The Lessons of 2014

Before we look ahead, we must look back.  And like I look at previous posts written in the 11 year life of this blog, I think it’s but fitting that I take stock of the year just ended and bring those lessons forward to the year that’s beginning.  I find myself reflecting on a lot of things as this year ends, and sometimes I am taken aback by how so much has happened.  (Did I really live through all THAT?)

The moon up above New York tonight... Thinking about all the moons that have come and gone and dreaming of the next time the moon shines majestically above me again... #moon #moonandstars #dusk #night #newyork #reflectionsI have been blessed.  I am grateful.  I am humbled.  I am encouraged.

I am still standing on my feet and I am actually looking forward to the new beginning that 2015 offers.

I am where I am because I took the lessons of life that came my way in 2014 and leaned on them to keep me going through the year.  I did not let the challenges of the year that just ended sweep me away and drown me.  Instead, I made them my stepping stone to get to the end of the year.

And here I am.

This year, I learned..

… that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I learned to believe in myself again and trust my instincts.  I learned to listen to the silence in my heart instead of listening to the thousand and one voices all around me.  As one of my dearest friends told me, I am my best counsel.. I am my own best bestfriend.

… that even the message from above can change through time.  Nothing is cast in stone except the fact that He always hears and will let you know His will.. Nothing is absolute except His being there, and it may happen that He gives you a different message through time from the one you heard previously.  The thing is to never stop listening, and to never stop asking Him what His will is.

… that acceptance begins with the little things.  Like most things that are hard to do, acceptance takes a while to learn, and takes practice to actually do well.  It took me long enough.  But I think I’ve gotten better at it.  You learn to go with the flow, you learn to be more forgiving of your own shortcomings.  You accept yourself for who you are.

… that it is important to remember YOU are important, too.  For the longest time, I had put everyone else’s happiness and welfare ahead of mine.  Now I realize that I can put myself in front and still be important like everyone else I considered a priority without relegating my own welfare to the background.  I no longer say “my happiness comes last” because I realize it doesn’t have to be.  Putting someone else as priority, like my son in my case, doesn’t mean sacrificing my own happiness.

Happiness is not tied to a ranking of priorities.  Happiness is just that — being happy.

… that you must never forget WHO you are.  I had forgotten certain facets of myself to conform and be a certain way to be accepted.  And it was a long journey to pull out the old “me” that got buried deep inside, but I think I’m almost there if I haven’t gotten there already.

And I missed “me”.  Now I walk with the old confidence and spunk I used to be armed with, and smile with a self-assurance that even I believe in again.  I’m back…

… that surrender is not always synonymous to defeat.  There are battles that can be won even if you decide it’s time to lay down your arms and raise the white flag.  Sometimes surrender is a form of self-preservation.  You try to stave off further loss.  You try to stem the bleeding and keep what resources you have left healthy.  You try to keep the peace by letting the world go by without a whimper.

… that forgiveness is as much, if not more for YOUR benefit as the one giving it than the one you are giving it to.  I have written about this and how I have uttered the words “I forgive you” more for my own sake than the peace of mind of the one who has caused me harm or pain.  Saying it has helped me move forward and go from the point of “being the victim” to “just being” again.  It has helped me on my journey of recovery.

… that forgiveness means looking forward and not looking back at what had happened or what you lost.  It is never a guarantee that things will be better, or that what has been taken from you will be returned.  It does help you to go beyond whatever it is that has caused you pain, and moving on is better than staying in a state of hurt and anger, any way you look at it.

… that people come and go into our lives for a reason.  And when they are here, we must cherish each lesson, each laughter, each memory that we are given a chance to make with the people around us — no matter how inconsequential their presence may seem at first glance.  And when they leave we must learn to let go, and be thankful for whatever it is they shared with us while they were present in our lives.

Even those who hurt us have a lesson to teach us or a gift to leave us with.  It may not be apparent on the surface, but in time, and if we look and not make ourselves blind with anger or tears, we will find it.

Even those who break our hearts will teach us a lesson and pave the way for us to be happy again in some form or other, through other people or events that follow their misstep.

… that the music never ends — we just choose to stop listening to it when the tune playing is not the one we requested.  I lost my optimism for a part of the year and then found it again.  And when I did, I clung to it for dear life.  Sadness and heartache are all part and parcel of living — it is whether or not we cling to it or let it go, whether or not we learn to live with it or deny it that will decide whether we overcome or let it get the better of us.

… that just as you will keep falling, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going.  I never gave up.

I didn’t really have a choice because I had my son to think of.  During my lowest of lows, I had no time to sink into depression.  I had to pull my wits about me and get back up each time.  And I know I will have to keep doing that as I push forward.  The fact that I’m still on my feet is not a guarantee I will not fall again.  In fact, I feel like I fall each time I think I’ve regained my footing, but that will never stop me from getting up again and continuing the journey.

