Life lately

Less than a year ago, my parents left the country to seek a new life abroad. My father is/was there to begin the dream he’s always had and my mother was there to support him as a good wife should. I was left with the responsibility of taking care of the house–basically holding down the fort and officially entering that scary thing called adulthood.

Those months were terribly lonely. I was wrestling with all kinds of anxieties, and I had no one to talk to. I was left alone with thoughts that escalated into concepts that never were; at the same time, I was dealing with feelings that were terrifying to have when you’re all on your own.

But I made it till the New Year’s alone, cuddling with my dogs, and being perfectly fine with my solitude.

These days, while my mother has gone back to visit my dad, I look forward to the solitude of home. I get to leave the craziness of my job and rest my thoughts in the peace of a quiet environment. I am free to dance to my favorite tunes, make a mess in the kitchen, catch up to my reading, and actually return to the restless thoughts that I set aside on the workdays.

This time around, being alone is not lonely. It is a welcome choice–a decision I’ve made because it is exactly where I need to be. I am an introvert after all, and in a job that demands constant coordination and motion, I need an extra day to recharge that inward energy.

So thank you 2014, for making me suffer so I can learn solitude in its quiet and graceful form.

That said, since it is a Sunday: Sunday Currently Volume 2:

Reading
Still between the pages of The Diaries of a Young Poet by Rilke. His words are not only beautiful but practical yet powerful advice on how to deal with the scariness of life and emotions.

Writing
This.

Listening
“Run Away with Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen.

Thinking
About the beach, the quiet of a destination far from my habits and everyday spaces.

Smelling
The rain.

Wishing
For good weather this week and a little bit of lady luck for what has to be done, maybe.

Wearing
A Roxy shirt.

Loving
Carly Rae Jepsen. Walang kokontra, everyone needs their bubblegum fix. I’m just so sick of Taylor Swift’s landi hits. :))

Wanting

An actual vacation.

Needing
Money. Haha. What’s new?

Feeling
Sweaty. Just came from the front of the stove.

Clicking

The keyboard?

—-

Read about the original The Sunday Currently here.

Getting those feet wet: The Sunday Currently I

August has finally rolled in, which means there are just five months left in this crazy year. My, my, how time flies. I’m still finding my momentum amid all the changes that are ongoing, but I’m grateful for the prep last year provided and the companions who make every new burden a little more fun to do.

Unfortunately my writing has settled itself in the trunk as I go on this current ride. I crammed enrolling into residency for grad school last week, and it only hit me then that I am, officially, in the writing writing stage of the program. And that, I have yet to even officially start.

I can go on and on about how difficult it is to write–to sit down and enjoy the solitude of stumbling through words–against all the exhausting priorities and responsibilites that come with being a department head. Or I can spend my free time at least trying to write.

So here’s a blog post to fill the spaces that have settled into dust. Life is about developing habits, so I shall attempt such with the Sunday currently.

Reading
Re-reading Isak Denisen’s “Babette’s Feast” & Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Diaries of a Young Poet.”

Writing
This.

Listening
The solitude of an empty home. Sunday mornings are best spent in silence.

Thinking
About how the perfect cup of coffee make a difference in a day, how you never really know until you try, how dating someone your age or older actually makes a huge difference in the little things, and how I don’t mind spending the Saturday evening watching a movie at home over spontaneous drinks

Smelling
The cool air after a spell of rain.

Wishing
For a little breather in between or after the coming crazy weeks at work. There are three projects pushing through at the same time, yet I just got regularized. I can officially enjoy paid vacations, but duties may delay that perk further.

Wearing
A purple shirt and checkered boxers.

Loving
My best friends, my loving family, and the amazing new companions I’ve met and laugh with everyday this year 🙂

Needing
Financial stability.

Feeling
Calm yet anticipating the coming events. If there’s one thing 2015 has taught me, it is never, ever boring. Haha.

Clicking
Tumblr. Inquirer. Facebook.

