Death And The Many Changes

Death changes you. It not only shows you how different you are before the loss but it will also give you the opportunity to re-frame yourself thereafter. You still live in the same house, drive the same car, surrounded by the same things and the same people, but the world in general is different.

Suddenly you have learned to grow things; something that you were quite certain you did not know how to do. What looked typical in the past did not look so typical anymore; like how the coconuts you left lying around to rot were not just coconuts anymore, but were converted to flower pots because buying clay pots became impractical. You have always been exceptional in managing your finances before but now you have mastered prioritizing long-term investments and resources, instead of your usual wild-child-spur-of-the-moment-plans (which, although you never nicked anybody for, but were quite short-sighted); like how you start paying attention to the sound or form of the car when you are driving; like how you have the constant itch to put things in order, tie loose ends, and complete tasks that have been kept hanging because you do not want to have some sort of unfinished business to deal with; like how you cannot impulsively pack your bags and go like how you used to because there are responsibilities that you need to take care of first; or like how you have to be braver in the home front than you already were because life will be tough but you have to be tougher.

One of the changes that I have been working on lately was conquering my fears, and there are several of them. Losing my father made me realize how important it was to not let things that you are afraid of to stop you from living the life you deserved.

Risk-taker that I am, I discovered that I still have many of these buggers that were hidden (by me) from prying eyes. Fears that have developed through out the years. These same fears have led to a variety of results which were as influential as paving the way to some of my illogical decisions and immobilizing my growth as an individual, or as petty as causing a minor inconvenience or missing out on some of life’s amazing gifts.

Example 1: Driving.

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Some minor crashes here and there but everything is fine.

I hate it. I really do. If I can, I will make every excuse not to drive but when my father died, I had to start using the car. Because I had not driven for a long time, I had to have a refresher course from my uncle and he was not too confident with my driving skills to allow me to use the car outside the family compound on my own; but after waiting on his decision, I just made a final decision to go out and be done with it. I knew that I would have to at some point so I might as well do it now (plus, it is actually more convenient to drive when you have many places to cover).

Example 2: Sleeping alone at our house.

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I disliked sleeping alone in our house. I guess it started with the usual superstition and stories of mythical creatures that my brain was fed with by the older generation and I never shook this off even when I became an adult. This was the main reason why I always invited my cousin to sleep over every time I was home alone or when my father was on-duty. The fact that our house was not only fenced but was also thickly surrounded by big trees added to my paranoia.  Then, my father’s death made matters worst because the sadness and longing mixed with the fear. My cousins have been very supportive by sleeping at our house every night and waking up in the morning to go back to their houses (Thank you, Anne and Ting!) just to accompany me, but this will not do. Eventually, my cousins have to go back to their normal lives and some circumstances might arise that will not allow them to accompany me all the time. So last week, before flying to Cebu, I went home late so I will be certain that the compound was asleep (hence, I will be forced NOT to knock on my uncle’s door to request for my cousin to sleep at our house) and deal with sleeping there alone. I survived the night. I have to admit that I was still scared but I survived anyhow.

Example 3: Panic attack while diving/swimming in deep waters.

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On my way to deal with my “panic attack” while diving/swimming in the deep waters of Moalboal, Cebu.

There are some fears that you need to overcome because they do not deserve to linger in dark corners of your head and panic attacks while swimming, diving, or snorkeling in deep waters was one of them. Do not get me wrong. I know how to swim, in fact I am quite a fast swimmer and have (for a brief moment) been trained to save lives when I was a lifeguard but my problem is not my skill, it is the psychological part of it. I panic because I am scared of the possibility of some dangerous creature lurking behind corrals or seaweeds attacking me. (Yes, I am blessed with too much imagination.) So today, with the help of my friend, I ventured out and swam/dove/snorkeled for hours. The pace was pretty slow in the beginning but who cares? The important thing was that I enjoyed the experience in deep waters and was amazed by how beautiful life was under the sea (like how Sebastian the Crab sang about). I missed all that beauty for 33 years because of my ridiculous fear.

Example 4: Rejection.

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Jump!

Nothing can destroy an ego better than a rejection and like all normal human beings, we like to keep our egos intact. “Pride is very important,” we say to ourselves but we forget that pride comes in different forms. The pride that most of us commonly know resembled the ego we seemed to be entitled to put on a pedestal. I have dealt with my fair share of rejections and although I have learned to be constructive with some of them, other rejections that came my way resulted to more anger and bitterness in my life. This anger only solidified while I was grieving for my father. I remembered crying out to God and praying for Him to take my anger away or for my father to take it with him when he leaves. I was tired of carrying it around like some war medal. Rejection almost pushed me to destroy my life. Rejection made me re-evaluate and doubt my value. Rejection made me pass off great opportunities. Rejection made me shoo away people.

Rejection did all these in the past but I will not let it now. The truth is, this is one fear that I cannot eradicate completely. It will keep coming back but the more necessary idea to remember is knowing how to deal with it every time it pays a visit. For instance, I know I cannot force everybody to like me or for those I offer my love to, to return the same amount of affection, so I am teaching myself to let it be and to not be afraid of the aftermath. If I will be rejected, I have to learn to accept it and move on. Acceptance does not mean being ‘okay’ with the situation; it means not dwelling on the situation and moving forward without the root of the rejection in your life.

So your abusive, fat, and  unmarried aunt despises you, big deal? She is not important and her opinions are equivalent to that crap she dumps in her toilet every day. So you did not get the job offer you hoped for (you will have several of this), celebrate still because this means that something bigger is in store for you. So the person you thought to be as the love of your life turned out to be a monster, be thankful because you have been saved from a lifetime of narcissistic boredom and torture. If someone tells you that this is not acceptance but bitterness, just let them have their say and then slap their faces with cymbals (or something else that will ring some sense into their brains). Acceptance is relative, hence people can interpret it any way they like. There is no universal description. Leave if you have to, wipe everything clean if you must, take a chance, make that long-delayed jump, or stop talking to people who no longer deserve a space in your life if you think this will help. You are entitled to that, you do not need the extra stress, but be honest when you go about it. Honesty will go a long way and will make people understand why you do the things you do better. If people do not like the cards you laid on the table, do not fret. You will eventually lose these kinds of people but rest assured that one day, some people will come along who will appreciate those cards and thank God for their good luck.

Facing some of my fears as of late was part of the change that was happening  in my life and I am moving along (some days, sadly dragging my feet) and I keep Joshua 1:9 in mind as a reminder of God’s promise to me. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Fear does not have to be a death sentence and when big events in your life, like death, change you, roll with it. Do not fight it because you cannot be the same person – whether you like it or not. Roll because you are being taught a valuable lesson. Life goes on – true – but life goes on differently and this does not have to be towards a direction that you will dislike.

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