On My 31st: A Reflection

It’s been 31 years I’ve seen the world—from not understanding a single thing to, still, not comprehending many things. Many times I’ve put myself as an outsider, who sees the world as a multi-sided diamond. From where I stand, I can only see the beauty of its reflection from several sides—even that, the person next to me sees the same sides differently.

I’ve spent 31 years understanding myself, who I am, what I am supposed to do, and where I am heading. It’s been an exciting journey of constant self-discovery, and I bet it’s getting more and more uplifting. To pause for a while, I’ll sum up my journey after these 3 decades of treasuring life and learning to always treasure it.

1. God does exist

I know that some of you who say, or believe, otherwise may stop reading and navigating away from this post thinking, “Some preacher, watch out!” It’s fine with me. I’ve stopped my attempt to convince other people on what I believe in for more than 5 years now.

“To you be your way, to me be mine.” Let’s live in peace and harmony, according to what each of us believes in without judging, annoying, or even worse, harming others.

Anyway, Peace has always been craving to emerge from my heart. My inner conversation with the Unknown, Whom I feel completely in union with, has occurred since my childhood. When my parents’ wish and family’s opinions comply to society norms, my heart occasionally insists otherwise. When I was about to perform wrongdoings, or conduct injustice to others, my heart would whisper, “It’s wrong.” The problem with me, and so as with many others, is that I often ignore those heavenly whisperings and proceed with my egoistic desire.

If only all human beings follow that divine guidance inspired in each of them, there will be no conflict between people—no anger, no envy, no greed, nothing. All in peaceful harmony.

Then came religions, through divine guides—the Prophets and Saints, which by right help provide moral guidance to their followers. But again, through the journey of time, human’s ego and impured heart prevail, assuming injustice in the name of religions. Where do we turn from here?

From my experience, the answer is always God. Everyone has this inner whispering that advises them to do good and justice, practice love and compassion. So, always turn to God by listening to what your heart has to say.

“Ask and you shall receive.”

If God always gave what we had wanted, even though it might not necessarily for the greater good, we wouldn’t be mature and wise. Forever we’d be like kids, nagging and giving attitude just for candies from their parents. But God does hear our wishes, and it is His Decision on when to grant them.

Personally, I encountered occasions when the fact that God hears me had proven itself. In difficult times, when I had no food nor money, an unlikely person came to my door offerring relief, as if she had known. But she surely hadn’t; I had told no one but God. So, God must have inspired her heart to provide me. If not God, who else? Surely not the wind, the birds, nor the squirrels.

A simple thought of yearning for a proper dress to attend my best friend’s wedding led to unexpected outcome. Again, someone—unrelated closely to me nor to my best friend—called to inform that she had bought a dress for me. But, I told no one! Amazing isn’t it?! How God has proven his very existence to me.

2. Patience, sincerity, and contentment is the key to happiness

The key to happiness is not: wealth, intelligence, position, status in society, and other worldly vanities. Happiness in its true sense is achieved by having patience, sincerity, and contentment to whatever alloted to us. People may look happy outside, riding luxury cars, going to parties, enjoying elite hobbies, and so on. However, looking happy is not the same as being happy.

The story of Manohara, the Indonesian beauty who married a prince of a Malaysian state, showed that wealth didn’t make her happy. She claimed to be physically tortured by her then husband, and went through a long complication to release herself from the royal bound.

Some of my relatives, whose children became drunkards or addicts, are another example. Despite their wealth and dignified status in society, they weren’t happy. Worries and anger to their troubled children caused them heart attacks or some other health problems.

I often compare them—these troubled souls—with the humbling low life by the streets. The sweepers, carton collectors, the peddlers, etc., although no doubt many show unhappiness, the rare special ones portray contentment. When I saw them, and their children, they could laugh freely sharing a mere long, thin slice of watermelon to a family of five. These humble, yet often ignored people by the streets have heaven!

Personally I’ve seen God’s miracles every time I am lifted from hardship. It usually takes a stretch of patience in dealing with life difficulties before I am relieved from the ordeals. The cycle normally goes like this: Problem A comes, e.g. financial constraint, I have to learn to be patient. Learning patience by asking God to give me patience, after a while patience I have, and I become content, sincere in my day-to-day obligations despite the problem. Certainly, once I reach the state of sincerity and contentment, I would ask for relief no more. Only then God takes away the problem—which by then was no longer a problem—and even gives me more.

