bad teeth

(i have a major exam tomorrow so obviously i’m writing about my fear of dentists, my mother, childhood, nostalgia, and other things that have no connection whatsoever with my exam)

i never liked dentists. my mother is a dentist. as a child i would often go to her clinic for my monthly cleaning. her clinic was in the middle of the busy town market, across the butcher shop and vegetable stalls, on the second floor of the rundown apartment complex we owned. there she’d sit me up on her chair and probe and poke around my mouth with her foreign metal tools. every time i am there she would scold me for my bleedy gums and cavities, and how i always have cavities even though she reminds me to brush my teeth every night. up, down, side to side, the backs of the teeth, the corners, the in-betweens, the tongue, never forget the tongue! yet i still had bad teeth, worse than my brothers who never ate fruits and vegetables. from this she surmised that i was just that: a child who never cared about my teeth. but she was wrong. i was very much obsessed with my teeth. or, perhaps, very much obsessed with ruining them. i’ve lost five permanent tooths since then, mainly because of all the sweets i secretly devoured. i couldve given her the brightest smile, but instead i gave her rotten teeth. perhaps unconsciously i was ruining my teeth on purpose so i’d get her attention, because even though she’d scold me, i know she was still focusing on me. only me. and that was what i wanted. it was only during my cleanings with her that i found tenderness and closeness. she made me nervous and afraid when she’d sit on her stool in her white, characterless coat, wearing soury rubber gloves and a mask that hid the planes and features of her face. i would feel nauseous. i hated the clinical feeling of it all, but in my head she was still my mother. i was being probed and examined and i felt naked and guilty, but this was still my mother.

and perhaps why i never liked dentists was because i always thought the insides of my mouth were only for my mother’s eyes. and i cannot let others touch my teeth and see the worsts of my mouth because only my mother can know of my secrets. because it’s for her. i still don’t see other dentists. i don’t think i ever can, because when my mother examines my mouth and prods it with her tools and fills my cavities with filling, she is gentle and soft. and if it was some other dentist it wont feel the same way because they wont have tenderness for me and they wont have the softness of my mother’s hands, they wont have the familiarity of it all. because if i look up at them from my seat, i wont have longingness for them. because when my mother fills the hollowness of my cavities, it was her filling the empty spaces inside of me that have always been crying for her. because even though she’s angry at me for not brushing my teeth, i know that if i scream or exaggerate my pain, she would caress my cheek and soothe me with her voice, and here i’d feel her love.  because the only time i saw tenderness from her was when she’d wipe my drool away and tell me to gargle well and not spill, when she’d touch my cheek and my chin and ask me if it hurt. when, deep inside, i wanted her to ask me instead if her distance hurt more, if it hurt me more to be right there next to her and still feel her detachment, as if we were never umbilically connected once, because she doesn’t know that when i open my mouth for her, i am letting her love me, that this is me reaching out to her. and that when she works on me, she is so close to me that i wonder if i may just be able to hug her and touch her hair if i reached up.

and i always dreaded the time when she’d finish with me, when she’d take off my bib and push me up from the chair and make me gargle one last time, because i know it would all be over. and as a child i wished our cleanings would last all afternoon, but they almost always took only an hour, and then i’d have to wait another month again to feel her. it felt too fast and ended too soon, and being a child i figured that if i had more cavities, she’d spend more time working on me, being with me. because when it was over, i knew she would go back to her awkward person, unsure and uncertain of how to love me.

perhaps because i push her away, perhaps because i am something she cannot figure out, because she isn’t like me. or i am not like her, or what she wishes me to be. because when she asked for a daughter, she wanted a daughter the way she wanted a daughter exactly, and not what ever i was going to turn out to be. because when she prayed for a perfect and unique model, what she got was an ugly pastiche. because i am not a box she can put things in with whatever she wants and adorn with frills and ribbons. because i am a stubborn box that refuses to open to her. because i do not want to be like her, do not want her failures to be my insecurity and failures. but it happens the other way, and i find myself becoming more and more like her—the worst of her. and i hate it. i hate it so much. because i am more pigheaded than i believe, because i said i will be my own person, because i said i will break the cycle. because if theres anything i don’t want to be, it’s to be like her. but here i am, and i am just that: an awkward person, uncertain of how to love and show my softness and tenderness to other people, and so i stand here, helplessly wringing my hands.

i’m 20 now. i think i am a young woman now. i don’t remember the last time i had a cleaning with her. i have a cavity or two that needs checking and filling, but i am afraid to go to the school dentist because they will only scoop my eyes out and judge me for all eternity. and i am deathly afraid of reaching out to my mother, because i am not a child anymore. i cannot pretend to be in pain and demand for her caress, because i know she will smell my phoniness., most of all, i am afraid—really, really afraid— that if i sit on her dentist’s chair again, i wont find love and tenderness there anymore.

