On My Writing Thingy

My writing got published on SunStar Weekend last Sunday. It was amusing but also very embarrassing. Do you know how it is with actors who can’t stand watching themselves on screen? How looking at themselves through the eyes of an audience makes them cringe and squirm with discomfort? That is me, but with published work, most especially with very personal pieces that you never really think would go anywhere.

So why publish then? Why go through the ordeal of looking at all the ways your piece has gone wrong, or why this line isn’t working, and suddenly seeing ways to improve a sentence or a point after the fact? Why open yourself up to the world?

It’s probably hubris – a tiny voice in you that dreams a little more than being read by a handful of friends. It’s probably just wanting to write about the painful things and later realizing that these deep, painful things that always felt like yours and yours alone, are part of a bigger, grander pain that are endured by other people too.

Writing has always been therapeutic to me, it has always comforted me and made me feel less lonely. In the process of sharing my experiences with the world, I hope I made other people feel less lonely too.

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Election Afterthoughts

The election season (at least most of it) is behind us and it was crazy and draining. This is the first time social media has played a huge role during the campaigns and I fear that the whole messiness was a mere preview of the years to come. Campaign seasons will  become more and more toxic in the coming years. The empowerment that social media has brought will enable people to scream louder, not always with enough forethought to examine what they are screaming about.  I am not looking forward to it.

I have taken refuge in the idea that the elections have helped me filter the people that I like and respect, and those that I don’t. My threshold isn’t even that high – as long as people don’t spread misinformation and don’t get personal, then you’re okay in my book. There are some people who I like and respect but have gone crazy with the campaigning that I couldn’t help but temporarily unfollow them, or at least “see less” from them. I know you love your candidate and Du30, Miriam, Mar, Poe, and (sighs) Binay, are probably inspiring if you pick out their best parts, but I don’t want to be bombarded with their faces all day. I see them everywhere enough as it is – on the walls, on trash bins, in fliers scattered across the roads and pavements, in banderitas, at the back of people’s cars – so please let me have this little slice of peace to myself. Know that I didn’t wish to unfollow you out of spite, but just out of a craving for serenity and quiet.

The elections have also sprung forth new pet peeves and deal breakers:

  • If you rely on Mocha Uson,  Adobo Chronicles, etc., as reliable sources and react so passionately about what they broadcast, then I don’t know how to understand you. I don’t even know where to begin.
  • Wrapping your rudeness with poetic niceties doesn’t make you nice, it makes you annoying.
  • Being passionate about governance and against corruption will not soften the criminal act of evading taxes.
  • Conditional nationalism. Why should I pay taxes when it gets stolen anyway? Why should I throw garbage properly when it never gets collected on time? I will change but only when you change first!

Continue reading “Election Afterthoughts”

Unfollow Wednesday

I’ve weeded out all the noisy political militants off my social media feeds – at first slowly, in trickles, and then quickly, really quickly like flood. They say avoiding engagement is an act of political immaturity. That it’s best, healthy, and wise to engage and even seek other people’s opinions. But what about self-preservation? Zen?

I have always been apolitical. I’ve only registered last year and have never voted. In many ways, engaging at a time where everybody seems to have a say about something – no matter how inane, is the worst time to start being political. So why do it? What was I thinking? When did my political consciousness start? What came first? Facebook or the misery?

Social media has made sharing opinions as easy as opening a window and shouting outside, hoping enough people pass by to hear how wise or funny you are. It’s even less embarrassing and more acceptable to rant in Facebook or Twitter than to actually shout outside. I am guilty of this. I’ve shouted out into that void too. In some ways, this writing is a form of that shouting. So why do I do it?

I’d like to think that I share things because they’re reasonable and right, but everyone thinks they’re right. The high school classmate I’ve unfollowed, without guilt or remorse, for openly supporting BBM thought she was right. Do I want to show people how much more right I am?  Am I enriching people’s lives when I repost memes? Is this how I want to make the world better? Do I even want to? Can I even?

This is giving me a headache.

