Life’s canon balls

Life throws many canon balls at us that it makes me wonder, how am I going to dodge them all? I’m only just starting out my life, and I’m beginning to wonder how many hits am I going to have to suffer? Already, I have had a few slight blows but nothing severe to knock me out, mostly because for most of my life, I’ve had others to shield the major hits from me. But what will happen, when I’m left unprotected? Will I be able to survive?

I met a man, let’s coin him Ardashir, who was from Afghanistan. He’s only been living in Canada for eight years. He has two children and has been married to his wife for the past 20 years. In his country, Ardashir was an Engineer. He was an elite in his society. For 30 years he lived a life of comfort, stability, and security. He knew who he was going to marry before the thought entered his mind. And his parents already had the money to buy his house when the time came. Sure, his country was war-ridden, but Ardashir would be considered secure if asked by others in his society. Nonetheless, he moved to Canada with his wife.

Canada was not how he imagined. He had no support, no money, nothing. He assumed being an Engineer in Canada would be easy. Instead he found himself working at a Pizza Pizza store after one year of being unemployed. His heart broke. He knew that in his country, working in a store would be considered demeaning. Now, he has to do work there for his family of 3 and has been for the past six years. What a change!

Change can make or break anyone of us. And I’ve had a few changes in my life. I’ve spent my life studying- 22 years in total. I went to admirable schools: a Catholic high school for girls in Jamaica, a Catholic high school in Canada, as well as an elite University. When I graduated, and was not able to find a decent position; I had to work minimum wage at a summer camp. I felt humiliated internally. My heart sank and everyday at the job I had to deal with it. It was my only means of survival, and under different circumstances, I would have said ‘No’ but I realized money is better than no money. What could I do?

I had to humble myself and accept that I had just been hit by my first minor canon ball. It was minor because it only left a bruise and besides I still had support to fall back on. But what will I do when the major balls come? My pastor orated a sermon about Job, a very respected and honoured man in the bible. Job had gone through so much. He had everything and lost it all, but Job was still faithful to God. My pastor ended his sermon by alluding to us, to me, that I haven’t gone through anything yet. He meant that all the small issues that I’ve had doesn’t even come close to what Job had to endure. Today, I listened to my aunt tell her story. She told me of the pain, the hardship, the struggles she had to endure. She told me how hard she had to work, how many painful surprises she underwent. And how she got through it all by her perseverance. I wouldn’t have known that if she hadn’t disclosed them. It makes me wonder, what does my life has in store for me?

I will never know the answer to that question until I’m experiencing it. When I am, I will try to be like Job and like my aunt; enduring the pains to the end. In the end though, things will get brighter. Life brings its up days and down days, we just have to experience it without forgetting that it’s all in the experience. When life chooses to throw her canon balls at me, I will try to dodge whenever I can, but there will be times when I’ll get caught. Then I’ll have to make the hurt heal and continue living.

The Measurement of success

People tend to measure the pinnacle of their successes after achieving career advancement, or acquiring some form of wealth: whether it’s through property ownership or owning stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Success, it seems, is computed by wealth and fame in society. Like do we really need all of this “stuff” to be considered successful? And why do we have to weigh our successes using the “celebrity scale?” Can’t we not use our own scales in our bathrooms?

I know a man who works everyday, 9 to 5, doing the same mundane job he’s been doing for the past 10 years. No significant advancement. No major bonuses. It’s the way he makes his living and he has been happy with the lousy pay check he gets bi-weekly. It’s safe for him to work with that company because it pays his bills. He is happy because according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, his basic needs are being met: Food and shelter are taken care of, his safety has been achieved through job security, he has friends and family support, and a little respect at work because of seniority. Would he be considered successful to us? Or would he merely be mediocrity?

I, myself, seem to be struggling to aspire to this imperceptible pinnacle. I keep telling myself, “I want to be successful” “I want to be somebody”. But, am I being fed the correct definition of success? Do I even know what it is? Or did I also mistakenly used the celebrity scale as well? I think the latter is true for me. As for that man I mentioned, society would consider him far from a success story because: he’s not popular, he holds no apparent status, and of course he doesn’t have any property to show for it. But do others have the right to judge him?

