Make Better Mistakes Next Time

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A rather humbling scenario which I experienced couple of days ago allowed me the time to reflect how much has changed in my life in the last decade. The process led me to realize that I made so many mistakes, hurt people I loved, and behaved in ways that I can’t say I’m proud of. While I think I’ve got a good grip on my moral compass and fundamental set of values, I’m still shaping my character to this day and will probably continue doing so for the rest of my life. However, as much as I messed up, I wouldn’t take any of my mistakes back, as they taught me lessons and shaped the person I’ve become today.

This may not only hold true to me but may be to some of you too. 

It is human to make mistakes. Some mistakes are witnessed by others and come with more shame, some are in private and come with more guilt. Some hurt others, and some ultimately hurt just you. In a life where trial and error is often how we learn, avoiding making mistakes is not very realistic. However, making different choices the next time around to avoid making the same mistake — is completely in your control.

Where we differ as human beings is the choices we make after we falter. I distinguish the difference in two separate camps. There are those who use regret and remorse as a catalyst to grow and change their way of going about life in order to become better people. The consequences of their mistakes serve as reminders to do things differently to avoid repeating the same situations. Often, we need these experiences to teach us the lessons in life that ultimately shape our character.

Then, there are those who feel ashamed by their shame, and after a period of self-loathing and guilt, they resort back to their exact same way of thinking and behavior. Instead of the mistake becoming a lesson, it becomes just another cyclical loop in habits.

When you make mistakes, how do you respond? If your mistake leaves a trail of hurt and destruction in the lives of others, do you make amends and apologize with actions and empathy? Or are the people that reap the consequences of your mistake just a mere casualty of your disregard?

In my opinion, what builds character is not avoiding mistakes — it’s how you choose to think and act afterwards. Use your mistakes as opportunities to grow. And hopefully you can “make better mistakes tomorrow.”

8 Years and Counting

My wife wrote the sweetest lines on my Facebook homepage today. Turns out, hundreds of posts flooding my page from different friends can’t drown these 4 simple lines:

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If that does not bring “butterflies in your stomach”, give you “goosebumps”, or “make your heart beat faster than normal” if you are myself, I don’t know what is!

I am first to admit that when I got married I wasn’t (with absolute certainty) sure why I was getting married. My heart was in the right place but I didn’t really understand the real purpose of a marriage. How could I really? I had no idea what was going to come our way or how we would handle it. I thought I was tough enough to endure anything by myself.

8 years later I have a whole different perspective on why marriage exists.

In the first 8 years we have been married we have had more than our fair share of change. We have changed jobs, friends have come and gone, we have battled serious health issues and been heartbroken when loved ones have died, and so much more.

Today, we woke up married for 2,921 days in a row. Some good days and some bad days. More good than bad because I had her to help me. Although our personalities are wildly different, she is my biggest fan, quietly cheering me on and supporting me every single day. Marriage brings out who you really are. Sometimes it’s not very pretty. You can only be narcissistic for so long before you get called out on it. Marriage is like being in therapy every single day. You are constantly improving and striving for better from yourself and out of the relationship. As I reflect on the last 8 years, I am proud of how far we have come and how much we have grown as a married couple.

In 8 years we have changed together and as individuals. We try our hardest  to exert an effort to stay engaged with these changes because no amount of guessing or assuming can prepare you for how your spouse will actually be through any storms that you go through in your marriage relationship.

Through all the times of uncertainty, discontent and disappointment the only thing that remained constant was my wife. That was my light bulb moment. That’s why marriage exists. Life is sweeter when you have someone to help you get through it. Together. To witness your life, to keep you strong when you don’t think you can be, to keep you grounded when you’re flying high, to tackle decisions from all angles.

Someone that will remind you when you are lying in bed in a dark room crying your eyes out about some heartbreaking failure, hurtful mistake or regrettable moment in life, and being one with you, she’ll hold your hand and tell you she is sad and affected too. Which truly brings you to the truth that life isn’t always about you, luckily when you’re married it’s about someone else too.

P.S.: This post is dedicated to my wife and to all those people out there who were blessed with someone to walk with in life.

If You’re Missing your Mom this Mother’s Day

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FOREWORD: My family and I loss our beloved Mom in September 2, 2016 and this is the first Mother’s Day that we’ll be missing her. This post is also for those out there who are missing their  Moms during this occasion. 

The love of a mother is irreplaceable, and doesn’t die, even when she does. And today, in this part of the world is Sunday, and also is, Mother’s Day. A time to honor and celebrate your mother. While it is a great day and a wonderful opportunity to make your Mom feel special, it can be a hard day if your Mom has passed away. It’s a reminder of the loss you feel and carry with you everyday.

