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.

Back to New York

Written while on the plane, March 21, 2012

I’m finally on my way back to New York after two weeks in Manila.  It’s pitch black outside.  7ish in the morning in New York.  My boy is getting ready to go to school.  I told him when he wakes up, I will be there with him.  I miss him so much I can’t wait to show him I brought home some of his favorite pandesal.  (Actually had to stop for it on the way to the airport this morning.)

I am exhausted, physically and emotionally, after two weeks in Manila.  There are meetings that just sap you of your energy, and two meetings with the creditors did just that.  I left with no solution on paper yet, but we got as close to one as we could get.  I feel like I did accomplish what I had come home for.

My mom has grown older again.  Not just age-wise, but I could see it in her eyes.  She still smiles, but she looks weary.  I’m glad I was able to come home to help.  My siblings, I know, were more than relieved.  They have been waging this battle for so long they left all the negotiating to me.  I couldn’t blame them.  It is indeed a wearying task – one that can really knock you out, but one which you do not have the luxury to quit from.  You get knocked down, you just get up.

But we got up.. we negotiated.. we’re getting there.

Journey Home: Layover in HK

I landed here hungry and tired.  We landed at 1:30pm but the airline didn’t serve lunch.  So after clearing the security inspection, I searched high and low for something substantial from a franchise or restaurant that wasn’t American and familiar.  I landed at the Red Lantern where I feasted on dimsum, chicken feet and some glorious steamed pork buns.  Jasmine tea that tasted as authentic as can be — and of course, washed down the feast with Coke light.  I headed straight for the gate where my flight was set to leave 2 hours hence, and so I’m here.

I’ve tried texting people back home that I’m heading their way but the signal might not be too good.  I am feeling heady for lack of sleep.  While I managed to nap on the first leg, I didn’t really get to sleep, no thanks to this ill-mannered passenger seated to my left in a three-seat middle aisle row of chairs.  I managed to survive the flight without bopping him in the head or telling him off for his elbows landing near my mid-section, and for his knees constantly rubbing against mine.  If it were Brad Pitt, I wouldn’t have minded, but he was loud, uncouth and looking for first class legroom on a coach budget.

It’s only 3:30 and the clouds in Hong Kong are overcast.

Hong Kong was my first trip outside the Philippines, and I was lucky it was for business and not pleasure so I got treated to some of the more expensive restaurants in the territory, and I even managed to view the storeys – tall mural of the Shangri-La.  After two trips here, I have not gone back to visit — only to pass through.

Oops.. battery running out on me.. have to publish and cut out now.. until I land in Manila, that is!

Back to Art Journal Every Day

As if my days were not packed tight enough with work, motherhood, house chores and squeezing in what’s left to do “something for me”, here I go again (after vacillating over the first few weeks of January,) signing up for Art Journal Every Day as inspired by the great Julie Fei-Fan Balzer.  I used to stop by her blog at least once a day but I’ve been too busy of late.  (Plus I needed to make a determination as to whether or not I would attempt another try at art journaling.)  Well today she started sign ups again, and of course, I couldn’t resist.  Plus, her post “Art Journal Every Day: Letting Go of Expectations” seemed to push me towards giving it another try.

With my not necessarily every day attempt at doing an entry for my own Art Journal, I’m trying to see how much more profilic I can be this time around.  (Spoken without fear and with the knowledge that I am not even anywhere near starting a new piece!)  My art journal for 2011 is barely halfway done, so I think I’ll pick up from there.

I’ve learned a lot about art journaling this past year, but more importantly, I think I discovered more about myself in doing the limited number of entries I came up with in 2011.  For example, I never thought I’d enjoy doing watercolors so much.  I tried “gessoing” but it didn’t quite work for me.  I am continuing to develop my zentangling skills, and I have a project or two on standby.  There is just so much one can do and not do, or say and not say in an art journal entry.  I am so excited by the millions of possibilities.

Inspiration, I don’t lack.  There is much to write about, draw about and just create for.

So here goes another try at Art Journal(ing) Every Day.  Thanks, Julie, for the inspiration as always.

Almost home

I am trying to put in my first post about this homecoming as I round up my almost 18 hour trip home to Manila.  I am looking at the mountains that are visible from the Hong Kong International Airport, listening to Christmas carols piping through the sound system, and random chatter between some senior citizens who, like Angelo and I are coming home for the holidays.

