A topsy turvy bus ride this morning and an almost-full body hit from a truck last night caused an epiphany. Can you just imagine the fragility of a human life? If I had not looked for that fraction of a second to the opposite lane, I would have been crushed and in a coffin by today. You would have been in my wake, not on my blog site. And that wake-me-upper sent me a message that continues to reverberate down my bones.
It is this: Say things that you want to say, say things that you mean, and say less in certain circumstances where actions speak much, much louder than words.
At age 25, I have become a complicated individual, super unlike this little bundle of joy here:
(Thanks so much for allowing me to use this, Teefa of Flickr!)
I miss that phase of innocence. I stare at this explored photo from my Flickr account and I feel so drawn to that phase of simplicity. Many thoughts ensue as I stare at him (yes, it’s a boy, according to the one who took the photo!) and think of this often-neglected gift of life. That emerged amidst a nagging and disturbing thought at the back of my head: you will never get your chance to procreate something as cute as this baby if you pursue your celibacy. This scares me a lot. But I just hold my head high and I manfully rise to the occasion of wallowing in the discomfort of not knowing where to go next. Whatever happens, bring it on, Fate.
Last night, I just decided to be completely real with myself and honest about my feelings. I don’t know what to make of it. I refused to send messages to people who ask the questions I do not like to answer, I spent hours on end texting a person I genuinely like to spend as much time with as possible, and I just made myself comfortable with these affirmations and refusals—silent, small but firm choices. And for once, I refused to be sorry for being true to myself. It has rewarded me immensely.
The start of this year has been marred with messages of interior silence and solitude. According to my favorite Zen blogger Leo Babauta, the number one habit of creative people is solitude. The following week, I bumped into an article that links the skills of leadership to solitude in American Scholar. More poring on the contents of Babauta’s site made me read something about living lightly.
My favorite author Paulo Coelho, in one of his blog posts, claims that he does not isolate himself when he is writing his masterpiece. He was immersed in people as he does so. I believe he is super gifted that he managed to keep his internal center in check in such a magnitude that even other people’s presences cease to bother him. I want that kind of transcendent quality with the way I live my life. But “to get to the castle, one must swim the moat,” as aptly described by Liz Gilbert’s India mentor in the Eat Pray Love movie. (Note to self: Swim, swim, swim to your castle, Ice Princess.)
These days, I practice just being. It’s what Eat Pray Love popularly syndicated as dolce far niente (art of doing nothing). This involves becoming centered and comfortable in one’s own skin. And staying that way is the work of a lifetime.
How can I picture centering? I remember the prism in the total station when I was in college. The ordinary total station ceases to work its magic if not for the prism that helps obtain the data from a faraway distance. Most of my classmates hate holding the prism rod. Despite its cute and shiny appearance, some classmates find it undignified and unbecoming of an engineer:
But can I admit one guilty pleasure? In all my field work experiences as a geodetic engineering major, I loved that task the most. I volunteer to be the prism woman in our field work groupings. Because it’s that one time in my busy student-freelance writer life where all I have to do is look at the circle and make sure the bubble is at the center.
It does not make one a dignified engineer, yes, but it has made me a focused and intense soul, at the very least. I even thank my groupmates when they take a long time setting up the instrument. I get to stay more at centering the prism, and centering my soul while I’m at it, too.
But I cannot be at this balanced and centered phase always in my soul. Not especially when I am completely giddy with happiness or engulfed in ennui. But I do have my special moments. There was that one moment in the apparition site in Carmel Lipa where I felt right at home. In that fleeting moment, I felt eternity beckoning to me through the cool breeze of the wind. And I knew that I was just in the center of God’s palm, and there is no need to spin with the rest of the world because I am on firm and solid ground. Spinning was just a mind trick, an illusion!
Making that moment a way of life poses its allure, a soft whisper amidst the loud connivances of external noise. But I devise my ways and exhaust my resourcefulness to do so. Believe it or not, painting my nails with Cutex I don’t Nailbite solution at night is one thing which helps me stay focused and centered. Regardless of my busy schedule, I make time for mental prayer in the company chapel. This is in keeping with St. Josemaria’s admonition to people who want to add depth to their daily tasks: “Each day try to find a few minutes of that blessed solitude which you so much need to keep your interior life going.” (from #304 in The Way). At work, I make more efforts to sustain the flow by focusing intensely on a manuscript (though this has been so difficult as of late.)
St. Teresa of Avila herself, one of my favorite spiritual writers and saints, had a lot of time alone in recollection. She reached seven mansions of her interior castle. I have but a patch garden, and a poorly maintained one at that. But I do not let that ruffle me. The mere fussing over not having enough solitude is a robber of whatever little solitude I have for myself at this point in time.
I have 8 years to foster solitude that will help make me major life decisions. Even my particular mode of soul searching solitude has its deadline. This “deadline” comes with a reason. I sometimes feel like crying when I sense the pressure of having to deliver so much in so short a time, if God allows me to live that long. Time is a running…
Sometimes there are events that shake my core into bits, threatening to topple down the stability of my just re-centered life. Usually, I panic a lot and I try to deny the things that are already happening. These control issues kept me from being happy and able to be in the present moment, to enjoy things as they come and not to spoil each treasure as they flow through the conduit that is my life. And I guess life is about learning how to manage those “threats”—not to look at them as threats but as opportunities to exercise one’s ability to be flexible and open to the surprising gifts of life, bitter or sweet. Solitude is not for isolation, but for expanding one’s capacities to love and include everybody else in the world in the interior riches that comes from it.
Today (and all the coming days after), I decide to be still and wait and relish the present stream as it comes.
And because of this balance-toppling love, I write with inspiration, with verve and fire in each line. And I have Ketut Liyer of Eat Pray Love to back me up with his sage advice: “It’s okay to lose your balance if it’s for love.” So I open myself up to the risks of being hurt again, because that’s the only way I can truly love.
I strive to have a constantly updated answer to this one question, and I am throwing it back out to my reader: When was the last time you have been alone and actually thought things through? The answer to that is the thermometer of how the soul is doing. Some people think introspecting delivers little, but I dare say that we are all in this interior journey of the soul, whether we are aware of it or not.
It is best to make time for the invisible essential called solitude, and NOW is the best time.