My principles in life – Breaking Barriers – The Borneo Post – 12 October, 2013

My principles in life
Posted on October 12, 2013, Saturday

LIFE is a great teacher, especially when one is down and out. Those times of struggling and looking for answers to the meaning of life have taught me many valuable lessons. I am still a student. I guess we all continue to learn until the day we breathe our last.

Tuesday will mark the 29th year that I am living with spinal cord injury. Along the way, I have accumulated wisdom from all over, some from reading books, some from observing people and a lot through personal experiences. These have now become the principles with which I deal with the vagaries of life.

First principle: It is all right to grieve. There is nothing wrong in showing our heartfelt emotions when facing an adversity like death or terminal illness in the family. Our first instinct invariably is to keep a strong face for our loved ones and vice versa. We take pains to suppress our feelings.

At some point in time, we will have to come to terms with the loss and the hurt. Crying during such episodes of great sadness lightens the burdens in both the heart and mind. Only God knows how many nights I cried myself to sleep after the death of my mother. The pain of losing her was unbearable. Cry I did. It was emotionally therapeutic and an effective part in the healing process for me.

Second principle: Live with no regrets. We should never let guilt dominate us. This is easier said than done. Really, there is no point in regretting past indiscretions. We cannot continue to live in remorse for situations that we can neither change nor are in control of. We should not allow it to fester and consume us from inside.

Things that have happened cannot be undone. Life is not like a video game. There is no replay button. We must move on. We must move forward. If we keep holding on to the past, we will have no free hand to touch the present and grab the future. Let the past be just that, the past.

Third principle: Live and learn. We make mistakes. We have failed one time or another. It is human to err. Mistakes and failures are good opportunities for learning and for us to become better. Those who do not learn are condemned to repeat the same mistakes again and again.

I have failed many times in my disability rights advocacy activities. With each failure, I know what does not work and move on to the next option. Success can only come when we have exhausted all possibilities that lead to failure.

Fourth principle: Persevere. Never give up. No matter how bad or hopeless the situation may seem, it will get better, eventually. It is true that every cloud has a silver lining. I learnt perseverance from my mother. She led a hard life. Even in the direst of circumstances, she never gave up. She worked hard and saved even harder to achieve her dream of becoming a tailor.

When I became paralysed and had to depend on her, she did her best to make sure that all my needs were taken care of. She stood by me even when all the odds were stacked against me. I am still here today because of that unwavering support.
Fifth principle: Be grateful. There is something to be thankful for every day. I have been fortunate to be blessed with people around me who are generous with their time, resources and support for my various endeavours.

I never expected to live this long after the spinal cord injury. The first person with a similar condition as mine whom I got acquainted with in the hospital succumbed after 13 years. That became the imaginary threshold of my lifespan. Thirteen years came and went and I was still alive! I treated every day beyond that as a bonus. It was a gift that I appreciated and tried to make the best of in whatever way possible.

Sixth principle: Expect the worse, hope for the best. This last principle sums up my attitude each time I go to the hospital. Although I know where my declining health is heading to, I am full of optimism each time I am in the clinic reviewing my condition with the doctor.

A scheduled blood test last month indicated that my renal failure has advanced. The nephrologist wants me to go through an orientation programme to prepare for the eventuality when I require haemodialysis in the near future. For now, I am even more thankful for each little bit of health that I have left.

The principles above form the basic framework on how I approach difficult situations that may come my way. Our life is what we make of it. We have a choice to be contented or be miserable. Instead of brooding over the problems, I choose to deal with them in positive ways. I choose to be happy. That is what matters most.

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Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.