Posted in Personal

My Grandmother’s Story

Memory is a funny thing. It is not infallible and are often filled with mistakes. The older I get, the things I remember becomes less than the truth. One day, I may even forget all of it.

My memories of my paternal grandmother are the ones filled with most mistakes and gaps. I have lived with her for almost 3 decades, and I am ashamed to say I don’t truly know her story. I used to think she was the eldest of twelve and that my grandfather was the only man in her life. But I was so wrong, and it was only recently that I’ve learned of the many things she had done in her life.

Nanay (mother), as we affectionately call her, was the eldest sister, and probably the most motherly figure, among five siblings. She was born in the late 1920s, and she would tell us some stories about the war and the terrible things that she saw in her childhood.

She was married once, but that marriage ended for reasons I don’t know. She had been with other companions before she found Tatay (father), my paternal grandfather, who was almost 20 years her junior. They had been together for nearly 60 years until Tatay’s untimely passing in 2013.

Nanay loved babies and children, but wasn’t fortunate enough to be blessed of her own. Still, she found a way to become a mother by adopting her niece (my aunt) and nephew (my dad). She loved and raised them, and when they had their own children, helped to raise us as well.

I was still young when I learned this truth, and it was quite a shock to learn that Nanay wasn’t my biological grandmother. Maybe that’s why we had such a love-hate relationship when I was growing up. I do remember that I loved it when Nanay would compliment my long hair. She would say I remind her of her mother – which was a great praise as my great-grandmother was beautiful.

Even though Nanay and I had many differing views in life, I loved and respected her. She was strict, and probably traumatized me with all her scary stories but I learned a lot from her. She taught me how to sew, how to save money, and how to be sentimental. She taught me that blood isn’t the main point of family; love is.

At 95 years old, Nanay had outlived all of her siblings but soon followed them on May 1st 2021. She had a peaceful sleep in the house Tatay had built, with my parents and sisters. It was an expected ending, yet it was still heartbreaking.

Our family grieves, but we take comfort in knowing that Nanay is now at peace with Tatay and her siblings. No more pain, and definitely no more loud noises (she hated noises).

Sometimes, I wished I could go back in time and ask her about everything her life. But it’s too late now. And while memory is not without mistakes, I hope that by writing these down we would always remember Nanay and how she loved us. She was one of the strongest person I know, and I can only hope that I grow as strong as her.

Posted in JapanLife

JapanLife: The Little Things in Life

Browsing through Reddit, I stumbled upon a little group for foreigners living in Japan (such as myself). One of the posts was a question about the little things we’ve seen or done that made life here a little better compared to where we originally came from.

That one made me pause and think. For the past 3 years, I’ve only taken notice of the big difference between my hometown and my new home. But there are, in fact, so many little things that seem commonplace only in Japan.

(I’ve only lived in 2 countries so far, so this list is very subjective).

Washlets, Bidets and Seat Warmer

Almost every toilets here have built-in bidets. It’s the one thing I rarely experienced in Manila, unless it’s a super fancy type of place. Here, I’ve seen old public restrooms with very modern type of toilets: with bidet, sound, and seat warmer. The seat warmer are especially useful during the cold winters, and I am so thankful that my apartment has one.

They also have washlets, which are built-in faucet and sink on top of the water tank. You wash your hands from this faucet and then the water is reused to flush the toilet. It’s very convenient. However, you can’t wash with soap using these washlets. It clogs, so it’s still better to use the lavatories for a thorough wash.

IC Cards

I’ve used IC cards mostly for trains and buses (though I rarely take the bus). It’s also very useful when travelling across the country as I can use it for almost all the public transportation (except bullet trains). I’ve also noticed that whenever I use my IC card in convenience stores, I get a little discount.

Some casual dining places have also installed self-service ordering machine that accepts IC cards. It’s very cool and convenient since I can just tap my card after selecting my meals. Plus, I won’t have to burden my wallet with a lot of coins.

Once, I also stayed in a hotel that would only accept cards (credit card, debit card and IC card). It was weird, but at least I didn’t have to charge my credit card for a 500 yen-worth breakfast.

