An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

25 September 2015


It has been almost two months since I have let go of my old apartment and my old lifestyle and moved into an entirely different kind of living. While I still have the same day job that I have always had since 2008, and continue to study for my master's degree in comparative literature, my life beyond those is completely different. I can say now that life after the change has been definitely much easier.

Now I get out of bed every morning at five minutes to seven, get ready for work, and I'm out walking to work by seven-fifteen. After work ends at five, I'm usually home by five-thirty. In my bedroom I don't have a television, which I have given up in 2002 anyway. I also have no computer there, no library, and no wifi. What I do is read on my Kindle, which is now loaded with only ten carefully selected books at a time. If I need to do some studying for a class or have some readings to deal with in preparation for a class paper or a class report, I bring them home with me from the office. When I need to write something I draft it by hand. I take notes by hand as well. I spend almost all of my evenings quietly studying, disconnected from the world except via voice calls and text messaging, on a cellphone that is kept on silent.

Living this way, I have gotten more studying done than ever. My old life had so many distractions. There was high-speed broadband, my laptop, external hard drives full of movies and TV shows and Kindle books. There was also my entire library with its wall of book spines inviting me to deviate from my study course and read something completely unconnected instead. There was also my notebooks and journals and fountain pens and inks, inviting me to doodle instead of study. And then there was house cleaning and laundry and general tidying up.

There's none of that now. And as the year — and the semester — comes to a close, I prepare to write two different final papers for two different comparative literature classes. I am approaching of the end of yet another year lived. I am grateful. I am grateful for the quiet and the time I now have full access to, so that I could concentrate on heavy theory. I can hear my own thoughts again. I can think clearly again.

[Image credit]

18 September 2015


In the place where I live now, people go by in various intensities of walking — people going to and coming from work, students walking to class or on their way home, vendors peddling their wares, and thousands of other pedestrians going about their business.

At least twice a day I am part of this walking mass of people. I slip into the mass adroitly, walk a little ways to my daily commute, and then slip out of the mass at just the right moment so as not to disturb the beat and tempo of the busy and determined congregation. I, too, am busy and determined. At least I try to be, because I do have certain important things to deal with, things that require my presence, my skill, my energy, and my concentration. These are not exactly matters of national importance, but matters that are important to me, so that I can earn my keep, so that I can be useful to the human race, so that everyday I can become better than the person I was the day before.

Sometimes I wonder about all those people I walk with every day. What goes on in their minds as they walk? Do they count their steps? Do they try to recall a dream they had the night before? Do they ponder over breakfast or dinner possibilities? Do they tick off lists in their head? Do they wonder what kind of emails they will be getting that day? Do they wonder what happened to the email they were expecting to get that day but didn't? Do they wonder what their children are doing? Do they think about their finances, their laundry, their health, the locks on their doors? Do they sing in their heads?

And do they allow their thoughts to meander toward matters beyond the tedium of the day-to-day? Do they ponder over potentially life-changing decisions? Do they wonder about past choices they did not take? Do they think about the environment, the state of the country, and the human condition? Do they wonder about the future?

I do. My mind is always a whirlwind of thoughts when I walk to work and back. Ideas, memories, decisions, details, and songs swirl together like a storm inside my head, words colliding with colors colliding with aromas colliding with faces colliding with sounds. But even in the dark, twisting, heaving maelstrom, one very small dot of quiet floats around constantly, carrying its own light, sustaining its own buoyancy. That dot contains my thoughts of you: steady, clear, knowable.

Though you remain far from me, and stay connected to me only through the benefit of fiber-optic cables that span the entire globe like a spiderweb, everything you have ever given me — information, stories, songs, laughter, tears, hurt, worry, hope, promises, love, memories — get stored inside this dot. This dot is what keeps me in circulation in the land of the living, keeps me in step with the crowd of people that are aiming to get through life in one piece. In that dot, I find a handhold on love.

[Image credits: 12]

11 September 2015


It's not easy to upload a blog post for September 11 without somehow touching on 9/11, even if the blog post is really about something else entirely.  But today being a Friday, I am taking the challenge, and rather than do this in a roundabout way, let me just jump right in and tell you where I was and what I was doing when 9/11 happened.

I was in my parents' house, where I was living at the time, caring for my newborn son. I just turned 25 years old. I was very unhappy, but I didn't know it yet. Those days were spent mostly living from one day to the next, while making sure that the baby is fed and dry and well-rested. Such were my concerns: breathing and eating and sanitation. I was so preoccupied with surviving the tedium that I had no opportunity to even think about transcendence. Little did I know that my marriage was to come crashing down within that year.

But that afternoon, while preparing to sterilize my son's bottles, I heard my mother exclaim in the lanai, and then I saw my father walking over to her and turning up the volume of the television. I went over to the TV and saw that now-familiar footage of the twin towers oozing with black smoke. I no longer remember what the reporters were saying.

That was fifteen years ago. I was a young wife who had no idea that my future would be nothing like I had planned, nothing like I had ever imagined. The world had 9/11 that would bring humanity to the point of no return. I had the day of the 9/11 attack to mark the closing of certain doors to me at a very momentous time in my life.

