Day 6: Read books if you want to write a book

If you tell me that you want to write a book, probably the first question I will ask you is not, "What kind of book are you writing?" but rather, "So who are your favorite authors and what are your favorite books?" 

If you cannot answer this, I will probably doubt your desire and capability to write a book. Because in order to give life to words and stories and ideas, you need to have a love of words and stories and ideas. It is but logical that in order to write a really good book, you must have read a lot of books, both good ones and bad ones. You should have been a voracious reader and also you plan to read even more books in the future.

But apparently, there are a lot of wanna-be writers who can't be bothered to pick up a book every once in a while. If you're one of those, it's probably a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself why you want to write in the first place.

Do you want to be the next J.K Rowling? Well, the best-selling author herself said, "Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on."

Do you want to be as prolific as Stephen King? He said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Do you want your books to turn into movies like John Green? (maybe you should write scripts then) He was quoted as saying, "This is what I love about novels - both reading them and writing them. They jump into the abyss to be with you where you are."

There is probably not one famous author who will tell you that they don't love reading. And so probably one of the most important things you can do to get started on your writing journey is to get back to reading if you've fallen behind or to continue reading as you're writing. 

"What if I don't have the time to read?" I'm glad you asked because I actually wrote a post to help you with that problem. Click here

But the important thing to remember is you need to have a love of books or the written word and the act of reading itself in order to become a good and better writer. 

And so on this day, when my brain was not functional enough to write a thousand words, I will read in order to be inspired to write two thousand tomorrow. 

 

 

 

Day 4: Always be curious

One of the things that stuck with me the most from our #WriteAwayPH writer's retreat is that instead of harping on and on about passion, we should actually be more interested in chasing curiosity. Samantha Sotto mentioned it during her session on creativity, and it is also something that Elizabeth Gilbert touched on in her amazing book Big Magic.

Don't get me wrong. Being passionate about something is a great thing. However, it will eventually die down and then show up in spurts. But if you live a life of constant curiosity about the people around you, the stories they tell and the lives they live, the things that you don't understand but are interested in, the places you've never been to but dream of going someday, everything that is beyond yourself, then you will live a life that is far more interesting than just being passionate about something. 

Trying to understand yourself, examining your thoughts and motives, and learning to love yourself are all important things. But what I'm learning is that in order for you to live a more connected life, you, of course, have to go beyond just yourself.

Listen to people.

Ask questions.

Google.

Observe.

Research.

Study and learn.

Travel beyond the four corners of your world.

Always be curious.

And if you have the gift of telling stories, whether it's through writing, music, art, or whatever form or platform you want to use, go and tell those stories. Some people do not have the capacity or the means or to voice to share their stories, so maybe you can speak for them. Or maybe you have the gift of teaching them to be empowered to tell their own stories or to find their voice. Or you can do both.

But the important lesson today is, chase curiosity above passion and you will have more stories to tell. 

 

 

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Day 3: Writing is a joy and a struggle

Lest you get the idea that writing is always romantic and idyllic, it is also sometimes a struggle.

Aside from the fact that I have a day job and another job on the side (both of which actually involve a lot of writing), there are also too many distractions around me. Or rather, I am easily distracted. I have my books, my TV shows, my movies, my journaling and scrapbooking, my friends, and of course, the ultimate distractions of all, Facebook and Instagram. While these things do help me become a better writer, they will not essentially finish my book for me.

And while there is a certain joy when I finally do get myself in front of my laptop or on my notebook and actually write, the journey to actually get me there can sometimes be more difficult than actually writing it.

"Why do I even bother trying to finish this, no one's gonna read it anyway? Wouldn't I be much more productive by doing something else? No one cares whether I finish a book, let alone two books! You don't have anything new to say! Some people do it better, so just let them write their books and you do your job by reading them."

Those are just some of the voices in my head that I have to face every time I try to write. But what I learned these past few weeks is that instead of pushing these voices down, you can actually face them and listen to them and answer them. As Aueee suggested during #WriteAwayPH, invite your inner critic to coffee and you'll realize she's not that scary once you get to face her. 