I neither have any materialistic possessions nor the money to buy any. I have no form of career, much less attaining any advancement in one. If those were the measures of all of our successes, then many of us would be utter failures. Maybe success is more than what meets the eye. It is a little deeper than physical possessions or status. At times, it is emotional, very personal, and often invaluable. No one can determine what success means to another, because we’re all aspiring to achieve different goals in life. I never want to stay stagnant, which means, to me success is about growth. It’s about overcoming obstacles in life, and making the experiences increase my wisdom. For me, success is when I can look back at the hills I climbed and say ‘Wow, I’ve done a lot of work!” Others may be on a much higher hill than I am, but it doesn’t mean that my small victories aren’t that. The point is, success shouldn’t be compared to others, especially because we’ll always find people in a higher position and still others in a much lower strata than we are.

Think about all the poor people of the world? Do they view themselves as disappointments? I doubt it. Mostly because they also are measuring themselves by what they know. If everyone around them is content with the small amounts of food they have, and the shack they call home, then there’s no reason to feel unsuccessful. They are as good as the people around them are. In North America though, a whole different standard of success applies. There are certain possessions one has to have in order for one to be stamped successful: career advancement, owning properties and enjoying fame and fortune. Other respected measures are not calculated as equal value to those mentioned: Having a loving and supportive family, ability to maintain shelter and safety, solo housewife and breadwinner. Doesn’t those count? I hope so.

I’ve come to realize that success means different things to different people; and we shouldn’t compare ours with others. What I have to keep telling myself is, I am a success no matter what. But can I really change an already deeply entrenched ideology about success that I already have? Have I even convinced myself enough? The good news is, I am in possession of a bathroom scale on which I’ll keep measuring both my small successes and the big ones, when they do come.

Reminiscences

Trails of disappointment… I’m reminded when I glimpse back. My choice seemed rational at the time. Convincing myself was easy, because the path of solitude was no longer appealing. When the foreseeable separation happened, nothing I could do but weep.

I had desired passion, companionship, something lasting; but I settled- Convenience had convinced me, “he is here right now”- and my past relationships pressured me, “don’t let this one leave”. Fooled by my own thoughts and enamoured by him; my own path became invisible. My focus was centered on him. The things that were once exciting lost their appeal. How did I journey this far? In a state of wishful thinking?

Now each time I look back, I’m reminded by the trails of sadness. I became unsatisfied when my desires were unmet. There were nights I felt alone, when all I had was a lousy photo of him to look upon. Unrequited love was what it was- And all I wanted was for him to love me back. Now I must walk the lonely path without a friend to hold my hand, or his voice to comfort me- until I find the one I seek.

Dreams, are they for kids?

It seems to me that people tend to believe that only children can achieve dreams. Now, it’s hard to say whether they wholeheartedly believe this or if it’s just a simple correlation people make- kinda like Santa Claus and Christmas. The former isn’t real but the way everyone talks about Santa makes children believe that he is. Now, dreams are more real than Santa can ever be, but I’m wondering do we as adults really believe this?

When we were children we can all remember how important our dreams were. Everyone wanted to know what we wanted to be when we grew up and the answers would spit out of our mouths like raindrops: I want to be a doctor, an astronaut, a pilot, a teacher, the list goes on. Our parents got excited because we had these big dreams, and they would walk around town bragging, “Look, my daughter is going to be a doctor!”. If we talked about going to the Olympics for swimming, they would do whatever they could to support our dreams; if it meant dropping us and picking us up from our swimming practices, they would do just that. No matter what it was, it was never out of our reach; and our parents would always be there for us. But as we got older, it seems to me that our childhood dreams suffocated.

By the time, we approach our twenties and later years, we can’t dream the way we did when we were children. Now, we have to be more realistic. We have to go for the jobs that everyone else is going for, because now we have to make a living. We can’t tell people that we’re going to have a mansion anymore because it’s not realistic enough. It’s hard for me to disclose my inner dreams, my desires, fantasies because to everyone else it’s a joke, “dreams are for kids”. I used to dream about traveling, and about being a flight attendant. I’d think about spending my nights in different countries, and long days in planes. I’d picture myself wearing the uniform with the cute little bow around my neck and having to carry my matching suitcase everywhere. But one day when I was in my teenage years, an adult kindly revealed to me that a flight attendant is nothing but a waitress on the plane, who is going to get ugly someday and no one will want to hire her. What a revelation?!