… that there will always be another day.  So no matter how difficult a day has been, no matter how heavy the burden I have been given may be — I know there will be tomorrow and it might get better.  And if doesn’t, there will be the day after to look  forward to, and the day after that.  Hope springs eternal.  Indeed.

That the year is over is a done deal.  There’s no bringing back time lost that has passed us all by.  Time is not one to give us do-overs, but 2015 is here with a new promise of hope — the certainty of yet another beginning.

Here’s to 2015.

 

 

 

Monday Musings (Random thoughts on another day I woke up before 5am)

It’s still pitch black outside even if it’s already 10 minutes to 6:00.  I finally gave up trying to go back to sleep after waking up at past 4am and crawled out of bed to brew my morning cup.  My brain is still trying to wake up all it’s circuits so I thought I’d just write up a list of disparate thoughts which, I hope, I can or might develop into a full blown post somewhere along the way.

Monday usually finds me feeling like I’m floating from the weekend to the rush of the new week.  I do look forward to the start of the week and the thought of Monday as a reboot to the weekend just ended helps get me on my way.  I wish there was a third day to the weekend, but then at the same time, I often find myself wishing the work week itself was 6 instead of just 5 days. (I know I’m blabbering, but I make no apologies because it’s a Monday — an EARLY Monday morning.)

Facebook  (and my BFFs mom) yet saves my day (and pulls me out of the hole) from a missed Cindy Lauper concert promised to BFF Fe some moons ago..  We all make promises.  I try not to.  More so when I know there is a good chance I won’t be able to keep it, because I not only hate to disappoint the person I’m making a promise to, but worse, I disappoint myself.

I had an unplanned trip home in March 2012 (right after the Christmas visit of December 2011 and before the last trip this December 2013) and it so happened that Cindy Lauper was playing in Manila.  I promised Fe we would go, but we didn’t.  And I know she’s felt bad about that since .  But over the weekend she posted something that sort of saved my neck (although not entirely).  I’m sorry, Peps… even if you say I need not apologize.. I am.  I knew you were looking forward to that concert and a promise is a promise.  For whatever it’s worth, I have never enjoyed attending and dancing at a concert like I have with you — remembering that Side A concert we saw courtesy of you-know-who way back when I saw a lot of concerts and fashion shows.

Moving to New York in 2000 — (and I’m suddenly hit with “Wow — it HAS been THAT long!”) — I have always been content with the lifestyle choice I made when I started working here — until now.  Knowing what I am and what I had accomplished before I moved here, and then taking that giant step back to adjust to my new life in New York, I wonder if I had not short-changed myself in embracing the “family is the reason I came here in the first place” bit in choosing the career path I took.

In many ways, I realize now that that choice was noble and pure and is still true in my heart (and all I have to do is look at the boy who unabashedly proclaims his love for me at every turn) — but I wonder if that choice had boxed me into a role and persona that was much, much smaller than the real person I am.  (That’s a thought for me to ponder, and not meant to be answered here.  Monday.. musings.. get it?)

I have come to realize that while ACCEPTANCE does not exactly equate to FORGIVENESS, it does help to push one forward to go past what one has no control over.  I’ve always been an “I will fix this” kind of person.  I don’t know if it’s arrogance or simply my bull-headedness about being able to control things  and not letting things control me.  For the past year, I’ve been grappling with a festering wound within that I have somehow managed to tuck deeper in my heart in a vain attempt to simulate healing.  People ask me how I’m doing — I say I’m okay.  Not exactly better, but I’m okay.  That, in itself, is already “acceptance” in a sense — knowing where I am and where I’ve landed after the rollercoaster ride of the last year.

I had forgotten how I had missed school and my plans of taking on a course in History until recently, and over the weekend, when I embarked on a new journey of learning.  Procrastination has been a close companion even in my younger years.  Once it clings to me, it is so hard to shake it off.  Not too long ago, I had enrolled in an online history course via podcast from YALE, and while I was sooooo excited at the start, I never went beyond the first lecture.  Over the weekend, I got a new recommended course, this time from ColumbiaX, and I am actually excited — VERY EXCITED — to hit the books again.  (You should see my eyes twinkling at the thought.)  For all the years I spent with the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres (nursery to high school), the giant minds that helped shaped my once-sheltered brain to think more broadly at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the Philippines, and the most challenging years at the Ateneo School of Law with the Jesuits — one thing I missed the most when I got here was studying and learning and the challenge of reading and pulling together my own thoughts and analysis from a textbook.

I had even seriously thought of auditing classes at NYU (which is why I get their course catalogue every year), but then, I never had the time.. or couldn’t make time.  Thanks to technology and everybody’s rush to be at everyone else’s fingertips, it’s a totally different classroom now, and I can be in it whenever I want to be in it.  So excited for this one!

