Tuesday, December 27, 2011


In the spirit of welcoming the New Year, here’s a post that looks back on the past year here on Catharsis.  In the blogging group I belong to (PBAU), another challenge was put forth where we write a post featuring our top 5 to 10 favorite posts from 2011.  It could be something we loved, something that had the most views, comments or whatever criteria we want.

It wasn't easy choosing 10 out of 92 entries so what I did was to think of those that made the most impact on me, whether it was because I was writing about something that felt very sacred and intimate, or something that I felt exercised more of my creative spirit.  So here are my choices and I hope that you have enjoyed Catharsis this past year as I did my best to publish more and slowly write more from the heart!  I still can't believe I have 93 entries (including this one) for this year, the most for me so far!  Thank you to all you readers and fellow writers who continue to inspire me!    

Soulful Hands…Surprisingly this had the most views this past year which was completely unexpected…I still don’t know why but many thanks for appreciating this post!

Life Is A Cliché…This is the one probably most enjoyed by many of you and though the words were not originally mine, I did have a lot of fun putting this together!

Running Thoughts…This was my first time experimenting with combining form and content, which I thought was quite poetic to some extent.  I was pushing my creativity a bit with this one and I think I was successful.

In The Company Of Waves…This talks about my journey to healing after my miscarriage and I know that a lot of you were touched by this. 

The Beloved’s Voice…I have not written a long poem like this in a while so I was quite happy with how this turned out.  I hope I did justice to Beethoven’s romanticism.

What I Know About Love…It’s difficult not to have this as one of my favorites from 2011 because it shows a more mature idea of ‘love’.  Reading this reminds me of the growth I’ve experienced through the years, and that whatever pain I’ve gone through is more precious now because it has somehow translated to greater wisdom.

Saved & Emily’s Gifts…I apologize for citing two here, making my total 11 instead of just 10 posts.  I love these two essays mainly because they remind me of how God/Life/the Universe won’t give up on my healing and faith. 

The Ecstasy of the Moth…How can I not have this as a favorite when it speaks so much of who I am and how I want to love and be loved?  This essay reflects so much of my passion.

Tongue-Tied With Trivialities…This is a favorite because it has concretely helped me in my daily life.  Thinking of what I wrote here helps me become more at ease with strangers and have more confidence speaking my mind.

Star Struck…I think this was a very well written piece in terms of words, flow and rhythm.  It even surprised me when I read it again!  I also love it because it reflects my lasting love affair with astronomy.

May you all have a prosperous New Year and one filled with much hope!  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wise Christmas

I have way too many thoughts this Christmas season.  Of course I’m the only one to blame for overthinking this holiday and needing to reflect on what Christmas means to me now that I’m 38.

I won’t deny that I’ve always loved Christmas because of the idea of presents.  The excitement and suspense surrounding gift-giving is just irresistible and though it also creates much of the stress surrounding this holiday, I just think Christmas won’t be the same without it.  I won’t be a hypocrite and say that it doesn’t matter if I didn’t give or receive any gifts during Christmas time.  That would just be tragic.  I love presents.  It doesn’t matter how small or cheap it may be.  It could be something bought or something personally created.  Just wrap it and give it to me and I shall be fine…even if it’s just a piece of paper with beautiful words! 

One fond Christmas memory I have is when I used to fuss over the many presents sitting and waiting at the foot of our Christmas tree when my Mom was not yet retired and still working.  You see, she used to be the HR manager at the company she worked for her entire working life and every holiday season, she would get numerous gifts from everyone…coworkers, clients, friends, etc.  And she would indulge me by not only letting me arrange them nicely under the tree, but most importantly by letting me open them, one by one, even BEFORE Christmas day arrives!  She would let me choose and of course I’d start by choosing the more predictable looking ones or those in smaller boxes.  I would normally save the fancier looking packages for Christmas day and my Mom was completely fine with this, letting me tear up all the wrappings and get all excited even though they were not mine.  I just absolutely loved doing this!

