On the day of her funeral, Margarita taught me something I will never forget. She was a great lady, one of those people, as Mother Teresa would say, who walk fast if they cannot run, who lean on a cane if they cannot walk fast, but who never stop.

Before going to her funeral, I was quite upset because, for the first time – after a few wonderful months in which I had finally learned to take my life lightly and everything flowed as a reflection of my state of inner grace – I had woken up sweaty and with a shrunken heart. A panic attack, I thought. I couldn’t stop thinking of the many setbacks that were going to complicate my day: the tiles that had to be laid on the bathroom floor, the water leak in the kitchen that had yet to be fixed, the cake I had to prepare for the bake sale at my daughter’s school… and a thousand other thoughts that swirled through my mind like a tornado. I jumped out of bed, went to the bathroom, and there it was, in front of me, reflected in the mirror: a small, new white spot of my vitiligo skin condition on the side of my right eye.

I was in a panic. For a long time, I had felt such a deep, inner wellbeing, that the vitiligo spots on my face had re-pigmented; so much so that there was only one tiny one left, on the side of my mouth. Soon, I would be able to give up the medical treatment… but my Grand Master had come back to remind me that I had strayed from my path. I had returned to old habits, disconnected from myself and created an internal imbalance that immediately manifested itself with a white spot on my face. My vanity was deeply hurt!

“Let’s see what you’re made of, Paola,” it seemed to be telling me. “Let’s see if you respond and regain your balance or if you end up tearing your hair out.” No need to say that I tore my hair out. After the first moments of despair, I decided to stop fighting. “It’s useless,” I thought, “to work on my wellbeing if, despite all my efforts, the first moment of weakness causes a relapse. It is not worth it, I can’t win.”

And this is where Margarita comes in. From the afterlife, her example immediately got me back in line. Her son reminded me of the fact that, two days before she died, knowing there was no hope, Margarita continued to do the exercises that her physiotherapist had given her to avoid muscle atrophy.

Thank you, dearest Granny, message received. The lessons we have to learn in life are always difficult and they manifest themselves in the way that’s most coherent with how we feel. It doesn’t matter if the manifestation in question is a headache, an economic setback, a serious illness or a simple white spot on the face. The important thing is that these signs are there for us to understand that the path we took is not right, that we have to change a few things, to turn our attention to others, to learn something: to love ourselves, to love others, to accept our body, to say “no” sometimes…

Only we ourselves can understand why a particular situation has recurred and what lesson we were meant to have learnt. The only way to do this is to listen to what the disease or situation has come back to tell us. When we do, we will finally stop pulling our hair out because of a white spot on our skin and, instead, say “Aha! I understand now. Thank you!” and adjust our attitude at once.

Let’s try a thousand times. Let’s fail a thousand times. Let’s get back on track a thousand times. And let’s be sure that, once we have learnt our lesson, we will recover faster and that issue will not come back again.

The right attitude, ALWAYS, is Margarita’s: we don’t know what the future holds and it really doesn’t matter. Let’s keep doing our physiotherapy exercise, even if they end up being useless. And then, like Margarita, we might inspire others in the art of living.


Cover photo by Fabrice Van Opdenbosch

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