Some things we lose cannot be replaced — like the 5,000 or so photos on my iPhone (which aren’t on my cloud) — but I can always keep taking photos and immortalize future memories in the next handheld I get.  It wasn’t so much the loss of the iPhone 5S which was part of the technology trove I get from work — but it was all those photos that I snapped away from blog graphics to pictures with my family and precious selfies of my funny guy and I.  The iPhone is being replaced this week — and I’m not complaining even if there’s a company freeze on upgrades to the iPhone 6.  But I cannot help but cringe at the thought of all the photos I lost, and the “notes” in the journal section where I had stored bits and pieces like my morning dose of the Serenity Prayer.  (Which, after a year of saying it every day in the morning, I have yet to memorize.)

It wasn’t such a total loss because a good batch of them made it to my Flickr account, and at least 300+ are on my Instagram feed.  Still.

There were a ton of photos of my altered book which was meant to document the “bare background pages” to the finished journaled layouts which are now in limbo.  Thankfully, my Thank You Postcard Project photos are actual scans of the postcards, so they were not on the iPhone.

I have somehow gotten over the initial disappointment, but it only serves to remind me that I should have backed up the files instead of relying on the fact that my iPhone and I were joined at the hip.  That is, until it fell out of my purse and into someone else’s hand.

6:55 and my day has to move on now.  I have indulged myself enough as I waited for the sun to start rising, and it’s slowly creeping up over New York City.  That doesn’t mean I can just linger here.. which I wish… but cannot.  It’s Monday, after all.  Hope you all have a good start of the week.. I know mine has gotten off to a very good one.

Counting the days yet again

I’ve been hoping to write a post here for ages but it has been a very busy past couple of days.  When the opportunity came, I opted to work on the Gotham Chick post first because that blog has been badly neglected and I feel bad about it.  I am trying very hard to jumpstart that corner of my webspace but life and work and life again get in the way.

Soon.

You know how you wish you could tick off even just half your list of “to do’s” and then find yourself unable to even write that list?  It can be paralyzing at times.

These days I just want to space out.  I have been thinking of hopping on a subway line and taking it from end to end over and over again.  But I don’t have the time.  I used to feel that way every time I got on e a long-distance bus ride — I just kept wishing I could just keep going without stopping.

In between ordinary chores like washing the dishes or just putting the dry ones away, I think about taking a trip some place on my own and just “disappearing” into a sea of tourists or like travelers.  Some place new where I’ve never been before.  I wish.. but I can’t.

I sit at my craft corner and start organizing the beads hoping the inspiration to create would come but I get stumped.  Time seems to be dragging its feet one minute and then slipping by too quickly in the next.

I want to jump to May.

This time of the year hasn’t been very good for me because celebrations have been non-celebrations for the longest time.  What should be Happy moments turn out to be numb if not sad.

I had to pause after that last line.  A half smile forms in my face and I try to remind myself I have been blessed.

Someone’s been telling me I have won.  That I should be happy because I have won.  Yet I am reminded of those Pyrrhic victories which were indeed wins but which were achieved at a terrible, terrible cost.  These days I often have to remind myself the reason for why I fight for what I fight for.  Sometimes I stray into a gray area and I find myself looking for some sense of balance which I shouldn’t be looking for — because I should be viewing it from another perspective.

I have to remind myself of the reason why I am where I am.  I have to remind myself of the choice I made and why I made that choice.  Forget about the ones that caused me pain and sadness. I look to the one who has given me my greatest joy.

Another pause.  This time I smile.  A real smile.

There are many things I dread coming to pass these days.  Birthday being one of them.  I get hundreds of greetings thanks to the automatic reminder feature of FB, but I don’t quite get all the ones that really matter.   And much as I would love to respond to each and everyone, I never quite get around to doing it.  (Too slow, I know.)  It’s not so much that I’m turning another year older and I am getting old — but all the “happy” associated with birthdays ring hollow to me more so at this time.  I used to hear people wanting to sleep through Christmas or whiz by their special day for some reason or other — and I never quite understood what was wrong with these people.  Now I understand why.

And remembering certain things associated with past birthdays — more so last year’s — makes it really hard to look forward to this coming one.  I’m tempted to say that after everything that had taken place, I cannot go to anything worse.  It can only get better as they say.  But I had said that of my life in general over a year ago, and 2013 proved me wrong.  It did get worse — so now I try not to tempt fate by proclaiming a hollow optimism after the storm.  I have learned that the pragmatic thing to do is actually just brace for whatever else life throws my way — be it good or bad.  More than hope for something, I need to pray and pray hard I must.