In my dream world, I only pictured the benefits and the excitement that such a job would bring me. And what’s wrong with that? This adult popped my bubble and after more than a decade, I can still recall how my eyes were opened at the truth. “She really is a waitress on the plane,” but in my teenage mind, I esteemed the job because of what it was about: serving people and traveling everywhere. I never thought that being a waitress in society would not be as esteemed as other respected career choices. But, that dream suffocated because I never gave it much thought after that.

The truth is dreams only mean something to the person who dreams it. To the child, it means a great deal. It’s a reason to get up in the mornings, it’s a reason to keep smiling, and it’s a reason to look forward to adulthood. Having dreams give us hope and it increases our faith. Maybe our dreams should not be disclosed to the outside world, or maybe we should be twice as vigilant about who we reveal our dreams to; because every dream after disclosure always seem to meet a disapproving audience- no matter how interesting it sounds.

Now I’m in my twenties and I’m starting to wonder: Are my dreams going to be a reality? Will I one day go to the Olympics, maybe become a flight attendant? Will I travel the world? Or possibly write a book? I guess I can be the only person who will ever have the motivation to make any of my dreams real. So, why do I listen to others around me when they make negative comments about the impossibility of my dreams? Dreaming is not only for kids, it’s for anyone that’s alive. Dreams are like flowers. Even when you don’t see it blooming on the outside, something is always happening on the inside. One day, the growth will become visible; so that the world can see the blossoms.

Road Hawkers

To Road Hawkers:

Life would be so perfect if we could weed away those hawkers. These hawkers, as I’d like to call them are those that you see on the streets everyday. Not the people who try to sell you junk that you won’t ever use; or sell food to you with bacteria written all over it. These hawkers are obvious in the way they force up phlegm from their upper respiratory tract and spew it out like a waterfall; as if no one was sharing the road with them. It’s hard to believe that kind of disgraceful act doesn’t embarrass them, for I feel embarrassed for them. You can tell that I’m not the only person who sees and thinks what they do is disgusting, by the way passersby cringe their faces. The worst part about it is when they’re done spitting on the road side, I’m the one that’ll have to walk pass it. And it’s hard to pass without looking at the nasty muck they’ve made on the otherwise ‘clean’ sidewalk; and I’ll have to go out of my way to avoid stepping in it. What an impolite thing to do! Of course, I haven’t seen a girl going out of her way to engage in this kind of unpleasant act, so men why must you do this?

Do you think it’s cool? Do you think that anyone is interested in seeing your phlegm being displayed by the roadside? I’m not! And the worst is if you have a boyfriend who smokes and spits! What a combination! Imagine kissing the lips from whence the phlegm came, just before you had to dodge it yourself. Horrific!

I’ve never been in that situation and I wouldn’t dare put myself in it, but still I have to share the world with those hawkers nonetheless. I can’t even hide from them. I went as far as South Korea and found that the whole nation was filled with male hawkers. It was the most disgusting thing to listen as they reached in the back of their throats for the phlegm that they had stored up. The hawking sound it makes is dreadful. I just wonder how the Korean women stand it. Young boys learn from their dads how to become professional hawkers causing the road to have spit marks everywhere. I know that it might not be in your interest, hawkers, to swallow up the phlegm but really, it’s as disgusting to swallow as it is to see it!

From a Roadside Hawker:

To be called a ‘Roadside Hawker’ must be the most humiliating nickname I’ve ever received. It is not my intention to disgust or otherwise embarrass anyone I’m sharing the roadside with. However, I consider spitting a natural process of the body when it needs to eject saliva or other substances from the mouth. So I do it because I’d rather not hoard phlegm or bad taste inside my mouth. I don’t spit because I’m consciously trying to be rude; I do it because unconsciously my body has to do something with the fluids that forms inside my mouth.

What is your solution then? Do I walk around with a cup and spew in it as the occasion besets? Or did you mention that I should swallow? Sorry, I will choose none of the above because, as this sidewalk also belongs to me, I feel that I should have an equal say about what I do on it.

