All your dead-end fury is not enough

When Ondoy happened to us (and the rest of Metro Manila) in 2009, we had to leave our dog Batman at home as we evacuated to our neighbors. Batman wasn’t a friendly dog, so bringing him to the neighbor’s house is not really something we can do. So we left him at home, making sure he had food and water and he was on a table while we crossed the street through waist-deep flood to get to safety. Of course, Batman thought we were leaving him in the midst of that scary night, so he tried to follow us. But we were already gone, and he couldn’t climb back to his table…and I honestly thought I wouldn’t see him alive after that night. He was still alive the next morning, but he was petrified after that. He was so traumatized by the flood that he wouldn’t leave our side while we were cleaning up, and when we tied him outside so he was out of our way, he dug a hole and burrowed there, turning his white coat into…well, brown. Then he would start crying, whining at certain times of the day and we’d wonder if he was just hungry or something. As it turned out, he was whining because he could sense the rain, and he was scared.

Batman recovered from that soon after (but he still hated getting rained on after that), but me? I was terrified of tropical storms and typhoons after that. Like my dog, I was pretty much traumatized with what happened during that flood. I disliked rains with a passion, and whenever the rainy season rolled around, I would pray for the sun everyday, because I didn’t want a repeat of the flood. When there’s an approaching storm, I kept on checking weather reports, and I was the one who kept my friends updated with what I know. I wouldn’t sit still until the storm has passed, and I fretted, worried about so many things and so many people because I really just don’t want Ondoy to happen again.

(And it sort of happened again, with Habagat 2011 and Habagat 2012. But that’s another story.)

There’s a record breaking super typhoon right now. If you Google its name, you’ll see so many articles talking about how “catastrophic” this is, speculations on how much devastation it will leave behind. The world watched as it formed, as it grew stronger and moved — with only the Philippines, my home, in its path.

Image from  EUMETSAT via Flickr
Image from EUMETSAT via Flickr

There isn’t much to say right now, because as of this writing, I am at home, waiting for Metro Manila to feel the wrath of Haiyan/Yolanda. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for it to happen in the last few days, especially since there was nonstop news about it, in an effort to let the people along its path prepare. But as I read and waited and prayed, I realized something: I’m not that scared of rains anymore.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but somehow I started to not really mind it when it starts raining hard. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel as scared as getting flooded here in our house after we had it renovated. Maybe it’s because I know I can automatically head for my brother’s place in case I can’t go home from work. Or maybe I’ve just learned that there’s really only so much I can do with these rains and typhoons, except prepare and pray. It’s not like I’m Storm or something so I can move these weather disturbances away (can she do that?). I can worry myself to tears, but what can it do?

I’ve written about how I’m learning to pick my battles, and Haiyan/Yolanda is another exercise in that. Last night I was fretting about a lot of things, especially because I was supposed to have an event tomorrow, plus some friends were in or are heading for Visayas over the weekend. I felt like maybe I should do something, but I couldn’t come up with anything. So after I read articles, updated myself with the location of the storm until I could no longer take it, and then I sat down and prayed. Because it was really all that I can do where I am right now.

Maybe I’ve learned to not be afraid of the rains because it’s not useful. Maybe, in the past few months, I see the rains and these winds and these typhoons as an opportunity to learn, to prepare and most especially to pray and to trust God that He is still King over the storm. Any storm.

And that it will pass. It will always, always pass.

Sometimes, it takes something like this to teach you what surrender can mean in a more personal level.

I guess that’s what it means to “weather the storm” sometimes.

There’s a super typhoon here right now, and it’s not over until late tonight, or maybe even tomorrow. But like what one of my favorite bands wrote in one of their songs: Hello hurricane, you’re not enough / Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love / I’ve got doors and windows boarded up / All your dead end fury’s not enough / You can’t silence my love.

Hold on tight, my Philippines.

Your goodness shall follow me

01.

I talk about being brave, but sometimes I think I really don’t know what it entails until it stares at me right in the face. I haven’t watched the movie We Bought a Zoo (although I probably should), but I remember this one quote from the movie that always comes up when I search for “bravery” and “courage” in Google:1

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

Twenty seconds, huh?

How about five?

Image from we heart it
Image from we heart it

02.

