How many times did you allow spontaneity to take place in your ordinary days?  For me, quite rarely but those instances have created the best days of my life!

I’m very good at planning – that is, if I want to.  I can run an event, activity, devise strategies to approach an issue, a problem. I have a keen eye on looking at the larger picture, I know how to delegate, assess progress, mark milestones, and carry everything out to till it’s done.  That’s not really the case though in my personal life. I don’t have a detailed plan mapped out in front of me. I keep a broad version of it.  My focus? Goals.

I met with a few friends last night- all gifted writers (soon you’ll see them here), and we brushed on this topic.  Most of us at one time had our future perfectly laid out-  age to marry, year to have kids, the amount of wealth we’re gonna have, employed in a company of our choice, be in a profession we’ve dreamed of since we were kids, and more.

As you would have guessed- well, we got some, we missed some. As kids, nobody told us that the world can be cruel sometimes, that people can be unkind, challenges can come, weather can change, and we too can fail. Indeed nobody’s been perfectly prepared for this university we call Life.  All those who graduated with flying colors must have been bruised and broken but certainly, they kept fighting the good fight.

My friends and I have our share of frustrations- plans failed, jobs sucked, people left, we left-  we had high expectations from the external world and from ourselves. The first time we encountered failure- we hated it. But now, we take it differently. Failure is a great teacher. It took time for us to accept and understand this.  Yes, we should allow ourselves to fail- and by that, I mean- to fail forward.

Mistakes can be a waste until you turn them into lessons. Setbacks are meant to propel us farther and higher.  So when you feel like being pulled back, by all means, bend, but don’t break.

Success too at one point will lose it’s shine until you refuse to settle and make one more step.  You can’t be in your 50s or 70s and relive your glory days when you were half those age- or you can, it’s still your choice. But at every age, you have an opportunity to do something great. The chances never really run out. So don’t sit on your laurels – at least- not just yet.

So how did most of us cope with failure and frustration? We scrapped the detailed plans and focused on our goals. We allowed life’s surprises to hit us.  It doesn’t matter if it’s bad or good. we take it and turn it to work in our favor.

Eventually, each one of us will discover his or her own path. We’ll discover our own voice, our own destiny. you’ll realize in the end it really doesn’t matter what the world say. What would mean most is that we loved much, we cared much and we gave much.  And one day should our hearts find yours,  I guess that just means, we’re treading the same path.

 

Have you ever felt less-equipped, unfit, incompetent on a job and told yourself you’re not gonna last another six months?  I did, and that was two weeks ago as of this writing.

You see I got this new job, a better one by the way in terms of stability, culture, people to work with and of course, challenges.

I welcome challenges like a person who welcomes the sunshine into her own home.  It pushes me to stretch and it perks my senses up.  I work hard the whole day that after dark, I’d feel so spent and yet so fulfilled.  By then I’d go and say, “I did my best and now I can rest”.

Isn’t that what we look forward to every day? A sense of purpose and meaning? That confidence to tell yourself, “I matter, and I know why I’m here”?

Yet days can become very exhausting at times, it will drive you to believe that you’re not enough. And when your job is on the line, you ready yourself for the worse but you keep doing what needs to be done.

On several occasions you realize there’s a lot left unfinished and yet you can only do so much.  At other times too you have to learn to let go of how you used to do things and try something new.

My old boss would always say, there’s a lot of different ways to skin a cat, and when it comes to solving problems, there are a lot of different approaches you can take.  So you learn as you go and you learn from other people too.

Now at this point in time here I am, feeling defeated some days but winning on most.  Victory doesn’t mean performing miracles at work but it means, continually fighting the good fight, win inner battles and beat the monsters within, self-defeating thoughts, pride, unwillingness to bend, to move, preference for what’s comfortable, easy and unchallenging.  After all, It doesn’t really matter what awaits in the end, so long as you know that at every moment, you did the best you could.

So, why did you leave your old job? People would ask me.  Well, why wouldn’t I.  There’s a lot to experience in the world, and I won’t be able to get a taste of as much as everything if I choose to settle. When days are predictable, what would I be excited about?  When everything becomes routinary and ordinary, we ease off, and then we stop growing. Would you want that kind of life?