Archived post: March 4, 2015

Pasting a tiny letter from the said date, to remind myself how far I’ve gone as of this date and how much more I have to do. 🙂

***

I come from a place where my mind was everywhere and not quite there at the same time. If I’m sitting down to interview someone, I’m also noting which lines to quote in the piece, figuring out how to expand a question, and maintaining a cheerful and semi-charming experience to hold the person’s interest. When I’m eating, I have to note how it tastes, which ingredients stand out, and if what’s promised works. Then I’ll get a message reminding of other tasks and responsibilities involved in my job.

It’s tiring. But my mind and body got used to being all over the place when I began working for media. Like Phil Kaye says in his poem, Repetition:

“My mother taught me this trick.
If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning.
For example: Homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework, homework.
See, nothing.
Our existence, she said, is the same way.
You watch the sun set too often, it just becomes 6 PM.
You make the same mistake over and over; you’ll stop calling it a mistake.
If you just wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up
One day you’ll forget why.”

Once upon a morning, amid my own repetitions, a friend messaged me about a workshop. He reminded me to apply, having mentioned it a week or so ago. I resisted: “But I don’t have X, one of the list of things to submit with the manuscript. I’m not sure about the paper I’m thinking about either, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be and if it’s a good fit. Can you read it?”

“X is optional. And sure, I’ll read it.” He replied.

As usual, I was making excuses. I needed someone’s encouragement to remind me only I was stopping myself.

I had a list of repetitions again in my head that day: chapters to edit, the usual tasks—writing and editing to live. I am a writer in that sense; a writer that holds off being a writer writer.

Fast forward to a day or so later, and I get a word document with my friend’s comments. I am first forced to edit the paper, but eventually I fall into a focus: I am writing, revising, editing. I am looking at new angles I didn’t see when I was finishing the first draft. I am there, not here, not elsewhere. I am writing writing.
You see in the Philippines, a Words Anonymous organizer explained to Phil Kaye, we repeat words here to make it sound cute. I think we also repeat them to better understand and remind us of their meaning.
Three weeks later, the edits become a part of my routine. On some days, I look forward to going back to the draft. On others, it feels like another task I want over and done with. But I am moving towards making that deadline; a deadline I chose to mark on my calendar.

A few days ago, I submitted the manuscript. I sold myself the best way I could to the workshop in a cover letter. I don’t think my chances are high, but it was more than enough to be brought back to that focus only writing can offer.
***
A day after submitting the manuscript, I am lining up in Ateneo with my good friend J. We are about to see Phil Kaye and Sarah Kay perform spoken word poetry. It was surreal—the tickets were a stroke of luck, but we were there, catching up, laughing, and talking art to kill the long wait. In an hour or so, I was about to see two people I’d watch on YouTube LIVE.

I met J in our fiction class. Grad school is funny; I entered it to improve my nonfiction and ended up making friends with a whole bunch of poets. A few of them never became my classmates—a beautiful improbability. I have these wonderful writers to thanks for introducing me to poetry. My sister used to write poetry, but I never gravitated to writing it. I preferred reading it and letting the words embrace my soul or pull out my heart. Poetry also taught me things prose couldn’t: revealing what you feel without giving it all away; the strength of the metaphor; the specificity of images; the beauty and power of just one word. Poetry also showed how important deciding words could be. There was also the matter of form: words are just words; it’s how they come together, how they sound when read out loud that give them life.

J and I ended up talking about art today. The form was compelling, like an attractive or good looking boy on campus. But like the stereotypical college crush, you didn’t really stay once he started talking. There wasn’t enough depth, no issues being addressed “Where is the discourse?” our professors would ask. And eventually we found ourselves asking that question about our own work.

The problem with learning “how to art” is it can hold you back. Once you know the rules and the standards that make a GREAT (note, not good) work, what you do is never enough. So we feel discouraged and unsure; is this writing thing still worth pursuing?

An hour and a half later, we were finally in the theater. Sarah performed all my favorites. I “spoke” along to Love Letter; I cried to Ghost Ship, thinking of my sister and my dogs; I wanted to do a paper on Teeth. I was laughing and crying then laughing and crying—one of the best mood switches a woman can experience, says Amy Poehler.

