About a Boy (and a Lot of Other Things)

I just finished the last pieces of my cranberry – pecan – almond mix, it is part of my attempt (so far losing attempt) to get back to a healthier lifestyle. Beside me is Pilo a.k.a Luca Brazi, driving me to my last two meetings of the day – I’ve already had five. (Not including dates of course.) It’s early, but I am already very very tired.

As I type this, stuck in traffic, an everyday event for the people of Manila, I look out the car window, at the passing motorcycles, the people waiting in line for a ride on pay day, the policeman who isn’t doing his job, and this idiotic taxi trying to cut us (which probably has a rosary hanging from his rear view mirror and the names of Jesus, Mary, some relative, or some combination of the three painted on it), I think to myself, “How rich life truly is.”

I look at my own life and experiences, and I think about how much has happened in so short a period. I think I first took stock of my life at 16 years old after graduating valedictorian from a small high school. I was sure I would live forever and I knew I could achieve anything. I evaluated again while looking at the graveyards next to our safe-house in Afghanistan. Lito (one of the Filipinos based there) and I had just missed being victims of a suicide bomber because of a fortunate mistake. Once again I was sure. I was sure that death would come someday, and I was sure that when that day came, there’d be nothing I could do to stop it. But I’m not thinking about death, but the richness of the time in between our conception and last breath. How rich life truly is.

I like to think of my life as a story. I’m the subject, but I’m not always the good guy, many times I’m the villain. Many times I’m everything I always said I would never be. Many times I see in myself everything I hate in others. That’s one place where fairy tales and real life diverge. In the real world, the good guys and bad guys are not so clear cut. Not all bad guys are ugly, and they don’t always lose. And not all good characters are beautiful, and it seems they rarely win. In the real world, the wicked witch and the giant ogre wave to a cheering crowd as they waltz into power, they love them because they built roads, and schools, and signed their name on her left boob. They love them because they don’t know any better. And the prince, he wrestles with his demons. The characters of real life are flawed and imperfect, capable of heroics, but bound to be corrupted. We don’t take scripts and play our characters out. On the contrary, we write our roles out by the decisions we make, big and small, they dictate who we are for the day, who we become, and who we are to be remembered as. The end result is a complex cast of characters. How rich life truly is.

One thing I’ve really learned to appreciate and value more is the diversity of life, the diversity of our stories. Not all stories will be the same. There will stories of battles, and the people who rose up to win. There’ll be some about those, who grew up with animals, and never learned to assimilate. Some will be like the little girl who ran out of matches and died in the snow. There’ll be love that’s broken, stolen, and unfolded. There’ll be a lot more, and of different kinds too. Our lives are a thousand of our stories, and thousands of stories from others mixed in. How rich life truly is.

This blog really isn’t about a boy. But of boys, and girls, and the stories we play out in this great dance called life. I just thought of this: No wonder we don’t get along. We’re in one dance but all moving to our own music. We’ve forgotten the steps and have lost our director. And we all call our dances the same thing: Freedom, but it seems Chaos is more fitting. How rich life truly is. How treacherous as well.

The Happiest Man On Earth

Would you believe me?
If I told you
That I love you more
Than anything in this world
And I want you to be my girl
I know I don’t deserve you
But say yes to me anyway
Cause I’ll make you happy
And you’ll make me
The happiest man in the world

Can you believe this?
It sounds crazy
But just yesterday
I dreamt that you were mine
And you taught me how to dance
I did step on your foot once
Clumsy in dreams as real life
But you were perfect
And I was
The happiest man in the world

Can you picture us
Not far from now
We’ll be on a bench
Looking at the sky
And we’ll wish upon a star
Chances are it won’t come true
But I have what I want
I already am
The happiest man in the world

Please believe me
When I say
That you look great
And I don’t think that you’re fat
Ok maybe I do a little, maybe more
But that’s not a problem
Even Taft became president
And seeing you
Makes me
The happiest man in the world

I can’t believe you!
Cause I’ve tried
But you change your mind
A hundred million times
I don’t care if that’s not a number
I’m still better at math than you
I’m just glad it’s over
Time to move on
And be
The happiest man in the world

Remind Me to Smile

(Taken by Orli Javier during one of our trips to the squatters of Taguig, Philippines)

I can’t smile. I never really got used to smiling. I wish I could though. I wish I could smile a genuine smile – not my current one that looks like I have a stick up my butt.

I was looking through photos of mine, particularly the ones related to the communities where we have social development projects. I was quite surprised to find so many smiling pictures. It’s possible that Filipinos are just some of the happiest people on the planet, but it’s probably more than that.

This picture on the left is one of my favorites. Not so much for the technical image quality, but for the story it tells:

A half-naked father, poorer than poor, but with a content smile as he looks at his daughter.

I thought to myself, “To be able to smile though having nothing, that is a luxury money can’t purchase.”

Then I realized I was wrong.

The father had something – his daughter. And she was the source of his joy. So I corrected myself, “To have something, even one thing, that fulfills you, that is the greatest luxury.”

Luxury can be defined as an activity that gives great pleasure, especially one rarely indulged in. Fulfillment and contentment are indeed luxuries, at least to me they are. They’ve been rare lately. Satisfaction does not come as easy as when I was a child. My joys seem fewer, and many short-lived. Every victory and achievement must be followed by something greater, and must be achieved even faster. How many times have I traded away something that actually fulfills me?

But I’m learning. Actually, I’m re-learning. And relearning is really more about reminding yourself more than discovering something new.

I’m a forgetful guy. So I made a short list to remind myself:
1. Find a reason to be grateful for everything in anything.
2. Enjoy things for what they are, not for what they could be.
3. Fall into God’s hands, not just His plan.
4. Remember the “who” is more valuable than the “what”, “where”, and “when”.
5. Remember the reasons why.

Oh, and remember to smile…