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Sunday, June 3, 2007

Memento Mori

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
-- Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s quote encourages us to reach and live our dreams, to let go of our fears and plunge into a chasm of the unknown, to bravely discover our full potential while we have the opportunity. How many times have you said or heard someone say: "If I could only turn back time..." This phrase is often followed by "I would have done things differently" or "I would have started saving for retirement" or "I would have bought more shares of that stock" or "I would have had these lifted, my lips plumped, this or that tucked" or whatever it is that you didn't do, you wish you could have done 1, 7 or 15 years ago. More often than not, we end up wondering what could have been had we chosen the other option. Even if we knew what would make us happy, we still managed to veer towards what would eventually bring less satisfaction and sometimes even resentment. If only you followed your instincts and went with the decision you initially felt would be the best choice, you wouldn’t have wasted your time, emotions and energy living the consequences of your miscalculations. If only we didn't allow ourselves to be held captive by our own indecisiveness, then maybe we would have made the right decision from the beginning without having to blame ourselves by saying: “If only we could turn back time.”

While Mark Twain contributed to the initial inspiration for writing this article, my previous attempts to compose have all been unsuccessful. Each time I moved forward, I’d stumble and become lost for words. I couldn't quite express the picture I'm envisioning in my mind. There was something missing. After my third attempt of writing and re-writing, I almost gave up and considered to withdraw the article altogether. It’s been several days since I started it, but I could not (for the life of me!) find a central theme for my article that would create that unique personality which would distinguish it from the other articles I’ve written. I wanted a theme that would tie in more closely with its title: Memento Mori. This is why it took me awhile to publish this post. Contrary to the accusations of being lazy, I was faced with a real dilemma! I was simply not making the connection.

The desire to publish my next post made me turn to the one I always turn to in times of need. God. I prayed for God to stir my compassion and lead me in my mission to help through my posts, those who cry out for what we take for granted. I asked that barriers be removed so words will come out spontaneously. I waited.

I was in the shower when an idea came to me! It’s funny (as in funny ha-ha, not funny in a weird way), what you can come up with while in the shower, as if the act of massaging shampoo in your hair stimulates your brain that results in the formation of ideas, or the water pouring on your head are actual words that penetrate through your follicles and into your brain. An idea pops up in your head the instant the hot (mild or cold) water (words) hits your head. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I wonder how many inventions came about from this ritual? Jokingly, I made a mental note not to think of anything heavy while in the shower from now on. (God really has a sense of humor) I was so excited that I could not wait to get started.

After taking my son to school, I went to St. Joseph’s. I gathered my purse, my phone (in case I get a phone call from school), and my laptop and headed inside. There was only one other person knelt in front of the altar. Despite of walking in quietly, I must have made a loud enough ruckus during my entrance because the man turned around, took a quick glance at me and proceeded praying. I don’t know if my entrance created a disturbance or if he was just naturally curious to see who entered the church. (I wondered if the man thought the closer he situated himself to the altar, the louder God can hear him.) Feeling guilty, I quickly dismissed the thought and I took a seat in the last pew behind him, away from the man’s peripheral vision. I set my things down more quietly this time as I didn’t want to create another diversion. I whispered an apology as soon as I knelt. I said my usual thanksgiving prayer and my usual cry for help (does God ever get tired of hearing the same prayer over and over). I ended by asking God to impart some of His words of wisdom and help me finish my article. After praying, I was on a mission to find an inconspicuous place where I can plug my laptop. After a minute of walking around, I settled in a remote end of a vestibule, where extra chairs, lecterns and various seasonal decors were stored. A chair was set facing the window, as if waiting for my arrival. I decided it was a good place where no one can see me with my laptop. (If someone did approach me, I’ll just say that that’s where God had beckoned me to take His dictations. I don’t think anyone would challenge that!) There was only one caveat: no outlet to plug in my laptop. Racing against my battery’s short life, I proceeded to type, saving every other sentence. Ideas came slowly at first. I was not prepared for what soon followed.

Forget thesaurus. I typed like I’ve never typed before. Words were forming in my mind faster than my fingers can type. Forget about spelling. I knew my article would require major editing but all I cared about was catching up with the ideas that were pouring like water on my head. I even had a nano second to invent a term for my newly discovered technique: Heartyping. Heart + typing = Heartyping. It’s my own writing technique, wherein you take dictations from your heart, even if words didn’t form complete sentences. Heartyping is feeling with your heart and typing those emotions/words onto your screen, as fast as you can, without worrying about grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Right then and there, I found what was missing in my prior attempts. I failed to see the real message behind “Memento Mori”. Until then. I found that I just needed to engage my heart! I was so caught up with the pressure to come up with a central idea, that I was thinking with my head, instead of feeling with my heart! My heart is what was missing! Although Mark Twain’s quote tells us that regrets can be avoided by banishing fears and taking a leap of faith, this is not what I hope to write about (actually, this is not a bad idea for future posts). It’s the idea that life is too short to waste on frivolous issues so we should seize every moment by doing the things that are most fulfilling to us and what brings us the most joy. (But this doesn't mean you can go on a shooting spree if this is what brings you fulfillment! There's still Karma! Please seek professional help!!) Engage your heart in anything and everything that you intend to do and you will more likely live a happy, fulfilled life provided all your intentions are good and will not inflict harm on anyone.

