Monday, September 24, 2012
GETTING READY FOR NOW
I'm guessing this picture was taken sometime in 1955, the year after I was born. My grandmother, Felisa Medina, rarely smiled in any pictures taken of her and not even a cute little Hawaiian/Filipino ball of fat could change that. She would pass away 11 years later at the young age of 66 but in the few years I spent with her, I remember two things. She smoked cigarettes with the lighted end IN her mouth (old Filipino style) and she hid money everywhere. I never actually found any of the money, but it was way more amazing to watch her puffing a Viceroy while cooking up a pot of pansit.
If I was old enough to have a conversation with my Grandma before she died, I often wondered what she would have said about the events of her life. My dad said she had a pretty rough life and basically "worked herself to death" but I wonder if she saw it that way. I wonder if she felt fortunate to come to the United States from the Philippines in 1931 or cursed that she had to raise nine children with an absentee husband. I wonder if she felt blessed to have the life she had or victimized by the circumstances that cut her life short. Victor or Victim? Maybe her facial expression is the most telling clue.
Me, on the other hand, looked clueless about the life that lay ahead of me. Eyes wide open, fist clenched to take on the world, mouth slightly open and ready to eat. Though my life took a completely different path than my grandma's, we both had/have the same choice. We can decide how the events of our past will affect the way we look at our lives today.
I'm a believer that our greatest challenge in life is trying to make sense of the things that happen to us and to use that perception as inspiration to go forward. We all experience pain, anger, fear, guilt, shame and resentment and it's so easy to just accumulate those emotions and carry them through your life. The weight of these negative feelings over the years creates angry and bitter people. When you meet someone, once you get to know them, their demeanor will tell you how they've decided to see their past. Happy people have learned to let go of emotions that don't serve them, unhappy people hold on to feelings that keep them on a vicious cycle of being angry at the past and terrified of the future.
Take a look at the events of your life. The slightest twist or turn could have taken you on a completely different path. What if you weren't there the day your future spouse showed up? What if you chose a different school? What if you took a different job? Were these all random events or part of some designed plan?
I don't profess to know the answer to that question (a question that has baffled philosophers since the beginning of time), but what I do know is that the events of your past actually get you prepared for what's ahead. It's amazing to me how some experience, some encounter with a person or some piece of random information from my past can come around and be relevant years later. What's most ironic is that the experiences, people and information that are the MOST negative end up being the most insightful and helpful down the road. Opportunites to learn and grown always happen outside of our comfort zone.
I've heard the saying "your past is only important because it got you to today." But I'll take it a step further and say that I see my past as important because it got me ready for what I'm experiencing today. And each day that goes by, regardless of what that day brings, I understand my life a little better and it helps me to be less fearful of the future.
Everything that's happened (and everything that's going to happen) is simply getting me ready for now.