Is That Fortune Smiling at Me?

“I thank the universe for taking everything it has taken and giving to me everything it is giving. Balance.” ~ Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

I have had a series of good fortune lately.

So accustomed to rejection, disappointment, and losing, I cannot help but wonder if all the good things that I have been experiencing lately have been because I have been going to church every Sunday and praying to God regularly.

Is God finally answering my prayers? In my heart, I know it is. I feel it in the very essence of my soul.

Miracle No. 1: My friend went into cardiac arrest last June. Her heart stopped for four minutes. The doctors were able to revive her heart, but she fell into a coma. She was “asleep” for weeks. The doctors told her parents to expect that she would likely be brain dead or severely brain damaged due to the lack of oxygen to her brain while her heart had stopped, if she even was able to wake up. They were prepared for the worst. After a few weeks, the doctors asked her parents if they would consider taking her off life support. They said no – absolutely not.

We all prayed, day and night, for a miracle.

After what seemed like an eternity, she woke up. Not only did she wake up, but her full brain functionality was intact. Her recovery will be long, but she is able to talk and think and write. She has a hole in her neck from where the respirator was for the weeks she was in a coma, but she is home now. Her case is a true miracle that has stunned all the doctors. Only God could have saved her, and He did.

Miracle No. 2: Everyone knows that the real estate rental market here in NYC is brutally expensive. During the pandemic, I was fortunate enough to secure a deal in a luxury apartment building with sweeping views of the East River. My lease was due to run out this summer, a busy and expensive time for any rental market. Many of my friends in the building have already moved out due to the egregioius increase in the rent. We are not in a rent stabilized building, so rent increases are not capped. Some have said their renewal offers were as high as $800.00 a month increase.

I had been bracing myself for a potential move. I prayed to God that the renewal terms would be for an amount that I could afford. Since my lease is due to expire at the end of July, I knew that my renewal offer was coming soon. I received the email yesterday.

I palmed my chest as I opened the email, as if to protect my heart from the bad news I was expecting. As I read through the email outlining the renewal terms, I was shocked to discover that not only did they offer a lower rent amount, they offered me a two year renewal term.

How is this even possible? This kind of renewal offer is unheard of in New York, and especially now when the market has reached historic highs. I am still reeling at my good fortune. I told a few close friends, and they are in disbelief. “Through Him all things are possible.”

I told another close friend that I felt as though God had finally heard and granted my prayers. She knows that I have been going to church regularly and of how I have come a long way with my relationship with God. So it hurt when her response was, “It’s not God, it’s something else, but it’s not God.”

Her husband passed away from cancer nearly three years ago, so I understand why she is angry with God. I was angry with God myself when my sister passed away from cancer, but I never tried to diminish someone else’s belief towards God. Last summer, I saw that she was wearing a crucifix around her neck, and I had commented that I was glad she was returning to God. She said she was not and that she was wearing it simply for fashion purposes. I was a bit angry at that, but did not say anything. I was angry that she was making light of Jesus’ sacrifice and of the faith and devotion of those who believe.

I know that everyone’s personal relationship with God is personal, and I respect her beliefs (or lack thereof), but I felt that her comment to me yesterday about my recent good fortune not being attributable to God was unsupportive of my belief, and out of line.

In the meantime, my heart is filled with extreme gratitude to God and no one can persuade me to feel otherwise.

Gratitude: Spring

“I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” ~ Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

I know that it looks as though I failed in my goal to express gratitude daily. However, I did express gratitude, but due to certain circumstances, I was not able to get online and post on a daily basis. However, I keep a book journal, and so I was able to pen my gratitude the old-fashioned way.

It was difficult to find the time to post as I was in the Philippines for over a month. I left on February 24 and came back on March 25. It was a low-key “working vacation” and I kept NYC hours (Philippines was thirteen hours ahead, but then changed to twelve hours when Daylight Savings Time came into effect while I was overseas) and I slept in three-four hour increments while I juggled staying awake at night to work and managing to spend time with my family during the day.

We stayed local and enjoyed nearby towns, sampled food specialties from different provinces, enjoyed the luscious terrains, and caught breathtaking sunsets.