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tenderness

i need to rant. i went to an awarding ceremony today and was dressed down for it; i felt inadequate being there, with everybody wearing gowns and tuxedos, surrounded by a bunch of faces i did not care for. i didn’t take the dress code seriously and came in a polo tucked under a casual dress. my feature story was nominated for Top Award, but didn’t win. i won an Award of Excellence though, which i think is okay. i didn’t want to go initially because i was afraid. i thought that if i went, they’d tell me everything was a huge mistake and that they got it all wrong and that i didn’t really win the award and if i could just return the award and go back home please. i was afraid that they’d see me as the phony that i am, that i don’t really know anything, and that’ I’m not deserving of the award because i’m a quack. at the same time, i felt bothered because a part of me wanted to win the top award, but a part of me felt like an impostor. the feeling is obsessive. i am caught between my fear of losing and fear of winning. my pride makes me fear rejection and failure, yet at the same time, i fear achievement. how do you comprehend such a thing?

i will admit, i was disappointed i didn’t win top award. i was hoping i would, but we lose some and win some. the award went to a literary folio instead. the criteria is weird and apparently, you can only be nominated for top award if you win an award of excellence. i won that, so that’s one award. i guess a part of me was just hoping i’d make the top. apparently not.

but it’s really funny. it’s funny because i still feel the same. awards, i thought before, are something that would make me happy. it’s a slap to the face because what i thought would make me happy in this world doesn’t make me happy at all. with or with no writing award, i still feel like utter shit. i honestly really don’t know what makes me happy. not the top award. not recognition, not fame, not power. not money, though it would make things a little bit easier, i guess, but it wont make me happy, no. not a boat full of friends and admirers, even.

i don’t understand. i’m not speaking out of bitterness, i won an award myself, but it just gives a bad taste in my mouth how people make such a huge deal out of themselves. i was almost embarrassed going up the stage with my award. i don’t understand how anyone can think of themselves as being “up there”. i don’t understand arrogance. how can you be that way up in your head when you know that you don’t really know much? it’s a writing award and i should be happy and proud and i am, i suppose, i don’t mean to sound ungrateful or self deprecating (which is just as bad), but when i see people in award ceremonies, i cant help but cringe. it’s a night of glamour, yes, but when it’s over, we go back to our simple lives and we are not, all of a sudden, better writers. i still go back to a broken home, sit on my desk and break my back every night, forcing myself to write, hating myself more and more. this is what people don’t see. they don’t see that i don’t feel confident at all when i sit in front of a blank sheet of paper. i wish they saw this, so we can admit to ourselves that all these awards are nothing but white noise. it wont make me bankable or kinder nor will it make me love myself more. it’s just another thing to add on my resumé and i’ve decided long ago that i don’t want to live for my resumé or eulogy.

i read a poem by Charles Bukowski and it spoke to me because it is so real. the poem’s title is “this”. here’s a fragment of it:

self congratulatory nonsense

as the famous gather to applaud their seeming greatness

as the deathly talentless bow to accolades

as the fools are fooled again

you wonder where the real ones are.

if there are real ones.

i think we are all fools. i think we don’t really know anything and the more we learn and the more degrees and awards we accumulate, the more we should realize that we don’t really know much and cant ever know everything. and this shouldn’t give us a license for arrogance. not even a license to think that we are, in any way, close to being good.

i went to wabi sabi after the awarding. it’s a small restaurant in the ugly part of the city, inside a nondescript warehouse, a little ways past the costume shop down a dim alley. i always keep coming back to this place. i thought the place is so apropos for me. wabi sabi. welcoming imperfection like an old friend. accepting it. living with it. i go there every week and order the same steaming cup of suanong and, sometimes, a bowl of tantanmen or pho, depending if  i want something rich or something light.

i always sit by the single-diner table, facing the wall, beside the stack of old magazines with rat droppings sandwiched between each one for never being read. it saves me from the awkwardness and prying eyes of people in groups, which doesn’t happen too often because the place is almost always empty or occupied by single diners as well. it was raining hard and it was flooding outside. the rain’s still going and going—it’s persistent in its mission to keep me out of the house.

of course, i didnt tell my parents about this award. not that they care or anything, because they show no interest or support whatsoever with my writing. i don’t mind though. i’ve surmised a long time ago that this is something i have to do alone. i cannot dream around my parents. most of the time, they make me feel guilty for being alive. and they will never get the best of me. and i will never let them see the best of me. and i will continue working and transcending and i wont pay them any mind. i will continue to dream.

and my dreams scare me. they scare me so so much. i cannot even write them down here. i cannot even say them out loud. but they’re always in my mind, always. i will be flayed, stripped, and undone, but i guess it cant be called dreaming if it weren’t painful, if it didn’t break my spirit like nothing else can. i am so desperate to challenge myself beyond the blinkers of the little i know. though, i think, i unconsciously know what i want. i think it’s why i am here. i think my unconscious guides me to where i am headed, wherever that is. i cannot be doing all of this randomly, don’t you think? perhaps there are inner workings of myself, working on its own, as if unbidden, as if it has its own person. or, perhaps, it is me, still me, just an undiscovered side of me. well whatever it may be, i think it is unconsciously guiding me there. wherever there is, even though most days i fail to recognize myself.

it was a good time, being alone, by the way. the coffee came with a single cup filter and it was hot just how i liked it hot. the condensed milk rested at the bottom, and i watched as the coffee turned lighter and lighter with every swing of the spoon. bittersweet, just like this day. the pho had soft glass noodles, its broth minty, light, and refreshing, topped with little flags of cabbage and of celery, and bean sprouts crunchy and perfect the way they are. a dash of fish sauce and a nice squeeze of calamansi. i like talking about food this way, as if they were friends. i learned that from Pablo Neruda, who saw the beauty in everything, from a bar of soap to a chair to an artichoke and an onion! i think a good bowl of soup is quiet in its magnificence. comforting, like a long-awaited hug from someone familiar.

let me go back to what i said earlier, when i said i do not really know what makes me happy. i am not demanding for love or someone to complete me. i would hate it if i lived my life carrying everywhere a sense of lack that i so long to fill. i don’t think i am fragmented in any way. i think i am a whole person, and do not need an other half in the way people look at other halves. i think i am already whole. i’ve always been. i mean, how can you be only half of yourself? i suppose i just do not know how to accept this wholeness of mine, in all its nakedness and convolutions and complications. i am still learning to accept it, still trying to know it, and discover and be surprised in all its secrets (there are things i have yet to discover from my Self). i am still trying to love it, show it kindness, this wholeness of mine. i have jabbed it with hatred for so long it’s not fair. i wish i didn’t feel ashamed of it.

what i really want is tenderness. warm, brown hands that are always willing, ready, to take me into them. in spite of the bad days and bouts of doubt and insecurity and self hatred. i long for tenderness.