I couldn’t stop smiling after the event. We all ended up in Shakey’s and talked about poetry again. J and I ended up with M and D, two other poets I met outside of school (aka in the school of life). We geeked out about writing and gushed at the craft of the Kay/es.

I was reminded, once again, how much power a work can have. I don’t write for the fame or the money or the prestige. I write to see what the words can become.

That’s the irony of writing (writing): repeat it enough and you’ll eventually find that meaning you’ve been looking for.
So thank you, Universe, for sending out so many reminders about those little things only writing writing can give.

Grateful,
G.

Finding Stillness & Courage

2014 was the year of self-doubt. The year began with the full effects of being single after nearly six years in a relationship, reeling from the transition, and finding my place when I was officially on my own. True, it was my choice to let him go, but that was a difficult decision and one that required courage, and consideration of the consequences. So I began the year figuring out what those consequences meant in the past, how I’d sort it out in the present, and where I was going into this uncertain but chosen future. (Kaya ko naiintindihan at hindi kinokontra si Basha sa sinabi niya, “I just made a choice Poy” and that it wasn’t an intentional choice to break his heart. But hey, that’s another entry. Which will never get published. Maybe when I’m 40? Haha)

I entered the year with a new job in place, which in some ways, was a return to what I wanted (at the time) while learning the ropes of a new medium and language. Midway into the year, there was another transition to take in: my editor in chief left and I entered into a new role with the sudden restructure. I learned then and there how I wasn’t the best at abrupt changes. I mean, look at how I reacted to a change I chose for myself?

Eventually, I worked my way back into the next transition. Working for a small company wasn’t easy: it takes away some of your own resources, which is both a sacrifice and a bane, depending on my then meager budget. Oh, and I forgot to mention: there was my parents’ leaving for a few months for the States. I did not have the convenience of extra help as I navigated a job where everything from writing, editing, uploading, to logistical planning was up to me.

It was the year, that I officially learned what it meant to grow up and live on my own.

So many questions ran through my mind as I lived each part of my life’s difficulties and tensions: am I going to be alone forever? Am I ever going to be financially stable? Ganito na lang ba, hanggang dito lang ba makakarating ang pagsusulat ko?

Yes, topped off with the writing I did for grad school, I started to question the kind of writing i did for my career versus how I wanted to grow as a writer. The energy I spent writing for the day job began affecting the voice I’ve been trying to develop at grad school–or simply put, the hat I put on as an online writer was also on when I was attempting to be a “smarter” and more “developed” writer. It became my crutch and I no longer challenged or questioned the type of writing writing I was doing. Gone were the approaches I’ve been taught since 2012: why are you writing this and who are you writing for?

Come December, I sat down with one of my good friends from college. I met her back in college, we grew close when we worked as officemates and while she was dating my best friend. I told her, for the most part, everything I’ve written here. She reacted as I expected: with enough wisdom yet keeping her words restrained for me to figure the answer out on my own: “I think you know what you want to do. You just have to figure out how to do it.”

I entered 2015 with a decision to be less anxious about things. A lot of things will never be in my control; I can only do what I can, so I decided to just let everything fall into place. Getting into this state of mind is still a struggle, but I am slowly but surely finding ways to hope yet calmly take in whatever life hands to me after all has been said and done.

Who would’ve thought 2015 would be the year of crazy but wonderful surprises?

I decided to move a little more coming into 2015. The jobs I applied for did not just look for what I wanted to do, but also how it would benefit my career in the long-run. It took a while for some applications to push through and others didn’t seem too promising, so I didn’t mind holding out until today, June 2015. But lo and behold, I got a call from one company and it offered me a promising position.

Unlike my other jobs, I had an idea of what I was going into. A friend who had held the same position in another department constantly complained about the stress, lack of a life outside work, and the flooding. But I’m old enough to weigh the pros and cons of things, and I wanted a position that would challenge me–something that would get me out of my comfort zone and develop new skills. For the longest time, I felt like I wasn’t moving career wise. Years ago, I wanted to make it as a writer. Then I realized, being a writer is an act and not just about the by lines. The by lines help you write in different voices, understand the publishing world, pay the bills, and be more considerate of your form and syntax. But a career goes beyond just one act.