I do not see any major trouble because like you said, you can avoid walking in it. Besides, what’s a little liquid on the ground anyway? The sidewalks aren’t clean- they are filthy. And you are walking in shoes, aren’t you? What’s the big deal then? Phlegm, pigeon poop, dog poop and all the trash that you see on the road each day are all disgusting. Why target one and not the others?

Serendipity

In life, there are times when you have to wonder whether or not there is some omniscient force out there directing our paths. People call these things signs, or destiny or better yet, serendipity. So is there something wrong if you truly believe in such a phenomenon? Does that automatically negate the fact that we have choices?

From my own experiences, I have seen some things I have to question; like the time I went to Korea. One day I suddenly got an email by a woman asking if I was interested in teaching in Korea and whether or not I had received her previous message. What was mysterious about this message was that I was thinking about a way to travel and make money while doing so. And as if this woman was reading my mind, she sent me a message about a very lucrative adventure. I responded to her and agreed to have a telephone interview. During the interview, I was honest and I mentioned that I would not be able to stay for a year, which was one of the requirements. I didn’t get the opportunity because of that, and I assumed it was a sign that it wasn’t meant for me. But, surprisingly I got another email from a man within the same week! He asked if I was still interested in going to Korea. Did he know that I was even thinking about Korea?? It was then I thought, serendipity!

So what’s the point? Well there is a slight possibility that some times, these co-incidents or luck are not exactly that. Maybe it’s a little more than the eyes can see? What if we really do have some kind of secret angel out there trying to align our thoughts with the universe? Wouldn’t that be an incredible thought? In truth I do not believe that the belief in signs completely counteract the idea of free will or choice. We actually have to choose to follow the ‘signs’ as it were. It is a feeling that something is right that our hearts unconsciously wants to chase after. I chose to follow my path to Korea because it was aligned with my thoughts. What I believe is that I
received a little help from my secret angel and the trip became reality.

In essence, we all make choices daily. But I think that these things that we label, accidents are a little more than what we think they are. These ‘accidents’ are there to give us the little boost or quietly remind us about the path we’re on. If the sign goes from an advertisement, or a book, a movie or in a conversation why not follow it. See where it leads. You might be surprised.

Peter- Patter

Words are hard to find sometimes, especially when you’re seeking for the perfect word to describe someone-

How do you do it though, you concoct the exact string of syllables to eloquently woo my heart, without even trying-

Before I’d leave the phone feeling ecstatic about the amazing depth we’ve arrived at,

Simply through a display of words-

But now, I feel fluttery, for some reason I’m sparking like a fire cracker-

I’m recollecting myself, and still preparing for the next blow tonight, how do you do it?

Do you have some secret that I just don’t know about yet?

Do you carry ammunition in your words?

Please share with me your secret, for I’m seeking for the perfect words to tell you how my heart is going peter-patter for you.

Where are my rewards?

A long time ago, I was told that Jesus Christ was coming back for His people- the righteous. Not just the ones in church but the ones that followed Him, kept his commands, and showed love to everyone. And I believed. I trusted that if I live a life based on holiness then I should also be a chosen one. Now, a decade has passed since I gave my life to Christ and I can’t see my rewards. In fact, this life of holiness has become inconvenient for me. And I can no longer withstand. All this toiling seems to be in vain.

I’m wedged between wanting to pursue spiritual things and still clinging to the natural things of this world. At some point in my christian walk, I developed a love for the ‘natural world’- going out to parties and listening to ‘worldly music’, robing myself with jewelry and make-up, and clothes that may not fit the modesty code. For once, I started to take pride in the way I looked physically. Like everyone else, I wanted to look and feel Hot. Before, the words- simple, plain-jane, boring were always used to describe me and my fashion sense. And I found no problem with that. I was always picked out of a crowd as the Christian- just for wearing my long ankle length skirts. My clothes were never fitted- always one size bigger which never drew attention to my shapely physique. And I liked it that way, until those who knew me (non-christians) started to point out how dull I looked for a young girl. I began to re-examine myself and my wardrobe and agreed. Soon, I began to purchase new clothes to replace the old grandma-looking ones I previously owned. And slowly, I could also observe my potential.