Reading and Writing Goals 2017

Reading Goals

In Search of Lost Time (Six books) – Marcel Proust

-I am quite daunted; I think this is the reading project I am gearing myself for the most! I have commitment issues. Meaning, I’m not entirely sure whether or not I’m ready to read raw all 1.2 million words / 4000+ pages of Proust’s magnum opus. I want to experience Proust, I want him to get in my veins and under my skin and inside my thoughts, but knowing myself, I always abandon a book and come back to it at a later time and In Search of  a Lost Time, I think, is no ordinary book. It’s a cumbersome read, and I don’t even know if it’s advisable to read it raw or buy a guide. I don’t like the idea of starting it and never finishing it but also detest the idea of reading it in one go. Perhaps if I can get into an agreement with myself, I can spread the six books out and make it my reading goal for 2017. I definitely don’t want to rush with this one, especially since I have a lot of other books I want to read, but this is a challenge I’m ready to take.

Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury

-I started reading Bradbury just last month and already finished The Golden Apples of the Sun and The Martian Chronicles. I found myself falling in love with his writing, the poetry and magic intertwined in his words. I think he will be a favorite of mine too; The Martian Chronicles affected me deeply and The Golden Apples of the Sun had a handful of gems that left an imprint on me as well. Truly Bradbury is a magician, and I cannot wait to explore his other works!

V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing graphic novels – Alan Moore

-Watchmen blew me away; right now, I’d rank Alan Moore in my top 5 favorite writers of all time. I seriously need to get more of his work. He is a genius, no doubt about it, and I cannot get enough of him!

The Sandman – Neil Gaiman (all volumes) 

-It has been far too long since I’ve read Sandman that I’m afraid I’ve forgotten most of its splendor. I need to reacquaint myself with The Endless

Ilustrado – Miguel Syjuco

I have seen the man in various protest rallies I’ve been to, but have yet to read his book. He’s one of our local contemporary writers whose book won the Man Booker Asia Award a few years back. I need to read more local authors and want to try his book as a challenge

Foundation series and Youth – Isaac Asimov

-One of the great scifi writers of all time! How can I not?

Hyperion – Dan Simmons

-A gem in the world of scifi.

Norwegian Wood and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami 

– I have only heard good of this man and am ashamed to have never encountered any of his pieces.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden 

On Stories – C.S. Lewis

The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Some short stories by Anton Chekhov

No Logo – Naomi Klein 

Authors I want to read, but haven’t decided what to read from them: 

– Nick Joaquin

– NVM Gonzales

– Ninotchka Rosca

Also read: 

Poetry and prose, both local and foreign

Writing Goals

-Write thoughts and feelings in diary/online journal more often. Don’t keep anything from self

-Utilize bullet journal

-Make headway with novel / short stories

-Write more articles; do more investigative journalism

-Experiment with poetry

Film Goals

I’m not a movie/film person, I must admit, I hate watching from a screen thanks to my short attention span. I think I have to move on from YouTube videos and embark on a journey to explore the beauty of the world of film. Perhaps I can start with a few Fellinis!

Any book and film recommendations to kickstart my year? Your suggestions are welcome!

a quick write

I’m running late for my endorsement but when I promised myself I’ll try my best to write on my diary or online journal everyday for at least fifteen minutes, my only option is to be true to my word. It’s a Saturday and supposed to be a rest day, but I have to be in school in a bit. I cooked spinach pasta with garlic pesto sauce for breakfast and I realized it’s the first breakfast I’ve had in months. Due to my busy hours and hectic schedule, eating breakfast has become a luxury. Most days I only eat once a day, either in the afternoon or when I get home from work and school, around 10 pm, which is really bad for me. Nevertheless, finals week is approaching and it’ll be the holiday break soon, so that’s something I’m looking forward to. At least I can catch up with sleep and reading. Ah, reading. One of the greatest (and freest) things in this life. I went to school yesterday even though I didn’t have class just so I could stay in the library and read all afternoon. I also had an hour talk with a good friend before leaving school and it was good having to let out my emotions, because I never, but I know that I cannot keep things to myself forever, so I’m glad for good friends who are there to listen.

