Mirror

Every morning, as I prepare for work, and every night, as I prepare for bed, I tell myself that I am beautiful. My special someone tells me I’m beautiful multiple times, every single day. Sometimes, out of complete humor, I send text messages to my family, just to remind them that I am beautiful. I don’t always get the best responses, but I know deep down, they know it. Lols. There was a time though when I was not this confident and loving of myself.

I was a thin and lanky kid growing up. So thin and lanky that a relative actually told my mom I probably had tuberculosis. At first in school, it wasn’t so much about me being ‘too thin’ though. I was teased for having a ‘big nose’. “Tomato nose” that’s what I was called, and it’s the reason I’ve always been bashful about my nose. I remember one instance when a classmate told another classmate that when I smiled, my nose only got bigger. That very instance was the reason I smiled less back then.

There was also a time when I was considered ‘maitim’ (dark skinned) and ‘pangit’ (ugly). That confused me because at home, my family considered me ‘beautiful’, and no one ever called me names because of how my skin looked. It bothered me why some people in school referred to me as ‘ugly’.

I still remember those days like they were only yesterday. I still remember how I felt.

I eventually moved on from it for some time, but it was like a voice that kept haunting. You never forget those things, do you?

I started having weight issues in my 20’s. Who knew that the thin and lanky girl would get flabs in the most unflattering of places. I was mostly teased about my arms that were likened to those of a boxer’s, and my belly. I used to wear whatever I wanted, but then, I suddenly couldn’t. It felt like it didn’t fit. It felt like it didn’t look as good as it did before. It felt like it didn’t look becoming.

There was always something wrong because my body was so wrong. My body was so wrong all because it didn’t look like the others that were leaner and more shapely. I disliked my body so much that I even avoided full-length mirrors like a plague. All these, just because I didn’t look like everyone else.

It took time, like just recently, for me to realize how I allowed other people’s perception get the better of me; how much I’ve punished myself for looking the way I did; and how unforgiving I’ve become of myself.

I realized that I can’t control other people’s opinions of me. Or even if I did, I figured, it’s not going to be worth anyone’s time. But I can change how I see myself. I can change how I feel about myself. I can be more positive.

Part of the journey is surrounding myself with people who inspire and encourage, and at the same time, learning to accept and give criticisms in stride – – constructively, and not insultingly. Certainly, hateful words do not and will never help.

And of course above all, I am learning to accept myself for what I am and for what I am not, knowing that how I see myself is more important than how others see me. I take steps to better myself FOR myself.

Frankly, it’s an awesome journey to be on. ❤️

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Gift

Do you remember this?

It’s the pen that you gave me during one of our occasions as a couple. “Write your story,” it says. In the box that it came with, you attached a short note. Part of your note says, “Take this everywhere with you, and let it remind you to write your own story, your own destiny. I hope to be in it.”

I remember feeling all giddy about what your note said, and even more because, of course I knew, that you were pushing me to write again.

But I didn’t write again.

After we broke up, I stopped taking it everywhere with me. I stopped using the pen. I placed it back in its box, together with your note. I hid it somewhere I can’t immediately see. I didn’t want to be reminded of you. I didn’t want to be reminded of us.

That was almost four years ago. Over the weekend, I saw the pen, and I read your note again. There was a slight tug on my chest. It wasn’t because of past hurts, but rather for the first time, your words – – – the ones you had engraved on the pen and written on your note – – – actually, truly spoke to me.

I have since gone back to writing, and I’m creating pieces more than I’ve ever. My pieces allow me to be myself, with each work baring my soul, allowing me to be free, and hopefully reflecting honesty, sincerity, and authenticity.

With each work, my story is told; With each work, my destiny unfolds.

My life.
My own.
On my own.

Without you.

Seven

Seven years ago, a day after my last day in Xavier, I started my journey in government service, on the 1st of April in 2011. My mom thought it was an April Fools’ joke, to be asked to start on such an awkward day. It’s true though, I was asked to report on April Fools’. And report I did, excitedly.

