2013: Year in Review

2013

Infographic breakdown:

Travel. I did a lot of it. Partly for my job and the other for sheer pleasure. I basically flew enough to equate a round trip to the Philippines, and then some. I calculated all of my weekend outings to SF and discovered that it’s about the equivalent of 2 round trip road trips from here to LA. The Vegas numbers are a little off because i had the (mis)fortune of going to Vegas twice. 😉

6 Concerts. My twinsie and bff, Jess, is a big concert nut, and she and I happen to have the same eclectic taste in music. The highlight was attending 2 (yes, 2) Turquoise Jeep concerts, where I was unexpectedly pulled onstage for some acrobatics.. Flynt Flossy was very keen on keeping in touch with me to hang out after the concert.

4 Published Pieces. When the whole Marissa Mayer thing went down, the blogs I wrote for my job got picked up on a couple of the digital news outlets. After Typhoon Haiyan, I was moved by my cousins’ story of survival. I hocked it to a couple Filipino outlets and was lucky to have it published.

2 Runs Done. I’m not an athletic person and would never consider doing a run, but my girlfriends know how to make anything fun. We did the Mud Run and Rave Run together.

2 Weddings + Bachelorette Parties. Two of my closest friends decided to have their bachelorette parties and weddings within mere weekends of each other. I was really tired during this time but blessed that these two ladies wanted me to be part of their special days.

2 Bucket List Items. One of my bucket list items has been to take a photography class. Now, every time I’m helping David to shoot, I feel like every opportunity is a lesson. The other item is spending a night on a sailboat. David found this cool deal where we were able to sail on Monterey Bay and have the sailboat all to ourselves for a night!

1 Paid Singing Gig. My church group had the honor of being asked to sing for the annual jazz festival downtown. None of us expected to be compensated, but it was a lovely gesture and actually made me feel like a professional.

1 Car Acquired. My shitty Maxima finally gave out on me and it couldn’t come at a better time. David was wonderful in helping me to find a car that I was going to love and even handled the negotiations over the phone, while he was in LA and I was here in SJ!

1 Motorcycle Rally. I had a really awesome experience of coming along on a rally with some of the guys from work. It was a really long ride and I was exhausted after, but I can see why motorcyclists are addicted. Let’s just say i was researching a teal bike after..

Dating has been a toss-up and we all know this. But a bit of persistence and a lot of faith have paid off.

Some things I didn’t mention: I went through a difficult break up. I also lost two people really close to me, my good friend Chin and my grandma. Life is strange. But I am grateful and blessed to be here.

The Great Purge

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I always have a hard time thinking about what to give up for Lent- but given my breakup, it was clear. I had to give up Cristern. I had to give up the hope of reunion and the hope of anything ever happening between us. The one tangible thing I can think of was to finally drop off his things. When I tell people I haven’t done this, they look at me aghast and think –  why didn’t I do this sooner? Fact is, I didn’t have anything of his that was terribly valuable, just some clothes he left at my house. Because they were things of little valuable, I made that my excuse. But in truth, I was scared to do it because it would mean making a monumental step in letting go. And with Easter next weekend, I knew that the time had finally come.

Before packing up his things, I decided to go through my own things and put aside anything that had to do with him. I came across movie stubs, pictures, old ticket stubs and receipts from our trips together. Then I looked in my bookshelf, right behind my bed pillows and found the letters he’d written me. This was the hardest thing to put away. In the last few months of our relationship, these letters kept me afloat. They gave me hope that our love could be like what it was in simpler, more romantic and carefree days. I felt the urge to open them in start reading but I knew that it would tear my heart open and make this process even harder. Cristern was always so dirt broke but these letters were the one thing that he gave me that made me feel so special. He put so much thought into them, and would attach ticket stubs, fortune cookie fortunes, anything kind of knick knack to decorate it. As our relationship wound down, I’d have to beg him to write me letters. I should have known that when the letters were becoming less frequent, it was a sign of his waning love for me. I solemnly put everything into a shoebox and put it out of my room.

