Sunday, January 30, 2005
-- Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, "Let Deep Speak to Deep", p. 64.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The Biology dictionary defines vertigo as: Giddiness; Dizziness or swimming of the head; an affection of the head in which objects, though stationary, appear to move in various directions, and the person affected finds it difficult to maintain an erect posture.
I have experienced this sensation many times before. I passed out at the U.P. chapel once and when I came to, I had to ask friends to rescue me. Another time, I was on the plane to Bangkok and I could not move my head as I felt like I was dying. I have developed vertigo through the years, although I've always been prone to motion sickness.
These days I'm going through what must be some sort of spiritual vertigo. With my mind always ten steps ahead of where my life is going, while the earth and its inhabitants continue to spin at its normal pace, one rotation a day, one revolution a year, I have had trouble maintaining my balance.
My surroundings are stationary. Or are they? Many changes are happening to my family this year. A wedding, a reunion, a vacation, and a trip - these are normal occurrences, right? It's the earth spinning on its axis. At work, I'm beginning to see the effects of last year's promotion for my boss. It means more work for us. More pressure, more demands, more overtime. In Lingkod, we have a three-year development plan nationwide that's being implemented in each of the 33 branches. In Quezon City alone, transitions are taking place in the pastoral and administrative aspects of the branch. Not everyone is adapting to the changes at the same pace, although there is a unanimous desire to joyfully proclaim God's glory this year.
Definitely, there is a conflict between my inner and outer worlds. Since both are spinning, I have double vertigo. I have trouble maintaining an erect posture. I need to keep my eyes fixed on the only One who is unchanging, and who is in control.
May the next few days allow me to anchor the spinning events of my life and the broadening aspects of my dreams to God alone. Prayer, scripture, sacraments, community, service, fellowship - my spiritual Bonamine.
Monday, January 24, 2005
It's too early for rheumatism, but I've been walking around with a painful back for a long time now, most especially the past weekend. I was told at the spa to visit weekly in order for the massage therapy to work! I did not want the massage to end. It was heaven on earth. I won't tell the name of the spa, otherwise people would flock to it and I wouldn't be able to get a slot as easily anymore. That's assuming I have readers who go to the spa! Well I'm in the mood to assume.
I can't hold down alcohol anymore. Two sips of wine and I feel dizzy. I cannot remember the last time I was able to manage a bottle of beer by myself. This could be because I have not been drinking as much as law school encouraged me to. I have been reneging on my Malcolm-Hall-Alumni duties for years now. I can add that to my IBP fee backlog, and that would explain their refusal to release my Compliance Certificate despite being exempt from the MCLE, as I'm under the SC/PHILJA's responsibility.
All said, however, I'd rather be aging and aching in the arms of the Lord than partying and drinking away from Him.
There may be signs that I'm maturing as well, thank God!
Today I took a leave from some of my perceived responsibilities and was surprised at the support that I got from the people around me. It was worth the big risk of asking for some time off. The world would obviously turn without me. What was I thinking? Carrying the weight of the world only brought me a bad back and aching feet. From now on, I would make a conscious effort not to complicate things by attempting to be everything to everyone. After reading all those self-help books, I still did everything they said I shouldn't do. I worried, multi-tasked, panicked, obsessed, wondered and doubted. I took charge and took too much. I, too, am human.
Before I make any more mistakes, I have decided to stop giving for a while. It's time for me to spend time alone with Jesus, in my sacred space. I will fix my eyes on the Lord of the service, and not the service of the Lord.
My heart is cluttered. I don't need a Sorting Hat. What this calls for is... a Sorting Heart. :) As of my last official sorting, I found out that I am a Gryffindor.
I hope to be better in two weeks. May the smell of Salonpas wear off, too.
Monday, January 17, 2005
I get tired easily. Whereas before I could dance for hours and still smile at my crush, now I have to catch my breath in the middle of a dance number and scramble to the nearest water dispenser for a drink afterwards!
I need eight hours of sleep. I was known in earlier years as the overnight queen. I could survive on little sleep and still make it to school or the office - and have a productive day at that. Now I have to go home early even if I'm out with friends at night because I have to consider my energy level for the next working day. Older people used to do that and I used to think they were corny and party poopers.