Doings Things Alone

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that Japan is an introvert’s paradise. This is the only place where I can eat in restaurants by myself without feeling self-conscious. And most places have counters or small booths for lone diners so I don’t have to use the big tables and rush myself.

I’ve also watched movies in cinemas by myself. Reservations are made online, and I just have to use a computer kiosk to get the physical ticket. The only time I have to talk to someone is when I buy popcorn and soda.

Where I grew up, I used to go to place by myself. But when I tell people that, they tend to feel sorry for me. They said I must be very lonely, but I’m not. I just really like my “me” time.

Feeling Safe at All Times

If you grew up where I did, the first thing you’d learn was how to avoid danger. As a woman, I had to be twice as vigilant. My parents used to worry when I had to go home at 1am from work because of the rampant crime in our place. I’ve carried mace, learned how to use keys as make-shift weapon, and how to trust my gut when it comes to strangers.

I know that Japan is not 100% crime-free, but it feels so much safer here than anywhere else I’ve been. I could travel by myself, and even walk home late at night. If I misplaced my wallet or my phone in a mall, there is a 99% chance that I could get it back.

Even the roads here felt safer than in Manila. Granted that most drivers I’ve observed drive really fast, they almost always give way for the pedestrians. The sidewalks are also clean, and the only danger (for the unobservant) is a bicycle wheezing past.

Flowers Growing Everywhere

This makes me specially happy. And it’s not just during spring that flowers bloom in my neighborhood. I’ve seen purple flowers burst from summer-dry ground, random blooms mixed among the maple leaves, and sturdy plum blossoming during late winter.

Even the weeds have uniquely shaped and colored buds that made me want to stop and take some photos.

I live in a slightly urban area, and seeing the seasonal flowers never fails to make me smile.

Seasonal Wardrobe

I don’t have a lot of clothes, and I rarely go shopping. When I arrived here 3 years ago, I’ve only got a few month’s worth of clothes, and 3 pairs of shoes.

But Japan has four seasons, and continually changing temperature. So, I had to buy blouses, jackets, coats and shoes that would be comfortable for each changes. I even noticed that my clothes have become more work-conscious. I still wear my style, but I’ve adapted to how the women dresses here. I’d like to believe that I dress more maturely these days.

So now, I had to rotate my wardrobe according to the seasonal calendar. My clothes and shoes more than doubled in just 3 years, and I may need a bigger closet space in the future. LOL!

********************************

These are just the few things I really appreciate while living here. Sometimes, I forget that I wasn’t born here, or that I don’t really speak their language yet – because I’m so comfortable here.

I thought I was already an independent girl, but Japan has made me even more so.

I will always love the Philippines (despite all their many problems right now), but Japan is my second home.

Posted in Personal

Savings 101

Growing up, I’ve been taught that it’s important to have savings for the rainy days. It was with that mindset that my parents helped my sister and I to open our first bank accounts when we were teens.

It’s been years, but I still carry that mindset with me. I like shopping for books, shoes and artsy stuff. But I also like the peace of mind in knowing that I have money in the bank whenever I would need it.

So, I want to share some of my saving habits:

0-Balance Limit

I use this technique to ensure that there is always money in my savings account. This simply means assigning a certain amount that acts as my 0-Balance Limit. If at anytime my saving reached that threshold, I treat it as empty and I stop spending.

An example of this technique:

Bank Cash is the actual amount left in the bank after subtracting all the expenses. Expendable Cash is the amount you get when you exclude the 0-Balance Limit. It is the money to be used for other things like random shopping, take-outs, leisure coffee (Yes, I love frappuccino).  If not spent, it would be added on to next month’s Bank Cash thereby increasing the Expendable Cash as well.

Based on the image above, you could easily save Php 100,000 in a year. Within that amount, Php 20,000 is already your safety net. It doesn’t feel like a big saving, but if you don’t spend all your Expendable Cash, it could grow bigger in the next few months.

The beauty of this technique is you can assign any amount and you can adjust the increase any time you want.

Credit cards are equivalent to cash and not extra money.

