Friday, July 22, 2011

How I Became A Self-Loathing Expert

All my life, I’ve struggled with my weight.  If there is something I’ve never really experienced, it’s how it feels to be skinny or just weigh normally, to be an ordinary size and not stick out, not be plump.  As a child, I was never obese, just always ‘bigger’ than my peers.  Early on, I became aware of how my arms were bigger, stomach rounder and nothing I did seemed to matter as far as making myself shrink and just be like the other kids.  I got teased quite a bit, but oddly, mostly by adults.  I was never the object of bullying or teasing among my peers.  As a matter of fact, I’ve always been part of the ‘upper crust’, if I may say so, as I was always a good student, and somehow I think this exempted me from a good amount of meanness and youthful roughness, to say the least.

But really, which is worse if you think about it?  The teasing from another child who just doesn’t know any better, or one from an insensitive adult who can easily have so much effect and influence on a child with mere words?  In my past, I got used to hearing insensitive remarks from adults who thought they were being funny or maybe concerned when they would tell me and my parents that I seemed to have been "spending too much time in the kitchen", or I seem to be "loving food too much".  And did these people also think it was polite and acceptable to greet me by saying, “Oh you gained weight and look fat” (spoken in Filipino), as if it were the acceptable alternative to "Hi, how are you?".  I’ve always had such violent thought bubbles for those people so indeed they are lucky that my parents raised me well and that I have a reasonable level of restraint and respect for the law. 

I also got used to hearing what I would call ‘non-generous, half-hearted, pseudo-compliments'.  Examples of such are the following: "Oh you’re so pretty, but you need to lose weight”, or the innocent but extremely loaded “Oh what a pretty face you have!”.  I always thought to myself, “Sheesh! Couldn’t you just compliment me, the WHOLE me, instead of limiting it to just one body part?”  It was like a one-two punch really, wasn’t it?  Complimenting my face but also almost simultaneously insulting the rest of my body so in the end, it all evens out.  I end up not really feeling any better than before they had opened their mouths and spat out their venom. 

Yes, to a child that is all poison.  Actually, to any person of any age, really, because I continued to hear all those even to my late teens, early twenties and it was still damaging just the same.  I never felt comfortable in my own skin.  I’ve always been jealous of people who did not give a damn about how they looked, how much they weighed and felt so self-assured.  I’ve always felt conscious about my size even though eventually, I realized that my frame is just naturally bigger than the normal Filipino’s frame and that no amount of dieting and exercise will make me shrink to the ‘normal’ size (and what is 'normal' anyway??).  I’ve always carried extra weight, yes, I don’t deny that.  But my point is that even during those years, when, looking back now more objectively, I did not really carry that much excess weight, I still never felt ‘normal’ or pretty enough and comfortable about myself.  I was just never happy with how I looked.  Sadly I still don’t know how to be happy with my own body.  I’m in my late 30’s now and though I’m doing my best to appreciate what I have and what life has blessed me with, I still struggle.  I still hide under clothes that conceal my real shape.  I still think of myself as ‘fat’ even though people tell me I look fine.  I still criticize myself non-stop and can’t seem to give myself genuine compliments.  And when I hear them, I am grateful and feel happy, though I know deep down, my brain rejects it.  How can it not when it’s the only wiring it knows?  How can it not when all its life, what it has heard is that its body is not good enough, not attractive unless it loses weight; that no one can genuinely fall in love with this person unless this body, this person ceases to be its overweight self. 

I still hear those voices now.  It’s sad isn’t it?  That a child, adolescent and adult can be told that she’s not enough just as she is.  Like it never mattered what I accomplish or who I was inside.  Like none of it can be seen because it was all drowned out by my big frame and excess pounds, that I never had the typical 'Asian' look or size.

In a way though, I guess there are still blessings behind all this.  I became more appreciative of sincere compliments.  I also grew up more compassionate and understanding of other people’s shortcomings.  I knew how it felt to be made to feel less so I don’t like making other people feel less than who they truly are.  I’m also grateful that I proved someone wrong when I was told that no one can ever fall in love with a chubby me.  (But I admit I still do wonder sometimes if they fell in love with the whole package or just my 'inner beauty'....hmmmm....See what I mean?)....  