Many people have dealt with the grief of losing a parent or loved one, and they are very familiar with the foreshadowing of pain that usually follows Mother’s Day.

It’s difficult to convince yourself to celebrate this day the same way, since many people (myself included) have since considered themselves to be “motherless.”

In the past, this day was always one for admiration and love; it was a day that encouraged you to show your gratitude for the woman who brought you into this world.

But after you lose a parent, it almost seems as though the day’s only purpose is to remind you of your loss.

You see, the hardest part about all of this is the idea that she really will miss everything.

Family gatherings, holiday celebrations, special occasions such as Mother’s Day,  first child and all those other silly moments you never noticed were important until you couldn’t anymore share them with her.

All of these tribulations make it easy to resent a holiday like Mother’s Day; a day where others are filled with love, comfort and happiness.

It is a day many people take for granted because they no longer revel in it with the same contentment.

As time passes, however, you learn to cope with these emotions and although no amount of time could fully heal a wound so deep, it does allow you to find strength.

Strength that will heal you in more ways than you could ever imagine. It allows your pain to reinforce you, not define you.

And although this process is very different for many, strength allows some of the beauty in life to creep back into your view.

It transforms your grief into serenity, fear into assurance and hopelessness into promise.

For those lucky ones who still have their mothers at their side, I ask that as you rummage through the aisles of stores for the “perfect gifts” to give to them, you remember that you are the best one they could ever ask for.

Spend those last few extra moments on the phone with her; fold the clothes on the dryer (or any household chores) the first time she asks you to; listen to her terrible music because you know it makes her happy.

My deepest regret is that because I was so blindsided before, I didn’t know my last conversation with my Mom would be just that: Our last. No one is guaranteed another day, so remember to make it count.

To all of those who have lost a mother, parent or loved one, know this: They are not lost, and we are not motherless.

Celebrate this day even more so than before, for both her and you. Rejoice her life, her light and your fondest memories of her.

Remember she has a front row seat to your life and know she wouldn’t dare miss even the slightest instance of it.

Lastly, to my beautiful and courageous mother: Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for contributing so incredibly to the person I am today.

You have given me more strength than most could ever hope to attain in a lifetime, and I am forever grateful for that.

We all hold a very special place in our hearts for you that will never be replaced. You always promised me I had guardian angels watching over me, and I’m more sure of that now than ever before.

I love you so much, and I look forward to the day I can see your smile and hear your laugh again.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!

Enjoy this day with your loved ones. You deserve it.

Love is a Choice

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My wife and I have known each other since early college years, but didn’t date until much later towards graduation. She has her eyes set on someone else as was also I.

Yet the moment we catches each other’s attentions, we had only dated a couple of weeks before we realized that we were madly in love and started making major life plans together. And since then, it has been a crazy blend and mixture of smooth-sailing and roller coaster ride types of relationship between the two of us unto the day of our marriage. On and off relationship, countless disputes and quarrels, so many memorable traveling experiences, emergency situations, family occasion and social gatherings – all assortments  of good and bad things that could possibly happen in a relationship.

Lately, my wife and I had this “conversation” about how we now “see” and consider each other respectively. And by “see” I mean Love. Do we still love each other as much as we did earlier in our relationship and into our marriage?

The more I think about this type of conversation the more I’ve come to realize that loving someone—or choosing to love someone—is actually (at times) an extremely challenging yet the most beautiful thing about Love.

I’ve heard it said that real love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

It’s true.

When all the butterflies have fluttered away and your wedding day becomes a distant memory, you will discover that you’ve married someone who is just as imperfect as you. And they, in turn, will come to learn that you have problems, insecurities, struggles, quirks—and body odor—just as real as theirs!

Then you will realize that real love isn’t just a euphoric, spontaneous feeling—it’s a deliberate choice—a plan to love each other for better and worse, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. Of course, you don’t choose who you’re attracted to, but you definitely choose who you fall in love with and (more importantly) who you stay in love with.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on feelings. It teaches us to be spontaneous about love. We are taught that we should always follow our feelings and do whatever makes us happy. But feelings are very fickle and fleeting. Real love, on the other hand, is like the north star in the storms of life; it is constant, sure, and true. Whenever we’re lost and confused we can find strength in the love that we have chosen.

Besides, life already offers us plenty of spontaneity: rejection, job loss, heartache, disappointment, despair, illness, and a host of other problems. We simply can’t abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage. Real love is about weathering the storms of life together.

