Revisiting Betty

It has been 12 years since I first came across Ugly Betty. I watched the show’s original version when I was younger but the US version was the one my heart clung to and as cheesy as it may sound, got me through some of my own life’s highs and lows.

As a sheltered and introverted child,  all I had were my books, my writing, and yes, my TV shows. I went through all four seasons in less than a month and I have come to realize so many things. For one thing, even after 12 years, Betty and I are still so much alike but the most important revelation of all is my understanding of how Betty’s story turned out.

As most of the show’s fans would know, Betty technically did not end up with any Prince Charming but she ended up with a career she wanted in a new country all by herself and it made me appreciate a show that was definitely ahead of its time even before it was trendy.

There’s really no big aha moment that I will write about about this other than gratitude for the past 12 years, nothing like a good show that I treated like my best friend to remind me of my own growth in the past 12 years.

I remember being extremely optimistic about my future and it reminded me of how scared I was at the prospect of the future I imagined to not turn out the way I expected it to and here I am, nearly 31, with a present that is unlike what  20 year old me envisioned but it is better than I expected in so many ways. It is better than I expected because while it is true that life is unlike what we expect it to be but every day, we have a choice to make the best out of it.

It is facing what life hands us instead of running away from it that we create our own strength. Nostalgia hits every time I see those braces but it also makes me feel, well just a tad bit proud of both Betty and I and where our journey has taken us.

Love you Betty, you will always have my heart.

Image result for ugly betty

Signs

You know how they say that when the universe is trying to tell you something it just suddenly shows up everywhere?

That is something I have always believed but instead of the universe, I often credit it to God. I became extremely attuned to messages sent through books, loved ones, and any other way. Some may call them signs but instead of thinking of them as something mythical and magical, I see them more as sign posts, you know the ones that help you from getting lost.

What I am about to tell you next is a story about piecing those current signs that I have been seeing to create a bigger picture.

This is the sign you've been looking for neon signage
Photo by Austin Chan

The First Sign

I consumed the book In Praise of Difficult Women by Karen Karbo over the weekend and my heart was just overwhelmed. For most of my life I have been told how to sit, how to act, the proper way to react, to keep my emotions in check, and to apologize for defending people and causes that matter to me. But then I realized, even as a child, I have always refused to do so because in my heart, I have always believed in fighting for what is right, even if it meant I did so in a way that offended another. There are better ways to express ourselves but that’s for later. Let’s keep going.

I consider the book the first sign because most of my 20s were spent apologizing for who I was – my feistiness, my inability to say anything other than the truth, and trying to downplay my own voice because I was afraid to offend another. I was always cautiously treading between being a dormant volcano into an erupting one.

Nevertheless, the book slowly opened my eyes to the reality that hey, maybe being difficult is not such a bad thing.

white and black One Way-printed road signages
Photo by Brendan Church

Sign Two: 

I have always adored Brené Brown, I have adored her so much that I swallow up her books so fast without taking the time to truly chew on the messages of what she was talking about. Thankfully, I came across her episode on Dan Harris’ 10% Happier and it made me want to dig deeper into her message, including her recent Netflix special.

Her thoughts on shame made me think and resonate not just about shame but also vulnerability. There is more to learn about this topic but I leave this bullet with this quote:

“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

With All Your heart neon signage
Photo by Brittney Burnett

Sign Three:

Today, I was speaking with a dear uncle and in the course of a very serious conversation about something entirely off topic but somehow something horrendous I did nearly 12 years ago was returned back to me. My initial instinct was to be defensive – to rehash why I did what I did to justify it somehow.

But instead of doing so, I heard myself say, “I was 19 and I made those mistakes and I made amends” and that was that. And as I ruminated on the conversation that thankfully ended well, the signs somehow connected.

For one thing, I did not deny what I did nor found the need to justify it. And while I initially found the need to hide and feel guilt over what I did, I embraced it thoroughly.

As a firecracker of a young adult, I know my words have hurt other people and my 30 year old self is deeply sorry for that. However, I do not apologize for the causes I fought for nor do I think of myself as less than just because I had it in me to speak up.

Now that I have accepted (maybe through the course of the many years in between then and now) the mistakes that I have done and the words I have said, it’s like a weight has been lifted and I find myself grieving for how much time I spent in the dark.

If only I knew earlier that there was no need to hide or no need to be inauthentic, if I only I learned the value of vulnerability early on then I could have embraced the difficult and stubborn woman in me with more grace and more kindness.