Logging into Facebook the past few weeks has given me headaches and has kept me up at nights, tossing, turning and rethinking about the meaning of my life. It seems like the most boring way to go – dying while holding my phone, indignant at people who are screaming at each other on a web site. The only thing I’ve gotten from this is a heightened respect for people I already respect and a sense of disbelief and sometimes disgust for people I only mildly cared about. If this is my way of making the world better, I am failing miserably.

So I unfollow people, and then turn towards more achievable goals like spending a part of the weekend picking up trash outside my house, or reading a book and then writing about it. We can always open the window to look at the beautiful summer sunset, and we don’t even have to say anything. Now, my mind is clearer and I feel lighter, as if ridding myself of the social media vitriol allowed me to focus on pieces of the world that I like.

When I log into Facebook and feel my chest tighten with outrage and disbelief, I try to remember that there are many other ways to make the world bearable.  There are many other ways to make the world right again.

Untitled-1

Redirections #1

Favorite long reads that do not (cannot) make it to my yearly reading goal but sustain my need for good stories that punch you in the gut.

Sometimes, I start writing only to find out one paragraph in that I have nothing to say. It is weirdly frustrating. I’ve been consuming a lot of very good writing recently yet the greatness barely rubs off. An old adage insists that good writing comes from good reading, so I read and read and read. It would be nice to share a story too, but until I find my voice and a good tale to match it, I might just as well go on reading.

And so I read. Every break I get from work turns into short sprees – from Stephen King’s On Writing, to Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Part 1, to the first few pages of Anna Karenina. I’m also supposedly to be in the middle of two short story collections but I can never seem to want to read them, but I want to read something long and engaging but nothing too long and too demanding so I turn to great writing on the web instead.

Roxana Halls
Roxana Halls

One of my recent favorites is Zadie Smith’s Dead Man Laughing – an essay about growing up a comedy nerd, her father’s love for comedy, and the jokes that run through her family.

Zadie Smith is a long-time writer girl crush. She writes so beautifully and her words will cover you with a nice rose-tinted veil of happiness and introspection. There are people who see the world differently, and Zadie’s gift is to write about this distinct worldview so wonderfully.

The humor of its people helped make it [Britain] bearable. You don’t have to be funny to live here, but it helps. Hancock, Fawlty, Partridge, Brent: in my mind, they’re all clinging to the middle rungs of England’s class ladder. That, in large part, is the comedy of their situations.

Another good one is Emily Nussbaum’s The Last Girl in Larchmont – a profile on the fascinating Joan Rivers. I’ve always known Joan Rivers and her brand of comedy but I have never gravitated to her Fashion Police stint. Roast comedy has never appealed to me (it feels cheap and exploitative), but I loved how Nussbaum framed Joan Rivers’s comedy as a product of a sexist era. I’ve come to admire Rivers for standing out in a man’s game during a time when it was harder to be a woman.

.. her flamboyant self-hatred made possible this generation’s flamboyant self-love, set the groundwork for the crazy profusion of female comics on TV these days, on cable and network, cheerleading one another, collaborating and producing and working in teams, as if women weren’t enemies at all.

Roxana Halls_
Roxana Halls

Another favorite is Larry Ypil’s  A Song of Two Cities – a nostalgic narrative about being a Cebuano expat in Singapore. My casual disregard for the quirks of my island city always gets shaken every time I read about Cebu from the perspective of someone who is away from it.

To be a Filipino expat writer in Southeast Asia is to be a witness to ways in which versions of oneself are mirrored in landscapes that are different from and similar to one’s own. To suffer the weather of the same but also of the not quite.

* Featured Image: Augustus John’s The Blue Pool. 1911

Storytellers’ Night #6: On the Road

I’ve been wanting so badly to write about Storytellers’ Night, but work has been persistently nagging and when I get home, all my brain wants to do is shut off and rest.