When my dad had a stroke four years ago taking away his ability to walk and was confined to a wheelchair, my late mom (whom we lost September last year due to cardiac arrest) took care of my dad. She helped him do everything—from getting around the house and visiting the doctor, to helping him take his medicine and bathe.

In speaking about my dad, my late loving mom once told me, “It hurts me to see him like this. You know, when I got married I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. I never imagined that I take care of him like this every day. But I do it and I don’t mind it—because I love him.”

Love is so much more than some random, euphoric feeling. And real love isn’t always fluffy, cute, and cuddly. More often than not, real love has its sleeves rolled up, dirt and grime smeared on its arms, and sweat dripping down its forehead. Real love asks us to do hard things—to forgive one another, to support each other’s dreams, to comfort in times of grief, or to care for family. Real love isn’t easy—and it’s nothing like the wedding day—but it’s far more meaningful and wonderful.

I recently came across this wonderful quote: “No one falls in love by choice, it is by chance. No one stays in love by chance, it is by work. And no one falls out of love by chance, it is by choice.”

This is what I’ve noticed; whenever my wife and I run into a problem in our marriage we do our best to choose love. While we’re certainly not perfect, the love we share today is more real and more wonderful than anything we had ever anticipated.

So, whatever spontaneous storm may come our way I plan on loving my wife.

My resolution after the conversation I had with my wife is that if you truly love someone (and they truly love you), commit to that love and plan on it being hard work.

But also plan on it being the most rewarding work of your life.

Photo source: http://wallpapercave.com

 

Building Connections that Matter

 

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Everything in life begins with connection. In each moment, we are choosing to join or separate – to connect or disconnect – and the person to whom we’re speaking feels what we have chosen regardless of our words.

What makes relationships challenging often comes down to one factor – we build the relationship from the outside in, believing something we want is not happening because of someone else who is outside of us. We must learn to connect first with ourselves and create a relationship from the inside out. These are what I believed in: building heart-to-heart connections is that even though it takes two people to create a relationship, the responsibility for connecting starts with you; and that everything depends on your level of awareness.

Relationships begin with being at peace with yourself – having a connection with yourself that nothing can break from the outside. Other people become a reflection of the loving, kind, peaceful relationship you have with yourself. You cannot receive what you cannot give. The scenery out there reflects the situation in here. Working from the outside in, more often than not, will fall short of the ideal, and leads to frustration, conflict and lack of fulfilment in the end.

We can choose to connect with another person or not, but we cannot choose to disconnect with ourselves. Many people are uncomfortable with this truth – they spend vast amounts of time trying to escape themselves, with all kinds of activities, work and distractions.

For many, their sense of self is ego-based. Individual egos have self-centered aims, tastes, desires, opinions, likes or dislikes. The very construct of the ego brings with it a built in conflict with other egos. If you think about it, it’s surprising that separate egos, each with their own set of rules and agendas, ever get together in the first place. When they do, their connections always risk unravelling because each ego is primarily tied with what it wants. 

To my opinion, the true self is a state of awareness, not a thing, mood, sensation or feeling. All it takes is a shift in awareness to discover that love, peace and lack of conflict exist inside of us, and have the power to change any situation. Indeed, the values you most cherish are not something to seek out and find. They are something that have always belonged to you. The only thing you need to do is recognise them.

Photo source: business2community.com

Light Enters Through Cracks

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FOREWORD: In light of the Lenten season, I wrote this post about embracing freedom and personal strength through brokenness.

Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian poet and singer who died on November 7, 2016 once wrote a set of powerful lyrics in his song “Anthem,” off the 1992 album The Future:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Cohen, who didn’t like explaining his music, reportedly made a rare statement about “Anthem” on The Future Radio Special, a special CD released by Sony in 1992. (Quartz hasn’t been able to independently verify the transcript, which was published on a fan site.)

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

(Source: Quartz Media LLC)

There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In

Now there are people who resist the insights born of brokenness. One of the ways we most oppress ourselves is by assuming that we, alone, are shattered while everyone else is whole. We tell ourselves, “Look at that family, how perfect they are. Look at their home, how gorgeous and clean it always is”, and we assume that we are the only fractured and broken vessels struggling to make meaning of our fragmented lives. Not only do individuals try to mandate a false wholeness, but there are social forces that seek to impose that same impossible perfection on us, telling us that if we are broken, we no longer retain any utility or worth.

