Friday, June 23, 2017

Good Guy, Bad Guy...and How Much Can You Take?



"Optimus Prime is now a bad guy in this upcoming movie??" It was a sincerely puzzled question from me to my ten-year-old after seeing the trailer for the latest Transformers movie. From what I'd seen, Prime was attacking humanity and so I assumed my son would answer in the affirmative. 

Instead he said, "Well, no. It's just that he was overpowered by dark energon."(FYI: the fuel or energy source of the Transformers race). 

I found his response fascinating, which made me ponder the question of what constitutes 'being a bad person', which, if one really gets to the bottom of it, points to one's moral identity. 

My assumption that Prime is now a 'bad guy' stems from what I saw in terms of his actions. He was attacking innocent humans and was out to destroy Earth, therefore making him bad. For my son, however, Prime's actions don't necessarily make him a villain because he's 'not himself' and appears to have no choice given that he was 'injected with dark energy'. Moreover, my son argues that 'Prime isn't bad because he doesn't intend to be'. 

The principle behind my belief is obviously that we are what we do; that behaviors, being external and observable realities, define who we are. For my son, it's not so much the behavior but rather the intentions. If one does bad things but he didn't really intend to, then that person can't be defined as 'bad'. 

The more I think about our difference in beliefs, the more I realize the complexity and merit behind both camps. I can't simply label my son's thought process as naive and inaccurate. Behaviors are important, but so are intentions. The trouble is, intentions are intangible and there are often complex processes and intermediate variables that stand between intention and behavior. As such, we define those around us based on how they behave towards us, how they treat people, how they navigate social situations.

Simple, isn't it?

Not really. 

If you're a 'black and white' sort of person, then yes, this would be simple and you can categorize people based solely on what they do and how they relate to you. Defining who to avoid or sever ties with is pretty straightforward. 

But for some who thrive in 'grays', such things don't easily translate. Benefit of the doubt is always considered. Motivations, intentions, state of mind, star alignments, hormones, pollen count and everything else worth factoring in will be factored in. Letting go of anyone will always be a challenge. 

I've been both at different points in my life. I've been black and white, but admittedly mostly gray. I've had people hurt me repeatedly, and some of them I've chosen to let go of, while some I've repeatedly taken back and chosen over and over to be a part of my life. 

For me, the decision has always hinged on two things: (1) history ; and (2) my so-called 'oxygen levels'. Deciding that someone is 'bad' really translates to when someone is 'bad for me' and deserves no space in my life. The decision as to whether or not a relationship with this person is worth pursuing has to do with the past we share, whether or not that person has added value to my life with the experiences we've lived, and whether or not continuing a relationship with the person is still healthy for me. If continued exposure to this person—to the 'bad' he/she exhibits—damages me, my sense of worth, my peace of mind, sanity, and all that is positive and necessary to my well-being, then it is not worth choosing the relationship over my Self. If the 'bad' steals the good in you, then what good would be left for you to continue giving? The oxygen mask has to go on you first.

To my ten-year-old, Prime can't be bad because he has always known him to be good. My son is relying on history, on track record, for his assessment of Prime's moral identity. In addition, he is able to justify Prime's destructive behavior based on his absence of free will; that Prime doesn't intend to be hurtful and bad but just can't help himself because of the dark energon within him. I, on the other hand, can more easily shrug my shoulders and walk away with the conclusion that Prime has become dark. Clearly, between me and my son, it is he who has a past and a deeper relationship with the Transformers. 










Friday, June 9, 2017

Kids' Summer Routine

It's only been two-and-a-half weeks since school ended and it's already started. It doesn't matter how many games I suggest, what camps there are to go to, or how many play dates I arrange, the end result is always the same. Is this something that kids learn in some 'How to Drive Your Parents Insane 101' class that they all secretly enroll in? 

To cope with my misery, I decided to write a haiku.

Raise your hand if you're a parent whose head is also about to explode with the incessant nonsensical complaining.

God help us all...



Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to Say No When Your Child Asks For a Fidget Spinner

…Just muster all your conviction, and say ‘NO’. That’s it.

I’m assuming you are reading this because you know for a fact that your child who’s asking for a fidget spinner does NOT have a medical or developmental issue that would warrant a need to be addressed by said gadget. In other words, your child is developmentally normal. And so is mine, which made it effortless for me to say ‘no’.


Three days ago, I heard the words that I’ve been dreading for the past two months. I honestly thought I was in the clear, but just when I was getting cocky, he blurted, “Mama, can I please have a fidget spinner?” Saying no was not a problem. I didn’t even pause for a second before making it clear to my son that I will not be granting his request. What took longer was explaining to him why I’m saying no.

You absolutely don’t need it. You don’t even fidget, for crying out loud!
I mean, okay, maybe you sometimes tap your fingers, or shake your legs, or move in your chair, touch your hair, scratch your ear or eyes. I don’t care. The point is, your degree of fidgeting is normal and I’ve spoken to every teacher you’ve had in the past 7 years and they can all attest to your ability to stay focused. You have no problem with concentration and you’re actually a remarkably good student with no attention-span or behavior issues. Even if you did have anxiety, stress or ADHD (who, according to the marketers of this fidget spinner, are the ones who can benefit most from this gadget), I believe there are better ways of helping you with your issues than getting you this spinner.

It’s just a fad. And a useless one in my view.
According to the website of the makers of this device, the fidget spinner is a “new office gadget and children's toy to help improve focus and concentration while reducing ADHD and bad habits…(They) believe that the symptoms of ADHD and stress can be reduced with (their) tools to release the nervous energy rather than by taking prescription drugs.

The ‘bad habits’ they refer to are things people do when they’re nervous, stressed out or bored, such as nail biting, gum chewing, or foot-tapping and this fidget toy is supposed to take the place of those bad habits, hence increasing concentration and productivity.

Really? Seriously?? This toy is so new and there is no real scientific data that can back up those claims. Have they really measured before and after cases? Any longitudinal studies to date? How many subjects? What variables were isolated? Until I find reliable scientific data regarding their claims, I’m taking them all to be marketing b.s.

If you really want to stop biting your nails or shaking your leg, just stop. Or maybe do what my generation did and spin your pen instead. No toys needed.

Which brings me to this point…

Let’s be honest…It’s a toy!
And you only want it because everyone else seems to have one even though they don’t know why. What’s worse is that some kids think they need it, end up bringing it to school and then getting distracted by it, therefore getting the opposite effect of what it’s marketed for.

It’s a stupid, unnecessary toy, as far as I’m concerned. It spins. Yeah, get a top, I think we already have one. 

You want something that goes around your fingers to keep you occupied?...Yeah, you can play with rubber bands too and create cool shapes! 

You’re stressed?...We have a stress ball for you to squeeze. Or maybe you can just close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths.

This spinner thing is really not that cool and I’m not buying it, literally and figuratively.

*** 
I have nothing against buying toys for my son, as long as we can afford it, he deserves or needs it, and bonus points if I’m a fan of it. But this fidget spinner fad bugs the heck out of me. I don’t want my son to fall into the trap of wanting something just because others have it. I don’t want him to think it’s okay to spend money on something just because it’s cheap or he can afford it. I want him to pause and think about its purpose, why he truly wants something, what he’ll get out of it, and if the gadget or toy truly makes sense.

This one does not. And I don’t like how it hides behind the fa├žade of being developmentally or cognitively beneficial. If children suffer from anxiety, stress, or ADHD, there are a ton of experts who can more effectively help out and can equip these children with practices backed by true science and research. There is no single magic tool, spinning or not, that can address those issues, at least not yet. I don’t care if it’s 99 cents or fifteen dollars. The answer is NO.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Why You Need to Stop Giving a F***

A good friend of mine shared with me this life-changing TED Talk on YouTube. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly suggest you click on the video below. It may just become the most well-spent 15 minutes of your life. 

It's about not giving a—(pardon the word)—f*ck. Most of the time, I find myself saying that in my head: I don't give a f*ck. IDGAF! It's so liberating just to think it. And then the next minute, I start giving a f*ck again. Perhaps it's out of peer pressure, guilt and mainly an overactive superego. But as I get older, I realize how necessary it is to not give a f*uck in preserving my sanity, peace of mind and sense of happiness. 

The speaker / author Sarah Knight gave three main points: 

1. She defines a f*ck as time, energy and money. When we don't GAF about something, that means we don't care about it and therefore won't give it our time, energy and money. 

2. One shouldn't feel sorry about not giving a f*ck. You can be polite about it and not feel awful about your honesty. This of course presumes that you have clearly differentiated between things you want to GAF about and things you don't GAF about. 

3. Each of us needs a F*ck Budget to ensure that we have enough time, energy and money for those things we truly care about. It's obviously unwise to waste your 'fuck bucks' or 'actual bucks' on things you don't care about. 


The Magic of Not Giving a F***


One realization came to mind though. The reason why this video resonates with so many of us is because most of us feel overwhelmed. The sad reality is that we live in a period where there are pressures and demands that consume us, chewing every bit of us little by little, mostly inconspicuously, until we find ourselves depleted, or worse, powerless. 

This talk would not have been relevant in a time where social life was much simpler, less demanding. In this period we live in, there are so many experts, each of us carries different social roles and identities often times presenting with conflicting demands, and we are constantly bombarded with ever-changing information about what the ideal life looks like or which version of ourselves is deemed 'best'. There is so much pressure experienced during such a finite life with finite resources that it truly makes sense to re-evaluate what are truly valuable and worth investing in.

As a final note, remember that the reason for not giving a f*** about so many things is so that you end up with more joy in your life, more authenticity, more freedom. The more f***s you give, the more depleted you will be. 

What things do you want to stop giving a f*** about right now?














Friday, May 5, 2017

All He Did Was Stare



We were never introduced but we certainly knew each other's names. Or at least I knew his. We were young university instructors at the time, though we belonged to different departments. I would not have noticed him at all had it not been for his strange behavior. It was a habit that simultaneously annoyed and intrigued me.

He stared.

In the beginning, I thought it was a fluke. I thought maybe he thought I was someone else. But as the months went on, I noticed how consistent the behavior was. I taught Sociology so you must understand how trained I was to observe things, gather my data without immediately jumping to conclusions. 

So that's what I did. I observed. I let it go on. Our faculty offices were in the same building, on the same floor. Conveniently, even our classes were in the same wing and again, on the same floor. As such, we would often pass each other by on the way to and from the two buildings. And every time this happened, I would see him staring at me from afar and by the time we were side by side, he would turn his head my way and just look at me. It was one of those things that you just feel and see from your peripheral vision. I didn't have the guts to actually look back at him and just suffered through my self-consciousness for a while.

Since I'm not one who readily assumes anything, not even when it's obvious, I had to test the reliability of this data. And the truth was, I was sure it was me he was staring at because it would happen even when there was no one else for him to turn his head to and stare at other than me. There were also times when I had to walk with a couple of my colleagues and they all confirmed that this man was, without a doubt, staring at my face. He also did the same every time he walked past my classroom and I would be in the middle of my lecture. It was a bit distracting at first but I quickly learned to adapt.

I was flattered, but more importantly, I was deeply intrigued. The mystery was killing me. Why was he doing it? If he was attracted to me, why doesn't he introduce himself? Why just stare instead of smile and say hello? Or maybe he found me repulsive? Yes, I thought that too. 

Finally, I decided to end my passive role in all this. I had allowed it for so long that I felt all that odd, conspicuous staring was getting old and I was feeling exasperated. I was certain that doing something about it would accelerate where it needed to go. Either it would escalate and he would pursue something more if indeed he was attracted to me, or he would get tired of it and stop. When I made the resolve to be pro-active, I wasn't sure which outcome I preferred. All I knew was that something needed to change. 

One day, I decided that was it. I saw him walking towards me...10 feet...5 feet...2 feet away...and then we were side by side. Just as his head was still turned towards me, I abruptly turned my head towards him and I obviously caught him off guard. I finally confirmed for myself that I was the object of his attention. Strangely though, as my gaze met his, I felt momentarily stunned. There was no smile, not even a hint of embarrassment from him for being caught staring at me. There was nothing. His face remained expressionless, yet I felt bulldozed by the intensity that I was the one who felt embarrassed and had to quickly turn away. It was as if I owed it to him to allow myself to be pierced like that. I didn't take pleasure in it. Apart from realizing he was really not that cute, I also felt violated and wondered if he was a misogynistic freak. 

From that point on, I vowed to give him a dose of his own medicine, albeit a much smaller dose, and throw in a slight smile and hello for good measure, at least whenever I felt like it. I was especially brave at doing those during faculty assemblies since I knew they were justified and had minimal risk of being misconstrued. The strange thing is that I still didn't get anything back. I don't recall him ever smiling at me, let alone truly engage me in a conversation. Eventually I found out he had a girlfriend so that pretty much extinguished all the thrill for me. I never reached a solid conclusion to my shallow adventure, never truly found out his motive for staring. But the reasons don't matter any more because I had lost interest in the mystery. Him staring back at me with a cold, brazenly arrogant look tasted too bitter for me to continue craving it. 

It was an exciting and fun few months for 24-year old me, when being mysterious was a prerequisite for attraction. But that's the thing about mysteries. They're evanescent and have a fragile existence. They entice and hook me, inviting me to dig and uncover. Unfortunately, sometimes there's nothing much to see, nothing more challenging to keep my attention. With a very limited lifespan, mysteries are not very reliable foundations to relationships. I'm not sure how long this man kept his 'routine'. The point is, I just stopped caring and knew there were other deeper mysteries ahead of me worth exploring. I was 24 and hadn't found it yet, but I was certain it was still out there, packaged in a much warmer, friendlier set of eyes. 




Friday, April 21, 2017

Ten



The double-digits age is finally here for my only child—my son—and as it settles, I am forced to welcome it like a permanent guest in my home, wreaking turbulence in my predictable day-to-day.  There is a distinct politeness to this permanent house guest that no parent ever misses. It makes sure you are slowly acquainted with it even before its official arrival. As a mother, I have seen its shadow peeking every so often in the past six months. At first I was in denial of it but the more I recognized it, the stronger I fought knowing full well this is a futile battle. 

He’s starting to look a little different. One moment I was straining my neck to look down at him when we speak, and the next I notice his head right by my chin. I still can’t adequately describe what I felt—a mixture of panic, confusion, and sadness—the first time I saw my boy reaching for his glass from the cupboard’s upper shelf without asking for any help. My arms that have always lifted him so willingly have now been replaced by his hardworking toes, balancing and holding his weight while his arms stretch to reach some coveted trophy.  

He’s starting to sound a little different. I can already hear the tone of defiance, though I’ve made sure he understands the difference between defiance and disrespect. He is wise enough to know I can tolerate one and not the other. 

The jokes are changing, his vocabulary beautifully expanding especially when he expresses his frustrations with me and my rules. If he only knew how I vacillate between hurt and awe when he shows me his capacity to use his words in expressing his anger towards me. 

His needs and preferences are evolving. His excitement was immeasurable when we finally agreed that he can do away with his booster seat in the car. And he couldn’t be any more proud when he proved to us he is now more comfortable riding MY bike than sticking to his smaller one. 

Mention of friends’ names are also becoming more frequent, affections more sincere, and the desire to spend time with them whether face-to-face or online playing games is stronger.

His self-conscious version has definitely arrived. Hair styling products in my cabinet are no longer just mine, and he has found his own voice when it comes to deciding on haircuts. He now also seems to care more about his outfits and how certain shirts hug his body, when before he couldn't care less if I put on him a shirt two sizes too small. 

Ten. It has been ten years since I gave birth to this wonderful spirit, this most beautiful child in my world who never ceases to overwhelm me with love and joy. Ten years of watching him grow and making me proud every step of the way have spoiled me into believing I will always be number one in his life; that, in spite of my exhaustion and complaints, I will always be needed and be the sole source of his comfort. 

But change is here and has been here though I refused to give it full attention. I've reasoned that I can keep deceiving myself for as long as certain habits remain—his need to still be tucked in at night; his need to twirl my hair so he can relax and fall asleep; his desire to be held tight and carried even though his feet dangle and reach inches beyond my knees; or his willingness to let me sniff him and still call him 'baby', though never in public. 

I'm fully aware that soon even these habits will end. Soon, he may become unrecognizable and I may find myself arguing with someone who will almost feel like a stranger to me, as I utter to him these words most parents with teens and pre-teens have said over and overWhat have you done to my child? Where is he, and could you bring him back?
  
As my son opens his arms to welcome 10, I simultaneously feel his grip loosening on mine. I expect at some point he would no longer be able to hold on tightly to both my grip, as well as the double digits. He will choose and it is my grip that would have to let go. It will tear me inside but I know it’s the most loving choice any parent can make. 

My home and my heart are ready for this permanent guest, the double digits. We are both strong-willed, we will clash and both of us will insist we only want what is best for my son. It will take my son farther from me, mentally, emotionally and physically. But I’ve been here far longer than this guest. What I need my son to realize is that no matter where the double-digits take him, Mommy and Daddy will always be home to him. He will become strong enough, tall enough to reach for the stars on his own, but he will always know that his parents' unconditional love and faith in him are what gave him wings. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Is Your Afterlife?




As Easter approaches and I'm reminded of the hope carried by Christ's resurrection, I couldn't help but be equally occupied by thoughts on death. I've had loved ones die, friends and acquaintances living with terminal illness, and all this with my own changing and aging body reminding me constantly of my own mortality. 

What happens to us when we die? Certainly the answer depends on your own belief system. Beyond that, I've also realized that much of our answer is shaped by our age and life experiences. The young, highly-Catholic version of me believed we either go to heaven or hell, and of course the comfort of the idea of purgatory in case we are not quite worthy of heaven and yet absolutely not deserving of hell either. 

But as I aged and preferred to see a God that is more forgiving and definitely not simplistic, I've settled in a belief that the afterlife shouldn't be that scary as long as you know you've lived a life of meaning, of mostly kindness and certainly Love. I now choose to believe that perfection has never been the objective, but rather growth and spiritual evolution. As Paul Kalanithi eloquently put it, "You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving". (When Breath Becomes Air)

Recently, I heard something utterly beautiful and comforting from the Netflix hit show Grace and Frankie. I know you're probably thinking it's a strange source of wisdom, let alone beliefs on the afterlife, but I'm sure you'd appreciate it too—

"The afterlife is how you're remembered by the living."

It erases the idea of a non-forgiving, simplistic deity, while at the same time puts emphasis on how we ultimately live our lives and touch the lives of others. It's not focused on perfection or the idea that flaws or mistakes permanently stain and define us, or lead us to eternal damnation. Instead, it makes us view our lives wholistically and puts in perspective the value we've added to this earth and others' lives. 

Are we loving enough to be remembered that way?

Are we generous to others that we shall be remembered as nurturing, selfless and kind? 

Are we forgiving so that others think of us as one with an open and humble heart? 

Have we been patient, gentle and wise with our tone and words so that people we leave behind remember us with joy and as a source of comfort? 

Do you make enough space in your heart for others such that they make space for you as well in their hearts and will remember you when you die?

The answer either brings you peace or disquiet. But each moment you have left is currency you can use wisely. Each moment is a reminder that this life we have is not meant to be lived selfishly; that our life is defined by the connections we forge and the positive difference we make in those we meet in our journey. We are irrefutably connected and so the salvation we offer others is as much our own. 

As the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Christ, may we also reflect on how each moment offers us hope to resurrect ourselves into a life worth remembering and celebrating. 










Friday, April 7, 2017

The Stay-At-Home Mom Look



My son announced to me that his friend Josh (not his real name) was going to stop by in less than an hour. I didn't panic over how the house looked since I knew that, (a) our house is tidy enough, and more importantly (b) 10-year-old boys don't really care as long as you have video games and toys to play with. What concerned me most was how I looked. I haven't had the chance to shower that day, my short hair was pulled back by a headband that made all the ends stand up towards the back, and I was wearing an old tattered shirt and yoga pants (not the fashionable, expensive type, I assure you). 

"Dude, I look like garbage! I think I should at least change," I said to my son, while moving my finger up and down to point at how I was dressed. 

With undeniable sincerity he responded, "I'm sure Josh would understand, he knows you're a stay-at-home mom". 

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he saying that stay-at-home moms look like garbage?!

If you try to Google 'mom clothes', 'stay at home mom house clothes' or any variation of that, you'll see images that are still not half as bad as how I normally appear on a daily basis. I guess it's because no sane person would actually photograph themselves as how they REALLY look like and then post it on Google. Duh!

Anyway, I've always wondered about other moms and if I'm the only one who secretly looks like garbage. Actually, I take that back. I don't secretly look like garbage because I've overtly looked like garbage. I have stepped out in said garbage attire for the quick morning drop-off, appointments at the allergist after school and quick trip to the grocery. Granted I opted for a hat to cover my awful hair and made sure holes on my shirt were covered by a sad looking hoodie, although I'm sure the dark under eye circles are permanent accessories that stay unconcealed 80% of the time. 

On days when I wait for my son at the bus stop, I spot some of the other moms waiting and they all look 'nice'. It doesn't help that these are younger moms with well-toned bodies. Heck, they look like they've just stepped out of a LuLaRoe catalog, although I can't really claim to have seen one. I'm too cheap to pay for those, truth be told. And so I'm left secretly wondering if I'm in dire need of a daily schedule make-over and include 'dress up nicely or at least be public space worthy' as a top-of-the-list daily task, right up there with 'brush teeth and face'.

If you're a stay-at-home mom, how do you look like at home? What's your go-to outfit? 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Losing Myself Means



I remember in the 1990s I would often catch episodes of the Oprah Show and was always struck by how many women revealed that they feel as if they've lost themselves. Most of these women were mothers, and I listened as they painfully admitted that they no longer knew who they were, or what happened to their old vibrant selves. 

I was single at the time, with no 'potential sperm donor' in sight, and never fully understood the extent of what those mothers were talking about. I just remember telling myself that I can easily avoid this 'lost Self phenomenon' now that I know better, as if watching Oprah gave me immunity to this apparent epidemic. 

Now that I have a child, I stare at my face in the mirror and wonder about the person staring back. Do I still know her? How much has she changed, apart from the added wrinkles, strands of gray hair and weight gain? I can still see parts of the old me somewhere deep down, but it has become faint and something else seems to have surfaced. I suppose the best way I can put it is to say that it's just been dominated by that part that needed to take over the reins. There is now this new awareness that feels more adept at this important role and identity called Motherhood.

It's true that you lose your Self to motherhood, in so many different ways, over and over...

When you become a mother, your body ceases to be solely yours. Going through assisted reproduction, this realization hit me early on. With all the hormones and medication I needed to pump my body with, there was a clarity that it's no longer just about me—not my schedule, not what I feel like doing, not how I want to look like. And as the pregnancy progresses, the womb comes to outweigh all else as it's treated like a sacred vessel, helplessly dependent on you and yet holds power over you. Its needs cry out louder than any physical pain or discomfort you may suffer from such that taking pain medication you've relied on through the years is now thought twice about, or worse, banned for at least nine months. 

When you become a mother, your time is no longer yours. Forget about scheduling your days. Give up the illusion that you can block off time for your favorite shows. Don't even think for a second you will have total control of your basic bodily functions such as sleep or needing to use the bathroom. "At my own pace", "When I'm available", or "When I need to", are phrases that need to be stricken out of your consciousness for approximately four years, per child, at least. My son is almost ten and yet I still feel this way at times, especially when he is sick. Every parent knows that a child’s illness does not respect any level of maturity. A sick child regresses and only knows one thing: I need Mama.

