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.

my mother told me

when i talked to my mom tonight, she told me that i have the hardest of hearts. i do not deny it; i know for myself that my heart is hardened. i don’t remember a time when it wasn’t or maybe i do, but i try too hard to leave it out of my head. i can never say i am proud of it but before, when people would say i have a hard heart, i took pride in it. i saw it as a sign of strength and independence, meaning that i am a determined woman who takes no shit from people. but now, i realize how wrong i am, and having a hardened heart (the hardest of hearts, according to my mom) might just be the reason why i am depressed.

i always study people and scrutinize them, but never do it to myself. maybe i can do it for this night. i can say that i have a hardened heart due to a lot of reasons. betrayal in the past, the incapability to forgive, holding grudges… i use these past experiences to justify my hardness, and i’ve made myself believe that it’s a strength rather than a flaw. hearing my mom tell me i have the hardest of hearts was more of an instant recognition than a slap to the face for me, to be honest. i know i have a hardened heart and i took pride in it, but now, i feel defeated.

i realized i have a hardened heart because of a number of instances. for one, when it came to people, i focused on their behavioral patterns than who they really are. as i focus on their patterns, i make assumptions and theories about them. in short, i treat people like lab rats. always in constant study and scrutiny, making hypotheses about them, that sort of thing. i lived up to my field of area; that if i were to study the social sciences, i have to be a social scientist in all aspects. i thought i was an expert in people and truth be told, i am pretty good in identifying behavior and predicting people, but there was one thing that i ignored. that people are capable of change, and they are as unpredictable as they can be. i was wrong to think i can make people’s actions finite; to make it measurable and empirical, to judge them based on their habits and patterns. i focused too much on the external as compared to getting to know who they really are and the worst part is, i enjoyed it. i enjoyed treating people like lab rats because it made me feel like a genius when i’m not.

second is i stopped believing the best about people. i made myself believe that all people are the same: that they will hurt me. because of this perception, i’ve placed people at arm’s length. never trusting, never believing, always in doubt. sometimes i tell people i trust them when i really don’t, and when i feel myself opening up to someone, i immediately cut them off and walk away. i enjoyed doing the leaving because i was so afraid to find myself at the losing end again that i promised myself that starting now, i’ll be the one doing the leaving. i promised myself to always cling to that power of getting rid of people when i get tired of them.

there are a lot of things about me, actually, that are sure signs of being a total jerk. putting just some of them into words–i never expected it to sting this much. so my mother says i have the hardest of hearts, and now that i think about it, having a hardened heart does not make me strong at all. it makes me weak. weak, because i am unable to feel. weak, because i stop myself from feeling. weak, because i am apathetic by choice. weak, because all this time, i took pride in my expertise of running away because that’s the only thing i’m good at. i no longer stand up for people and fight for them, even though i love them, because i just want to run away from everything and everyone. for me, giving up on people and walking away is the right, and that makes me a callous insensitive motherfucker.

here i am, thinking i know everything about everybody; predicting people because i think i can, treating them like lab rats because it amuses me, walking away when i get bored and lose interest, walking away so i can look for a new subject to study, always on the lookout for a new guinea pig. i’ve lost my passion for people, and this is the worst state i can ever be in, this poverty of the soul. i am saying this now, i do not want to live like this for the rest of my life. i think i have passed up too much great people because i am a coward, because i always expect the worst in people before i even get the chance to know them. i am being too clammed up, too afraid, too cowardly and i justify this by saying that having a hardened heart is a sign of strength when it is the biggest sign of weakness.

i dont know how to go about this, and i feel like i have to change but don’t know where to start. i think i am lost, but i am too proud to admit it. maybe i need to reach out and ask for help, but am too egotistical to do so. one thing is for sure: i do not want to live with a hardened heart. where i will start and how i will change is still unclear to me, but i do not want to live this way. i cannot be mad at the world forever.