to pick up and start again. That was the beginning of our 2014 even with six months into our mourning. A friend recently told me that I couldn’t handle crisis. He doesn’t know me from 1990s, as he is a relatively new friend. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I had moved so far away from the girl who left her home and headed to a strange country with nothing but one suitcase in her hand, the one who could not call home (no money) or receive calls longer than 3 minutes a week, if at all, and yet stuck it out there on her own. Perhaps I am no longer the girl who went to class at 9 am after receiving the news of her father’s death the night before. Perhaps over time, grit and gusto had faded out of me, because, let’s face it, I’d been very fortunate in my later years surrounded by loving family, who cushion my every fall and nurse my every bruise.
When tragedy struck our family in the summer of 2013, I was most unprepared for it. My heartbreak for my sister, her children, and my mother was laden with pain and guilt. I wanted to help them ease their suffering but I did not run to their side to offer my help. I was a coward. I stayed on this side of the world sparing myself from their pain, palpable even without their physical presence next to me. If 2014 was a year that called for grace under trauma, I felt I did not live up to it. Looking back at the photos and the events that took place in 2014, I realize my way of dealing with pain was to focus on pleasure, especially on the pleasure of satisfying my own needs. I have become increasingly conscious of my own mortality and fragility, my fading youth and vitality, the unmet goals, unrealized dreams. Instead of working extra-hard to achieve more goals, my attitude was, “Live for myself. Live for today.” I wanted to feel “alive” like I had never been. Now the year has ended but I felt emptier than ever.
A wise man once said, sometimes we gain more from losses than from gains. What 2014 taught me was how flawed I am, and how fragmented my mind could get when I am put to test. I talk the talk but I did not walk the walk. At the same time, I look around today and am extremely grateful for my little world I have in my hand. With a smile, a hug, and simple gestures, my husband, my daughter and my son, my mother and my two sisters raise me up when I buckle under the weight of my own ego. They are my saving grace, my guardian angels, and my light in the dark. I read somewhere that giving is the greatest form of being alive. The way the people in my world continue to give in spite of their own struggles is all the inspiration I need to find my way to being “alive”.
Looking into 2015, I am anticipating more trying times. My daughter’s leaving home, my aging into another year, my cells faltering, chromosomes shortening, my bones becoming more brittle, brain cells losing more focus, my time on earth decreasing while expenses increasing. I have two choices assuming if I live to the end of 2015: I either accept all the changes that are to come with focus on giving than taking or resist the change and continue on the path of a rigid miserable taker. The choice is not easy but clear. It’s always easy to take than give, but it hasn’t made me happier. All throughout 2015, I should speak clearly, state what I want, which is to ask, who do I want to be? A giver or a taker? And be that person. The rest will follow from being that being.