I started going out with my non-christian friends, and expectedly I developed their own lifestyle and wanted to look as good as they did in their clothes- if not better. Maybe it comes with this innate idea of always wanting to be the best. The best teacher, the best athlete, the best student, even the best Christian. 

When I was baptized and became a new christian, I really wanted to be the best. I read my bible, studied the verses, learned how to pray, and how to praise God in church. When I didn’t want to wear a hat, I wore it anyway; I wore the long skirts, the no make-up and the no jewelry. I did it all, in hopes that one day I would be the best christian girl. I was at church every Sunday- and I went the extra mile on the bus, the train and the RT. Plus I went during the week, after track practises- whether or not I had assignments to do (I’m a University student). My quandry was that I set an unconscious deadline on how long I would succumb; and when the deadline arose I could not persist with this drill. In my opinion, I felt like I failed because I did not get to stand on the podium- well I did a few times- but I was expecting something greater to come out of “my hard-work”. It really was hard work because maybe God wasn’t exactly in my equation. At that point if I had to face Jesus I would say to Him, “Lord, I did all that you asked of me. I worked diligently, evangelized to strangrers, and my grades suffered because I was at church; so what else do I need to do to be the best?” Clearly, we all have an idea of what the answer would be. Dear Jesus is not looking for ‘the best christian’ is He? 

And I know this now. I know because I didn’t get any award for being the best. I realized that my thought- processes had to change. There are things that you work hard at, and there are others that you have to let God do the work- being a Christian is one of those.  Now I’m trying to attend to spiritual matters, but my arousal from the natural world is still being awoken ever so often. Since, I no longer am trying to reach for the ‘best christian’ title I have nothing to motivate me. Sure, the desire of making it to heaven is ‘up in the air’ but it doesn’t work as a stimulator because it seems so far away. I already went a decade serving God, I can’t promised that I will dedicate my entire life to the church and the ministry for another decade or two. I don’t love it all that much, primarily because I feel inadequate there. I am aware of my natural skills and abilities but no one beckons me to take charge of anything- and that’s what I enjoy most. To have my focus and commitment, I simply must acquire responsibilities so that I can feel useful. In the natural world, I have always found something to do: volunteer, go to school, work, etc

At church, there is nothing for me to do. Everything requires a spiritual gift and I don’t have that. And all the roles seem to be filled anyway. What do I do then? How will I withstand? I want to serve Christ, I want to say, “thy will be done, Lord” but It’s so difficult. What will I gain from surrendering everything and living for Christ? No, I don’t want to lose my soul and yes, I want to make it to heaven someday, but how much do I have to give? These are the questions that I have to figure out personally. I hope that one day, my spirit will be completely convicted to live for Christ so much so that, I will “drop everything and follow Him”. Because, surely I also want to be chosen when Christ returns.

Spirits, Are They Among Us?

Are there such things as ghosts, spirits, demons, angels? Are there really things that the physical eye just cannot see? Is there more to us than this mortal body in which we reside in? Then why is it that only a few people are aware of the spirit world?

When I hear about these topics in conversations or at churches I shun away from them because my finite mind cannot begin to comprehend so I tend not to entertain these conversations- especially at night. If my church friends go off on a tangent about the spirit world, I quickly shut them up or block the details; for as far as I know- it is just part of their beliefs that I have not yet decided to take on. But should I accept what may or may not be real? Is there more to this world than what meets the natural eye?

The bible talks about demons and how Christ commanded them to be released from a woman. It even call these demons by a name: Belzebob..How can I contest with the bible? I’ve heard of many stories about people’s experiences hearing voices, sounds, etc. I’ve heard about the wigiboard..how people call upon spirits and they appear. My family has told me stories about Obeia- and I can’t imagine why my family would lie. I grew up hearing scary stories- and I took them as just that. Made up stories used to scare us children…and to make us laugh. The stories have resonated with me but I still find it difficult to perceive these stories as part of my reality.

When I listen to a preacher talk about Satan, the devil, the great deceiver, Lucifer- his names go on; I think it’s just another world that I have chosen not to care about, and not to be interested enough to learn more. But, I’m wondering now..should I show a deeper interest in this topic? Isn’t it time that I get over my fear and research about the truth about what I tend to think are “fallacies”?