There are days when those voices will win. And I think we just have to embrace that struggle, and understand that it is part of the writing process. Otherwise, if it were really that easy, then all writers would probably be churning out buttloads of books. 

So I say, welcome the happiness and the struggle that comes with being a writer. And as always, be kind to yourself. 

 

 

Day 2: My first 1,000 words and setting appointments

My friends are always amazed at how I can still fit in watching a ton of TV shows and devouring books despite the fact that I work practically 10 hours every day. I'm amazed too sometimes. So lack of time should not be my excuse for not being able to write for my personal book projects. It really is a matter of prioritizing it above other pursuits or distractions for a certain period of time.

One of the lingering lessons I learned from my recent WriteAwayPH writers' retreat is that we need to set appointments with our writer selves and that we need to keep these appointments no matter what. So I gave myself a couple of weeks after the retreat to get my mind and my desk and a few things in order before I officially start my daily appointment.

I'm just on Day 2 and so far, so good. I've written 1,000 words during my first official appointment. And I've blogged for two days straight! I'm dreading the days when I have so much to do everywhere else that I just might cancel on myself. But another lesson I'm learning is that I should be kind to myself during those days when I will fall short. And I know I will.

But here are a few tips that I've been learning about this "writer's appointment"

  • Figure out what time of the day your brain is at its best and carve out your schedule around that time.
  • Schedule at least an hour a day where you will do nothing but write. If you're a freelancer, you can actually do more. If you have a full-time job, schedule it before or after work or during your lunch break. If you can't do one hour straight, do 30 minutes in the morning then 30 minutes in the evening.
  • Set a reminder on your phone or add it to your calendar. And as much as possible, don't schedule anything around that time. 
  • As much as possible, turn off any form of Internet when you're writing. Do your research some other time. In that one hour or 30 minutes, you will do nothing but write.
  • Give yourself tiny rewards whenever you complete a certain number of words that you're targetting. It can be a tiny piece of chocolate, a few chapters of a book that you want to read, or a nice pen you've been eyeing. 
  • If you do miss an appointment, you can either make up for it during the weekend or when you have "extra" time during weekdays. But as I said, be kind to yourself.
  • Don't treat this appointment as a chore you have to do, but rather as a fun task that you really want to do or as your "freedom time" if your day job is actually something really far from writing. As Elizabeth Gilbert said, be a trickster, not a martyr. 

So are you ready to set that appointment with your writer self?

 

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Day 1: Start with a clean slate (kinda literally)

I have never been the neatest and tidiest person. I may be good at organizing stuff but my work area and my room are messes, as my officemates and my mom have wirnessed daily. But my "there's order in my chaos" excuse cannot last forever. And I know that in order for me to properly work on my #NaNoWriMo17 goals and my two book projects, I need to have an actual clean area. 

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And so I spent my first day of the month just cleaning up this mess of a desk and trying to put some sense of order physically so that mentally I will also be able to focus on my main goals for this month, which is to make progress on those two books I promised myself I would finish by next year.  

And lo and behold, I actually finally saw my desk! And cleaning it up really did clear the cobwebs from my mind. And so now I feel like I am ready to actually write some words down. 

Some tips when setting up your writing area at home.

  • Choose a place where you're comfortable in. You'll hopefully be spending several minutes or hours a day so it should be somewhere where you are both relaxed and alert.
  • Don't write in a place where you'll be tempted to sleep or turn on the TV or chat with a family member. Remember, your writing time and space are sacred and so you should honor that.
  • Do surround yourself with things that will inspire you. I don't know what that looks like for you, but for me, it's my favorite books, pens and notebooks (old and new), postcards, stickers, etc.
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I also kind of gave up on my plan to go minimalist because I realized I really can't work if I don't have things surrounding me. So maybe that's another challenge for another year. 

For now, let's just focus on #ProjectStoryAMonth and #ProjectGetOutOfBed, my two book projects which I will be working on over the next few months.