That’s generally how the life learning cycle works. We go from one problem to another, just like in school, from one exam to another, only to find if we succeed or fail at the end. If we fail, we have to repeat the test. If we succeed, we are promoted to the next grade for even harder lessons and exams. Surely, the more hardships one has to face the more privileges he has for the higher level humanity. Sometimes we receive prizes if we pass the tests brilliantly. Similarly in life, God gives His Reward abundantly.

To me, wisdom is however the ultimate reward of life. Because with wisdom, we can face whatever challenges in life with dignity and see life more beautifully. Therefore it only takes a bit of patience to finally be sincere and content in every step of our life. And once we succeed, immense wisdom is the greatest reward. The butterfly has finally emerged from its cocoon, and I’ve come out triumphant, better than I was before and constantly aspire for the better.

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

3. Simply be grateful

It takes more energy to complain or whine than to simply be grateful. In fact, complaining and whining even escalate the misery one suffers unnecessarily. Worse, the negativity spreads to others around  them. Just see how upset our parents are when we keep nagging them for things they don’t quite like for us to have. Compare with how willing they are to grant our wish, or even give better gift, if we leave them consider our request and grant it at their own preferred time. Which scenario makes them happier with us?

Similarly with God, He might still give us what we want even if we complain or whine a lot, but He may not necessarily be pleased with the way we have asked for it. Compare if we are grateful to what we have, despite our troubles, and see the unexpected bounty He is about to send us. If we nag for a specific condition, God may give us just that. But if we choose not to nag for anything and simply be thankful, He may give us more than that.

In my own experience, life takes its toll when I’m completely content and thankful of whatever condition I am in. For example, at one moment I felt 2.5 wasn’t a good enough salary, but the next moment I was content, God showed me the way where I could earn twice. Now, my income has multiplied from my initial salary, without even asking for it. Somehow He just gives me.

“Be grateful of Me and I shall give you more.”

In fact, being grateful is the culmination of patience, sincerity, and contentment (see Point 3), and is therefore the gist of happiness.

A wise man once told me, “To be in constant state of thankfulness, we always have to remember that there are probably many others who are less fortunate than us.” In that way, we are thankful not to be put in their positions.

4. Be brave: accept and be who we are. Being ourselves is not wrong!

As teenagers often we were faced with a dilemma of being the odd one out. Somehow families and friends had different mindsets than what we actually believed in. Though many might have the courage to show what they are made of, some, including me, didn’t have that bravery to be who I was.

Having constant doubts that my heart could be wrong simply because others weren’t the same, I behaved to the opposite of my belief to get acceptance from the society.

Only as I grew older I discovered a group with similar belief, and then I slowly but surely dared to become ‘me’. To tell you the truth, it’s liberating!

Being me has somehow opened so many doors to a greater future. Unlike most Gen X’s advice, e.g. to not express differences with my bosses, I did the contrary simply because my heart didn’t feel their opinions were correct. It turned out that expressing my ideas in good manners, even if they’re against others’, has earned me the respect of my superior and landed me in multiple promotions.

Nevertheless, even though we have to be confident of who we are, we also have to admit that we make mistakes. Therefore the best thing is to be ourselves that are constantly evolving for the better, incorporating wisdom we gain in every step of the way in our words and conducts.

5. Listen to advice in humility and don’t take it too hard

Many people may give us advice. Some make sense, others completely absurd. Regardless of the nature of advice and our stand towards it, listen to it in humility. Don’t bother to reason with our opinion because reasoning may just be a waste of time. People who believe in their opinions tend to stay true to their principles despite how right or wrong they may be.

I, for example, have several times tried to make my mum understand of what I believe in and my way of life, which is different than hers. We got into numerous distressing arguments, which have again and again wounded our relationship. She got hurt, and I too.

A wise man once said, “If you receive any advice given by others, especially by your parents, and you have differing opinions, just listen—or not— and keep quiet. Just don’t hurt their feelings by showing unwise reactions.”