I have credit cards. They are convenient and necessary especially if you like to travel (pre-covid and hopefully after). But I treat my cards as equivalent to the cash in my wallet and/or bank.

For example:

  • Item for sale – Php 10,000
  • Cash on hand – Php 3,000
  • Card limit – Php 15,000
  • Bank savings – Php 20,000

To be able to buy that item using my card, I’d check first if I could pay it back from my bank account – either immediately or within the next pay day. If the answer is yes, I’d swipe it. If not, I won’t buy it or start saving so I could buy it next time.

It could easily be tempting to think credit cards as extra cash, but that would lead to monthly debts and more payments than I can handle. I don’t like debts and I especially don’t like knowing that my next pay would have to go towards payments instead of my Expendable Cash.

I also make sure that I won’t go past my allotted 0-Balance Limit even after I paid back the credit.

Build an Emergency Fund (optional).

If you look back on the image above, you’ll see I included an Emergency Fund column. It’s the money segregated from the savings but also not spent on expenses.

Some people use piggy banks, or a different bank account just for this purpose. It can be daily, weekly, or monthly. You can increase the amount or keep it the same for the rest of your life. The point is you’ll have a small amount of easily accessible money in times of emergency.

This is optional as I usually use Expendable Cash for my spending needs. But if I suddenly reached my 0-Balance Limit for the month, having an Emergency Fund is a lifesaver.

—-

Of course, I learned early on to always plan and do research before any major transactions. Most of the times, it’s better to buy one high-quality item than to continuously replace a cheap one. And some things are more of a liability than an asset.

In the state of the world today, I feel like more rainy days are coming. Having good saving habits could help avoid the headache and uncertainty of the future.

Posted in Poetry

How to Love a Girl Like Me

Be patient
Understand that she is a human being
With flaws and insecurities
Hiding behind her comfort blankets
Afraid to thread the lines
Terrified of the unknown.

Be kind
She is trying her best
To step out of the walls she built
And follow the light of the sun
Even though she’d rather stay in the dark
Where it may be cold, yet safe.

Be humble
So that she may learn humility
Without diminishing herself
As she had been taught to do
She had forgotten how to love
And so she must learn from the start.

Be truthful
Even though it may hurt
The lies in her past hurt even more
Your honesty will be the foundation
Of the future she wants to build
With you, and only you.

Be trusting
She may be fickle and unpredictable
But she will never lie
She had been lied to too many times
And she knows how deep the wounds could be
Earn her trust with your own.

Love never fails
And she knows you will not fail her
She may be broken and scarred
But her love for you will be stronger
Than all her fears and doubts
Believe in her as she believes in you.

Posted in Personal

“We accept the love we think we deserve…”

– The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

It has been years since I’ve last read the book or watched the movie. But that quote is still stuck in my head.

In the story, it was used to explain why the people around Charlie’s (main character) life chose to stay in abusive relationships. Maybe even why Charlie chose to stay in the background instead of living a full life.

People who feel broken tend to gravitate toward broken things. We believed that if we could just fix this one thing – make this one person a bit better – we would feel less broken ourselves.

But more often than not, we end up with more disappointments, crushed souls and bitter hearts.

I, myself, was a victim of this negative mentality.

Most of my life, I felt weird and less of a person just because I don’t think or act the same way as other people. I have been told that I was not normal because of the things that I like and dislike.

So, I walked through life mimicking the people around me. Putting on the façade of “normality”. I tried to do what society dictates a woman of my age and race should do.

I repressed my natural instincts – fought to keep my weirdness inside. But all I ended up with was anxiety, overthinking mind, and lots of sleepless nights.

I couldn’t be what they wanted me to be. So, I decided maybe it’ll be better if I become myself.

But even that backfired on me. I was too different, I had too many things that goes against the grain of normalcy. But I learned how to cope. Slowly, I learned to use my flaws as weapons instead of weakness. I would openly voice out all that was wrong about me, before someone else could use it to hurt me.

Over time, I just accepted that I would always be that “weird girl” no matter where I go. Even if it hurts me, and even if I felt small and unworthy from all of this, I have accepted that this was my reality. I took the burden of everything that was wrong in my life:

  • If my parents were disappointed, it was because I couldn’t be a perfect daughter.
  • If I lose friends, it was because I was a lousy friend.
  • If my relationships failed, it was because I don’t know how to be in a relationship.

