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Wow. It has been awhile huh? Safe to say that life changed dramatically since I last wrote but wow, I didn’t even realize just how much time has already passed.

For one thing, I am already a mom. Yes, on Thanksgiving Day 2020, I gave birth to my son Alexander Raphael Balthazar – details I shared here.

Since then my husband and I have returned to work, survived many sleepless nights, and saw ourselves transition from a young couple who had no kids to parents of a joyful baby boy. A lot of things rush to my head whenever I think of just how much our lives have changed in the past 60 days but not enough for me to articulate. I feel that I have to just truly feel into this moment and thoroughly enjoy it and that’s what my husband and I have been doing – experiencing it for what it is so we can look back on it later.

But I just had to drop a line here – my trusted blog that has seen me through high school, college, work mishaps, and so many heartbreaks. The young 15 year old kid who lived on One Tree Hill and books has now turned into a 32 year old who still loves books and TV but is now a mom. Oh what a fun adventure this would be.

Fortitude

“Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” – Psalms 112:6-7

How do you prepare for a new season? As the leaves slowly turn golden, my husband and I find ourselves excited to decorate our new home for all the upcoming holidays. And though the world may question the sanity of celebrating anything during the year that changed everything, my husband and I are holding steadfast to hope that there is always something to be grateful for.

When it comes to preparation, I often find myself preparing for the best. Ever the eternal optimist, I have always been the person who covered all bases to ensure that everything works out the way that it should. I’ve always naively believed that if I do everything right, everything will go right.

But if there’s anything that 2020 taught us, it’s this – no matter how much we prepare, life happens so we have to strengthen our inner world. I once believed that strengthening our inner world means doing everything we can to avoid the tough times. I totally missed the mark because developing our inner world has nothing to do with eliminating the bad but simply strengthening what’s within in order to be ready for anything.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not preparing for the worst either (I really don’t like pessimists) but simply equipping ourselves with the tools we need in order to continue to remain grounded no matter what happens on the outside. It’s training our minds to always look within for strength and courage so we can take the next best step. We do this so that when the winds change, we know how to brave them instead of trying to run away from them (which I used to do).

This leads me to the most valuable lesson I learned during this season – do not be afraid to look within and face what hurts. Do not fear facing the darkness not just of the world and your circumstances but also of patterns that keep repeating in your life. Be brave enough to question why certain situations keep happening and dive deep. Listen to your own darkness and once you do, you will be formidable. You will soar without the baggage because you had the courage to face your own stuff.

I must admit that in the past four years, I deflected into playing the victim role and though I cringe at how annoying I was, I understand where she was coming from. However, when I discovered the power in owning my sh*t, I never, not even for a second, want to play the victim again. It’s in owning everything that’s dark within as part of embracing the totality of who I am that I am empowered to become my best self. Doing this also helped me set boundaries and freed me from wanting to change people’s narratives about me. I’ve always wanted to get to this place but never quite got there. This is why I am grateful for the people who have helped me in this journey and continue to help me.

In the same breath, doing this also allowed me to be more accepting of myself which is the foundation of being accepting of others. It’s been a mindblowing experience and it feels good to just write about it and hopefully encourage others to take on their own journey as well. There’s freedom in knowing that we have everything within to not only create the lives we want but to create it despite what the world throws our way because it is extremely possible.

Sending you love and good cheer and may this season be everything you wish for and more.

On Competition, Oneness, and Flow

person holding bouquet of flower

We are a few days away from welcoming August in a year that we could easily categorize as unexpected. 

Personally, July was a full month that was dedicated to moving to a new place (my husband and I unpacked everything within a week, yay!), celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and just getting deeper into my healing practice. Unlike everything else in my life, I never really shared in detail anything in relation to my healing journey not because I am embarrassed by it but because I feel like the right time hasn’t arrived yet. I am still in the process of understanding where I was, where I am, and what’s next, and when I get all that figured out and feel that it’s time, I cannot wait to share it in detail.

I can, however, share parts of it today. For some reason, I just got out of the shower and was powered up to share some thoughts in a way that I haven’t in awhile. Truth be told, I shied away from writing my own feelings and thoughts into my blog for many reasons: one of them being, well 2020 hasn’t been the easiest year ever, and as I dove deeper into my healing journey, I saw a lot of untangling from professional and personal relationships and for a girl who loves to please others, these transitions left me in a state of shock. However, I would also be the first to tell you that letting go of these relationships, owning up to the part I played in it, and simply allowing myself to deal with trauma that has been sitting for decades has allowed me to feel free. 

