Saturday, July 14, 2018

over and over again

When we were kids there was a few things you absolutely knew about my dad after talking to him for 5 minutes (or growing up in his house for 12 years). He doesn't play games. He doesn't say things twice. He goes from 0 to 100 quick. He cares about everything he owns. And on top of that list of things he owns that he cares about is his car. I remember spending weekends watching him clean the little AC vents with a toothbrush because just wiping the doors and hood with river water was for average people.

And then this one Sunday they come to wake me up talking about I need to go wash the car. I'm still in a stupor coz I was up watching that midnight movie last night against intructions. And in my lucid dream I could feel the rain falling. Sounds like water to me, so I told the people to leave me alone - the rain has already cleaned the car. Fast forward 17 minutes, all of us are heading to church, and then my father starts with me.

"Colin, you are actually in this car?" I'm on some of course I am I have earned the right to be a member of this family by being obedient and giving up all my freedom and getting good grades at school and all the things people that don't have their own children think they're doing their parents a favor by doing. "You know I heard you being woken up to come and clean the car and I heard your response." Shucks! "Colin. I am very disappointed in you. Next time something like that happens, you will never step into this car."

He wasn't yelling, or hyperventilating or banging his fists against the wheel like he usually would be when he's livid. He was just cool, changing gears and indicating left and right between pronouncing curses on my life. Every rebellious bone in my body was screaming who does he think he is and let me out right now it's not like we've had a car all my life and I was living just fine. But in the real world, silence. I wasn't even waiting for the other shoe to drop, coz usually admonitions like that would quickly be followed by a couple of slaps. But I knew they weren't coming. Everything he wanted to say had already been said.

I was almost never beaten as a child. They spoke to me like that. And somewhere deep down inside they always struck a chord. I listened because I was scared to death of not having my parents around, and I felt like they might leave or send me away. As I got older obviously our relationship changed and we all started talking to each other instead of them speaking and me listening. But never on the same level with my dad. He was made differently - only one person can be in charge. And that person can't not be him. And everyone around must know. It used to kill me having to shut up and listen all the time.

Now it kills me not being able to listen at all. There's not a lot of times that I talked back, but there are. And I think of all those times and ask myself when I stopped being afraid my parents would go away. Because he finally did. It wasn't because I stopped listening, but it still broke my heart all the same. I always thought those days that the worst thing that would happen to us was we wouldn't be able to get food to eat when my dad left. I have food now, but it turns out that's not all I needed him for.

I needed him to take care of all the things that I couldn't. I needed him to be strong when I couldn't be. I needed him to be the bridge between today and tomorrow every time I thought the world was ending. I've spent two years not knowing where to turn, and I've learned to numb the pain. But every so often something happens and that night in October comes crashing back into my mind. 

Today, it was a song.


Saturday, March 03, 2018

i don't feel it anymore

“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either."

Love is a funny thing. Like a melody.

You meet someone you didn't know, you talk to them for a minute, and then your heart decides that person is the one, and suddenly you don't remember how you used to spend all your free time before you met them. And you can't imagine life without them. And being together with that person literally makes your blood boil. And you want to never go to sleep because time spent with that person is better than a dream. And when you look at anyone else, you you feel nothing. Because you don't have the void anymore. You have everything a person could ever ask for, and you just can't see it getting any better.

And then you disagree on religionsomething, and then you have a fight that becomes a hundred fights, and then you feel trapped. Unable to move forward. Unable to break free. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And you can't see the forever you saw in their eyes anymore. And then all of a sudden, it's all gone. For a short while you can't stand the sight of that person. You can't bear to think of them. You wish you'd never met them. You can't see all the joy they brought you anymore, just the pain and hurt. You want to go back and erase every moment you spent together. And then, with time, even that fades. They become like somebody that you used to know.

Time makes it so the vitriol gets replaced with indifference. All the time you spent burning them in effigy now seems stupid. You still can't see any of the good times, but you definitely don't wish a plague of locusts upon them. You're not strangers, but you're not friends. You're not enemies. You're not even nemesis. You're just....nothing.

If the heart is really a muscle, it must be made of the same stuff Wolverine is made of. I'm convinced if any other organ in our bodies went through the crap our hearts went through, none of us would make it.

Because after that entire cycle, just when you're comfortable being in your house playing Arkham Knight, you meet someone else. And you can't remember what color the sky used to be.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

one man can change the world

It's said that the hardest thing a man will ever have to face is what might have been. 