Being Filipino, Christmas also naturally means family gatherings and lots of special food.  Typical members of the holiday spread would be things like ham, spaghetti (Filipino style), pan de sal and queso de bola, fruit salad (again Filipino style), embutido (which is like meatloaf but more complex in flavor than the American one, in my opinion), chicken galantina (stuffed chicken), macaroni salad, bibingka and puto bumbong, and of course, if you have a lot of money to spend, there will be lechon.  But even if we didn’t always have all these things, what was most important to me was spending it with my immediate family and my aunt’s family who resides just across the street.  My siblings and I grew up with those cousins and I consider them my sisters and spending Christmas with them as we played games or exchanged gifts always made everything more memorable.  It has been 13 years since I last had a family Christmas where we were all present.  Since 1998, someone has always been abroad somewhere so I truly miss having a complete family.  I continue to dream of being able to spend at least one more Christmas with everyone in my family present to celebrate this occasion.

There have also been lots of Christmases spent pining for a love life.  With the holiday season being so focused on love and feeling loved, I do remember a number of years feeling utterly melancholic over the fact that I did not have a boyfriend.  In 2001, when I first visited Chicago, my sister and her family made a huge mistake bringing me to the zoo.  It was close to Christmas and they had some special exhibit going on.  Who would have thought that the zoo could turn into lovers’ lane?!  Everywhere I looked, there were couples holding hands and cuddling and I swear to you, it took every drop of will power in my system to resist the urge to bust out an uzi gun and randomly fire.  I know that’s a horrible thought but I was in a horrible place.  Trust me.  2001 was rough…sweet, but still rough.

Then I got married and had a family of my own and Christmas became less about me and my needs.  Focus went to my son, more than anything or anyone else and I now want to create our own traditions.  A recent one we’ve gotten into is to do a Christmas movie night and for the past three years, it has been The Polar Express.  All 3 of us LOVE this movie and Noah even likes to watch this even when it’s not December.  Two nights ago, we had our movie night in our new home and it was a lovely family bonding time.  Just sitting with my boys helped me put things in perspective.  It is true that ‘sometimes the most real things in the world are things we can’t see’. 

So you see, there are these different elements that all make for a meaningful Christmas and it could get confusing sometimes.  A lot of times, my brain wants things streamlined, simplified or summarized.  Though I am undoubtedly a sucker for complexities, I also desire clarity and want ideas that are easy to conjure and can serve as a clear guideline for me.  I am happy to say that this year, at age 38, I have decided to summarize my belief about the meaning of Christmas this way…

…That Christmas is about following the star, just as the three wise men did.

The star could be many different things.  The star being 'light' symbolizes wisdom, knowing what do do, how to act.  It stands for hope, and ultimately love, as the birth of Jesus Christ meant the coming of salvation.  Following the star also means following Christ, just as the wise men were lead to him. And to me, following the light, following Christ, means choosing the path towards your greatest self, journeying closer to the highest potential of your spirit, endeavoring to be as 'God-like' as you could be.  In as much as the star helped the wise men navigate and find the manger, it also serves as our own inner compass today as it points us towards our north.  If we all remember to follow the star, especially during (but certainly not limited to) this season, then it won't matter if we find ourselves enveloped by a sense of lack, surrounded by problems or disappointing and hurtful people or lack of material resources and other factors that create a less than ideal holiday scenario.  We would just be reminded to follow the path of light, and act with compassion, trust, honesty, generosity, kindness, patience, gratitude and all else that aligns with light...love...Christ.

Have a Blessed and Bright Christmas, everyone!  Let your light shine!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Cut or Not to Cut...Is That Really Just the Question?

I didn’t think it would be this bad.  I mean, I knew I would have a hard time, but never in a million years did I imagine I would be this indecisive about something so trivial.

My hair.

Yes, most of us have proclaimed at some point that you never ever mess with one’s hair.  A person’s hairstyle could spell out confidence, success and ultimately, happiness.  Well, alright, maybe not happiness with a capital ‘H’ but just good mood which of course affects everything else, right?  My problem is that I can’t bring myself to go to a hair salon here in TN.  Before leaving Chicago, I made sure I paid my stylist a visit one last time.  I got a haircut and said to myself, “This should last at least 3 months and by then I’d have already either found a new reliable stylist or would have visited Chicago again to go back to my beloved Andy (stylist)”.  It has now been 4 months and I have not had the guts to step into a new hair salon and my hair is screaming for a cut so badly! 

