Friday, April 28, 2017

Our Weaknesses: Our Greatest Teachers and Catalysts For Change

What is it about our human condition that easily sees dualities everywhere except in ourselves? We speak loosely about notions like good and evil, right and wrong, and black and white in addressing the world around us. But when we need to turn inward to examine ourselves we trip over these concepts.

The idea that in one person there can be both good and evil is hard for the individual to accept about herself. We prefer to think of how we can unify these dualities so we can live with ourselves more easily. We are not both good and bad, and there is no right and wrong, we tell ourselves, because we reject moral absolutes or the idea of a sinful nature. We prefer to see our dark side as our weaknesses that need improving and our limitations that need accepting. It's easier to sleep at night if we don't face up to what we really are.

We buy the lie and the truth of who we really are is relegated to a dim corner of the mind and banished from the heart. Absolutes supposedly belong there, in exile, with God and all those uncomfortable impositions of sin and its consequences, and notions of accountability and personal responsibility. We are happy to accept this sort of mediocrity with regard to our inner life because it is hidden away from the world and we're the only ones who really know ourselves.

Acceptance helps us live with ourselves but surely there is more to life than just living with our limitations and tip toeing around our sinful nature because we are so fragile that if we really looked in the mirror and saw what we were we'd hate ourselves, and that scares us.
Can we ever truly love ourselves with all our blemishes, weaknesses, dark corners, evil intentions, lies and failings? Don't we want to overcome and transcend our so called limitations and rise above the level of mediocrity to be better than what we are?

It's very hard for many of us to do that because first we'd have to admit and accept that we sin and that evil does lurk in our hearts, right alongside good. Then we would have to hate that sin and evil within us so much that we'd want to change, while accepting that we are good and worthy of love, all at the same time. Hate the sin, but love the sinner. This can only happen when we recognise the duality in all of us, and that God loves us as we are.

Instead, we become prickly and collapse inwardly when we perceive our weaknesses to be condemning us when they are actually our greatest teachers and catalysts for change. We are defensive and overly sensitive and put up a fight to hold on to that which needs to change so we can really grow. If others point out our weaknesses, limitations, failings, sins etc to us then they teach us about ourselves, about them and ultimately about life and love.

Loving others can only happen when we love ourselves, warts and all. We just need to keep excising the warts. It takes so much courage and great humility to be honest with ourselves but that's the only way to live, with honesty and constantly fighting the darkness within. It is a battle. The only way to win it is to be honest with one's self and humble before God. That's actually half the battle won.

When my life is over I want to be able to say I fought a good fight, and that goodness, truth, honesty and love won. Hardest thing ever, but the best things usually are. Mediocrity is cheap. I'm not buying.

Thanks for reading,

Pav
14th January 2017

I'm In A Good Place

Today I managed my 30 minute morning walk without shedding a single tear. Amazing. The human body is resilient but the spirit even more so. No matter what I have endured, I do believe I am on the path to healing the wounds of my soul. I feel shades of anger, at things said and done to me, but I think this anger is good as long as I contain it well. Anger is a sign that change is needed. It's a catalyst for deep change that can be harnessed and used to turn things around. I jumped out of bed today and told myself that nobody, NOBODY, can hurt me so much that I cannot put the pieces of my life back together again. Of course, I can. I have survived all sorts of things. I am a survivor. I had a great walk while bird spotting, and reveling in the greenery and the odd dog being trotted about. Faces sped past, wrapped up in their own daily dramas. Everybody has a story of pain and sadness and grief. And everybody finds a way to just carry on. I do believe that I've begun carrying on. Finally. It quietly happened one day. Maybe the other day, when I told myself that it was time to stop crossing oceans for people who won't cross a puddle for me, and to stop shedding even a single tear for those who do not care for me. Moving on feels good. Gotta stay in that mode. Grateful to be able to see where I've been and where I'm heading, and where I am right now. I'm in a good place.

Thanks for reading,

Pav
25th April 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Note to Adele - "I Am Worried About You".

For Adele. For me. For everyone.

A NOTE TO ADELE - "I AM WORRIED ABOUT YOU".

Dear Adele,

I listened to several of your wonderful songs in an Adele fest this morning. I love your voice, and the lyrics of your songs are so real. Your songs touched my heart, and I love them. I have to admit, however, that I am worried about you.

Adele, don't find somebody like him. Find someone different and exciting and totally, mysteriously, new. Why look for someone who will simply remind you of lost love? That would be torture for you, and rather unfair on the new bloke. Find somebody who's nothing like the old chap. Find someone better!

Adele, I don't quite know how to set fire to rain, but if you've finally realised that you never really knew the man you loved and you've seen his true colours, then don't start playing with fire, just walk away from more hurt and pain. Save yourself!

