Acid Test

Life has a way to test us like gold.

Yesterday morning, I woke up in a bright lovely morning. Despite my lack of sleep for several days now, and despite my exhausted muscles, I greeted the morning sunlight with a wide smile, ready to face the day with enthusiasm.

To express that childlike delight, I searched my portable hard drive for a photo of a smiling baby. Then I opened the AdobeSpark website to make a Spark Post. I put the following words over the photo:

Happiness is a choice we choose everyday.

After staring at my work for a few moments, scrutinizing my simple design, I then happily posted it in MyDay of my messenger. I was hoping that I can make some of my friends smile  — just spreading the positive vibes of having a light heart in the morning.

One minute later, my phone rang. My auntie was on the other side of the line. Then she dropped the bomb: her sister’s condition at the ICU has gotten hopeless. My other auntie might die within 24 hours. Suddenly I heard the ticking of the clock.

As we talked, tears began to form drops at the corners of my eyes. Memories of my dying auntie flashed one by one, persistently interrupting our conversation. After the phone talk, I went to my room and allowed my tears to flow freely into my cheek as I still reminisce those moments I had with my dying auntie. My happy moments started to dissolve in a tiny dose of a sad new.

Who was she, by the way? Why was I so affected?

I was raised by five sisters, my mom and her sisters. In my last post, The Beast In Me, I shared the story of my other auntie, the one who nailed the idea in my brain that I am perpetually ugly, and that no one — NOT ONE GIRL IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD — would ever get to like me. So I grew up as a shy adult believing that notion as an irrefutable scientifically-proven fact.

On the other hand, I have another auntie who has become closest to my heart. She became my closest friend among my mother’s four sisters. I was seven years old when she acquired a medical condition that made her sickly for the rest of her life. She became very weak physically, but to be honest, she has become — for a very long time — my idol in terms of mental strength. Her mind compensated a great deal for her lack of physical strength. She’s sharp in reasoning and has an amazing memory. In the family, I grew up hearing everyone calling her “walking encyclopedia.”

Many doctors have already predicted that she won’t last long. Well all of them were wrong. Different specialists, from different highly respected hospitals have already given up on her. But maybe because of her strong mind, she remained intact despite the prolonged physical suffering. She has become the source of emotional strength for so many people. She just doesn’t know how much she has become an inspiration to many.

Strangely enough she has also been great in timing. I have many close friends, many of them are really bad in timing: they send me wrong messages, using wrong words, in wrong moments of my life. One friend asked me money in times of my financial crisis. Of course I couldn’t help her. Another friend bombarded me with complaints in times of my inner struggles. But this aunt — my closest aunt, never fails to amaze me in her timing. We live from different parts of the country and seldom communicate. But somehow, her mind is connected to mine. She would send me encouraging words in my lowest times; she would ask me for an all-night-conversation during the time when I also needed someone to talk to; she would give me some jokes in times of my loneliness. She didn’t know that those interactions with her were just the ones I needed most at that time.

Now, all those memories flashed back to my mind during my phone conversation. Then deep inside me, I was praying, “I don’t want her to die. No, not yet.”

After the phone call, I went to my room and cried. Then I remembered the message I just posted in my messenger.  I asked myself, How can I choose to be happy now? Then the inner dialogue began. My mind played a tug-of-war on its own.

Part of me justifies that its okay to be not happy in times like these. That it’s a normal emotion and is part of human life.

The other half part of me insists that if i’m going to be affected by a negative news, then I’m not living up with what I’ve just posted in Messenger — I’m not choosing to be happy.

The Test

When I was a boy, I asked my dad why he dips a golden jewelry into a liquid before he buys it. He’s simple answer was “To make sure it’s a real gold.”

Later, I learned that the liquid was an acid that can dissolve different metals and alloy, except gold. That’s why they use it to test if a jewelry is pure gold or not before they buy it.

Maybe acid testing was invented by alchemists a long time ago. Maybe until now modern chemists do it still. I don’t care. But it reminds me that life has a natural way of testing the gold in all of us in subtle ways we normally ignore: I just posted that happiness is something I choose everyday, then suddenly I was put in a day where I won’t naturally choose it. I was being tested. Just a small dose of sadness started to dissolve that happiness in my face. Is my happiness not pure?

One time I claimed that one of my strengths is patience.  Then what followed was a series of life situations that really challenged my patience so hard I started to question whether patience is really one of my strengths.

As a Christian, I always declare that grace and forgiveness is at the center of my belief. And that declaration is being constantly challenged by circumstances: by having enemies to forgive; by discovering that my friend is stabbing me behind my back; by dealing with people who accuse me wrongfully; by learning that the one I trust cannot truly be trusted; by colleagues who unreasonably envy me; by a friend who constantly fail me.

Life indeed is a natural acid test. It helps us become pure in our motives. It dissolves some pride and arrogance hidden in our hearts. It removes other impurities. As we are dipped into the acid test of life, we can be assured of one thing: when we emerge, we will emerge as a shining gold — pure, adaptive, resistant to rust, and most of all, full of value.