When I think about it, however, I much prefer my life now to the life of a partying law student or a cheating high school (MaScian) crammer. With age came financial independence. I have more confidence in my abilities and talents now. I've fulfilled some dreams and survived many pains. The list is long. Life has grown richer throughout the years.
I thought about aging today because I was faced with many challenging situations. Instead of giving in to my emotions, I remembered to do the proper thing each time. I have learned to be polite even through my pain. This is a breakthrough, for I used to be very transparent with my emotions.
Now I'm only a little transparent. Instead of revealing my unwarranted emotions to the people concerned, I was able to control them.
At this point I still need an outlet, though, and I thank God I have a blog. The world could know that I was sad, hurt, disappointed, rejected, humiliated, and embarrased by different people at different times in just one day.
But the people involved would never know. Ah, the beauty of old age and modern technology. You get to learn new tricks.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
Come to Me in My Dreams
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
Come, as thou cam'st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to all the rest as me.
Or, as thou never cam'st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth;
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say: My love! why suff'rest thou?
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again!
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
My two brilliant nephews (a totally subjective opinion, but I know my rights!) have been exposed to music at an early age. Both of them dream of forming their own band some day and playing different kinds of instruments. They play the piano and guitar now and can really carry a tune! They’re quite competitive with the Magic Sing too, performing a song repeatedly until they could get the highest score.
I’m not sure if I lied today. Kuya Dan showed Miko and Luigi the Magic Sing song list and the kids started giggling. Luigi proudly hollered, “Tita Ella, you have a song in the magic mic!” Miko’s whole face lit up and he approached me to ask, “Tita Ella, did you have a band? Did you record a song?” He beamed at me and looked so proud of me that I did not have the heart to tell him the whole truth.
Their mom played the song “Lumapit Ka” by Ella del Rosario of the Hotdogs in the Magic Mic and I sang a few lines. Weren’t the boys suspicious that I could not get a 100% score in my own song? They just applauded, happy to have a tita who was famous enough to be a recording artist.
I didn’t lie entirely. I was part of a band before, the Soundcheck Band from law school. I remember Karreen, Pebbles, and Regie. The rest of my band mates’ names and faces are lost in my sea of memories. We had one gig – at the “Beyond Limits” fundraiser of UP Law Bar Ops 1996, which was my pet project as then Treasurer of the Law Student Government. We obviously got that gig because I was the project head (“Can we approve this band?” “Let me think about it…”). We played as front act for DV8 and other famous bands of the time. We had a very limited repertoire. I played the keyboards and sang backup vocals. I was alone thinkin’ I was just fine, I wasn’t lookin’ for anyone to be mine... I didn’t know I was lookin’ for love…
I didn’t lie about being a recording artist, either. :) I was part of the 8-member choir that served in the worship segment of the Lingkod 20th Anniversary CD, “Not to Us, O Lord”.
I didn’t get a hundred in “Lumapit Ka” because I could not finish the song. The lyrics were not suited to very young children. Someday I would explain to the kids that there are at least two Ella del Rosarios in the world. Their aunt is the less famous one. :)
Thursday, January 13, 2005
I went home eager to post my reflections on my blog. I decided to do some research, however, before doing so, and I found out that there were actually a lot of people who objected to putting labyrinths inside churches and asking Catholics, and even other Christians, to walk in it. The dissenters of the labyrinth claimed that instead of pointing to God, the labyrinth just led people to “the god within”, and thus propagated new age ideas. I read through those webpages, one of which was http://www.dotm.org/labyrinth.htm, had a glimpse of where the authors were coming from, but could not fully share their experience as I was not exhorted to go through the labyrinth under the same circumstances.
Some people actually could pray through the labyrinth, and one such testimony could be read at http://www.olhc.org/Website--05-13-04PathtoJerusalem.htm.
I do not intend to join the debate. I would just like to crystallize my reflections by writing about them. As in all things, God looks at the posture of the heart of the person walking the labyrinth, and it may not necessarily be true that a prayerful walk through such a maze could be evil. I don’t know; let me ask God when I see Him face to face in Heaven so I could be 100% sure.