But I don't agree. It's one of two things: either the man's still very young and then he has time to change and create a new future; or he's at the end of his prime, and then there's a lot behind him he has already accomplished and can look back at and take pride in. It's really all a matter of perspective. That never-quitting attitude that recognises even when everything seems to be at an impasse that it could always get worse. And that we still have a lot to be thankful for if we only look.

It's been two years since that difficult month. That month when the hero of our household almost went out without a light. When my father finally after so many days started showing signs of improvement, I remember thinking wow, prayer really can come through against all odds. His body went back to normal, he started getting strong enough to do exercises and walk around, he started eating the same things we were eating at the same times we were eating. He started sometimes sleeping without that breathing tube. With other people it gradually stopped being the first question on the agenda. It was good times all around with the levites.

And then the rain fell. He got a mild strain of pneumonia, or the common flu or whatever. But all that progress got erased. He went back on the machine full time. We were taken back to almost the drawing board. Since then, it's never looked as up as it did those months so long ago. There have been mild ups and downs, keyword being mild. Other keyword downs. What you would expect is that if you try for something and you pray for it for two years and seemingly nothing changes, a lesser person would give up.

Not him.

I got a convicting message from him recently. That made me realise probably I'd given up to some extent. It was such a sobering moment. What right did I have to give up when the person who was actually going through the tribulation still held hope? When he still got up every morning and made plans for the future, who was I to abandon the fight and start moving on? And he's been such an amazing person through all this - all he's asking for is support. The feeling that whatever miles he has to run, we'll be there running them with him. As he keeps fighting that battle, swimming uphill at things we can all do in our sleep, things he used to be able to do in his sleep, we shall carry him when he can't walk. In exchange he's promising that when we can't walk, he'll carry us wherever he can. He still sees himself as our rock, even though really it's he who needs a rock.  Even though his own life was usurped and turned upside down and thrown out with the bath water, he still has time to be concerned about how ours are going. 

That's what a father does. He's there for his people, whether he can be or not. I realised a long time ago in hindsight that I'm very often watching and learning when things happen to me or around me. Without even realising. I hope through all this that I'm still watching and learning. One of these days I'll be that man, and then we'll find out.


Monday, December 21, 2015

do you believe in magic

You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn't realise we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don't recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to ac tour age. Told to grow up for God's sake.
That used to be me when I was a child. I used to be able to see magic in everything. I used to appreciate the sound of birds singing when I got up. I'd walk over the grass after it had rained and run my hands through the hedge, immersing myself in the coldness that was my environment. I'd smell the earth as rainwater fell on it, look out the window at heavy drops from our sloping roof fall and form puddles on the ground. I kept a bird once. It flew in through the window and broke a wing or whatever - anyway, it couldn't fly out, so I put it in a box and fed it for three days. It died.

And then high school came. And I went to the one school that prides itself on turning boys into men. And they did a number on me. So now I have to every day find new ways to act my age. It used to be that I could sit and wait to be told things. Now I have to take initiative. It used to be that my biggest worry was how I would explain the ink stain on my shirt after I was explicitly told not to carry my pen in there. Now I have a new employee whose career is totally in my hands to be concerned about. It used to be that whenever I went over to one of my friends' house, we'd just sit and play games. Or talk. Now, it's couple things and weddings and game nights and baby christenings. It used to be that when I read a comic (and I read a lot) and there was a new super hero in there, I would in the real world try to emulate their power. I made goggles like Cyclops once, but obviously the laser beam didn't quite work out. Now when I'm watching the movies based on those comics I enjoy them, but I know it's because of the comic relief that allows me to escape from reality, if only for two hours.

When life happened I did what everyone else does. I went to school, and then I went to uni, and then I got a job, and then I got my own house. I remember when I was a kid wondering why the hell my parents came home and said they were tired. I mean all they did was sit at a desk all day long. From where I sat, at least we played games, and practised agriculture by practising it, and learned woodwork by making things out of wood. Plus we were little. Now I have days when I come back home, close my eyes, and wake up a day and a half later. Growing up is tough, because now you're going through everything you thought was ridiculous when you saw the adults in your time go through it. And because you seemingly can't enjoy christmas anymore.

So now I'm about to the next thing everyone does. I need to settle down and start a family. All these cousins making my aunts grand parents every other day aren't helping matters at all. It's like the new rat race now - who has the next generation happening. For the days when my plans included things like recording TRL on MTV.
The truth of life is that every year we get farther away from the essence that is born within us. We get shouldered with burdens, some of them good, some of them not so good. Things happen to us. Loved ones die. Life itself does its best to take the memory of that magic away from us. And after you go so far away from it, you can't ever really get it back. You can have seconds of it. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes our attention from the world, when you listen to a bus passing at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.
The memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I'm going to be when my journey winds down. Maybe later when I have my own children, I'll try a little to make sure they hold on to that magic longer than I did. Maybe they'll be able to use that green lantern to work up an amazing future for themselves.