Conclusion: 

Honestly, everything that I am writing to you right now is so fresh that I haven’t fully immersed myself in it yet completely to articulate it but in terms of connecting the signs, this is what I have concluded so far: I needed to understand that it’s okay to be a difficult woman but part of being one is to own up and to be authentic and to not drown in my shame because I need to shed light on my own mistakes and weaknesses so I can continue to be a positive version of who I am.

It’s mind blowing and I cannot tell you more. Bless this journey.

When it comes to relationships, loving someone and being in a relationship are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you can totally have all these wonderful feelings for another without it ever being reciprocated at all – and I have learned early on in life that that was totally okay.

As a youngster, I have always been ‘brave’ enough to like / love people who would never give me time of day. I have always believed that truly loving or admiring someone did not have to include them loving me. Just like John Mayer’s song, I have always believed that life will return that love to me somehow and this is what makes me feel grateful about the love that I come home to daily.

That being said, I cannot help but feel a wave of pride and joy towards people I have admired in the past who are currently winning in life. There’s that sense of, “I always knew this person can do it” that overwhelms me when I hear of their successes. It makes me feel nostalgic and makes me ruminate on how mysteriously wonderful life is. Life never turns out the way we want it to but that doesn’t mean that we cannot be happy for those who are living the lives we initially thought we wanted.

I am letting myself chew on that last sentence. It’s so liberating to ‘bade’ that sister life from the shore and appreciate what we have in this moment because the life we are living could be someone else’s sister life as well.

Sister Life

There has been a season of silence – of limiting my writing to just work related content or just little musings here and there. My heart, for the most part, has chosen to simply listen, heal, and just take in this new life that has been given to me.

But today, despite my 8 PM bedtime on Mondays, the urge to write is greater.

I started off the day sharing this beautiful quote from Cheryl Strayed:

“I’ll never know and neither will you about the life you didn’t choose. We will only know that whatever that life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that did not carry us. There is nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

The passage gripped my heart the moment I read it. In my 20s I have always believed that God had a plan specifically for my life and that closed doors meant that what was beyond it wasn’t meant for me.

I have firmly held on to that belief and yet as I bade goodbye to the idealism of my youth, I slowly questioned if this was true.

At 30 years old, I have begun questioning the beliefs and foundations I have built my life on and the results were always a mix bag of challenges, skepticism, and wonder. It’s a joy to unravel the box of what I used to believe in, examine it for what it is, and discover new perspectives.

It is quite possible to remain true to the core of your beliefs while going on a journey to know more about life.

Just like Cheryl Strayed said, it is possible to have a sister life and maybe that sister life reflects the life I once dreamt of for myself (or was it a life that someone else decided for me? I am still figuring that out) but it doesn’t matter because the life I have now, as I type this, is the life that I have chosen. 

There is a different kind of joy that comes with accepting this truth: for whatever reason, this is the life I have chosen and even though it is imperfect, I delight in it because I chose it. 

This means that at one point in my life, I abandoned what I thought what was aesthetically good for me to pursue what felt authentic to my heart and my soul. And it did not come in a pretty package – I had to wrestle to get to this place and my journey is just beginning. 

There’s no roadmap to this life and one is never assured of what’s next but despite that uncertainty, something inside of me is overwhelmed with joy because despite the curiosity of a sister life, I know in my heart that I am where I am supposed to be. 

It’s the irony of choices and letting it go. It’s that sweet middle nobody can truly define – it’s where reality meets the supernatural and we are so blessed to be in the midst of it.

 

Just Enough Light

 

I have been WAITING for something major since February 2019. I have possibly prayed every prayer, texted MY entire support group from Australia to Ireland (shoutout to you, eFam!), and just trusted that when the time came, the answer would be a resounding YES.

I waited with anticipation every week, constantly refreshing my inbox for that YES to arrive and here we are, two months later, and I am still waiting with no concrete answer.

It has been quite the journey for me – for anyone who knows my type A personality, you would know that I want things to happen and I want them to happen now. Waiting is painful for me because it challenges me to be still – that of which I cannot do.

This week, after days and days of waiting, I finally broke down and realized that this may not be for me, that no matter how much I have prayed and rallied for it, it is most likely a no and it absolutely destroyed me. I quickly went to the worst case scenarios and to be completely honest, it became a struggle of faith for me.

Suddenly, the world turned dark and I was out of options, completely hopeless. I was asking myself, “What is the point of this all?” and instead of thinking of options here on earth, I thought of another place I could be and how I could get there quickly. Saying goodbye to earth meant seeing Heaven and when you’re in a dark place, that is an appealing thought.

