This time last year were the saddest days we have experienced as a family. It was the time we lost the matriarch of our clan, our SuperMom, SuperWife, SuperLola, SuperAunt and friend to many. Yes, that was Mamang, Josefa Maquera Fres who joined her creator on March 27, 2017.
We could not complain because God gave her 87 meaningful years with a warning of three years when she was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014. But as they say, “No matter how old you get, you can never be totally ready for the death of a loved one.” I still cry whenever I really think about her.
Those three years
The last three years, from the time my mom was diagnosed with cancer until the time she was finally laid to rest, were years of roller coaster highs and lows. There were buckets of tears, followed by high hopes of recovery, only to be followed with sadness and fear as we saw our once-upon-a-time super strong mother who hardly got sick back in the day, lose a lot of weight, become very weak as she got in and out of the hospital.
And then again, those years also had a good number of milestone celebrations. On top of birthdays and graduations, we also celebrated five weddings, and Mamang was big on weddings. She loved weddings, that I must have inherited my love of weddings from her. Looking back, God must have given her three more years in order to celebrate these five weddings with us:
January 2015 – first wedding of my niece Kathleen (click link)
March 2015 – my sister Lina’s Silver Wedding (click link)
December 2015 – first wedding of my niece Peach
And finally, in February 2016 – my parents’ fifth and Diamond Wedding! (click link)
A year after Mamang’s death
To celebrate our matriarch’s first birthday in heaven, our family got together to hear a special mass.Then we had lunch in a restaurant, followed by swimming, talking, singing, more eating, all the way until dinner. Despite being sad without his beloved Pepay, whom he had been with every single day for over 60 years (they could not be apart for more than a few days in a row because Papang would get sick when they were apart), Pinong was very happy to be with all of us – his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to do at this point in his life and he answered, “I just want myself to be ready, to be as clean as I was when I first came to this world.” Years after his heart bypass, my father seems fine as he approaches his 90th birthday this year. I can say that he seems to be in a resurrection or Easter stage.
It was not only Papang who was happy, we were all happy to be together.
The above discussion reminds me of the importance of Emotional Agility, our ability to manage our thoughts and feelings; to be flexible or agile in managing our emotions as we live our lives. This is one of my recommended books written by psychologist Susan David, especially these days as we see a lot of depression happening to a lot of people, including young kids. David said, “Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.” She warns us about the new norm of moral correctness which is over-positivity. People with cancer are automatically told to just stay positive. Oppressed people are readily told to stop being angry and be positive. She finds this a tyranny of positivity, which is actually cruel, unkind and ineffective.
I totally agree with her. I was very happy to read her book last year because it gave a label to what I’ve been feeling and somewhat practicing all along. I remember when I was still a little girl, I would really run through my mind a negative thing that just happened to me a few times over until I got a bit numb to its negative effect on me. And then I move on. In fact, I consulted our school’s guidance counselor about it and she said that as long as it was working well for me, it was fine.
As I grew older, I noticed that if I overdid the rewind and replay of a negative event, I also got riled up, exhausted and angrier. But I still didn’t buy the automatic, “Think positive na lang lagi, no need to cry” advice. I really felt there was something wrong with it, pretty much like sweeping things under the rug.
I’ve always believed that facing and discussing the ugly and negative is an important step to “resurrection.” It’s like the passion before Easter. In fact, crying (and journaling) have been therapeutic to me and both really help in processing my emotions. Fortunately, being married to a positive person like Marvin taught me how to tweak my processing. I learned how to not overdo the rewinding and replaying and arguing. He said that inasmuch as he taught me that, I also taught him how not to bottle up his emotions in favor of peace, a peace which may sometimes become just superficial if the fundamental issues are left untackled.
Emotional Agility is accepting that life is packaged with fragility, sadness and anxiety together with happiness, triumphs and joy. It is our ability to:
- Show up to our emotions (both the good and the bad);
- Step out of our emotions to see them for what they are. The Atenean in me likes to use the term epoche (to distantiate from the situation);
- Walk our why which is essentially remembering our core values; and
- Move on which is making small, deliberate tweaks in our mindset and habits in order to align things with our core values.
Emotional Agility applied in Stock Investing
Somehow as I look at how the market (and its investors) are behaving before the Holy Week break, I cannot help but see the possible application of Emotional Agility to healthy investing in the stock market.
We all know that the stock market offers the highest return in the long run. (If you don’t, hey, where have you been? Please google Jeremy Siegel, author of Stocks for the Long Run and see for yourself his voluminous studies showing the evidence.) And yet, less than 1% in our country invests in it.
Here’s the parallelism. We should all know that life is packaged with both happiness and sadness and yet, here we are either over-brooding about sadness on one extreme, or over-prescribing positivity and over-seeking happiness on the other extreme. If one is too afraid of sadness and failure, chances are, he will never live life to the fullest. If one fails to understand the rightful places of happiness and sadness in one’s life, he will get depressed and check out from life.
In the same way, if one is too afraid of investment risk, he will never get good returns, as he will probably just leave his money in his savings account and time deposit, then suffer the consequences of his action (or inaction for that matter) of inflation eating up his savings’ purchasing power. On the other hand, if one is expecting the stock market to move up in a straight line because he has not accepted that it really moves up and down like crazy sometimes, he will get anxious at the first sight of paper loss and check out of the market in no time.
Over the last few days, the market has been in a rollercoaster ride. It treated us to an all time high index of 9,058.62 in January only to dive in the 7,800 levels these past few days. So what should the investor do?
Let’s try to apply the four steps of Emotional Agility:
- Show up to your investment emotions. It’s okay to have been very happy when the index shot up to 9,000 and you thought you were the next Warren Buffet. It’s also okay to feel like an idiot when you insisted on loading up at the peak and you’re pulling your hair right now. Acknowledge the feelings. They’re real.
- Step out of your emotions. The best way to do epoche or distantiate is to use my son’s advice – to zoom out the stock market graph. What appears as huge and painful volatility in the last few days will not matter if you put things in perspective – i.e. you will still need that amount invested in x number of years, anyway.
- Walk your why. This is remembering the purpose of your investment. What values were you trying to fulfill when you decided to make this investment. Was it your value for freedom, your goal of a decent retirement? Your baby’s college education?
- Move on. Now that you went through steps 1 to 3, try to tweak your habits towards your investing to suit your personality. If you’re the type who can be easily swayed, refrain from talking to your trader-friends who almost always just talk about their gains and keep quiet about their losses. Just have an automatic investment plan where you credit to your investment account automatically. To make it simpler, just invest in equity index funds and heed John Bogle’s advice, “Don’t peek, don’t peek, don’t peek!”
If you follow the above steps, I promise, you will have your Easter someday. After all the highs and lows and becoming emotionally agile in handling your investment feelings, you will one day say, “Alleluia! Thank God I persisted!”
Happy Easter everyone! Cheers to high FQ!
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Rose Fres Fausto is a speaker and author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom. She is a Behavioral Economist, Certified Gallup Strengths Coach and the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook & YouTube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.
ATTRIBUTIONS: Images from countryliving.com, getty images, ymchicago.org, macnamara.ca, wewhatsapp.com put together and used to to help deliver the message of the article.