Adele, you can't make anyone feel your love. They either do or don't. You shouldn't have to try so hard and promise to do anything and everything for them. Sometimes that's just not going to be enough. Yes, you could still try and it wouldn't be enough, and you'd be even more heartbroken. Find your dignity, hold on to it and walk away with your head held high. You deserve better!

Adele, you could have had it all but you didn't. Nobody really does in this life. Just take whatever you had and cherish it and learn to let it all go. Don't hold on so tightly to what you had or didn't have. Let go. Rolling in the deep is nice. It's better than playing in the shallows. But sometimes people drown in the deep because they can't exist there. They need the shallows. Let them go. You were never meant to have it all with them. You love depth!

Adele, you have to stop calling him from the other side. He's ignoring you and doesn't feel your pain or want your apologies. He doesn't care any more. That door is closed. He's moved on. Stop knocking on that door. Close your heart too. Say goodbye and mean it!

Adele, you've got to stop remembering what it was like when you were young. So he was like a movie, he was like a song. So he was beautiful and you loved him. But it's over now. Stop dwelling on it and torturing yourself by looking back all the time. Rewrite the movie ending, change the lyrics of the song. You were young once but you're not any more. Accept that!

It's time to move on, Adele. I really hope your next few songs reflect that you've truly moved on and are ready for new things in your life. Please, no more hankering for the past. It's beautifully melancholic, touchingly nostalgic and sweetly sentimental, but I don't know if it's the best way to heal your broken heart. I don't think so. Perhaps these songs have run their course and it's time for a new direction and a new you. A fully healed you. I'm just worried that you're not living in the moment by looking back so much. Let the past go, move on and live fully. Be happy being you, as you are. You're gorgeous and lovable and wonderful. Love you, Adele. Take care, Pav.

(Feb 2016)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Reflection For This Easter

They say "be careful what you pray for", presumably because you might actually get it. Philippians 3:10 comes to mind as a verse that I have sometimes felt drawn to in prayer: "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..." (NIV).

It's a lovely Easter season prayer. One that brings together Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. Some versions use "fellowship of His sufferings" which I prefer, imagining myself on some Tolkienesque quest to experience the suffering of Christ in the world, dying to self and perfecting His image in my life as I trudge along in search of all that is good. It seems noble, and pure and like a pilgrimage, and at heart aren't all our lives like holy journeys if we reverence them correctly?

Into this somewhat romanticised notion of life I have tried to fit chronic illness and heartbreak, amid seasons of spiritual dryness, similar to variations of the dark night of the soul that anyone truly searching for God experiences. Sometimes He has been so real, at times He has seemed very far away. But always, I have felt drawn back to Him, no matter what. I can't explain why that is, other than to simply say God made me that way. I wish everyone was the same, but apparently it isn't so.

Many are content to go through life in the dark, thinking that's all there is and all they want. The dark comforts them, and they feed off it. Still, there are many who feel drawn to the light no matter what happens, and the moment they stray, they know it for what it is. Sin. A separation from God.

The world doesn't understand this sort of person. They're not just unusual, they're practically abnormal because the norm, really, is to love the things of the flesh, the ways of the world, and of pride and ego, and to pursue them wholeheartedly, and anybody who doesn't isn't in sync with the world. They don't really belong here, and in their hearts they know it. Their hearts tell them they belong elsewhere, and theirs is an exile of sorts as long as they journey through life.

That's the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. The cost of wanting to be like Him, and yet journeying through a world that doesn't welcome you. It's loneliness, abandonment, betrayal and heartbreak. The ultimate sacrifice for the faith would be a martyr's death. And yet one doesn't need to go so far to be a part of the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.

This Easter, as I gaze upon Christ on the cross I am grateful for every painful suffering I have endured in my pilgrimage through life. These sufferings have brought me closer to my Lord, and that is good enough for me. The world will never understand what it cannot comprehend, but the soul that loves God knows.

This Easter I want to know the power of His resurrection also. To rise from the ashes, to come alive once more, to live more fully and joyfully. Every Easter brings these things to mind. This Easter will be special. I can feel it in my soul.

Thanks for reading,

Pav

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gift of Self Awareness

Self awareness is a great gift to give to oneself and to others. Being aware of what we feel, say and do helps us tremendously. It's the ability to suddenly see where we are in a point of time, what we are thinking, what emotions are taking hold of us, what our actions and words are, and where we need to stop, and change direction immediately.

It's as if a fog lifts and suddenly everything is clear and you know just what needs to be done. Or maybe a fog descends, and you realise that you're overcome by a sense of regret that self awareness has come too late that day, and that misty, musty feeling of being stuck in a rut with old feelings and emotions and the possibility of never changing for the better haunts you. One must face those gloomy moments head on and persevere towards positive change, and even this knowledge and the manifestation of its wisdom in one's life is a kind of self awareness.