When you become a mother, your thoughts will never again be solely about you—not your hopes, dreams, prayers. You will be hijacked and held hostage by fears you've never known before. You will wonder what happened to the calm version of you and ask why your brain can’t seem to stop worrying and imagining every possible scenario that pushes you to the depths of paranoia. Conversely, motherhood also forces you to learn to grasp at Faith with strength you never thought you had in you.

When you become a mother, your desires, even when they cry out, pale in comparison to the sense of urgency that leaps out of you when it comes to giving in to what is best for your child. Living near the fun part of town is no longer as enticing as living within the best school district. Your need for white linen tablecloth at a quiet restaurant that serves to-die-for duck confit and escargot is quieted by the need for crayons at the table and kid-friendly servers who will always know when to serve drinks in lidded cups.

To say that motherhood demands immeasurable sacrifice is an understatement. Accept that you will miss out on a lot of experiences. Things will drastically change, and at some point, you will ask what happened to the 'You' you've always recognized. Having a child enter your life will mean the exit of all that is familiar and taken for granted. It is a death within you that creates grief you can't put a limit on. It may ebb and flow, but if you embrace it and make friends with it, it will not drown you.

But just as much as you find a part of you slipping away or even dying, the experience of motherhood also demands that you birth a purer version of your Self. Don't expect the old version of you to remain or be resurrected in its exact form. That’s impossible. Deep love never leaves any soul unchanged.

Yes, there are days when I still reminisce about my old Self. But you know what? I still end up always smiling and feeling content. My life now is a never-ending stream of stress. Most days I feel sore and tired to the core. But I smile because I know that there is no experience on earth that could have brought out the most altruistic, most evolved version of myself other than motherhood. This is how it happened for me and though I'm certain there's a different path for every person, I'm eternally grateful that mine came in a cute package, with sweet kisses and warm hugs that make the grieving process for the old Me so bearable.


I stare at the mirror, smile and always end up whispering, "Thank you. This person that stares back is who she needs to be."




*This post was originally published on March 31, 2016 on Catharsis, and has been edited and updated. It remains to resonate with so much truth and is definitely one of my favorite pieces. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

When the Pain Haunts You





"You hurt me". Those were the last words I spoke to him as I walked away. It was to a man I had never met before in real life but in my dream, he wooed me until I found out he wasn't sincere and that he was seeing someone else. 

I wasn't planning on being so honest. In my dream as I would have done in real life, I was set on choosing pride over transparency. I'm not sure what propelled me to blurt it out but those words of admission poured out as magma would from a volatile core. 

"You hurt me". As soon as the words escaped me, I woke up, as if thrust to reality by the power of those words. The heaviness I've felt since waking up from that dream has held me hostage for hours now as I wonder why and how such simple words can carry so much weight to them and release waves of complexities.

I suppose the weight of admitting to someone that they've hurt us lies in the fact that doing so is also an admission of the power they have over us. Vulnerability assumes that we opened ourselves to someone else, brought our defenses down, and allowed another person to wield some degree of influence over us. 

It's not easy to admit we're in pain, and owning that someone cut us deep is a truly humbling experience. I can't even remember the last time I explicitly admitted to someone that they've hurt me. Mostly, I choose some passive-aggressive route until I'm over it and just move on. This isn't exactly the healthiest approach and I am, by no means, recommending it. Clearly, not saying it out right is a way of taking the easy way out, because the truth is, inasmuch as the admission of our pain is a difficult task, the real work and challenge is what comes after the admission...

Once you say you're hurt, then what? To me, there is only one thing more powerful than saying you are hurt, and that is, "I forgive you". To say you are hurt is passive. To say you are ready to forgive is a manifestation of your own agency. One is a voice of empowerment; the other is a surrendering of your power to another. Both, however, take real courage and strength.

The man in my dream hurt my pride. He misled me and broke my heart. I surprised myself by having the courage to expose my pain. But I wasn't strong enough to finish the dream with forgiveness. Perhaps the dream is a call to think back and realize that I may have moved on from a past pain but have not completely forgiven. Perhaps the dream ended where it did and left me with a heaviness as a plea to my heart to find a way to truly unload and release...the past, the pain, the transgression. Perhaps the real ending was in my act of waking up. And yes, the dream has woken me now.