I was weird, immature, introverted and weak. And I deserved all the pain and tears I had endured.

At least that was my old mentality.

We do accept the love we think we deserve. But because I thought I didn’t deserve love, I settled for any attention I could get. In the end, all I did was hurt myself more.

It wasn’t until I started therapy that I realized the only person suffocating me was me. It was my own fears of being isolated and cast out that trapped me within my mind.

I saw how people act and feel. I saw that I was different, and judged myself to be the abnormal one. But I am not.

I may be different, but I am no less than a person. I may have a million and one emotions, but it is normal to feel. I may speak and act in a totally different way than what everyone expects, but I am a human being – a functional and complete human being.

I spent so many days and nights trying to fit in with the world, trying to achieve the standards set out by culture and society. But I won’t anymore.

Because for the first time in my life, I finally know what I want. I finally have a goal for my future that was borne from my desires. And even though what I want is different from what was expected of me, I don’t care.

The voices in my head had gone down, and all the “what ifs” were erased. It felt freeing to finally know who I am and what I want to be. I don’t have to explain myself to anyone else because I am not weird, I’m just me.

And these are my realities:

  • I am not perfect, but there is nothing wrong with me.
  • I know how to love and care, and I deserve to be loved and cared for.
  • I am a complete person all by myself, and I don’t need to find completeness in somebody else.

We accept the love we think we deserve.

And we all deserve to love ourselves – in our own way and time. We walk on the same earth, but we have different roads and we have to find our own path. We are all deserving of love, happiness and respect.

I am worthy of this life and I deserve to walk this path towards my dream. I deserve to do the things that will make me happy.

Now that I’ve figured these things out, all I have to do is plan how I will reach my goal: to see the world and experience all its wonders!

Posted in Short Stories

Her

My first memory was “her”.

When I was a year old, my mother got really sick. My dad, at that time, was a traveling salesman. He couldn’t stay and take care of us because he needed to travel to earn money.

Mom and I stayed with her parents, Nana and Papi. When she died, my grandparents took legal custody of me and my father got weekend visits. It was for the best, I guess. He still had to work, and I needed stable ground to grow.

I don’t remember much about my mother, except for the stories Nana used to tell me. I couldn’t even imagine her face if not for the many photographs in our house. Papi used to say I looked a lot like her, except for my hair and eyes which I got from my dad.

I don’t know my mother, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t really miss her. You can’t miss something you never had.

I was 3 years old, when I first saw “her”.

Nana was sewing in the living room while I was playing with my dolls. There was a knock on the door, and she had to step outside. Somehow, I got hold of the big scissors, and accidentally cut myself. I saw “her” appear out of nowhere and called out my grandmother.

“She” was gone by the time Nana found me bleeding on the floor. I was taken to the emergency room and sewn up. The way Nana told it; I was the one who called for her. But I knew it wasn’t me. It was “her”, the lady with the flaming red hair, the lady in the photographs.

When I was 7 years old, my dad asked my grandparents for a whole week of vacation – just the two of us. It was a big deal as it was the first time I would spend more than 2 days with my dad.

We went camping and fishing. We went to the old camp where he and my mother met. He told me stories of how he fell in love with my mother’s golden eyes. As much as my grandparents’ stories made my mother real, my dad’s love for her made her come alive in my mind.

It was the best week of my life. I just didn’t know it would be one of the last good days.

On our drive back, the storm hit. It wasn’t a big one, just enough rain and wind to make the drive harder and longer. I was looking out the windows when I saw “her” again.

“She” was standing by the road, a few steps ahead of us. It was dark, but I could see her red hair glowing by the streetlight. I was about to point her out to my dad when I felt our car slide and tumble.

Dad lost control of the car, and we were falling down a ravine. It might have taken minutes, but for me it felt forever. When I opened my eyes, I was hanging upside down, protected by the seat belt which my dad securely fastened. I looked over to him, and his eyes were closed; dark red liquid steadily dripping from the side of his face.