I am trying to count my blessings.  I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or unappreciative of the breaks life has thrown my way.  It’s just that I’ve fallen very hard the last two years, my knees are still smarting from the deep cuts — and the aches and pains haven’t quite gone away.  Who was it who said scars make you beautiful… they are reminders of how strong you are… they probably were looking at someone else’s scars and did not suffer that kind of a fall themselves.

Spare me the birthday greetings — not because I don’t like getting them — but because I’d rather ask for your prayers.  I’m two years shy of the next milestone agewise, and I would like to think I’ll be at a much better place then than where I find myself now, whether or not things do get better or things get worse.  (Does that make sense?  It does to me.)

I have realized a lot of things more so in the last six months which I sometimes wish I didn’t uncover or have to face.  We sometimes find that illusions or the way we’d like to believe things are are safer than the truth that they mask, just under the surface.

I want to go on a short trip to this resort hotel and book a room and just lay there in bed, staring at the ceiling.  To feel how it is to be there in that place..  and to just see the sun rise outside my window.

I want to believe in me again the way I did before my illusions about my world were shattered to bits.  Sometimes that is the hardest because I am my own worst critic.  I wish the pain would go so that “happy” can have room and reign again.

I am trying.

Even as I count the days to one of the occasions I dread — for many reasons, in many ways.

A matter of faith

Ash WednesdayI went for ash at a nearby parish which was a short walk from my building, like I had done the last 3 years.  There was this pair of ladies on the church stoop with a camera on a tripod, and I was curious but had secretly hoped they wouldn’t stop me for whatever it was they wanted to ask.  But stop me, they did.

They were doing market research and putting together a documentary in the process, and would I be willing to answer a few questions about Ash Wednesday for a talent fee of $10.  I don’t know what made me sign the release form pronto, but I said yes, took off my shades, and waited as they got set up with the rest of New York walking past me.   I was lucky that it was a sidestreet and not a main thoroughfare, but this being New York City, the traffic was pretty brisk during the lunch hour.

From the first question of what is Ash Wednesday to whether or not the Pope’s admonition about Ash Wednesday brought me here (and no, it did not — I go for my ash whoever the sitting pope is) — I’m glad I took the time to answer the questions, because it was a reaffirmation of what I have grown up to believe all my life about my religious leaning.

Like all other surveys and interviews, there is that question that sticks with you:  “How would you define faith?”  And spontaneously, I replied, “It’s believing in something or someone, a higher power or being even if you cannot see Him or physically feel him.”

That is the kind of faith that I am trying to teach my son, and it’s a kind of faith that you cannot give to someone if you don’t have it in your heart. 

I did a Lenten fast yesterday which was rare and not easy for me, but I made it through the day with a few slices of bread and water.  At night, I made do without the meat and had grilled cheese.  For the season, I’m trying to give up red meat.  So far, so good.

This Lenten season is more solemn to me for many reasons, and I want to make the most of this season or repentance and renewal and flesh out my relationship with God.  Faith has always been a very personal aspect of my existence, and while I wear my faith on my sleeve literally, what goes on and what I think and say to Him stays between Him and me. 

I am also trying to find the courage to forgive and to not let anger or pain crowd my heart.  It is not easy but I know it is the only way to find my way to inner peace and calm.  I try to be more introspective now, thinking before I say or do something — and reminding myself of what is right and just according to His word.  I am trying.  I am praying.

The past few months have seen me feeling closer to my God and I have never been more reassured of His presence in my life than at this time.  I feel blessed. 

I wish you all the blessing of that kind of presence and reassurance, and hope that the Lenten season will find you having a closer and more meaningful releationship with Him.

My Journey back from black

Today’s daily prompt from The Daily Post:   Tell us about a journey — whether a physical trip you took, or an emotional one.

This post is vague and cryptic in many places but I know that those who are undergoing a kind of healing, whether physical, emotional or going through a process of grieving will be able to relate.  This was rather difficult to write but I am glad I wrote it as part of my own journey.

Back from BlackThere are many journeys I can write about but they don’t speak to me as the topic for this post.    It just seems apt that I pick  one I am on right now.  One that I have been on for the last year.

“The last year” ..  I realize now it’s been THAT long.. the journey “TO” took all of a half year before that.  It was long, painful and heart-breaking.  To move on meant starting the journey back instead of letting my heart wither away in shame and pain. 

Being human, we make mistakes.   And when we come to that monumental mistake where others get hurt, and when others hurt us for the wrong choice we made, not even our remorse and our own pain helps ease the burden of trying to pick up the pieces again when we find ourselves all alone, despite the promise that we would never be.

I had always thought I was a very strong person.  That no matter what came my way, I would find the strength within to pick up the pieces and move on.  I didn’t know that my own folly would be my undoing.  I didn’t realize that my heart was not unbreakable and that in truth, it shattered like anyone else’s.  And that I was not immune to the heartbreak that saw my soul broken into a million pieces and it would probably take a lifetime to put it back together again — if that were even possible. 