So here I am, still figuring out what it means to be a managing editor. It’s only been three months, but it feels like a year. I’m in a whole new ball game. In some ways, I’ve returned to the process of print, yet I’m also juggling a balance with the sales side as I handle managing the content & design of client related publications. To sum up the challenges I’ve faced, the mistakes I’ve made, and the solutions that have found some success would take another year of ruminating and considering. But for now, I am grateful to always have the challenge and be blessed with a team that is both smart and strategic about our actions.

As for matters of the heart, I’ve let go off a lot of those anxieties and uncertainties. I am far ahead from the dark place that I was in (read as: no longer listening to Taylor Swift’s Red album on loop, haha), and have come to truly understand why I had to make that choice in the first place. The struggle wasn’t only in living the consequences of a break up, but also in learning to be on my own. I’m still learning to tone down the whole “OMG I’m going to be alone forever” panic, but being on my own is far better than the place I was in back in 2013. I think my MA best friend put it best: loverless but NEVER loveless.

So thank you 2015. I’m not sure what the rest of you will bring, but I’m glad I have the courage to face whatever comes at me.

July, July, July

“People confuse the source of their happiness. They become temporarily happy when they get a new car, or a new house, or a new marriage. And they think that they are suddenly happy because of this new thing in their life. In reality, they are happy because for a brief moment, they are without desire. But then soon another desire comes along. And the search continues.”

– A quote off a photo caption in Humans of New York

Letting go has never been easy despite it being a constant in one’s life. People always say we need to accept that change is constant, but we also forget to say that with that change comes letting go of a place, a person, a profession or a job, a sentimental object. Once that is gone, we lose what was once a huge part of who we were in past moments and move on to the present, where what is gone–is well, gone.

Back in high school, our Catholic philosophy class taught us that people would never be satisfied. I can’t recall the exact term Aquinas and the rest of the Vatican coined, but what I remember the most was that we are bound to constantly be unsatisfied–never happy–just constantly in search, going from each means to another until we find the end. (The lesson led to the said end being God, but that’s not my point).

I graduated high school armed with the knowledge there was no such thing as total happiness (except with God and faith, but that’s another story). I had this knowledge that happiness would be a fleeting moment that went from one thing to another. 

I eventually learned that life was about savoring those happy moments. The impermanence, the temporary state only made those minutes, those hours, those years worth holding on to while they lasted.

But then there are those people and those places we hold on to. Despite the distance, the exterior changes, the fights, the faults, and everything else that could get in the way, these people choose to stay. You work and fight for them to stay. They become a part of you as much as the air you breathe or the address you indicate on an information form. You stick to that person because you want to, because you have to, because you’ve spent so much time making them a part of your life.

Yet the choices aren’t always enough to make you want to stay too. So I left. I left despite having to leave a chunk of myself in the past into a present I have yet to understand.

I was told that happiness was fleeting, that the search for fulfillment is forever this hunger that is forever asking to be fed or a movement from one hunger to the next. But as that caption indicates, perhaps we shouldn’t be taught that happiness is in finding the one, the One, or the End or an end, or a thousand means. 

Happiness is usually a smile, laughter that fills the room, the desire to share that good feeling with others. 

But how does happiness come in when we’re in between? When we haven’t found quiet yet what we’re looking for or had to let go of someone/thing to better understand what we really need?

I’m rambling but haven’t you ever asked yourself these questions?

Celeste & Jesse Forever

I had an art film phase. I devoured Chinese, Japanese, French, South American, Spanish, etc. etc. movies like they were being passed around like gourmet food. I was the pretentious teenager who believed a well-made film with certain filters, a crushing story, and a nationally or internationally relevant topic would change the world. I scoffed as my parents wondered how I could keep watching these movies and still feel okay after.