I tried to scream, to call for help, but I had no voice. I was so helpless, scared and alone. Then “she” was suddenly there, just outside of my door.

Help my dad, please.

“She” took my hand and whispered softly, “everything will be okay.” The last thing I saw was her smile as distant sirens filled the air, then everything went dark.

I woke up in the hospital with several fractured bones. My father, however, was paralyzed from the waist down. Despite all that, we were lucky to have survived that fall.

I heard my grandparents whispering about the good Samaritan who helped us. It was a woman, they said. But she didn’t leave a name, and she disappeared as soon as my dad and I were in the ambulance.

I told them it was mom. She was the angel who protected us from death.

That was the first time I saw Papi’s eyes filled with pity. For me.

I was the traumatized child who was hallucinating about my dead mother – according to the therapist they stuck on me. But I know it was real; “she” was real, her hands were too warm not to be.

Things have changed after that day. My father lost his job, and he had to move in with us. Papi and Nana welcomed him with open arms, but my father’s nomadic soul was restless inside our house.

He was so used to traveling and moving so much, that he couldn’t cope with the paralysis; he couldn’t bear to be stuck in one place. He started drinking. And even though we were under the same roof, I felt him getting farther away from me.

It was then that I started to miss my mom. Or rather, I started missing “her”.

That night “she” held my hand, I felt comfort and peace. I longed for that feeling.

When my dad’s drinking got worse, Nana and Papi decided to send me to a relative’s house in the country. I guess they didn’t want me to see my own father’s deterioration.

I was sad to leave them, but I was also glad to finally have a semblance of childhood again. Even if it was just temporary. My life had been enveloped with a darkness that I was desperate to escape from.

And then, I saw “her” again.

I was walking around the lake when I stepped on a rotten part of the dock. It gave, and I fell on to the cold water.

I didn’t know how to swim. I was flapping and struggling to stay afloat, but the water was deeper than I imagined.

“She” appeared out of thin air near the dock. She ran to me as she screamed for help.

I felt the last of my strength fading, but her strong and warm hands held on to me. Soon, some people nearby found us and helped me ashore.

I caught a glimpse of “her” just before I lost consciousness. She was standing on the dock, far away from the people helping me. Her red hair was shining in the summer sun.

I wholeheartedly believed she was my mother. Yet, she wasn’t a spirit or a ghost. I’ve touched her, I’ve heard her voice, and she felt too real to be a hallucination.

Over the years, I’ve seen “her” a few more times as I grew up. I felt like “she” comes whenever I was in danger – from others and from myself.

“She” was there the night I learned my alcohol limit at a friend’s house party. I was almost passed out in one of the rooms when the door opened slightly. I could see a guy who almost came in, but “she” just appeared out of the shadows and closed the door.

I’ve seen “her” when my boyfriend cheated on me in high school. When he chose my best friend over me, and she chose to break my heart. When all I felt was rage at the betrayal. “Her” presence brought me calmness, and I could still hear her words from so long ago, “everything will be ok.”

I tried to hold on to that feeling for as long as I could.

I was in university the day Nana lost her battle to cancer; and I was untethered. She was the only mother I ever had, and without her I felt so lost. Papi tried so hard to hold on to me, but his pain was greater than mine.

A few months after Nana passed, Papi soon followed and I lost the two most important persons in my life in one sweep. Alcohol became my companion, and drugs were my comfort.

Each time I would pop a pill, I could see “her” just within my peripheral vision. “She” didn’t stop me, it was like she was just observing me. I dropped out of school and stayed in my childhood room.

My father, after a long absence, reappeared in my life just as I was hitting my lowest point. I didn’t trust the man. But he claimed that he has turned a new leaf, that he was sober. He said he was a better man and wanted a chance to become a better father.

He had a new family, too. He got married to a woman he met in rehab. She was a nurse and she helped him accept his paralysis and supported him as he got clean. He believed she could do the same for me. They told me that they only wanted me to give life another chance.