Sunday, October 05, 2014

the day before the day

The story goes: this guy's walking down the road when he falls into a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts, "Hey you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription and throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts out, "Father I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me. Can you help me out?" The friend jumps into the hole. The guy says, "You fool. Are you stupid?? Now we're both stuck here." And the friend says, "Ah, but I've been here before. I know the way out."

It's been about 5 months since I came to the realization that I was not as I had seen myself in my dreams. It quite literally happened, as everything cliched, during a sleepless night. I sat up all night that night, driven by an irrevocable compulsion to re-examine my life. And when I couldn't hold it in any longer, I began to seek forgiveness. And then later I began seeking for the strength to become different. Better.

So I have been practising something new. I've been trying to listen. I've been trying to put others before me, or at least at the same level in my mind as myself. I've been empathising before responding; listening to understand; walking a mile in other people's shoes. And for one thing, I have found walking to be pretty good for the heart. 

It's not easy for someone like me to defer to someone else. Habits only take 21 days to form, and I've had 21 years. So the other thing I've learned to do over the past so many weeks has been to depend on the experiences of others. As I've started to listen more keenly, I've discovered that there are a lot of people out there who havebeen when I am. They've already weathered this storm and have paid the price for personal improvement. I've been learning from them little by little. Simple things like shutting up and not saying that last word. Or accepting an apology even when it wasn't delivered in the language I wanted it in. Or being the first to back down and say the winning in the long run is more important than winning right now. Or, just being a whole lot more generous with the myriad of blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me.

This weekend was Yom Kippur. That's the Jewish holiday where you go to God and seek atonement for the sins you have committed. It's like the Sabbath of Sabbaths. I found out though that the day before Yom Kippur is called Erev Yom Kippur. On that day, you go before men and you seek their forgiveness for all the wrongs you have committed against them. You cannot seek to set yourself straight with God unless you're straight with man is the principle I think.

Anyway, I've learned that friends can have an amazing impact on your life if you let them. And if you have the right ones. So that must mean I have some great friends. Little by little I'm getting straight with all of them. One of these days I shall be able to go to God with a pure heart and a clean slate.


Monday, June 23, 2014

nobody's perfect

It must be really hard being a woman. Like cosmic hard. Knowing you're the weaker sex not because you're really weaker but because of how strength has come to be defined. Knowing that for the rest of your life you'll always have to work that much harder just to get what others get in their sleep - because they're the ones handing out the awards. Having to grow up in a world that's basically an old boys' club with no old girls' club to take you in. Spending your whole life replacing every reference you can find of 'weaker' in 'weaker sex' with 'fairer', but knowing in your heart that it's really just a euphemism. Living in a world that considers exceeding mankind's former abilities extraordinary for men; but merely matching man the glass ceiling for you, the woman. Listening to everything around you, including other women, tell you where your place is, and how it wasn't kosher to try and rise above it. First having to defend your right to even be present before you can start agitating to be heard.

Having a personality that you take pride in, but that you have to watch recede; sometimes for the rest of your life. Having to watch it recede just so you can enable the dreams of another. Having to have your validation come from his. Going back home everyday to a man that agrees with society on how much success is too much for you; wanting you behind him always, to say yes to his whims and I'm sorry to his disappointments. Having to make yourself smaller so that he may shine. Submitting in every way he needs you to, and in so doing killing who you were and becoming a component of the man. The man you gave your heart to. Literally.

When I was growing up, I always saw myself as the kind of man that would pay mind to this plight. I always thought I would realise how equal we were, in that our different strengths were meant to be complementary to each other. I thought that when presented with the chance, I would cede control to the both of us rather than wield it as I had seen others before me. I was proud of the image of me I had in my mind. My idea of power then was always one of balance. Passing it on to those who may be able to apply it better than yourself. Doing so with nothing compelling you to other than it is the right thing to do.

