Perla Beltran Moraño
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Passages in life, though predictable, can be very unnerving. This I realized when I found myself widowed and approaching the twilight of my years. My retirement from my job made matters more complicated than I expected.

At 65, I retired as a public elementary school principal. With my retirement, I left behind the position that afforded me the singular honor of being the toast of my profession for having been adjudged one of the most outstanding public female elementary school principals of the country.

The position and the honor that went with it opened for me doors to countless opportunities to rub elbows with the best and the brightest in the world of academe and the high and the mighty in government. Aside from the intellectual stimulation and professional growth I derived from these exposures, I became wired with all the good, the true and the beautiful. This interconnectedness with people and events became beautiful moments in time touching lives and being equally touched and ennobled in the process.

My life, therefore, as a widow and retiree was a complete departure from what I was used to. Finding myself suddenly idle after 40 years of hectic work schedules as a teacher and as school administrator, and deprived of the companionship of a loving and doting husband, I felt I lost my sense of equilibrium. The thought of going through the remaining days of my life sans my better half was all the more traumatizing.

All the while, I thought I had amply prepared myself for the inevitable. I had meticulously laid out strategic plans to inject a semblance of normalcy to an otherwise hazy phase of life I was entering into. I then could not figure out why the basically self-contained and proactive person that I was would crumble like a cookie. Undoubtedly, my self-esteem was at its lowest ebb.

A thorough soul-searching led me to realize that dwelling on what I lacked day in and day out was an exercise in futility. I saw the necessity of re-engineering myself and doing some self-retooling to enable me to come up with coping mechanisms to face an entirely new chapter in my life. Indeed, there was wisdom in what my husband told me hours before he died: that I must move on, live life without him.

My initial step toward living life again was finding peace in nature through gardening. I found self-expression in transforming my garden into an oasis of greenery. The garden bug that bit me proved to be a potent antidote to the feeling of uselessness that engulfed me.

Aside from gardening, I busied myself through involvement in church activities. I taught Catechism which somehow partly quenched my thirst for intellectual stimulation and interaction.

Again, I tuned to an old love. I started again romancing with books to save my mind from becoming fossilized. They became my constant companions to while away the tedium of having an overload of vacant periods in my virtual classroom. They became proverbial friends offering tried and tested solutions to perplexing problems. One such book that has caught my fascination and taught me to break loose from my negative feelings is Pathfinders by Gail Sheehy, published by Bantam Books.

Gail Sheehy showcases in her book people who have undergone a lot of trials and tribulations but remained undaunted and came out victorious.

She spent four years of formidable research across America and Europe, zeroing in on men and women who encountered adversity but boldly and daringly broke out of a limiting mold to face a new life.

I learned through her book that crises of adult life come in many faces. They come in the form of predictable passages or unpredictable accidents but they can be overcome successfully.

At this juncture, I came to know that I was going through two predictable passages — the loss of a loved one four months before my retirement and my bowing out from public service sans the partner I had looked forward to being with in my old age.

Pathfinders  must have been heaven-sent. It opened my eyes, and helped me accept irreversible realities of life. It has become my point of reference to continue to strive to live a purposeful life as I go through the process of aging gracefully.

Featured in this book are the travails of the subjects of the author’s study which were willfully and frankly exposed to prove to the world that where there are pains, there are gains. Detailed narrations have been supplied to demonstrate how they ably addressed their problems and enabled them to experience the elusive state of well-being.

Reading the book has dramatically changed my perspective on facing retirement alone — that it is no time to dwell on the might-have-beens, nor should it be made as an excuse to be passive and watch the world go by. Instead it should be viewed as the psychological timing for self-replenishment, to become rejuvenated and experience a heightened zest for living.

I have come to terms with situations I cannot alter. I have fully accepted, for instance, the reality of having a vast accumulation of deep furrows above my brows and crow’s feet on my cheeks. Soon I would be groping in the dark and have to make do with whatever failing eyesight can conjure. All, these, however, are no barriers for creative dreaming. I still possess a keen and fertile imagination that can soar, and fly high.

Meanwhile, back in my garden, I count and savor the fragrance of the flowers in bloom, but the realization that old leaves do fall to give way to new ones is inescapable. I certainly anticipate that like an old leaf, time will come when I’ll fall, drift with the passing wind, and I’ll be seen no more. Nevertheless, I glory in the thought that somewhere in time, a new vigorous plant will sprout on the very node where I was once an integral part. Under the most favorable condition, a young stem will sprout, heralding the birth of a bud that will, in no time at all, metamorphose into a blooming beauty – an assertion to the truth that a plant blossoms where it is planted.

The poignantly described garden scenario is my motivation to go back to work as a part-time college and university professor. In such capacity, I am able to reach out to my students who are would-be teachers and nurses, and using the art of friendly persuasion, exhort them to stay put, serve our country and blossom in their native habitat.

Believe they must, because this writer at 74 is still in bloom.


Perla Beltran Morano is a retired elementary school principal.


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