I finally finished Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun yesterday (quite disappointed in myself for taking a week, actually, because it’s just over a hundred pages!) and lately I’ve been sticking to short stories instead of novels because I know my schedule wont permit me to devour a long winding novel in one sitting; reading short stories make me feel more accomplished with my reading goals because I get to finish a couple in just a few hours. In Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun, a handful of stories moved and stuck with me, most especially the Fog Horn and A Sound of Thunder. My fixation and love for dinosaurs go a looooong way back—back when I was in first grade and memorized every scientific name of the dinosaurs from the Jurassic, Cretaceous and Triassic periods from my flash cards. These magnificent creatures affected me in a way no other animal ever has; I don’t exactly know what, but they are such beautiful and brilliant creatures. Whenever someone asks me what my favorite animal is and I say dinosaurs, they tell me, “But they’re dead.” And it annoys me so much because who cares? They’re majestic. I can blab about my love for dinosaurs all day long, but sadly I do not have all the time in the world anymore 😦

But yes, Golden Apples of the Sun, I’d say, is a 4/5 for me and I’d definitely read it again to go back to my favorite ones. There are other notable stories in there that I loved too, such as The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, The Murderer, The Great Wide World Over There, and The Pedestrian. I then borrowed The Martian Chronicles and quite excited to start with it today!!! (After my endorsement, I suppose ugh) even though I am also supposed to be studying for my oral exam on Monday and quiz on Tuesday so I guess I have to put it off for now…or stay up late and read around midnight. I also borrowed a collection of Elizabeth Bishop’s prose. I’ve never heard of her; I don’t know, maybe because I haven’t read every book in this world so I’m not really familiar with her, but there’s just something about the book that called to me, so I’m excited to read her too. Of course I am still with Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. This book, in particular, is one I never want to return. I want to keep it to myself forever, scribble down notes on the margins of the pages whenever I find a phrase or a piece that strikes me. But I have to return it soon, and just thinking of it breaks my heart. I hate saying goodbye to borrowed books, but I also know there’s a next reader waiting and they must must must be touched by Neruda.

I love Neruda; if there is any writer in this world that makes me love the most mundane things in life, really, it is Don Pablo. He makes me see the Beauty in life. No one else. No one else. From the way he writes poetry about boxes of tea, bars of soap, scissors, plates, onions, tomatoes, a freaking spoon! He can make anything in this world magical with his words. It’s funny because every time I read Neruda, I am left overwhelmed, with a racing heart and tears in my eyes. What a man.

houses and homes

A few days ago I smashed my ceramic pottery out of anger. It was anger I’ve never felt before; I felt it swell and pulse in my breast, then spiral inward and inward and inward into my chest like a corkscrew, until it turned about, ready for release. Hot salty tears blinded me. I kicked and raged in my bed, screamed into the night, my voice echoing about in my ears. I grabbed one lopsided pot and threw it against the wall. It shattered into pieces, the part and parcel of what was once whole skidding in different directions. I took a ceramic plate and hurled it down my tiled balcony floor with all my might. It shattered too. I broke the rest, feeling my anger subside with every smashing sound, yet I secretly hated myself even more. Minutes and hours of pottery practice, now scattered in smithereens, gone. After I’ve exhausted myself I fell to my floor in a heap, silently sobbing myself to sleep. I woke on the same floor with dust on my face, soiled feet, and a bitter taste in my mouth. I spent the morning crying and the rest of the day in a somber mood, feeling as if I’m carrying the whole world on my shoulders.

Today is a holiday. I have barred myself from the whole world with one slam of the door. I’ve been feeling worse and worse every day, and I am so tired of walking inside the same house, tiptoeing my way in because I do not feel at home in my own home. I am outside in my balcony, trying to write my feelings away because I have no one to talk to. Or, perhaps, because I always refuse to talk to somebody. I am sitting on my cooler/makeshift chair, my laptop resting on top of my pottery work table, Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things lying beside me. I feel so lost. I’m looking at the things around me: My pottery wheel, my pots and bowls, my clay, my tools, this lamp. I cry for these inanimate things; someday I would have to say goodbye to all of this, knowing full well that this house won’t be home anymore some time soon. I think of all the people in this world, those with no families, those who left everything behind to build a new life, starting from nothing — as if reborn again — but this time without the hands of their parents to support them and teach them how to walk. How did they do it? What if I can’t do it? What if I fail? And I think of all the people who don’t really have homes; and of people whose only homes are themselves. Like snails. Like me.

What makes a home? Is it the presence of a family? Of one’s favorite things? Peace and quiet? Solitude? A welcoming doormat? Does home pertain to the contents of one’s cupboard and books gathering dust on the shelf or the kind of flowers in the foyer vase? Is it the notes held by magnets on the fridge, ‘Remember to buy eggs and creamer’ — or is it the photographs hanging silently on the wall, silent, but speaks a thousand words? Is it the soiled shoes stowed away behind doors, evident of the day’s adventure, or is it the hamper filled to the brim with dirty clothes, or the waste basket with its certain sundries, each piece of trash personal and distinctive to its maker?

I’m only twenty yet I feel so so old, as if I’ve been around forever. And I feel so so weary, as if I can sleep forever. I’d like to believe my life is just starting, not ending, even though I always feel like it is. I’m still trying to make out what home really is and what it really means; what I have right now, I’ve surmised, is not home.

