Fall

 

selective focus photography of orange and brown falling maple leaves

 

It’s Friday morning and I am spending the morning in the quiet of my own home. It has been nearly six weeks since I started working from home and while it is everything I have ever wanted it to be, it has also surprised me how much it’s not what I thought it would be.

But that conversation is for another time.

Today, I simply wanted to whisk away my journal (or rather pull up the page) and just let you know that today is a good day. I don’t know when the shift of the day happened but suddenly (and after weeks of being submerged in the tension of launching a new brand), I suddenly felt at peace. It can be attributed to the first few cold days of fall or the fact that my husband and I are going on a quick road trip to see family this weekend, but whatever it may be, I am simply taking the time to sit here by the tree that overshadows our apartment and just be. 

I am weathered enough to know that as with anything in life, nothing truly stays the same so I have learned to relish the little moments that make you thank God for this wonderful life.

Circumstances change, the season shifts, and life can sometimes disappoint – that is just the wave of life but I have come to learn that we must not be submerged by it. I lost my light in the many storms of life that ironically came in the middle of summer but as I sit here, I have come to realize that the best way to handle the storms of life is to remain calm and trust that God will never let you go.

I say this because as human instinct, we have the tendency to fight against the current of our lives. Instead of simply flowing with life, we fight against it and this is why life is so hard – we constantly fight what is. And while I admire grit and persistence (I was raised by my father after all), I still believe that surrendering is the best way to deal with the chaos. Finding the perfect balance between going after our goals and simply resting can be tricky and there are still days when I slip into the mantra of doing, doing, doing but on days like this, I am reminded that everything is okay. That no matter what challenges life throws at me, I can handle them because nothing that I have surrendered to the hands of God will truly be out of my control.

It’s ironic because to get to this status of peace and surrender, one must fight. People often think that a peaceful life is one that is achieved without a battle but the truth is achieving the life you want, however you may want it to be, is a fight. And most often than not, that fight is within ourselves. And we must have the courage to look within the deepest part of ourselves so we can heal and finally get the inner life that we have always wanted.

This is why reading Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lisa Gottlieb was very refreshing for me. 

It simply reminded me the importance of sitting with ourselves and having conversations about why we are the way that we are. We really have to sit down with ourselves, embrace the messy parts, and heal. Some of us our fortunate enough to be able to do this without therapy but most of the time, we need guidance. In the past years, I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by counselors and mentors who loved me enough to allow me to have a safe space and really let it all out. The road to healing is never clean, it’s messy but it is worth it.

But sometimes therapy is required. We need therapists not to tell us what we do but we need a space where we can fall apart and really dissect the true essence of who we are, what we are feeling, what our fears and regrets are as a way of breaking open. It’s a truly beautiful thing when we can live in a way that is authentic to us and our story.

Now as I type this, I have come to realize that maybe this is the reason why I am feeling so light today. Maybe I am feeling light because I have learned to let go of what I think should be and instead embrace the uncertainty of today. And while storms may weather us, it also has a positive advantage – it strengthens us. It makes us even more confident because we have faced storms and even if it attempted to destroy us – we walked out of it even better. So truly, there is nothing to fear.

So there goes my break for the day, it’s time to get back to work 🙂

 

The Rawness of Forgiveness

I am a lot of things but being emotionless is not one of them. I feel things to the core and if you have been patient enough to read my blog, you would understand how much I feel things and how often I do. I am the girl who cries over commercials and feels empathy for random strangers on the street. I love too much and give too much.

My emotions have also made me irrational and at times, a woman with a mouth that won’t quit. I feel all my emotions fully but I also hurt easily. To defend myself from inflicted hurt, I turn to my words – my favorite weapon of choice. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I have learned to deal with this ugly side of being too emotional and healing the wounds that have triggered me to turn into rage.

Anxiety manifests itself in many ways – it’s not often the panic attacks that we are familiar with but it can also be manifested in fits of rage. For the longest time, I have bene taught to watch what I say, control this, control that without going to the core of who I am and why I was hurting. I cannot stress how important it is to talk to someone about what you are going through so you get to the core of your anger, rage, and sadness.

(I actually have no idea why I went on that tangent when I was clearly going to talk about something else).

Oh right, forgiveness. It’s so easy to forgive when the other person asks for forgiveness but it’s an entirely different story when you have to do so when the other person isn’t sorry. It is something that I have been struggling with in the past month and to be honest with you – forgiveness is not a one – time thing. It takes daily amounts of prayer, several times a day, to learn how to forgive. It takes a lot of mental autopsies daily to empathize with the person who have hurt us and to see them as human beings.

