The Perfect Mess: Around my bedroom in 80 Mins

It’s a freaky friday for me as my flat has been hit by a tornado. The tornado was forecasted by friends weeks ago, in their feeble attempts at warning me to rebuild my home into a more stable environment. Reports said it originated in the U.K and made its way into Asia before getting here. It crept up slowly during the day when I was faintly procrastinating my way into a writing deadline. I heard the sound from afar but tried to ignore it, hoping that perhaps ignoring something nagging at your heartstrings can make it disappear. But alas, the tornado came in gusts of word vomit and painful questions with even more painful answers. The aftermath of the tornado: clothes strewn all over the floor, dirty dishes that have sprouted wings, hastily opened cosmetics hiding in drawers, quivering pillowcases that smell of dust, and amidst all this – the silent and sorry aftermath of an empty flat.

The wreckage may not be as absolute and disastrous as the last one. But disaster is Disaster  whether in small doses or large ones. I’m tired of all this mess, and wish to one day wake up to a world where the only natural disaster that’s coming my way is the kind that will blow my whole house away and land me somewhere better than the land of Oz, than Never Ever land. A place where I get to be the wizard of my own heart.

**

But alas, the tornado has hit. And if I am to pick up the pieces alone, I shall give myself 80 minutes to clear this mess. In the spirit of having access to 80 destinations worldwide, to the 80 days around the world of Phileas Fogg and his newly employed French valet Passepartout, to the 80 ways to say Goodbye, I shall give myself a mere 80 minutes to wash my tear stained cheeks and start throwing out all this excess baggage. Time starts: now.

Age: 8 (poem)

Was an era obsessed with ghosts

and urban legends told around candle lights

during 8p.m black outs in the city

and summer visits to the country.

Ghost hunting began with warm nights

spent trembling behind tombstones-

Armed with a wooden cross and bottles of Holy Water

in the back yard of the ancestral home

that has now been invaded by industrial dopplegangers.

Obsessions remain the same-

they just age a bit

or change shape

or shed new skin.

So I find myself armed with weapons of the heart

to open closets with skeletons

to find demons under the bed

to hunt the ghosts of past regret.

While the ghouls of my childhood  can now be explained:

the locked chest that once kept a dead body

whose secret identity the family had to keep

–  a chest of papers

the crazy aunt (who turned out to have

a skin disease) used as a footstool for her feet.

The Haunted Cabinet-

A linen closet

The werewolf dog chained on full moons-

turned mortal when buried in an unmarked tomb.

Those pillars of youth

that taught lessons through whippings

and told monstrous feats

grow smaller to smile with lesser teeth

while some have disappeared

into stories that replace tea sets on the mantlepiece.

And this is when I knew

that I had grown-

when the closest thing to finding ghosts

in the backyard of the ancestral home

were the smoke rings from resurrected cigarettes

and broken beer bottles

that once gashed my toe when

(on a sentimental whim)

I went hunting

under a familiar sky

only to find ghosts of myself

buried with no other armor

than a cross and holy water

and the distant laughter

of simpler times.


Poem: Note to self

If sorrow is a thorn

that lodges itself in the heart

I would take my index finger

and the palm of my thumb

and solemnly pluck it from you

letting the tears gush from the open wound

only to flick this thorn into an ocean

where it becomes a stone

to be tossed into the sea

and we can count the number of times

it skips through the surface

before it disappears.

You had me at hello

“You had me at Hello”

-When Harry Met Sally




You had me at –

the first butterfly

that perched above my belly button

with a nonchalant yawn

and fluttered its wings

till it dipped itself serendipitously

into my flesh.

At best,

butterflies come in threes

and somewhere in-between

my heart and my feet

these ones made babies.

You could have spared me

the madness of 99 butterflies

with pinching lips and irreverent wings

roller coasting into

hide and seek,

skipping through my sleep,

and throwing my appetite (into the heart).

And if by fate , if not by chance

this Hello grows a Goodbye

at least you know,

you had me –

at the first butterfly.

Only in Cebu!…

It was humid and sunny as I stepped out of the Cebu Mactan international airport. I was surrounded with scenes of Balikbayans coming home after years of not seeing their family, lovers being reunited, conspicuous foreigners looking for taxis, taxi drivers eyeing these foreigners, hotel drivers holding  japanese or korean name cards, and basically every single airport drama you can imagine. It was 4p.m and the humidity laced my skin.

I was home.