When I think of home, I think of myself living alone in a quaint, tiny apartment with secondhand antiques. There would be a comfy bed and endless stacks and stacks of books and novels and almanacs and maps; I would have a clean, well-lighted desk for my writing and rumination, a work area for my pottery, and a small kitchen. Maybe there would be a tin can of tea bags or two, a couple of mismatched spoon and forks, and teacups — not wineglasses. I want to have a big canvas bag for my trips to the wet market, and maybe a nice woven hat; a pair of sharp scissors in my bathroom for my monthly trim, and a large jar of olive and castor oil for my face. I won’t have television, nor a landline and a doorbell, save for maybe an internet router, a little cellular phone, and my trusty laptop. I must have sheaves and sheaves of good paper, envelopes, and a giant box full of pens and pencils and erasers and sharpeners and more pens. A small space for my sad excuse of “yoga” and a heater. I want a wall of herbs lining my balcony, and a few potted edible plants for my own convenience. I want to grow a tomato tree and a chili tree, and I must have a water filter so the water man doesn’t have to bother me every week. I’ll have a small cupboard for spices, and magnets on my humble fridge. I won’t have instant food in my house. And I want one bureau for all of my clothing and nothing more. I want a window by my bed; not too big for the whole world to see me in, but big enough so I can look out and watch people and still be clandestine. My Smith & Corona typewriter will be in my bedroom, along with my vinyl pieces and cassette tapes, and my favorite Neruda and Bradbury and Szymborska on my bedside table with my journal and #2 pencil. I won’t have a car but I must have a bike. I won’t have an alarm clock because by this time, I hope, I’d have mastered and disciplined myself to get up at the right hour of the day to fulfill my responsibilities. I’ll have two extra pillows for when the night gets cold, and an extra long blanket to cover the tips of my toes. A medicine cabinet. A calendar. An umbrella stand. A library card. A sudoku book!!! A sheet of sleeping pills. An extra key for my lover. A lover.

And he can come by any hour, any day, of the week. And he can stow his shoes behind my door and sleep beside me until the time he has to leave again…and come back to me again. Secretly I want to wake up with his arm around my waist and his mouth leaving trails of kisses on my shoulder and neck and I’ll just know it will be a good day, and I will slip my arm–numb and swarming with imaginary pins–from underneath his sleeping head but, I think, I think, I cannot have everything. But we can sit by my sorry couch for a while and talk about life over wine (or orange juice), and kiss over wine (or orange juice), and see and know and touch and drink and eat of each other’s love, love from the marrow of our bones, the very essence of our souls. And by this time I will know love and what it truly means, and I will return it tenfold to every person I come across in this Life. And when I speak, I’d speak with spontaneity and not have to turn to my stash of ready-made retorts. And when I walk down the street for my daily afternoon walk, I won’t be wringing my hands because I will have, by then, not store-bought confidence but real esteem. I won’t be a “Yes, but” person, but a woman with a little spice, and I won’t have to wonder if I’m living for my eulogy or my resumé because I will be living for neither. And perhaps I will still talk to walls and inanimate things and write every beginning sentence with a coordinating conjunction, but when I turn my key in my door I’d turn it with no hesitation and when I walk inside, it won’t have to feel foreign (as if I was invading someone else’s space) because home will finally feel like home.

Life… Life, you’re beautiful, but most days you just fail to take my breath away. You just can’t get any more fecund, rainbowy, more anthillful, changeful, contriving, or uncertain-y. Sometimes I walk by flowers and think, “What a waste!” When you think about how much effort was spent on perfecting this precise petal, that precise pistil and scent, all for a one-time appearance, so short-lived yet vulnerably proud. And I look at myself, after all, why me and not the rest? Sewn up in skin and not fur or scales, topped off not by leaves but with eaves of hair and a face, this precise self–sinful not divine–not in a nest, but in a house, a house but not a home?

of late

Yesterday, my dad told me, “You’re just a great waste of a brilliant mind.”

His words rang in my ears the whole day, haunting the very recesses of my brain. I spent the entire afternoon crying in bed, my room a mess, me still wearing yesterday’s clothes and with unwashed hair. I was heartbroken, I must admit. I took two sleeping pills to calm myself down and spent the night drifting in and out of sleep, unable to determine if I was in a dream or reality. I woke up at midnight, my head feeling heavy and cloudy; I hate taking sleeping pills because it always gave me bad headaches. I spent an hour editing my staff writer’s article before falling back to sleep. I woke up this morning with a heavy heart, hesitant to step out of my room, feeling like a stranger in my own home. My eyes are swollen and my nose feels stuffy; I refused to eat lunch with my family for the second week.

It’s seven in the evening now and I’m sitting in a cafe away from home. I still feel a bit irritated from the inquisitive taxi driver’s endless questions; he spoke like a machine gun, very persistent with his inquiries about my personal life. I don’t like talkative people, to be honest, and my energy was drained by the time I got down from his cab. I bought a ticket to a math rock band I love; I thought it would be a great experience going alone, but I’m sort of regretting it now. I feel queasy and my knees are gelatinous; why on earth did I bother going alone? What if I look awkward? What if some creep tried getting it on with me? I have an hour left before the concert starts and here I am, sitting in this cafe with my overpriced watered down espresso, trying to calm myself. I find it so funny that I went out tonight for a concert, yet I still brought with me my journal and a trusty book. Tonight’s pick? Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda. And I can gush all night about Don Pablo because he is out of this world, but I don’t want to sound annoying. Anyway, I am sitting here and I’m torn between writing and reading. I haven’t written much, but I haven’t read much lately either, save for a couple of short stories from Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun. I have finally convinced myself to push through with the concert anyhow. I don’t know why I’m freaking out. I love being alone. I’m a loner. Being by myself is my thing but maybe it’s because of the situation. I wouldn’t mind being alone in a library or a cafe, but a concert where people are usually in groups? It gives me the heebie jeebies. But of course I will keep on. I came here for the music and most likely I’ll stay in a corner at the back. I should stop being so neurotic. I’ll probably write about the concert when I get the time.