What It Means to Love (an excerpt from Found because I still cannot express what I feel)

I was supposed to write about the pains and joys of unrequited love, about what it means to hurt and still want the best for the one who hurt you, of giving up on love altogether, about moving on for the nth time, but I find myself still unable to fully express and verbalize what all of these things mean to me.

 Shirt designed by my friend Liee as fundraising for her Dad's surgery and post-op expenses. Click  here  and see her other designs and shirts

Shirt designed by my friend Liee as fundraising for her Dad's surgery and post-op expenses. Click here and see her other designs and shirts

 

And so, i will just leave you with an excerpt from one of my favorite books written by one of my favorite people. 

What It Means to Love

(from Found: Letters on Love, Life, and God by Isa Garcia)

To the girl holding her fingers tightly shut,

The word “belong” finds its roots in the Old English word, “langian,” which means, “to pertain to, to go along with.” While I’ve always loved the word “belong,” I think I’ve been using it wrong for years. Somewhere along the way, “belong” has made its bed with the idea of ownership and property. To belong is to say “Mine.” So when I’d talk about belonging to people, my default mode would be that of self-entitlement. Mine, mine, mine!

But to go along with someone looks vastly different from ownership. “To go along with” means to walk beside them. It does not mean to entwine. It means to leave enough space for them to walk away if they have to, or want to, or have no other choice but to. To go along with someone means to choose to be with them, while harboring the knowledge that roads diverge and seasons change and that the story won’t look the same forever.

Ownership ties a person too tightly to you. But to go along with someone is to celebrate what we have with the people we love. Going along with someone is to know that to share love — no matter how brief or how long the moment — is always a privilege. The space we get to love somebody is always just enough.

To “belong” is to say “I want to walk with you for as long as I can” and to savor everything, even the unspectacular moments, because people can never be owned. They can only ever be loved.

With love, The girl who has learned to hold loosely

 

Where do broken hearts go?

(Written last December 2004, on a Starbucks table napkin)

Where do broken hearts go?

A question I jokingly posed to KJ a few minutes ago, while sitting here at Starbucks Rockwell.

A question I seriously asked myself after being left with nothing but a bleeding heart more than a year ago

A question women (and yes, men) have constantly asked after getting their hearts broken (sometimes over and over)

A question that Whitney Houston asked us during the 90s

A question that can have a million answers

A question that can never have a single answer

A question that maybe needs no answers

 

The important thing is: They heal.

It may take a week or a hundred years, but it will.

The ultimate question is: do you want it to heal?

If yes, then place all the broken pieces into the Hands that promised to put it back together. Don’t even think of keeping even one, teeny tiny piece. That tiny piece will come back to prick you someday.

If no, then enjoy your misery. I heard it loves company.

 

The days are dark but there is hope.

I was thinking of the lessons that I have learned from Him and from His Word this year. And while there are personal lessons that I have learned, this I think is most important.

 

"This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!" Jeremiah 22:3 (NLT)

 

My prayer for all of us, whether you believe in God or not, is that in 2017, we will seek to be more fair-minded and just. And that we will fight for those who cannot fight. Whether it is actually being in the frontlines through government and non-government work, doing your part to bring attention to those marginalized people and issues, telling the stories that need to be told, doing your own kind of art whether it's movies, writing, visual art, music, etc to talk about issues that are dear to you, or even just opening your eyes and mind to things that you don't understand or don't know much about and then figuring out what it is that you can do in your own small or big way.

 

And if you believe in the power of prayer and the power of God, to pray about these things constantly, to seek God and see what it is you can do to ease the suffering of those around you without any agenda whatsoever except to love as He has loved you, to be gracious and forgiving to the people whom you do not agree, but also to stand up for what is right and what you believe in but with love and grace.

 

And take care of yourself as well. While we try to look outwards more and see things beyond ourselves, you also need to examine yourself every once in a while. To seek help if you're depressed and you don't understand what's happening with you, to seek joy when you're in the darkest of places, to hold someone's hand when you need someone to just be there for you, to accept that you are not perfect and that you are a work in progress, that you need not be frustrated that the work may be taking a bit longer, that you are being changed from glory to glory.