Any homecoming is special to me no matter how many times I’ve made the trip home since I moved to the big apple in 2000.  Christmas in the Philippines, as Lou had said, are “incomparable”.  Indeed.

There’s this feeling of excitement that envelopes me each time I make that penultimate stop before landing in Manila.  Can’t wait.

The Journey Home

I’m here in JFK waiting for the first leg of my flight home to board in approximately an hour.  I’m exhausted after packing through the night, deciding to change suitcases two hours before I was to get ready to leave, and just weighed down with the sadness of knowing I’m coming home to say goodbye to Dad.

I’m hooked up to a Samsung power station which, surprisingly, has no other patron.  The last time I was here, all plugs were taken and everyone who had a laptop had their units up.  I don’t remember now if at that time, the wi-fi was free, but I always have my own wireless card and now USB key so it didn’t matter.  I have this station all to myself and I can freely charge my laptop, blackberry and what have you — and no one else is going to take any of the other power units.

I’ve had this knot in my stomach since I heard the news last Thursday.  Fe says it’s shock.. “Anim na baldeng iyak lang ang katapat niyan..” she texted back.  So I guess I have 5 more buckets to go. 

No matter how we knew it was just a matter of time, and more importantly, that we had gone through the motions twice before already, it still didn’t come as easy as I thought it would be.  Perhaps the circumstances prior to my father’s passing were to blame — or perhaps it’s because you never really can be truly ready to say goodbye no matter how you think you may be.

The security check was interminably long and I found myself tearing up more than once in the twenty minutes or so I was in line.  I held them back but not without effort.  I was thinking how I always looked forward to going to JFK because it meant going home to Manila.. or a vacation some place.  The only times I didn’t feel quite happy about it was when I was bringing Mom or Ofie here to go home after they visited with me.  Today is one such trip — and it won’t end when I drive away from the airport — because I know it will be here through the almost 19 hours it’ll take me to find myself home in Manila again.

It’s a heaviness in my heart that makes me clutch my chest as if doing so would make it go away.  But it doesn’t. 

I’m doing the journey alone because the cost was just too prohibitive to even consider bringing Angelo along.   So Alan stayed home with him.  I wrote my boss and some chosen friends about the news a fews hours after I found out.  I went to work because staying home would’ve meant more tears — and I didn’t want to cry myself to an asthma attack.  Getting a flight home was easy compared to trying to get a flight back.  I would’ve wanted to return after a week — but as luck would have it, I have to wait 13 days to board the flight home.  Looking back now, I think the fact that I didn’t get to leave as soon as I had hoped did me some good as it helped my emotions to settle down.  The anger, the grief, the pain have abated some — and while I am still ambivalent about many things at this point, I find myself in a better position to think things through.

I thought I had it all planned out well ahead, having fearlessly proclaimed I would want my Dad to be cremated.  But as things got complicated in the previous weeks, my resolve weakened, and when my siblings posed the question to me, the answer I gave was that I would go with what they wanted.  That was unusual considering my siblings and my Mom usually looked to me to be the decision maker.  It’s the boon and the bane of being the eldest.  Somehow I found myself vacillating between sticking to what I thought I had wanted and the alternative of just burying him in our family plot. 

Ours is a very complicated family situation.  It almost made us decide as a family to dispose of a full wake altogether.  And the circumstances leading up to Dad’s last hours were very emotional and chaotic.  I almost shirked away from talking to him via long distance which my sister had offered.  I gave in eventually and told him I was okay and we (him and I) were fine.. that I wasn’t  mad at him and that I was letting go of whatever had happened or had been said between us.  He was in and out of delirium already but he must’ve heard me because my sister said he seemed to have acknowledged me with a slight movement after I spoke. 

The news came hours later.  My sister followed my instructions not to call me directly, but to leave a message with Alan instead.  I didn’t know how I would react to the news when it finally came.  So when Alan told me that he had a missed call from Ofie, I already knew what the news was.  It was confirmed when he picked up his voice mail.  I spent a good hour crying.  I just sat on the bed, in the middle of getting ready for the day, sobbing away.  Alan came in and comforted me, and Angel, too — but I just needed a good cry.

An audible sigh just came out.. time to board.. time to go and take that journey home.