After a 10 hour flight I found myself energized and hyper on the bus ride to the hotel. Several of the crew sat at the back facing each other and telling lively jokes amidst good conversation. When I finally got to the hotel I saw my parents stand up in excitement (they had been waiting all day for me since their flight from Manila arrived at 6 a.m). I saw my mothers slim and petite figure wearing a blue and white floral blouse. She was smiling from ear to ear as she made a tiny wave with her hand. I took in my fathers tall and gaunt figure standing erect after his two year struggle with cancer.

As I saw my parents from afar I could already feel their love embracing me from across the hotel lobby.

I felt a wave of lucid deja vu. It was exactly two years ago since I was last here. It was exactly two years ago that I stepped into this hotel, also searching for answers, for true love, and finally two years later , I found it.

Two years ago I stepped out of the Cebu Mactan International Aiport to scenes of airport drama that made my heart leap in anxiety. I was on a mission where my own drama was to unfold.  During the bus ride I was quiet and anxious. I wanted to reserve my energy for what I was planning to face. As people chattered around me, I closed my eyes and let the questions spill through my head.

“ Am I doing the right thing? Am I ready to break all the rules? What is he going to think of me? What is he going to do when he sees me?”

It’s a good thing I was planning to take this little rendezvous with a batch mate of mine (or I would have been completely lost) and we had already plotted how we would quickly change in the hotel and rush back to the airport, catch another flight to Manila, and go our separate ways- both in pursuit of an answer. She was looking for closure. I was searching for a new opening in what was a long drawn out affair of the heart.

I was going to Manila to surprise ‘him’. We had been dating for a while now, but everything was ‘malabo’. I was falling for him but I didn’t know whether I should stop myself or if I ought to go on. I thought that this bold move to see him would be the exact thing I needed to know for sure if he was worth all of it. I thought that it would also make him realize how much I really cared after months of acting almost nonchalant about our affair.

My batch mate and I made it all the way to Manila in one piece. We weren’t too close back then, but we were both on a mission, we were both exhausted, and we both knew that we needed answers.

It was slightly drizzling when we arrived in Manila. It was also late (past rush hour) so a taxi was easy to find, and I was on my way to Alabang in no time. I remember that was the first time I had ridden a taxi alone at night. The driver was making me feel nervous and constantly looking at my legs through the rearview mirror. So I called him and we talked on the phone. He thought I was in Cebu when I called. Less than an hour later I rang his doorbell and anxiously stood outside under the drizzly night air.

I was a strange sight when he saw me: white dress, duffel bag, slightly drenched hair.

12 hours later I found myself saying a ‘final goodbye’. I was so sure this was the last time I would see him as more than a friend. I believed with all my heart that I had my answer and that answer was:  It’s over.  After that 10 hour flight to Cebu with a full economy load, and another two hour flight to Manila, all I wanted to know was that he was willing to fight for me. I had been praying for weeks for a sign from him, and when I finally got it, it was exactly what I needed to find the strength to walk away.

My friend and I left for Cebu the day after. She got her closure. I got my opening – because little did I know that trip sparked the domino effect of the next two years. Two years of ‘him’. Two years of trips to see him instead of going home to my family. Two years of what some people call ‘the honeymoon’ stage. Two years of great love followed by the greatest heart-ache.

So that was then. This is now.  To understand the significance of this one must know that I was once somewhat of a rebel constantly getting into fights with my parents. I almost ran away from home- twice. I never talked to my parents about real things happening in my life. These days, my mother is my best confidant. When I felt my friends were getting tired of hearing me rant and cry about him, my mom was always avidly ready to listen and comfort me. And the fact that I could even speak of such things in front of my father is still surreal for me.

My wonderful time with them in Cebu was the culmination of the past 4 months of the revolution of change within me. In these past four months I had spent all my Manila flights with family. I flew on two days off to see them on New Years. I became more open to my parents about my plans and ideas. My mom was ecstatic when I told her about my pursuit to become a yoga teacher like her. My dad is excited and proud about the condo I’m buying.

(And I finally started blogging)

I spent two full days with my parents in Cebu and witnessed things come full circle in my life. The last inklings of pain about my break-up evaporated the minute I saw my parents waving at me from across the hotel lobby in Cebu. How silly of me to look for great love back then, when I already had it the whole time.

I had so many plans for my time with my parents and all of them were successful.

For the first time in my life, I heard my  mom gush over the excellent food in the hotel. The Marriot hotel has an excellent lunch buffet that I would recommend to anyone passing through the area.  The buffet costs regularly 550 pesos (crew get 30% discount, yey!) with a full salad bar, sushi, cold cuts slices and other excellent appetizers. You are entitled to choose between two plated main courses: fish or beef. I highly recommend choosing the fish. I can’t remember how it was prepared but it was absolutely delicious.

