Knowing your true self is an adventure far greater than travelling the world.
On October 26, 2012 I took a plane from Manila to bring me to one of the greatest adventure of my life in FRANCE! Yes, in France, not in the city of love but in a small village, surrounded with hills and vast vineyard.
For three months, I stayed in a monastery of Taize brothers. I went to France not to see the romantic Eiffel tower but I went to France to PRAY! How crazy and ummmm boring?
For three months, I was away from home, lived with people I just met, no access to internet, no television. For an extrovert like myself, the combination of routine and silence is like end of the world! Ora et Labora (work and pray), basically that’s how I can describe my life for three months, so imagine the agony!
- Wake up
- Morning Prayer @Church
- Midday Prayer @ Church
- Evening Prayer@ Church
(repeat the cycle for the next day)
But somewhere in those copy-paste-days, I experienced the most nerve-wracking adventure of my life! A journey towards my true self!
It was one of those cold and dark afternoons that I chose to stay in my room and read a book after a dreaded 2 hours of repetitive cleaning of candle holder at Church. I was too engrossed that I could not let go of the book I’ve been reading for 3 days. There is something in that book that enticed me so much, I feel like the writer was writing my story and thoughts — at certain point.
When the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things
-Alice Sebold, the Lovely Bones
(If you have read “My Adventure Started with a Loss “you get to follow this story)
My tears cannot stop from flowing, I cried so hard to a point of sobbing; that afternoon was not another copy-paste-afternoon. I found myself in the shoes of Susie Salmon; the girl who was murdered when she was fourteen. She remained alive in her father’s mind and heart even years after her death; she never allowed him to let go of her. She keeps on visiting her family, trying to make her presence known. Absurd it may seem but I was like Susie Salmon in the world of the living, I never allowed my father to let go of me. He is still alive in my present.
I came to realise that I am over-sentimentalizing my story, I always narrate my story with Papa as tragic and poignant; it is my way of keeping him alive. By doing so, it makes me feel that he is still able to guide and inspire me even if it has been 14 years after his death. It is not that my painful past is haunting me, but it is I who keep on visiting and haunting my past.
“It is normal to remember and miss your father, but you have to go on with your life. When you come to know the stories of other people, you will realise that your story is intertwined with different stories of other people, some might be more poignant than yours”, said a St. Andrew’s nun who has been my spiritual guide in Taize when I told her about the book that I was reading.
I have never willingly allowed anyone to call me “Crystha”, my first name is so special to me because it’s how my father calls me when he was still alive. My first name is too precious that I want it to keep it’s (sort of) “sanctity”, a special endearment between me and Papa.
The sun and the moon as well as the stars had long been conniving to make me realise that I have to fully let go of my past, yet I became addicted to the pain that its remnants stayed like a leech.
I believed that God was intentional in every ordeal that I faced in Taize. It was not by chance that I am “Crystha” in that part of the world ‘cause everyone in that village was not aware that Filipinos usually have nicknames that has nothing to do with their first names! Which in my case, they thought my first name is Crystha, cause it was the first name they’ve read in my files and it makes sense because Shayne is the second name of my first name! (I’m sorry, I’m Filipino, we usually have more than one first name!)
“Hi! I am Crystha from Philippines”, it is how I introduced myself to others. Funny how I became too willing to be called Crystha, realising that it is becoming more common and ordinary, nothing too special nor sentimental!
I never knew that my seemingly predictable days in that monastery can be a roller coaster ride! The days spent in prayer and silence gave me courage to confront and console that twelve year old girl who lost her father on December 12, 1998. One evening while staring at the image of the Risen Christ, I told myself, “It’s been 14 years since Papa left. His death is not the cause of your emptiness but dwelling in that painful past is. You have a good and better life ahead of you, move forward without haunting your tragic past”.
Reality hit me that I did not just dwell in that painful past but I romanticised and nurtured the pain!
After so much prayers, I am now at peace.
Long have I been healed, I just keep on scratching the scars in my heart. I knew that I don’t need to move on but I have to move forward to a life that’s ahead of me.
This is the Taize song that I repeatedly sing in those days that I decided to fully walk away and close the door of my painful past:
“Jésus le Christ, lumière intérieure, ne laisse pas mes ténèbres me parler. Jésus le Christ, lumière intérieure, donne-moi d’accueillir ton amour.”
Jesus Christ, inner light, do not let my darkness speak to me. Jesus Christ, inner light, enable me to welcome your love.
Do not let your past control your present. A beautiful life awaits beyond that door, you just need to decide to take a step out from the darkness that you are dwelling. Pain is never permanent, only if you allow healing to take place.
And so I leave you these questions:
What stops you from fully moving forward without looking back your past?
How long have you been dwelling in that pain?
What grace do you need to be able to move forward?
I am praying that may you have the grace of courage to take few steps forward towards the life you deserve and the grace to fully accept the things that had happened in the past.
Have a grace-filled adventure ahead!
A Catholic Lay Missionary who travels the world to share her story with God. She believes that life in Christ is a beautiful adventure.