Like my dream of becoming a writer, to finally hold this book in my hands and to be able to say with a fervor that, “I finally own a copy of this book!”, the journey was tough but it gives me an exquisite sense of fulfillment like no other.
I am not sure if it’s just me who had an elusive encounter of finding Like the Flowing River on the shelves, or if it is just rarely printed compared to other Paulo Coelho books. I’ve never seen a single copy of this book when I was still in the Philippines. I even heard a story from a friend that she knows a person who even flew to India just to have this book. And in the three years of my residence here in Doha, I never found one. This may sound of little importance in our world full of big issues such as poverty, malnutrition and abuse of power but to possess something that means so much to you, even if it is just a book makes it as important as any other ‘bigs’ of the world.
I started my more intentional search for this book about two years ago. At least every two weeks I would visit several bookstores in the main city to see if stocks have arrived. But I was discouraged many times by salesmen of these stores that the book rarely arrives in many countries, and that I will never find one here. I never had the chance to ask why this book is somehow ‘out of reach’ in some areas because I was too occupied with the mission of finding and owning one.
The last stint I had before I got this book was when I participated in the biggest book fair in Doha last January 22, 2022, where about a hundred publishers and booksellers (local and international) displayed thousands of books. I was hopeful that I would finally get to see this book but I ended up tired and frustrated after two hours of meticulously toiling on each booth because none of them sell it. I felt like a poor child who got deprived of savoring a fruity-flavored lollipop because I could not afford to buy one. Why is it so hard to get the things that we want? Why are the things that matter most to us are also the ones that require passion, hard work, and commitment?
My quest to own this book is similar to my quest of owning my personal legend (as what Paulo Coelho refers to our purpose in life) as a writer which was long and tough. How could a six-year-old girl who was so sure that she wants to be a writer spent her life convincing herself that writing is not for her because the voices around her said that engineering is good or owning a business is the only way to be rich and that people will admire me if I succeed? And why in the first place the world always tells us that the most important thing in life is to make money and to become someone who stands on a pedestal?
Because of these ill-fated world standards, my soul suffered long and severe. I acquired scars that are deep and I could not count them anymore. The sizes of scars vary, big and small, but all of them are deep and brought significant fears and traumas that shaped the first two decades of my life. These scars will be forever embedded in my soul and the path to healing and recovery is a high-risk and an expensive surgery of spiritual transformation and renewal. However, this does not mean that healing is impossible. Anything is possible.
In my quest of finding the elusive Like the Flowing River, I almost give up because it is tiring to live life chasing something that I believe is part of my soul but the world is persistent in convincing me that I don’t deserve to live my dreams in full. Perhaps, it is from one of the scars I acquired from the voices of old people who told me that before I honor my dream, which according to them is selfish, I should pursue a career that can give the whole family a stable shelter and food that can feed empty stomachs.
In the culture I grew up in, the ‘whole family’ includes your parents, siblings, nephews, and nieces. This also means that even before you start your own family, to have a spouse and own children, you are already buried in responsibility that never asked your permission if you are willing to accept it. You don’t have a choice because the rightful automatic response is to be a good person. If you choose the other way, if you prioritize your unpractical dream which happens to be your personal legend, the whole town will look at you from head to toe in disgust and disgrace for being selfish. If you don’t feed the people who fed you from birth and failed to give them a life better than they gave you in the past, you are a bad person and a failure — someone who has no sense of indebtedness to people who brought you where you are today.
This is one of the scars that led me to several attempts of denouncing my personal legend to become a writer. I got to believe that I don’t have any right to express my thoughts and soul in written words if I am not yet capable enough of providing my parents a concrete house with a soft mattress to sleep on, and lavish foods to satisfy both their stomachs and taste buds. The only way to face this scar and declare that it has no power to control my choices anymore is to be courageous.
To be courageous, you need to have scars from the harsh realities of the world first, because courage can only be awakened by fears and sufferings. In my case, I learned that I have to experience and endure long-suffering first and to be paralyzed by fears of being wrongly criticized to please the world before I saw the need to be courageous to get out of this trap. It is only through suffering in my soul that I can discern that there is misalignment between the true calling of my soul and how my physical body performs. I knew that I wanted to be a writer since I was six but I only write part-time. I never had the courage to be a person who writes consistently because writing is very hard and most of the time, writing does not always bring money for the ‘whole family’.
As I write this, it’s 3:30 AM here in Qatar and the weather is freezing. The quiet world of the universe woke me up and asked me to be courageous. At this time, for me, to be courageous is to show up, to switch on my laptop and write without reservations, to be just fully present in being a writer.
Like the Flowing River inspires me to get up and show up. Like any other books of Paulo Coelho, he wrote stories and collections to project his soul to the world without being greatly consumed by worry if people will accept his works or not. What a courageous man he is!
This book is a collection of short stories and personal reflections full of insights and wisdom. As I read one entry at a time, I will write and publish in this blog my personal take on each topic. It will serve as my partner in journaling how I perceive the world and how I manage to drive my life now as a free being.
So, I will start from here. One book entry at a time, I will courageously invest my time and energy in writing along with it. What a way to start writing this 2022