Now being free doesn’t mean I live in a land of roses (now wouldn’t that be nice) but rather in a feeling of flow – where I am unafraid to feel things and unafraid to sit with them. It also means I am no longer afraid of my shadow – a story that I can’t wait to share when I’m ready and when it’s time.

Today, however, I am simply called to share this thought:

There is no such thing as “better than” life. Our lives are exactly what they are supposed to be in this moment and we must learn to celebrate that. When we learn to stop reaching for a life that is “better” than another, we are free to embrace what we are given today.

To me, that is incredibly important. The victim mindset (one that I, unfortunately, have been trapped in for a while) thinks that we need to be better than those who have hurt us but in reality, there is no scorecard, there is no game to be won. We are all just learning from each other and just being directed to the highest good. Every person we meet is a teacher and a mirror of what we need to heal. We can all wish each other well – even those who have hurt us and those we have hurt. When we come from a place of oneness instead of competition, we enter into a beautiful flow of life where we learn to forgive not just others but ourselves as well. It’s such a beautiful place to be and it all starts with a simple shift, of understanding that there is no “us” vs “them” but rather a connectedness, one that allows us to learn from one another rather than attack one another constantly.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we hold on to toxic relationships (that’s a common misconception) but rather let them go in love, wish them well, and see them as light. Yes, we can end relationships in a positive way and wish them well even if we never speak to them again. It’s okay to walk away from relationships but we must do so with gratitude knowing that what we learned from them was important to our own journey.

Wishing you love and light today, may this message resonate at the right time.

An Ode to 2015.

 

Today, I looked at old photos.

Now for some people, this may be a sacred practice (I can tell just by the popularity of #TBT) but for me, it’s one that I try not to do. The motion of my life has always been forward no matter what and looking at old photos just deterred me from that. But today, right before work, I took a leap of faith and looked photos from what I claim to be my golden year – the year 2015.

It was the year I fell in love, broke my heart, traveled 3,000 miles, only to fall in love (again!), have my heart broken (again!), and ultimately find the love of my life. It was a brilliant year filled with tears but also sprinkled with the right doses of bravery.

When I look back to my 27-year-old self, two thoughts come to me: she had so much courage but at the same time, also so naive. I grieve for her because of the things she is about to through to get to where I am today but at the same time, I couldn’t help but quietly applaud her because she endured her worst fears and emerged better than she ever was.

And by better, I don’t mean angelic. I don’t understand why the culture ultimately associates being the better version of ourselves with being good or nice. When in fact “better” means that you went deep within yourself, confronted your demons, and liberated yourself from situations that did not make you blissful or left you constrained. And more often than not, better also includes making better choices for ourselves rather than others.

Better also means challenging beliefs we grew up with, dismantling them, and give ourselves the freedom to relearn them, this time looking at it with greater consciousness and awareness.

But that’s a whole other story, one that might take longer to write.

 

Today is simply gratitude for what 2015 was to me and maybe, a confronting of a specific fear – there’s nothing wrong with looking back on old photos.

 

“Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.” – Cheryl Strayed

Living the Simply Luxurious Life

I first came across Living the Simply Luxurious Life in 2018 and since then, I have been itching to write a review about it on my blog. Life has changed in so many ways since then and in every change, I found myself going back to reading Shannen Ables’ books, as well as listening to her podcasts, to remind me of my true north.

The world’s current events, as well as certain changes in my personal life, have encouraged me all the more to go back to my roots, to dig deep into the desires of my heart, and to further pursue things that bring my joy.

Even as a child, books have always brought me great joy and this is the reason why I am starting this Book Review series on my blog. My blog has been around since high school and for the longest time, it has depicted the story of my life. But now as an almost 32-year-old, I have come to realize (with the books’ guidance) that maybe somethings are best kept private. Also, there is enough noise in the world and so in my own little way, I share what I love in the hopes that it helps inspire another or at the very least, help them find the next exciting read. And while my blog will not be entirely just about books, it would definitely be a big part of it.

In honor of the beginning of this series, I am reposting the book review I wrote about Living the Simply Luxurious Life and Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life.  This article was first published on the Thought Junkie on the Manila Times in September 2019.

