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.

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?

The Sunday Currently

olaf

The Sunday Currently

Reading Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. I’m only on the first chapter and I am already hooked in; I can tell I’ll be devouring the entire thing today. I’m already excited to write about it when I’m finished because I can feel I’m going to love it. Do you ever get that feeling? When you’re starting on a new piece of literature and you just know you’ll love it, even though you haven’t finished it yet? That’s how I feel right now. Pretty crazy.

Writing in my journal again. Also rewriting and editing some of my staffers’ works—one of my many duties as editor now. It still hasn’t sunk in yet, but I hope I get used to this. Or not. I still feel jittery and excited! Leaning more towards the jitters though :<

Listening to Half Life by Imogen Heap. One of my favorites, a default piece that I replay over and over again on quiet afternoons like this.

Thinking about my future. I am so full of fear–fear of the future, fear of uncertainties, fear of life itself. I hate being neurotic and self-obsessed (something I got from my mother)

Hoping for a silver lining to get myself moving, even though I know for myself I shouldn’t have to wait for anything to start doing something.

Wanting to be away from everybody and everything. I’ll be having a 3 day team building activity this week and I’ve shut myself in avoiding all people, mentally preparing myself for the extended social interactions. so help me, universe. I am already dreading it. Wanting to start my novel as well, but can’t get myself to pick up my pen.

Feeling lost and stuck. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with my life, and I’m already putting too much pressure on myself as I am. I think it’s my mentality I need to change, but I also know I am stubborn.

Overall, I feel pretty disappointed in myself right now. Perhaps the next few days will be better. I keep reminding myself to take it easy. I still have one week left of uni break, and I need to breathe. I should take it easy.

train your doubts

whenever I find myself drowning in my woes and the world’s noise, I turn to chapter nine of Rainer Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. this masterpiece of his has been my pick-me-up for the longest time, his writing a comforting embrace to my insecurities, doubts, and distress. in this chapter, Rilke tells Mr. Kappus that his doubt may become a good quality, if he trains it.

our doubt must become knowing, it must be critical. whenever we are in doubt, we must ask it, demand proofs from it, why something is ugly. we must insist on arguments from our doubt. so often i find myself feeling sorry for myself when i am in doubt, and i make the blow even harder by centering on my ugly qualities and mistakes boohoo hoo, woe is me. i realize it is not fair to do this to myself, to be in doubt but not objective and constructive. to treat myself fairly, i must be objective even to the things i like the least about myself. Rilke says that if we are watchful and consistent, the day will arrive when our doubt—the destroyer—will become one of our best workers, perhaps the cleverest, even.

so we must train our doubts. no matter how tempting it is to kick ourselves down, remember that we must also be fair and objective. why is it ugly? why is it bad? why is it disappointing? why is it a failure? amidst all these questions, remind yourself to be kinder and fair to yourself. with all the injustices in this life, it would be absolute criminal that we be unjust to our own beings.