Unhappier

I.

Again, someone told me: you should be kinder to yourself.

This was yesterday, during what has come to be the typical daily long distance exchange between myself and someone who actually referred to us as star-crossed once, mostly because we’re literally separated by at least a thousand miles, but partly because of how parallel we led our lives this year, meaning I’ve come to realize the predilection for geographical and emotionally unavailable loves runs deeply universal.

II.

And so, this whole thing called finding repose in writing / forcing myself to write daily — and read poems, too (because I’ve been complaining about not having read enough, and this blog called readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com inspired me, so why the hell not) instead of spending days on end going out to sustain pointless conversations and feigning little intimacies just because I’ve been told it’s what I should be doing at this age.

III.

I’ve realized that winds can actually howl. I told this person about this yesterday, sending him a recording or two of what they sounded like in my bedroom window, according to google, exactly 1,463 miles away from him. Somewhere, always, a storm brews over the mainland, but this weekend one lingered over the north and brought the usual circus of families being evacuated and those eyeing seats in government deeming it prime time TV. I live up sixth, which means storms sound different up here from the ground, as mother noticed yesterday. On the ground, it’s just wind through the trees, a beautiful girl’s hair flying in the wind, but up here they’re more ferocious, coming in gusts that fling themselves at the building through the night so much that you begin to question how long can the structure you call home hold out.

IV.

I saw an old boyfriend the other night, too, just as this one made landfall. Over drinks I have never been more sure things ended for the right reasons, even as we struggled to remember what was those were, laughing over how this elusive teenage excuse once seemed like a Greek tragedy. It’s funny how you can look at someone and call on nothing from within, this line from a poem by one of my mentors, Nerisa Guevara ringing in my ears: “Actually what is left / is a vague memory that I loved you.”

V.

The small, fleeting sadnesses still come in spades, but at the very least I’ve come to terms with the menacing ease of reaching out for a drink or a hand to hold during such episodes.

And so, in light of learning how to be kind to myself, this poem by Charlie Samuya Veric.

Unhappier

I think of that word in the dark of winter–

the negation coming first, a state of being, then

the contrast. All this in the syllables

of a word I stumbled into while reading

an online comment on NY Times, my laptop

and myself, passing time in the dead of the night.

I wonder what it is with this season.

Once a physician said something

about her patients committing suicide one

after the other from Thanksgiving to New Year;

people dying in the darkest hours.

This evening, I was walking from school

all bundled up, the arctic wind

blowing in my face, the howling I could hear

now and again. Then it came to me

what loneliness meant. It was the cold biting

into thick layers of clothing, deep into pores

of one’s skin, the body curling like the tip of a fern,

and then the voice sounding from the bitter void:

There’s no one else. Embrace yourself.

Status update

Some realizations:

I.

I spent more days in hotel rooms this month than at home. I’ve yet to remember lugging around hair conditioner. I’ve gotten so good at being alone that I can lose myself in deep sleep wherever I am and enjoy the most vivid dreams yet shoot awake upon sensing the slightest movement. Turbulences do not bother me. The strangest feeling is falling asleep on an airplane even before it takes off and waking up to find that everybody else has, too – as if they can now afford to miss a final glimpse of cities they call home, as if to say, meh, I’ll be back anyway. I miss packing with me a similar certainty. The sum total of all my hours on the road, in the air or waiting for departure in terminals can be converted to a week, almost. I should really buy a pen because “I don’t have a pen” is not a legitimate excuse for not writing. Dumaguete has this fascination with shanghai. Cerveza Negra has become my drink of choice in places with no local breweries I can buy overpriced beer from. I suppose I can now identify as a highly-functioning alcoholic. I have to get that diploma so I can finally move to the Cordilleras. I was offered the option to keep this job for life yet I still harbor dreams of slaving away in the academe. My new favorite poem ends like this: embrace yourself. My salary for the last fifteen days was mainly spent on books, lipsticks and coffee. This is funny because I only bring with me a tube or two and then perhaps three titles per trip. In my room, the rest collect dust. I will never fall in love with the boy I am currently seeing yet he fascinates me like no one ever has, so I shouldn’t take it against him if he doesn’t fall in love with me. I wonder everyday how I’ll survive the humming zeroes in my savings account. Shafts of sunlight do a frantic dance upon touching the surface of Visayan seas, yet water here does not taste any different. I struggle with coherence. I tend to overstay my welcome in cafés. I do not miss you.