There was that one mass, where I fell to my knees after receiving communion and started tearing up. Okay, that isn’t really new, because sometimes I find myself crying a lot while at church, which often feel like the safest place for my tears. I knelt down and prayed, and my heart cried out. I don’t know what to do, Lord. I don’t know if I should go forward or forget about it. I’m scared, I’m scared. I just don’t know. Please tell me what to do.

Those were my prayers, but I realize later that underneath all those prayers is this one more urgent, pressing prayer: Please tell me what’s going to happen if I do this. Please, please.

And then, the answer: I will not tell you what’s going to happen. Remember that even your mistakes are in My plan. Will you trust Me?

By the time I went out of the church, I know what I was going to do. Okay, I didn’t know how I will do it, but I know what I think I should do.

God, I’m scared.

03.

I came across this post as soon as she posted it, but I didn’t want to read it the moment I read the first few paragraphs. Not now, not yet.

Now I read it and read it and read it, not because it contains the answer I need but because it’s one of the few things that I can hold onto now, as I prepare:

You must look that answer in the eyes and listen to it, and let it ache, and let it roam around, and let it lead you. Because the truth will always lead you somewhere.

04.

“You know how when you eat a sundae and have tequila after, you expect LBM…but not too soon?” My friend made me laugh at that statement, but there is truth in what he said.

When you’ve come to the point of no return and then you are asked to wait again, it’s frustrating. Let me say that again: it’s frustrating. It’s even more frustrating when some things you sort of expected to happen later happen too soon, before you’re completely ready for it. What results is you, a complete mess, breaking down at random times in the day while you try to hold yourself together, try to not take offense, try to not over think things, try not to jump to conclusions.

It’s not like you can turn back, anyway. Or you’d want to turn back.

“The only thing you can do now is be strong, and wait.”

05.

This must be what free-falling feels like. How long till you get to the end?

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  1. Sidenote (or, fine, footnote): I wish it was that easy, just enter the thing you want or need and Google and you get results. I wish it was that easy. []

Gratitude, Again

Let me take this moment to breathe a sigh of relief and say: Thank God April is almost over. Whew.

It’s not that April was a completely horrible month. It was more of April kicking me in places that I didn’t know even really existed. I wasn’t particularly sad, but it felt like there were too many things this month that had been pulling me down. It was harder to be happy and stay happy because I was worrying about a million and one things, I was busy with a thousand and probably paranoid about a hundred things. Almost everything is getting into my nerves. I was hardly calm, and even when I find a sense of calm sometimes, something happens (or I do something stupid) that knocks me off balance again and I go back. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But April is also good, in a lot of ways. I surfed. It was our book club’s anniversary month, so we had a ton of activities here and there — book covering for hours and hours, my first outreach event, our first (real) pool party, and a road trip across the city to watch a movie that is showing everywhere but we wanted to watch it there just because. There were phone conversations, assurances and things to remind me of who I am, of what I am capable of, and people who are willing to stay up to 2 in the morning talking to me because I feel unsettled. There were lots of laughter. And hope. Lots of hope.

So while April is busy kicking my butt, it’s also busy trying to teach me a lesson. Or several lessons. Most of them are too lengthy to blog about — patience (as always), balance, trust, friendships and relationships, graciousness. And just recently: gratitude.

Remember how at the end of March, I was so grateful for all the things that I was given during my favorite month? How all I can say was thank you, and my heart was bursting with gratitude because it was such a beautiful month? I wanted so much to get into that state again in the midst of April, to be grateful for the good things again because it’s easy to be thankful then. It’s easy to go back to those happy moments and say thank you. But when things aren’t going my way? I can’t even say thank you at all.

However, I have learned that gratitude isn’t exclusively for the good things. Gratitude applies to good and bad things. It takes a lot of maturity and courage to give thanks for the bad just as you say “thank you” for the good. It’s all about perspective, they say, and that’s true. I just forget it too easily.

Image from we heart it
Image from we heart it

April is ending, whew. I am happy it is, and thankful for all the lessons it has taught me. I’m pretty sure it’s far from over, but thank you anyway, April. I won’t miss you, but thank you. For May…

…I pray for the strength and courage to be truly thankful, even when everything feels like they’re falling apart1

…I pray for grace and peace for the moments when I worry, cry and complain, so I can just be grateful for being where I am.

…I pray for the trust that even if things aren’t going my way, I will remember that I am blessed and say thank you.

We’ll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need.2

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  1. Often, they’re not. I just feel like it does, sometimes. []
  2. Gratitude, Nichole Nordeman []