Quite fitting though because many thought it was foolish to leave a stable job where I had already reached my peak and where, to them, I had more room to grow even further; And even more foolish to join a government agency I had no idea actually existed before. Or even if I did, I chose to ignore.

To be honest, it wasn’t an easy choice, and at one point, because almost everyone was saying it, I started to think that maybe I was being foolish.

But life’s like that, I think. It allows you to be foolish in order for you to realize what’s actually important, or what will actually make you happier. In my case, it was important for me to explore other options, to see what else is beyond the walls of Xavier, and to find fulfillment again.

And explore and find fulfillment, I did. (Also convenience.)

Foolish choices don’t always turn out well, I know, but they’re also not complete and automatic failures.

In my case, my 7-year foolish choice has turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever made.

Segregate

Been cleaning my room since yesterday afternoon, and I’m only halfway done. Everything is being categorized into ‘dump’, ‘donate’, and ‘keep’.

It’s amusing how cleaning out your stuff can turn into a trip down memory lane though, and how difficult but liberating it gets when you start deciding on what to keep and what to throw away, and how each thing, though material, has played a part in your life. It’s like saying, “I want to keep remembering this” or “I want to stop being reminded of this.” I found lots of both in my pile. I’m a hoarder, I know. I’m kind of like Sheldon in that sense although unlike him, I choose to let go of most of my stuff.

Here’s one I found that I’m choosing to keep and always be reminded of. Taken either in 2007 or 2008 for the Grade 7 yearbook, during my last year as an administrator. Quite the throwback, indeed.

Behind the Smile 

I’ve debated with myself many times before on whether or not I should write about this. Unfortunately, one of the things that’s so difficult to do is to be honest to oneself, so I’ve always opted with the latter. But I’ve later realized that no meaningful or sincere growth and happiness can ever be attained without honesty, and eventually, acceptance.

It started six or seven years ago. I don’t remember exactly what caused it or how it started. I, however, remember everything I felt, like it happened just yesterday. I call them my ‘episodes’.

I felt so exhausted — every single day, even when my day has not even begun. I wanted to ‘disappear’ in my bed every single morning upon waking up. And even when I’ve managed to drag myself to work, I spent the first hours sobbing until my eyes turned puffy and swollen. And while I sobbed, one close friend stayed beside me in silence to offer me an assuring hug after I was done. Each ‘morning crying routine’ dragged on for hours. After which, after my work has already been disrupted, I half-heartedly went about my tasks in a desperate attempt to brush the feeling off, only to do the same routine again the following day.

I hated myself. I felt so ugly, and I hated myself for it. This made me overly-sensitive and easily-irritable. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions, one minute I was my old usual happy goofy self, and the next, either sullen or gloomy, for no reason at all. I took offense in things that I commonly just ignored.  Today, I am the life of the party. Tomorrow, I isolate myself. I feel sorry for myself. I am terribly sad. My heart is often racing. I am overly nervous, anxious about something – nothing. I am constantly worried. Most nights, I spent awake. Some nights, I spent crying. Waking up with puffy eyes became a normalcy.

When I was asked what the matter was, or what the problem was, I didn’t exactly know what to say. How do I say that I felt terribly sad? How do I say that I was unhappy about life? How do I say that I feel like I have lost my purpose? And if they found out, what will people say? How will people react?

The saddest part was, because I didn’t know what I was feeling, or didn’t know how to articulate it, or didn’t want to acknowledge it, I started to believe I was already losing it. And although I never thought of hurting myself to end the pain and sadness, I did hope to never wake from my sleep and just cease from existing. If you consider that suicidal, then yes, I was suicidal.

My last year at my previous job was a struggle. The only thing people saw were my ‘sob sessions’. Only a few people cared to know what I was going through, and only one or two stuck around to get the answer out of me even when I refused to give it. And since only a few people ‘cared’, I felt even sorrier for myself.

