One of the lessons of 2014 I had learned has been to look forward and see the positive, instead of dwelling on the pains of the past, no matter how you just can’t seem to shake it off. I am trying. So instead of dwelling on how last year’s Christmas was probably one of the worst if not the worst in my life, I’d like to think of the reasons why this Christmas is going to be a better Christmas for me.
I had spent the last three Christmases in Manila with my dear family, and for the first time after those three years, Angelo and I are spending Christmas here in New York again. New York — after all — is home. I had long ago accepted that and have embraced it — so much so that when I thought I was ready to leave some three years ago, it was a quiet but difficult long goodbye.. And then it dawned on me that there was no other place to go — that I would and did choose to stay, here at home.
I normally don’t do enumerations but I can’t think of any other way to do this. In no particular order, as random as the thoughts come, here are the reasons why this is a better Christmas for me — and it is my hope that sharing this list here will help you see that there is much to be hopeful and thankful for, and that it is a better Christmas for you as well.
1. Christmas in New York is Christmas “at home”. As I had said earlier, being where I consider myself at home cannot be anything better than spending Christmas elsewhere. Yes, even in my beloved second most favorite city ever – Paris. And yes, even better than the country where I grew up and spent the majority of my young life: Manila. When you find yourself trying to find your footing again, the best thing is to find your anchor where you are strongest. And while all the love I’m showered with in Manila is unique to that former “home” of mine, the truth of the matter is the one love that keeps me going will always find his home here in the land where he was born in. So this is home because it is my son’s home.
2. This Christmas, I welcome a better “ME”. I had a rough ride the latter half of 2013 and well into the first half of the year, and then I made up my mind to rise above what had held me back and move forward. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. But because I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and keep going, I have managed to become a better person than I was 14 months ago. I focused on taking care of me, losing weight to keep myself healthy, fixing myself up and believing in me again. I smiled and radiated a self confidence I had long ago forgotten — and people noticed. The hair went several shades lighter, and I even finally said goodbye to my “bigote”. (Sorry, Toks — I know you thought that was part of my appeal, but I’ve learned to let that go.)
3. I appreciate family and friends in a different sense this holiday season, because they never let go of my hand during the worst of times — holding mine as tightly if not tighter than they held me during the best of times. I would never trade my family and friends for anything in this world — more so the select few who laughed and cried with me — and who told me that I can always go home when I feel I need some loving.. those friends who saw me at my worst and most evil, at my angriest and most vulnerable, and who never judged me for the feelings that drove me to be so scheming and full of hatred. They never gave up on me when others left me to deal with things on my own, telling me they couldn’t take sides. Because in truth, there was no taking sides — there was only being a friend or a brother or a sister — and being there without fear of recrimination from others. There was only right and wrong, not right or left.
4. This Christmas, I can say I have finally allowed forgiveness into my heart. While I cannot say I have forgiven everyone, I think I have forgiven the people who matter most in my world. There are things that I just cannot let go of, and there will always be people who will be on my “hate” list (and yes, I do have one), but this year, I have come to terms with actually saying “I forgive you” to the people who I needed to say it to most. And like I said, I was telling them I forgive them not so much for their benefit, but for my own. There was a certain release to that declaration every time I said it to the handful of people who heard it. The conversations didn’t all resume — but I didn’t need to start a conversation again. I only needed to say I forgive them.
5, I’ve learned to laugh at myself and laugh harder this time around. BFF Fe says it’s refreshing to hear me laughing again — even if that’s via text on viber — and to see me able to laugh at myself again. There were days when even smiling was a struggle. But now, I walk off the bus and make it a point to smile, rain or shine. The thoughts that make me smile or break out into a grin can range from an elevator ride, rain and umbrellas, a yelled joke, a shared song, from friends old and new. There are times when we don’t realize what a smile or a joke or the gift of laughter can mean to someone, and though they may not know how their humor had helped lift my spirits up, this Christmas I wish them the gift of laughter and warmth in return. It is because of the jokes — screamed or whispered — and the laughter that I heartily let out, that I can look back to last Christmas as a nightmare I’ve woken up from finally.
6. I’ve been blessed with new friends walking into my life and making things better just by being part of my “now”. There are many people we tend to ignore and whose interaction with us we take as part and parcel of our everyday routine. We fail to see the little contributions they make to help us become a better person. One friend egged me to take the online History courses on Columbia edX which I have enjoyed immensely. I’m taking notes again, reading textbooks and learning. (Yes, I’ve missed school!) Another has introduced me to the music of Pink Floyd (talking about “US AND THEM”) — I knew “OF” them but never quite listened to any of their music — and I was surprised to find that I actually liked it! Another friend’s passions for photography has helped me to find even more inspiration to take more pictures with my limited resources and be proud of the photos I have snapped up.
7. This Christmas, I actually gave two anonymous gifts to children in need in the community — and that really felt good. And Mom got enough funds to get her little Christmas party for the poor kids in her community back in Bulan. I felt like I had a million things to be thankful for despite the challenges of the last 14 months. After all, I am still standing on my two feet, my son is healthy and happy, and life has become markedly better even if it is a continuing journey. I managed to pick up the pieces and start on the journey to healing and be more forgiving of myself. I have learned to count my blessings and acknowledge the people who continue to bless me with their presence in my life — and what better way to give thanks than to share with those who aren’t as lucky?
8. I have immersed myself in the serenity that has allowed me to accept the things I cannot change. I am no longer fighting reality but instead, have learned and continue to learn to accept how things are in my life today. It doesn’t mean I have given up — but I have stopped fighting the things I have no control over. I have learned to accept those things I cannot do anything about. I think the last 6 months have seen me finally living the Serenity Prayer which I had prayed religiously the first 8 months of my struggle. Every day, first thing, I clicked on that note in my phone and read and recited it with feeling. And yet I didn’t see myself living it until the last 6 months when I let go and said, I’m fine with the choice I have made. I will stop expecting a turnaround, or for things to change. There are immovable objects that will never budge. I thought I could pray for a miracle, but I think I finally got the message I was asking for the wrong thing from the boss upstairs. So I stopped asking. I said, okay. And this Christmas, I think I’m okay — I’m even better — because I stopped insisting and instead, let myself embrace acceptance.
9. I have more hope in my heart now than I had this time around last year. The optimism in my heart has risen from its deep slumber. I have stopped nurturing vengeful thoughts and schemes in my mind. The universe has a way of taking care of things, and I leave the fate of those who thought they could take my happiness and my son’s happiness away to chance. Life is one big gamble. I lost a hand or two. But the game continues, and I have won my share of hands. And while the plan may have been different in their minds, this year, I think I have much to be thankful for knowing that I managed to hold on to what others thought they could take away from me.
10. This Christmas, I actually am celebrating “ME” and giving myself a gift that will make it a merry Christmas, indeed. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet what it might be.. I just know I’m getting myself something. Year in and year out, I would get gifts for everyone but myself. To me, the gift was actually handing them my present and seeing them light up and that was good enough. I cherished the hugs and the thank you more.. This year, though, I’ve been hard pressed thinking about what I can get myself that will actually make me smile and be happy about getting for ME, myself and I. Something I deserve, not pegged into an amount others think would be good enough. Not anchored to what someone else got as a no-occasion present. I’ve let that go. I’m being selfish and thinking about myself first, this time around. And if only for that present to “ME”, I know it will be a better Christmas this year, indeed.