Here’s an interesting thing (and I feel shy admitting it to myself in my own journal ugh). I think I’m attracted to someone. I know it’s real because I couldn’t care less about his physical appearance. If I asked myself a year or two ago, I would say, No way! But I really like this guy. And I think it’s real because I don’t care if he’s shorter than me (I’m 5’9 anyway so) and that he has horrible fashion sense (white t-shirt, baggy jeans with frayed hem, anyone???) but I don’t care. I like him because I can trust him and he’s brilliant and honest and noble and intellectual and kind and thoughtful…I can go on, but I think I’ve made my point clear anyway. I like him, but wow, I have no way in telling if he likes me back. I doubt it because my intuition tells me he only thinks of me as a friend or, worse, a child—and that royally sucks, okay. But yeah, I like someone! I think this is serious stuff because it takes me an eternity to be attracted to someone! Also maybe why my mother thinks I’m lesbian lol.

Anyway, it’s now 7:18 and I’ll be heading to the concert hall in 27 minutes. I feel so weird. First time I felt anxious being alone but who knows, going alone to a concert can be the worst (or best) idea. God, I should stop being a tool. Who even overthinks this much?!?!? Holy shit. I’m supposed to unwind tonight; that’s why I left the chaos of my house in the first place. I can’t be stressed here too. I should stop overthinking things.

Moving on. I’ve been plotting my life timeline a few days ago and I plan to leave my parents’ roof by the time I turn 22. My goal in life is to be independent and self-sustaining, and free myself from my parents’ chokehold and religious carceral bondage. Another goal of mine is to help my younger brother do the same. My parents are so radical with their views they’d disown me if I left the church, but I’ve been contemplating for the past two years and I realized, I don’t mind. Anything for my freedom and happiness, and I realized, there’s no excuse to not be able to live my life. I don’t mind (but of course I do) if they disown me, as long as I am free—even if it means losing everything I have right now. And that’s why I’m busting my ass every day because I know I will suffer even more once I get out, but I also know that at least, if I do make it in the end, I can call my success my own. And I also accepted the possibility that even if I work so hard every day, there’s no guarantee at all that I will be successful. And that’s okay, too, but I’m living every day with so much determination to get myself out of here. Everyday I am mentally preparing myself for The Great Leave, whispering goodbyes to my favorite inanimate objects at home because I know I wont forever see them, that home wont be home some time soon. My four walls are testament to my nightly cries of the heart; they have seen everything. And I will get myself out of here.

My younger brother told me three days ago, “You don’t have to do things alone.” And I get his point because he has an amazing support group, from his huge group of friends to his best friend who is also his lover; his support system is really solid. I have a few countable people in my life who I trust, but no matter how much I trust them, I will always keep them at arm’s length. And this has nothing to do with me not trusting them enough; it’s just the way I am, I suppose. I keep to my own. My problems are my own. I get my brother’s point, but I also felt angry when he told me that. I don’t have to do things alone? No shit. I have to. He doesn’t understand and perhaps he never will and that’s okay, but I can’t go around twiddling my thumbs. I have to do things alone, just like how I always do. And I can. And I’ve done it before and I will do it again. I don’t need a support group. Yeah okay sometimes I envy him and the love he receives from his friends, how they always keep each other up; how, no matter dark his day gets, his best friend / lover is always there to kiss his sorrows away and sometimes, sometimes I long for that kind of intimacy. Just someone to squeeze my hand, I guess, and kiss my ear, in silence, and the silence will mean everything. But I guess just that one person who I can run to every night. I don’t have that person in my life. I have never. And sometimes I wonder if I will ever have that or will I never because of the way I distance myself from people; but you know, it’s just a silly thing, I guess, more of like a fantasy, I think. The thought is very tempting to entertain, but I think in reality I’m too proud and too chicken shit to open myself up like that to someone. And that has its advantages and pitfalls. By keeping people away, I am able to displace myself and my baggage from burdening anyone, but I also risk losing the people that matter to me by isolating them. And I will never win this, I think, but knowing my stubborn self, I will still keep on. Until, I guess, someone slaps reality to my face. For now, I am fine this way.

***concert update***

Right. So it’s 7 am of the following morning and can I just say I had such an amazing night last night! It wasn’t as awkward as I dreaded. Apparently while I was in line to go inside the concert hall, I met an acquaintance and his friend and we pretty much just stuck to each other the whole night! The atmosphere was phenomenal and we grabbed dinner and a few cold beers afterwards. I’m weak shit, so I felt out of it on my second beer. We finished around midnight. It was pretty funny, I think, because I am not in good terms with my parents but they fetched me last night because it was late; I think even though my parents and I fight all the time and don’t see eye to eye, I think they will always worry about me. And that makes me feel bad as a piece of shit daughter; of course I appreciate them picking me up and not wanting me to go home late at night by myself but that doesn’t change my plans, of course. I still plan to leave this place. People would say I’m an ungrateful bitch. I don’t think I am. Maybe some people will never understand, but like what I said, there’s no excuse to not be able to live my life.