My journey took me to a searing blackness.  A darkness that could’ve swallowed me if I had let it.

But I could not let myself just disappear into nothingness.  I had a reason to keep going and because of that, I focused what strength I had left to put one foot in front of the other, a step at a time.  The world goes on, I kept telling myself.  My sins notwithstanding, even with my head bowed down in shame, I found the will to move forward from day to day to day. 

A year has passed.  I am where I was last year that I am not.  My view of the world and the future has changed.  I no longer look too far ahead.  It’s day to day.  I am still trying to find the wisdom to find forgiveness — so that I may be able to forgive myself.  Throughout the journey and even as I trudge on now, I have become my most scathing critic, my worst enemy.  I blame myself for the pain and all that had been lost.

I am no longer the same person.  I’d like to think I’m wiser now, but wiser does not equate to “better”.  

I have retreated into my shell and I find myself bowing my head in resignation.  I no longer ask questions.  I have lost that right.  I have stopped trying to bridge what lines may have been broken —  I have realized no effort on my part would make that happen, and I have no more energy left to keep trying.  Where I would usually raise a ruckus, I just tune out and tell myself I should let it go.  I should just take the blows.

I haven’t quite given up on on my journey back — back to myself.  Hoping that one day I will find forgiveness, and I will no longer be so angry at myself for the wrong choices I had made.  I find the fuel to keep my engine running in a conscious effort to keep myself immersed in happy thoughts where I can find them, while shoving memories that bring me from happy to miserable in a snap deeper into the closets of my mind.  I have tried to focus my energy on undertakings that take me closer to doing things that have meaning to me, hoping to put together what I can from the shards of the me that I lost then.

Even if I am broken, the world goes on.  I marvel at how time has flown by.  One year and then some… I have laughed, lived and breathed — I somehow made it to now.  Yet in those moment of silence when I am alone with my own thoughts —  my anger surfaces again, and I feel a rock where my heart used to be. I curse, I blame, I give in to anger.  And I snap out of it and I am back to the reality of my world.  No matter what state I may be in, I tell myself, the world goes on.

I’m beginning to see the light.  It’s no longer as dark as it used to be.  There is a glimmer in the distance which gives me hope that I will find myself in a better place someday.  Perhaps even better enough to finally forgive myself, and better even if not whole again.  I know many of the things I had lost, I will never get back again.  I am no longer as trusting and as quick to laugh.  When I do laugh, I don’t laugh with as much energy and not long after, I sink into a half-smile as if realizing I shouldn’t be fooling myself into thinking all is well.

Where I used to see myself celebrating in a crowd, now I see a desolate island, with only the sound of the waves breaking the unbearable silence.

So I go on with the journey…  I don’t know where the road leads to or where the end of the journey is.  But with all that’s happened, I think what’s more important is that I’m still on this journey somehow.  And I still find myself smiling from time to time, even if only a wan smile.   I may have had the door shut in my face, but not all those doors stayed shut forever.  One opened again and let me in, even if only to keep myself warm through the night.  There is tomorrow’s sunrise to look forward to — as I go through the journey another day, as I continue my journey back from black.

Regrets and Dying

I haven’t completely sworn off Facebook, but I usually go in and out. I take a cursory look at updates from the people on my list and then close the window. I don’t linger. Again it must be me getting older which makes me think that if people were indeed interested to keep in touch, I’d get a message via email. I hate snooping around, so if it’s not in my current feed, I’m not updated.

There are days when I see something amusing or something that makes me pause and think.  I picked up this tidbit from one of my favorite batchmates from St. Paul Pasig (for elementary) and QC (for High School), Millet. (You can read a profile I wrote about her in our high school e-zine here.)  Her quips are always refreshing, and for the last couple of days, we have been feasting on some great photos of Japan where she just ended a much-deserved vacation.

Today she posted this “poster” which listed the “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” from  The Guardian News .  For some reason, it struck a chord in me and moved me to start drafting a post here. Graphic borrowed from Millet Henson's Wall

I guess it must be because I was thinking of Dad again this morning on my way to work, in connection with last night’s episode of Criminal Minds entitled “Alchemy“.  Above and beyond the usual gore and diabolical minds of the criminals that are the focal point of each episode was a focus on Dr. Spencer Reed’s continued grieving over the loss of his love, Maeve.  (in Episode 8: Zugzwang)  They were star-crossed lovers who had never met until they were on opposite sides of a hostage negotiation where Spencer tried to get Maeve’s female stalker to release her while she was holding a gun to Maeve’s head.  The episode ended quite tragically when the stalker committed death by suicide, with the bullet that pierced the stalker’s head shooting right through Maeve’s temple.

