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I'm 38 in three days. For this months's batch, I'd like to write about what I learned this year. Most of these are going to be about feelings—abstract things. I've yet to learn about tangible matters I've long wanted to learn, e.g., glassblowing, screenwriting, baking, driving a truck. Let's see, so...what did I learn this year. First thing I can think of now is that I need people. I need a person, specifically. Don't we all? For so long I've convinced myself I'm OK by myself. Don't we all? So yeah. I need a person. Come now.
Not sure about how I can keep up with the "what I learned this year" theme. I'll try. It may change, it may not. Anyway. Tomorrow Mama arrives from the states. In a few days we go to Guam to visit Kuya and family. I've both looked forward to and dreaded November. Now that it's here I'm a ball of stress. It's my birthday in a couple of days. Last month was quite a surprise. Learned so much about my father, learned so much about myself, learned so much about secrets, resilience, generosity, bravery, pain, grace, patience, cool-headedness, kindness.
I see it this way: This house is on a cliff. Precarious. It's uncertain but also inevitable that these will happen—one at a time or simultaneously—the sea will swallow it or the cliff will give. Either way the house will be no more. And what of the people that live in it? They should have moved out years ago, but they chose to stay despite the certainty of an end. "Why would we run away from the end?" they said. "If you keep running away from the end, it will keep on catching up with you." Just stay.
Last month Harry Styles released "Lights Up". Lyrics include: "It'd be so sweet if things just stayed the same." Probably how I'd summarise this year. IDK, tomorrow my mind may change. In college a friend told me matter-of-factly how I let myself be consumed with resentment. At the time I resented him for saying it, but over time it's become one of the most important things anyone's ever said to me. I often go back to that moment under the tree when he told me that in an effort to pull me up from my self-inflicted woes.
My propensity to ruin a good thing is clawing its way up. I try to keep it down but there are days when I'm overpowered. We only have to conquer ourselves, yes? Sometimes I can't conquer myself. Need to work on that. "Don't be a dick" 100x I say to myself throughout the day and at 11:59 p.m. I give in to the desire. I see traces of my mother in me. I am becoming her. And I understand how my younger brother feels toward me, because that is how I feel toward my mother. Loving, hostile, loving.
Had a lovely birthday a couple days back. At breakfast, Mama pointed out how it was the first time in (16?) years that I'm having breakfast with both parents. It's become normal to not have them around. And...here I am fighting to urge to turn this into a wounded child woe-is-me sob-fest. (No offence to wounded children. I see you and I hold your hand.) My tendency to turn sweet topics into sour, bitter ones is becoming annoying (to me most of all) and I can hear my brother preparing to tell a joke. But. Sigh.
I don't want to be a Debbie Downer anymore! Is what I was driving at. I want it to stop being my safe place. I want to be able to know that the bright side is there and I want to want to actually look at it. See it. Anyway, flew to Guam today and on the plane I took loads of photos of clouds. What are clouds made of? "Depending on their type, clouds can consist of dry air mixed with liquid water drops, ice particles, or both." – top result on Google https://pmm.nasa.gov. Thanks. So, Guam.
Olive Garden!!! I've been dreaming of their garlic bread since 2016. The ones here in Guam are different though. Craving unsatisfied, however, the server's disposition more than made up for it. What a cheerful guy. That was a lovely belated birthday meal (for me and Kuya!). They gave us free ice cream! We went to Ross after picking up Brysen and ate Olive Garden leftover at dinner. Guam is now a familiar friend. I like the storefronts. Basic, straightforward, functional. I like Kuya and Ate's house. Clean and cozy and warm. It's Ma's first time in Guam. Seems she's enjoying.
Flea market today. Porkchop and bbq, kale smoothie, yakisoba, takoyaki. Not necessarily in that order. Brysen's taught me and Ma how to operate the Wii. He wanted to get fish from the flea market earlier but found none so they got some from the pet shop instead. Unfortunately, the fish died one by one in the afternoon. It was surreal, Brysen's face was...[I don't have words]. I like it here now. Knowing the ocean's just there...it's peaceful. I'm in that weird vacation state of mind of not wanting to be here and not wanting to come home either.
Round the island today. Blue and green. Kuya's the best driver I know. I say this all the time because it's true. Kuya's such a good driver. Or maybe I just always feel safe when with him? Ma seems to be having a good time with her grandson. Ate's done such a good job raising her children. So thankful for her. I want my vacations to stop being like...grand pauses in my life to insert myself in other people's vacations. Does that make sense. I don't mean anything bad by it, I love these people. But I want change.
