The first thing that flashed into his mind at the sound of the verdict was the image of his primary school playground. Four kids had set up a court there and were playing judge and criminals. He was one of the criminals, presumably a robber. The judge – a pig-tailed blondie whom he had a crush on – deemed him guilty. When he asked why she replied “because I rule” and added slyly “because Sissy gave you her cookie and you took it”. He couldn’t remember who Sissy even was. But it was a silly reason as that that got him convicted then.
It was an unjustified reason that got him convicted now too. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Just because they could make him appear guilty. And he was there.
Justice isn’t always moral. And it isn’t always served to those who deserve it.
They had been planning the event for months. It was something that had caused many hours of stress, conflict, intense disagreement, even tears. But it was also what made them happy, because it was going to mark the beginning of a bright future together. They believed it.
But very often, it doesn’t matter what plans you make.
Life happens regardless.
And things capsize abruptly.
That day it snowed heavily. Everything was so beautiful in white. Everything but her.
He cried a stream of tears because he remembered their first snow day together.
There are photos that capture inside of them a bit of your soul. You look at them and can remember every single sentiment you felt in that very moment the photo was taken. You can sense the aura of the person you’re with. The feeling in the air around you. The emotions that ran inside of you.
There are photos like this that you want to keep forever. Or as long as that lasts.
But there are precisely those photos that hurt the most when that sentiment expires.
When you no longer feel that joy, you want all evidence removed.
For you to see the stars, you need a dark sky. That is the only allegory suitable to describe how to remain optimistic and patient in order to see the positive in a gloomy and tragic situation.
“Staying positive, doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days you know that better ones are coming”. That is something we need to remember now more than ever.
Because around the globe, restrictions of movement, closed borders, bans on public gatherings etc, are all commonplace at the moment. We are all self-isolated….together. We are all in this together. Most of us are called to fight an invisible enemy in an unprecedented war from our couch. Others are on the frontline working night and day in hospitals, witnessing the painful consequences first-hand. All we are called to do is to #StayHome, #StaySafe, so they can help us out of this.
Viewed in another perspective, the whole world is frozen at the moment. As if someone pushed a ‘pause’ button and ‘regular’ life simply stopped. For how long, nobody really knows.
Sometimes even the hardships serve for a higher purpose. It is during the hard times that we realise how strong we truly are. (“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test” – Isabel Allende) And we acknowledge what truly matters. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has proven that everything around us is so temporary. Things we revolved our lives around: our work, gym, cafes, malls, cinemas, society itself, have all become irrelevant as we are now learning for weeks to live without them. It has taught us that we are so technologically advanced we can actually work from home, i.e. anywhere, and we can remain more connected than we believe. It is in our own homes and families in the end that we will remain safe. We learn that distance cannot keep emotions away.
But when all this shall pass – because it will – we will come out reborn, we will have learnt (hopefully) to not take anything for granted, to appreciate everything and everyone we have more. Because it is in this distance and isolation that friendships will be tested and relationships will either be reinforced or shattered.
Like Victor Hugo said, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”. Every day is a lesson: the good days offer happiness and the bad ones, experience.
No storm lasts forever. But if we can stay positive in a negative situation, we win. It is up to us how to manage the situation we are in. “Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours”.
We can’t change how all this started. But we can change how we deal with it from now on. And certainly what we will learn out of it. To become a bit more humane, empathetic and less selfish. To value the little things in life. To be kind to everything that is alive. And above all, to wash our hands.
There is a saying that we travel not to escape life, but so that life does not escape us. Going somewhere different not only breaks your routine and revives you, but it also allows you to open your eyes and mind to things you never even considered before.
Not everyone thinks or acts the same way we do, and we generally have this ingrained belief that what ‘our people’ do is the norm, the standard against which everyone else is compared or measured.
The truth is though, when we travel, we might find alternatives that may even be better to our way of life. We may see things and people who change our perspectives. We may even talk to locals and find out that they are more calm, relaxed and happy living in what seems like a backward village, than others who live in big cities.
We see people smiling without any particular reason, who always have something good to say and who wish you a pleasant day without knowing you at all. That is just who they are and what they are used to. Kindness is a way of life.
It is these same people who know how to keep calm in every situation, who find no reason in getting angry or irritated at something they cannot control. They follow traditions that they have grown with and see no point in altering them if they still work well.
Because in the end, it is not the technology that makes people advanced; it is their mentality. And that is the most difficult thing of all to change.
The 4th of February may mean different things to different people. It may also mean nothing at all and just be another day. But the 4th of February each year is World Cancer Day. It is an international day marked to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
Many of us know someone who at some point in their life fought a battle they never thought they would face. Some of the fighters – be they survivors or victims – are people close to us. People who have shown us that cancer is not a death sentence, it is not something whose name we should not utter, but rather it is merely a word, a life sentence that pushes one to live.
People who fight cancer and all its consequences understand what it means to never give up hope, to show courage by taking each day at a time and promising to fight a bit more the next day. They understand what Christopher Reeve meant when he said that “once you choose hope, anything is possible” and they have felt it more than anyone else that the human spirit is much stronger than anything that can happen to it.
Cancer is a battle we may need to fight more than once. Courage comes from not giving up. Because sometimes you have to go through things and not around them to survive. But that only makes you more determined to persist, to win. And it gives hope and sets a prominent example to those around you.
People who have faced cancer are the ones who know what life means and what matters most in it. Because they have faced something they cannot describe, but have come out stronger, sometimes clenching their teeth so that their families don’t see them suffering. And for that, they deserve more than just our respect and a single day to commemorate them.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” (Cayla Mills).
The first time he stepped into a dance studio, he felt his heart flutter, as if it left his body and was hovering above him. He felt almost embarrassed walking in with all those potential dancers staring at him as the door clinked on his entry.
But he was determined.
Strong emotions can do that to a person.
Just a week ago, he had been dragged to a dance soirée by his sister and her friends. He had fallen in love with a dancer. But it was not with a specific one. He had been blown away by the movement; the story that was told through the song and dance. The feelings that were conveyed; the expressions on the dancers’ faces. He could feel everything so deeply just by looking at them. Being a part of their troupe must be amazing. That was the thought that had captured his mind that night. Being able to communicate in such way must be a great relief. Dancing would be an excellent way to relieve the pressure of everyday life.
So, here he was, trying to learn how to do that too.
The motto on the studio’s wall was “every problem has a solution, so dance!”
He looked out of the window at the cloudy skies. He was physically in his living room, sitting on his couch. But mentally he was far away. Perhaps even on that airplane crossing the sky.
He had never been on an airplane.
He had never even left the country.
He was afraid to leave. To take a risk. He was too much a coward to change his life. He lost too many opportunities and people because of this. And all he had left was to dream. But even that was too much. Because he knew deep inside that those dreams of flying away would never be realised.
On that very plane, there was a girl who travelled all her life. She knew very well what it was like to change environments every now and then, yet longed for somewhere to settle. For some place and someone to call home.
She had just finished reading the romance Erotokritos, the rhymed verses themed around love, honour, friendship, bravery and courage. It was the story of a young man who fell in love with a princess and did whatever he could – even facing exile and sacrifice – to gain her love. But to the young reader, it symbolised more than that. It was an allegory that true love surpasses every hurdle encountered; that when there is a will there is always a way; and that it’s not about finding someone who chases you incessantly or who evidently ignores you, it’s about finding someone who never stops caring or fighting for you. It’s a story about someone who feels deeply and has no problem in showing it in every way possible.
Life is the sum of our actions. These are what make us who we are. What we have the strength to do and what we don’t. What we choose to change and what not. It is who we want to be and who we have the power to become.