So today’s a Monday morning. Quite thankful my professors canceled classes today because I need the extra hours to myself; I still have to go to internship this afternoon, but I also have a lot of things to finish. I have to get some reading done for my research and of course, editorial duties again because when do they ever end??? I’m not complaining and I don’t want my staff writers to think I hate my job because I don’t; I dont want this editorial job to feel like a chore. I want to love what I’m doing and I do, but sometimes it just feels robotic. Or maybe I just lack discipline so I guess I need to work on that more… Internship is also ending; today’s my last week and it is bittersweet for me. Glad I am out of this bureaucratic corporation, but sad I will be leaving the people behind, these people who are trapped in this bureaucracy with no choice. I’m going to miss them so much, but I am also ready to move forward. I’m thinking of taking spinning class or wall climbing next term; I got soft this term because I didn’t work out at all. I will give all the excuses and reasons (because I’m busy with school and being an editor and with internship and my part-time job blah blah blah) but really, I just sound like a dumbass. I need to be active again and of course, lose the pounds and just be healthy. I may be vegan, but I’ve been eating shit lately. I have two terms left before I graduate from university; the fact itself makes my heart race, out of excitement and anxiety, but leaning more towards anxiety!!! I still don’t know what to do. Definitely not a corporate job in HR, that’s for sure, but lately I’ve been exploring a lot of stuff, such as online content marketing writing and data analytics and the opportunity presented itself a few days ago when an older woman who i met from one of my writing gigs two years ago messaged me and asked me if i wanted to do content marketing for her because she’s now, apparently, a digital marketing content manager—a work-at-home job that allows her to be with her baby the whole day, i suppose. and it’s cool, because the opportunity came in good timing and at least i get to earn a few bucks from it. good enough to cover my allowance when my mother’s been withholding mine l-o-l.

wow. i’m like a bottle that has lost its stopper, my contents flowing freely from my mouth. i don’t mean to ramble, but it just feels so good to write this down. maybe it’s because of all my pent up emotions; the release is almost orgasmic. ha.

i’m looking out the window of the kitchen balcony and looking at all the things in this floor and it’s just sad that i would have to say goodbye to all of this soon. i think of all the people in this world, those with no families, those who left everything behind to build a new life, starting from nothing, as if reborn again, but this time without the support of their parents to teach them how to walk. how did they do it? what if i can’t do it? what if i fail? and i think of people who don’t really have homes, and of people whose only homes are themselves. like snails. like me. what makes a home? is it the presence of a family? of one’s favorite things? peace and quiet? Solitude? a welcoming doormat? is it the contents of one’s cupboard? books gathering dust on the shelf or the kind of flowers in the foyer vase? is it the notes held by magnets on the fridge? what makes a home? is it the photographs that hung silently on the wall—silent, but speaks a thousand words? or is it the shoes stowed away behind doors, or the laundry basket filled to the brim with soiled clothes, or the waste basket with its certain sundries, each piece of trash personal and distinctive to its maker?

I’m only twenty, yet I feel so old, as if I’ve been around forever. And i feel so so weary, as if I can sleep forever. I’d like to believe my life is just starting, not ending, even though I always feel like it is. I’m still trying to make out what home really is and what it really means; what I have right now is not home, but I will figure out someday what home is for me. I will make my own home. Away from here.

A clean, well-lighted place

I finally forced myself to clean my room yesterday even though I was anxious of cleaning up after myself in denial of whoever knows what. I folded my clothes, took out my trash, swept my room, mopped my bathroom, cleaned my drains, emptied my laundry basket, arranged my desk, and finally changed my sheets. It took me two hours, though I think this is only because my avoidant coping behavior kicked in again and I would take numerous breaks from cleaning to procrastinate and avoid cleaning.

I really hate this avoidant behavior of mine. It’s what I’m doing now. I’m supposed to be doing my thesis’ review of related literature, but here I am typing this just so I could avoid it, telling myself I’ll write first before proceeding but I’ve been going around in circles since 10 am and, fyi, it’s already 6:36 pm. It’s disgusting behavior and something I’m really trying my best to battle, even though I feel as if I really am not trying. Though to be fair, I did finish the marketing project for my internship last night (though I did sleep at 3 am) and I tell myself I can always do it earlier so I don’t have to sleep late, but I am so stubborn and difficult that even I don’t listen to the more rational side of myself.

Either way, this day felt pretty good. Definitely better than most days. I didn’t cry the moment I woke up, for once, though the dark thoughts are still at the back of my head. Still, I was able to heave myself up from bed at 9 am and make myself a banana soy smoothie. I started rereading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comics again today and found myself lost in the Preludes and Nocturnes volume. I actually finished the entire volume today, and plan to finish the other nine volumes in the next nine days. I realized I’ve been far too busy and depressed that I’ve forgotten the joy books give me; after finishing Preludes and Nocturnes, I found my heart racing and my hands shaking from excitement and just happiness. I’ve never felt this way in so long and cannot wait to get back into so much reading again.

The last comic book I read was Alan Moore’s Watchmen last term, about June or July? It’s already November, and I know I need to read and write more and I really am angry at myself for not being able to, but really, I just miss the feeling of losing myself to a long winding body of literature, not even noticing that the entire day has passed me by. And Watchmen is deserving of another post; that graphic novel changed my life, no exaggeration. Alan Moore is a genius and I can see why; he is totally unmatched and he changed the entire game of superhero comics. Rorschach will always be dear to my heart, and his death will always put me to grief, even more depressing than the Ride of the Valkyrie, and I will never not be angry at Veidt’s sick utilitarian mentality, playing with human life to achieve his “greater good” not out of goodness, by the way, but just another reason to intellectually masturbate himself and tell the world, “I am right.” Okay, I digress. But god, I just miss reading so so much.

Finishing volume 1 of Sandman today put me in such a good mood, as if nothing can dampen my day and, I think, if I want to be in a good mood the next few days then I must continue reading because so far it’s really the only thing that takes away my blues. And I don’t know if it is just me, but I always feel insecure because I always think I’m not reading enough books and novels and poetry and not listening to enough podcasts and what-have-yous, but it’s just one of those stupid thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with doing these at my own pace, I know that, but there’s just so much books to read and things to appreciate and wow, I just get so overwhelmed! A lifetime is never enough.