Push forward and onward you go.  You will get all the help that you need at the right time. Ask and you shall receive, sow and you will reap. Believe in victorious endings.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in the world. Some may tell you that whatever you do or give is just a drop in the ocean, it’s small and will not even matter.  You know what? Do it or give it anyway. Every ocean is made up of millions of drops, and yours can be one of it.

Every challenge that lands on you hands has been given to you for the simple reason that you’re the only one, who has the nerve, the guts, the courage and the heart to take it on.

Now go ahead, rise and win it.

 

I had this morbid thought at midday on my way to lunch. It felt weird and uncomfortable but the thought lingered for quite a while.

So there was this young man in his polished suit, I imagined him dead. The old man taking the stairs with a cup in his hand, the young girl outside the building donned in her summer dress, the old lady sitting on a bench having her meal under the sun-I imagined each one of them, lying in a coffin.

I don’t’ mean to sound scary, rude, demeaning or any of that.  Instead, I want you to take this in a positive light.

This absurd thought actually shifts a person’s perspective. When you begin to look at everyone you meet as capable of fading and vanishing, like they’re going to be gone anytime soon, it gives you a combined feeling of detachment and attachment.

Imagine the people who’ve hurt you, disappointed you, or caused you so much anger and pain.  Suddenly you’ll realize it’s pointless to hold a grudge against them.  It’s worthless to carry a lifelong hurt, coz’ for some, a lifetime is not even long enough.

Then you carry your thoughts toward the people who matter to you, to those you surround yourself with every day and fail to even appreciate.  Do you really see them and treat them the way you should? Have you said your “Thank You’s” enough number of times, comforted them or took more effort to make them smile, or make their day even better?

Pause for a while and notice the world and time passing you by.  The people in it, all things living, breathing- all signs of life, including yourself.  You too are not going to be here forever. So start living your life with a real sense of time- connected to it, and making it count.

There is no necessity to always be in a hurry or in a rush, to always be preoccupied or insanely busy.  There are times and seasons for everything.  Even God rested on the seventh day in the great story of Creation.  Miracle after miracle, God took the time to admire everything. He allowed Himself to notice, to feel. He was pleased. He felt satisfied.

On to us, our main job is to celebrate each day. To hope, to love and be grateful for all things. To be deliberate and intentional in how we use the greatest resource we ever have.

Deliberate, because we need to be thoughtful.

Intentional, because we need to be purposeful.

Like how?   In our choices, our actions, our thoughts, our words, and our plans, that we may always desire to affect the lives of others and the entire world in ways that are good.  To leave a legacy and a fine one at that.

Of course, we are allowed to feel the bad even the worst- but dwelling on these is entirely up to us.  Hearts can break but that’s why we were given a sense of reason. Our brains literally placed above our hearts so we know that we have the power to choose. Whatever is genuinely good for us doesn’t harm anyone.  At the end of the day, all things should be in sync.  All should harmonize.

Life is fragile, like a holding a newborn baby in your hands. And people- – yes, they slip away. You’ll realize that yesterday isn’t a long time ago, and getting old can hardly be noticed till body aches, blurred vision and gray hair catch up with you.  It’s true what they say, no one gets out of this life, alive.

So make the most of what you have. Embrace your greatest gifts.  Embrace life.  Embrace time.  Embrace people.  Embrace yourself.

The meaning of one’s life is not to be discovered.  It is to be defined.  It’s up to you to determine yours.

To brave vulnerability in front of many is one of the most difficult things one can ever do but at the same time the most rewarding too.  Last night was an amazing time spent with friends, old and new.  Talking about one topic opened a lot of stories I never thought have been written in the pages of one’s book. Indeed there’s a lot to every person, a lot that we don’t see, don’t know, and maybe, we may never understand.  But that’s one of a couple of gifts I think that we can give to the world- our own make.

Each of us has our own story beginning differently. Some would have had it good, some already bad, and some would be a perfect mix of sugar and spice. However it started, regardless of age, surely it’s embedded in either your earliest memory, or it’s one of a few which carried a lot of weight and created the biggest impact on you. Either way, it kicked off the very first chapter of your book and carried you through this very time.

