Of poop stains and life lessons

 

flock of bird flying in sky

 

Four days before I turn 33 and I am spending the last fifteen minutes of my lunch break scrubbing poop stains from my son’s high chair. My days as of late consist of starting my day at 5 am, “going” to work in our creative room / baby room / workout space, meet deadlines, and most importantly, care for my seven month old in between. It’s safe to say that life has steadily moved away from what it used to be but now that I think about it, other than poop stains, Yumi jars, bottles, and still the occasional 2 am wake up times (very rare), life is the same.

It’s quiet and busy – busy not just with work but with hobbies that fill the spaces. My hobbies these days are different – I have turned the mundane into hobbies and you know that’s what life really is all about – taking what you have at the moment and making the most of what it is.

Right now our lives consist mainly with activities that surround our little one but as new parents, we don’t feel trapped or surprised by new routines or the occasional poop -spolosions around lunch time. We’re also rarely rattled by having to put calls on hold while the baby cries or hide in the bathroom when he’s still crying after you have fed him. These things do not rattle us because despite the inconsistency of the schedules of new parents, my husband and I have developed flexibility and live mainly on instinct. It’s a fun way to live and once you understand it, a routine develops despite the surprises in between.

The baby, work, and making sure the house is clean and organized takes up about 90% of the time with the rest of the 10% dedicated to using my Peloton. This doesn’t give me enough time for anything else except for The Nanny – 20 minutes pockets of me time before sleeping at 7:30, 8 PM the latest. I love this schedule because my Type A personality thrives on this kind of schedule and pretty much doesn’t leave me any room for anything else other than the current priorities in my life. Yet, despite the best intentions – chaos still ensues as it often does. But as my dad always says, welcome it because it means you’re still alive. It also gives me the opportunity to practice what I’ve been learning and while it may not kick in right away, after facing the initial shock and after spending time just sitting with it and allowing yourself to fully feel it, you find yourself just appreciating the lessons, some of which I am sharing here.

Trust your gut. 

I say this over and over again and when I say it it’s because I want to remind myself of this truth. Energy is absolutely everything – when you feel something off in your gut, for cripe’s sake, follow it! Don’t justify to do otherwise but just go after your feeling and run with it. Seek guidance through prayer and God will lead the way.

People are allowed to have opinions about you the same way that you are allowed to have opinions about others. 

The Filipino culture have a lot of wonderful things about it and I appreciate it for all the wonderful things it is but one thing I’ve noticed is this – you are not allowed to have an opinion other than positive because if you do, you are the worst Bruha in the world. For years I have been ostracized for saying the truth or at least my truth and have been plagued to fit in to please, as a recovering people pleaser, I still fall into the cracks but my biggest mistake is often a result of not trusting my instinct and when I finally do, it’s too late and I’m in too deep. For months I’ve been burdened because of the lack of freedom in expressing what I want to say and for being punished when I speak the truth and for awhile, I wanted people to see my side because isn’t that worth something? But then I realized that people are allowed to have opinions about me even if it is farthest from my truth but at the same time, I also allowed to speak my truth and must not allowed myself to be controlled by other people’s thoughts or opinions. As a recovering people pleaser, I have often been caught in crossfire because I am easily swayed by other’s opinions – I speak too much and too soon without fully internalizing other people’s intentions.

Everything is an illusion and in the grand scheme of character opinions – there is no black, no white, only grey. Who is good to one may be bad to another so what is the purpose of labeling people based on only 30% of their actions that I witness? Our lives are tinted by our own perceptions that are shaped by personal experiences. There is no way for me to know truly what is in the heart of another but I can only pray that from here on, God and my angels will guide me to those who share the same values as me.

“Those who mind don’t matter and those matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss 

This is a quote I lived by when I was in high school, however, I seemed to have forgotten about it when I got older. Still related to the point above – I have come to realize that my real friends do not need any explanation while those who have made up their minds about not liking me will always find a way to not like me so what is the point of explaining myself? I wrestled with this for the longest time but now I finally taste freedom – you can say whatever you want about me because a) that is your opinion and I honor it and b) those who are meant to be part of my life know my heart and will stick by me no matter what.

“For what it is to gain the world but lose your soul?” – Mark 8:36

I am thankful and grateful for the abundance in my life but I know myself enough to know that I, personally, will never sabotage another to gain the fame and riches that this world has to offer. I have always believed that if God intends for you to have something, you will have it with ease. What’s meant to be yours is not won by desperation, scheming, or manipulating. I respect people who choose that route because again they must be driven by their own experiences and that is okay because ultimately, I know and trust that God will never allow anything to harm me and at the end of the day, I am still divinely protected.

Life is beautiful – it is not perfect but if we allow ourselves to fully experience all of it, including the most painful parts, we learn to appreciate it truly for what it is – a wonderful adventure with many lessons. Cheers!

Summer and Tom on their special bench in DTLA

 

I was a brokenhearted mess when I first came across this scene from 500 Days of Summer. I remember sobbing hysterically in SM Megamall in Manila, Philippines beside my mom and my younger brother. It was 2009 and if my memory serves me right, the then “love of my life” was seeing someone exclusively. Just like annoying Tom, I wondered why he didn’t choose me, but Summer’s words hit home and ironically enough, made me see the situation for what it was.

 

What I didn’t know then as I was sobbing in the theater while eating my giant tub of popcorn that ten years later, my husband and I would celebrate New Year’s Day 2020 in the exact same spot where this scene was filmed. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles in 2017 and our first jobs were right in the middle of DTLA – they were not glamorous jobs but looking back, they were exactly what we needed at that time. That job of mine allowed me to see the beautiful places of DTLA because I was always on foot, spend a lot of time with my husband who worked in the same building, and just fully embrace Los Angeles for what it is.

My photo of the exact same location, January 01, 2020

One of my favorite memories of that time is my early morning dates with my husband on top of Angels Flight and just taking a moment to breathe in our new home. I recall those memories with joy because I remember just being grateful to be in a place that I’ve dreamed of for so long. Back then it was a silly dream, one that I didn’t actively pursued but I guess it’s true that God hears our deepest prayers even if we say them in a whisper.

The past weekend has been invigorating because I finally had a chance to slow down and in this stillness, I was brought back to gratitude – I wasn’t focused on where I wanted to be but instead focused on this present moment and how far God has got me through. Sometimes we forget about the answered prayers because we’re out looking for the next one, I am guilty of that too. I am so grateful to be here in this beautiful country and to see these beautiful spaces that I only watched on TV or the movie screen. I am grateful because God has made my dreams come true and most importantly, I am so grateful because God has faithfully healed my heart so many times. And not only that, I am grateful because God answers prayers, even during the days when we don’t feel He has. So thankful for today, so thankful for this life, and I am so thankful for all that is to come.

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

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.