There are entire industries in this era — blogs, magazines, and films — dedicated to the self-hating proposition that we should feel fat, old, and ugly, that we should do surgery on ourselves, or straighten something, or bend some part, or snip something, or be lighter, or darker, and then, then we’ll finally have dignity; then we’ll be whole.

Where then does that leave us?

Let us take for example the iconic and symbolic Liberty Bell. It was hung in the Philadelphia State House in 1753, and it sounded to summon the pre-Independence Colonial Legislature into session, and it was used after the Revolution for the Pennsylvania State Legislature as well.

The intriguing idiosyncrasy of this bell is that when it arrived, it cracked right away. Not once, but twice, American craftspeople repaired the bell by filling in the crack with new metal. And yet it cracked again, and then it cracked again. Apparently the bell wanted to be broken; it had something to say. In the 1830s the abolitionist movement was gaining steam; Americans were awakening to the realization that slavery was economically harmful and morally repugnant.

Some bold Americans started to organize against slavery as an ethical and political imperative. The abolitionists were the very first to label this bell the Liberty Bell, and they elevated it as a symbol of American independence and personal freedom.

In 1846 the Liberty Bell cracked for the final time, and at that point people stopped trying to fill the gap or to ring it.

Now, taking such into considerations, to me, the Liberty Bell — now cracked and silent — resonates more loudly around the globe than any bell that is whole. Inscribed on that beautiful, broken Liberty Bell is a verse from the Book of Leviticus: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” Not to those who are tall, to those who are thin, to those who are young, to those are gorgeous — proclaim liberty to everyone.

Liberty belongs to us all, broken, shattered, struggling and striving. And beautiful because of our imperfections.

The medieval author, Menachem Azariah of Fano writes, “Just as a seed cannot grow to perfection as long as it maintains its original form — growth coming only through decomposition — so these points could not become perfect configurations as long as they maintained their original form, but only by breaking.” There is a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in.

This life is not for the perfect. It is not for the flawless. It is not for the whole. If you are like me, there are parts of you that are very good, and there are parts of you that are aching. There are parts of you that strive and fall short; there are parts of you that feel broken. Those are the parts that let in the light. Don’t run from your imperfections. Don’t hide from your brokenness. Broken bones re-grow stronger at the very location where they are broken. Those are the spots where the light will shine through.

Friendship Demands Truth

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These past few days, my wife and I had been making plans to meet up with some friends we haven’t seen  for quite sometime now. Trips are already booked. We are (I mean, my wife is) finalizing the plans once we get to the place of one of our friends whom we are visiting and we’ll be staying with during said trip. Purpose of the visit: to catch some time together and rekindle the fires of friendship that had gone cold over the years of limited communications. How time has swiftly passed us all, leaving us missing each other and the memories of the times we’ve shared together. 

There are friendships that serve as wallflowers and there are those that remain true no matter what. This post is dedicated to one of the basic truths about friendship. Forget about the sweet, soft and cheesy ones for a while, let’s take it to the core and talk about the  bones — the hard stuff that holds friendship stand steadfast and strong — Truth.

What does it mean to be a friend — to be kind to another human being? We are taught in this culture that being kind means not making another person feel bad. We are conditioned to believe that it is virtuous to hide our strengths to save another from experiencing their weaknesses, to deny our blessings so that another avoids feeling their sorrows. Is this kindness? Is this friendship — to put away our truth so as to save another from experiencing their own truth — which might be sad? If this is true friendship, it is of an odd sort — true friendship that does not include the truth. Hiding the truth may keep a relationship going smoothly, but going smoothly is a paltry goal for such a precious and profound entity as friendship. When we choose smooth sailing over truth, we underestimate the weight that friendship can hold; we dishonor the very substance from which friendship is made. Are we so afraid of suffering as to be willing to sacrifice even friendship in order to avoid it?

To be a true friend is not to pretend that we don’t have different experiences in life, don’t receive different blessings and challenges. It is not to pretend that life is fair. A friendship that creates a shared experience at the lowest common denominator is not a friendship, but rather some kind of hiding place from life. We don’t need more hiding places. What we need are more foxhole buddies, true friends who can keep us company in the truth, and in the hard parts, where life isn’t okay or fair.

In truth, we do not need more ways to skirt the sorrows that are part of life, more strategies for keeping the waters smooth. What we need are friends who can accompany us through the bumpy and different truths of life. True friendship is about meeting in the place of truth, and loving and supporting each other there. Anything else is just a paler shade of polite.

I guess that’s where our (my wife and I) relationships with our friends was grounded and has grown over the years.

What are your thoughts about friendship?

Photo credits: quoteslife101.net