I will never be innocent again. I will never go through life without another human being depending on me again. I will never be able to believe again that love would be enough. That was the moment of my fall. That was the very first betrayal that life had subjected me to. But fourteen years hence, I have already risen. I have already crossed the threshold, and have closed the final door behind me. My own Ground Zero is now grown over with a forest.

[Image credits: 12]

04 September 2015

Notes from the precipice

For about six weeks sometime this year I had to file a sick leave from work and stay with my parents in Naga because of an anxiety disorder that left me, literally, physically, scared stiff. I could not move my neck and upper back. I would shake at random times of the day. I would break out in cold sweat. I was terrified of everything, especially of cars and of riding in cars. Eventually it escalated into a fear not just of vehicles but also of high places, confined spaces, and loud noises. I would panic every time a vehicle would pass by our house. I could not stay in the bathroom for more than a minute, afraid that I would get locked in and the ceiling would cave in and I would suffocate to death. I could not sleep because if I did, I'd get nightmares about falling off high places, crashing into trains, and suffocating.

I could not eat. I lost 20 lbs. I could not write, literally, because my handwriting would come out as ineligible chicken scrawl. I could not type on my computer because my hands would shake so much that all I’d get would be more typos than I could correct. I could not read or watch movies because any scene with vehicles in them would scare me to pieces. The constant fear gave me palpitations, and I feared that I could develop a heart problem because of it. Prayers were always on my lips because every moment was a portal to death. Thankfully, with the support of my parents and the expertise of my third psychiatrist, we got to the bottom of it. But for a while, it was touch and go for me, and I really felt that I could die any moment.

Turns out the fearful feelings were side effects of a psychiatric medication I have been put on by my second psychiatrist, and this was discovered by my third psychiatrist. The medication was Aripiprazole. The moment I was off it, the fearful feelings lifted immediately, and it was glorious. Imagine being in a situation in which you are about to fall off a precipice, without a handhold, and then suddenly and without warning, you are pulled back to safety completely. I was on the brink of either death or insanity, and then I was saved. That’s how it felt. After that, everyday has been an exercise in gratitude.

And as part of my gratitude for this second chance at life, I resolved never to place myself in a situation in which that could happen again. I changed my entire lifestyle. My life and my health are so much more precious to me now and I feel that I am both stronger and more frail at the same time. I am sharper at identifying dangerous things and people, but I am also more sensitive to negativity. I am now more decisive, but I also tend to shy away from situations of uncertainty. I take care of myself better, but the heightened sense of creativity leaves me vulnerable to certain evils. My focus is now much clearer, but I can also see other unrelated things in the periphery of my vision. It’s a balancing act, but so far my instincts and gut-feel have been serving me well, and I am still alive and sane and, I believe, happy.

My third psychiatrist and I decided to go off all psychiatric medication completely, and that I should observe my moods closely and learn how to master them on my own, without help from medication. (My third psychiatrist is doubtful whether I am truly bipolar, anyway. That diagnosis came in 2007 from my first psychiatrist, who had always placed on some medication or other and whom I fired in April this year because I can no longer trust her. My second psychiatrist is someone I started seeing in April after I had a minor emotional issue at work. The second psychiatrist is a student of the first psychiatrist, so I’m still not very comfortable with her, and I haven’t been to see her since I came back from the precipice.)

In the effort to take myself out of situations that can stress me out, I have moved out of my old apartment in Makati, so I no longer have to live alone and rely only on security guards for my safety. I no longer have to keep house and deal with housework and the maintenance of a pretty home. I have given up my car and moved to a place much closer to the office so I no longer have to drive and no longer have to pass through traffic. I no longer have to see kilometers of cars with their brake lights on for hours, which used to, and sometimes still, give me panic attacks. I no longer have to take on projects that I’m not completely excited about just to sustain my old lifestyle. Now every single thing I spend time on is something that makes me happy, whether it be designing publications, reading, studying, writing, or taking public transport to go somewhere I am eager to be. I no longer talk to people I don't like. I no longer even dress for other people anymore. I have now reverted to dressing the way I have always been happy dressing for years — in jeans, soft shirts, and light jackets. My nonessential wardrobe is all packed up together with all of my furniture, and I suppose I shall be giving many of them away, in the continuing effort to pare down my stuff and retain only what I absolutely need to survive. Life is more than just owning stuff. Life is more than just doing stuff. I know that now.

Perhaps this is why it all had to happen. If I hadn’t had that emotional issue at work, I wouldn’t have fired the first psychiatrist, wouldn’t have met the second psychiatrist, wouldn’t have started taking Aripiprazole, wouldn’t have had the anxiety disorder, wouldn’t have met the third psychiatrist, wouldn’t have been off psychiatric medications completely, wouldn’t have had the opportunity to realize what was really important to me.  I wouldn’t have had the resolve to write again and write much better. So I’m grateful for everything that happened, now that I know how it all fits into the bigger picture, no matter how awful it was when I was going through them. The bad things were not wasted on me. It turned me into this, and it's beautiful.

[Image credits: 123]