A couple days later, I tackled his things.  I took an empty box from work and slowly folded his pajamas and shirts. The very last thing I placed on top was a Sharks sweatshirt that mom got for xmas one year. I have the same sweatshirt. That whole process hurt like hell. The moment I put the lid on the box, I got a text from a guy that I’ve been talking to. He  asked me out on a date. Coincidence?

Yesterday I went out on a coffee date with that guy and had an amazing time. It felt foreign to feel beautiful, attractive and wanted. This person wanted to be in my presence and wanted to get to know me. He was not hurrying to get to anywhere or looking to push me aside for better things. He was content to sit there with me.

Later that night, I knew it was time for me to start a new chapter of my life. I took the box with Cristern’s things and put it in the front seat of my car and drove the oh so familiar route to his house. I methodically took a back route to avoid any sort of uncomfortable run-in.  I pulled up to his place, scoped out the scene and saw that he wasn’t home.  I pulled out a pen and wrote his name on a post-it note and stuck it on the box. It was strange to write his name. I left the engine running and sprinted to the house. I quietly placed the box in the corner of the porch and quickly ran back to my car, my heart racing the whole time.

I think about the frenzy in my body and wonder if it was the same feeling he had when he taped a birthday card on my car window, only a few days after we had broken up. Now that I’m without the weight of his things, do I feel any lighter? Do I feel free to finally move forward? Not yet, but I know I will. I honestly feel like I’m still reeling from taking that painful but necessary trip down memory lane when I had to parse through his things. I knew that I had been avoiding that feeling. This process has forced me to face that pain head-on.

Lent is about doing something that makes you a better person, something that brings you closer to God and the person you’re meant to be, no matter how hard it is. I know that in order for me to move my life forward, I have to let go. God wants that for me. God wants me to be happy. I have to learn to want it for myself.

Coping & Acceptance

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6 months later.. this is my attempt at making peace and finally acknowledging my breakup.

Like all breakups, you already see the relationship slowly unraveling in months, if not years before you have enough courage to let go. In my case, it was years. How do I always get myself into these messes? I always seem to find men who are never in the same place in life as I am. John was all about going next level and making that full leap of commitment.  I was scared and just wasn’t ready to go full bore like that- especially since he was my first  long-term relationship. With Cristern, it was like pulling teeth. We spoke a lot in generality about our future, but never the specifics. When it got down to it, he was just too busy playing and trying to figure out his own life, and there just wasn’t room for me. I kept pushing, and waiting and hoping someday that there’d be room for me. But all that waiting was in vain. In our 3.5 years together, he was still the same person: scraping the bottom of the barrel, just struggling to get by, and going out and not having a care in the world.

Had I changed in that 3.5 years? I came from working for free for an aspiring author, working for free again and commuting to SF for an editorial job, to working a shitty job at retail, to having some semblance of security working in publishing, and finally – having a legitimate career at a startup, where I bust my ass, get to do what I love, and feeling more financially secure than I have ever felt in my life. Was it wrong to want more? No… but my professional circumstances, biological clock, and tenure at that relationship made me feel entitled to want more. That feeling wasn’t wrong. But that was always a point of friction for the two of us. He was just trying to get by, figure stuff out, and here’s me, ready to take it to the next step, and just waiting for him to grow up and catch up.

They say that the heart of a couple’s break up and problems boils down to 1-2 things. They take on various forms but at the heart of it, they’re essentially the same thing. Inevitably you fight about those things and rationalize the mending of it because of two reasons: 1) you’re scared to let go 2) you’re naïve. The crux of our problem was that we were at different places in life and every other problem sprung from that. His want to go out and party w/out me made me insecure – it would make me think, ‘shouldn’t he be trying to find a better job?’ ‘shouldn’t he want to invite me to go out with him?’. That insecurity got out of control and pushed him away because he thought that I was made of stronger stuff. The insecure girlfriend sitting at home waiting for her boyfriend to call was not the same independent, ‘I don’t need a man’ chick that he was so attracted to 3.5 years prior. He did not sign up for this. So he began to even question who I really was. And doing that, it made me question and really doubt myself.