Then I grew older. Not much wiser, either. But time moved me into important decisions that had to be made. I was exposed to more realities that my parents themselves faced, alongside the weakening economy. I went to work through a crappy public transportation system and always had a street kid or adult passing or sitting by during the commute. I went to events and met some of the country’s elite. I overheard one of them complaining about how she didn’t get her ice cream delivered on time, while I had the knowledge that there was a family living in a box above the market in the next street. I finally understood the powerlessness we all hold when we see these problems–these issues that never get solved or hardly move on–while members of the middle class also have to deal with inflation, rising gas prices, and the instability of a circus government. No wonder my parents didn’t like seeing art films: it was a reminder of the realities they couldn’t solve while they were still trying to solve problems of their own.

But even us young adults still need a film that will softly remind us of our lives. We don’t know what we’re doing 80% of the time, so it won’t hurt to come across a story that will nudge us the right way. The conundrum is particularly confusing when it comes to letting people go and understanding our reasons for doing so. Movies like “Celeste & Jesse Forever” are a gem: it’s indie without being pretentiously artsy because it delivers a tender realistic story.

 

Celeste and Jesse are two individuals legally separated after a six-year marriage, but have been best friends since childhood. Thus they face the problem of having to let go of each other officially, but aren’t sure how to keep the friendship that started and came with the partnership. It’s a problem many couples face post-break up and writers Rashida Jones and Will McCormack handle how Celeste has to let go realistically but subtly: at first she busies herself with work and says she’s okay with Jesse moving on. But eventually when the truth sinks in…

I won’t spoil things from here. Given my er, recent situation, I just really appreciated how on point each scene and conversation was without being too dramatic or depressing. The story was paced right, slowly and then suddenly fast but back to the quiet, just like normal life. The scenes weren’t very boring either, despite the parallels they had with how normal friends and exes talk about navigating relationships. Rashida Jones and her co-writer Will McCormack do an amazing job of presenting friendships and relationships, the choices we make, heartbreak that comes with those choices, and the difficulty of moving past decisions we can’t take back. 

Before I saw the film, there was a scene in the trailer where Paul (played by Chris Messina) says to Celeste: “Do you wanna be right or do you wanna be happy?” It’s a question we all ask ourselves, whether we’re figuring out a relationship or deciding on where to go next with our career. It’s a question that also sums up the meaning we try to find in life. I asked a similar question once as well and I remember the answer: “It’s not a matter of whether you did the right thing. Time will tell and from there you’ll understand why you had to make that decision.” 

It’s easy to hear and say that. Life, however, is the best teacher to show you how that unfolds. This movie manages to render that painful but enlightening lesson.

Photos from The Huffington Post‘s “Rashida Jones on ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’: I Wanted to Play Somebody…Less Likeable’

A question, your answer

Thursday night. Three drinks later in your car. We go about the night like all the others in the last three years: we drank, we danced, we caught up as we nearly yelled against loud music. The real conversation started as the car made its way to L’s before you dropped me off at home. On that night, you don’t even offer or ask how we’re going home. We simply followed you to your car. As the car moved along Pasong Tamo, you didn’t double check with us for the proper directions to our homes. You probably followed a route that led to the few ones in the last two years–from the previous warnings of a turn left or right, a missed opening that led to another U-turn, a redirecting of the road as we both navigated the directions of our own lives.

Then I asked you a question I had waited to ask since I last saw you.

“How do you deal with it…the heart break?”

“You wait. You give it time. You just have to be patient.”

That was what another friend told me too. He told it to me every time I asked him different forms of that question in his car. I heard it every time but I never listened. Maybe because it was too soon for me to really understand what he meant. Maybe because I wanted to understand the answer as soon as I heard it.

But when I asked you, there was a stillness in my heart. A quiet acknowledgement of that reality. Not acceptance; not quite yet. Yet the courage to ask that question was a step in itself. It was time to face the reality of my situation: That time only passes and all I can do is wait. However slow time may seem, it keeps going and all I can do is live through those slow moments.