***

“Living a luxurious life does not require large amounts of money. What it does require is good decision making, a never-ending quest for knowledge, and the ability to live authentically and not be led around by the nose.” – Shannon Ables”

“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” – Coco Chanel

My first job was in the fashion world at the ripe age of 19. My first boss exemplified the life I have always dreamed of after watching too many chick flicks – she was a jet-setting, female boss who had the most beautiful clothes, the most intricate jewelry pieces, the most gorgeous designer handbags, and of course along with it, a charming face that could open doors like no other.

In my naïve mind, she was living the dream life! It was a life that I based the next years of my career on – I wanted the jet-setting lifestyle, I wanted the designer handbags, and tried to diet my way into looking “charming.” It’s been nearly 13 years since then (yep, time flies) and here I am at 31, savoring a cup of coffee while devouring yet another set of books.

It’s safe to say, and thank God for it, I am no longer who I was when I was 19. I can only laugh at the naïveté of my 19-year-old self. I admired what the woman had without realizing what it cost – late nights, missed family dinners and occasions, and even good health.

I only saw what she chose to showcase to the world without realizing that everything achieved in life required sacrifices and choices. You sacrifice for the life you want and so it is important to recognize what you want your life to be.

We cannot ebb through life making choices based on external factors because one day, we will wake up with an empty life, one made purely from the choices of other people.

I can only laugh at the way my 19-year-old self viewed life and often pat her on the back for her grit, tenacity, and unwillingness to quit (after all, it is her tenacity that has gotten me to where I am). And I do feel like the 13 years of my journey has given me the tools that I need to curate the life that I’ve always dreamed of – a simply luxurious one but not luxury in the way the world defines it.

Traversing into my mid-20s has always been confusing for me, as it would be for everyone else during this period. I wanted to continue to be in the industry that I was in but didn’t want to be caught up in the trappings of it.

As I grew older, I find myself no longer basking in ostentatious things but rather liking things of quality. I liked my quiet and introversion but felt that the world required you to be seen and connected in order to be successful.

My happiness dating to about a year ago was one that could be likened to processed things – sweet and beautiful (and sometimes expensive) on the outside but lacking depth on the inside.

Today, my happiness, or rather my joy is more profound – you can barely see its markers from the outside but I feel it deep in my soul it is this quiet contentment that gets me through ever-changing seasons of life.

The creation of this life coincided with my curiosity to borrow the books Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life and Living the Simply Luxurious Life by Shannon Ables from the library.

In it, Ms. Ables spoke of how we can live a rich and fulfilling life that is separate from our financial assets and income. She quietly lives her life the way she chooses, and it has given her great joy. She encourages her readers to cultivate a life of quality and routine – one that doesn’t leave one burned out and angry but one that is quiet, comfortable, and extraordinary.

She bravely encourages her readers to believe that each day can be extraordinary if we make it the way we’ve always dreamed – and this life is different for everyone and cannot be defined by the things we acquire.

She also boldly tells her readers to live within their means because this helps breed the extraordinary life. When one lives within their means, they do not have to work constantly to pay off what they unnecessarily owe.

Reading her books and listening to her podcasts allow one to just shake off the tension of wanting to be seen and shifting it to just being.

True luxury is having the comfort to a life that is not hurried and not stewing in anxiety or worries and though there are many things we cannot control in this life, there are ALSO many ways we can choose to cultivate the simply luxurious life that we have always wanted.

2020, so far.

brown bird on pink flower
Photo by Jason Leung

 

If you are reading this from the future, let me tell a few things about today, May 02, 2020.

  1. It was in December 2019 that the world was introduced to COVID-19, a virus that swept through the world, first silently, and then loudly, claiming lives, turning lives around, and challenging the normal we have grown accustomed to.
  2. As of writing, Los Angeles (and nearly 90 percent of the world) has been on lockdown. Some governments had nicer names to it but the premise is the same across the world- we are encouraged to stay at home, stay as far away from people as possible, and wear masks at all times. There are no gatherings, no malls, even beaches are closed. Stepping outside of the house is more than enough to send a shiver down your spine due to the uncertainty it brings.
  3. Celebrities are no longer the most revered individuals on the planet, rather attention goes to the ones serving in the frontlines: nurses, doctors, trash collectors, grocery workers, and so on. The world reverted back to the basics and though it has been nearly two months since the world crashed so to speak, the shock is still raw with humanity still trying to understand and cope with the many changes we collectively went through, and are still going through.