It’s a pleasure to have had shared a piece of my life in each of the last four Storytellers’ Nights I’ve been to.  It’s been a year since I was first invited to share – I started on Summertime Big-Girl Independence, a very personal piece about growing up with my mother and then growing old without her. It was also the first piece I sat down to write in what felt like years. I’m typically very discreet. I don’t talk about my dreams and I’m even more private about my deep-rooted grief, so getting down and dirty with my personal demons and sharing something so intimate was a revelation to me as it probably was to the people present that night.

Last Saturday was the event’s sixth night and we talked about adventures or misadventures On the Road.

As much as I enjoy the actual story-telling, the stories we share before and after are something I always look forward to. While talking about who/what we’re reading right now, Patskie transitioned to telling me about this video then suggested that I read Stephen King’s On Writing. I am in the middle of that book right now and it’s so much fun. From here onward, anyone who disrespects Stephen King is dead to me, but more on that later.

Dylan also showed me his latest volume of sketches – his work just seems to get better and better every time I see him.

And I only ever get to see him and all these other cool cats on STN. I am so thankful to Mark and Jo of Happy Garaje for getting these people (including me) out of our caves.

Mark said that there is magic in these nights – nights when we are able to share things that we normally couldn’t and for some of us, Storytellers’ Nights are the only places we can ever partake in this magic.  Thanks, Happy Garaje/Folk Fiction, for being the purveyor of that magic. You have truly made something beautiful.

‘Til the next night.

 

 

 

Transience

Hi.

So, I’m on medical leave. It’s been 9 days so far, and I’ve been home alone cooped up in my tiny fortress of solitude for about seven of those days and it has been great. I feel like myself again, or at least a version of myself. One that gets so very easily tired. The doctor said that surgical anesthesia and getting some parts partially lopped off of you can do weird things to your body for at least a couple of weeks. So far, the weirdest things that have happened were a three-hour afternoon nap today, an irrational craving for Jollibee, and rereading Rilke.

And if I cried, who’d listen to me in those angelic orders? 

Seriously, Rilke. I first knew of him from following this older girl from the early days of blogspot and livejournal. She wrote about her first few years out of college, and I was in high school, which makes it more than ten years ago now.

She wrote so beautifully and passionately and quoted Rilke like it’s nobody’s business. She was lyrically intense, and after reading The First Elegy from the Duino Elegies and some letters from that book, I figured her obsession with Rilke has a lot to do with how superlative and passionate she always seemed to be. I wonder where she is now.

Maybe what’s left
for us is some tree on a hillside we can look at
day after day, one of yesterday’s streets,
and the perverse affection of a habit
that liked us so much it never let go.

Friday’s 7 Happy Things

When something makes me happy on Tuesday or Wednesday, the over-sharing part of my brain makes a tentative list of things that made me smile during the week, so far. Come Friday though, I get cranky and grumpy and who cares about all the good things that happened when I just want to take a nap, right? I still want to take a nap right now but I can’t and I hate everyone so here’s a list of things that made me smile the last few days, even if I’m not smiling at the moment. Also, I didn’t make it to 10 😦

1. Alessia Cara

Her EP is precious and she sounds like young Justin Bieber but smarter. Here is a gem and I feel it so much because I hate hate hate going out these days.

2. Disclosure’s Caracal

Checked it out for Lorde’s Magnets and stayed for Jaded. I love the direction they’re taking with this new album because I was not a fan of their disco/club groove in Settle (2014). Except for Latch. Everybody liked Latch.

3. Miranda July interviewing Rihanna

Looking at her, I was reminded that thousands of people search ‘‘Rihanna’s eyes’’ every year. And there they were: a pair of dizzying hazel-green starbursts. I took another gulp of wine. ‘‘What turns you on?’’

It made a stronger Miranda July and Rihanna fan out of me. Bad gal Riri so precious.

Continue reading “Friday’s 7 Happy Things”

Hong Kong State of Mind

I spent last weekend in Hong Kong, and when I landed and saw the familiar buses and smelt the familiar scent of anise in the air, I decided that Hong Kong had to be one of my favorite cities in the world. Hong Kong is charming, and busy, and vibrant, and had the right enough energy and the right enough weirdness, beauty, and confusion that I wanted to be in the center of.