I was writing in my personal journal this afternoon (one which involves a pen and a paper, containing my innermost thoughts that only God could read, not the online kind!) when I realized that my life had taken on so many turns the past few months that it was as if I were inside a labyrinth. I was reminded of the reflections that I set aside.
I walked the labyrinth on my Day of Prayer to thank God for the year 2004 and to ask for His Word for the year 2005. I had all my plans and dreams written down but could not tell, at that time, where the Lord was actually leading me. In my heart I wanted to do one thing but heartbreaking obstacles hindered me from making my most radical decision.
Praying for my future, I started walking the labyrinth. A few people were meditating on it while walking but I figured we need not cross paths anyway. I put one foot in front of the other, much like the characters of Terry Brooks’ books did, at first concentrating on my Game Plan. I wanted to do it perfectly, to find my way through the maze without making a fool of myself. I heard the Lord calling me to slow down and surrender control to Him, because the path had already been laid down before me. It had already been planned and mapped out and I was SURE to get to the center, where He would be waiting to speak to me. It would have been ideal to enjoy a leisurely walk. And yet, wanting to find answers to my questions, I labored through my journey. I talked to God and asked Him what the future had in store for me, why people I loved and looked up to could not understand me, why it was so hard to pursue my dreams. I reflected on verses that I had written down from my prayer time and realized that I was being called to recline my head on Jesus' waiting embrace, like the apostle John, from the Gospel that day. Jesus wanted to teach me His ways and I had to learn to wait on Him.
I noticed that whenever I ran out of patience in my thoughts, I ran out of steps in the labyrinth as well and I would be led to a turn which I did not foresee but was lying there all along. It was like that in life, when opportunities knocked when I least expected them. I did not welcome all opportunities as they tended to confuse me. I kept looking at the center of the labyrinth, calling out to Jesus in my heart, “Take me there, why do I have to keep walking? Take me out of the darkness and confusion I am in about my career/service dilemma!” I could have, really, just walked away and not finish the labyrinth. Or I could have chosen to ignore the patterns on the floor and walk right into the middle. What held me back was the nagging thought that I would regret walking away. I also realized that I would distract other people from praying if I broke away from the path and made my shortcut to the goal.
At some point, Mercy and Ted walked the labyrinth as well. I could not help looking at them to see how they were doing. I heard a voice inside me telling me to concentrate on my path, for each of us had our own journeys and God had already timed everything perfectly so that we could move in the same direction and reach the same goal without crowding the path.
Finally, I reached the center of the labyrinth and I felt a sense of accomplishment that I was able to walk through a difficult journey. I knelt down in prayer and worshiped God who made me, laid out the path for me, and waited for me to make it to His heart. I wanted to stay there and start my little taste of heaven by praying for a very long time, but I knew that the journey wasn’t over. I had to walk the labyrinth again, this time going out into the world to apply what I had learned. Armed with the certainty that I only had to keep walking and God would guide me, I re-traced my steps and found my way to the exit, where I started the journey.
I went through labyrinthine twists and turns in the recent months, from being told by God in my personal retreat that my service in Lingkod QC would end in June 2005; to being tired of being a pleaser in the workplace and not setting boundaries to what I gave; to being scheduled a job interview out of nowhere; to watching a movie (Under the Tuscan Sun) that inspired me to plan to study abroad; to spending weeks and weeks surfing for scholarships and courses; to realizing I was more interested in traveling than in studying; to going to a week-long conference and being asked to consider full-time missionary life; to struggling against my attachments and fears but being so attracted to that lifestyle; to going through 40 Days of Purpose AND intensive spiritual direction to discern my calling; to being so anxious to jump out of my life as I knew it; to talking to my friends about it and getting so much support; to telling my parents and not being able to explain it properly to them; to cultivating deep friendships with new mentors who helped me sort out my feelings; to growing spiritually as I went to Mass more often and lengthened my prayer time; to finding my boss getting promoted and being swept in her excitement; to seeing my workplace improving and all my previous complaints slowly being addressed; to taking part in a decision of national significance that made newspapers quote my words – my words! – without being acknowledged, of course (such is life as of now); to being offered a scholarship once again; and finally, to this point of indifference where I acknowledge that wherever it is that I am going, God surely planned it considering my SHAPE (as the purpose-driven life puts it, Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality and Experience) and I would find joy in it.