I left my previous job thinking I was only burnt out. Maybe I was, to some extent. I left to get some ‘rest’, and in the process find answers, and eventually clarity and peace.

I learned (how) to brush the feeling off. I masked it with the sweetest smiles. I disguised it with the heartiest and uncontrollable laughter. I learned to make fun of myself. I threw the corniest jokes. I thought, the goofier I appear(ed), the better.

I started on a new job, a field totally alien to me. I was excited. I was in a new environment, around different people, and learning new things. I was hopeful. It was during these attempts that I temporarily forgot about my sadness. I got my relief.

Years after, I still fall into my episodes every now and then. It’s sad to note too that my episodes have caused some of my relationships to fall out. It has been a struggle.

But instead of masking the sadness and pretending nothing’s wrong, I have learned to express my episodes in a more productive way. A few years back, my silence and tendency to keep my feelings and opinions to myself, made a former boss doubt my capabilities. I understand her now. Last year, I went back to my first love and true passion – – writing. Through it I am able to express myself better, vent if I need to, and appreciate as much as I can. It has helped in more ways than one. It has given more than just relief.

And because I’ve learned to see the good in releasing my emotions, I have also learned to appreciate life more and choose happiness rather than dwell on my sadness. Not to say that I never feel sadness anymore, because I do. It’s just that now, it’s easier to manage. It’s easier not to dwell.

I still feel sadness. I still get anxious. I still worry. But now, I am honest, and I actually mean it when I say I am happy.

Rest

At times when work gets too hectically busy, my go-to source of relaxation is a hot tub (mug) of coffee or tea with honey.

I put my pen down, take off my earpods, and head on to the office pantry to fix myself that perfect cup. This seemingly rough patch-free task is sometimes disrupted by an already empty hot water air pot, which I have to re-fill because someone chose not to, and now, I don’t have any choice but to. Once that’s done though, I stand beside the dining table with my favorite pink/green mug filled with my beverage of choice: today, it’s hot tea with honey. 

I do not drink it at the pantry. Instead, I proceed to stand in front of the window behind my desk, always my favorite spot. I draw the blinds just enough to reveal the green pastures and birds waiting to greet me. When I’m lucky, I watch, oftentimes in amazement, how the soft drizzle of rain touches the greens that happily await below. 

No chit-chat. No unnecessary things said or heard. Just me, my mug, and nature – – – the same, only more meaningful, respite from work. ☕

I AM BEAUTIFUL

Dear Doreen:


Yesterday, just as you were about to conclude what was supposed to be a great day, someone ruined it for you, with words that you feel (you believe) although meant to be funny as a joke, were unnecessary, offensive, and hurtful. That person might not have realized it, but her words stabbed you in the gut, quite badly. Her words left you embarrassed, angry, hurt, and worst of all, ashamed of the way you look.

Go ahead. I am allowing you some time to feel the pain. Cry if you must. Let it out, and let it go.

How very timely and apt that you chanced upon an article about someone else’s own struggles and how she lifted herself from such. It gave you some relief and assurance that you are not alone, didn’t it?  You are not the only one who gets undermined for the way you look. You are not the only one who has body issues. Everybody has it. But these so-called body imperfections are what makes you who you are. These imperfections are what makes you, YOU. These imperfections make you beautiful.

Yes, Doreen, you are beautiful. Say it again. You are beautiful. One more time, and this time, mean it. You are beautiful.

Look, I know you’re tired of the hurt, the pain caused by people’s words, expectations, and opinions of you. Stop listening to those that pull you down, and start appreciating yourself for who and what you are. I know it isn’t easy. It never really is, but it is possible — attainable, and you can do it.

Realize and acknowledge that as you go through life, you will still meet more people who will size you up and judge you. Let them. Keep in mind that you can never really please everyone, and you don’t really, actually have to.

Cast away negativity, and keep yourself open to positivity, always.

I love you. ❤️