On another note, I finally fixed my tiny balcony and took out my dead plants to create space because I’m turning it into a pottery shed. I transferred there all my stoneware clay and ceramic pottery and my pottery wheel, and am already feeling excited of getting back into pottery. School and internship and work definitely suck the soul out of me, and I just long to spend entire afternoons doing slab work and pulling endless walls for my bowls. Today I found myself watching videos of my favorite potters and sculptors creating magic with clay, and I told myself I will never get better if I keep putting off practice. I tell myself, “I know how to do pottery” but my skill and knowledge of the craft will disintegrate if I don’t hone it.

I still have difficulty centering my clay on bad days, still end up pulling lopsided walls when I try to make a cylinder, and, after reading an article by Jane Gross today, I realized (affirmed by her own musings) that the clay will tell me how and where I am. I can only get better with practice, and a lopsided lip or a ruined wall or an uncentered clay only says one thing: I lack practice and discipline. And answering these faults with aggravation and frustration is fruitless, because it is my own fault for not nurturing my craft, and I will always always always scold myself for neglecting pottery because I do not have the right to even dream of becoming a skilled potter if I don’t put the hours in. And I must put the hours in.

But, on another note, out of the many things I’ve learned from pottery, my favorite thus far is how much the craft of pottery encourages me to be unkempt and make a mess. It feels so good being encouraged to make a mess while doing pottery, especially when people have been telling me my whole life not to make any. And so, whenever I do get the change to do pottery, I try to make as much mess as I could and don’t bother if I splatter water and mud all over my clothes and walls and floor and face, because there is so much beauty and happiness in this chaos, and it is only here wherein I can really truly cherish my mess and be proud of it. Which is why, I think, my most favorite state of myself is at the cusp of just having finished a pottery session, when my hair’s all disheveled and I’m covered with clay and everything’s a wet mess, because I know I basked in my own mess doing something that gives me so much joy (albeit sometimes painful and frustrating) and I did not have an ounce of inhibition that muddled with my mind. So definitely, more pottery practice in the next few days.

Right now I am sitting on my desk in my sort-of-clean room, typing this because I am still avoiding writing my review of related literature. I hate forcing myself to do tasks whenever I am not in the mood, but I can’t do this forever. Because when will I ever be in the mood? I know, for myself, that what I lack is discipline and discipline is something anybody can learn, through time and perseverance. And I don’t need rocket science or a PhD to learn it and, in fact, just need to have strong self-restraint and will. This avoidant coping behavior has go to go, it is disgusting and inefficient and no good ever comes out of this kind of behavior. I must uphold discipline and fight the mediocrity. It is so much easier said than done, but this is something I don’t want to beat myself up for. I’ve been this way for the longest time, ever since I was a kid, and I think this stemmed from years of being bullied and being insecure? And so, I must nurture myself and try my best, and try not to ever hate myself if ever I find myself slipping. I have to be kinder to myself also, I think, and more patient.

Right. So I have to read more, practice pottery more, be more disciplined, and be kinder to myself. What else?

Well, I think I have to show people more how much they mean to me. I hope it isn’t just me, but I always feel unworthy and undeserving of anyone’s time, and sometimes on social media I browse through people’s posts and see them out with their friends and I think of how much fun they are having going out and seeing places,and I tell myself I don’t have to always be afraid, that there’s nothing wrong or scary or guilt-inducing about asking a friend out to hang out with me. And tell them how much they matter to me. And out of all the things I mentioned above, this is what I want to improve on the most: Just be a more open and loving person to people that actually matter to me. I don’t have to be all holed up all the time? And I should tell people how much joy I feel whenever I spend time with them. There really is no point not saying it, because it is the truth and, of course, what else can be better than telling the people you love that you love them?

Again, easier said than done, but as long as I am trying my best then that’s all anyone can ever ask for, I guess. I also bought a ticket to a concert of a band I do not know—and I’m watching alone. I don’t know what was running in my head when I bought the ticket to a band I do not even listen to, but I told myself, Just try something new. And who knows, I might like the band after all? And it wasn’t that expensive, and I guess I wanted to treat myself also, but not in a way that I usually do, so I got the ticket on impulse so I can experience something new and out of my comfort zone. I remind myself, I dont have to be anxious because I’m going there for the music, and even though there will be lots of people there with their friends, I don’t have to make it awkward for myself. I enjoy my own company, so I doubt I’d have a hard time (I hope!) and I’m quite excited, actually. I do not know any of the band’s songs so it would be a surprise as well.

Anyway, I think I’ve avoided my review of related literature long enough. My mind has calmed down and I feel at peace rambling here, so I think I can finally work on my thesis. It is 7:16 pm and my heart and mind feels lighter. Sometimes I tell myself it’s okay to put off things to write if it means giving myself the peace of mind—and it does, and if it’s good for the wellbeing of my mental and emotional health, then I shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

But as a note to myself:

1). Be more open and intimate to the people that matter to me, and don’t be afraid to show and tell them that I love them.

2). Read more—for my sanity’s sake.

3). Practice pottery more, because neglecting to practice a craft is insulting.

4). Be more disciplined with tasks and try harder in getting rid of my avoidant coping behavior

5). Be kinder to myself. There’s nothing wrong with rambling and writing down my thoughts and emotions if it’s for the wellbeing of my mental and emotional health—and I shouldn’t feel guilt for this.

6). If all else fails, I can always try again tomorrow.