That image has been shattered. I've been walking down memory recently. Thinking about how I've treated the women in my life. I have received some valuable insight as to what it must take to commit crime. All you have to do is believe in your heart that it isn't wrong. I was mean to them. I belittled them. I berated their intelligence. I uttered, and not once, phrases like, "You will learn your place." I did do some good things for them, but as it turns out, they weren't enough for the cost, which was their self worth. I treated them like they should be beholden to me for just being with them. I treated them like the world treats women - second rate. Only deserving of second place. To be seen and not heard. The one thing I thought I had actively avoided (by reading and re-reading copies of Lean In et al), I had become. It's interesting, isn't it, how you can be one thing to yourself and the complete opposite in reality and not even know it. Bad people must really believe they're changing the world. They must not know they're breaking it. Otherwise why would they?

The first step towards recovery is admitting there's a problem.

So, "Hi. My name is Colin, and I'm a male chauvinist."


Monday, June 02, 2014

band aid covers the bullet hole

Betrayal isn't ridiculous. It's the reason empires fall.

I remember the day my world came crushing down like it was yesterday. It wasn't, but I'm quite certain I will carry that burden for the rest of my life. That day, someone I thought I trusted with my very life let me down. A person I had elevated on the highest pedestal you can possibly elevate another proved themselves a mere mortal. They erred, and in so doing they made me think them less deserving of my reverence. It's been a long climb back up, but in that time I have seen in my life the veracity of time's healing nature. It hasn't ever gotten easier, and the burden hasn't gotten lighter, but I have gotten used to living with it.

I don't know if we ever really forgive people. I think one of the unique things about human beings is we were made able to spot patterns in the things around us. And that traits in behaviour are as strong a pattern as any. Let's say someone took your heart and stomped on it, broke it into a thousand pieces. And then came and picked them all up and put it back together. You might forgive them, and you might even let them back in, but is it ever the same again? Is it ever as pure as it was the first time? Are they ever the god they were before they betrayed your trust? The body recovers. Physical fractures and cuts heal. But does the heart? I don't know that the first cut is really the deepest. I think it's just the deepest till the next one. You never get used to it. Every time you get cut, it hurts just as bad as the other times.

So anyway, what to do when that person strikes again and sinks even lower?

The first time I felt like I was the one violated. I felt like I was forced to make a sacrifice that someone in my station shouldn't be made to make. I did it for what I thought was a noble reason, so I don't regret that, but I resented the fact that I was cornered. And now I just got through listening to how the same person devoured another's spirit. It's not really unique to us this occurrence. It's not an original story; it just hasn't ever been close to me before. Like how we all know death exists but don't feel it until it touches us personally. I'm scared to be alone because of the things I think about. I don't want to fall into that trap of dissociating everything amazing someone has done for you because of that one bad thing they did that hurt you - no matter how bad it was. Even when they do it again, that's still just two times, right?

I'm watching a show called Betrayal. I know, everyone says it's only TV, but I think that's rhetoric people say because they have subconsciously been conditioned to say it by pop culture; like making fun of that Kardashian show or extolling the purity of Android because of its openness. To me, it has always been uncanny how much TV can cut across to real life. How you can see in the cast things you are going through or have been through. They say on that show that if you spend time wishing for someone to go through fire for what they did to your heart, then you're allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind.

I need time to come quickly and cover this hole that I'm falling into. I need to stop here and move on to happier thoughts.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

we change, we wait

"There is neither happiness nor misery in the world, there is only the comparison of one state with another by the mind. He who has felt the deepest grief is able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life."
Contrast is a powerful thing. If you run into one of these kinds of philosophers, they'll probably tell you only half the world was created - the other half exists as a contrast to something. I was watching a feature on TV about and how he came up, and he said, "You don't know you're poor when you're growing up, coz everyone else around you is poor. No. You find that out later." You only know you're happy when you know what it is to be despondent. You only know empathy when you've been angry before. You only know you're naked when you see someone clothed. You only know you're poor when you come around people who aren't. We learn from our parents. We learn from our teachers. We learn from the world. But we also learn from our experiences. From our hearts.

In the recent past, there have been some dark days. The kinds of things no one ever prepares you for. And for more than almost anyone else my mum. Every single person knows this to not be true, and yet we continue to believe it, that good people don't deserve bad things. But they happened anyway. The doctors did a thousand tests before they finally found out what was wrong, so one could argue: did the other 900 need to happen? And even after all that, after you'd think she had gone through everything a person can go through, he was still misdiagnosed. Anyway. It appears the worst is behind us now. 

