Reflections on Living Peace by Alisi Waqainabete from Fiji
My personal battle for peace occurred when I was 19 and living in the outskirts of Suva. The biggest highlight of my childhood was the family I was born into. These are the people I worshipped: my sisters were my best friends and my parents were my heroes. Then I attended a boarding school and 4 years away from home had made them somewhat foreign to me. School vacations meant time together and my family are God fearing people and religion was our way of life.
When I graduated from high school and moved back to live with the family again, I started to question everything about our lives, the way we lived, who we worshipped, why we worshiped in a way different from my friends, why can’t I go out like my friends. This was the period I started to lose focus on school, discovered the overpowering control of cigarettes and drugs, started to binge drink as if my soul was suddenly so empty. I remembered afternoons with my father, they were never good. He obviously made it clear to me that I was a consistent disappointment. I had considered running away couple of times. My mother wasn’t the person I thought she was either, she would restrict me from going anywhere, talking to boys or having to do anything fun. And this continued for 2 years straight. My grandmother had moved in with us as that timeshe was too old and too sick to live on her own. She could barely walk, but she was a woman with a great spirit and was always the best part of a good afternoon tea session. Despite my very aggressive attitude towards life and church, she was the peaceful part of my life that no one knew of.
I came home one late afternoon exhausted, intoxicated and blankly walked past her room without a word. She called out to me, startled I stopped, she said,” You only get one life”. I brushed off her words as if I heard nothing. The next day, I was famished and made my way to the kitchen. Her face greeted me warmly at the kitchen table. I didn’t pay any attention to her and continued. She said, ”Have you ever told them that you feel left out sometimes?”. I stopped eating instantly. My heart sank to the bottom of that cup of tea. I stared deeply into her eyes as she said, “maybe it’s because you’re the middle- child that you’ve always felt like you weren’t loved.” For the first time I felt someone knew and understood how I felt. That was exactly how I felt. I felt like I always had to prove my worth to my parents, I felt that nothing I ever did was right. I’ve felt like my opinions didn’t deserve to be heard. Her eyes drenched in tears, she looked at me and said, “I know how you feel, I was brought up with my father’s new family and it was very hard to feel like I was part of his family”. “It’ll get better”, she said. “Stop trying, believe in yourself and don’t forget that when you’re restricted from doing something, this is said to you out of love, never out of spite. You’re blessed to have been raised in a family like yours, where you never run out of love. Some children have no-one to tell them what to do and keep them safe. Cherish that.”
Over the next two months I grew closer and closer to her. And on a late May lunch, she passed away. My post- grandma loss shut me down completely. I started to forget to eat, I cried more than I ever did before and I began to lock myself in my room. On a particular late afternoon, the loud knocking from my elder sister woke me up. I opened the door and she found me crying. She asked, “what’s wrong?” and I replied “I just miss her, that’s all.” She came closer to hug me and said, “Dad wanted me to tell you something, he said, “Tell Alisi that we love her very much”” As I closed the door behind me, my heart and body felt peace.
As I picked up the pieces of me that were shattered over the years, I began to discover a relationship with my parents and family that I had thought unattainable. I began to trust the woman I called mother and understood that her intentions have always been noble and I began to see a lot of my grandmother in her. My sisters became my best friends again and we became inseparable . And the one man I knew and called father became my stronghold support in all of my success stories. My father stood by me on my 21st birthday, encouraged me when studies got a little too hard to understand, and he reminded me that every fall in my life will make me stronger. He taught me independence and showed me the act of altruism and the beauty in social work. My father also taught me compassion which I believe would not have been possible if it weren’t for the women who helped me see that. I have never failed to mention my family in all of my achievements because of the personal battles I faced with them. Vasiti Marawa Konakasaleka Delai will always be the women that enlightened me with a new and ideal perspective of self forgiveness and endurance.
My personal battle in those dark days seemed consuming and unbearable. I believe that young women who are going through dark days of neglect and depression can overcome their problems if they see past the pain and understand that how you feel about yourself is what you allow yourself to feel. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and forgive those around you, (whether “sorry” was uttered or not, whether they apologized or they didn’t). The concept of healing for me meant to remember the kindness others showed - the way one person did to me. Even though she no longer knows of my achievements and accomplishments, every moment I discover a new capability, I remember the women that believed in me. For me, Peace is alive only when you use it to educate or awaken another being to use it, not just know of it. Daily peace for me means daily forgiveness, it means letting go of things I can’t control, forgiving myself for my shortcomings and others around me for theirs. It is not an easy task to tackle every day, but every day I try and every day I do (better) my best. Peace for me means my peace first.