There is nothing worse than losing yourself and doubting who you are; especially when that doubt springs from someone who you had always believed loved you unconditionally as you were, better or worse. I think about my natural disposition and will admit that I’ve always been a sucker for love. I’ve always bent over backwards at the thought of being with a man. And when I’m with one, I give wholeheartedly and dangerously. The independent chick spurts happen as a result of single life. I’m literally forced to accept and be in love with myself- and that is a sad fact. I’ve never been really happy with myself and that is something I’ve long struggled with – and it really has nothing to do with a man. I am a consummate perfectionist and perpetually hard on myself. I never let myself enjoy anything because I feel guilty for feeling good – that I’m so severely lacking that I don’t deserve to feel good about anything. Where does this come from?

I love my parents but part of it as a function of how I was raised. Everyone was always watching, judging, and you had to be perfect because our family was the best. You fall short and it is unacceptable. Throw in being a woman in this botox and boob job age, oldest child syndrome, and Catholic guilt and you got a hot mess. The other part of it is that it’s only been in recent months that I’ve started to work through who I am and be accepting of who I am and to realize there’s beauty in that. I have to be ok with me before anyone else can be ok with me.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if I’m miss independent chick or dependent wannabe girlfriend. I’m me. And the one for me will love me no mater what labels i put on myself. I am Virg. Neurotic at times, a scathing perfectionist, all-together too hard on myself, but… The people i care about- they always come first. Even before you think you’ll need help, i’m already one step ahead thinking about what i can do. And most of all, i’m loyal. I will love you, I will love you, I will love you. Someone out there will want that. Someone out there will need that. For someone out there, that will be more than enough.

Men who don’t want that aren’t for me. They don’t deserve me.

Lolo

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I’ve been terrible, I know, and haven’t posted since I got back from Miami (which btw- was an AMAZING experience that I will write about soon.) At the end of VONA, each participant had to do a reading of one of his/her pieces. I had originally picked something that I’d already written just to play it safe. But my mentor and residency leader, M. Evelina Galang, threw a wrench in my plans. On our last day of the program, we were invited to her home for lunch and a day of writing. It was lovely to sit outside in the Miami sun and have the singular mandate of writing. (Although, I was reprimanded for ‘liking’ my mentor’s pix on FB while i should have been writing..  what can i say – i’m a rebel and stubborn when it comes to my own good.)

She had us do an exercise where we closed our eyes and channeled our ancestors. While doing this, the one person I could think of was my Lolo on my dad’s side. When I sat down to write I started having a conversation with him and what spawned out of that conversation is the piece you see below.  When i shared it with my cohort, I was in tears, thinking about and loving and longing for a man whom i never knew. My cohort encouraged me to read this piece instead of the one I had planned b/c the feeling that brought it to life is the source of where my writing comes from. And so.. after the initial writing, I spent the whole afternoon editing it. And when I presented to all of VONA, my cohort was surprised that it was the same piece I had produced earlier. One of them commented, “You edited the shit out of that didn’t you?” Yes, yes I did.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Abraham De La Cruz Acacio.

I hate Werther’s caramel candy.  Whenever those commercials came on, I would quickly change the channel.  The child in the scene is unable to open a small piece of candy, and the grandfather gently undoes the gold foil and tenderly places it in his mouth.  Where was that person to unwrap my candy?

Everyone knew lolo or abuelo.  They celebrated mass, birthdays and Christmases with him.  I have no such memory, only a lingering feeling that something had been taken from me much too soon.

Lolo, how did you fall in love with lola? How did you comfort a widow who grieved the loss of her first husband? How do you take on a child who is not yours? How do you begin a chapter for this family by adding new life to it? How do you explain to the priest why all the host is gone even before Mass starts, and why your son, the altar server, can’t stop laughing in the back? How do you explain why you risked your life to save stacks of books from the public library, while Manila burned all around you?