We have been to five star restaurants where my mom has sent back food (having a food connoisseur and ex-restaurant manager for a mother is not easy) but this time she complimented the server every time he would come to refill our water.

I also took them to a jazz bar called “Jazz n’ Blues” where my dad treated me to cocktails! The place is packed with D.I’s (dance instructors) so it can be slightly annoying for people who don’t like to dance. But my mom loves to dance and I was also led to the dance floor a few times myself. But the best part was seeing my dad dance with my mom in that dimly lit club with that romantic atmosphere.

This was also the first time my father has been out to a bar since he was diagnosed with Cancer three years ago.  I also knew that my mother was happy because she had no comment when my dad and I lit a cigarette together (another milestone moment!)

I look at my life now and cannot believe how things have come full circle.

The batch mate I travelled with two years ago is like a sister to me now (and ironically enough was also going through something similar the same time my own tragedy hit).

A few weeks ago she said to me

Linoloko lang natin sarili natin na malungkot pa tayo. Sa totoo lang masaya na tayo at hinahanap lang natin yung lungkot dahil hindi lng tayo makapaniwala na nawala na ”

She’s right. I wake up searching for the pain like some lost dream. But it has been gone for a while now. I exorcised the last of it in Bali, and I realized it in Cebu.

I understand now that the reason I was so depressed was because I had never experienced a real break-up before. Every time I ended a relationship with someone, I would find someone new during my mourning period.

Things have come full circle under the light of a full moon.

I wake up looking forward to the next yoga adventure, the next backpacking trip, the next prayer, the next delicious meal.

People whom I thought I had lost have started to slowly re-enter my life. My flat mate whom I have missed dearly now talks to me like we are friends again.

People whom I thought don’t care about what happens to me, would read my blog and take the time to read it till the end.

I have felt Gods love through the love of my best friends and my family who have supported me through this arduous task of ‘getting over’.

I cannot begin to describe the way this heart-ache has become the vessel of so much joy. As Khalil Gibran put it: unless you cry all your tears, you cannot not laugh all of your laughter… The more sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.

******

Some people say that growing up means you learn how to take control of your life. It means that you stop leaving things to fate and start believing in the power of your own choices.

I say that growing up is the balance of believing in the power of your choices while knowing that everything.. everything (under God) happens for a reason.

Therefore, AFTER

all that self renewal-

after finding true excitement at being single –

after telling my friends that I am no longer looking for love but will wait for it to find me-

after finding inner peace-

after coming to terms with the fact that life is about learning and unlearning the unexpected – after all the prayers to God telling him to safe keep my heart  –

after offering all my future love stories to God –

after finding out that what I thought was right was completely wrong-

after realizing that what I think could be completely right could turn out to be completely wrong-

after all the poetry that life that has shown me,

after all that ..

THEN what am I to make of meeting ‘Bingky’?

(to be continued: Bingky, and The disasters of Speaking Too Soon, and Eating Ones Words)

“Life Lesson no.24: Do not drive a motorbike If you don’t know how to drive one” and other matters of inconsequence

When I dubbed myself ‘the accidental tourist’ It never occurred to me that perhaps I was giving myself a self anointed curse of getting into mishaps. I certainly don’t need any more help in doing what I am so natural at doing.

In the spirit of truth, it was my fault. I shouldn’t have rented that damn motorbike when I don’t know how to drive one in the first place! My reasons? It just looked so cool in my head and everyone else who was doing it made it look so easy! It also seemed like the ‘thing you’re supposed to do when you’re in Bali”.

Writing this down is embarrassing. It’s almost like I’m saying: today I decided to try and kill myself in a really cool way, coz heck…it’s much nicer to die in a tropical island than when you’re old and lying in bed.

This subconscious death wish of mine is getting really really ridiculous! I got broken up with for crying out loud! It happens to everyone! Plus it happened with a guy, who in fact, replaced me after two weeks! Case closed. It’s not the end of the world. I don’t have a terminal disease. Every other aspect of my life is going great, and I get to whine and go on these ‘soul searching trips’ which I have always wanted to do anyway, even before I got my heart broken.

So enough is enough! NO more subconscious death wishes. No more solo trips. It’s time to go home.

Lesson in life: Do Not Drive A Motorbike When You Do Not know How To Drive A Motorbike or:

Do not do things that can kill you. The whole “what won’t kill you will make you stronger” mantra is well and good for those who are alive. But those who are dead would probably say otherwise.

