January 21, 2013

Looking forward with hope

HAPPY New Year, dear readers! 

I hope all your New Year celebrations went well. All your fingers intact, yes? Splendid.  

And if it didn’t go all that well, then, hey, you have an entire year to plan and make your next celebration better! 

Whew, 2012! You went by so fast! Didn’t even have time to catch my breath. 

I feel exhausted just thinking about it. It’s as if so many things happened, yet, strangely enough, it’s as though I didn’t accomplish much. 

Perhaps it’s because I found the past year extremely challenging, with illness high up there on the list for me and the family. 

I guess it’s just human nature to focus on the negative. 

Most of the time when challenges arise, we tend to dwell on the gravity of the situations they create. These issues can overwhelm us and make us focus on every tiny detail of their impact on our lives. Sometimes a bit too much. 

When in reality, when we zoom out and look back on the entirety of that one single year, we probably would find more causes for celebration. 

So I sat down and assessed the year that was with more serious reflection this time, and realized that even through the tough times, there were quite a number of positive developments that unfolded as well. 

For instance, even though I lost one outlet for foreign writing projects last year (which really bummed me out considering how long I had worked for that company), almost immediately after I was granted more job opportunities and the chance to expand my readership. 

Or despite Mama’s hospitalization, I met a number of people who were surprisingly sincere in caring for her, no matter if their government salaries didn’t quite measure up to their competence and professional efforts. 

We sometimes forget that amid the downs, there are a lot of ups as well...moments that may not be outstanding or awesome, but positives nevertheless. 

We can’t lead all perfectly happy normal lives where no setbacks occur. 

It’s important to remember that it is because of these obstacles that our lives are enriched, and that our worth as a person is tested and measured. 

A good analogy is golf. The golf course is designed in such a way to test how a golfer addresses the hazards put in his path on his way to completing a game of 18 holes. And many golfers do like a challenging course, that they try out every new one that opens up, or travel to the farthest places just to play the tough ones. 

We know there are golfers who work hard in perfecting their swings, or those who keep buying a new driver, a new wedge, or putter thinking all these will improve their game. 

Then there are some who cheat in their scores when no one is looking, or a few who are so pathetic at the game, but make up for it with the high-end designer clothes and shoes they wear on the greens. (Well, at least they still look fabulous even while playing an atrocious game!) 

As in life, it is not the enormity of the challenges put before us that really matter, but how we overcome them. And, yes, while we sometimes feel overwhelmed by these tests to our endurance and determination, we all know we are better people because of we handled them. 

Last, the New Year is a chance for us to start over fresh. 

So it’s time to let go of the old habits, release the feelings of regret for wrong decisions made, or relinquish the hold some past grave mistakes may still have over us. 

Every new year is an opportunity for improvement and to appreciate the world and our experiences in a more favorable light. 

Let’s liberate ourselves from the past, and look forward with hope that 2013 will be kinder to us. And if it isn’t, at least let us pray that we will have the gumption and the courage to stand up to whatever trials it will bring. 

* * * * 

ON the first day of the new year, I read this thought-provoking piece by Fr. James Martin, SJ, on the "Five Easy Things You (Really) Can Do for a Happier Year" published by The Huffington Post. 

We usually make such impossible demands on ourselves in the New Year, drawing up a list of resolutions that we will probably quit before the week is over. 

It runs the gamut from: “Lose 20 pounds” to “Exercise every day.” Then there’s, “Drink less coffee and soda.” Or how about: “Reduce Facebook time.” (Haha. Good luck with that last one!) 

Father James says, maybe we should consider these: “Be kind. Relax a little bit. Enjoy nature more. Be a little more grateful. Pray just a tiny bit more.” 

In the first resolution, he notes: “I think that 90 percent of the spiritual life is being a kind person. No need to have any advanced degrees in theology or moral reasoning, and no need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s religious traditions, to get this: Be gentler and more compassionate toward other people. In other words, say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please.’ Ask people how they are. Listen more carefully when they speak to you. Don’t say snotty things about them behind their backs. Basically, give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that sometimes you feel like acting like a jerk—you feel justified because of the way you’re being treated—but you don’t have to. Most of the time you have a choice: I can be a jerk or I can be kind. Be kind. You’ll find that you’ll be happier with yourself at the end of the day. And, as an added benefit, everyone around you will be happier.” (Read the rest at "Five Easy Things You (Really) Can Do for a Happier Year".)

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was published on Jan. 4, 2013. Illustration from 1080 HD Wallpaper.)

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