All I know of you lolo, are a few stories, good stories.  Stories to help me paint who you are.  I see you with a chicken in one hand a machete in the other, ready to put dinner on the table for Inocencia and your three boys.  I see your hands calloused from corralling the pigs to and from market. The sweetness of smoke and tuba are your daily cologne.  Lola hates it when you smoke and drink but she’s still drawn into your kisses.

You wear the same white T shirt.  It was always clean because lola made sure of that, but the hole at the nape of your back grew bigger with each typhoon season.  Character, you’d call it.  Things needed to be worn in, like people.  If they didn’t have any holes in them, they’d be less interesting.  “This is where the stories are,” you would say. Lolo, I do know you. You and me, we are so like.  Because the holes in me, they make me long for you.

2012: The Year of Ill

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Let’s face, 2012 was an interesting year. For some reason the only way I could think of the year was in terms of illnesses I had dealt with. This is TMI, so if you hate this kind of stuff, I’d turn away now.

1)   Bronchitis. At the end of 2011, I was battling what I thought was a pretty severe cold that had a lingering cough. I went for at least 3 weeks with this hacking cough before getting it checked out. I was only prompted by the fact that I was going on a 3-week trip to the Philippines and didn’t want to be SOL w/out any medicine if I did in fact have something more serious. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I ended up breathing into a tube to clear my congested lungs.  My doctor scolded me for not coming in sooner. How was I to know that it was bronchitis? But the fact that I was hacking out my life with each cough, should’ve tipped me off.  I went to the Philippines  (the place with probably the worst air quality in the world) strapped with an inhaler.

2)   Severe Diarrhea. When I went to the Philippines back in 2007, I drank the local tap water and fearlessly ate food from street vendors and was completely fine. When I went there in January 2012, despite my better efforts of avoiding al tap water and ice, I suffered the most terrible bout of diarrhea. I wanted to kill myself. It was such a hindrance to our crazy travel itineraries. And because it’s a 3rd world country, there would be times when bathrooms were nonexistent.

3)   UTI – Just when I thought I was on my back to the comforts of the US, I experienced the worst flight of my life. I left Manila with what I thought were cramps but quickly realized it was UTI. I went to the bathroom every 5 minutes in excruciating pain. All I had to fight it was a bottle full of pain relievers. The warning label read that I shouldn’t take no more than 8 in a given period or I could risk kidney failure. I weighed out the mind-numbing pain I was experiencing against the possibility of kidney failure and my pain won out. I spent 16 hours on that flight, sweating and praying for relief. I asked the gentleman next to me if he wouldn’t mind giving up his aisle seat because I was stepping over him so often. He declined, saying that he always had to pee too.  MEN.

4)   Food poisoning – This was my own damn fault. I did a very Filipino thing and left out some fish to defrost so I could cook it when I got home. I got home late that night and didn’t have a chance to cook it until later in the evening. The fish tasted funny but braved it, since I was hungry. Bad decision. The next day I was feeling awful.  I was shaking and sweating and thought maybe I had come down with a fever. The room was spinning and I couldn’t keep anything down. Finally, I yacked my life away and felt immediately better.

5)   Vertigo – The food and poisoning and vertigo somewhat overlapped and so I was confused about what I was suffering from.  I was fitfully dizzy and all I wanted to do was lay in bed so the room would stop moving. I wanted to eat but would immediately feel nauseous after I did.  I went into Skyfall and couldn’t stomach the first chase scene so I had to leave after the first 10 minutes. I wanted to refund my ticket but was so nauseous that all I wanted to do was go home and lay down. Damn you Skyfall!

6)   Neck and back problems – Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider this an ailment but I’ve been dealing with it for the past couple weeks and it’s really affected my day to day activities. At first it was just a slight soreness I was experiencing, but one morning I woke up was unable to move my neck. I literally slid off my bed horizontally and onto the floor and put both hands behind my neck to lift myself upright. It was absolutely awful. I’m currently seeing a chiropractor.