Most recently a friend of mine was talking about some of his experiences with the spirit world. To hear another “story” from a person who isn’t even a religious person left be wondering, is this really possible? Doe evil spirits really exist? I also went to a conference a few weeks ago, and a preacher discussed his experience as a freemason. He explained how his family were all apart of this organization, but when he became a Christian he decided he had to separate himself. His leaders were going to kill him- except for the spirit of Christ that saved him. Now I believe in the spirit of Christ, although I have never had a personal experience of Christ saving me from real danger.

It seems that there is more to learn than I thought- but do I really have to? Can’t I stay in my naive state-of-mind, simply trusting in God and believing that He will protect me from all forms of evil, if it really does exist?

Church, A Place With Many Dirty Faces

Church, the holiest place I know, seems to be contaminated by every disease, every problem, filthy minds and bodies. It is a contradiction to the perceived belief of what church should be- a place of majesty, splendor, heaven on earth, beauty and perfection. But anyone can tell you that the establishment has become sacrilegious.

As a young child growing up, I used to look at the cathedral window quilts and felt that God was going to come through like a knight in shining armour coming to save His people. I used to imagine invisible angels flying around our heads keeping a tally of those that listened to the preacher and those that were distracted by petty things. The angels would write down the names of all the good people and the bad and reserve it until the day of judgment. For many years I thought about church this way until I grew up and realized that the people are pretentious and the church services, dull. When we have discussions, everyone knows what to say. There are no disagreements because we all think the same. I began to view the people at church as narrow-minded and I refused to join the crowd. I wanted my own identity and to use my ability to think freely and independently. I decided to quit going just so I could sift my own thoughts and differentiate them from “church thoughts”. I assumed it was going to be an easy process but it took me five years to finally understand my own beliefs, to develop my own relationship with Jesus Christ, to be able to question a problem and unravel the answer using my own intellect. Yes, I know that at times it’s important to line up our thoughts with that of the church. The difference is that I can see my thought process and I don’t have to solely rely on the church’s opinions or the pastor’s. I became a better person- a free thinking individual.

I know and understand what the bible says and I agree most often. Now, I also know and understand myself and feel confident that God will always lead me and direct me. I don’t intend to be a pretentious person in church or out of church. I don’t try to dress to impress, I don’t sing the church’s opinions when I talk to people, but I row my own in hopes that people will see me as a real person, an individual with problems. Someone who doesn’t understand but is willing to dig to find the answers and to reveal the mess that I found. This is the person that I take to church on Sundays. And I hope that when the angels fly over they will make an observation about all the dirt they found on me because I went the distance to find God.

Now when I look at my own life, I don’t see perfection and beauty at church anymore. I see filth, rogues, hypocrites, bondages, failures, and insanity. A place of sacrilege, sometimes. But I also see hope, love, and in the midst of all the ugliness I see Christ. And I accept that they are my spiritual family who are not perfect but they are there for me. Whenever I’m greeted by a fellow christian, I often feel loved. I feel a sense of belonging- and in this world, I realized that’s all I need. I am rich because I have many places to call home but the best place is Church.

I walk in with a dampened spirit and I walk out with wholeness, with faith to move mountains, with forgiveness in my heart, and with peace in my soul. I am a better person because I went to church. I see life differently because I went to church. Every Sunday, I leave my problems at the altar so that I can live another hour, another day, another week. I have heard so many arguments against the insignificance of church but I find peace because I know why I go. I know that I go to unbear my burdens so that I can find strength to live. I finally realized that I cannot go through life alone, but I need people there to help me. At times, it is the spirit that needs to be fortified; and I can only do this at church or around like-minded people.

As a young adult, I perceive church as an establishment that is not perfect but is a hospital that heals spiritual ailments. I don’t really see angels anymore and I don’t envision Christ flying in while I’m there; but I feel that whenever the congregation gathers in the church that Christ is there nonetheless. He is in our hearts, in our minds, and His presence is omnipresent. Everytime we gather, our minds are changed, our sins are forgiven and we are made whole again. So, yes church is filled with disease and filthy minds, pain, fears, evil but when we all lay it on the altar we become new again. We can walk again in the beauty of Christ. This is the reason He died isn’t it?