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Last edited: Friday, July 29, 2011
Posted: Friday, July 29, 2011

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When a friend called me up last week, requesting me to give this sharing today, my initial reaction to her was “but that is baring my soul to people, many of whom perhaps I do not even know.” But as my friend, ever so gently, reminded me, and which I knew only too well, too, revealing IS healing.

And I guess this sharing would be an exercise for me in being true to self. I knew too that this would be an opportunity to know myself better, to re-check the directions I have taken at this particular stage in my life. And, in the process, perhaps all of us could take a step forward together toward that integration and fullness of life that we are all called to.

But again, after mulling over my outline for this sharing, I had to tell my friend again that one of the most difficult things to talk about is one’s self. Share too little, and Sister Harriet, our seminar moderator, would have a more difficult time processing me. And if I talk too much, this would truly become a boring session, wouldn’t it?

The question “Do I really know myself?” began to bug me then. For, being true to self is important in this exercise, right? So, captive audience that you are, do bear with me, and, in the process, perhaps you and I will understand ourselves better... and make us more bearable people to get along with.

I am Evelyn Jo, 57 years old, a “retired” businesswoman. “Retired” is in quotation marks, for I may have retired from my life in the world of business, but  I have definitely NOT retired from the business of living!

My father is Tagalog, from Bay, Laguna; my mother, a native of Negros. My Mom belonged to a Negros clan, whom some people would refer to as “peninsulares.” I mention this, not because I want to be identified as one of the old-rich or noveau-rich... for both of these I am not. But, being a member of this clan gave me the motivating factor for much of my activities in my early adult life... a motivation I was not even aware of till recent years. But, more on this later.

I got married at age 25 to a wonderful man, George Jo... a Negrense, a CPA, a banker, a truly beautiful person. He is, in fact, the most beautiful person I have ever known. He is God’s special gift to me. For George’s unconditional love for people has made me understand what God’s unconditional love for me is.

We have three children... a boy, aged 30, and two girls, 29 and 28. The two elder ones got married last year; so, as of today, I already have five children, with the addition of my laughter-filled daughter-in-law and my so-easy-to-get-along-with son-in-law. My youngest daughter, still single, stays with me, though busy establishing herself in her chosen career, too. And... I look forward to becoming a grandmother come May this year!

From age 19 to 30, that’s 11 years of my life, I was teaching in one of the Catholic schools here in Bacolod. The next 23 years of my life (from age 30 to 53) saw me go into the field of marketing, specifically, direct selling... from Tupperware dealer, to Regional Sales Manager of Tupperware for Western Visayas, to distributor of Time-Life Books & Covermark Cosmetics... and finally, to setting up my own direct selling company, with a sales network covering Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu and Manila.

My husband, in the meantime, was also busy moving up the corporate ladder in the field of banking.  Those were indeed busy years for both of us... bringing up the children, educating them, making money, making a name for ourselves, looking for our place in the sun.

I was what some people refer to as a workaholic. And, as I had mentioned earlier, there was a motivating factor that goaded me, albeit unconsciously, at that time. Being a member of a clan could be good, you know. For then, you get a lot of support when needed. But my Mom, early on in my childhood days, lost most of her property (how she lost them is another story... that’s HER story), and, in circles where money is given undue importance, you sort of become a non-entity when you have none. You do not count; your opinions are not listened to. And, as we know only too well, that hurts! Certainly a big blow to one’s self-esteem, especially if you are young and impressionable.

And so, in my unconscious, a vow was formed... that I, too, must make a lot of money, make a name for myself. I must accomplish something big, be somebody, be a good wife, be the best parent there is, be good in everything! I just had to succeed! It’s a good thing I had my husband for an anchor... I call him the stabilizer of my life... or, I might still be chasing after my grandiose dreams today. Either that, or I might have become a completely broken, utterly frustrated basket case!

In 1980, we decided to transfer residence to Manila. By then, my husband’s office assignment was over there, and the children were about ready to enter college. It was really part of our life plan, my husband’s and mine, to be with the children in Manila when they enter college.

December 17, 1989 brought George and me back to Bacolod. By then, the children had all finished college and were building up their careers. My husband, who had retired in 1986, was then in and out of the hospital, because of his worsening heart condition. And we felt that the country air and lifestyle of Bacolod would do him good. I also felt that my primary concern was my husband’s health, and, since the children were all becoming self-sufficient in their jobs, we made the major decision of closing up all our business concerns and offices in Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu and Manila.

This return to Bacolod was truly a traumatic decision for me. For, I was torn between leaving my two daughters in Manila, where they had their jobs (and their boyfriends, too), and my concern for my husband’s health. And so, the decision to come back to Bacolod was made with a heavy heart. What made it heavier still was the fact that the Negrense way of life, the Negrense’s values and attitudes, as I knew it then, had no appeal for me at all.

To me, the typical Negrense placed the value of a person’s worth on how much he had in the bank...  an idea that was absolutely abhorrent to me. Take note of this, however. For, in doing so, perhaps we would understand ourselves better. The Negrense’s wrong values were being rejected by me. Early on in my adult life, I had made a vow that I would strongly urge my children when they get married NOT to build their lives in Negros. But, the paradox of it all is that much as I hated this misplaced value on a person’s worth, it was also what was pushing me on, unconsciously.

Little did I know when we returned to Bacolod that my seemingly well-planned, carefully thought-out life would be completely shaken!

