The Lenten season has begun. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are mortal and we would all turn to dust.
It is time for introspection, reflection, to practice self-denial.
Pearl Buck once wrote, “Inside myself is a place where I can live all alone and that’s where I renew the spring that never dries up.”
Austerity, simplicity and self-sacrifice are good for the soul… and the body.
The loss of a loved one is always very personal and profound. No two individuals can ever feel the same. Grief is a mental, emotional, and physical pain that sears the soul. It lasts indefinitely. It waxes and wanes over the months and years. The indescribable period of catharsis, a purging that one can compare to a chunk of coal being polished under extreme heat and pressure. What emerges is a brilliant diamond.
Reclusion, retreat, and mourning, are chosen phases in one’s life during which one feels safe inside a chrysalis. It is a rough-hewn cocoon of darkness during the cold winter months. This period could last for a long time.
In the spring, after much effort and pain, the cracked cocoon releases the translucent, luminous butterfly. Free at last.
Many of us who have suffered a personal loss may feel the haze is oppressive. It is so heavy and dense that it may never lift. We all try to keep a stiff upper lip.
Despite all, there are more people out there who need immediate help. There are homeless kids who need basic food, clothing, education. There are foundations that specialize in caring and rehabilitating the abused young victim.
How to prioritize who needs help first? How to choose the organization that would help the needy? Random giving is not practical. Funds may float and fritter away.
The act of decision and the act of helping others goes beyond the self. The private pain will never go away but reaching out to help families focuses the mind and energy on others.
Storms create situations that trigger not only an upheaval but also a distillation process. They forcibly bring out junk on all levels. One has to eject baggage, imagined wrongs, repressed anger, unresolved conflicts, and pain — many of which are caused by schadenfreude.
One of the most precious things in life is the gift of friendship. Its essential elements are mutual loyalty, love, concern, understanding, humility, and sense of selflessness. A genuine friendship endures, strengthened by mutual experiences — the roller coaster twists and turns, ups and downs.
Childhood friends grow up to become close friends, godparents, work colleagues. Their friendship often survives the petty quarrels. Their friendship, sincere and innocent, may transcend many differences — in career choices, religious and political beliefs, and other issues. The bottom line is loyalty, the act of defending a friend and being close despite the odds. That type of relationship is so rare in these days of the health and economic crisis, social media and the big ego trip — narcissism.
One passes the important milestones, hurdles obstacles and survives the crises alone. But one is lucky to do so with a steadfast soul mate or companion.
Upon reaching the crossroads, a true friend is there to hold one’s hand, through thick and thin, feast and famine, in fair and foul weather.
Geographical distance and time may separate old friends but they suddenly appear, virtually or physically, when they sense an urgent need. They reach out across the oceans and decades to show spiritual and emotional support.
On another level there are natural cycles — the ebb and flow, the waxing and waning of a long-standing relationship.
A sudden rupture, personal or professional, may separate former confidantes and buddies. A minor spat can easily be patched up — like a tiny tear or scratch.
However, there could be a severe misunderstanding that becomes a deep, devastating wound. It is human nature. Nobody is perfect.
Communication ceases as defensive walls sprout like thorn thickets. Then there is toxic intrigue among envious onlookers. This triggers a surge of false pride — the inability to admit a mistake, to be contrite and to act with humility and sincerity.
In Greek classical drama, hubris is the “overweening pride that leads to disaster… the refusal to accept the authority of the gods.” This character flaw can drown the mighty invulnerable, invincible, individual in emotional quicksand.
To heal a wound completely, the protagonists (or former friends) should wish and seek forgiveness from each other.
The fissure of a ruptured relationship would be vulnerable to a light tremor, such a tinge of falsehood, insincerity. A mutual reaching out and openness of the heart are essential to restoration and reconciliation.
The old cracks and scars would not matter when a real friendship goes through and passes the test of fire. It will endure if and when they agree to save the friendship.
Pope Francis, in his blessing on Valentine’s day to the audience in Piazza San Pietro said, there are three key words to remember and apply: “Nearness. Compassion. Tenderness.”
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.