Sitting in that corner in sweet surrender to God’s wisdom, my heart was filled to bursting! (although my fingers did feel like bursting) I typed in complete sentences and hanging phrases, I typed everything I felt, remarks, anything that came to mind. I trusted that all the words my fingers were typing will make sense in the end. Several minutes of heartyping led me to the one, most important element of life: The human heart ~ the only part of our body capable of producing an overpowering emotion: Love.

“For God so love the world that He gave His only Son.” So why question God’s love when you’re behind on mortgage, or in between jobs, or when you didn’t get that BMW or a trip around the world for your birthday? Can we be more superficial than this? No sacrifice is greater than the sacrifice He made for us, because of His tremendous love for us. (amazing! My fingers typed this?)

Memento Mori. Remember you are mortal, therefore you should seize every moment that you are alive. Life is a gift from God and we should not waste a minute of it wallowing in self-pity or resentment over bad choices. Memento Mori. Remember you are mortal so make a commitment to enjoy even the simplest pleasures, to give thanks for all your blessings, to treasure life and surround yourself with love. Do you need to apologize to someone but pride is getting in the way? Do you have the urge to find a long lost friend? When was the last time you sat down with your kids, took them to the park or out for ice cream? Do you want to ask someone out on a date but afraid of being rejected? Want to try something new but afraid of failing? Are you holding back on letting someone know how you truly feel? What about those books you've been meaning to read or write? Have you even started? Well, what are you waiting for? (the cows to come home?) Let go of your insecurities and fears. Seize the moment! Not later, not tomorrow or the next day. The time is NOW. Whether you’re afraid of rejection or failure, or doubt your ability to make decisions, you will never go wrong when you follow your heart. Like I said, you will less likely regret your decision if this is what your heart dictates you to follow.

They say in heaven, love comes first. We have all the possibilities to make heaven a place on earth. Doesn’t it feel great to be in love all the time? Being in love doesn’t mean just being in love with the opposite sex. You can be in love with your kids, your pets, your passion for art, or in love with life, or whatever it is that brings inspiration into your life. You can even be in love with love itself! Does this sound crazy? Of course not! You feel good about yourself and your smile exudes confidence that radiates towards the people around you. Sometimes when I think about how much God loves us, my lips acquire a life of their own and they uncontrollably start to stretch across my face and I start giggling like there’s something wrong with me or something and I have to fight the urge to shout at the top of my lungs: “God loves you!!!” (but I knew if I did that, people will really look at me like there’s definitely something wrong with this woman!) Do you ever get that feeling? I tell you, it’s wonderful! (excuse me while I force myself to stop grinning). People at work think there’s a new man in my life because I seem to be happy and inspired all the time. So, I thought I’d play along and keep them wondering who the “mystery man” is. Little did they know, I’m in love with love itself! Seize the moment and feel the love around you.

Memento Mori. By accepting the truth about our own mortality, we will be compelled to take advantage of the present time ~ to "seize the moment" while we can and follow through on what we want to accomplish. You need not wait a few years or a decade from now to realize that happiness could have been achieved if you initially followed your heart.

Seeing that my battery was about to give up, I punched the save button. My laptop beeped and I was soon staring at a black screen. I quickly gathered my things, made the sign of the cross and said “Thank you, God!” and drove to Starbucks. Although Starbucks was just another minute away from my house, I wanted to capture my thoughts while they were still fresh (ok, that’s a lame excuse for wanting to enjoy a cup of java). I ordered a Grande Mocha Frappuccino, no whip cream. Seeing there was someone sitting in my favorite stuffed Pier 1 chair (too occupied with a textbook to even look up, clearly a student) and another student who took advantage of the corner table, I asked the girl where I could plug in my laptop. She showed me to a corner where she helpfully pulled a chair and a table for me to get my work done. When my document came to life on my screen, I was pleased to see that it was saved in its entirety. I went over what I had typed and I was astonished to see the tremendous progress I made in one church sitting than I had in the past several days. With a sip of my frappuccino, I began to edit my work. It was 3:20 by the time I decided to stop, barely enough time to get to my son’s school to pick him up from his pajama party.

Just as I had started the car, Des’ree’s voice on the radio crooned: “All I know, all I know, love will save the day!” Indeed it had!

Thank you, Papa God! Until our next collaboration.

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