We came back to New York, just in time to catch the cherry blossoms. Our neighborhood is one of the few places in the city where we have front row seats to their magnificence.

Gratitude: Friends

“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’

‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

~ E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I have often felt deprived in certain parts of my life: in love, in wealth, and general good fortune. The one constant blessing and gift that I have had is the fact that I indisputably have the best of friends.

Day 5: I have been, am now, and forever will be, grateful for my circle of friends. The circle is eclectic and diverse, filled with strong ass women and the most gentle and protective of men.

Most of my friendships have withstood the tests of time, distance, and circumstances. And the newer friendships I have made, I have been fortunate to have met people who genuinely have good hearts, people who have shown me that true friendship does not require a history, and they have shown that people can truly care about you even after knowing you for a short period of time.

(made by a lifelong friend in 2000)

Gratitude: Healing

“Scars. A sign that you had been hurt. A sign that you had healed.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Last year G was cutting herself. The skin on her arms had become red and raised from the constant trauma she inflicted on her own flesh. It hurt me to look at them because it was a blatant indication of how much she was suffering inside. I had asked her why she cut herself and she said it was to dull the internal pain she was feeling. The physical pain of the flesh made it easier to bear the pain of her mind and soul.

Day 4: I am grateful for the healing process G is experiencing, both inside and out. The skin on her arms is no longer raw. The scars are still clearly there, but her skin has smoothed out. At the beginning of her healing journey, she wore a lot of long-sleeved shirts. She said she felt embarrassed of her arms since the scars were so telling of how they came to exist. She now wears regular shirts and even tank tops. She does not flash her scars, but she does not go to lengths to hide them either. She says that the scars are now a part of who she is, and she has expressed a few times of how she feels proud of what she has overcome.

I am not naive, however, and am fully aware of the steps forward and the steps backward in the healing process. Some days are better than others, but the bad days remarkably have become less and less.

Gratitude: Air Travel

“Sometimes the most remarkable things seem commonplace. I mean when you think about it jet travel is pretty freaking remarkable. You get in a plane it defies the gravity of a entire planet by exploiting a loophole with air pressure and it flies across distances that would take months or years to cross by any means of travel that has been significant for more than a century or three. You hurtle above the earth at enough speed to kill you instantly should you bump into something and you can only breathe because someone built you a really good tin can that seems tight enough to hold in a decent amount of air. Hundreds of millions of man-hours of work and struggle and research blood sweat tears and lives have gone into the history of air travel and it has totally revolutionized the face of our planet and societies.

But get on any flight in the country and I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who in the face of all that incredible achievement will be willing to complain about the drinks.” ~ Jim Butcher, Summer Knight

Day 3: I am grateful that air travel was invented. I am able to travel at least twice a year to see my family in the Philippines. I am grateful that I can fly to nearly everywhere on Earth. I am grateful for all the air travel that I have been privileged to take, and I look forward to discovering more places in the future.

Gratitude: Plants

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Day 2: I am grateful for a newly acquired skill of being able to keep plants alive. A former certified plant-killer, I am reformed and have now successfully kept four plants alive for nearly a year. For those with green thumbs, this probably makes you laugh, but for me, this is a major accomplishment. Every day, I wake up and check on my plant babies. I turn their pots around daily so that a different part of their leaves gets sunlight.

Forty Days of Gratitude

“The season of Lent is the time for us to take a journey; an inward journey. The season of Lent is as the prophet Joel writes, “a time for us to rend our hearts and not our clothing.” It is a time for self-examination; a time to get to know ourselves a little better. Often times for Lent people will give up a favorite food, or some other form of self-sacrifice. These things are all well and good IF they come from the heart, IF they are a true attempt to re-connect with the Spirit inside us. Otherwise, we are simply “rending” our clothes.”Rev. R.J. Hronek, 47 Days: A Lenten Devotional and Journaling Guide

This year I decided that I am not going to give up anything, but rather, I am going to attempt to do something challenging, something enduring, for forty days.

My challenge this Lent Season is to write down one thing each day for which I am grateful.

Day 1: Today, I am grateful for my job. I had my annual review earlier today, and I found out today that I am valued by my firm. It felt lovely to be praised and acknowledged by the people with whom I spend so many days of my life.

Daily Prompt 2023-02-08

“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore?

I am too old now to waste time on trivial matters. I am too old to say “yes” when I really mean “no.” I am too old to be in one-sided relationships, whether it be with friends, family, or co-workers. I am too old to be using my feelings of guilt to be the catalyst of whether I do something or not do something. I am too old to compromise parts of myself just to make others happy.

My Liberation Notes

“Sometimes, when you’re so sad you don’t know what to do, it helps to be angry.”Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

The stress of my life follows me even into sleep.

The other night I dreamt that I was working late in the office. I had to use the bathroom, but saw that the night janitor was cleaning it, so I decided to use the bathroom on another floor. I go to the next floor, and as I enter the bathroom, I hear two men enter the bathroom. They are laughing and talking loudly, with one saying something about hoping to find a woman in the bathroom that he can molest. The bathroom is a maze, and I quickly, but quietly, run through the maze and hide. The two men do not find me, but I wake up in a sweat, feeling like I had just escaped being raped and murdered.

The lack of good sleep, coupled with violent and turbulent dreams, has made me short-tempered and angry. I suppress those feelings though around my daughter because she is so fragile. I am a bundle of nerves and exhaustion and frustration, but I hide it deep down, and always act cheerful and positive, especially around her.

I have a lot of dark thoughts, and I use prayer to calm myself. Admittedly, it does not always work. I have no real outlet for anything. No one to whom I can cry and shout and vent my feelings of failure. I just trod on, like a good little solider, do my work, call my parents often, check-in with friends, cheer on my daughter, all while I am feeling nothing but emptiness for myself.

I recently watched a Korean drama, My Liberation Notes. In the series, the main character, starts a club where the members write in a journal about all the things that they think will liberate them from their misery.

This made me think about my own life. What is it exactly from my life that I want to be liberated? I thought about it some, but have not yet solved that question. In the meantime, I started a boxing class. It has only been two weeks, but already it has helped tremendously. I sweat and punch out all my negative and dark feelings. And while only temporary, at least I feel liberated while I am punching out my emotions.

To Hell and Back

“Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.”
~ Dorothy Parker, Enough Rope
I realize now that I have not written here since the end of 2021, and now it is 2023.
It is because I was in hell all of last year.  2022 was my year of personal hell.
In January 2022, I found my daughter in her room dangling from her neck, minutes away from death.  Her face was blue and she had almost lost consciousness.  Fortunately my brother was there and he held up her body as I unraveled the bed sheets from around her neck.
Thirty minutes before that, she had told me she was hungry and wanted to order McDonald’s.  I was not happy as I had already made breakfast and told her that she should not be eating so much fast food.  She muttered something unintelligible, went into her bedroom, and slammed the door.
The delivery guy came.  I went to her room and knocked on the door.  No answer.  I knocked again, this time louder.  No answer again.  I tried the door knob.  She had locked the door.  I felt like something was wrong.  
My brother was visiting and I told him that I felt like something was wrong.  He picked her lock, and that was when we found her.  She had tied bedsheets around her neck and hung herself from the steel window bars.
If she had not ordered food, we may have found her too late.
I spent much of last year taking her to different therapists and doctors.  She was prescribed some antidepressants, which she refused to take.   She slashed her arms multiple times.  I lived in a constant state of fear and worry.  Every day I was sure that that day was going to be the day that I would lose her forever.
After over twenty years of not going to church, I started going last year.  Every Sunday, I went to church and prayed to God to save my daughter.  I prayed non-stop to a God that I had hated for over two decades ever since I lost my sister to cancer.  
I urged my daughter to also turn to God.  She even joined a youth ministry.  Things were starting to look up for her, but then the youth minister started sending her inappropriate messages.  She became disgusted with the church, and she and her fellow female colleagues stopped attending the youth services.  Eventually, the priest was sent away, and she and her colleagues slowly started coming back to church.
A year later, my daughter is better.  She is still healing and still fragile.  I am also still healing and still live in a constant state of anxiety and fearful with the thought that my daughter may slip back into a dark hole.  Praying to God helped me and my daughter last year.  I will continue to pray this year.