All of those things: the joys, the trauma, the pain, gain, loss, victory, defeat- it all made who you are now. However that makes you feel, I would say you’re victorious. Why? Because you’re still here- –  alive and breathing. No failure has beaten you up and left you for dead. No triumph has stopped you from dreaming and wanting to accomplish something more! So love yourself now, in case you still don’t. You’ve come so far, and the pages you’ve filled out up to this time is already a gift. A gift that you can share to the world. Someone somewhere will be blessed by it. Your story may inspire, encourage, or awaken another soul at one perfect time. You’ll be surprised of what it can accomplish.

Now that you know what you’re made of, what you can become is your second gift to the world.

Knowing where you are is one thing, knowing where you want to be is another.

This chapter and the ones that follow are still unwritten. You have to decide how it continues. Imagine what you would want to read about yourself when you reach 80 or 100.  Coz then time will have taught you what you already knew- that everything from here and now will just be a memory. What would define it’s worth is up to you- – it’s up to the choices you make.

You’ve already learned how to play the cards you’re dealt with, but you can do more than that, and you can do things differently this time.  You may want to stop doing and start being. Stop reacting and start pro-acting. Whatever it is, don’t stop here. As the song goes, “It ain’t over, till it’s over”.

Dream some more and make it happen, so that when you’re old and gray, you will have an ocean of beautiful memories to accompany you. You’ll have bags of wonderful stories to share with your grandkids. You’ll have plenty of highs and lows to tell the rest of the world.  Then they will all know that behind those wrinkled hands and the feeble frame is a person of strong heart and a tough will, who refused to give up, who gave more and gave all!

Can you be 40 and still feel lost? A friend once asked me. I said yes. You can be 80 or 90 and have it all, but still, feel lost at times.

Nobody has come across a life manual or rulebook until one stumbles upon the Bible.  The Book contains all the wisdom one can ever need to not only survive life but to live it to the full.

Yet having known the truth against the lies, and being able to distinguish good from the bad doesn’t guarantee one’s victory. It’s one’s action that does.

I’ve met people who have struggled since childhood – – born to a poor family or a broken home, a victim of abuse, disease or disability, or a product of consecutive failures.  Surprisingly, though, every one of them didn’t turn out the same- some settled, but some persisted and changed the course of their lives.  The lesson:  We are not a product of our circumstances.  Rather, we are a product of our own choices.

Then you reach that stage when life is smooth sailing: you’ve covered all bases, you feel prepared and secured, everything is working well just like you wanted it to, and after some time you forget.  A simple truth slipped your memory: that the hundred moments you’re living in is a just a season, and some day soon it will be over too. Life shakes you up like that.

Just when you get too comfortable, a disruption happens and knocks you off with a big blow.  A sudden loss, an accident, sickness, a job loss, a change in your circumstances.  If we’ve kept these possibilities in mind, we wouldn’t be surprised, but if not, that’s when the challenge starts.

Is challenge good? Yes!  Why? Because it’s the pruning process that makes us better and makes us grow.  If we don’t grow, we die. We’re not so different from the plants and the trees.

The lesson: Take heart and take the challenge. Allow it to make you, not break you.

Feeling lost haunts everybody at one point in time.  For one reason, we tend to overthink. We lose touch with what matters and realize that we’ve been chasing the wrong things all along.  Knowing this now compels us to step back, reassess everything, recognize where we are and determine where we want to go. If necessary, eliminate the distractions. Simplify.  Focus. Thereafter you’ll be ready to set the sails again and follow through your designed course.

Feeling lost can happen when you’re starting over too.  Like, when life takes something or someone away from you and you need to rebuild your world from broken pieces. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.  You just need the strength of will to let go and move on.  It’s not over until it’s over.  So don’t waste your time holding on to what already belongs to the past, rather embrace the now and expect a better future. 

Don’t be scared of what lies ahead.  Remember the courage and boldness you once had when you were a kid. Use it to propel you into a brighter future- one that’s colored like a rainbow with glittering sunshine, glowing butterflies, chirping birds, blue streams, blooming flowers and breathtaking trees. Keep your hopes up. Life can be as beautiful as you would want it to be. You have the power to shape it.