Safe to say that this is NOT the world we expected to be in when we all cheered for the Roarin 20s (what an irony) at the beginning of 2020. There are no words to describe how it feels. 2020 kicked any illusion of control we had over our lives and forced us to look inward and ask questions. It made me challenge the things I depended on that were not as dependable as I thought they were. It made me think about relationships and yes, also my own weaknesses. Just like the rest of the world, I decided to look inward because when you’re stuck at home 24/7, what else can you do? The optimist in me decided to take advantage of the time and keep looking inward, no matter how messy or painful it seemed. A lot of things were brought into the light, things that I refused to deal with in the midst of the lie of busy, but now with this shift, I was forced to face them and hopefully in time, conquer them.

And while this blog is not as insightful as I hoped it would be, I just needed to write this to remind myself of this odd time in history and just to mark this as the entry “after” the pandemic. There are more things to say but now is not yet the time but this is to remind myself that greater things are yet to be, not just for me, but for all of us.

Hang in there, stay in the light, and don’t forget, nothing surprises God. He’s got this, He’s got us.

 

 

My entire life so far has been in pursuit of something.

Whether it was a new book, a new toy, a relationship, a friendship, or a job, I have always been on the lookout for the next best thing. And while ambition should not be looked down on, growing older makes you challenge the things that you chased after with rigor. Were they particularly worth it? Some of them, obviously yes, some of them, I even forgot why I pursued them.

And while the week (and retrograde) has made me feel so bone tired that I cannot even get up from the couch, I wrote to share this moment. Today, my husband and I spent our afternoon running errands as well as taking the time to drink Italian coffee and just be together. It left me blissful and content in a way that nobody really tells you about.

Everyone talks about the joy of achieving without really telling you about the peace of simply being.

This weekend, I hope you truly just allow yourself to be. There is so much power in it.

 

 

Believe it or not, the best things I’ve written are the ones I have sent to my friends. Just this morning, I spent time speaking with a friend and I was blown away by what I wrote when she asked me how I was doing and how married life was, “It’s good. I feel safe and though it is not perfect, it feels right.” 

And being the wonderful friend that she is, she allowed me to take a moment to truly feel what I just said and that’s what I did. I took a few moments to relish in the reality of what I said.

I have come a long way since leaving the Philippines and while the culture I was raised in reminds me to not relish in my growth or say anything to acknowledge my journey so far. It took a lot of tears, a lot of prayers, and a lot of learning to get to today and there are more things to unlearn and learn but today, I take a moment to acknowledge this journey so far.

Life is beautiful. Allow yourself to feel its beauty and its glory. Stop beating yourself up and allow love to come in, you are most deserving of it.

 

 

So now we must cling tightly to the hope that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises! – Hebrews 10:23

2020

Allow me to repost what I wrote on the day before New Year’s Eve:

I started the day of New Year’s Eve on the phone with my mom and all I remember from our conversation was this, “This year, do something that makes YOU happy.”

It made my heart dance because I knew it was a reminder from God that all the things that I am seeking and praying for myself and my loved ones in 2020 will be ours. It all begins with following what makes you blissful and what feels like magic. It’s different for everyone and so I urge you to find it and keep it close – when we follow our magic, everything else falls into place.

The past DECADE has been a ride but I know that every turn, every high, and every low led me to today, the woman who is writing this in joyful anticipation of what’s ahead. I choose to bring gratitude to every situation for it all served its purpose. Nothing was meant to destroy me, it was all for my good. And the same is true for YOU.

So enter into the new DECADE (don’t you just LOVE saying that?!) with peace in your heart knowing that YOU ARE SAFE and ALL IS WELL.

Send love and light to everything that has come your way, let go of fear and anger. Turn it into gratitude. Welcome 2020 with a grateful heart because we know that nothing can harm us or hurt us. Start speaking what you want to see in your world and see your world change. Follow your bliss and chase after magic, this will be OUR best year ever. 🎉

“With God on our side, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:31 – 32.

It has been quite a ride and we’re only one week into 2020. There is so much in my heart that I would like to share but I feel like this isn’t quite the time for them yet. But all I can say is, I am starting this year optimistic because I am now doing something that I have always wanted to do.

My mom giving me permission towards the end of 2019 gave me the courage to propel forward. My husband and I spent the first day of the year praying, setting intentions, and trusting that this will be our greatest year ever.

There are many things that I am learning from this journey and once they are solid within me, I promise to share them with you as I have through the years but for now, as I end this, I hope you know that YOU ARE WORTHY. You are worthy of your dreams coming true.