Friday, June 24, 2011

There's something about journeys

There's something about journeys that make us want to record it, take photos, record the moments, write about it. I was reminded of this when my LLM classmate commented that he couldn't upload the photos of our commencement on fb immediately and we would most likely have to wait for the official photos to come in.

I suppose in my own way, I also record, keep track, measure, look back at what I have gone through. Even if not all comes up as pix on fb, there are notes, my previous blog posts, fragments and pieces of animated and sometimes painful, awkward conversations which keep me going and become faded sepia in the passage of time. In fact, this blog was started specifically for sharing my insights as I journeyed pretty much on my own in Singapore. (altho credit must go to my wonderful mentor and friends and family who have supported me by their kindness, prayers and presence above all)

What about now you ask? I am learning to trust my own experience and to believe that no matter what has happened, I need to take on the Creator's attitude of taking all the scraps I rejected as unsightly and make something beautiful out of them. And having many choices, as Fr Simon Yong told me last year, is not the same as choosing - once chosen, as the verse goes, putting my hand to the plough, I will not look back.

I used to think that if only I knew, if only I could see and think and plan ahead, life would be so much better. Now it's just one crazy mess, and I don't even know if I'm trying hard enough, or I've done or need to do more, or just selling out or caving in. Or maybe I'm all of those.
But keeping still, I press my ear to the heart in the quiet - where I hear desires that I have long suppressed and know where I am happiest, and how much of a leap of faith I will need to take. I do need to choose, and do it in faith, and hope and trust that whatever happened before, whatever brokenness and wounds I've experienced, they do not define me and that God is guiding me towards the right path.

Salmon swim upstream, I am probably insane to even consider wanting to come back when hordes of people are abandoning the ship, saying it's going to sink. Question is: who's bigger? Or what is? The rotten and crooked System that punishes the capable and rewards the rich, powerful and connected? Or the Lord who knows what fulfills me and strengthens me and gives me happiness? Yes I was looking for confirmation, some sort of affirmation that I am on the right track, that I'm not crazy. I didn't hear anything but a confused jumble of voices advising me to go further, try harder etc etc. The more I listened, the more I felt guilty and irrational for entertaining thoughts of homecoming instead of putting even further out. The notion of a leap of faith comes back to me, life here which is hollow and unsatisfying and yet perhaps capable of growing me and realising those dreams I have for me and my family despite those struggles ... and yet can I make something better out of what lies ahead by choosing to go home and seemingly make do with less - this unambitious girl who has sold herself short? For whatever is, I do have those dreams and desires which perhaps only my Maker knows best that I want to realise. And He alone can provide me the means of doing so.

Yes there's something about journeys - in that besides wanting to record, we also want to know there is a destination in sight. I know that short of Heaven, nothing is perfect. I just want to be where I can be whole and say Goodbye and God bless to that which I leave behind. And be at peace with what I've done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Desolation / Entanglement / Finding my way back to God

Hello all faithful readers of my blog - it has been that long since I last updated! This in part to my finishing up the LLM over at NUS. Commencement is on 5th July, Deo Gratias as He had truly given me the grace to complete the journey, especially during the last few rough weeks.

Looking back in order for me to look ahead, I've chosen the image of a spiral staircase (this photo was taken at the National Museum of Singapore which I visited a week after my last exam paper) to illustrate my journey thus far.

The time in Singapore has been much more of desolation rather than consolation, and I have often felt painfully lonely rather than blissfully solitary, missing all the things and the life I knew before back home and experiencing difficulty fitting into the community here, Catholic or otherwise.
At other times, I just remember working working working as I was wont to do to forget the sorrow as well as being fuelled by a competitive Type A streak which I had thought was long dormant within me. I am not descending into a self-pitying rant here, only chronicling these struggles helps me understand why I made these mistakes and why I did what I did. The answer is always in the pain.

So one thing led to another, and I found myself in an emotional entanglement, placing divine hopes on a very human person. Disappointment ensued from sins of omission, sins of commission. I learned that the only way to forgiveness is to pray for the person(s) involved and I did so, allowing me to let go and even laugh a little at the absurdity of it all.
As the initial flame burst of wounded emotions and a sense of betrayal died down, I stared at the embers and realised that my soul-deep loneliness had led me there, causing me to see what was never there, and to try and create an enclave of happiness to shield myself from the gaping empty hole I felt inside me. But it couldn't work, because I was frantically doing this without listening to God's gentle warnings against it - whether in my heart deep down, or my family or friends.

The embers are fast becoming ashes now, and I am finding my way back to God. Where once I was a shivering soul trying to warm myself by the light of a candle (pretty impossible!), I will now seek the fire of His love to warm my heart, my soul, my mind. It's not disdaining human company, but learning to move from loneliness to solitude, from hostility to hospitality, from illusion to prayer (as Henri Nouwen put in his absolutely stirring and lovely book, 'Reaching Out'). He must come first and from Him, all goodness and wholeness flows.

Why then the spiral staircase? Because it's me ascending towards God, as I go higher up the staircase, I am looking down at my life, the same old issues and problems but it all gets so much clearer with this renewed understanding. :)