 

Every person has the power to write his own story. Every person has the power to realize his own dreams. And even if these dreams don’t make it to one’s reality, in the end, what matters is that the person, who could be me or you, took the chance and we did what we knew we had to do. It’s not really about what we get, but more of what we become after that.  The journey is more important than the destination, and it’s more exciting too! Let me tell you why.

I’ve traveled several times with friends.  We went to places we thought we could only dream of. We explored cities, cultures, but what made it more exciting was the fact that we actually did it on our own. Equipped with a book, a map, research notes and a strong desire for adventure, we tread unfamiliar waters, finding every spot listed in our itinerary.  And yes we succeeded, of course with a little help from the locals.  Ticking off everything we had in our checklist felt really satisfying! When I look back, I realize I have actually gained more than just reaching destinations. I’ve learned and realized the value of:

1)  Trust

Trust in me to be able to carefully plan out a trip, and carry it out.

Trust in my friends, their opinion, their suggestions. Trust that they’ll be there for me when I need them the most.

Trust in people we met along the way, those who offered help, directions, shared our cabin or room. Most of them even shared their own stories, and journeys, and well, some indulged us with chocolates and cherries. Most days we got lucky 🙂

2)  Planning

Planning is essential and to me, it’s the most exciting part. You have to make up your mind about where you want to go, what you want to experience or accomplish, figure out how to get there, where to stay the night, etc.  Everything had to be worked out given a specified timetable.

3)  Flexibility

You have to learn to exercise this muscle especially when life throws you surprises.  You have to make use of the time you have and the opportunity you’ve been given, to deliberately choose not to waste every single moment. Things may not always work out according to plan, but that’s just life telling you to pause, to relish the beauty around you, to talk to a stranger, to enjoy the rain.  It’s good to welcome possibilities believing that everything that comes your way may actually be better for you. Delays and detours are not that bad you know.

4)  Gifts

You learn how to value the things being alive brings. Time, opportunity, experience, and people, to name a few.

You see, a lot of things would have already happened even before you reach the end of the journey.  All of it honed you, accomplished something within you, and made you a better you. What’s between start to finish, is the greatest reward you’re gonna get.  So write your own story, your own ending, but as you do, live the time in between, and live it to the full!

What’s your attitude towards life?  The way I see myself, I always act like a compass and occasionally like a rubber band. Let me explain.

It normally starts with a strong desire for something and then I would resolve to make it happen. At times I’m not so particular about the timeline but most times I am. And if it doesn’t happen the way I’d expect it to, I’d succumb to feelings of failure and frustration. I’d be demotivated, would normally feel resigned, and eventually would quit, only to pick myself up again some time later, resume what I’ve been doing and head towards my set goal.

Most strong-minded people would always be like that. They work hard and accomplish goal after goal, chasing success- whether it meant getting more wealth or a promotion at work, improving one’s health, knowledge, proficiency, or even relationships- all to be better than their selves two or three years ago.

Prominent traits of these people are:

1)    they normally have plans, and strategies in place,

2)    will most of the time be passionate in what they do,

3)    will sometimes be stubborn

4)    will rarely be a quitter

5)    seems unstoppable

6)    seen as invincible

7)    they’d feel pretty much devastated when failure hits them, they’d start sinking until they learn and develop the willingness to adjust the sails.

People who are good at adjusting sails are those that I liken to a rubber band.  Mostly:

1)    they are resilient

2)    they can easily adapt to changing times

3)    they can readily change strategies

4)    they can cope with failure with ease and calm

5)    they can be distracted

6)    they can be surprisingly relaxed, meaning they don’t panic at all

7)    but sometimes coolness in handling difficult situations meant just letting go- easily.

You can be one of these two extremes, or you can lean closely to one than the other.  The happiest spot, however, is right there in the middle.

Surely you have to find the balance.  Both types have their own merits and there are also inherent disadvantages.  It’s all about how much control you take and how much you are willing to let go.

