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Monday Musings – Living with regret

regretIt would be nice if we can go through life without regretting some of the things we have done. But, that is often not the case. A lot of the times, there are relationships we have had that should never have happened in the first place. Sometimes, it’s the opposite. There are relationships that we should have started. When I look back at my life, the common denominator in all the situations and experiences that I have gone through is this: fear.

Fear has this horrible way of setting paths askew. I can remember so many goals I have had that has been derailed by my own fears. In my mind’s eye, there was a straight line. I was focussed on the prize. I was ready to do whatever it takes to achieve it. I counted the cost. I knew it was going to be tough but I had tenacious determination that I could do it. With great gusto, I went charging ahead, daring to defy the world to come at me. Hurtling forward, it was almost dizzying with all the excitement that launching into the great unknown can sometimes give. Everything tends to go your way in those early days. And then, out of nowhere, it hits you. What if the prize isn’t really worth it? What if this is the wrong path? What if this whole thing is a joke in the first place? Can I actually achieve what I have set out to try and achieve? In those moments, the straight path doesn’t look so straight anymore. It is full of detours and sign posts to turn back from whence you came. So, you head back to where you started. Then you suddenly realize something: your starting point just became your finish line. It is at this point that you start regretting turning back. If only I stayed the course… if only I kept on going… if only I didn’t listen to all the negative voices… if only… if only…

I’ve lived with regret for most of my life. Why didn’t I do this? I really should’ve done that! These are some of the questions and statements that pop up in my head from time to time. The one positive thing that can happen when you live with regret is that you are also able to realize a few things about yourself that you may have never known unless you have felt regret in your life. I can’t believe how easy it is for me to be distracted by fear. I can’t believe how easy it is for me to want to turn back and run at the thought of potentially failing. My hope is that I can turn my regrets into reminders. A reminder that I am never alone. A reminder that the darkness can never truly extinguish the light. A reminder that I constantly underestimate myself. A reminder that I am stronger than I imagined and wiser than I thought I could be. A reminder that I am made perfect by the One who made me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Have you ever lived with regret? How did it affect you?

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Monday Musings – Living with Shame

Hi everyone,

It has been too long since my last post. And yes, that was supposed to sound like a confession. However, I am back! I wanted to re-start a weekly section of my blog which I will be calling “Monday Musings.” This is a space where I will be talking about the things that I have been thinking and mulling over in my head.

For those who are potentially new to this website, welcome and thanks for dropping by! The goal of this website is to foster a safe place where people can learn from one another so please feel free to comment and share your thoughts with me! I am a big fan of discussions BUT I also feel that discussions should take place in a civil and kind way. The moment that discussions start venturing into personal attacks or creating a negative atmosphere where people no longer feel free to express their views then I will take the necessary steps to remedy that. Hopefully, that wouldn’t happen.

Today’s blog post has been inspired by a TED talk by Brené Brown on shame. I think that shame is something that everyone has or will struggle with at least once in their life. These are my musings on the subject matter.

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shame

Maybe it’s just me but I am really good at compartmentalization. I have friends for different purposes. If I want a deep theological talk, I have a friend for that. If I want to have fun, I have a friend for that. If I want to talk about the arts, I have a friend for that. I have a personal world and a professional world. I have different sets of friends who have never met each other and I try my best to make sure it never happens. I’m a social chameleon. I can change depending on who is around me. To a certain degree, we all do that unconsciously. However, when we consciously put on a mask, sometimes we can forget to take it off. What we pretend to be becomes who we end up being. It becomes a blurry line.

Behind all the pretending and the acting, there is a voice that serves as the bread and butter of shame. It is the thought that no one will love you for who you are when they finally realize who you truly are. It is in the secret place that shame rules and reigns. All the surface affirmations do nothing to address it because it is easy to dismiss them. “You say that because you don’t know the real me. If you only knew…” becomes the standard response. “If you only knew…” becomes the tired refrain.

The problem with shame is that no one can actually know you because you don’t allow yourself to be known. All they see is the outside: they see someone who’s an extravert, someone who seems like he has it all together, someone who laughs loudly and is often the life of the party. They don’t necessarily see what is happening on the inside: the plague of insecurity, the constant self-doubt of being good enough, the nagging fear that I will never find someone who will truly love me for all of me.