However, honestly I still remember those few who chose to insult me maliciously years ago, those who did it to entertain themselves.  I still remember their faces and though I’ve forgiven them, I still feel sorry that they were ignorant and thought they were being funny and doing something totally acceptable when all they were truly being was hurtful and mean.  Let me just say that Karma took care of things for me.  Let’s just leave it at that. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Beloved's Voice


Ludwig van Beethoven wrote some of the most romantic letters to his mysterious Immortal Beloved.  This poem was inspired by that love, that tormented passion, as reflected in those magnificent letters.  This is my imagination of his beloved's response...


The Beloved’s Voice

Dreams filled with echoes
Brimming with faint imprints of you
Worlds I’ve never seen nor tasted
Yet feel so familiarly true.
I patiently wait for your words
Though I know your world so demands
Your soul, your gifts, your essence
And as a spectre in silence I stand.

Why must our worlds be
So far, so vastly apart
Cloak our longings, deny our cries
Nothing to do but numb the heart.
You are never here with me
Nor I to bless your journey
Ours has become a life of waiting
Denying what is rooted ever so deeply.

My existence only fully makes sense
When illuminated by your understanding
My bearings lost as darkness wraps me
Nothing to grasp, your warmth ever fading.

You are my beloved
As I am forever yours,
Neither space nor time can transform my heart
Or take this desire by force.
The music of your love plays on
In the caverns of my soul and in my mind
If you say we live for each other
Then so be it, to all this pain I am blind.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Ecstasy of the Moth

In love, is intensity or permanence more important?  This is a question from Dr. Gregory Stock’s Book of Questions and my friends and I tried discussing this once during a girls’ night in (GNI).  I thought about this question again as I panted on the treadmill (which you all know about now after last Tuesday's post).  Intensity or endurance?...keep running fast or keep walking for a longer period of time?  During the GNI, almost unanimously, the preference was for ‘permanence’.  Almost.  My gut answer was intensity.  I am a Scorpio after all!  However, after some thought, debate and rationalization, I conceded and accepted permanence as more important.  After all, the question refers to importance and not which one will bring you the utmost satisfaction, doesn't it?
I suppose the reason a debate ensued was because the terms intensity and permanence could be construed in a number of ways.  I took the question to mean that intensity meant depth and excitement, whereas permanence was just a diplomatic and rationalized way of saying boring and shallow.  I don’t know about you but I don’t like getting bored with people, especially in love.  I like being intrigued.  I enjoy having puzzles to solve (to a certain extent, of course).  I think a certain degree of mystification helps sustain me because then it gives me a perpetual quest to demystify.  But then again, can I really live like that forever?  Do I really want a life like that, a life with someone I feel is way above me, or someone I can never figure out?  Though I know that which fascinates me sustains my passion, I also know that this kind burns out way too easily. Do sustainability and predictability then get the upper hand?

The interesting thing is, in both scenarios, there is death.  Whether I choose someone who completely ignites my passion to the point of burning me out, or choose someone who is more predictable, sustainable, but will cause me to flatline, I see some form of death unto the self.  It then just becomes a question of how you want to die, doesn’t it?....die through a violent explosion and consummation, or a slow  and quiet death.

As with everything in this life, balance is necessary. I know this is a a cop out but hear me out for now. Though it may be true that nothing can be intense one hundred percent of the time, it is not necessarily fair to assume that 'permanence' does not include bouts of passion and depth.  Just as with any exercise routine to be fully effective, you have to alternate between the intense and the slow / manageable.  You can't just walk the whole time.  You have to vary your speed and incline and keep on challenging your self. Relationships aren't that much different really. You need both passion as well as sustainability.  You have to try to preserve some mystery without exhausting your partner to the limit.  And most important of all, at least for me, there has to be depth, in feelings, thoughts, connections. These, to me, translate to real intimacy.

