Set Sail

“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV

“There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors.” ~ Jim Morrison

I now leave things up to Fate. To whatever direction Fate leads me, I follow.

It was not always this way, though.

In this ocean of life, I once was captain of my own ship. I navigated and directed my course and journey.

But being alone at sea can change a person.

Rough waters and harsh storms can humble a person. Or make them lose faith in themselves. To the point where they no longer feel capable to direct their own destination.

Or, they have learned that this journey through life, no matter how hard we try to go in a particular direction, there are much higher forces and powers that always prevail. And there are always unexpected stops and delays at ports, and there are even encounters with pirates who try to sabotage our way.

We can always try to direct our destination, but the journey to get there may not always be as we plan.

So jump onto my ship, or I’ll jump onto yours. We may have no idea where we are going, but that is okay. We can set our sails to wherever we want to go, and we can do our best to stay the course, and the rest we can leave up to the wind to take us where it may, and we can have the stars to guide us through all the dark and stormy nights.

What matters to me is that we travel there, together. With love, faith, loyalty, and God’s guidance, we will make it there. I believe it.

Miss Me

I was at my parent’s house during my birthday. My mom planned a party for me, with lots of guests and an elaborate spread. I dressed up especially nicely that day and wanted to make my grand appearance in style. So, when the guests started to arrive, I did not want to be seen until I was completely satisfied with my hair, makeup and dress. I decided to hide in the backyard until after all the guests arrived before I made my entrance. I climbed up the tree house and waited for the right moment. After some time, all the guests had arrived, and my mom started to wonder what had happened to me. They all started to call out my name. I did not answer. Instead, I stayed in the tree house to see what they would do. After a few more minutes, they started to become frantic. My mom even picked up the phone to call the police. Before she could complete the call, I finally came down from the tree house and greeted everyone with a smile.

“Where were you?!?!” my mom cried.

I pointed to the treehouse in the backyard. “There,” I answered.

“Well, didn’t you hear us calling for you? We all started to worry!”

“Yes, I heard you,” I smiled.

“So why didn’t you answer then?” she asked.

“I just wanted to make sure all of you really did miss me,” I answered.

(photo courtesy Google Images)

I woke up from this dream the other morning, and I felt eerily disturbed by it. I had deliberately caused an upsetting scene in my dream just to reassure myself that I was loved by my family and friends, and that I would be missed if I were to fall off from the face of the earth.

I have always had this deep-rooted fear of being left behind by those I love or of not being loved in return. Today was an especially terrible day as I wallowed in self-pity for most of the day, and I laid around the house feeling sorry for myself.

After wasting a whole day on my stupid insecurities, I finally forced myself to focus on the positive things in my life: my good health, my stable job, friends, family, and most importantly, love.

Loving others and the feeling of being loved are the most powerful cures of all. The Beatles knew what they were talking about when they said that all we need is love.

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” ~ Dag Hammarskjold, Swedish Statesman

Postcards from Above

My office is right on the Broadway strip. I sometimes like to wander into the tourist shops that surround my building. I walked into one today and saw the rack of postcards near the door. 8 postcards for a $1.00. On impulse, I decided to buy a pack.

“Why not?” I asked myself. “I could always use them as decoration or maybe actually send a postcard to someone.”

I always equated postcards with vacations. Either I would receive one from a friend on vacation, or I would send one when I was on vacation. Postcards = vacation.

With the pack of postcards in my hand, I realized that I had just broken the equation I had ingrained in my head.

I then thought of the best vacation I had ever taken in my life – a vacation I had taken thousands of lifetimes ago – to a magical place by the sea, the Adriatic Sea, in a little town called Termoli.

I was invited to Termoli after I defeated an Italian competitor in the weapons division at a martial arts tournament. I placed first, and A placed second. He and the rest of the Italian team invited me to spend Christmas in Italy with them to teach my sword form. After my first breakup with S, I was so heartbroken that I welcomed the escape. I quit my job and packed up and went to Italy.