For the year 1990, contrary to the heavy heart, turned out to be the best year of my 28 years of married life! It was a year when my husband and I were truly alone with each other... my son was then  assigned to lloilo in his work, my two daughters had their jobs in Manila. And we had no other concerns, no business, no work, to attend to. We re-discovered the joy of each other’s presence. It was a time, too, of re-directing our lives together.

To my great surprise... and delight... I also discovered so much change, for the better, in the values and attitudes of the people of Negros. A lot of the old ones are still there to this day, I suppose. But the sugar crisis of the middle ‘80s did transform much of the Negrenses’ outlook on life. And the transformations I saw truly gladdened my heart... and gave it so much hope for us people of Negros.

Coming back to Bacolod was also God’s way of drawing us closer to Him. Through all the years, we had never really abandoned Him. We still went to Sunday Mass regularly, occasionally to a First Friday Mass. And we said our morning and evening prayers... if we were not ready to drop dead to bed, completely drained by the day’s work. But, it was as if we told Him to stay by our side, but not on centerstage of our lives.

Anyway, when we came back to Bacolod, we found ourselves missing our old Marriage Encounter group in Manila. A caring friend who knew about this arranged for us to join Unit 9 of the Christian Family Movement of Bacolod. George and I found in this unit a group of people totally committed to the CFM mission and vision... but fun-loving too. But, even as we were already with the group, the hunger was still gnawing within us. It was as if the hounds of heaven were let loose... to hound us. We continued searching for a prayer community. It was actually a search for Him, I guess. This search brought us to the Casa Maria Prayer Community, a contemplative-prayer-based community. It also led us to another community for Bible studies.

1990 was truly a year of re-discovery... of each other, of Him, of our role in us Divine Plan, of His love for us that has remained constant through the years that we had become lukewarm to Him.

There was a time when I looked back at the years before 1990 with regrets. Such waste! For the kind of peace and inner joy that I have now, I did not quite experience during those years. But, as a cousin of mine had pointed out to me, the things that happened before 1990 had to happen... and God has a purpose for them. And I guess He has. For the appreciation of what I have now is deep... very deep indeed.

Little did I know, too, that His bringing us back to Bacolod, His letting loose the hounds of heaven on us, was His way of preparing George for greater things, and me for the saddest moment of my life.  For the following year, on February 3, 1991, He decided to take George into His eternal kingdom.

My friends tell me how well I have coped with the death of my husband. They probably are not aware that they had, and are still, helping me deal with the pain and the void... by just being there, when I needed them most. The support I received from my cousins...  “clan” members... are not quantifiable. And I will forever be grateful, too, to the support that my CFM unit gave me, by their presence.

I still miss George today. Last week, in fact, I was viewing the movie “Forever Young”... it’s about two young people in love, who got separated before they could get married. They finally meet, already in their  ‘70s, the man still single, the woman a widow, and the movie’s ending show them finally finding their happiness with each other, to enjoy their golden years together. Somehow, as the credits were shown, I was surprised to feel tears falling down my cheeks and thinking how I envied those two... and all the rest of you who are married and have each other... for you have each other to enjoy the rest of your beautiful years together. And, for the first time since George died, I was asking God why He had to take George away from me, and who am I going to spend my golden years with now.

There were, there are, other losses in my life that I have to face, too. A year after George died, my mother-in-law whom I loved dearly, died, too... at age 103.  And my Mom, too, within eleven days of my mother-in-law’s death, also died. And the year after that, my best friend Pam, whom I considered my soul mate, also joined the saints of my life in heaven.

I had to face the loss of goals unfulfilled... where are the riches, the name, the accomplishments I wanted to attain? While before I did not have to live by a budget, now I have to cope with the insecurity, in the face of inflation, of a fixed income. I have to confront, too, my loss of authority. I was then the boss in my business of hundreds in my sales force. Today, I am the boss only of myself. I even had to let go of much of the authority I had over my children... for they now have lives of their own. I have to let go of controlling my life... for there is Someone so much wiser Who controls it, and Whose ways are not our ways. And, of course, I also have to face the reality of the loss of some teeth, the fading of complexion, the graying of some strands of hair.

But, as I assess my life today, I’d say that the gains far outweigh the losses. For today, I have more freedom in choosing my options... without having to consider how it would affect my husband or my children, who already have lives of their own. And this freedom has given me a more open, more flexible mind set. Today, I have the time to do what I really want to do. Believe you me, this one who had never cooked even as simple a dish as tinola can now whip up a Chicken a la King, a Fettucine, or a Menudo dish dripping in liver sauce... and my children (my Number One fans, of course... I think?!?) love them! Truly... what potentials, untapped skills and talents, we all have... yet to be discovered!

The maturity of the years has given me a better appreciation of people in my life, of things, of events around me. It has also given me a better perspective of what living is all about.

For God has given me another anchor... Him! His grace has given me the right motivations and directions in life. And his love, His unconditional love, for you and for me, has given me that joy for living, that makes me wake up every morning with the realization that each day that breaks is God’s gift to me! That I am to make full use of it in His love and service! That each day brings me closer and closer to Him! That each day, each moment of my life, He walks with me, holding me, at times carrying me when the burden becomes too heavy!

At the start of this seminar, I colored the child in me RED. For it is a child that is bursting to get out...  and to live life to the fullest!!! #####

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