And yet, something in me persisted, a small silent voice told me that it was okay to reach out and ask for help and that I did, I quickly went to my eFam group (the community I have formed through Elevation Church) and boldly asked for prayers, pouring my heart out, and telling them that I needed some sort of miracle and divine intervention.

I thought that divine intervention would come in the form of the yes that I was waiting for but instead, it came in overwhelming peace inside of me that assured me that even if my life wasn’t anything like I imagined, God has not forgotten me.

And in a beautiful, Evan Almighty way, I saw God’s answers to my prayers.

The yes that I wanted did not come but He sent people who reminded me of the love He had for me. He sent prayers through my eFam group who overwhelmed me with love and prayers, He sent me strangers who out of nowhere suddenly talked about how good and gracious God is and how faithful He is to His children, He sent it through old friends who shared their love and appreciation, He sent it through a dear workmate who told me that my life had value and there was so much to live for, and most importantly, He sent it through my husband whose love is steadfast, strong, and unconditional. My husband has been my life’s greatest answered prayer – He has shown me a love that comes from God and I am grateful because that is exactly what I have prayed for.

Most times, we think God’s answers come in the form that we expect them to but this rarely happens only because God sees the big picture and we do not.

Maybe this experience wasn’t about the yes that I prayed for but more about what God was doing inside of my heart. That it wasn’t about the life change that I have been praying about but about understanding the importance of trusting God even when it hurts, most especially when it hurts. It is being overwhelmed with a sense of humility because God’s love remains even when we are unfaithful, even when we do not trust or we doubt His plans for our lives, He remains strong and steady, reminding us that He would never leave.

I have seen God in the big things in my life but I have been transformed by the little things that has affirmed His love for me. It is in the little moments of my life when I feel like giving up, it’s in the small, unexpected moments that I see His goodness and even though I do not know what is ahead, I just have enough light to take the next steps, and on most days, that is all you need.

Today, a newly found friend, Kasey, sent me a beautiful rainbow that she saw randomly today and with it, she reminded me that God’s promises are true and they still stand. And it absolutely tipped me over – God has been so gracious in the past few days but that was just a moment where I truly felt that I was loved and I was not forgotten.

I may have not completely healed from the yes I did not get but at least I have enough in me to fight another day and sometimes, that is truly all we need.

God has gifted us with just enough for today and that is truly all we need – tomorrow is another day and boy is that day worth fighting for.

I felt compelled to write this in the hopes of inspiring another who is experiencing what I experienced this past week – your life is worth fighting for, Jesus gave up His life so you can have an abundant one, and He has given us the strength to win, keep fighting, ask for help, your life is so valuable. You are loved and you matter. God has not forgotten you – there is beautiful beautiful joy ahead.

 

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3

 

Redirection

So here we are again my dear blog, we are back in the place I was a few months ago. It is quite true that when something is too good to be true, it usually is. I will not lie, I spent a good amount of last week hidden in my own darkness, enveloped by my own sadness. I have first spoken about the ‘hole’ in my first ever blog in 2004 and still return to it from time to time. The hole is the place I go to when I feel that life is getting too overwhelming and when I need to figure things out.

I wish I could tell you that I am 100 percent calm at all times but when I am trying to figure things out or when I feel betrayed of any kind, I retreat to my shell (oh good old Cancer) and try to understand the significance of why certain things happened in the way that they happened. An old quote about betrayal said that it never comes from your enemies but rather those you have held close to you heart.

When we expect people to be unkind, there’s no shock when they are but when people envelope their deceit in kindness, that is when the shock and hurt hits the most.

And while I may have spent hours crying over a friendship lost, I have come to realize that it has nothing to do with me. As Morrie Schwartz said, “People are not against you, they are for themselves.” It took awhile for me to get out of the hole especially because when I begin to attach myself to something, I cling on to it with passion.

But that is life and I know that God is merely redirecting me and using even the negative people to lead me to the path that He has carved out for me and so I cry, rest, and begin the journey yet again.

Nothing is ever wasted in God’s kingdom, remember that.

My Dream of Living a Simply Luxurious Life

Lately I have found myself obsessing over books by Milly Johnson, Debbie Johnson (not quite sure if they are related), and Shannon Ables (the only non-fiction on the list but reads like a dream) .

Paperback Sunshine at the Comfort Food Caf? Book

The books all spoke about the simplicity of life and just like a warm and cozy blanket, I slipped into their pages and just like when I was a child allowed them to envelope me with their warmth.