For a long time I was not self aware in my life. I was on autopilot. Now through life's circumstances and hours of prayer, tears, more prayer and quiet meditation I have found myself developing some form of self awareness, perhaps in a state of infancy. It must feed on itself to grow.

The more self aware you are, the more self aware you become. If you refuse the gift of self awareness and turn away from it, it will never take hold and grow. It will shrivel up and die while ego and pride continue to thrive. Only recognise the gentle voice of self awareness, heed its call, back away, back down and conduct a proper self examination, and that seedling of self awareness is fed and can grow. As it grows, pride and ego will give way to humility.

If we could only step out of ourselves and observe ourselves in action we would be so shocked by who we are, and what we can be. We can't truly step out of ourselves but we can step away in any given point of time to examine who and where we are.

May our states of consciousness and our consciences be so sharply attuned to the gentle and quiet voice of God that calls us to stop, step away, step back and be still. Being more self aware means knowing that God is right there with me at every step of the way. I just need to be still.<3 p="">

Thanks for reading,

Pav

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Missing the Message of a Massage

Went for a massage a couple of days ago. One of those "restorative" and "reinvigorating" massages meant to revive and re-energise you and have you bouncing off the walls. Set in lush gardens and with a sea view, the spa is truly lovely. The massage was awesome. A Chinese lady, called Elise, used her arms and elbows and hands to knead out knots in my back and shoulders especially. The oils were aromatic with lots of peppermint and rosemary. I wondered if I was a lamb being marinated for a roasting or a post dinner digestive treat! It was heavenly, and I chided myself for not going for massages more regularly. And then the next day it hit me with a bang. I felt like a truck ran over me. No restoration, invigoration, energising or reviving. Just plain flat out, everything hurts, especially my back and shoulders. Oh dear. Am reminded of when I went to an osteopath for an upper back treatment a few years ago and she left me with mutiple red welts all over my back. When my daughter saw them she was so horrified, she forbade me to return, saying, "You must never go back there, Mum, the lady's trying to kill you!". Glad she had my back! Poor Elise from China, she meant well, and I wanted to be gung ho and not wimpy, so I asked for "medium" strength pressure. But my body is rather wimpy. Next time I shall simply say, "No kung fu please, just be very gentle". Might be a pointless massage but at least I won't feel run over the next day. Of course, proponents of the major benefits of massage will say that I am simply experiencing the aftermath of the release of toxins from my body, accelerated by the massage and all for my own good. Frankly, my toxins, such as they are, seemed pretty harmless. Why they hurt so much on their way out is beyond me. I am not inspired to release my toxins in this manner. Nonsense. I'd rather hold on to them, it's far less painful! ;)

Thanks for reading!
Pav

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Of Hospitals and Going Home

28th March 2017
Was having a bad tummy since Sunday night, and busy minding my own affairs last night while watching "Fracture" on Netflix when all of a sudden I had a bad case of the throw ups. Over and over and over. Felt so bad having to pause the movie, starring the great Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling (much ado about very little, if you ask me!), a few times. Now my doctor wants to admit me to hospital to "rule out infection, scan for possible obstruction, rehydrate me and rest my gut" while stuffing me with i/v steroids to induce a quick remission. I said okay. What else to say? One week I'm in KL munching hokkien mee with no problems, next week I'm back in Singapore, too sick to keep anything down. Something is wrong. Time to find out what. I need my life back on a steady track. Whatever it takes to induce remission. Yeah. I'm kinda fed up lah. Life stresses are affecting me big time, though I suspect it's an infection also this time. And people ask me why I don't travel to third world countries. This is why. Living in a developed nation like Singapore is tough enough for someone like me with a faulty immune system. If I visit India I might come home in a box. Not quite ready for that! Have to drink some liquids now so I can plump up my veins for the i/v drip. Otherwise they literally dig for a vein. I hate that. Hurts like hell. Today I am all teary and tired. Two decades of diarrhoea is one thing. Vomiting last night... I just hate that. Time to pack my little hospital bag. This Crohn's patient is off to hospital.