 

Things are bleak, the days are dark, but there is still that small spark of hope that we can see in the things and people around us, if only you know where to look for them.

 

Thank you for the sometimes painful lessons of 2016.

We look forward to see what 2017 will bring and what we can do to make sure that this year will be better.

The Invisible Girl

I've always struggled with being invisible.

No, i don't have a superpower, but it seems that I've been rendered unseen by some forces stronger than myself. Even when I was a teenager, in my 20s, and now in my 30s, I've always felt that it was hard for people to see me. Okay, my height has something to do with it probably.

But seriously...

I feel like people forget me when introduced the first time. And then when we meet for the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th time, they will introduce themselves to me as if it's the first time they've met me. And it's awkward coz I always remember people.

In a big group, when I am with them the first time, people rarely pay any attention to me. Even my friends forget to introduce me because they assume I can just introduce myself and that I can get along with everyone else. However, I am not built like that, really. I don’t have the courage to talk to people who don’t talk to me first, and so I just end up not saying anything. And then when I do say something, people tend to look at me like “Oh, you’re there. Who are you?”

Just last week someone told me “You go to _______? How come I haven’t seen you there before?” And I have been going to that place for the past two months almost every Sunday. And I even sat at the same table as the person.

So yeah, invisible.

And for the longest time, there are voices (yes more than one) in my head telling me “You’re nothing. You’re not worth knowing. You’re not important enough. You’re not interesting enough.” And for the longest time, I’ve listened to those voices. I believed them. And I sunk in despair thinking that I am truly invisible and the world cannot see me for who I believe I am.

But over the years, in my struggle with this I have come to understand some things.

First, and probably most importantly, my worth should be found in my Savior. He has bought me with His blood and so I am hidden in Him. If you don’t believe in God or Christ, you probably will not understand and I will not try to explain to you in a few sentences. But really, it has changed my life, knowing that He cares for me and that my worth is not to be found in anything or anyone else but Him. But it’s something I have to believe every day. There are days when I don’t actually believe it. But faith is the thing that binds me to it.

Second, it is enough that the people who are important to you and the people you love most are the ones who see you. Not everyone will appreciate you. Not everyone will find you interesting. Not everyone will make an effort to get to know you. But those who really matter, those who really care, they’re the ones that see you. And that should be enough. In fact, it should be precious. The fact that people you love see you, in all your glory and in all your ugliness and in all your authenticity, and still love you no matter what, that should be enough.

Third, do no believe the lies that the voices are telling you. I have to believe that I am a person worth knowing. That I have stories to tell. That I can listen to other people’s stories. That I am worth knowing and that the people around me are worth knowing. And that I am awesome. Not proud awesome, but awesome awesome because my God is awesome and I am called to be awesome. Awesome right?

Fourth, do not let anyone feel invisible too. Because you know how difficult it is to be noticed, you should be more sensitive to new people that you meet, or even to your own friends who you think may be struggling with things too. Be genuinely interested in the people that you meet and not just be all about you all the time. Listen. Ask questions. Get to know them. I'm a firm believer in the fact that you'll always learn something new from the people around you.

Lastly, I should not be afraid to make myself be seen. I should not fade into the darkness because that is where all the bad voices come alive. I should go into the light and show who I am, what I’m passionate about, why am I worth listening to. And if I feel that I should become a better version of myself, then I should go do things. Make art. Write stories. Play sports. Discover and talk about the things I’m passionate about. Go on missions and outreaches. Champion a cause. But do not do these things because you want to be cool or you want to be noticed by the cool people. Do them because they’re your small (or big) part to contribute to this world that is in dire need of art and passion and light and love.

It is not easy, this trying to be seen thing, this lifting yourself up from the mire of self-doubt and figurative self-immolation, this trying to find your worth and your passion, this discovering yourself and bettering yourself process. It is bloody and messy at times. And sometimes you just want to disappear into the void, because it is much easier (even though it is also very painful)

But we carry on. It is what we are called to do. It is who we are meant to be. Every day, you wake up and you carry on, with the love of the people around you, by loving the people around you, and by His grace and love. Carry on.