Ideals and cop out answers aside, let me now assume that the terms intensity and permanence are used here as mutually exclusive.  Will you choose a relationship that is intense but will not last long, OR, something that will last forever sans intensity or passion?  I would still choose as a true Scorpio.  I want to drown in the depths of passion, bleed with yearnings and be consumed to ashes.  What good would 'forever' be to me if it will only imprison me in a life of hunger?  Some would say that this is not a very practical choice but is love really meant to be practical?  I want to feel desire and be desired, get lost in his eyes, rendered powerless by his words, his voice.  I want to be intoxicated with his taste and scent, feel soulfully entwined and be flung into a world tainted with Shakespeare and Beethoven.  I want it all.   For me, true love is meant to be tasted this way...even for just a brief moment.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Running Thoughts

Twenty minutes, only twenty.  Keep your expectations low.  You’ll be done before you know it.  iPod, check. Water, check.  "Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements"….Ok good, five minutes gone….Prepare….The chorus is when you speed up and run….run…run…...Watch your breathing….In and out….in and out…..How’s your left knee?...Thank God for that knee brace!...."The scars of your love remind me of us"….Go Adele, fire me up!....Keep running, you can push it….one more solid minute, keep going…………..(scream!)…..Whew!......Now slow down, walk, walk, walk, but keep that incline…up, up, up…..There, that’s good…..Let this chorus go but prepare for the next one….another run and make it faster…..
Think of that decadent dessert you promised you’d make after losing 15 more pounds…..Brilliant!….just brilliant!….Who tries to lose weight so they can eat and gain it all back?...only you….you unabashedly food obsessed YOU…..What the hell?!..….If it works, it works……"You had my heart inside your hand but you played it"……Ouch!...Yeah, that’s it, think of all the pain you’ve felt, your heart smashed into smithereens….all your hopes blown up in your face…..take that energy….Have to lose weight, have to lose weight…..Remember how your ex dumped you ‘cos you’re too chubby?.....Oh wait….Right!….That’s NOT why you broke up….Wait….Why did we break up?......."We could’ve had it aaaaaallllll....rolling in the deeeeeep……You had my heart inside your hand"…..Yes he did and I did too but…oh well….long story…..ANYWAY!.....This girl’s awesome!....talented and utterly confident in her own skin, her size.....Wish I were like that…..Oh Adele, how do you do it? ….Sh*t!.....This is so freakin’ hard!.......Keep running….push it, push your self, dammit!  …..You can add one more minute this time….think of him, and her, and him….dedicate this run, this segment to them, their health, their success…..GOoooo!!!!......(scream!)…...(exhale!)…..WHEW!.......AWESOME!  28 minutes done?!??!!.....Cool…..two more minutes to complete your 30….slow down now, cool down……You can lose the incline….....leisurely walk….breathe….What’s for dinner tonight?....hmmmm…..Dang!...Forget dinner!....I still have to write my blog post!............................................

Friday, July 8, 2011

Star Struck

The other day, our family decided to visit the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.  We felt our son was old enough to appreciate the experience (somehow) and wanted to reinforce his budding interest in astronomy. 

To this day, I can honestly say that my planetarium field trip when I was in elementary school in the Philippines (3rd grade, I believe, though I’m no longer so sure) remains as one of the most memorable.  I have always been fascinated with astronomy, the skies, outer space, and even the idea of extraterrestrial life.  I remember when I was a child, my parents invested in an encyclopedia set and what I enjoyed most was the volume about planets!  I would flip through the pages and just stare at the pictures, intrigued and seduced by their beauty, making me want to magically shrink and enter the book and physically land on these heavenly bodies.  There was no internet then and all I had were pictures on paper and my imagination.  Now, as an adult, I try to watch every single episode on astronomy featured on the Science Channel and just enjoy the feeling of awe and wonder as I listen to narrations and explanations by astrophysicists.  Heaven indeed!

Man’s interest in astronomy has been existent for hundreds of years, and though the extent of my love affair with it is insignificant compared to that experienced by the great scientists, again the real question is why.  Why do we keep looking up to the sky?  Is it the sense of wonder that fills us?  Is it the sense of excitement, and of possibilities, that fuel our questions?  And what exactly do we hope to find and learn?  And given what we may find, are we truly prepared?  How much can we take and comprehend?  How far are we willing to search, ask, discover and learn? 