Several episodes forward, Spencer is obviously still in limbo with his grief, and David Rossi was trying to help him deal with it.  But that’s another post.  Suffice it to say that that got me into thinking about love and loss.  Hence, Dad.

So I looked over the list and thought that they were worth pondering on.  At my age, I have stopped thinking that I will live forever and have come to accept my mortality.  It can be tomorrow, next year, in a decade, or who knows?  I used to look forward to growing old and having grandchildren, but reality gave me a major bop in the head last year which has changed my view about many things including aging.

These are the things we wish we would never find ourselves uttering when death’s face is in front of us.  It’s the opposite of what we would consider “a life well lived” or more of “it could’ve been, BUT…”

I was drawn to the list because I wanted to ask myself if I am at risk at uttering these same lines when I find myself at death’s door.  I’m reposting it here just to give other like-minded “Older” souls the chance to ask themselves if any of these apply.  It would do one a lot of good to reflect on these now that you still have the chance to change things and hopefully avoid any of these sad regrets from cropping up when the time comes. 

None of them are difficult to overcome, yet they are common human pitfalls.

Have a look:

1.  I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  I think this is going to be on a lot of people’s lists.

I always tell those who ask for my two cents’ worth that we all have the gift and the ability to do and be what we want to be.  The reality of it is, that is easier said than done.  Often, we find ourselves conforming to what others expect of us at the expense of our individuality.

I think I’ve done fairly well in terms of having the courage to live a life true to myself, although I still find myself conforming to what is expected of me.  I think it’s part of the dynamic of society to impose certain standards upon all of us that find us falling short of being true to one’s self 100%.  There is always going to be that portion where we need to conform to what others want, or what others have imposed upon us.

We may choose to go one route, but life might say no, we can’t.  Then we don’t. 

We may choose another, but that other might choose yet another — so we are left hanging in mid-air, and the fall can break one’s spirit in two.  So we end up living up to other’s expectations, instead of living the choice we had wanted to take.  I beg to differ that it is not all about having the courage to live as you would want to, because sometimes, fate plays a cruel joke on us and just won’t let us live the life that would be true to what we are.

2.  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.  This one, I have to say, is off my list.  While I do work hard, I have always tried my best to maintain a good balance between life and work, never letting the latter take the former over.  While I may have put career first earlier on, ever since I moved to New York 13 years ago, I’ve always been clear that I would prioritize quality of life over career or a paycheck.  When you have accomplished the plans you had set early on in life, you view work differently and treat life with more care.

I’ve attained the education I dreamt of, worked  at some of the best companies while in the Philippines, moved to New York in 2000 to start a family… had my precious son in 2004… and I’ve been lucky to continue to be employed by a company that pays me well and where I’m a little higher on the totem pole.  It can be better, I know, but I’ll settle for “good”.

I get the chance to be a mom and be myself, do my crafts, write and enjoy the view 41 storeys above Midtown Manhattan.  This will be one regret I will not utter on my deathbed, because I know where life overtakes work and have kept my focus on never losing sight of that.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.  Again, another one off my list.  Those who know me well and who have read me here will attest to the fact that self-expression is a strength of mine.  It is one of my personal strengths which I take pride in, even if at times it had gotten me in trouble and left me steeped in disappointment and heartache. 

I have never run short on courage — I’ve always been very outspoken.  Even when I was younger, I had the courage to hand a young man who had caught my fancy a note to tell him I liked him but he was too “masungit”.  And even as I got older, I left everything in Manila to move here and start a new life and a family, taking a literal leap of faith — following my heart.

It has not always been positive in the end, because there were times when I was brave but I was rebuffed by fate.  That has somehow jaded me and made me more cautious, but I have always been a very transparent person.   Perhaps now I am not wont to be so brazen.  My feelings have been tempered by age and life in general.  But I know that I will never say I wish I had the courage, because I’ve always had that in abundance where my feelings were concerned.

4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  This one is a qualified “wish” for me.  It’s hard to say I am leaning towards this when the previous years have seen me getting pickier with the company I keep.  Friendships, like most things in life, take a lot of work.  And with all the other things happening in our lives and in the world today, we can only do so much.  I have never really lost touch with those dearest to my heart — it’s just that the list of the people who qualify as people I would regret not being in touch with keeps getting shorter and shorter.  At this point, I must say that I’ve been pretty successful in that respect — they may all be thousands of miles away, but they are always near in thought and in my heart.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.  I’m suddenly stumped.  Again, to “let one’s self” be happier, and to be happier are qualifying statements that don’t put me anywhere near a definite yes or no to this one.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as being more forgiving of one’s self, and I am not doing very well in that respect.  I don’t know if I will ever truly be able to forgive myself and let myself be happy again.  So instead I try to find the “happy” in the blessings that I have in my life — making up for not finding it within my heart. I am blessed many times over by love everywhere.  I know that most people will tell me not to be too hard on myself — something that’s easier said than done again.  I have reached this point in my life where I have come to terms with my personal failings.  Not even saying “I’m only human” gives me a reprieve.  I try but I feel like I’m in quicksand, sinking deeper unable to stay afloat.