If you want to accomplish a goal or get something done, you need to plan on how to do it. You need to visualize yourself of the future you want to hold and develop strategies (make sure you have plans B & C in case A doesn’t’ work).  You need:

-discipline

-determination

-focus

-drive

-passion, but you also need to

-develop flexibility

-have a strong heart to accept defeat

-a strong mind to stay positive

-be forgiving of yourself

-and have the humility to ask for help when you need to.

More importantly, we have to keep in mind that life is not just a sum of accomplishments and rewards, it’s also about experiences, relationships, second chances, and definitely not just about you.

When you’re out there tomorrow, maybe you can slow down and take a genuine interest in people around you.  You can start giving a warm hello to the trees, the birds, the sun, walk barefoot on grass or just sit and be mindful of your breath and your thoughts.  There’s a lot of happenings in the world, and surely a lot going in your life, but you know you can always choose to stay connected with anyone and anything that breathes life.

Compass or rubber band. Just find the balance, and you will find peace and harmony, inside and out. Isn’t that what we always hope for?

 

 

As I am writing this, it’s been a week since we came back from Switzerland. An exhilarating short trip that has been made possible and more memorable by the generosity of a couple we knew. Let’s call them Uncle H and Auntie B and here are some of the things we were blessed with:

  1. Uncle and auntie offered us a place to stay for the rest of the week (the best place I’ve stayed on since I started traveling in 2010- it’s more like a hotel, really!);
  2. They made us meals (always yummy and imagining it now still makes me crave for more)
  3. They drove us around (honestly, this is so much more than a chauffeur service- we didn’t have a hard time getting to places— and yes- it’s free!),
  4. and took us all to as much city and countryside areas in a span of nine days (the entire itinerary would have taken us longer- I’d say three weeks at least)!

Scenic, picturesque, breathtaking, spellbound— I’d run out of magical and wonderful words to describe the places we’ve been and the sights we’ve seen.  We did a lot of picnics, we hiked most of the time to see falls, green fields, mountains, old houses,we ate by the lake, in the park, in front of museums, cool restaurants, at home and almost always with a hearty conversation. But more than that I had so much of a great time meeting and knowing Uncle H & Auntie B- what they’ve given me- the experience, the wisdom, inspiration, and the love- is a gift that I’d always treasure for as long as I live.

I have never been struck by the life of someone else after meeting and being with them for a short span of time. But this was an exception. The encounter had left me in awe, it supercharged my heart, my body, and greatly enhanced my perspective in life. If you can imagine walking with springs in the soles of your feet and wings on your shoulders- like you’re almost leaping and flying with a wide smile painted on your face- that would pretty much describe my current state. I feel super happy and super blessed, no words can express!

Most nights I wonder, “where is all the love coming from,” “how can they give so much selflessly, not just things that money can buy, but the time, the effort (the cooking, the long drive), “how do uncle and auntie recharge their energies after a day spent outdoors and hiking in the mountains (did I mention they’re already in their 70s?!)”,  and they have so much wisdom, knowledge, and stories- – I could just listen to them all night and it’ll be like having read a book or two, and just see the world through their eyes.

I wish to grow old like them- full of life, wisdom, love, and abundance- – to put more heart in everything.  They may not be a perfect couple but to me, they are.  I’ve met their daughters and their grandkids and you can just see the energy, warmth, and kindness that runs in the family.  Being around them made me feel at home and there’s always sincerity, kindness, laughter and of course, delicious food (can’t be missed)!

With all the delightful memories I brought home with me, those nine days can be summed up as:

Living in a postcard (with all hearts, smiles, and sunshine drawn all over it)

Signed: by the coolest, sweetest, enthusiastic couple I’ve ever known.

The goodbye wasn’t easy. I dragged myself from bed the morning of that day.  I had no words to speak and I was already missing them and the place while we were having breakfast.  The drive almost felt like an eternity, if I can just turn back time or reset the journey to day one, I would not have given it a second thought.

All the way to the airport, check-in counters, to the passport control, Uncle H & Auntie B were with us, escorted us like little kids-  they’re always thoughtful like that.  I held back my tears as I hugged them for the first and last time.  As I went in I looked back and waved as quickly as I can so as not to cry.  I sure hope to see them again.  I wish them long life, good health, more adventures and more strength.  Uncle H & Auntie B always carry with them a sort of charm, exuding slowly as you spend time with them day by day.  I was charmed. And I will always be grateful for that.