They all thought I was trying to kill myself, with all the booze and the pills I took. But I couldn’t tell them that I just wanted to see “her”. I wanted to feel that comfort and peace she brings. “She” was the only light I see in the darkness, and slowly poisoning myself seemed to be the only way I could see her.

I moved into my father’s new house. His new wife was kind and sweet, but she was not “her”. I wasn’t happy with them. I hadn’t been happy for the longest time.

I was 21 years old, still living in my father’s house, and without sense of direction in life. One night, I overheard my stepmother tell my dad that I was beyond their help, and that I would be better off in rehab. I knew then it was over. If I went to the hospital, I would stop seeing “her” and I couldn’t live with that.

So, I waited until both were asleep. I took my hidden stash of sleeping pills and vodka into the bathroom. I was hoping I could see “her” for one last time before I finally let go.

“She” appeared just before I swallowed a bottle-full of pills.

“Don’t.”

Her face looked the same as when I was 3 years old. And her voice was strangely familiar.

“This is not the end.”

But it hurts. Everything hurts. I just want things to be over.

“It hurts now, but you will get through it. You have survived a lot, and you will survive this, too.”

How do you know?

“Because I’m here, I’m alive. I am living proof that you are stronger than you think.”

Who are you? I feel like I know you, but I don’t understand.

“You know who I am. In your heart, you know me. And you know what I say is true.”

I looked at her; at her hazel-green eyes that were so similar to mine yet also different. “She” wasn’t my mother; she was no angel, but she was real. And I knew her.

She was right, I was stronger, I had to be.

She watched as I flushed the pills and vodka down the toilet. She stayed by my side until I fell asleep. She held me as a mother would hold her child, and I felt peace.

In the morning, she was gone.

The pain was still there but I knew I could fight it and I would beat that darkness in my heart.

It has been 8 years since that night. I voluntarily went to rehab and got clean and sober ever since. I reconciled with my father, and I made peace with my grandparents’ death. I believe that they have found happiness with my mother wherever they are now.

I haven’t seen “her” in all the years I was getting better, but I’ve kept her words in me. I am stronger, and I am wiser than I was.

I went back to college and met the professor with whom I share my heart and life. And I am so thankful that I’ve found him. He is my rock and my comfort. Without him, I wouldn’t have this beautiful girl twirling in my living room right now. This perfect little angel with her father’s flaming red hair and my hazel-green eyes.

Posted in Personal

My Journey to Self-Love

I was 5 years old, thin and sickly living in a hospital for the past few weeks. My mother would tease me that I was “thin as a stick” thinking it would get me to eat and take my medicine. I had no appetite, but I had no choice either.

I was 7 years old, and my sister was making fun of me because I had to use shoestrings as belt. All the other regular belts were bigger than my waistline, and not enough holes. I had to use shoestrings or wear skirts – which made me look like an “old maid” according to my grandmother.

I was 10 years old and was still adjusting to the new school. I was one of the smallest students in our year, and quite clumsy. The boys loved to tease and bully my kind. My mother insisted because I looked like skins and bones that people think I was weak. She believed I was weak, too. I think she still does today.

I was 12 years old, excited for the first acquaintance party at school. My mother insisted I wear the white blouse with the pink gauzy skirt. She said I was beautiful and for the first time, I felt beautiful. In the middle of the party, the school principal (a nun) took me aside to scold me about my dress. She said the gauzy material made me looked a “slut” and I had to cover up or go home. I had no other clothes, so I went home.

It wasn’t the first time I was called a “slut” at school. That same year, my history teacher gave me that name when my friend and I wanted to go to the girls’ restroom together. Why? I have no idea.

I was 15 years old, just a few years within puberty. My body changed, I was no longer thin and sickly looking. I’ve reached my maximum height of 5 feet (still short), but I looked healthier. People have noticed I was getting a little rounder. Some were happy, some told me to start a diet and exercise plan.

I was 17 years old, and my boyfriend just broke up with me. He said it was because I had to focus on my studies. I felt it was because I wouldn’t have sex with him. My friends told me it was because he met another girl who would (and probably did).