They are not demons (aha!) who wish to destroy us but only people who are filled with pain. You see, if a person was truly happy with their lives, they wouldn’t inflict pain towards others but alas, that is another story. The narrative shifts once we realize that their actions have nothing to do with us.

It’s also mighty important to know the role we have played in any disagreement and try to work it out but of course, it takes two to tango and sometimes relationships just do not repair themselves. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot be set free from the pain it has caused.
As this video shared, we owe it to ourselves to forgive and it is something that we deserve for ourselves. It also reminds me that even during our worst, Jesus came to save us and love us. If Jesus could forgive, how can I not? It’s a process but thank God for His wisdom.

Photo by Lina Trochez

In the past week since I turned 31, I have:

  • Twisted my ankle
  • Said goodbye to my niece who is returning back to Manila
  • Bawled my eyes so much that I couldn’t even keep them open when I went to work on Friday. I cried again this morning.

Blame it on retrograde, blame it on a shift, or blame it on life. I am not one to air my dirty laundry in public but then again, it’s not like anyone reads this since it doesn’t have those recipes or “insta pics”. At its very essence, this blog seems to function the way it did when I first started it in 2004 – a diary that you hope no one will see.

It’s ironic because today feels like 2004 – I spent the whole day crying and watching Veronica Mars’ new season (no thanks to the internet for spoilers, Logan was the best part of that show). And the issue that I’ve been crying about is the same one I’ve been crying about since I was a child and yes, since 2004. I recall feeling the same way I do now as I have in 2004 when I first watched Veronica Mars.

And maybe at 31, I need to give myself the chance to heal from that, to unpack it, and move forward. For a pushover, this is HUGE and I am uncertain as to where to go from here but I choose to move forward.

All will be well.

A Toast to 30.

 

If there is anything that I have learned in the past year, it is this – you never quite give yourself credit for how well you are doing in life. Let’s admit it – life is TOUGH. This is the reason why God has equipped us with many of His promises to take care of us in the Bible because He knows that life on this world is crazy, chaotic, and often times painful. As a young idealist, I thought that if you pray enough life would just stop being imperfect and while life with God is definitely safer and richer as opposed to a life without Him, you just can’t deny that life is still life and it is imperfect.
As I turn 31 (my goodness, I can still vividly recall my cool Steps party when I turned 10), I have come to the realization that the biggest gift I can give to myself is to stop trying to control life with my mind. A recent podcast on Goop debunked myths from the popular book “The Secret”, we cannot simply cannot ‘think’ things into reality.

And I find that to be true – I believe we manifest the life we want by continually working on it and never giving up. The lives we want happen to us because we work hard on it – there is no secret formula, for me personally it has been a lot of prayers, a lot of tears, and a never throwing in the towel. It’s persevering when the world tells you you can’t and accepting the fact that you do deserve what you want in life. It comes with a quiet sense of humility  – showing up for the life you want isn’t loud, it’s a simple assurance that you have inside of you that you know you deserve all the good things you wished for as a child.

It’s a different kind confidence, it’s not teetering on anxiety but rather a quiet rest inside of your soul knowing that with God on your side, you will get through any obstacle victoriously. It comes with growing up I guess, the idea of not wanting to prove yourself to anyone, of picking your battles, and being firm with the nos you give out as well as the man yes-es. It took me years to understand but now I do, when you love and value yourself, the rest of the world will too. When you speak up for yourself by knowing what you can and can’t take, you become less resentful of the world because the world rises up to love you the way you love yourself.

And all of these I learned because life was easy, I learned this when I was on my knees and dealing with all the hurt that I have experienced and I myself have caused. There’s so much freedom in knowing that life is imperfect but I’ve got what it takes to win.

My relationship with God has gone through a lot of questions as well – while some of them are still unanswered and while my faith has changed in the past year, it hasn’t left. I still know that God has gotten me through life’s toughest seasons and daily He protects me and the ones I love and yet, I have also come to the full understanding that sometimes life doesn’t turn out okay but I know and trust in Romans 8:28 – that it all works together.

So today, on the day before I turn 31, I throw my hands up in the air with gratitude, God has been so good to me, the fact that I am here writing this is a testament of how wonderful God has been. I have wanted to give up so many times but in His gentle way, He reminds me that life is still worth living and there is more life and love to experience ahead. What I went through also proved that I should give myself more credit for the things I have survived and this is why I am toasting to my 30th year because God always knew I had what it takes it just took awhile for me to realize it as well.

 

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.