Now to me, Switzerland means more than just the Alps, the chocolates, and the cheese.  It’s so full of marvelous people & wonderful nature of stunning simplicity and warmth.  And somewhere in that little country, uphill on the slopes of Monte San Salvatore, live an extraordinary couple that continues to touch hearts by their lives.  They definitely overwhelmed mine.

I’ve read a story about a traveler who met a monk on his journey and decided to come by his place. When they arrived, the traveler was surprised to see the monk’s house barely having anything apart from a bed, a chair, a table, a cup and a book. Curious, he asked the monk, “Why do you only own a few stuff?”. To this, the monk replied, “I can see you carried a few stuff yourself”. Baffled, the man explained, “Well Mr. Monk, that’s because I’m a traveler!”. With a twinkle in his eyes, the monk smiled and said , “So am I son, so am I.”

Have you thought about how simple life was when we were kids? We play, we eat, we sleep, then hit the repeat button. Or more profoundly, have you thought of how your life once was:

– when you were young and innocent
– when your heart was full of big dreams and hope
– when you were unafraid or maybe, less scared
– when you didn’t know what “worrying” meant, because you had so much faith,
– when you can’t be bothered by petty things and can’t afford to hold grudges ‘coz you desire peace & harmony & friendship
– when you knew forgiveness, the gift of it
– when you had so much love?

How wonderful it was. “If I could only go back”- the wish we whisper secretly in our hearts hoping the universe would hear and answer back.

So what’s the deal with us? Baggages. We carry too much. These days we are crippled by fear, weighed down by hurt, consumed with regrets, paralyzed by indecision, suspended by thoughts of “what-ifs” and “maybes”. Why? Because we chose to. It’s not pleasant to hear, but It is our fault. Our life doesn’t just unfold by itself. We steer its course. We have to learn, to grow, to take courage, to take responsibility for our choices, and let go already. Release, and let go.

What else? The consuming desire for fame, for power and fortune, that it becomes an obsession! The moment it takes hold of your life, the noble man inside of you dies. Like the characters in the story, we are all travelers in this world. Let’s not get too comfortable in it. Be extraordinary but learn to live simply. Good works and good deeds define a man. He’s measured by the attitude of his heart. Stay away from the trappings of this world. Guard your thoughts, guard your heart, pack your life’s suitcase. Go, and travel light!

That day when you receive a bad news.

At 3am, my cousin was on his way home from a birthday party driving his motorcycle. He was maneuvering his way through the intersection when he slammed into the rear end of a passing truck.  That second marked the last moment of his life.  At 20 years old, he’s gone too soon.

Moments- how fleeting they are.  Life- how fragile it becomes when we come face to face with death.  A day comes when your time runs out. A day comes when your heart stops beating and you breathe your last breath. Will the world around you stop ‘cause it suddenly lost you? Will your passing cause a sting in its core, or will it go about uninterrupted in its course, not realizing for a second that you actually existed? The answer right there would define the meaning of the life you lived.

We know that our time in this world is not infinite but most of us are not living our lives like we know this. Otherwise:

– we would have been more gentle with our words, and kind with our thoughts

– we would have walked away from pointless arguments and endless dramas

– we would have been more thoughtful of our loved-ones and careful with their hearts

– we would have admired the rain and the sun just the same

– we would have appreciated work, art, beauty and our capacity to build, to create, to

contribute

– we would have taken just enough for ourselves and shared the rest with the world

– we would have been more aware of the things around us even those we can’t see, but only             feel and touch and hear

– we would have loved more and worried less

– we would have valued people knowing that someday soon we may lose them too

So many things to cherish, to experience, to learn, to share, to give. If we only open ourselves to the endless possibilities around us and open our hearts to every good thing it can do and accomplish, the world would be very blessed.

Every fiber of your being is magic. Every cell in your body has been created wonderfully and with a purpose. You matter. You were made to. So celebrate life every chance you get. Time waits for no one, not even for the best of us,  so make every moment count.