Vulnerability becomes the main mechanism for exposing shame. While shame still manages to have a grip on my life, its grip has been lessened by the fact that I have been blessed with friends with whom I practice openness and transparency. I’m thankful for these people who have spoken truth and love and grace into my life. They remind me how warped my perspective can be at times and how my shame needs to be crushed into oblivion. I don’t know where I would be without their life-giving advices over the years.

Shame is a horrible bedmate. To wake up in shame and find no escape even in sleep from it is a horrendous way to live. Been there. Done that. That’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Overcoming shame is a life-long battle. Thankfully, it’s a battle that you don’t have to do all by yourself. Take the risk of vulnerability. It’s worth it.

 

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Meditations on 2013: A year in review

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Around this time last year, I was busy preparing for my Ph.D. application. I had just finished my Greek exegesis course and was busily doing research and writing for my writing sample. I had spoken with my thesis supervisor and decided that it would be better to write a brand-new writing sample based on my proposed dissertation topic so I can have a good base of research before heading into the program. This year, all the planning and the preparations to achieve this goal reached its fruition. I am delighted to say that I have finished my first semester of Ph.D. studies! Woohoo!

There are so many times in life when our dreams and our goals can feel like they are so close, yet so far. We can almost grasp it, but it is also a breath away from making it ours. 2013 reminded me of the power of perseverance. It is important to keep going, to keep striving after that illusive dream. Because sometimes, that dream can turn into a reality. But after going through everything, that reality starts feeling like it’s a dream =)

I think it would be disingenuous to say that perseverance is the only factor in achieving one’s goal. More and more, I am convinced and convicted that all my dreams would never happen without the love and the support of the people around me. After all, no man is an island. We are surrounded by people who help us become the people we are, whether they be friends or foes. I am so thankful to have family and friends who cheer me on and are praying for my success. Without them, I would never be able to where I am today. It sounds so cliché but once you factor in all the financial, emotional, spiritual, psychological and intellectual support one needs to achieve anything, it becomes less of a cliché and more as an undeniable fact. We need our communities to survive and thrive. Without them, life is empty.

Yet, as much as I truly value my family and friends for all of the help they have given me, it but pales in comparison with the love and grace that my God gives me on a daily basis. If anything, I see my family and friends as a visible expression of God’s love towards me. It always shames me to no end at how unfaithful I am to Him, and how it is always flabbergasting to know that even when I am faithless, He is always ever faithful to me. Awhile ago, I was talking to a friend about success and how our understanding of success is primarily based on the goal we have set before us. For me, I have said that if I am still in love with God, and actually confounded more this year than the year before about how much love and grace He has given unto me, then that would be a success. If I still yearn to walk in His ways, and grow even stronger in my desire to follow after Him this year than the year before, then that would be a success.

2013 was a success. Let’s hope that 2014 brings even more of it.

Day 2 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

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I honestly can’t believe that the darn bacon is still in the fridge. Can someone please eat it already?!? It looks at me, mocking, tempting me, reminding me of what I can’t have. Sigh. Today has been a good day. I got to spend it with some very good friends. While most people celebrate Valentine’s Day, I celebrate Singleness Awareness Day. Yet another day to be reminded that I’m single. However, I also have to remind myself that I’m single not because I don’t have options. I’m single because I do have options! I’m not going to go into a relationship just for the sake of having a relationship. But, I wasn’t going to let this day get me all depressed. So, I went out with two friends and had a great time. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant and had some vegetarian fare. It was a little bit hard opening the menu and seeing the lamb, beef and chicken option and having to say no, no and no to all three. And when we got to the restaurant, I had to resist the urge to check in and claim new points because I was probably “the first of my friends to check-in” at that place. I couldn’t even Instagram my picture. During the ride back home, this random piece of the bus handle hit me in the face as a man tried to use it to steady himself. Instead of helping him remain standing, it flew straight to my face. I couldn’t even tweet my rage! I honestly don’t know how people without social media live. I was secretly hoping that the guy in front of me who saw the whole thing would tweet about it. I guess if I can’t go on social media, I can live vicariously through others.