II.

I recovered the manuscript I’ve been working on from my old laptop and reading it is like meeting myself again. There is this poem about eluding death, offering cheap alternatives, yet I can’t seem to remember what brought it to life. A poem about us would work better if I inserted a colon on the first line to call attention to something you once said, according to my date. I can now admit that the first love poem I ever performed and ever published was for someone I’m now ridiculously good friends with and it’s laughable how I look at him now and don’t feel like something is amiss.

III.

Most days I believe that I am a genuinely good person despite my tendency to talk all tough and easily pass judgment on the most unsuspecting characters. The rest, I get teased about how easily I succumb to trusting strangers, usually upon their declaration that they, too, are damaged beyond repair.

IV.

I feel like a hypocrite for endorsing the human rights approach to the climate crisis yet feeling this huge sense of relief at the end of every workshop I facilitate, for obviously this would be the good time to hear people’s stories. A friend tells me I tend to talk too fast, like I just want to get the day over with. Usually, I do. I wonder if I can attribute the weariness to age. I remember how young I am and cringe at the impossibility.

V.

I should really read more, write more, see more than the bare walls of old hotel rooms. Perhaps today.

Home narratives

I thought long and hard about signing up for this 10 – day silent retreat out of the city but unfortunately, just when I decided to send the application, I was alerted that my September schedule was pretty much booked…for a nationwide caravan. I suppose I can’t complain, my wish being just the generic spending a while outside of Manila and forgetting all about its demands and longings even for a bit else I could go insane any day now. Backpacking around the country for an entire month for grassroots work fulfills that desire pretty well, and I dare say the silence I’ve been needing shall come along somewhere down the road. Because really, come on, it doesn’t get any better than that. All the mountains to hike, all the beaches to laze around for hours in, all the new people to meet!

Also, I sent my first fellowship application already and I’ve my fingers crossed, but if the Universe decides it’s gonna keep sending me to places way before I declare myself ready, since that seems to be the recurring theme for the second half of 2015 anyway, I’m going to find myself in a new continent in two months’ time. How is that for moving forward.

Not a sprint but a marathon

Earlier this week, someone I was sort of seeing reminded me of one very, very important thing: to be good to myself. Big talk I know for someone whom I’ve let disturb equilibrium the past three weeks since the day we met, but I knew without a doubt that he was right, philosophy units put to good use. Such goodness he says should be exercised at once and often, the most basic way by at least making it a point to get some decent sleep every night, else I’ll find myself burned out and disenchanted with people and life in general at the tender age of twenty – one. For the very first time in my life, I listened. Which is not to say, of course, that I’ve found some glorious spell to help my thoughts slow down — what’s different now I suppose is that I can now catch myself thinking too hard and too much and implement regular, sharp, intakes of breath.

Due to some issues at the Philippine office, work has been pretty crazy lately, and I have fallen into the habit of coming home at midnight and collapsing into my bed by 12:05 sharp the last three days. Not that I’m complaining. Now more than ever I am assured that this is where I want to be, and being provided so many opportunities to sustain my staying in this field doesn’t hurt either. Since the reshuffling issues were resolved a few days ago, we have redefined the local campaign’s goals and partnered with an organization aiming to marry human rights and climate justice — pretty much my personal stake at this all this time anyway — as opposed to just serving up interesting ways to communicate the science. I couldn’t be happier to be given the liberty to take charge of something that could possibly, even in some small way, make a difference in people’s lives. Since we aim both to influence policy and we have plans to do grassroots work meaning I get to get out of Manila for a month to travel the entire country, it is all I could ever want in a job. Frankly, I have no memory of working this hard for something.

But like I said, things are complicated, and not at all the enveloping glow of hard work for me. I still have yet to graduate college, mainly because I’ve evaded going to school to even file a leave of absence and have yet to revise my thesis which is due in 10 days. Again, no complaints there — I’ve managed to find a way to dive into literary and cultural studies by tackling poetics and form and the most basic of my urges, mere interest, is working its magic and making me power through. The episodes of blinding sadness — now mostly just drawn – out moments of utter disbelief that I’ve deviated so far from the life I had been planning six months ago with someone else — still come, but they are not as confounding as before. I am still confused as ever with how things are going to go now in that department, but like I’ve said, I’m learning to take slow, deep breaths. I’m not going to waste sleep being confused by things that should be as obvious as day anyway.

I just have to find more ways to observe the being good to yourself thing. I have always been identified as intense and have fallen into the lifetime habit of throwing myself at things (people, haha) and then subsequently losing interest. Pacing is an idea so foreign that its introduction to my life as a way of dealing with things now just seems ridiculous, but otherwise couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.

On the necessity of small sadnesses

Look at me mulling over an encounter again. I couldn’t stress further how radical the changes in my life have been in the span of seven months wrought by someone’s sudden departure and thus invalidating everything I’ve grown to know, love and want out of life, so imagine my surprise upon stumbling upon the realization that I’ve allowed a perfect stranger to inhabit my thoughts this past week or so, despite said thoughts being plagued by questions about my supposed inadequacy and other similar indulgences since January. My bestfriend tells me it is just like me to dive into something head first and without much care for the consequences I’ll probably chalk up to experience anyway, the recklessness then being justified by, at the very least, a tighter grasp on things I’ve given up trying to comprehend because of the aforementioned departure, a fuller understanding of life, yada, yada. That sounds like I’m fulfilling some pretentious artist stereotype, no?

Write about what you know, they say. And so, this return to blogging as I re-learn how to churn out poems for that manuscript I’m finishing. To be honest, at this point, I’ve given up trying to hold back the urge to get to know someone I find intriguing, strings attached or not. I’ve so much to worry about and opportunities to look forward to lately. I go at them full force, yes, but unfortunately, I employ the same temper with these things. I wish I could stay afloat and feign nonchalance but I’ve given up too on childish pretensions. It’s been so long since I actually admired someone and felt the need to learn from and all about them, from what makes them tick to what resurrects them at their lowest moments, so it’s just unfortunate how my heightened interest caused the dwindling of another’s, and without so much as a warning. Earlier this week too, someone who has been around for years told me how a horrible human being I must be that I’ve grown blatantly unaware of the fact that I’ve kept him around despite the certainty that I won’t be able to reciprocate what he has been offering for so long. That felt like a slap, a sign that I’ve to detach myself from this new one, thinking I’ve better chances of staying sane especially in light of everything else that is happening in my life if I just let this one go as early as I could, seeing as it is that everything has officially stopped making sense in this department to me. Like all else, though, this shall pass soon enough.

However, I refuse to accept that this is just the nature of encounters at this age. I’m terribly romantic and gravitate towards things, be it a cause or another encounter, who carry the possibility of consuming me. Despite of all that has happened this year, I still believe there is no other way to go but through this route. Meanwhile, there’s revising my thesis, Barthes, a paper for my first conference, work, and trying to get fit despite injury. I’ve better things to do with my time, indeed, but this one is really, really, just a shame.

Live Poem

Some people just make you want to slow down. Retain faith. Learn patience.

Sharded Verses

“Love is a choice,” my mother always says,

But this time her spatula did not point
Pragmatically in my direction.
It stirred silence on the boiling broth,
Ripples matching the excited rhythm
Of the TV sports anchor’s voice
In a basketball game my father is watching.

