Life is how you react to conditions, not the conditions

BY BRENDA VIOLA

Life has a way of giving us both the high and lows, a necessary balance. It took me long enough, but I finally understood it, rather, I accepted it. The word understood implies that I somewhat trusted the ‘process’. I didn’t, accepting seemed less trivial than trying to see the bigger picture. 

It is only natural to prefer the highs to the lows, like when my sister tied the knot to her happily ever after, or when I got to experience the adventure I had longed for since as long as I could remember. The memory of all this and so much more brought a warm smile to my face. I held the cup of tea closer to me, savoring the little warmth it provided. An old proverb said, ‘at times, we drink hot drinks to imitate human contact’. At the moment, I couldn’t agree more. 

A lone tear escaped my left eye, making its way down my cheek. Wiping it away seemed too much an effort, I figured it would drop eventually. I was too tired. A feeling that had taken roots in my being for the better part of the month. My body was tired, and my mind was exhausted. A little rest here and there did little to recharge my batteries, which ran for a few hours before exhaustion finally took over yet again. This was my life now, sipping tea as I looked through my window at nothing in particular. Getting as much warmth as I could before proceeding to the shower where I’d spend longer than what is considered healthy. 

A ring from my landline disrupted the little peace and quiet I had. I decided against answering, allowing it to go to voicemail, I would deal with it later. After a few seconds, the call went into voicemail, and my boss’s voice filled my living room.

“Hello there, I hope you are keeping safe during this trying period. I wanted to inform you that our clients are more than happy with the work you did so far. They were so happy that we got a referral, another client for you. The details are in the email I have sent you…..” I zoned out, not bothering to listen to whatever else he had to say. I could always replay it later on anyway. 

A few months ago, such news would have delighted me, given me the motivation to embark on yet another project, which would surely give me some form of appraisal from my employers. Not this time. The tea in my hands was now cold. The landline rang yet again, only this time it didn’t go to voicemail. I would call back later on. Adding another cup seemed more of a task than heading to the shower, so I did the latter, only to continue my train of thought as the warm water provided me the therapy I craved for. 

I couldn’t really explain what was happening to me, I wasn’t as happy as I used to be. Things that gave me joy in the past appeared too lackluster or tedious for my liking. The silence which I loved was now too loud. Maybe I was stressed, about work perhaps, or just life and its highs and lows. I yearned for company, comfort, a human touch. Someone who would tell me that a better tomorrow is yet to come, that everything would be okay in the end. Gerald would do that, but then again, life is full of hills and valleys. 

My father used to tell me, life is more of how you react to your circumstances and little to do with what your circumstances are. At the time, I never quite understood his words. After all, how is a ten-year-old supposed to accommodate such wisdom, not to mention how the child will react to it. But then again, he would later add that I would understand when older. Despite the theatrics regarding passing on this wisdom from one generation to another, I figured he believed in what he said, and so I did. I believed that life is more of how you react to the conditions and not the conditions themselves. 

The silence of my thoughts brought me back to reality. From afar, I could hear the Cabinet Secretary reading the new cases yet again. A heavy sigh was all I could muster as I listened to the announcement of more cases and a few mortalities. I wondered what dad would say. How do we react to this circumstance, one filled with trepidation, uncertainty, and so many deaths? A circumstance filled with floods, displacement of families, and rising cases of domestic violence, depression, and so many incidences. Do we cry for the loss of our loved ones, do we worry for our children, jobs or the food we will eat the coming week? Do we mourn for the place we once called home has been swept by the floods?

Another ring from the landline interrupted my thoughts yet again. Perhaps the universe was telling me to finally leave the bathroom. Halfway to the landline, the call went to voicemail once again.

“Hello mom, the doctor has called. He has been trying to reach you to no avail. I have news from the hospital on Gerald. He is gone, he is no more…” 

The one fear that crippled my mind finally materialized. The remorse in my mother’s voice was more than enough confirmation. Gerald was dead. My husband .  

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