Be un-invisible.

 

 

 

 

Here I am, world

Here I am, world!

I don't know what to do with you yet.
I don't know what part I'm supposed to play yet. 
I don't know how I can make myself seen and heard yet.
I don't know how to make yourself feel better yet.
I don't know if I can even make you better yet.

And yet...
I know I am made for something more than just this.
I know I am made not to hide and shrivel in a corner.
I know I have to fight for what I believe is right. 
I know I have to hold the hands of those that are overwhelmed.
I know I have to sing for those who don't know how to sing.
I know I have to scream without bringing the world down.
I know I have to gently but firmly make my mark.

I just don't know how yet.
But wait for me, world. Wait for me. 

 

And yet, sometimes I do

I should not awaken that which should not be awakened.

I should not fan the flames of that which should not be on fire.

I should not be wishing for things that have no business of being wished for.

I should not long for things that cannot be longed for.

I should not dream that which has no place in my life.

And yet, sometimes, I do. 

I awaken. I fan. I wish. I long. I dream. 

Even if the pain of unrequitedness may make me double over and throw up and despair.

I cannot help myself. 

The mirror

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? 

...a wounded shadow that refuses to look back for fear of what it will see? 

...eyes that look longingly at what's just beyond the edge of the mirror? 

...lips that ache to whisper what's really inside but scared that once it passes them it will come true? 

...hands that are reaching out to touch and caress the air, dreaming that there's something solid to actually touch and caress? 

...a nose that's afraid to breathe in the elusive scent that it has smelled all its life but now feels cloying and suffocating? 

...a face that seems as familiar as life but at times feels like a stranger trying to crawl out of the mirror and threatening to take over your life? 

 

Do you dare to look straight at the mirror and see yourself as you really are?

Or would you like to paint over the cracks and the blemishes and the freckles and the uneven features first?

Or do you stare and stare and stare until you see what you actually want to see? 

Or do you refuse to look until eventually you disappear? 

 

I dare you to look at the mirror. 

Then tell me what you see.  

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On celebrating birthdays past the age of 30

 

 

Yes, I admit and I’m proud of it. I’m turning 37 in a few days. And one thing I’ve learned when I started “celebrating” in the line of 3 is that you should not expect surprise parties, endless gifts, or basically anything special prepared by other people for you on your supposedly special day.

Yes, you’ll get endless greetings on Facebook and Twitter from people who took a few seconds out of their time to spell Happy Birthday or HBD (which i never get, but still appreciated nonetheless)

Yes, the people you live with who can stay awake by the stroke of midnight will probably greet you and tease you that you’re old and that maybe you should jump at 12MN so you can become taller (always did, never worked. trust me)

Yes, you’ll get the occasional sweet message or special gift, but it’s not like when you were 7 or even 12 when you cannot sleep coz it’s just like Christmas morning all over again when you open presents that were bought just for you

Yes, you’ll get a little weepy and emotional and introspective a few days or hours before you turn another year older (which is not always a bad thing. unless you’re always weepy and emotional and introspective the other 364 days of the year)

But one thing I’ve learned for the past four years is that, if you want your day to be special, you have to make it special. Do not put the “burden” of making it extraordinary on other people. You yourself have to make sure that what you do on your special day is what you really want to do.

 

Invite the people dearest to you to a quiet dinner.

Throw yourself a kiddie bash at Jollibee coz you never had a kiddie party there.

Go and travel to a beach alone, without bringing any gadget or form of communication (uhm, just make sure you let someone know where you’re going, in case there’s an emergency) - I'M DOING IT THIS YEAR (well, sort of)

Pick a favorite book, go to a coffee shop where no one knows you and read all day

Gather all your crazy friends and do a rockeoke, broadway-eoke, One Direction-eoke, Aerosmith-eoke or whatever it is you want to eoke

Stay in bed the whole day and catch up on that sleep that you’ve been missing

Start the first chapter of that great novel you’ve been planning to write

Make yourself feel better (and crazy) by replying the whole day to everyone who greets you

Start a new, yearly tradition

Do something you’ve never done before

Reconcile with that person you’ve been meaning to say sorry to or forgive

Visit a museum

Spend all day immersed in God’s Word

 

The possibilities are endless…you can do whatever you want to on your day. You have a free pass to be as crazy or as ordinary or as extraordinary as you want to be. Just make it count. It’s not everyday you turn _____ right?

On the strength of women

One thing that will always amaze and fascinate me is the depth of strength of some of the women I personally know.

There are those who have been badly hurt by the men in their lives (some over and over and over) but have managed to come out of it even stronger, full of grace, and still willing to even give love a chance, if it comes their way.

There are those who have been betrayed by the women in their lives and who still manage to speak forgiveness and in time, repair the broken relationships.

There are those who have chosen to raise their child or children on their own for one reason or another and who have become both father and mother to them. And the kids lack nothing and are sometimes even richer because of their circumstance. 

There are those who are still in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty but who still choose to become a good friend to those who need a shoulder to cry on,instead of moaning about her own troubles.

There are those who choose to give up a convenient life and fight for those who are victims of the injustice of this world, trying to make the world a better place one step at a time.

There are those whose faith goes beyond just going to church on Sundays or conforming to what a "good, Christian woman" is. They are living lives that make people look at them and say, "I see Christ in her life and I would like to know Christ better because of what I see in her." 

When I am in the presence of these women,I am humbled and I am blessed to know them and to call some of them my friends. And I remember their strength and example when I am suffering in my own world of pain. 

You are there

 

 

When my rebellious heart wants to run away once again, You are there

When I am in the midst of my chaotic thoughts and unruly emotions that seesaw endlessly, You are there

When I praise You in one breath and then rail at Your perceived injustices the next, You are there

When I am seemingly too numb to feel any sort of emotion towards You, You are there

When my intellect cannot accept that everything is and should be about You, You are there

When I am on an emotional high and then suddenly fall flat on my face, You are there

When all I want to do is hide my thoughts from You, You are there

When my confusion and indifference are all mixed up in my head, You are there

When I feel unloved, insecure, inadequate and unworthy for no reason at all, You are there

When my darkest thoughts threaten to wipe out all sense of joy and love in me, You are there

When I wait in silence, with hope, desperation and longing, You are there

Always you are there. In the light and in the dark. Waiting for me, waiting with me, waiting on me

And so I continue to wait on You with eyes of faith

Do what You will

“God sees through your heart.”

Should be comforting words right? But these words fill me with dread and trepidation and unease and discomfort. Because if He could see the real me, then He would turn away in disgust. Strip away all the layers of pretension, of trying to make myself look good, of pretending I’m okay, and all you have left is a flawed, messed up, and yes, oftentimes evil soul. Who would not turn away from that?

But wonder of wonders, He did not. He could really see through me and He loves every fiber of my being. Not because I’m particularly lovable underneath all that. But because He chose to do so. Because He sees me through the Blood of His Son who died in my place. Because He is God. Because He sees through me, beyond even that layer of evil that is underneath the heart I choose to present to the world. And He sees His creation

And that still brings a bit of dread and comfort all at the same time. Because then it means it’s no use trying to fool Him into thinking I’m all that. Because I’m definitely not, no matter how much I desperately try to trick others into thinking I have it together.

But it’s in the admission that I am nothing special, in the acceptance that I will never be enough, then comes surrender; surrendering myself into becoming the person that He is trying to make me into. It’s not true that He does not take into consideration the desires of my heart. If I am truly becoming attuned to Him, then my heart starts becoming more like His. And my desires become not my own, but His.

This will not come overnight. Heck, I don’t think this will even come in 10 years. Or 20. Or 30. And it won’t be pretty. In fact, it might bring more pain, heartache and might literally cause me my earthly life. But I will be transformed. He will transform me. And the reward? Him. Even if it’s only Him in the end, it should all be worth it. And even while I’m saying and typing this, there’s a struggle in me, rejecting the idea that there should be more than just Him. But we all know that at the end of it all, we will know and understand that He really is our just reward.

So here I am. Do what You will, even if I rebel and struggle against that will, do what You will.

 

Love through affirmation

Originally written in 2014

Man lives by affirmation even more than he does by bread.
— Victor Hugo

The other day, I had to make three FB posts for three friends who were celebrating their birthdays on the same day. I always find it nice whenever I have to write even just a few lines about people I love, just to let them know how wonderful they are and to let other people see why they are awesome.

And then it dawned on me that I (or we, actually)  rarely do that anymore. I can wax enthusiastic about all my favorite pop culture things of the moment, but it only takes a friend’s birthday to make me eloquent about all the things I love about them. Is it easier for me to express my feelings about some fictional character rather than tell actual people that I think they’re awesome, even if there is no actual occasion? And worse, it’s much more common to complain about why so and so people are acting like this and that, rather than talk about why I am grateful for a certain person in my life.

I am speaking from experience when I say that even during my lousiest days, even just one word of appreciation or affirmation from a loved one, a friend or even just an acquaintance can immediately save my day.  You never know when one text, email, FB message or a more public FB post or tweet, saying something wonderful about your brother or sister or classmate or officemate can actually be the very thing that they need right at that moment.  And you’ve also read stories about how an unexpected word of praise actually meant saving the life of a suicidal person.

So I’m challenging myself, and you, if you feel inclined to do so, to speak private and public words of affirmation every once in a while. Or if at this very moment, you feel that you need to say thank you to a person even if he or she hasn’t done anything for you at that particular time, don’t squash that instinct; just do it. And remember, affirmation is not just for what someone has done for you or for others; it is also simply an expression of appreciation for someone just for who he or she is.



Only for a moment

*written 6 years ago and yet the memory is still vivid enough

 

I can still see it so clearly in my head, it’s scary and funny and peaceful all at the same time.

I rush home to work after another challenging day reading and writing about books. I open the door, take a deep breath, ready for the chaos that will greet me

Then I see him sitting in his favorite chair, reading a book as always. He looks up, smiles, then goes back to his book while asking me the usual “how was your day?” questions

I am not offended, coz that’s how he has always been and that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him

I sit beside him, put my feet on his lap and he absent mindedly starts rubbing them, knowing how I need it everyday

I remind him that I have to wake up at 2AM because Liverpool has a game, and he smirks and snickers, “Gads, you’re such a geek!”. This coming from the man who has read Lord of the Rings a hundred times.

Then I hear the sound of small feet on the stairs and I brace myself for a hug attack

“Maaaaaammmeeeee!!!”

A 4 year old bundle of joy rushes into my arms and peppers me with her never-ending questions, never waiting for answers, just needing to get the words out of her preternaturally curious head

“’Do we really have to take a nap in the afternoon to grow taller? Didn’t you take naps when you were a kid? Why do I have to wait til I’m 6 to go to a real school? If we don’t believe in Santa Claus but others kid believe in him, will he become real someday? Why does my playmate not have a TV in his house? How will he know what will happen to Dora next? How come all kids have to eat their veggies but you don’t have to?”

I inhale her lemongrass scent and try to make sense of her questions, but I know I never will be able to answer them all to her satisfaction. And so I just breathe her in

He reminds me that maybe it’s time to eat already. But wait, I have to check my email and my tumblr and tweet all the new questions that our lovely-but-suddenly-becoming-rambunctious-due-to-chocolates-she-consumed daughter

Okay, so he then reluctantly leaves his book and drags her to the kitchen while reminding me, “15 minutes only please”. My heart swells because I prayed for someone who totally gets me. He does totally get me. Most of the time at least.

As I hear the rattling of the plates and spoons and forks, I wonder how I became so blessed. And then I tweet that exact sentence.

As we sit down the table, I smell the coffee brewing in the background and I listen to her incessant chatter and watch him lovingly look at her. My fork falls to the floor and I automatically pick it up.

When I get up, I realize that the table is empty. The room is filled with me, my coffee, my thoughts. No one else

And my heart breaks just a little for me and the family that lived in my head for those few minutes.

And then I remembered that this is the path I have chosen. And I smile because I remember too that I am happy for the silence and the peace that comes with it.

They lived but only for a moment. There was a twinge, but only for a moment. And in that moment, like all the times before, I cried out to God. And He heard me and gave me the peace that surpasses understanding.


There Was This Guy

(Something I wrote back in 2009)

 

I forgot which TV show or movie it was that had a character whose stories always start with “There was this girl”…

When we were in Boracay a few weeks ago and I was bonding with an officemate, I realized that most of my stories start with “There was this guy….”

And so I had to relive all of my past failures when it came to this stupid thing called love

How I had a playlist for each and every boy that I ever liked (and yes, pre-mp3 days, I had mixed tapes)

How, statistically, 60% of the guys I loved ended up with my bestest friends

How, when I look back on all the guys I ever liked or loved, I cringe to death (with one exception, and he knows who he is)

How, statistically, 100% of all the relationships that I had and even the non-existent ones (meaning, that those that occurred only in my head/imagination/dreams) ended up in nauseating heartbreak

How I always let my heart take over my head each and every time

How I swore to never fall in love again, then a few weeks later, I am head over heels over someone inappropriate or unreachable or just someone who doesn’t know I exist

How I regularly drunk dialed my best friend in Japan and just ranted about how stupid guys are and ended up paying a fortune in cellphone bills

How unrequited love became synonymous to my name

How I have now finally arrived to the conclusion that I do not want to get married and that relationships are probably the one thing that will continually elude me and that maybe, just maybe, I am okay with that

And I know that in a few months, when I meet you for coffee somwhere, my story will probably start with “So there was this guy…”

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The pains and joys of baring your soul

 Photo by Jon De Vera

Photo by Jon De Vera

 

On a clear day on January, I had to do one of the most difficult things I've done in recent years: I came face to face with myself and with my God, and finally admitted things I hated about myself, how much I hated myself, why I hated myself and how that was robbing me of joy. If I was younger, there would have been tears, recrimination and even more pain. But now there weren't any tears but it doesn't mean there wasn't any less pain.  

But then God led me to take another step and that is to share a bit of what I was going through with  other people by writing about it and also by speaking about it in front of people I know, people I don't know that much, and people who knew me well. Not to gain sympathy or gather compliments (although the reassurances I got afterwards were always welcome and a balm to the soul), but to maybe let someone know who is going through the same thing that they are not alone. And believe me, it is a comfort to realize that what you're feeling doesn't make you weird or evil or hopeless case. Because sometimes, we are on a journey together, and to know that even if you are taking different paths, but knowing that there is someone out there going through similar things, helps a lot.

But baring your soul, or at least part of it isn't always fun. It is difficult enough to share your deepest feelings with people who know and love you, even if you have the assurance that they will love you no matter what. It is even more difficult to bare even just a fraction of it to people who do not know you, who might not understand, who might think your problems are nothing compared to what other people are going through, who might judge you. But it is most difficult to actually bare your soul to God and to yourself, to face all your inadequacies and your real feelings, your real pains, the things that only you can see and know and that you dare not let anyone else see.

It is hard because you know once you have admitted what is wrong and what is painful, you cannot remain where you are right now, hiding and letting these things fester because you are afraid of what will happen if you peel off the layers one by one. But you know you have to deal with it, as tedious and as painful as the process may be, because in order to heal, this has to happen.

And so this part of my blog will be part of that healing process. If you join me on this journey, thank you for reading my words. And thank you for walking this path with me. Let's see where the good Lord leads me. 

And if you too are going on a similar path, learning to love and accept yourself scars and flaws and all, your words spoken or written in private or in public will be very much appreciated. 

My Lord is leading me to move, and as Obiwan Kenobi told Rey, "These are your first steps."