I'm hard on myself. Even regarding mistakes I intentionally make? I'm even harder on myself then. It's a wonder I get through a day intact. In another dimension, I imagine a version of myself so exhausted from all the self-hate that she barely makes it to the end of the day. In fact (in that dimension), she evaporates in the middle of the day because she. just. can't. take. it. She's tired and pressured and flattened. This here, this me in this dimension, wishes the same—that I can just disappear any time I want to. Into thin air.
This Guam trip reminds me that I am becoming my mother. IDK. Maybe I've figured this out in our 2016 trip already? Anyway, if I don't watch it I'll be her soon enough. I don't mean this in an entirely bad way. She is kind and all good stuff. She is my #1 person always. But—and this applies to everyone—for all our good traits we also have traits that aren't so good. How do I say it without coming across like a dick? The people we most love are the ones who can disappoint us the most, too.
A photo on Instagram informs me that next year is a new decade. Hurrah. This year I've been at my fattest. Maybe 80% of the time I've chosen to hide at home instead of being subjected to fat-shaming at family gatherings. I know fat-shaming isn't everyone's goal, some of them do mean well, some of them just don't know how else to simply say "Hello. How are you." Just, I'm tired of being the recipient of "Ang taba mo" regardless if it's malicious or harmless. I just wish people would stop voicing out their weight-related observations. Please.
Brysen and I are on the couch watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. In every video there's an intermittent dubstep-beatdrop-like music to which Brysen dances along. It happens for less than 5 seconds and I try to capture it on video, to no avail. My favorite little human's beside me and I'm fiddling on my phone. "Can you stop taking photos of me," he says in a way someone might sound when they're also wondering why you're doing what you're doing. He sits closer to me. Almost a cuddle. Those happy songs? Maybe this is what they write about.
We can get petty when we don't get something we want or if something doesn't go the way we planned. We control people so much that it becomes blurry eventually, are we controlling them or are we being controlled by our selfish urges? It's tiring to be kind, it's tiring to be petty, it's tiring to be protective of one's self. Everything is tiring! Everything takes effort! Everything happens too often. I like generalizing things so I can make excuses. The truth is we can choose. It's such an obvious thing but we let ourselves be consumed by the can'ts.
I am infused with infuriating passive-aggressiveness. I often wonder how I got to this age with this baggage in tow. Or...how people can tolerate me? Or...I'm too in my head today. It's a constant reminder of: Good vibes only please. Good vibes only please. Repeat until fade. Repeat. Repeat. My God this year's too long. There are pockets of time wherein my optimism's winning over my demons, and I wish there's a way we can bottle up these pockets of time, literally. Something nice to look at, something tangible. But, wishful thinking. The reality is: IDK IDC.
Are you still here? OK. Hi. How was your year? I know there's still a month or so but...at this point, how would you say your year has been? I really want to know. I miss talking to someone, having someone really listen. I think of all the relationships I intentionally ruined and all the people I pushed away...and all the ways I try to make sense of the wrong things I intentionally did. "Forgive yourself" is what I tell myself every time I wake up. That sets a nice tone to the day. "Be kind to yourself."
Somehow in the rubble he found her. One can burn a house to the ground and still have it exist as if it never went away. Our minds can create worlds of pain or pleasure, depending on what we need at the moment. Upon finding her amid the ruins, the first thing he checked on are her eyes. Here, yellow eyes signal resignation, despair, no-more-waiting-for-tomorrow. If they remain white even after a disaster, it means the person is hopeful, bright, resilient. There's no point saving someone who's given up. It's the same everywhere else. Buck up.
A mountainside filled with different-colored flowers. Breeze. Sound of birds—flutter of wings, the beginning of a song. She lays down on the grass and feels years of regret seep out upwards. To the sky. Butterflies fly ahead, as if saying "We got these. Don't worry your little head." She looks to the left and sees his outline. This is a familiar sight. She dreamed of this moment every day, even now that it's a reality she dreams of it. This is how you know you're happy. The setting sun seems to be whispering to her. Peace of mind.
She regards the tedium of daily life as a long-lost friend. The kind of friend she loved dearly but who made her tired. She can't offer anything anymore so she walks away. But this friend follows her around, not because of dependence but because of habit. She tells this friend to stop. Find someone else. It's over. Like a breakup. It's much harder to break up with a friend, yes? Especially if there's still a sliver of love. Someone will always think of something to say. A good intention is never just that. Someone will always think the worst.