I was 19 years old, and my so-called friends were comparing faces and bodies. They kept saying they were ugly when they obviously were not. I thought they were trustworthy, and I loved them. So I decided to share my greatest insecurity (which I regret now): my starfish type of body. I called it starfish because my head was of average size, my ankles and wrist were very small, but my bust, waist and hips were bigger than I would’ve liked. They laughed and used that to tease me that I look pregnant every now and then. I am no longer friends with them.

I was 21 years old, a few weeks back from summer vacation at the beach. I was at a job interview when someone from the building asked me if I was not from the city. I was too dark, she said. I didn’t look like a college graduate from a prestigious university. I still got the job.

I was 23 years old, having an after-work drinks with a few workmates. We were talking about “love life” and my lack thereof. One of the guys told me that my standards were too high for someone like me. He said I shouldn’t aim too high if all I could offer was my intelligence. I had no answer to that.

I was 27 years old, and I just broke up to the only girl I’ve ever loved. And she told me that looking the way I was, she understood why guys never liked me. And that I would never find another person who would love and accept me. She was my only option.

These were not new words. These were the same things she told me all throughout our relationship. I was nothing and nobody without her. And I had to go back to her if I didn’t want to grow old alone. I never went back, and I moved oceans away from her.

I was 28 years old, I finally decided to join a yoga class. It was mostly for my mental health. A way to shut off my overthinking brain occasionally. My mother loved the idea of yoga for me. She said I was getting fatter since I’ve moved away, and exercise would help me become thin and beautiful.

I guess she was right that I wasn’t beautiful. And it was even proven true when I tried dating. I’ve met men who seemed nice and polite on chat, but totally disappeared after meeting in person. I guess they didn’t like what they saw.

But one man honestly told me that “idiot guys” (his words) don’t look beyond the surface. He told me not to waste my time with idiots who can’t see beyond my skin and look into my heart. I’ve been following his advice since then, and he’s now one of my trusted friends.

I’m now 30 years old, and I wish I could say that I’ve reached the end of my journey, that I woke up this morning loving everything about myself. But that’s not true.

I still don’t own a full-length mirror because I don’t like looking at my whole body. There are still times when the first thing I noticed are the scars on my skin or pimples on my face. I still can’t wear sleeveless shirts in public because my mother will judge how much I care for myself by the color of my armpits. People still think that my standards for a lifelong partner is too high for an unremarkable person like me.

Even so, I am doing my best to find the beauty amidst my flaws. When I hear the voices telling me that I am “ugly, worthless and undeserving” I answer back with all the good things I believe I have. Sometimes, it shuts them down, and other times it keeps me up all night.

I know being so concerned about the physical beauty seems petty. It sounds dumb compared to other problems in the world. But I’ve realized that if I want to make a mark for myself in this world, I had to start with accepting myself for who I am.

And I am trying so hard to accept myself: warts and all. It’s just hard, after years of being taught to think little of myself. So many years I was conditioned that “to be humble” was to make myself as small as possible. That I had to accept the taunts and criticisms, and words should not hurt me.

But they did. I’ve been teased for being either “too thin” or “too fat”. I’ve been sexualized for just being myself. Somehow I’ve been tagged as both “slutty” and “ugly”. Each word slowly diminished whatever self-worth I had.

And even though wounds inflicted by these words were invisible, they were still there. And they ached as much as the physical wounds I bore from a lifetime of clumsiness.

Although, it did make me believe that saying:

“what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”

Because it did. I was stronger now than I was before. It’s from this strength that I fought the urge to claw at my throat after every meal, to dig out those I felt were making me uglier.

It’s from this newfound strength that I didn’t go through with “the plan” after silently suffering for so long, and I was able to celebrate the 30th year of my life. It was a difficult battle with my inner demons (it still is), but I’ve won and I’m here.

And if you started reading this hoping for a grand redemption at the end, I’m sorry to disappoint. My journey to self-love is just at the start, and the road seems way too long.

“Beauty is a construct based entirely on childhood impressions, influences and role model”

Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock BBC)

My childhood impressions of beauty and happiness was faulty, I admit. I thought that if I can make myself skinny, flawless and perfect I would be happy and content. Books, magazines and media all aided in that unhealthy concept.