30th March 2017
Going home today. MRI shows narrowing but no obstruction of the gut. No infection found. Crohn's is flaring up badly. Going to have my 2nd dose of i/v Entyvio along with painkillers and steroids today before leaving. Hoping it helps. Came to the hospital with blood pressure of 88 over 50, leaving today with 105 over 55. I have the BP of an athlete at rest. :) hah! I might just live to be 100. The thought is a trifle depressing. Crohn's doesn't kill you, but it drains the life out of you. When you walk up a flight of stairs and everything hurts and you know you have to keep going tomorrow and keep a smile on for everybody else when all you want to do is sleep forever... that's when you ask yourself if living till a ripe old age is really worth it. I'm 50 this year and I swear this disease has aged me. It gets me down but I don't stay down. For every person who abandoned me on this journey, I wish them well. But hey, God continues to send people who choose to walk with me. It's a choice, really, to walk with those who are ill or dying or bereaved or grieving some loss in their life. Chronic illness is a loss. A great and terrible loss of energy and zest for life and so much more. And yet so many of us who live with different versions of chronic illness keep going with a smile and a determination that is unique to us. The healthy can never know what it means to be cheerful and strong when our body fails us, or to fail to be joyful and brave when our body gives way... you can't know this or the guilt we feel while you are whole yourself. Empathy may help but lived experience triumphs empathy any day. The healthy will only understand when they suffer themselves. That's just life. For now I look forward to better days and to growing older as gracefully as I can. I hope to live long and prosper but only because my perspective of what it means to prosper doesn't revolve around finances or wealth or status or power. It's love and peace and a God given joy in life. That's what I want. Simplicity in life and a deep appreciation for the beauty of all that is good in the world. Life is a journey, I believe, and my destination lies elsewhere. My soul says so. Someone calls from beyond this existence and all of my life is but a preparation. God is my destination. Whatever life holds, bring it on. I've seen better days, I've known worse days. This, too, shall pass. Eventually, my life will be over in the twinkling of an eye. Best enjoy the best of it now. Kids and dogs and my own bed, here I come! (Pix of me in the morning sun a few weeks ago, post walkies. No nice hospital pix. Terrible lighting! Heh!)



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Our Wounds, the Gateway for God's Grace and Mercy.

We all want healing for our bodies, emotions and minds. We want to feel like we are complete and whole, here and now, in this life. For some of us, the miracle of healing happens and we actually find that healing whether instantaneous or otherwise.

For many, that healing remains elusive. Close by, and yet distant. We know we need only reach out and touch God and He will heal us. He could right now if He chose to, and yet He does not choose to heal us. We feel overlooked and forgotten as if our sorrows were too small for so great a God.

Driven by a need to be whole we ask, pray, beg for the healing that never comes. "Heal my body of disease, heal my heart and soul from being crushed, heal my emotions and mind from being suppressed and oppressed. Heal me, Lord, please. You can. Why don't you?"

Today the thought came to me that there is a reason why the healing doesn't come and that deep meaning is to be found in the wound itself.

We beg for the wounds to close and the pain to stop but the wound never quite heals over and the pain is always there to some degree. We want it closed, totally, so we can function without a constant reminder of the past and the hurt we have endured physically, emotionally and mentally. That's where we make a crucial mistake in allowing the wound to remind us largely of the past.

Our wounds are more than reminders of past pain, they are very real reminders of this present moment. This very moment in time when we are functioning, upheld by God's grace and mercy, and able to say that in our weakness He is made strong. He is best revealed in our weakness and in our wounds.

Without my wounds I would never have known the depth of God's grace that rescued me in the many times when I have wanted to give up hope. It is because I have wounds that He comes in and is real. When I was relatively more whole than what I am now I knew of His grace but I didn't have the more intimate knowledge of it that I have now. He entered into my wounds and instead of healing them off miraculously He chose to remain in them as a constant reminder of His grace and mercy. He, who upholds the universe, upholds me too. It is an awe inspiring realisation to know this daily. My wounds allow me this privilege in such a real way. I don't think anything else can.

I should cherish my wounds and stop begging for God to heal them up and spare me the suffering that comes with them. These wounds keep me awake and alive to the movings of God in my life. I was oblivious to so much, asleep in my wanderings through life until pain hit me on every possible level and sent me reeling back to Him. He picked me up and saved me and began the healing of wounds that I have come to realise will never truly be healed. I must learn to live with these.

Finding a closer walk with God, a warmer embrace of His love,  a revelling in the silence of His constant company, a deeper understanding of myself and others, and a revelation of His being and presence in so much around me... these have been wonderful fruits of seeking Him more closely.

And yet the wounds remain unhealed, thankfully not festering but simply open. I must accept that they will never heal. It is the only way to peace. Stop begging God to heal them, realise instead that He touches me most deeply at my wounds and accept that to be my portion in life. A bittersweet acceptance that my wounds are necessary to help me experience His grace and mercy. Without them I am all self sufficient and so full of myself. With my wounds I remain humble and open to the movements of God's grace  in my life and in the lives of others through me.

May my prayer be less of begging for healing and more of asking God to remain in my wounded spaces and fill them with His grace and mercy. Less of a desperate need for a quick fix and more of a realisation of the need for a long haul approach on this seemingly interminable journey through life.

God's work in our lives takes a lifetime and even then it isn't really over. When I stand before Him one day, or more likely fall before Him, I shall be healed completely of all my wounds. I look forward to that day and live in hope of it. Till then I cherish my wounds, God's gateway to my soul and the place where I meet His grace and mercy. I remain grateful.

Pav 13/02/17