The Power to Choose

creative-inspirational-quotes-thoughts-part11-61

A Native American Legend

An old man took his grandson to the top of a mountain to look at the valley down below. In a clearing they saw two wolves fighting viciously. The old man pointed to the wolves and told his grandson, “This is what life is like. We constantly have two wolves battling one another. One wolf represents anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, ego and all the negative emotions that brings us down. The other wolf represents love, compassion, hope, joy, peace, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith and all the emotions that serve us.

The little boy looked at the wolves fighting and turned to his grandfather, “Which is the wolf that wins?”

The old man smiled and said, “The one that you feed.”

I’m such an emotional person. I feel I’m sometimes at the mercy of my feelings. When I’m upset,  I let the bad wolf win; the whole world turns upside down and I feel completely helpless. I let the negative emotions destroy me, instead of letting the positive ones strengthen and uplift me.

I don’t think I can ever completely stop feeling this way. This is how I’m made, who I am, and I have to embrace that. But today the two wolves in the legend fill me with hope. No matter what life throws at me, I have is control over how I react in those vulnerable moments. No matter what, I’ll always have the power to choose.

Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One

at-peaceToday is my 31st birthday. If it were any other point in my life, I’d probably lament this fact. But no, I am rejoicing in my ‘seasoned’ age. My journey this past year was difficult, but God has been kind. To that end, I’ve made the following list of the Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One.

1) I’m not 21 anymore. I don’t make stupid mistakes with alcohol, my money or with men.

2) I have the means to enjoy life. I can pay for a vacation getaway or I can treat myself to a nice dinner without asking for help.

3) I have a kickass job. It took a long time to get here.. from odd job to odd job, to working for free, working in shitty retail and working in corporate enslavement. I’ve paid my dues and am reaping the benefit of my craft.

4) I know who my friends are. Not the ones on Facebook- the ones who pick you up while you lie in your own vomit and answer your phone call when you’re weeping incoherently.

5) I won’t take crap from anyone. I recognize the disingenuous, the selfish and the unkind and I will not tolerate any of that in my life.

6) I know when to ask for help. I’m not Super Woman. I can be fragile and vulnerable. I recognize those moments and know how to get through it. This is where strength and courage are born.

7) I know God is real. I don’t wonder about the direction of my life or what my purpose is. I do the things that make me happy because I know that’s what God wants for me.

8) I know love. I’ve been through the grind enough times to see a good and genuine man when I see one.

9) I value my health. I know I’m not going to live forever. I take care of myself to ensure that I can be here for as long as God lets me.

10) I know what I want. No more quarter life crises and existential quandaries to wade through. I want to be happy. I want a life fulfilled by art and creativity. I want a man who will love me and climb over my walls of self-doubt to relentlessly remind me of how strong and amazing I am and how far I’ve come. I want to serve God by my craft and contribute to this world by being the best human being I can possibly be.

I’m happy about my birthday. It will be the launching point to bigger and better.

One Day, One Year

one_dayAnd just like clockwork, Cristern stayed true to his promise: He texted me on the eve of the 1 year anniversary of when we broke up. He was texting to ask if we could meet. Some context: Around this time last year, I had become obsessed with the book and film, One Day. The novel tells the story of two main characters who fall in and out of love throughout the years; through marriage, divorce, children, the two remain friends and stay in touch. And no matter where they were in their respective lives, married, single, on the other side of the world, or right across town, they made a pact that once a year on July 15th, they would somehow get together and meet. September 27th was me and Cristern’s One Day.

The night of my breakup, Cristern made me the very first promise he ever made in our 3.5+ year relationship. He promised that in one year, he would contact me. I believe my reaction to this proposition was, “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin me. You get romantic on me NOW?’ I asked him what was supposed to happen on this supposed One Day and he said we’d meet and ya know… see how things would go. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to plan my life around a desperation move. This was a ploy so that he could always keep me as an option. Well I certainly refuse to be anyone’s option.

When I received the text, I looked at it for a moment to let it soak in. I was baffled but also not surprised. Baffled, because he still had the audacity to contact me after all the shit he pulled, but also not surprised because he’s been playing the part of a bleeding martyr. To his credit, the text was very nonchalant (or at least trying to be):

“I don’t know if you remember but we wanted to meet up after a year. Well that day is tomorrow. Still wanna meet?”

I have to laugh when I read it. It kinda gives off that hey ya, I’m a cool guy and I totally got this. When in reality, it actually reads more like a coward coming back with his tail between his legs. I felt sorry for him. Clearly, nothing had changed. But I have to give him kudos – how was a text like that supposed to read without sounding too desperate? I don’t even know how I would begin to write something like that. Oh wait, I would NEVER do that because I don’t believe in tethering someone to such a stupid and selfish promise.

When we initially broke up, and then when I got together with David, there was always a part of me that said I would meet up with him. Mostly, just to be kind and get my books back. But then I took a step back and thought long and hard about the real function of that day. That day was for him- not me.  It was a status check to evaluate whether or not I was dateable in his eyes. It was to see if I had changed and had gotten better.

Sorry buddy, I’m still the same- and I kinda like it that way.

I am of course human and do feel bad about not replying. But really, who would I be helping if I did that? He needs to move on and no one can help him on that journey. He has to own it and want it.

I believe in prayer and believe that any good thought is like energy and it can travel anywhere and reach the person you’re praying for. That night before I went to bed, I prayed to him and for him: “I hope you forgive me, like I forgive you.”

There is nothing left to say after that. Maybe one day he’ll understand.

The Great Purge

life-quotes-002

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

tumblr_m2r7wpNNL01rntstlo1_500

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.

Perfection

angel-halo-wall-art-sticker-78

I wrote this after I did something very stupid one weekend and was consumed in remorse. Though the event prompted this journal entry, it’s a sentiment that I’ve long struggled with.

‘Even a halo is something to keep clean.’

What does it mean to be perfect? I’ve been searching for the answer to this for a couple days now, but I realize that this has been more of a lifelong query. With my Catholic upbringing it has always been difficult to adhere to the highest standards of morality and integrity.

I think about how I was raised in a rather strict Filipino home. I had to serve as the consummate example for my younger brother. The grades had to be the best, because our family was always the best. You are not to have a boyfriend before college or you will get pregnant and ruin your life. You are to watch over your brother because he looks up to you. Someone was always watching, and judging and I felt I could never just be. And mid-way through college, when it came time to cement my major and my future, I abandoned my love of writing for a more respectable major.

They never once asked me to make that shift, but I didn’t want to let my parents down. They had sacrificed for me and my brother that I didn’t want to let them down but relying solely on an art. How could I re-pay my parents back by putting my thoughts on paper?

My relationships were no better. I had no idea what it meant to be a ‘perfect’ girlfriend. It was like sand through my fingers, the more I held tightly to the ideal of perfection, the more they would slip from me.

Perhaps perfection is a mere ideal that we work towards but never completely achieve. It is something to strive towards that makes us better in our pursuit of it. But intention and execution are two very different things. Maybe that’s why we need things outside of ourselves to help us achieve that near-perfectness. God, art, love – these are things that are pure in and of themselves – but are transformed into something greater through human imperfection.

It is in our complexities and our short-sightedness that transforms these obscure things, into something real and tangible.

What is love without forgiveness? And would art be beautiful, if it were not borne from pain? And why would we need God, if not to acknowledge our own frailty?

I am tired of trying to be perfect. I want to be me, in all its glorious imperfection. I want to be the most perfect version of my imperfect self.