Do not attempt to change what you cannot change: such as a fear of motorbikes, or parts of your body that God gave you, or broken relationships.

Be your own hero. Watch out for yourself because no one else will. And if by some chance God sends you angels to help you out of sticky situations, be grateful but don’t expect it to happen every time. Coz at one point it might be your turn to save yourself.

And if you’ve decided to change your life in some drastic way and it is very important that you attempt the above-mentioned, make sure you “APPROACH WITH CAUTION”. Learn everything there is to know about it and take things slow. Have someone by your side every step of the way telling you if you’re going too fast ,or in the entirely wrong direction.

Case Closed

O.M.G!! As in Oh MY God!: BALI DAY 2

O.M.G!! As in Oh MY God!: BALI DAY 2

In Sanskrit the word “Shanti” means “peace”. Peace from within radiating peace to others.  Coincidentally the word “shanty” in english means “a small shack”. It could also refer to a song with alternating solo and chorus sung by sailors while doing manual labor.

So the word I wish to become is Shanti. The yoga teacher, Anne, from my Precision and Props class spoke of this before we commenced with some deep breathing exercises. At this moment I visualized the word “peace” in front of me as I closed my eyes. ‘Om’……………………. I like chanting. It feels good to release a sound that feels as raw and pleasurable as moaning but entirely spiritual. I tried focusing on thoughts of love and peace with each breath. ‘Om’…….. P-E-A-C-E– L-O-V-E– They kept coming into my mind as letters gliding and swirling around till they got jumbled up. L- V –

O – E

– P        – C              – A

– E                       -E –

O.k, so that wasn’t working. I shifted my weight around and decided to start over.

I stopped thinking about peace, stopped analyzing love, stopped reaching for happiness. I made a decision to let go of my thoughts and live purely in each yoga moment as Anne was now taking us through basic poses and stretches. Naturally, the minute I ‘let go’ of my thoughts, more of them came rushing in. But I let it. I let myself chatter around in my head as I single-mindedly concentrated on class. At some point I would be entirely living in the moment of my breath connecting with the challenge of a yoga pose. Other times I would be completely aware of my surroundings and making little observations about my teachers face, the rice paddies overlooking the studio, or the sound of the other class chanting on the floor below us.

Once I even mocked myself “Poser! Poser!..You’re not inspired! Life is not this flower-power spiritual quest and no one really believes in all this holistic hippie movement. That’s only for rich white people. You’re Filipino and you’ve got too much to worry about”.

Arguments aside,

“but I like it!

**

As the day continued I tried to contemplate fewer things. I concentrated on things that I am grateful for. I tried thinking less – started observing more.

I rented a bike for the day as my means of transportation. So in-between my first and second class I explored the area around Yoga Barn and biked towards Monkey Forest, along Ji. Hanomen st.

I liked cycling around with my basket. It was such a feel-good moment of hair whipping behind me, birds chirping… (motorbikes zipping past, cars honking,tourist buses overtaking).

Back in Yoga Barn…

There was still this chatterbox within me, but there were moments during the yoga sessions that I would find myself ignoring them as they fall back into the backdrop of my consciousness the same way a radio keeps playing music in the background even though you are no longer listening to it.

Shanti. Shanti.

I am searching for peace. Heck, aren’t we all? But I’m freaking 24 years old! I’m too young to be this devastated! I’m supposed to be mistaken, irreverent, complicated, ready to fall in love again, prepared for anything.

Yes, this was me before it all happened. Before the recurring nightmares and the post traumatic stress symptoms. Before the break-up and the breakdown –  I was a life force within myself.

I was girl power, flower power, word power, positive thinking power, and heck-i’ll-try-anything-once power. I had my mojo stitched to my hip, and I could switch it on whenever I liked.

Looks like Life had other plans for me.

Besides, something tells me now that this new awakening is way better.

So now I need to rebuild this home within me and never again in someone else.

I know that I want a home that is simple and uncomplicated, one that does not desire many material things nor has space for complications, a home that is a ‘small shack’ by the ocean of my soul  .

Shanti

Shanti.

Because peace is a song. Because my body is singing to itself. My toes can feel its rhythm radiating into my hips. Each deep stretch is a breakthrough.

The pain I feel in my muscles is a reminder that I’m still here.

There is a song in my skin.  It is humming gratitude for Gods blessings, it is humming love, it is humming about pain and letting go, it is humming Hope.

Thank you Lord for this day.

Shanti.

*****