 

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman

The books had one common theme: enjoying small towns and to be honest, that is what I thought I would be doing when I left everything behind in 2017. I honestly thought that my husband and I would settle in a small town and I could return to my first love: teaching. As of late, it is yet to happen but I dream of a day where I can simply be similar to the characters in those books. As a angsty teenager, I have always described myself as a contradiction and at 30, I still see that in myself. I love being with people but I also treasure being alone, I enjoy ‘luxurious’ things but crave for the simplicity of life.

Image result for the simply luxurious life

 

But now, more than ever, I am slowly learning to embrace the simply luxurious life described by Shannon Ables. She said that living your life in luxury means living it in peace as you would want it. And while my life may still not be that today, I am still thankful to be in this place in my life where I am learning to love its everyday. I am slowly slipping away from the desires that have held me hostage and slowly creating a life that is my own (well my husband’s and I) and no one else’s.

There’s really no point to this blog other than thanking God for providing me with a life that is joyful and content. This is one that I have been praying for but I never realized that it could be something that I can choose. And so I choose it on a daily basis. I can’t wait to share with you more about the books but I hope that this inspires you to find a life that feels good to you.

 

Hello 2019!

When it comes to New Year’s traditions, I must admit, I can be pretty Asian about it. My husband and I, pretty much like my family back home, fill the table with everything round, make sure we do not serve chicken, and stay awake until 12 MN to greet the New Year. One of the traditions that I used to do when I was single was to sit down right before 12, meditate, and just sit there wishing for a better year than the one we just had.

But this year, I wanted to not just dismiss 2018 but instead I bade it goodbye with my gratitude. I thanked it for what it was and what it brought me – the highs, the lows, the tears, and the triumphs. I do not want to be ungrateful for 2018 because in as much as it was challenging, it also gave me a lot of beautiful surprises. 2018 gave me what I needed to grow and be prepared for where God takes me in 2019.

It was fun until it caused me so much anxiety to be happy and optimistic at exactly 12 or else my year will not turn out right. Fortunately, you grow wiser as you grow older and as life would have it, you would realize that life is not always perfect no matter how much you pray, wish, or go for traditions. It’s not being pessimistic to say that life will not be rosy 24/7 even in 2019 but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

In fact, one of the greatest gifts that life can give you is the ability to accept the circumstance for what it is and have the ability to let it go without attaching any of our self-worth and emotions to it. We can fully feel the emotions that are attached with specific circumstances and not be defined in it. Growing up also means allowing ourselves to actually feel what we feel even if the people are not comfortable with our emotions or if we do not fit into what ‘proper’ emotions should be like.

Just today, on the first working day of the year, I felt the opposite of optimistic and positive for various reasons. But instead of running away from what I was feeling, I processed my emotions with my husband and though I do not feel completely a 100 percent at the moment writing this meant that I had hope that the rest of the year will not be the same. Or at least I knew that even if I had days such as this one, I would be okay. And guess what, you will be too.

We put too much pressure into getting it right on the first day of a New Year but in truth, we just have to be kind to ourselves and trust that it will all work out. I have full confidence and hope in Jesus Christ and in the middle of my own personal rant, my husband shared this verse with me,

 “ Don’t be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, “I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip[c] on your life!  So we can say with great confidence: “I know the Lord is for me
and I will never be afraid of what people may do to me!” – Hebrews 13:5-6

Doesn’t that verse just cover all that we could possibly worry about in the coming year? It gives us hope that no matter what is against us, whether people or circumstances, our God is for us and that no matter what He will provide for us?

This 2019, I aim to rely more on God’s grace and I pray that my faith in who He is grants me steadiness in my daily life. That I learn to lean on Him and in doing so, may I become more content with the life He has given me while pouring love and grace to those around me.

In the same breath of surrender, I also want to remind myself that I am in charge of my life and nothing is simply ‘happening’ to me. I want to fully discard the victim mentality this year and own my life and my happiness. We have the power to have the life we want, we just have to fully understand it. I wrote more about this in my New Year’s Day Article for The Manila Times.

I am quite excited about 2019 and I just want to remind you once again that your life is yours. While listicles, articles, and books are helpful, you do not have to adhere to anything that doesn’t make you joyful. This 2019, find what works for you and go after it! I wish you a joyous and happy life with everything you have prayed for and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deserving a Seat on the Table and Shopping

I want a seat at the table but I do not want just the seat, I want to be able to deserve being there. I want to be there and contribute, not just sit there and be pretty (although I would be the first to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to both be beautiful and a significant contributor to any table you are called to).