Although known for its beautiful beaches, Termoli is not really a town for tourists, and is more of a place where people actually live. It was a place where A let me grieve for S while showing me that I can learn to love again. A and I would walk along the beaches and into the historic castle fort and we would not long for the past or plan for the future. We simply lived in the moment. I stayed in Termoli with A until my money ran out and I had to go back to the U.S. to face my responsibilities and real life.

Sadly, I never did see A again, and I haven’t been back to Termoli since then. He passed away a few years ago – a tragic, unexpected death, and a devastating loss for all who knew and loved him. I received a letter from his family a while ago, inviting me and G to come visit them, my family, in Termoli.

I only spent $1 on the pack of the postcards, and I got so much more than I imagined I would: a flood of memories, a bittersweet reminder of A, and the inspiration to live in the moment.

Here’s to you, A. You were always my angel. I’ll see you again someday.

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

Alway Get Back Up

There’s a song on my iPod workout playlist that always inspires me to keep on exercising even when I’ve already convinced myself that I don’t have what it takes to keep on going. It’s my fight song, so to speak, and it also holds a special meaning for me.
When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, she did everything she could to fight it. In addition to her regular “Western” doctors and oncologists, she also saw numerous herbalists and special healers. If she heard about it, read about it, or even just thought about it, she went out and she tried it. When her doctors all told her that she had only a few months left to live, she set out to prove them wrong.
This song was very popular during the months before she died. She would listen to it over and over, and she would laugh about how cool the song was even though it was about drunken people getting back up to keep on drinking.
But the song also brought out a serious side of her, and she would sing along and pump her fists in the air with passion. Once, after we had listened to the song together, she told me that she would never let the cancer get to her and that even though it may knock her down, she would always get back up and keep on fighting.
During her last days before she died, she would slip in and out of a morphine-induced coma. At one point, we had called the priest to her hospital bedside to give her Last Rites. While the priest was administering her Last Rites, she jarred herself from her semi-unconscious state, and she interrupted him. She said that she didn’t want her Last Rites as she wasn’t yet ready to die. The priest had told her that he wanted to prepare her for her meeting with God, but she, two breaths away from death, defiantly answered that he didn’t know exactly when she was going to die, and that for all anyone knew, she could live another forty or fifty years.
After ten months of intensive chemotherapy and multiple and painful hospital stays, her body finally succumbed to cancer on March 31, 2000.
In the end, she had stayed true to her word. She never gave up believing in life, and even as her body gave in to the cancer, her mind, her spirit, and her will to live remained intact to the very end.
This song is a reminder to me of her fighting spirit and of how no matter how many times you get knocked down, you can always, always get back up.
I miss you, Alanna.

Reunion

I’m about to be reunited with family and friends in a short time. But this… this is the best reunion I’ve seen in a long time:

If you’ve already seen this (I’m sure everyone has already), it’s worth watching over and over, and if you haven’t, don’t miss it. It’s a true tale of love and friendship. I cried, as I always do when watching a love story.

My 99 Nights

For anyone who has ever had their heart broken and continues to hope for reconciliation, this is my story:

My heart had been broken numerous times, but when S broke up with me, I felt like my life was over. I was twenty-five and hopeless. I could not imagine ever finding love again, and the thought of living a life without love (and without him) was just unbearable. I downed a whole bottle of pills, chased it with a bottle of scotch, and prayed for the pain to end.

Miserably, I woke up the next morning and realized that I was still alive. Neither the pills nor the bottle of alcohol did anything memorable to me, except leave me with a hellish headache and a wretched stomach as tokens for my foolishness.

S and I remained friends and in contact with another, but I continued to pine and long for him, even as I had entered other relationships, and I endured the pain of hearing of his relationships. He was the one against whom I compared every other guy. In my mind, no one even came close. For eight years, I closed off a part of myself and saved it for him. Stupidly, I cut off relationships whenever I felt as though they were close to surpassing S. I believed that he was my immortal beloved and that one day, he and I would be together again.

I eventually married another, but continued to hold that hope in my heart that he would love me again. I had even contemplated leaving my husband at various times to follow my heart, which I thought had belonged to S.

I cannot even say when or how I had stopped. Eight years and several broken relationships later, I woke up and realized that I no longer felt that way about S. In fact, I realized that I did not feel anything at all for S, save maybe for friendly affection.