God has accommodated all these differences, ideologies, and ways of life so everyone can have their own space on Earth, living according to what they believe in. So differences are natural. The problem is when we try to impose our ideas to others, hence the arguments and debates. Tiring!

The heart is unique. Each person’s heart sees things at its own timing, and as I said earlier, what one sees may be different from what others see. So let’s give time and space for each other to evolve at their own phase. Who knows that at one moment we don’t agree with the advice, but 10 years later, we’d give the same advice to others. People change, and so are we. We have to make allowance for that change.

Sometimes I still feel sad of not being able to please my mum by following her advice. But I remember to be grateful (see Point 4) and immediately switch on my ‘happy’ button again instead of dwelling into the sadness. I’m gonna let myself evolve at its own time. Who knows in future, things change, my mum change, I change, that the situation will be pleasing for us both.

6. People may say what they want to say, but we decide where our happiness lies

People love to comment. Even if it’s not within their authority to provide suggestion or feedback, they just do. Nevertheless, it is up to us how to respond to such comments. We can choose to ignore it, not taking it by heart, or listen to it and create unnecessary issues out of it.

Comments are sometime useful, but most times not. Often it’s because the people who provide this free service of giving opinions are not among our council members. You know everyone has his or her own trustee(s), someone or a group of people whose comments and advices make senses to us and have been supportive to our pursuit of happiness. Even that we frequently dislike comments or advices that are given without our request. I.e. we tend to reject unauthorised comments.

That’s ok! We should listen to those comments—or not—in humility but again, don’t take them too hard. Others can say what they want to say but we ourselves know where our happiness lies.

Opposition to me being the breadwinner of my family, exchanging role with my husband—him taking care my home and child, has come from many. I used to have grudges against their non-constructive comments, but now I’ve learnt to ignore them, only listening and showing smile. The world certainly doesn’t need to know I’m happy. What’s important is I know I’m happy, and I know my own family is happy. 

7. Say sorry and move on

Everyone does mistakes, us too. In self-improvement, the point is to realise our wrongdoings, make amends, and move on. Don’t dwell too much into our past misconducts. We can certainly recall them to see how far we have been better than the past. Yet we shall not constantly return to that deep, dark well and immerse ourselves into it. It will pull us down and create negativity to our surroundings.

Dwelling into the ugly past doesn’t help us to be thankful, and therefore, it’s hard for us to be opened to the possibility of happiness our future may hold. Remember thankfulness is the culminating point to happiness.

I used to not be able to let go my mum’s disappointment on me. But I’ve come to realise that holding back doesn’t make my life any happier. So I’ve always asked forgiveness from her, whenever I know I’ve wronged or hurt her. Yet, after that I move on, hoping for better encounter with her in future, giving myself the benefit of the doubt that I will in fact learn to be more lenient, wise and humble.

Moving on makes life so much easier.

8. Have good counsel from the council

My husband has been a constant companion that has helped me pull through difficulties in life. His advices on patience, sincerity, contentment, and gratefulness have never failed to promote a cooling and calming energy in the midst of our hardships. In addition, he continously encourages me to be  confident in myself—to be me. So, he’s definitely a council member I wish to keep in my life journey.

Another worthy member is my godfather, who so far always gives me objective advices. Despite how much my mum has imposed her ideas of life on me, and regardless how different I am from her, my godfather keeps telling me to be gentle in my words to her so as not to hurt her feelings. I love people who give me such advice—to constantly be kind to others despite how they might have treated us.

Having good council members and keeping them within our circle of close companions is an important way to keep us stay on track in life. Their consolation and encouragement helps us pull through difficult times; their advices shine some light on our way, allowing us to see what we are mistaken at and aspiring us to constantly be a better person.

“We are often too close to our own conducts that we need to see ourselves in the mirrors of selective others.”

Good council doesn’t always praise us. They give their objective opinions or advices, regardless of whether we are right or wrong. They remind us when we make mistakes, and encourage us to always have a positive outlook and be better in life.

Finally…

What matters is to live in the present, live now, for every moment is now. It is your thoughts and acts of the moment that create your future. The outline of your future path already exists, for you created its pattern by your past.
-Sai Baba-

So, let’s make our lives today better and happier than yesterday by being grateful and enjoying every moment today gives, as in how we perceive today lies the foundation of our future destiny.

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