7)   Heartbreak – This was one I didn’t see coming. But in hindsight, it was inevitable. What can anyone say about the pain of heartache? It’s a pain that slowly rises like thunder in the distance. You know it’s coming, but you somehow think the storm clouds won’t ever come near you. There are moments that overwhelm me, like I’m drowning in so much sadness and loneliness don’t know how I’ll ever make it out. There are others that prick like a thorn, a memory, a scent, a song – that send me spiraling down onto my knees.  There are moments of longing for comfort that tear me in two. Others where I am seething with rage and hatred. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing I can take to get past this pain.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from all this is that my latter ailments followed my breakup. Coincidence? Who knows, but one thing is clear: I have to take better care of myself. And while there are doctors to see and medicines to take for most of these ailments- how am I to deal with the heartbreak? I recall a quote that once said, “The best way out of difficulty is through it.” I’m bigger and stronger than the sum of my illnesses and past hurts. I’ve gotten past them, and I’m getting past them. I’m still here.

A Leap of Faith

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Any creative person is by nature a perfectionist. But perfectionists are more fearful of failure than exploring the possibility of triumph. But successful creative people have to be one part talented and the other part brazen. They look at the ‘What if?’ and say ‘So, what?’

Leap and the net will appear

– Zen saying

Cris and I were out on a lovely walk of downtown when we stumbled on a plaza that neither of us had ever noticed.  It small and had a unusual fountain in the middle of it with three long pools of water just behind it.  While we talked, I climbed onto the edge of the first pool.  When I got to end of it, I contemplated the space between it and the next pool.

“Jump!” He said.

“No, I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too far,” I said.

“I think you can, if you had a good running start,” Cris said.

We talked for good awhile about the dimensions of the gap and logistics of it all.  The gap was 6 feet across and 3 feet high.  I am barely 5 feet tall, how was I supposed to do that? At the moment I was content with being cute and made Cris carry and place me safely on the other side.

Then a large heavyset woman in a motorized wheelchair pulled up to us.

“What are you guys doing?” she demanded.

I thought she was being very familiar, as if we were her kids, jumping naughtily on the bed.

“We’re trying to see if she can jump the gap,” Cris pointed.

She glanced at the gap and said, “Oh yea, you can make that easily.”

“No way!” I exclaimed.  I could feel my knees shaking, already thinking about the blood that would spew from them if I tried to make the leap.

“Why not?” she insisted.  Wasn’t I just having this conversation with Cris?

“Well, I’m short and I just think it’s too far.  I wouldn’t be able to clear it.”

“Who says?” she shot back.

I opened my mouth and shook my head and shrugged.  I had no words.   Who was this stranger telling me what to do? She could sense my uneasiness.  Or maybe it was something more like fear.

“Look, if you got a running start, a really good running start, you can do it.  You’d have to take off your flip flops, but you can definitely make it.”

“But what if I fall? Scrape or bang up my knee?”

“You won’t.  Look, he’s right there to catch you,” she motioned to Cris.  “All you gotta do is try.”

I shook my head vigorously.

She tried again, “All you gotta do is believe that you can.  That’s all it is.  Whatever’s telling you that you can’t.  You need to stop that now.  You gotta break through.”

A moment of silence passed.  I looked at this stranger. On her wheelchair was everything she owned, bags of clothes, newspapers, and books.  She was at least 200 pounds.  In her right hand, she held a cracked, plastic magnifying glass to help her read her magazine.  Her left leg was gone, and her left arm, no more than a stump.  She was smiling.

Here I was, 29 years old, all my limbs intact,  healthy and able-bodied, declaring to her the disbelief in the power and ability of my own body.  I didn’t really want to attempt the jump, and it wasn’t about the fear of falling anymore.  I knew that if I didn’t at least try, I was doing this stranger wrong.  If she believed so steadfastly in me, I only wondered what great trials she’d overcome and what kind of belief it took her to triumph over them.  Now it was my turn.