Now that I’m older, I’m forced to reconsider
You and my fixation on the Addams couple
As our role models forever.
One always hungry for the other.

I never listened to my mother,
But every day I see her.
And I’m older and love must be domestic,
Responsible, sensible as a haircut in summer.

Is it possible for us to make something more
Out of what we are about to have?
Of course, you do not know.
Even I do not know.
Why did I even begin asking questions?
I just wanted to write you a love poem
But I can only live one…

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21

Safe to say that things didn’t go quite as planned. Five years ago, I clenched this idea of the best version of myself, and when you’re young, you take having defined the mold you want to grow into as the mark of maturity. I was as self-assured as I’ll ever be then. I thought that I was going to graduate college by 19, and be halfway done with law school by the time I’m 21, possibly in a relationship with someone whose dreams exist in the same wavelength as mine. Writing this now, two hours before I add another year on top of my last two decades, it puzzles me how everything turned out just differently — not better or worse, mind you, I’ve since learned to appreciate the way I deviated, but just differently.

I’ve yet to graduate college, I still have my thesis and Spanish units to complete. I’m considering totally abandoning my law school dreams in favor of a career in development, which I figured I could jumpstart now. The man who I thought was the love of my life turned out to be just one of those guys you meet in college who gift you with your first real heartbreak. I’m about forty pounds above my desired weight. I’ve stopped writing altogether, for the Nth time. Most nights, before drifting off to sleep, I am paralyzed by the fear I may never measure up the high standards I have set for myself, or never see daylight again to actually enforce them, believing all my life for some reason that I will never die old, reach old, be old.

But to dwell on these things is to discount how well things have been going so far. Two nights ago, I was hired by an international NGO whose goals I believe in with all my heart, andw will now send me off to places I’ve never even dreamed of to make at least a wee bit of difference in people’s lives. Before that, I have gotten two job offers from two wonderful institutions despite my lack of a degree. I’ve just gotten a raise in the part-time gig I’ve held for the last three years, and I am more or less financially independent the moment my first payday comes. I’ve a good grasp of the people I call my core, and a burning desire to hone these relationships forever. I live in a place that affords me the most marvelous view of the city I call home, and so wake up with renewed energy and purpose everyday. I have started eating clean, and taking care of my body well. I’ve been reading again and managing to mute the doubting voices in my head more often because of this. I have lost the energy to put up with people I don’t want around me, and have learned to stay away from relationships that are as draining as they are inauthentic. I am actually not afraid to admit anymore that I want a relationship with my parents. I kiss my eighty-one-year-old grandfather often, and feel my heartbeat quickening whenever he laughs at my stupid jokes. I am seeing my siblings doing something worthwhile with their days and going at this with a passion I wish I had at their age, and feel myself beaming with pride. I am as reckless and as impulsive as I will ever be in sending applications, approaching strangers and declaring what exactly what I want and need, and feel liberated that I no longer waste energy in holding myself back. I feel myself yearning to make reparations to people who have gotten from me less than they deserve and less that I am capable of giving, whether said reparation comes in the form of an extra credit assignment, or a rekindled friendship. I have managed to see myself through the lowest moments over the last few days, and have chosen to be resilient and live through these times rather than make hasty decisions driven by mere nostalgia. I have learned that although my twenties is indeed the period for a manic chase, I now know myself well enough to know exactly when to step back and breathe everything in to avoid burning my fire out.

I guess my point is this: from now on, I am refusing to plan. Obviously I have a good sense of what and how much I want to achieve in the next nine years, but I am no longer subscribing to some manual. I am still as ambitious and as hungry as I’ll ever be, yes, but I will no longer hold myself responsible for the things I might not get done in time, believing now that whatever it is that I truly want, I will go after with the urgency I expect from genuine desire.

Greeting this day confused and tired and wanting and lonely, but hopeful. Always hopeful.