  
I’ve always been a big city girl and resented growing up in a sleepy town so, in many ways, Hong Kong felt a bit like the home my stupid heart always longed for.

  
Real estate is crazy over there though, and I get turned off at the idea of living in a box, but then I already live in a box, so what’s the diff?

***

I’ve been wearing glasses almost all day for the past week or so. This must come off as a non-event to some, but it’s a big deal to me especially considering how long and aggressively I’ve resisted the need for these and then, here we are.
image

A funny thing: I always find something to complain about wearing glasses. Firstly, was that it was bothersome, because d’oh. People tell me I’d get use to it just stick with it you can do it come’on, so I did. It has gotten quite better in the bothersome department so my focus shifted to feeling the tightness behind my ears from the temples pinching into my head. I’ve been gently  pulling the earpieces apart from each other to loosen them up and they’ve loosened up, and I don’t feel the same tightness, so I looked for new things to complain about and it’s now the heaviness of the pads that rest on my nose.

It’s amazing how you suddenly feel things when you run out of ways to make yourself miserable.

***

Been feeling introspective lately and there have been tiny stirrings of wanting to live a creative life. Must be the haze.

Piloting This Ship

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and some have been really dumb but if there’s one mistake I’m proud to have never made was that never, not even once did I ever let other people run my life for me.

People and circumstances will influence a lot of my actions but ultimately, this is my life. Whatever thing I did, I will take full responsibility. I will not make decisions and then blame things and people – my parents, my heritage, my race, my… whatever. I mean, while all these things have been factored in, my decisions are still MY decisions. The cowardice that has stopped me from doing things was my cowardice, but in the same vein, my bravery was all mine too. Full accountability in both the good and the bad.

I still whine about the bad cards I’ve been dealt with. I still wish I had it better – I wish I was richer, smarter, and had a better upbringing for example, but if I had the sense to spot the flaws with which I was brought up, I figured I would also have the sense to change things in my life, including myself, for the better. And then accept the things I couldn’t.

Ah, life’s becoming weirdly difficult to pilot the older you get.

2014 in non-reading

What a weird year 2014 has been. I started out the year wide-eyed and optimistic – that my life would be a better version of what it has always been for years. I’ve set a few goals, planned a few trips and felt like a superhero. I’ve even set my 2014 reading goals to an ambitious 52 books before the year ends, because I was feeling brave and fancy, but well, we all know what happened to that. (I failed at 23 books only huhu).

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photo by keight83

2014 was definitely not a year for reading but looking back, I don’t think I have lived a life as fully as I did last year. There were so many changes that happened to me. So many decisions, so many hurts and pains, failures, and joys, and so many lessons learned.

It will be juicier to write about the many life events that happened but as I also resolved to tone down on the oversharing, I think it’ll be much more worth it to share what I’ve learned instead:

The more you insist on sticking to a rigid life plan, the more it’ll hurt when those plans taper off. It’s terrifying to face an uncertain future, but aren’t all our futures uncertain really? I don’t think anyone could see much from where they are right now, and my over-controlling urges for what should happen were making me unnecessarily suffer. I cannot control everything. People will disappoint me, I will disappoint people, things will not go according to plan but things will be fine, more or less, and eventually.

I’m not suggesting that you go into your life battles without at least an emotional dagger and shield because that’s naïve and idiotic, but I learned that being dynamic to life’s changes is far more rewarding than strictly following a life plan down to its tiniest bullet points. This is easier said than done of course, and I’m still struggling to separate what has happened to what is happening, and what could. I need to nail to my brain the idea that although much of my past will influence my future, the future isn’t guaranteed to mimic what happened yesterday, or what’s happening today, or anything at all. Plainly, the future is not guaranteed and you control what you can right now and fervently hope your efforts pay off tomorrow.

Life is crazy. It’s beautiful, it’s sad and it’s ever-changing. Be like water.

Happy new year, people.