I looked toward the gorge and slowly walked backwards.  Every couple feet or so, I stopped and gauged the distance – was this enough for a good, hard and fast run? I backed up even further, sliding my flip-flops off and hooking them onto my fingers.  Finally, I came to just below half of the pool.  It was time to let go.  My heart was racing but I couldn’t back out on this now.  They were both watching.  More importantly, she was watching! Why did I care about she thought? But right at that moment, that’s all that mattered.  If she believed in me, why couldn’t I?

I bent down and solemnly folded up the bottom of my jeans.  I tied my hair back in a loose bun.  You would think I was preparing for the Olympic long jump.  Like a bull peering ahead to its matador, I picked my left foot and my then my right foot, scuffing the cement.  This was it.  Now or never.

I took a deep breath and ran as fast as I could.  Wind in my hair, and the world whizzing past, I hurled myself forward over the divide.  I stumbled and bumped my knee but to my amazement, I had made it to the other side.

“YEAH!!” Cris exclaimed.

“You did it!” The stranger shouted.  “See- I told you!”

I turned around to look at my own Grand Canyon, it didn’t seem so big now.  “Yea, I can’t believe it… ”

“You see, you stumbled there at the end.  Why?” she asked.

“Well, because I panicked a bit.  I didn’t think I was going to clear it.”

“Aha! But you did! If you had straightened your back when you landed, you would’ve been standing just perfect.  Your feet were already there, but you doubted yourself and you came down on your knee.”

“She’s right! You had already made it!” Cris said.

“Yea… I think I remember feeling my feet on the cement.”  I was still in disbelief.

She could see the shock in my eyes and asked, “Why is it so hard for you to believe that you can do that? Why you can do anything?”

I shrugged with my eyes downcast and said nothing.  In my silence my head filled with the voices of teachers, my parents, friends, loved ones, all telling me I couldn’t do something.  I couldn’t sing because I was off-key.  I couldn’t play a sport because I wasn’t athletic.  I couldn’t write because it wouldn’t make a living.  After awhile, I started to believe I just simply couldn’t.  The chasm and the doubt had penetrated me too deeply.

This stranger studied me and inched her wheelchair closer to me.  Her eyes, warm and aglow with a light that came from somewhere else.

“Whatever they told you, you break that thinking now.  You believe in whatever you want and with everything you got, and miracles can happen.” She smiled gently. “You just have to jump.”

She pulled a joystick back, reversed her wheelchair and left us.  As spontaneously and serendipitously as she came, she was gone.  My own guardian angel, motored fearlessly into the distance.

I looked to Cris, “Did you really think I could make the jump?”

“Of course.  The only problem is, you didn’t.”

Fragments

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This was a fun poetry exercise. We took fragments of others’ poetry and spliced it with our own work to make an entirely new poem. It was a great opportunity to force experimentation and stretch our creative sensibilities. Some of these lines are so cutting and graphic, I wish I could tell you who wrote them and properly acknowledge these talented poets. But I can tell you clearly which lines are mine! This whole thing is emo, so I’ve identified my lines in blue.

Masochistic Melancholy

I watch the purple-gray day suffocate in the quilt of night
Like a newly-formed tooth piercing through the tender flesh of a baby’s gum
It feels like shards of stained glass have pierced my eye
The day ends, but now my journey begins
In waking I sleep, but through dreams I live
To rape your mind…
I am Aphrodite- condemned on her scarred knees
Craving words like a shiver does sun
Underpaid in love, starving for compassion,
Like a siren, you sing to me in the sweet notes of a minor key, calling me in tempting treble
Waiting with indulgent glee to become the most beautiful of butterflies
Eager to steal my breath in one long, life-giving, passionate kiss and then-
For a moment our eyes caught, and you gazed at me as we shared the loudest silence

Last scraps of light slip from celestial bodies
You coax me to down the drunken apothecary’s ground-stirred-foaming concoction
Filling me with the ashes of You.
For you I bleed, for you I climb,
The sweet I sought, the bitter I find.