Of late, he has been contacting me frequently, and has even been bringing up romantic memories of when we were together. He was well aware of my near decade-long obsession with him, and maybe he is aware that I no longer feel that way about him.Hindsight is always crystal clear, and I realize now that he had kept stringing me along all those years, throwing me a treat here and there to keep me following after him. He tells me now of how great things were between us and how wonderful of a girl I am. If I am so wonderful, why was he never with me?

The truth is: he loved me for loyally following him around like a love-sick puppy. He loved that I was always there, waiting in the wings for him, waiting, waiting, always waiting. Yes, he did love me, but not enough to be with me.

Alfredo: I’ll tell you a story. Just for you Toto. Let’s sit down. God Almighty! Once upon a time……a king gave a feast. The most beautiful princesses were there. A soldier who was standing guard saw the king’s daughter go by. She was the loveliest one, and he fell instantly in love. But what is a simple soldier next to the daughter of a king? One day he managed to see her and told her he could no longer live without her. The princess was so taken by the depth of his feeling that she said to the soldier: “If you can wait for 100 days and 100 nights under my balcony, I shall be yours.” With that, the soldier went and waited one day, two days……then ten, twenty. Each evening the princess looked out and he never moved! Always there, come rain, come thunder. Birds shat on his head, bees stung him, but didn’t budge. After 90 nights, he had become all dry and pale. Tears streamed from his eyes. He couldn’t hold them back. He didn’t even have the strength to sleep. And all that time, the princess watched him. When 99th night came……the soldier stood up, took his chair, and left.

Toto: How come? Right at the end?

Alfredo: Right at the end, Toto. Don’t ask me what it means, I don’t know. If you figure it out, you tell me.

[A few years later, Toto has learned a bit more about life, and presents his interpretation of the story’s ending.]

Toto: Remember the story about the soldier and the princess? Now I understand why the solider left right at the end. In one more night, the princess would have been his. But she also could not possibly have kept her promise. And that would have been too cruel. It would have killed him. This way, at least, for 99 nights, he was living under the illusion that she was there, waiting for him.

~ Excerpt from Cinema Paradiso

Left My Mark

Perhaps it is something in the warm wind, or the month of the year, or perhaps it was Wanderer’s post about long-distance relationships, but somehow I came to be reminded about my first true long-distance relationship.
I met AC ten years ago, in May, 1998. I had traveled to Manchester, England to compete in a martial arts tournament, and AC was a guest judge there from Germany. Although he and I had seen each other in previous international tournaments, this was the first time we were formally introduced. The events of the tournament would keep us both extremely busy during the days of the tournaments, but as activities winded-down in the evenings, the tournament participants would socialize in the bar of the hotel where the tournament was held. After our initial meeting on the first day of the tournament, I found myself looking forward to meeting with him in the evenings.
He and I would have long talks in the evening, primarily about our mutual love for martial arts, that would extend into the early morning hours, well after the bar had already closed for the night. He would then accompany me to to my hotel room, but decorum and etiquette would keep him outside of my room, and he would sit in the hallway as I sat just inside my room, with the door propped open, and we would continue our discussions that way. It was crazily romantic.
At the end of the tournament, he and I had exchanged phone and fax numbers (these were the days prior to email). Although I felt a connection, I was not expecting to hear from him again. To my elation, however, I had a fax letter from him waiting for me when I returned home from England.
For two months after, I slept in my dad’s study so that I could wait for his fax letter every night. I saw him again two months later that July when he traveled here to the U.S. to attend another tournament, and then again that November when I traveled to Germany to attend a tournament that he was hosting.
Our “relationship” lasted until February, 1999. I called him one night to wish him a happy birthday. I thought I had dialed the wrong number when a woman answered, but when I tried a second time, I knew then that he and I were over. I later found out that during the two weeks that I had been in Germany, he had moved out of the apartment that he was sharing with his girlfriend of seven years, and had rented a new apartment for the time that I was there. After I returned to the U.S., he promptly “made up” with his girlfriend and he moved back in with her.
For a long time, I hated him. I hated that he had been so dishonest when I had been so trusting. It would be the last time that I would ever love without suspicion.
These days, I no longer hate him, but instead, I smile when I remember my time with him. If it had not been for him, I probably would never have seen Germany as I did, would never have seen the Neuschwanstein Castle, or seen the beauty of the Swiss Alps.
He is married now, with two daughters. His first daughter is named Nova. I guess I left my mark with him as well.

