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.
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!
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.
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.
* Featured Images:
1 – Joseph Raffael, Life Times
2 – John Bratby, Everything But the Kitchen Sink, Including the Kitchen Sink
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).
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.
So… I dropped by Goodreads today out of sheer habit and was glared at by a vicious reminder of my flaws:
That would be 3 books in two days too. Not exactly a proud stat for someone who considers herself readerly. I haven’t book-blogged for two months now. Two months!
So what’s been up?
First: I haven’t really been feeling too chatty as of late. My mind is all over the place and it has become too taxing to switch roles: from wifey, to mama cat, to corporate biatch, to socially inebriated friendy friend, to… many other roles I have to play on a weekly basis. It’s quite difficult maintaining a healthy social life, some physical activities, do good at work, and nurture my nerdery all at the same time. I also had some personal issues I needed to work through which were very mentally exhausting.
People have been bothering me about TV episodes I cannot catch up with, and books I haven’t been reading, and believe me – I tried. I try very hard, actually, but I need to sleep too.
Second: For some strange reason, the outdoors have become unduly fascinating to me. I’ve climbed two major mountains in the last three months and worried myself to eyebags for both trips. They have not been easy but mountains are so grounded, and so strong, and they all feel potent and permanent to me. I want to climb them all just for the heck of it.
Don’t get me wrong though – I am not a great hiker; I am a card-carrying Super Noob. I am always, always worried, nervous, and scared, and my pace is slow, but “nothing else exists, only the climb.” Mountains are so unforgiving and I’ve waded through dark, maladaptive behaviors to haul myself up to the top, and I always have (so far) and I plan to always do. I have so many insecurities and doubts, but dark thoughts will not give me shelter, they will not give me those impossible views, they will not get me anywhere. Nothing else exists, only the climb.
I’ve just gotten back from a trip. It was the most outdoorsy I’ve ever been in my entire life (literally!) and I’m so drained but I am so happy. I always question my sanity before and during these relentless adventuring but I need to write this down to remind me why I keep doing this to myself – I am happy, I feel so brave, and weathering through cruel discomforts makes my soul grow.
I am back in one piece albeit nursing an injured tailbone. I didn’t even know I had a tailbone and now I hurt it, and I cannot ascend anything without wincing. As much as I am taking delight in feeling extreme and intense outside with no roof on top of my head, I’m taking this as a sign to lean back gently, open a book, and go back to old loves.
I’m a bit slow on the reading these past few days. I do still keep the 10-pages-a-day minimum which is cool, but I don’t get to immerse myself in any story. I blame my new cat, Bruce who keeps to himself in a bat cave in my house and only goes out to eat, or sit by the window and meow. He has successfully kept me stressed and strained ever since I got him last Wednesday (January 16, 2013), but it’s cool. I’ve always wanted a cat to keep us company and I know he’ll come out of his scaredy-cat adjustment phase and be a cuddly lil poopy-butt in no time. I’ll be adopting his brother too, whom I haven’t met but I’m excited. Two cats seemed a bit scary since they’re my firsts but all’s well as long as they use their litter box.
So what have I been reading/re-reading?
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss has been keeping me company whenever I hang out in my cat’s room (yes, it’s his room now), as well as a contemporary romance novel I got from Amazon for free. It’s funny how the romance novel needs the stronger suspension of belief than the fantasy book. I can’t remember the title of the book for now (it’s tacky as eff), but I find it so much harder to believe a possibility of a burgeoning romance at first sight with a hot CEO of a ship company than a fire-breathing herbivorous draccus. And why do the men in romance novels have to be filthy rich and drop-dead gorgeous all the darn time? It’s too… fantastical and it gets tedious. It’s a contemporary romance for chrissakes (not paranormal), so authors need to make their men a bit realistic too, yknow. Oh well.
So someone from a local forum is planning to sell his entire Sandman collection. I’m very attached to my books and I always feel sorry to hear someone selling/giving away their books not because they want to, but because they need to.
Just last month, I had an incredibly ridiculous idea to stop buying books because I did not have the space for them and the time to read them all. Then I got really depressive with life in general. It may not be just the books that led me to this deep downward spiral, but I’m sure letting go of the basic things that have made you so happy for so long will really do a lot in dampening your spirits.
I’ve been reading for pleasure voraciously again. Life still sucks but it has become so much more bearable.