Some people have given me recommendations.  I’ve also seen ads and have done some research.  I’m looking for a hip-looking place, one that at least appears to be modern enough so as not to give me a traditional or stereotypical Southern ‘older-lady’ Paula Deen hair, and I’m also not willing to drive too far so distance is a major consideration.  Do my criteria even make sense?  I don't really know but that's the truth.  

And maybe the problem is not really the ambivalence about the salons but as to whether I want a haircut or not?! For the past seven years, I've sported short hair and it has gotten shorter and shorter in the past two years.  I happen to LOVE short hair.  Yes I do have a roundish face and I am far from being skinny but I have stopped caring. I think it's stylish, suits my personality more and I feel more powerful with it. However, about two months ago, a conversation with my best friend made me wonder.

She pointed out that here in TN, most people our age have longer hair and that it's generally the 'seniors' who mostly sport hair as short as ours.  About the same time we had this discussion, there was an online article highlighting the fact that majority of men prefer long hair and that long hair, being equated with fertility, is what is deemed attractive.  Normally, I couldn't care less.  But I think something happened when I realized I was nearing 38 and that it's been almost eight years since I last noticed anyone stare at me or give me a double take.  I'd like to think that the timeline just happens to be consistent with me not caring anymore (given that I already had a significant other) but a part of me wonders and suspects it's not just that.  Sure there was at least one time recently when someone was introduced to me and though the handshake lasted longer than normal and I noticed he was staring quite intently to the point of causing me a bit of unease, I think it was not so much as attraction as him trying to figure out what I was....Is she Asian, Latina or what??  At least that's what I think.

So my point is, admittedly there is a part of me that desires to be desired.  And if it would mean having to experiment with longer hair, then I confess that I'm certainly tempted.  Part of me is curious and wants to find out if it would make a difference, while another part of me doesn't want to care and just wants to go on with my old short-haired self.  One thing has definitely become clear to me and that is the reality that I am getting old and now find myself confronting issues I never thought mattered when I was so much younger...skin, facial lines, and just generally aging gracefully.    

And since I'm still ambivalent, I have decided to go for a middle ground.  I would still go for a haircut (though unsure about which location) but go for something not too short that would hopefully transition nicely to a longer style should I decide to eventually grow it.   Below are two styles I found online.  Don't they look VERY similar to you?  How do you think are they different?  Votes are welcome by the way, so thanks in advance!

(This is me, taken around 3 weeks ago)....


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Emily's Gifts

Today I'm remembering Emily.  I don't know exactly when her heart stopped beating and when she decided to leave this world but it was on this same date last year when I went for closure.  If you have been following this blog for a while, you may remember that late last year, I was pregnant for a few weeks but had a miscarriage and ultimately had to go through a D&C.  

Did I expect too much of my self when I thought I would be completely 'over it' by now? I'm realizing that it may never happen.  Friends who have gone through the same experience have said before that the pain only gets dulled but never completely leaves you.  The worst part is that it often surprises me.  Last week, as I watched a recorded Oprah's Lifeclass episode dealing with letting go of the past, and thinking that I have succeeded in freeing myself from the stinging shards of my shattered dreams, I began to cry.  As I sat alone watching this mother who was weeping for her dead newborn, asking how she can go beyond the paralyzing pain, I felt my own pain resurface.  As I listened to Gary Zukav, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, speak about viewing reality from the perspective of the soul instead of just the personality, and therefore seeing that Emily IS a soul that lingers and that it was only her personality that CHOSE to depart when it chose to, I felt my own tears warm my cheeks.  

My Christmas Angel ornament from 2010
in remembrance of Emily
I was reminded to focus on the gifts she had (and has) to offer in choosing to come into my life no matter how briefly and leave when she had to.  I am reminded of the wisdom behind that event, that choice.  And though the wisdom is so easily clouded by pain and stubbornness, I feel more desire now to acknowledge it and seek more of it.  
In less than a month after we lost Emily, without my husband even actively searching for a different job, he got hired by another company.  As soon as he started with the new company early this year, he has had to fly so often on most weeks that I was like a single parent to Noah most months.  I am sure that it would have been extremely difficult for me to manage by myself had I been pregnant because given my history, it would have been a sensitive pregnancy.

Even before we reached the middle of this year, the interstate move became somewhat of a necessity due to the new job.  Had I been pregnant, and with a husband who has gotten busy beyond words, would it have been possible for me to pack all our things and be organized with our move?  I don't think so.  