Acceptance

It has been quite some time since I’ve written about my sister. I think of her everyday though, and during the most unexpected moments. Her anniversary is coming soon, and I have been missing her more than usual. On the 31st, it will have been eight years. Eight years. I cannot even believe that I have survived for this long without her. When she first died, the pain of losing her was so intense. There were moments of grief so unbearable, I was convinced that one could die from missing someone so much. I had gone through all the emotional stages of grief: sadness, anger, realization, and finally, acceptance.

But even acceptance cannot heal the hurt in my heart and the longing that I feel for her. I look at my daughter, and at times I can see glimpses of my sister’s face in her, or I see movements and mannerisms that remind me of my sister. It is in these moments that I miss my sister the most. But I also miss her when I’m reading a book or watching a movie that I know she would have liked. I miss her when I’m riding the subway and some weirdo takes a seat next to me. If she were still here, we could have laughed about it. But she’s not, and acceptance has stopped me from cursing God about why He took her instead of me.

It’s been a long road to get to where I am now in my acceptance of her no longer being here. I no longer cry for her everyday or sit in a room catatonic with grief. But the pain is still there, dull, but ever-present. It is that same pain that reminds me, however, that she still lives, comfortably nestled in my heart.

Mother

I think about her all the time. She is on my mind constantly. She is half-way around the world, but she is always in my thoughts. I try to picture her as she was, a young mother, in a foreign country, with no real emotional support system. My father was always working, and even when he was home, he was of the old school, machismo upbringing, and did not spend much time with us kids. She was the one who was with us always, from first light of day to the last moments before sleep. I often wonder how she learned to be such a good mother. After all, her own mother had died when she was still a baby, and she had no memories of her mother to guide her. She grew up with her father and stepmother, who was a very kind, loving woman, but who was so burdened with ten of her own children that she did not have time to dote upon my mother as she was growing up.

When we immigrated to the United States, my brother and I were still very young. My father worked very hard to support my family and so my mother was often alone when she cared for my brother and me. I try to imagine how life was for her, caring for two young children, in a new country, and with no friends or family to help her while my father was working. Now that I am about to become a mother myself, I think of her and wonder if she was ever scared or overwhelmed, and I wonder how she felt during those years while she raised us. Did she ever feel bitter about giving up her own career goals to be a stay-at-home mother, or did she cherish the time and quality of time that she spent with me and my brother and sister? Like some people were meant to be good doctors or good lawyers, was she just meant to be a good mother?

I only hope that I can be half of the mother that she is.

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Unforgotten

“The memory of the heart outlasts that of the mind.” ~ ♥N

She is seventy-six years old, and the world around her is shrinking. She cannot remember from moment to moment pieces of the conversation that she just had with you or how many times she has asked you if you wanted some iced tea. In fact, if you were to leave her apartment and come back the next day, she may not remember that she has already met you. These days, new faces, new happenings, or new encounters don’t stay with her for very long. But ask her why, in all of her seventy-six years on this earth, did she not get married, and with much passion and bittersweet emotion, she will tell you the tale of a long ago affair that sadly ended when the love of her life tragically passed away forty-three years ago in 1963. She will tell the four decade old story of her beloved and the magical relationship they shared, and she will tell it as though it just happened yesterday.

“After he died in 1963, that was it for me. I could never love another after him.”

After you sit with her for some time, it is easy to see the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and the decline of her mental memory, but what is also apparent, is that her heart has refused to forget that one love of her life that neither time nor Alzheimer’s can erase.

… my thoughts on meeting an amazing woman with Alzheimer’s Disease …

“Memory is the library of the mind.” ~ Francis Fauvel-Gourand

“The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez