Of Skeletons and Old Misdemeanors

Don't live in the pastMost people have done things they aren’t proud of. Many have made mistakes, and made terrible decisions that echo until infinity. But we can’t get stuck in the past. We have to keep moving forward. We have to keep reminding ourselves if we have to.  It will be a struggle for most people who have difficulty letting go of guilt. I know I have, and I struggle still. But as long as I can breath, I have a fighting chance of overcoming it. I can win the battle.

I have also learned that short cuts are not the answer. They are but temporary respites from the problem, and once you have reached the end of the short cut, you have to face the same old monster again. So, no. Escape routes via alcohol and other substances, over-indulgence in retail therapy, partying, food and other kinds of consumable material, or any kind of addiction at all for that matter (including Facebook, online games or apps like Candy Crush, yep) —-they don’t, and won’t work. In fact they complicate things, and mutate into another monstrous entity if you aren’t careful.

Take the long road, but know that it would reap long-term, sustainable rewards. Go through the process. Resign from a job that  literally makes you sick. Talk to a therapist. Take up yoga or meditation. Go on a long vacation and see other places. Sign up for a week-long spiritual retreat at Church and pray like you have never prayed before. Go to rehab if you have to. Cut ties with people that make you less able to control your weaknesses, and people who are toxic to your mental and emotional health. Even if you call them friends. (Even if they are your own family—well, at least give yourself space and time until you are strong enough to face them.) Heal yourself first if you need to.

And then, go ahead. When you are able to, take responsibility for your actions. Own up to your mistakes. Say sorry to those you hurt. Deal with the consequences of bad behavior. Pay your debts, and start over. Do what you can to lessen the trouble , if not rectify the mess you made. But whatever you do, don’t you ever give up on yourself. And don’t ever think you no longer deserve to be happy.

Find your joy again. Just don’t make the same mistakes if you can help it. Live. After all, you are still alive.

 

 

A Love Letter

February is supposed to be the love month, with the 14th notorious for it’s much-hyped Valentine’s Day celebration. In a nod to all the hoopla, I wrote a love letter which I posted on my Facebook page. But it was rather short by my own standards (being a love letter and all). And it was a little bit strange because it was addressed to me, and in the third-person.

Just to appease my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, here’s the edited version.

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Dear Lizza,

Please be patient with me.

Rather, be patient with yourself. I know it is difficult not to feel disappointed every time you don’t reach your own expectations of what you think you should have done, and how you should have done it. It is even more difficult when you feel that you have disappointed the expectations of everyone around you. You feel so small peering at the overwhelming judgment of the world around you, like an insect about to be crushed underfoot.

Please, please don’t give up on me. Believe in me.

wondermomRather, believe in yourself. Other people do. Your children think you rule the world with your uncanny domestic crisis management abilities. Your husband believes you are Wonder Woman who’s able to juggle everything and still look like a million bucks when he gets home. Your friends treat you like a rock legend because you birthed two amazing little humans and you raise them while dealing with home cooked meals, homework and everyone’s laundry.

Yes, you may falter and fail at times; you stumble, lose heart and back out of resolutions. You give into fears and weaknesses. Sometimes you break down in tears or lose your temper at the most inopportune times, when your schedule suddenly goes awry because your child gets sick, or when someone unwittingly pushes your buttons, like say, your husband. You’ve even screamed in frustration, more than a few times now, in front of the kids, while you picked a fight with the hubby because he forgot to do the dishes again, like he promised.

There will be these delays and detours from your grand itinerary of successful domesticated parenthood, all because you are human. But you will get there, eventually. You may not know it yet, and you may not even see the finish line, but you are on the right track.

So please, stop comparing yourself to others. Stop listening to all those righteous opinions about what being a good mother should be, or those pretentious lies about you not having an excuse to look haggard, or those uppity criticisms from women who instead of empowering other women, bash them with negative comments about not being a working mother in this day and age. Nobody knows the difficulty or the unique circumstances of your job like you do.

Everyone wears a different pair of shoes. Everyone is walking on a different route. You have had your own dragons to slay, and you slayed them on your own. Thankfully, God’s hand guided you through when you were most alone. You’ve fought battles nobody knew about; you’ve won some, and you’ve lost some, too. Only you know the pain you’ve suffered and survived. And when you picked yourself up from the ground, those who judge you so harshly, never even saw what happened. But you do. So don’t belittle those victories. They have made you a stronger, better version of yourself.

Be gentle with your words when you talk to yourself, because everything you say is amplified and is unavoidably passed on to those around you. Especially the people you hold closest to your heart—your children. The vitriol and self-imposed cruelty you feed upon, can maim and break a person’s spirit. You can break your own spirit.  You can break theirs, too. And when you hurt your children, it will come back to you a like a sick circle of hurting and getting hurt, a never ending cycle of resentment. You wouldn’t want that.

perfectAppreciate the good and beautiful in yourself. That’s the grace of God shining through.  No matter how flawed or broken you think you are, you have a soul that is deeper than the ocean, grander than any mountain, and more immortal than the universe itself. And your soul is made even more beautiful with each lesson learned. So welcome those cracks and scars, for they are proof that you are strong enough to weather the storms and remain standing tall.

Remember how much you have grown from a listless, insecure, little girl. Now you’re a woman who has outgrown the fearfulness, self-destructive habits, and naivete of youth. You are a woman unafraid of the future, who knows to value the past, and yet stays alive in the present. You have come into your own despite everything—a dysfunctional upbringing, an utter lack of parental guidance (let alone parental presence), an unstable, traumatic childhood, and a father with neither conscience nor remorse.

So cry when you need to cry, hurt when you have to hurt, and be angry when you need to be. You can grieve after each loss, but afterwards, dust yourself off and keep on walking.

You don’t need to bare your soul and show all your broken pieces taped together by newly-recovered rolls of hope and faith; Don’t prostate yourself at other peoples’ feet just to gain their respect or acceptance. They may still judge you unkindly and unfairly in spite of everything. People can be selfish, insensitive, and impossible to please. You don’t have to convince anyone of your worth. You don’t have to beg to be loved, recognized, appreciated, or justified. You are perfectly made in God’s eyes. He designed you uniquely, putting much thought and care into who you are. And He loves you unconditionally. Believe this—He has great plans for you. Have faith in that promise.

So talk to yourself a little more kindly. Compliment yourself more than you criticize. Celebrate your achievements and success, no matter how small. Have confidence in your own strengths and abilities. Accept praises gracefully, and ignore unsolicited negativity. Know that you deserve to be happy, and own it. Treat yourself like the treasured gem that you are.

You are worth it.

LOVE,

Yourself.

Rantings of My Unfettered Self

I hate being seen as weak. I hate being pitied. I see myself as a strong woman, a warrior, and a survivor. That’s why, as much as possible, I avoid writing on my blog when I am miserable and feeling like crap. I don’t want to broadcast my dirty laundry. Ugh. I’ve learned my lesson from several past faux pas on Facebook. Calls to mind something I’ve read online. “Don’t Facebook your problems, face them.”

But I have to write. Even now, when I’m not the ideal Pollyana version of myself. I have to write. Even if I am on the edge of spilling my well-kept secret angst and heartaches. Even if my hands are slightly shaking from the impulse to just out with it and to hell with everyone who judges me. Even if my anger and desolation is just beneath the surface, brimming with anticipation.

Writing is therapy. It allows me to make sense of the tangled strings of thought in my constantly unfolding mind. It is my  lifeline. Once I put my fears on paper, it somehow takes away their power, giving me a better grip on my oftentimes neurotic self. Writing is my fountain of youth, keeping me alive and renewing my sense of wonder about life. Most of all, though, it is THE only thing I know to do well without even trying. Just like breathing.

depression

So here I am. Writing about what I think is my depression.

Despite reading about it excessively, online, in magazines, in books, and occasional hearsay from the experts on television and radio; the concept of depression is still such an alien thing
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When I Think Of Home

home-sweet-home-sign

A home, I think, is more than just a building or a piece of real estate. That would just be a house. A home is much, much more than a place of refuge, or an address of where you live in. It is the intangible, but more important aspect of the house.

 A house is made of up of walls, ceilings, and floor. It has rooms, stairs, doors, and windows. But the home, it is made up of people who share it. It is made up of family, whether related by blood, or just bonded by the same values. And each home is made differently. Some stand the test of time, and others are easily broken.

As creatures of habit, we humans place great importance on wherever and whatever it is we call home.  We celebrate its idea in books and other media.  An ancient Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder, coined the phrase “Home is where the heart is”. The poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Where thou art, that is home”. In the story of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicked her heels and said  the magic words “there’s no place like home” three times to get back to Kansas. Her adventure was all about appreciating where she came from and who she was inside.

In the bible, one of Jesus’ most beloved parables centers around the idea of how a home should be built. The parable of the wise and foolish builders tells us a valuable lesson. The foolish man builds his home on flimsy sand, but the wise man builds his home on sturdy rock. Because a home built on a strong foundation will last, while a home built on weakness and frailty will eventually collapse.

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A home is so important, so integral to a person. It is one of our most fundamental needs as individuals. It is an extension of our identity, and affects our behavior. We often associate home with the sense of comfort, security, and belonging.
rainy day fun
For me, home means love and  family.
My family is my husband and my children. We don’t need a mansion or an expensive condo unit. We don’t need a big garden, flashy cars, or a giant-sized swimming pool. We don’t even need to have to own a house  to be able to make a home. Our apartment is small and it sometimes leaks when it rains. But it keeps unwelcome strangers out, and it keeps family and friends warm inside. Wherever we may choose to live, no matter how tiny, as long as we are together, our home is complete.
Home makes me think about the people I love the most.
Like my aunt. I remember visiting her in the States back in 2002. We had not seen each other for years, and it was my first time in the US. But the moment we hugged each other at JFK, it was like coming home. (Love ya TitaJ!)
with TitaJ
Home also makes me think of people I’m not related to, but who were more family to me than my own kin. People I’d shared the dormitory with (hey girls!), people who welcomed me into their home  when I was homeless (Kim, Myish, and Mnems!), and fed me when I had no money to buy food. They are the friends who were there for me when no one else would or could.
And then, sometimes I just think of Bacolod.  🙂
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It is so true what they say. You can’t really appreciate how much something means to you until it’s gone. Or in my case, just too far and too expensive to visit anytime I want.
I had so many complaints and pet peeves about Bacolod, while I lived there. And yet, here I am now missing the familiar sounds and sights of the place I grew up in. It was my home for so many years, and it holds so many memories, both wonderful and terrible. I miss the food, the people, and the places I used to hang out with friends. And a lot has changed since I left for Manila.
There are ten things I miss the most about dear Bacolod:
1.  St. John’s Institute and Queen of Peace Church
– this is where I essentially grew up, socially and academically. My Alma mater, I was there from 1st grade until high school. I spent countless nerdy hours in the library, became officer in the CAT,sang in the choir and became president of the glee club,  represented the school in singing contests, got ignored by crushes until graduation, and met friends I will keep for life.
SJI SJI2
2. Celyn’s Ice Cream House (along Narra St. in Shopping)- at least it used to be. Now it’s Kuppa. This is where we went to after CAT training, where we got treated to by our parents when we get good grades, and where we would hang out after school and on weekends to catch a glimpse of our crushes.
 kuppa
3. Wimpy’s Burger and French Deluxe – I just can’t separate the two most beloved specialties of good old Celyn’s because one is like the Bonny to the other’s Clyde. Wimpy’s is an open faced burger, smothered in yummy gravy and cheese sauce. French Deluxe is smoked ham and chicken salad scrumptiously put together on white loaf bread, and heaped with creamy cheese sauce.  Both are served with fries. Sigh, heaven on a plate.
wimpy's burgerfrench deluxe
4. Bacolod Capitol Lagoon  – I loved jogging around the park and throwing rice puffs to feed the fish (tilapia) in the water. They also hung the trees and lamp posts with bright Christmas lights come right before December starts, and they even rigged the fountain in the middle for  a lights show during the holiday season. People can have picnics here and bring their kids to play in the playground. And sometimes, students use the spacious grounds to practice their field demos and dance routines after school.
lagoon
5. Sharyn’s Cansi House (Narra St. in the Shopping area) – the best cansi or sour beef broth in town! Perfect meal for a cold, rainy day. And make that spicy!
sharyns01 cansi
6. Manukan Country Chicken Inasal – need I say more? This is so iconic of Bacolod City.
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7. Central Market – despite the usual funky smell, like most public markets, I liked looking at the fresh produce and buying fish, crab, and other seafood here. I also liked browsing the stalls displaying the native products like bags, baskets, and slippers, and those selling native delicacies like suman and bayi-bayi. I enjoyed the occasional batchoy and native coffee too(Mr. Natalaray, my philosophy professor, told me about the merits of drinking native coffee in Central Market). Best of all, you could get a really good deal here compared to buying grocery in the mall supermarkets. Cheap and still good quality finds.
centralmarket01 basket bags centralmarket03 yummies batchoy coffee2
8. Calea (14th Street) – This is like paradise for my sweet tooth. When I was pregnant  with my first child, I especially craved the vanilla ice cream pie. But I also like the white chocolate cheesecake  and the blueberry cheesecake. I only appreciated the triple chocolate mousse after my nausea disappeared during my last trimester.
vanilla ice cream pietriple choco
9. Sta. Fe Resort – great place for family outings, swimming parties, and bowling tournaments. Companies even hold this place as venue for sports fests. This is where I first used a gun, as a CAT officer, at their shooting range. They also have a mini zoo where kids can enjoy.
stafe1 sta-fe-resort-memories-of-my-younger-years sta-fe-native-cottages stafe zoo
10. Being of close proximity to (clockwise) Mambukal Mountain Resort in Minuyan, Murcia(maybe less than an hour’s drive from Bacolod), The Ruins in Talisay City, Brgy. Balaring in Silay where the seafood (especially talaba) and pork barbecue/liempo is oh so good, and Lakawon Island Beach Resort off the coast of Cadiz City, – Team Buildings galore!!! (Okay, they aren’t in Bacolod, but near enough for a quick drive, except Lakawon—you have to take a boat ride to the island)
mambukal2 ruins-talisay-city balaring lakawon

Missing My Previous Life

Five years ago, I came with my husband and then 8-month-old baby to permanently move to Manila. It wasn’t that hard for me to leave. I was born and raised in the island of Negros, and lived in Bacolod City for most of my life, but I respected my husband’s decision, and I wanted to keep our young family together.

(The two photos below by Design Brewery http://design-brewery.com/)

BabyIsa2BabyIsa3

Looking back, I had such high hopes, and I was euphoric with the endless possibilities in store for us. Or so it seemed.

Mom and grace

Photo by Design Brewery

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Seeking My Da Vinci

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Renaissance. Such a lovely word.

It evokes an even lovelier picture of a time when artists, inventors, scholars, intellectuals, and other cultural pioneers ushered in an era that celebrated beauty, progress, and a constant search for truth and discovery.

In French, the word means ‘rebirth’. That time is often synonymous with Leonardo Da Vinci. Although, the period of the Renaissance was definitely more than just him. In fact it was an entire cultural movement in Europe that spread from Italy around the late middle ages. But the underlying notion there is that it was a welcome change that moved the world and molded history. (Below are a few examples of Renaissance art, by the way. From l-r, first row: Michaelangelo’s David, Da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa, Da Vinci’s illustration of the Vitruvian Man. Second row, l-r: Donatello’s David, Boticelli’s Magnificat. Third row, l-r: Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love)

David_von_MichelangeloMona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedDa_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_ViatourDonatello_-_David_-_Florença602px-Magnificatio_Boticelli

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At a certain point in our lives, I imagine we would all want to experience a kind of rebirth. And I am not talking about a mid-life crisis here. I’m just thirty years old, too young to stake my claim on that spotlight. I haven’t even ticked off more than a handful of squares on my bucket list. But, sometimes, I think I’ve drunk too much of life’s wine, I need to start sobering up. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and I desperately need a flagon.

Oh, life, and it’s love affair with pain and heartache.

Experiencing so much disappointment, time and again, one can’t help but realize how fragile we are. And when we feel like we’ve had to compromise too much of our dreams on the demands of reality, we inevitably start to feel that sense of ourselves, slip away, bit by bit. Until we barely recognize who we have become.

For someone genetically predisposed to rebel against probability, and somebody who can’t help but swim against the current; I know that I will always find a way to survive. To beat the odds. Maybe, tattered and torn, but still, alive. And more importantly, wanting to live.

However, I am still human, and can experience fatigue. And I am so goddamn tired.

Still, hope springs eternal. So they say. And I am not going down without a fight; without attempting to claw my way back out of the trenches, just so I can give reality a dirty finger and an earful of complaints.

So this is half-dead me, clawing back up slowly, but surely, to have a word with life:

“Give me an effing break, Life. I’m hungry and I need another meal.”

Rebirth.

I would want that now. I would want to erase the scars left behind by people who lied to me, cheated me, used me for their own ends, abused me of my rights, and just plain took me for granted. I would want to believe in a world where people are basically good, and intrinsically able to heed justice, fairness, and truth. I want to see a world where it is normal for people to walk alongside someone of a different race, nationality, gender, political affiliation, religion, and sexual orientation; and all the while speaking with kindness in their hearts. I would want to forget that people can be extremely bigoted, selfish, greedy, malicious, deceitful, violent, destructive, and perverse. I would want to see again with fresh eyes that find inspiration in the world, in its minute details, and its sometimes overwhelming greatness.

But truth can’t be ignored. Most of us know know from the time we are in kindergarten, that pretty girls can be mean, bad boys can get away with bullying, we can get sick before a long-awaited camping trip, favorite shirts can be ruined forever by stains, and our favorite teachers can have their own favorites that don’t include us.

Being this jaded really sucks. It makes you feel like you are always carrying this heavy sack of truth on your back, and you can’t let go, unless you’d want to be robbed blind. The defenses that ensure our psychological and moral preservation, are also what drives us mad with loneliness and disillusion.

Of course, I can always look up at a clear night sky sprinkled with millions of stars that only look tiny because they are so far away. That should bring me back to a state of wonderment and bliss. But then, morning comes again, and I have to listen to the news about some neighbor who molested a three-year-old girl, all the while, the alcoholic father and the adulterous mother blames everyone else for not doing anything. Then, a special report talks about a bunch of top-seated officials making a profit off a non-existent service supposedly set up for the marginalized, while the poor lose any desire to empower themselves because they expect the worst from the government, and then, another teenager commits suicide because he had just lost his scholarship and any hope for a better life. Meanwhile, 90% of the audience only want to gossip about this new starlet, and how she left her ex-boyfriend for a married man, or how this hunky actor has nude scenes in this new movie, and how fabulous this TV personality’s new mansion is. Sick.

But even sicker, is that the list could go on. And we can’t really blame the 90% for not wanting to focus on the more depressing portions of the news. But it is just so emotionally and mentally exhausting, I can’t keep writing about it. I’m too weighed down by the misery of it all, my feet can’t even leave the ground it’s standing on. I’m stuck.

Reality can be paralyzing.

But I have to move.

Renaissance. Such an alluring idea. Where, oh, where can I find you?