The world out there is infinite and I think what exhilarates me is the sensation that looking up, looking out, is also quite like looking in, where the depth and breadth are both infinite and magnificent.  It leaves me breathless just knowing that what is out there is beyond even my imagination.  Some people would say that our desire to discover and learn more about the stars and the universe(s) is all about our future, a leaping forward.  I say it has more to do with our past.  This fascination, this sense of wonder and irresistible temptation to look up to the heavens is really a search for our origins, a natural curiosity for the nature of our lives.  It is all part of that seed planted in all of us, that seed that always asks ‘Who am I?’

Astronomers have always said that we are all stardust.  We are made of the same elements as the stars in space, and in effect are part of the processes that have occurred and continue to occur for billions of years now.  This thought, to me, is both elating and humbling.  We are both important and insignificant in the grand scheme of things and choosing a perspective to apply given the various circumstances we face truly spell out the kind of person you are.  Sometimes you need to realize your greatness, while sometimes you need to step back and know that you are but a 'pale blue dot', as the late Carl Sagan once said.  Hopefully we choose appropriately and that our lives do justice to the greatness of the burning stars.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In The Company Of Waves

In a parallel universe, in approximately 24 hours, I would be giving birth to a beautiful baby girl named Emily.  She would have dark brown eyes, have my complexion and would surprisingly be even balder than when her older brother was born.  She’d show us how strong her lungs are as she cries out and announces she has arrived but I would also notice how calm she is as she first latches on to me to feed.  This time, I know better than to fuss and worry too much.  I know she is well and I will enjoy this moment of being able to hold my lovely daughter in my arms for the very first time and simmer in the sense of wonder and peace.  Everything is well and soon, her loving brother will see and kiss her head, ask his questions and be in awe.  Daddy’s heart is flooded with love and gratitude that once again, we had been blessed. 

Unfortunately, the roads forked and this consciousness is located in this universe, this one where I do not have her, this one where seven months ago they told me her heart stopped beating, she stopped growing and later found that she had trisomy 22 and had no chance for survival.

I am much better now but I’ve clearly learned something very important about grief.  I now know that it is not a stage, but a pavement that is laid upon the road you trek each day.  It’s not some place you visit, like ‘Griefsville’, and then leave behind, because in truth it never really leaves you.  Yes, it gets better in time and you get better at focusing your energies on what you have and what you can be happy about.  But you know that your pain is still there, and the slightest reminder can tip the scale.                                                 
I still ache for her, specifically her and not just the possibility of having another child.  As a matter of fact, I have declared numerous times that I no longer want to conceive.  I don’t think my body can still take it (all the hormone shots, the pregnancy itself, the stressing over the whole thing and the thought of taking care of another child when my joints are aching).  More importantly, my heart has lost all courage to try again and risk being shattered.  I simply cannot bring myself to hope again.  I have done away with it, have made peace with it. 

However, in all honesty, I don’t believe I’ve fully made peace with my God.  Something happened when I lost Emily and the faith I thought I deeply possessed melted and was swept away by the flood of tears and sorrow that flowed through me.  For the most part, I’ve stopped talking to Him and don’t even know how, or if I should, or if truly there is ‘someone’ to talk to.  Occasionally I whisper some thoughts to bless others, especially my loved ones, but the certainty that what I am doing makes sense or would make a difference had vanished.  The void I feel is palpable, the questions stronger than ever.  My only hope now is that my search for answers grows even stronger, for I believe the presence of any desire to find answers, then fueling a search, is still better than surrendering to the void.  Behind any act of searching lies a hope for finding something…anything.

I’ve always said that 'carrying the past with you' and 'letting it get in the way of the present' are two different things.  By virtue of that distinction, I can honestly say I am moving on and have moved on.  You cannot tell me that I have not, if moving on means letting your life unfold and actively participating in it, engaging in what confronts you.  I’ve moved on in that I’ve done my best to not further fuel the bitterness that sits in the crevices of my heart.  But as with any significant experience, losing Emily has defined me.  Grief tends to do that as it comes and goes, ebbs and flows.  Even rocks are defenseless against strong crashing waves…