My dad left the hospital and has now begun the long journey of recuperation in more familiar environment. From everything they tell us it'll take a while, so we just have to exercise patience. And to thank God for everyday as it comes and to ask him for grace for the next one. There was a point back there when we really didn't seem to be able to catch any breaks. And it wasn't two or three days. It was a long time. So if there's a lesson somewhere in there, it needs to include the amount of time from A to B. Or maybe there's not a spiritual explanation for all this, and it was all just so we can appreciate life more. They say you never miss the water till the well runs dry. Maybe our well just almost ran dry so we can appreciate the water without having lost it. I don't know. Let's see what time reveals.
"Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: 'Wait and Hope.'"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


"It's the oldest story in the world. One day you're 17 planning for someday, and then quietly, without you ever noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life."
So my dad started getting better. Or as better as someone can be when they need to breathe through a mask. I was looking at him this weekend and thinking the rockiest days are behind us. But maybe not. Because once he's out of hospital, the journey begins of making sure there's always oxygen available outside the controlled setting of a hospital. Yes the environment is more inviting, but the variables are more complex. And the availability of quick response options is less, I think. I don't know. Or he could leave the hospital the wholesome person he was through some miracle (that we are still believing God for).

I think as people in our endless quest for adventure and titillation we under-estimate the peace that comes with living an uneventful life. I've seen a little bit how bad the lack of that peace can be. When nothing is happening, nothing can go wrong. When everything stays the same, nothing can usurp your life and turn it upside down. Yes sometimes it's good things that do this, but sometimes it's not. And when a bad thing happens, you realise how good you had it in the first place. It's in our un-appreciative nature as human beings that these passive things like peace of mind go unnoticed. There's this story some environmentalist was peddling: "Imagine if trees gave off free wifi. We would all plant trees everywhere and the world would become a better place. Hmmm. Too bad they only give off oxygen." Imagine that - you don't know how badly you need to breathe until you can't.

I think it's better to yearn for an uneventful life, because the other kind could go either way. Then it becomes a question of perspective. You could choose to attach meaning to all those small things that tend to go unnoticed, and thus turn a negative situation into a winner. But at least that choice will be yours. When you bet big you could win big, but if you lose big you can never justify that cost to yourself of having taken that chance. Now, my dad didn't even bet, so that just makes it even more painful that he's losing so big. He should at least have been given the choice. 

If only he'd had an uneventful life... If you know me by now, you can probably guess what song I've been listening to.
Coz I am hanging on every word you say
Even if you don't wanna sleep tonight,
that's alright, alright with me
Coz I want nothing more than
Sit outside heaven's door and
Listen to you breathing
It's where I wanna be, yeah

Monday, March 03, 2014

between raising hell and amazing grace

It's been exactly one year - to the day - since I was last here. The year has been ... eventful to say the least. Anyway.

The story of Job is a very interesting one. Here is a man whom God Himself holds up as a paragon of integrity. And the devil is like, but you've given him so much. Of course he worships you, what else would he do. "Ok, then. Let's see," says God to the devil. So the devil starts taking everything away from Job one by one, until he has nothing left. And Job reacts, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be His name." Obviously the devil is not happy, so he goes after Job's own health. Job gets condemned so publicly that even his three closest friends who were standing by him start to admonish him. They assume he must have done something really bad to deserve what was happening to him. "Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?" They ask him.

In his human nature, Job does not understand why all this is happening to someone who was faithful to God all his life. He cries out to the Lord and calls him to account. "If I have sinned, what have I done to you, oh watcher of men? Why have you made me your target?" he challenges God. But the Lord stays hidden from him. Job gives up. "My spirit is broken. My days are cut short," he laments.

And then God finally does come back to him. But not to answer his questions. He walks Job through a wilderness appreciation tour, highlighting all the majesties and splendour of nature. His point: until you know what it takes to run a physical universe, don't tell me how to run a moral one. However, in all their interactions, God never accuses Job of sinning against Him. He admonishes him for calling His fairness into account, but never for sinning. 

In the end, Job himself does come round to repenting, but again, not for railing against God. "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand. Things too wonderful for me to know." This is what he repents for.

There's a lot of stories you can take out of the book of Job. But two I find most compelling right now: 1) you will go through suffering and you won't know why until God reveals it to you; and 2) while you're suffering you can tell all that to God. Throw at him your anger, your disappointment, your grief and your doubt. God is bigger than we are - he can take it all.

So the last time I did this, I was reminded of a story my dad told me. He said, "I know that I went out of my way to serve the Lord, and it has been well with me."

Given his condition now, and the things that have been happening, I'm thinking, has it? Job had a lot of grace, and he sounds like he was a very strong person. He waited a lifetime for God to reveal Himself. I don't know if I'm built that way. I don't know how long I can hold out for.

They say God doesn't let you go through anything He hasn't already equipped you to handle. Ok, then, let's see.