But happiness is a choice. So, I choose to be happy in all my imperfectness. I choose not to listen to the whispers but make my voice louder. I still have that darkness within me, but I am choosing the light and I will continue to do so.

This journey is only beginning, and I will surely reach the end.

Posted in Poetry

Phoenix

“It hurts”

But the pain will make you strong

Right now, it doesn’t make sense

But soon you will understand

The reason behind the pain

And why you had to go through it

So, don’t close your eyes

Watch as the walls you built

Come crashing down around you

Look up towards the sky

Darkened with smoke and ashes

As the fire swallows up

Every bit of happy memories

And sorrowful regrets

Don’t look down

And don’t cry

That pain is your ally

It will strengthen you

As you burn brightly

Like a star falling from the sky

You will fall

Over and over again

But you will rise

And you will shine

And the pain will be nothing

But a distant memory

Someday, you will be stronger

And wiser, and better than you are now

Embrace the ache,

Find comfort in the darkness

Soon, you will rise from these ashes

And be that person

You were always meant to be.

Posted in Poetry

Do My Eyes Betray Me?

Do my eyes betray me?

When I look at you

Do you see?

Are they windows to my soul

My storm

My inner turmoil

Can you see what I hide?

What I bury

Deep inside?

When I laugh

Do my eyes show?

The sadness

And all the sorrow

Do they glisten

With unshed tears?

Collected pain

From all the years

When I smile

Do my eyes do the same?

I can’t remember

A life without pain

I can’t recall

How it used to be

When things were good

And I was happy

My eyes are tired

I wish to close them soon

Find peace in the night

And solace from the moon

They say eyes can’t lie

And I hope that’s true

I hope my eyes don’t deny

My hidden truth

Do my eyes betray me?

I really wish they could

Find someone who’d see me

I wish you would.

Posted in Personal

Watching Movies and Anxiety

There’s a post that I found a few weeks ago. Basically it says that people with anxiety rarely watch new films or TV series. They prefer to re-watch old and familiar stories. That way, they wouldn’t be caught surprised or unawares.

Well, I have general anxiety.

And yet I love watching films in cinemas, and I binge-watch a lot of things on Netflix. I thought I was the exception to the rule, and I felt weirdly proud about it.

But I recently caught myself doing something that made me realize that I, too, don’t like surprises in either movies, series or books:

I read spoilers.

Yep.

I realized that I automatically google spoilers and plot twists on the internet before watching any movies. If it’s based on books, I try to read the book first and look up movie details before buying cinema tickets. All the movies I’ve watched, I waited at least a week and soaked up on spoilers before going to the cinema.

(The only time I didn’t do this was when we watched The Last Exorcism and that movie ended up disappointing me more than anything.)

I do this especially on Marvel films. I actually waited til they lifted the no spoilers ban before I watched “Endgame”. I read everything on the internet – be it Wikipedia, IMDB, Reddit or 9gag. If it has spoilers, I’ve visited it.

Even watching TV series, I research about each season and episodes. If I get particularly attached to one character, I also read their fictional biography. It’s so that I can mentally prepare myself if they should suddenly leave or die in future episodes. I also take note of episodes with cliffhangers. I try to allot enough time for me to watch all parts of a multi-episode story arc in one sitting.

If it’s updated weekly (like Game of Thrones was), I wait a day or two before I watch the new episode to make sure some people already updated its wiki page.

Books have not escaped this weirdness of mine. I used to find books on Goodreads or Amazon books. I read their summary and reviews. Some reviews have a bit of a spoiler, and I really enjoyed that.

When I go to bookstores and browse stuff, I still google some of the titles that intrigued me. If the books are open, I’d flipped through the pages and even read the ending. Books that have solid endings usually end in my cart. Those with cliffhangers, not so much. Unless I know that I can afford to complete the series.

So, I guess I am not an exception after all. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like not knowing when the ghosts will suddenly appear. I want to know if the character I am strongly rooting for (right now that’s Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds) will have a happy ending or not.

I overthink everything before I sleep at night and I do not need the additional worries over the fictional worlds I’ve been in the whole day.