He keeps a photograph of her tucked in one of his books. He forgets the title now. Just as well, mayhap. He likes the surprise. Once a year he does a general purge that often leads to reminiscence. He cleans a room, right, then he unearths a used movie ticket. He recalls who he saw it with. Once he remembers, he looks for other mementos related to that person. The room is now in shambles, but his memories rearranged. Polished. On display. He lays down on the floor and regards the mess he made. I'll clean this up tomorrow. Maybe.
He arrives on the island in a suit. All black. Pointy shoes, aftershave cologne in his pocket. Briefcase that may have fish living in it. He's been at sea for weeks, months maybe. He forgets. He's OK. He's suspiciously OK, for someone who's been adrift this long. "Magic word," a man walks toward him, pointing a gun of sorts. "Hello?" he answers, the gun is red and looks like plastic. "This can hurt you," the man says, as if reading his mind. "OK, help me," he says, hands raised. "Enter," the gunman says. That's it? That's the 'magic word'? Bye.
I have nothing against Saturdays. Except maybe that I don't know what to do with them. Are we supposed to "do something" with days? I'm unsure. Is it OK that we let them be, let them pass, whatever. Sundays I feel better about. They have purpose, and they give me hope. Don't ask why or how, they just do. Saturdays, eh, most of the time they encourage me to sleep and forget. I like sleeping and forgetting, just not too much of them, you know? Balance. Sundays, on the other hand, they tell me to smile. So I do. Mostly.
You can find me in my room, analyzing Radiohead songs and scouring YouTube for funny videos of Radiohead and/or One Direction. There's lots of sensible stuff I do, too, of course. Like moan about the relationships I intentionally and not-so-intentionally fucked up. We ruin stuff and then complain about them as if we didn't mean for them to happen. I do this, yes. Pretend that it wasn't my fault, or that I had no idea, or that I had better things to do. The truth is, I did it with concentration. Focus. Intent. Annoying cloying hope. Gratitude.
So yeah, this month what I learned really is that I can be black, still. So black. So rotten to the core, that I can watch people walk away without feeling anything. I do this to the people I love most. Well, it depends. Depends on what, I have no exact idea. What I also learned is that I can be soft, weak, and sensitive to the point that even I hate myself for it. I don't like being around me. Now, I don't—and I am learning not to—hate myself that much anymore. I learned that's not necessary.
What's necessary is honesty. You feel bad? Then feel bad. Say it. You feel good. Then feel good. Hug your parents. Hug them for two minutes. You dislike them five minutes after that hug, say so. Don't be so concerned about "ruining a good moment". I know earlier in the month I was castigating myself for being a dick, for my propensity to ruin nice moments. Well right now, I feel OK about it. The lightness it brings, when you're honest? Incomparable. You can be honest without being mean. Resulting long-term effect? You learn more about kindness. Trust me.
Every now and again she checks in on herself for stuff she needs to dispatch. Like patting one's pockets for small trash. These small things, when they accumulate, can cause minor problems that will then turn into larger ones. One may think it's insignificant for now, then eventually they're caught by surprise by how unwieldy and unnavigable the "minor problem" have become. It's a Fibonacci sequence of problems, all sorts. Beautiful, confusing, insistent. Today she checks her so-called pockets and finds nothing and everything. It's a riot in there again. She takes off her pants, swims into the sea.
Underwater, she can breathe. Do people know they can do this without aid? Have they been imagining their limitations or am I just being arrogant to the point of making myself believe I'm fine underwater? She asks herself, adding: What if when I went into the water my body went somewhere else, what if this is just my mind here? She finds a fire extinguisher and frowns at it. What for? This is a whole different world and it's littered with unuseable items. Are they wet? She can't tell. The ocean will never end. She counts the days to surfacing.
What then of the human propensity for restlessness? Dissatisfaction. Looking-for-what-isn't-there. There she is underwater, a vast new world where she can start a new life or travel somewhere else and surface on an unknown island, and yet on Day 1 she already thinks of coming back to where she came from. Why do we leave people, places, memories only to return to them, most times even if we know we shouldn't? Is it kindness, forgiveness, or love. All of the above? Or none—we are simply succumbing to habit? Restless to leave, raring to come back.
At sea one would expect the overthinking to stop. "I miss your sleep-smell" she writes to her mother. It's Year 2 of her water-life. There are "dry pods" for doing strictly above-ground activities. This waterworld is adapting. She concocts new words and sends them to her father. He's stopped writing back. She continues sending letters for the sake of it. "Did he already forget about me? I can understand if he did," she writes. Her mother responds months later: "I miss your sleep-smell, too. Come home to us. Your father says this heart-distance is unbearable."
The Tip Jar