Forgiveness has been easier to give to others than myself.  Perhaps it’s because we are our harshest critics, our most bitter judge.  It can also be because we are the only ones who truly know ourselves.

I am hoping that when my time comes, I will be able to chalk this off my list.  I hope it doesn’t come, though, for a long, long time yet — then maybe, I can say, I was able to let myself be happier.. in time.

The article ends with the question:  What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?  Sometihing to ponder on.

So which ones are on your list?  It’s not yet too late to start trying to avoid too many regrets from piling up in our lives.  It will never be an empty bag, but we can certainly try to lighten it, until our time comes.

Switching Gears

Sometimes we set our minds on a long-term goal and work our hardest towards it — planning, starting to set things in motion, setting our sights on a vision or a dream.  Then somewhere along the way, despite our determination, we are forced to switch gears.  Maybe because our circumstances changed, or things just didn’t fall into place as we had thought they would.

Then we realize they did fall into place, and much as it turned out totally different from what we thought early on it would be, we switch gears, we adapt.

We bow our heads in guilt and shame and just accept that we were wrong.  It is not always easy.  Sometimes it feels like it will be a forever struggle that we must mask with a smile, and an unrelenting effort to focus on the happy.  Forgiveness is scarce — forgiving others as much as forgiving ourselves can be such a challenge.

Sometimes people just disappear or let go — and try as we might to call them back, even the staunchest of hearts eventually accepts the reality that sometimes, you really have to just accept that it is what it is.  So again you switch gears.

You learn to work things out alone.  The chatter dies down.  The pain remains, but the whispering stops.  And with the silence, somehow the pain starts to have a numb edge.  It doesn’t go, but it transforms itself to a lump instead of a blade the keeps cutting your soul to pieces.

Then you switch gears yet again.

Journey Home: Manila

I was still awake at 1am here in Manila earlier today..  clearly exhausted after being awake for 48 hrs straight, my body clock kept protesting against the lack of  sleep forcing my eye lids down.  My bestfriend, Fe, was snoring away not too far from where I sat when I began this post, getting ready for a hearing this morning.  Me, I sorted through the things I brought from New York.

I’m home.  Well, not literally yet, as we’re trying to orchestrate a surprise for Mom in Paterno.  Instead I looked out at a dark Makati skyline from one of the more prestigious hotels at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Makati Avenue courtesy of another dear friend, Elvie.  Even in the darkness,  Makati evokes so much emotion and memories in my heart for all the years I spent walking these streets — from the time when I was struggling in law school, to just before I left in 2000.  In the daylight now, I see Makati alive like I remember it.

It’s a very confusing and chaotic time in many respects not just for me but for my siblings as well.  I could see my sister’s relief as we sat together through dinner.   She had just about given up because things had reached a standstill.  With my arrival, she is hoping we can move towards a positive direction again.  I’m trying to stay positive.

I can’t wait to see my Mom’s reaction when she sees me.  She doesn’t know that I’m here already.  We’re trying to orchestrate things so I can deposit my things home somewhere she can’t see any trace of me being there, slip in to sleep tonight and have her wake up to me being there to greet her Happy birthday tomorrow.  Sometimes there are things you do just because you know it’ll make someone happy, and when it’s my Mom on that side of  “happy,” it makes it doubly special.

I mean to deliver the bigger gift if I can pull off what I want to negotiate on her behalf so she rest easy, sleep a little more peaceful at night, and perhaps lay one of her greatest fears to rest.  I’m gearing for that next week, and hope that again, I am able to do what I came home to do.

There are things that we are letting go of to be able to focus on what matters more to us.  For me, I needed to come home to try and give things one last try, and hopefully help them find a solution in this puzzle.  If things don’t work out as planned, at least we can say we did everything we could.  I’m thinking I was brought home for a reason, and I just need to work towards finding the solution with the optimism that it requires.

“Everything happens for a reason,” everyone says.  True.  As Fe said, everything coming into play and allowing me to find myself here in Manila at this time means it was meant to be.  I sure hope so.  One last try for Mom.. for the family.

Funny how just four weeks ago, I was shopping for things to send home through my courier in time for her birthday today.  Then two weeks ago, we thought it would be a good time to consider coming home, and last week, we got confirmation it would be better to do it sooner than later.  And today, I’m here in Manila.