Somehow, the pain of losing something so precious highlighted for me the fleeting nature of things around us.  It made me realize even more that each MOMENT counts when it comes to those you love.  It constantly reminds me to see what is real, what truly counts, instead of wasting energy on meaningless 'stuff'.

Having Emily in my life has also shown me a different kind of Love.  I know it and feel it but somehow am still unable to fully articulate it at this time.  For now I call it 'Love' for its encompassing presence.  I feel something transformed in me after the anger and God-blaming passed.  It is still happening and though I cannot completely describe it now for you to fully understand it, trust that it is real.  Hopefully someday soon, I will be able to fully express this evolution that I know is happening to my spirit.  What I'm certain of now is that Emily's spirit is urging mine to be more enriched.

I suppose this is what healing truly means.  It's not about forgetting.  It's not about never feeling the pain and not breaking down at times.  It's about being clear that positivity is a constant choice you have to make and doing your best to summon the strength within to enable you to make that choice.  To be on the path of healing is to have the courage to confront all your pain, and instead of choosing to be defeated by it, you choose to accept it as something that makes you deeper and more able to connect with life more fully. Most of all, it is to allow the voice of gratitude to speak louder rather than be drowned out by your cries of wanting.

Perhaps she left when she did, weeks just before Christmas, so that I may experience the real meaning of this season.  To be able to feel the resilience of my own soul and have access to wisdom only deep pain can uncover, are priceless gifts I will treasure forever.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fortune Friday 12.2.11: When It's Wise To Walk Away

My body is completely, and I mean COMPLETELY, sore today.  My joints and muscles ache to the point where taking deep breaths hurt, let alone climbing the stairs.  Thanks to the kickboxing class I attended yesterday with my BFF, I am experiencing physical pain that makes me wish I had access to an epidural drip right now.  

It was a one-hour class and though the moves were not that new to me anymore given that I have done Tae Bo before, admittedly I have never done it nor any other cardio exercise for that matter for one straight hour in my entire life!  Even when I run on the treadmill during my 30-minute sessions, I NEVER run the whole 30 minutes, so yes, it was a shock for me and every single muscle in my body.  To punch and then kick side to side, then front and back, topped off with multiple jumping jacks is not my idea of how to best spend my last moments on earth. Because really, that's what I thought was happening.  I swear at some point I thought I was going to pass out and die.  Just 30 minutes into the session, I began to have visions of me being wheeled out of the room by paramedics. To be honest, the only thing that kept me from walking out of there was pure pride.  I knew how embarrassing it would've felt to give up just like that even though I felt like I was dying.

Before you congratulate me though, let me stop you right there and admit that right after the class, I told my BFF that I'm not sure if I would try it again and highlighted to her my long-time realization that I am, after all, a quitter. My natural tendency has always been to quit when I feel that I can't do so well, when I can't excel at something. It's probably the perfectionist side of me and no, I'm not proud of it.  That, and I'm not so certain I won't pass out next time should I decide to attend the class again.  

So why am I telling you all this now when my fortune cookie wants me to be honest about my philosophy on love?

It's because I realized that love is the one thing I seem to be incapable of quitting from.  Despite all pain and even embarrassment, I tend to go on and on...and on...for as long as I feel there is more to give.  I remember when my sister gave her speech during our wedding reception, she said that when I love, there is never such a thing as 'half-way'.    But just as some of you were probably thinking that overdoing exercise is never a wise or safe thing to do, I know that it's the same with love...that you need to know when it's wise to quit.  Recently, a popular young actress in the Philippines broke up with her boyfriend, also a popular actor.  And though her explanation of their break-up was extremely cryptic (although most people have already assumed that it's because said actor is gay), she left viewers with one clear advice.  She said (in Filipino), "Always leave something for yourself".  Learning this lesson, I believe, makes her heartbreak all worth it.

My philosophy on love is this...That to love is to give all that you have to give (not necessarily all that you are), for as long as it is healthy for both people.  Boundaries are important so you know what you can and cannot give.  Give love only to someone who can accept love and appreciates its power.  Finally, respect what you feel, what you sense.  You always know when it's no longer safe for you to proceed.  Pay attention and have the humility and wisdom to know that sometimes, quitting is not necessarily failure. It could mean moving on to somewhere you can love and be loved better.