As I’m going through this period of being refined, it’s hard not to whine and grumble about everything. I’m missing out on this, I’m missing out on that, I can’t have this, I can’t have that. Those seem to be what I constantly feel. However, I also know that as I get rid of the outside noise, I will be able to hear the voice inside with more clarity. The voice is faint, barely a whisper. I can’t wait to hear it speak loudly. I’m not sure what it would tell me to do, but I know that it will tell me not to settle for mediocrity when I was made for excellence. For now, I must content myself with the soft whispers as the outside noise continues to assault my senses.

Join me on this journey.

Day 1 – The Lenten Journey of Sid

It was hard pressing Enter. Once I pressed that button, it would deactivate my Facebook account. I needed to do it to make sure I can stick to the plan. For the next forty days, I will be fasting from social media AND meat. I have fasted from meat before for 3 weeks, and I have also fasted from social media for the month of Ramadan. But both at the same time, this is definitely the first time I have done that.

I was trying to look for a picture to insert for this post. As I looked and looked and looked, I just couldn’t find an image that properly encapsulated what Lent was all about, or at least what it meant for me. And maybe the reason why I couldn’t find one is because I want this Lent to be different. Fasting is difficult, for sure. But I don’t want to fast for the sake of tradition (or positive peer pressure). I wanted to fast for Lent because I’m looking for something. I’m searching for something. I want to be a better human being. I want to know what laying down my pride looks like. I want to be a walking example of humility. I want to be more loving. I want to be more patient. I want to exhibit the attributes of God in my life. I’m doing this because I want a closer, more intimate relationship with the Lover of my soul. Sometimes, you have to give up everything that you think is important to realize what is truly important in your life. Much to my chagrin, no image could encapsulate that burning desire within me.

I’m not gonna lie. I think this is going to be tough. I’m already thinking of how low my Klout score can go after being away from social media for so long. (Yes, I unfortunately care about that stupid rating! Sigh.) I already wish I savoured my last steak a bit more than I did. I wonder at all the things I’m gonna miss out on Facebook. What memes will I no longer recognize because I was out of the loop? I realize how trivial all of it is even as I write this down, but these things exert power over my life. And I think that’s also one of the reasons why I want to do this… I want to own these things and not have them own me.

A part of me is already weirded out that no one will know where I am because I won’t be checking in on Foursquare. Or wonder who’s going to see what I’m eating as I post it on Twitter/Instagram. I have lived my life so publicly that I am afraid that if I’m not in the public eye, will people still remember me?

At the end of the day, it’s not just about depriving myself of meat and social media. It’s about all the insecurities and irrational fears that doing so can bring out that I’m more afraid of. With no recourse to cheap entertainment, how long can I war with my self? This is where the journey begins. I don’t know where it will lead me but I know that God will be with me. And sometimes, that has to be good enough for me. I cannot let the fear of the unknown stop me from making the first step.

Join me on this journey.

Quote of the Day – Jan. 31, 2013

Absolutely love this quote. As I celebrate yet another year, I need to believe and live out the truth of this quote more and more!

“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your “I” is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary “I.” No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.” – Richard Rohr

Wednesday Writings – Jan. 16, 2013

Today’s Wednesday Writings is going to be a little bit different from the past posts. What’s so different about it, you ask? The words that I will be posting is accompanied by music. That’s right. I’m sharing a song that I wrote to you guys. I’ll be posting the lyrics and if you want to listen to it, just scroll down to the bottom. Hope you like it!

I never would have done this if it wasn’t for a special friend of mine who encouraged me to record it. She definitely made me sound way better than I truly am. Thanks Renee! If you would like to listen to her work, click here and listen! You will not be disappointed!

Whisper
Lyrics: Sid Sudiacal
Melody: Sid Sudiacal
Vocal Producer: Renee Robinson
Music Producer: Slantize
Vocals: Sid Sudiacal
Backing Vocals: Renee Robinson

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Whisper

Verse 1

Sitting here alone and upset, thinking about the mess of a past that still haunts me

Wondering what I can do, my status is so confused, happy I’ll never be

Why am I so unchanging? It seems I never learn anything that You teach me

Lord I deserve to burn

Chorus:

With a whisper You say You love me

You’ll never let me go

With Your blood You came to free me

My sins are made no more

Verse 2:

The waves are crashing down, my world’s falling apart

I hurt Your heart again

The guilt I feel condemns, it leaves me feeling dead

Wishing my life to end

Why am I so unfaithful? I fall for every trick

Apologies for my actions, I ask You please forgive

Bridge

I’m standing here, eyes full of tears, can’t eat, drink, think, nor sleep

If I’m not with You

I’m utterly destroyed and grieved, in this life find no relief

If ever I lost You

But You know me, feeble and weak, give me the strength that I need

Help me to follow you

Friendly Fridays

One of the things that I love about having my own website is that I get to have a platform to share my thoughts and ideas with the rest of the world. However, a lot of “my” thoughts have been greatly influenced by my interaction with a lot of great and wonderful people I like to call my friends =) I’m thankful that I have such a diverse group of people who are smart, kind, and absolutely amazing. This new addition, “Friendly Fridays”, is a way for me to highlight the writings of some of these amazing people. So, don’t be surprised if you get a random message from me asking you to be a guest blogger because I really think that what you have to say is important to the world.

The friend who wrote this inaugural piece to “Friendly Fridays” is someone who I met in university. I asked this person if they were willing to write something for this website and the rest as they say is history. Of course, when you ask someone to be a guest blogger, the question of “so what do you want me to write about?” pops up. For me, I wanted this to be a place where people can write about anything they want to write about, provided they write something that is encouraging and uplifting. Here’s the thing. We live in a world full of negativity. In many ways, I want this website to be a virtual safe place where people who believe in different things, have conflicting opinions about issues, can come together and treat each other with respect and love. Plus, I’m giving you an opportunity to say something. The idealist in me would like to think that you would use this opportunity to say something good. I want to know what motivates you, what your passions are, or hear about the way you overcame struggles and became victorious over your problems. I want to know your story.

And so, with that in mind, this person sent me this article. I remembered reading it for the first time and going, wow, I did NOT know that about this person. This article tackles a fairly controversial issue from a very vulnerable point-of-view. Irregardless (yes, that’s a word!) of where you stand on it, I hope that you are inspired by it. I know I was. Due to the delicate nature of this piece, the author has asked me to withhold their name. However, don’t let the “anonymous” fool you into thinking that this is not real. Coz this is real. And raw. And just plain amazing.

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I just finished watching October Baby: a film about a girl with many health problems who discovers that they are all due to a failed abortion. She goes on a search for her birth mother and  is rejected. The only way she is able to move on with her life is to forgive those that hurt her. The message is that life is beautiful; that is a message that I firmly believe.

One of my secrets – that few people know – is that my parents could have aborted me. Before my mom found out that she was pregnant, she had to have an x-ray. For some reason, they forgot to put the protective shield over her abdomen. When my mom discovered that she was pregnant, the doctor was concerned that the baby would be born with birth defects due to the x-rays. The doctor gave my mom and dad the legal and medically accepted solution of abortion. My parents refused because they are Christians. They believed that life is precious and a gift from God.

When my mom was close to delivery and in a great deal of pain, the nurse refused to listen to her. Instead, she gave my mom an epidural. The baby shot back up the birth canal and both my mom and the baby almost died. They were only saved by the forceps that the doctor used to deliver the baby. And that is how I was born.

I’ve only ever told a few people about this story. Mostly, people who know me really well are just glad that I’m alive. One friend had actually been through a similar experience. Her father (and his family) wanted her mother to abort her because she was a girl. Her mother refused and was divorced. She is one of the most gifted, brilliant people I know, and is presently doing her PhD in cancer research.

One reaction that I didn’t expect was the question: “So, is anything wrong with you?” On one hand, I understand it. On the other hand, who are they – or who is anyone – to judge what is “wrong” with a person? I do have things wrong with me; for one thing, I have blood vessels very close to the surface of my skin from the forceps. I’ve been asked why I don’t get surgery to remove them; I reply by telling them my story. My story reminds me that my life is a miracle.

Despite my appearance and some health problems, I’m still worthwhile, wonderful, and special in my own way. And no one that I know of would ever wish that I had never been born, or declare that I am unworthy of life.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe all the medical problems I have are due to that one x-ray. I wonder if the miracle of my birth hasn’t been overshadowed by a mistake. And I ask myself, couldn’t God have stopped it from happening? But God doesn’t make mistakes. And when I think about my life, my family, my friends, and life in general, I know that none of it is unplanned. God blessed me with life, and now I have the opportunity to bless others.