Thanks for all the well-wishes…  At a time when I feel like things keep going south, it means a lot to me to get the support of so many who don’t even know me in person, and who have known me only through my words here.   Godwinks.  And it means all the more when I am not getting the same support from the people I expected it from.  I’m trying to be generous with trying to understand — some can only take care of one thing at a time, or one person at a time.  In the grand scheme of things, I have to remind myself to put myself  and my feelings in its proper place with respect to other’s feelings and priorities.  What might be important to me might be inconsequential to others.  Sometimes, it doesn’t help that people see me as a strong person.  When I am at my weakest, they fail to see I need help, too.  And we all have our ideas about how to best help our friends in need which aren’t always what is best in the final analysis.

On the other side of the picture, I have been blessed with many friends who go above and beyond when I am in a time of need.  I always remember to thank God for blessing me with their presence and their love.  Beyond my family — my boys and the siblings and Mom here — I feel myself rich beyond measure because I have all these angels around me.  But there are things and accommodations only certain people can give, and which sadly the generosity of others cannot compensate for.  Sometimes, just a little kindness and tenderness can mean all the difference at a time when all doors are closing.  Others don’t see it that way, though.

I am trying to let it go.  Try as I might, I cannot muster the anger despite the disappointment.  Kindness, like happiness, is a choice.  We can make our grief all about us or extend it to consider the grief of those around us.  And we might just discover that it doesn’t add to our burden, but rather being considerate of the pain or challenges that others are facing will give us the strength to face our own.  Sometimes we say we don’t have any expectations of our friends, but we get disappointed when they seem to forget the friendship that we thought bound us together.  So we back away and we say, we understand.  That’s what friends do — they don’t get mad, they don’t give in to anger, they take a deep breath and say “she’ll come around in time..”  Time, however, is not always on our side.

I have my work cut out for me.  I am starting on my mission with the singular thought that I’m doing it with a firm resolve to do what I came here for.  I have adhered to others’ advice and thought processes — this time, I’m doing what I want to do the way I want them done, and on my own terms.  At the end of the day, at least I can say I followed my instincts, I followed my heart.

Almost 10am and the sun is gloriously shining on Ayala Avenue.   New York must be windy and cold again.  For once, I don’t miss that.  I am actually looking forward to enjoying the polluted air of Manila.

The Soap Opera that is our lives

I’ve been caught up watching Magkaribal, and I’m one episode short of being up to date.  The last episode I watched last night hit too close to home, with Mark Gil’s character, the errant father, meeting his end before he could set things right between his two daughters who didn’t even know they were the sister the other one was looking for.  He wanted to make amends and do right by his children.

I decided to skip the last episode for the week and postpone watching it for the morning.  I thought I was tired and decided it was late enough to hit the sack but instead I found myself thinking of Dad.  I know it’s probably far-fetched to connect the soap opera with my own life’s drama as far as my Dad’s recent passing, but I somehow made the connection.

Dad’s passing had left many questions unanswered.  The days following his death only raised more questions than produced answers.  I found out he was trying to have a will drawn up where he was relinquishing his half of the property he was occupying before his death to my half sister, and I knew it was because her mother could not be an heir.

While under the law this was not legal due to the concept of legitimes owing to us his children (including my half sister’s share as an illegitimate child), it appears that the lawyer my father was speaking with was working on having the will drawn up, but as fate would have it, the will was never signed.

Given all the things that had been happening before Dad’s passing and the problems we were trying to solve, it hurt me to realize that it was indeed true that my Dad didn’t seem to care about helping us with our dilemma,   But what hurt more was the realization that his partner had postponed calling us and getting us involved with this last hospitalization because she was afraid that another reconciliation would happen between my father and his children, just as had happened the previous two instances he was confined.

Too many things shouldn’t have happened and I kept repeating Dad shouldn’t have died.  Twice before, he was brought to the hospital on the brink of death, and yet he left in a better state.  This one time he wasn’t brought in for anything life threatening, because we were not involved, the wrong decisions were made leading up to his expiration.

Looking back now I got a reaffirmation that everything happened for a reason.  I would’ve wanted Dad to have stayed on longer, but that is not for me decide.  As they say, when it’s your time, it’s your time. 

I lay there and felt the tears coming — wondering if before he breathed his last, he actually changed his mind.  Perhaps he did.  Perhaps he never signed for a reason — not just because those scheming to make it happen never got the chance to have him sign.

There are many “if”s and “what might have been”s… I just let the tears flow and I realize I miss Papa and wish I had the chance to hold him before he died.  Yet I was fortunate enough to have taken care of him the last two times we saw each other.  I fed him, held him up, and stayed there by his side.  And I was there to lay him to rest.

I forgive you, Dad, and hope you forgive me, too.  I wish you peace and may you find yourself with those who went before you.  May you and Kuya find each other there in heaven.  I know he will keep you company, and you two can be together again finally.  I miss you both. 

There will come a time when we will all be together again.