Just like when I went through the labyrinth, the secret is to just keep walkin’. All these roads would lead me to be united with God and see Him face to face.
Then perhaps, I shall see these words come to pass:
Baruch (Chapter 5, NAB)
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God's command;
For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.
I am going on retreat again tomorrow until Sunday. I hope the Lord would speak clearly and conclusively about this particular decision I'm making.
Monday, January 10, 2005
I gave a talk to graduating college students last Sunday using the above passage as the key verse. I first encountered the verse at my very own Crossroads Retreat when I was their age, which was around eleven years ago.
When I reflected on it while preparing for my talk, which was entitled "Do you know where you're going to?", I found that the Lord was speaking to me in my present situation.
I first have to recognize that I am at a crossroads. Many inviting options or roads are before me. Instead of giving in to anxiety and/or confusion, however, I have to slow down, "stand" in the middle, and "look". Then I have to ask for wisdom from those who know the "ancient paths". In my heart I shall find "the best road". Finally, I have to walk in it and not run. The Lord promised that I will live in peace if I do this.
In order for me to convince those beautiful Atenean ladies, the Lord led me to believe in this promise myself. I have found comfort and assurance from this verse. During lunch today I shared this with my friend Shane and she agreed that we had to walk and not run. So we're going walking around the U.P. academic oval more often now. :)
The Lord sent me several people to ask ancient wisdom from. I have begun to slow down, stand in the middle, and look around me. I was just confused by conflicting signs which my eyes could see. As a result of several months of discernment, however, I already have a strong sense of what the best road for me is. I just became impatient last December because I wanted to run ahead of the Lord and not wait for His perfect timing. This is what I'm learning the hard way now - to wait on the Lord.
I'm giving the same talk to a retreat for single professionals next month. I'm excited to share this with them. Different context, but same reflections. Lessons in waiting are meant to be shared because as Shane said, they did not teach us to wait in school. Or maybe we were too impatient to pay attention to them.
I think I know the best road in my heart. I'm done looking at all the roads before me. The challenge is to walk and not run.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
I would always chew until the gum became tasteless in my mouth. If I had nothing better to do, and if a trash bin was within reach, I would throw away the gum properly. But if I could not find a piece of paper to wrap it in, I would continue to chew the tasteless gum.
Tasteless gum was still chewing gum, without the color and the flavor. It was a far cry from the attractive candy I saw in the store, yet for lack of anything better to do I sometimes had to keep on chewing.
I would chew until I could find a small piece of paper to wrap it in, and enough time to properly place it inside the rubbish bin.
As a grownup I still find myself forced to chew what had already become tasteless gum. But I'm just biding my time...
Monday, January 03, 2005
For the coming year, He is calling me to wait on Him as He teaches me His ways. This is Patience 101 all over again, but this time for new areas previously unsurrendered to the Lord. I've been notoriously impatient all my life, and so in offering my heart to the Lord He is teaching me to once again learn the art and science of waiting.
I thought discerning what He was calling me to do and what I really wanted to do would immediately lead to a changed mission, career and lifestyle. But His ways are not my ways! Jesus' signs in my life right now are all about waiting for His timing. Do I like it? No. If I had it my way, I would have done something already: either radically leave everything behind as I've badly wanted to do since October; or belatedly rebel against God by pursuing further studies abroad; or stubbornly fixate on worldly pursuits like shopping or dating. I would do anything just to get to my Promised Land at the soonest possible time.
"Wait on the Lord", I'm told, and so I hang on to His every word. I neither know nor control the future anyway. There's a stop He wants me to take that I didn't plan on last year. He wants me to go through Healing Stop. Rivendell. I have long-forgotten wounds no ordinary man could heal. I need elven magic to work on me.
Wake me up when it's over.