So, I’m passionate about life. And things that threaten life – mainly abortion, suicide, and abuse – they hurt me. One of the biggest lies I’ve ever encountered is the one that my life is my own; what I do with my life won’t hurt anyone else. It’s a lie. Abortion hurts everyone; so many of my friends have been hurt by having abortions. I wish many times that I could have stopped them. My cousin’s suicide in my second year of university left me vowing to never have a friend feel like they have no one to turn to. Even right now, I’m living in a community where people hurt themselves and each other on a fairly regular basis. There is an incredible lack of self-esteem or value of human life. It’s sad and it blows my mind. I want them to see that they are special; God has a plan for each of them, regardless of what parents, nurses, doctors, or even themselves, think. Because God made them; that fact makes their lives precious, planned, purposeful…

And beautiful.

The power of the tongue

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With a new year upon us, I think it’s always important to take the time to reflect on the past year and think of how we can forge ahead in the new year to come. One of the things that I am ever so mindful of, and I really want to implement in 2013, is the power of the tongue. This is what I mean: I am a firm believer that the power of life and death is in the tongue. The words that we speak over our own lives and the words that we allow other people to speak in our own lives have tremendous impact on how we live our lives. I know that personally, I am very good at negative self-talk. Words like “you’re such a failure”, “you won’t make it” or “no one can ever love you for who you truly are because you’re worthless” are unfortunately, a major part of my vocabulary. Who needs enemies when you clearly are your own worst enemy! Studying the Sacred Scriptures has helped me realize how wrong this is. Hatred, either directed towards self or others, should never be tolerated nor condoned. In the same way that these negative self-talks have profoundly affected me and given me a warped sense of self, it is the positive affirmations from others that have helped restore my heart and my soul. I remember when my friend told me that she thought I was wise and how my actions do not go unnoticed. Or when another told me that he appreciated me for who I am. I still remember when I got an e-mail from my professor who I asked to be my Ph.D. thesis supervisor and was talking about doing future collaborative projects with me. I remember thinking “I can’t believe he wants to work with me!” I guess I’ve looked down on myself for so long that I was astonished that someone would want to work with me.

I admit that it’s hard to believe the positivity that other people say about me. However, I am working hard to receive the good words that they have spoken over my life. I am also working hard to make sure that I eliminate saying negativity over my own life. I find it way easier to encourage others than to encourage myself. That needs to change this year. I will be making a more concerted effort to celebrate my mini-victories as I work towards my end goal. I need to re-conceptualize what success means to me because it will definitely NOT look like what others view as success. I want to make sure that I am running my own race and not get so focused on running the race that others want me to run in. At the end of the day, I am accountable for the things I have done and not what others have done. I am responsible for myself and what I do with the time and talents God has given me. It does me no good to get sucked in to ideas of conformity to others’ expectations, as good as they may seem. The words we speak over our lives can be our destiny. Let’s make sure our destiny is one full of love, hope, and redemption.

Wednesday Writings – Nov. 28

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Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post that was inspired by Amanda Todd’s suicide. She was a young girl who was bullied constantly and felt that suicide was the only way to escape the pain. The poem that I wanted to share today was also a tribute to a man I never knew but whose words have haunted me. His name was Bill Zeller. Before he committed suicide, he left behind a suicide note explaining why he did what he did. As I read it, my heart was just filled with grief and sadness that someone went through what he went through alone. He felt as if no one could ever help him. That is a terrible lie and an even more terrible reality to live out.

If you’re reading this and you’re contemplating suicide, I would urge you, plead with you, beg you, not to go through with it. The pain that you’re going through is probably unbearable and it hurts so much but suicide is not the answer to your problems. There are people who you can talk to, confide to, and they can help you. Also, there is a loving Father in heaven who loves you so much and sent His Son to die for you so that you don’t have to. There are various resources out there: people, communities, organizations that you can reach out to and who will do their best to help you go through what you’re going through. You’re not alone.

If you ever want to talk, please feel free to e-mail me or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter. I will be here to lend a listening ear =)

the dark passenger
 
scream, cry, numb

every fiber straining
to hold it all together.
but i can’t.
not anymore.
no one knows
not until the end
will they realize.
by then… too late.
emptiness swallowing me whole
until i am lost, never to be found.
truth hurts.