If there is one thing you should know about me (that you do not know already if you have been reading this blog long enough) is that I do not give myself enough credit. I do not know if that is because of my Type A personality, being raised a middle child, or just how brain is wired. I am the first person to compliment another for their good work or basically anything good about them but the last person to acknowledge my own successes and own achievements. See even typing those words made me cringe.

You see, I see every day as a blank state of nothingness. Oh yes, I do remember every single mistake since I was like seven but I have forgotten every achievement I have had. My brain forgets that part of the equation but not my failures and not how I should have done better. My brain also makes me feel that I am so far away from the woman I wanted to become ten years ago and that makes me hustle even more. Now, with a culture that glorifies the hustle over anything this doesn’t seem like a big thing. But to someone who is questioning life and its meaning – it all seems lost to me.

During the year of transition (aka moving to LA and leaving everything I know behind), I begun to dive into the something deeper that life had to offer. Suddenly, life felt meaningless – I often ask myself, ‘What happens after the big win?’. As humans, we go and turn into the next big win. We keep going, going, and going. There’s always another milestone to achieve, another bag to buy (guilty), and another travel destination to go to.

We come home with our bags, with our photos from vacation, with the work high, and we are happy for a minute until we find ourselves running to another cycle of buying, winning, and achieving. Now while there is nothing wrong with that but I keep wondering where it leaves our mental health and our souls.

You see, it’s so easy to tape up our wounds with shopping and whatever else it is that leaves you high. For me personally, it’s adding to cart. I just love and adore shopping. Clothes and bags are my vice. I would be the first to tell you though that while I have thought of this – I haven’t completely abandoned my add to cart habits. They’re not dangerous, out-of-control spending but sometimes I wonder why my happiness can be found in something so … material.

This brings me back to deserving the seat on the table. I wonder sometimes why my ego is so fragile and why I tend to it through my passion of checking out multiple purchases on a weekly, maybe daily basis. I keep wondering if the reason why I do not think I deserve a seat on the table is because all of this reverts back to me not being worthy enough.

Maybe it reverts back to me not having enough confidence and that makes it difficult for me to risk my ego and bring what I know to the table. I am afraid to show my one hundred percent because what if I am not good enough? I hide behind my clothes and bags just so I can add worth to me and puff myself up for a time.

But what happens when I am alone? Well, this is as raw as I can be at this moment.

I have ideas of centering myself and finding the right balance but I do not want to commit to anything until I am a 100 percent there. But until then, here are a few thoughts and an intention to learn – about myself and the world and hopefully I come back to this space but until then, I will keep digging.

Thanksgiving Musings

Happy Thanksgiving from my second home!

This is my second year celebrating what is fast becoming a favorite holiday of mine and it came not without tears. Okay, it came with a lot tears. I always get emotional during the holidays mainly because I am missing the holidays back home but also because sometimes you just need a warm hug from your parents. Being so far away from home always makes me think about the brevity of life and how important it is to enjoy where we are at the moment.

The crab in me often retreats when I have been overly stimulated and if I do not give myself that option to let it all out – I end up bubbling over. And that is never good. So I am kind of glad that I get a four day weekend so I can be on my own, read the books I purchased, and just breathe.

My boss told me a gem yesterday, he told me, “It’s okay to be who we are and feel what we feel. That is what makes us human.”

And for someone who bottles up her emotions all the time, that gives me comfort and that is a gift I wish and hope to give myself this year and beyond.

I just realized that the holidays always make us feel pressured because it always makes us feel like we have to feel a certain way and be a certain way but in reality you can feel whatever you want to feel on this day without the pressure of it being perfect. You can be sad on Thanksgiving day, you can be happy, you can be sullen about it, you can spend it in your PJs all day – whatever makes you feel good for today that is what you do. Do not let anyone else make you think differently. Do what is good for you and that is what makes you not choose destructive choices.

My husband finally convinced me to go on a real hike and would you believe that the city girl in me climbed atop Mount Lowe. Just like anything in my life – I freaked out because I was thisclose to the edge and had panic attacks all the way up. It was terrible, it was horrible but it turned out to be incredible.

It was also a great workout and I was able to take a lot of photos – which was motivated me to climb up to the top.

Sharing with you these photos because if we look at the world from a different perspective – we see the wonder of the world and what God created for us and we are reminded of what’s important and that gives us relief. It reminds us we are loved and safe no matter how reckless our emotions can be.