Some things I tell myself before going to sleep

I have always told myself that happiness is and will always be a personal choice. I have this as my WhatsApp status. I have tweeted several versions of this line on separate occasions. Of course, this also found itself as a much-liked status on my Facebook page. “What’s on your mind?”

I also tell myself how words are so powerful. I believe words become your realities. And so recently, I have been feeling down. My patience for the last few weeks as thin as my favorite loose T-shirt worn way past its glory. And then I realize how I have been constantly thinking out loud, saying out loud, that I have no patience for this and that. I have no patience for people who cannot seem to remember instructions told ten times over. No patience for people’s bullshit and fake smiles and plastic countenance. No patience for slow Internet connection. I mean, these are all valid reasons to lose your patience, right? But as I keep telling myself and other people about how impatient I am, I also become impatient with other unintended things…like myself. How stupid I have been not to pursue other job offers last year because I was banking on my promotion (which was given, yes, but short-changed). How until now, even only after a few months of inconsistently playing the guitar, I am not yet a pro. How I stopped reading books, and I used to devour books!

I am so unkind to myself.

This afternoon, a colleague of mine bid me “goodbye I’m leaving see you tomorrow” and I just grunted a noncommittal “mm”, didn’t even look at him to greet him back. And at back of my head, I was calling myself such a bitch for doing that. Why? Another colleague of mine, a close friend too, came back from great vacation and for some reason I dreaded seeing her. I did not know how to show happiness for her. I did not know if I could muster a big smile and just be honestly delighted for her. I mean, why? And then I told myself how I’m such a bad friend.

See what I mean? I am most unkind to myself and my thoughts. And thinking like this about myself makes it even worse. I become less of a good friend, more of a grumpy bitch. (At this point, I am typing on my keyboard so forcefully that I am afraid I might break my laptop).

Sometimes, I pretend that I am in a group of people. We gather once or twice a month and we share thoughts about a particular topic that we draw from a fishbowl. While I was washing dishes this evening, an hour before midnight, the slip of paper that came from my imaginary fishbowl had HAPPINESS written on it. So my imaginary circle of like-minded friends started talking about this topic. And then suddenly, an imaginary word fight begins. I stop the quarreling with a “Hey guys!” and a “Calm down!” So everyone sort of sits back down on our imaginary sofa with their arms crossed protectively across their chests, angry pouts pointing at me. Then I begin to remind them of why we gathered there in the first place. My imaginary inspiring speech goes like this:

“Guys, we must remember why we gathered here in the first place. We are here because we want to learn from each other. We are curious about what other people think about a certain topic. And we are not afraid to voice out our opinions because this is not a place of judgment. This is a place where we throw ideas and we will definitely disagree with each other at one point or another. That is bound to happen. We cannot escape that. But at the end of the day, we are not here to prove that we are better than everyone or anyone else. We are here to prove that we are better, can be better, than ourselves yesterday. We strive to be better versions of ourselves. (insert meaningful pause) That’s why we are here.”

At this point, I was rinsing the pan with a self-satisfied smirk on my face. And when I came back inside my room, washed dishes in tow, arms still cold and slightly wet, I realized I will not be able to sleep until I had all this written down. Otherwise I would just say all these things again to myself and end up not sleeping at all.

Changes

She passes by without her knowing that i am following her with a peripheral stare. And as she walked away, while my eyes catch the last billowing folds of her gentle skirt flowing in the wind, I know things have changed. I do not recognize her anymore. And she probably does not recognize me. All we have are snatches of our past life together. They are only months ago. But now they seem like an entire lifetime away. We have grown apart. That is sad. I would have liked to be her friend more. To talk to her about life at school, life at home, life with ourselves. There would have been many things to talk about and rant about and laugh about while waiting for class, on the way to the comfort room, or while standing in line at the canteen. But I guess things are too awkward now. I could have followed her. Run to her, even. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t know what to say after the first hi-hello is said. So all I did was fold my arms on the table and bury my face in them as the world around me detaches and the sound of everything is distorted by my memories of the day we first met.

I know this is a photo challenge. But when I read “Gone, But Not Forgotten“, I remembered my past friendships and this image formed in my mind. There was no way to show it but through words.

Second star to the right

At 12 noon today, while lazily scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw this article and chanced upon two new sobriquets for millennials such as myself: ADULTESCENTS and PETER PAN GENERATION.

Although I am still in my early twenties, I find myself nodding to the 34-year-old writer who, like myself, still do not have a house or family to call my own. Although, I am happy to say that I do have a job which I can call a “career”, I cringe every time I hear “10 Years Service Award”. At the back of my mind and under the soles of my feet, I still feel this need to be elsewhere. Do you know that mixed feeling of content and discontent? Contented at what I have here and now, but equally discontented about my overall state of life. There is this nagging, gnawing restlessness that I am not living up to my potential, or there should be something else “more fulfilling” that I should be doing, or that in general I should just throw caution to the wind, quit my job, and travel. Who the fuck cares about being broke? There is nothing quite like the lessons of travel. Money can be earned again, so be broke and explore. Yes, I read those inspirational quotes between IG posts of gourmet pastas and dressed up dogs.

A decade back, I have been invited to birthday parties and debutante balls and sleepovers. Now at my quarterlife, I have close friends who are already married. One of whom is already an expectant mother. And I still don’t know how to make up my own bed and pick up after myself! Geez, I know we’d get to this point, but wow that was fast. Where did all the years whiz by?

I have been hugely independent ever since I left home to go work in places where you need to buy a plane ticket first. I have taken steps into securing the future with a mutual funds/insurance account and a small condo unit investment I share with my dad. But in terms of settling down and having a family, can we talk about that next year?

So there. I planned this weekend to be a perfectly silent one beside my book and movies. But here I am, brows furrowed, seriously thinking about the future. And to be honest, it’s so easy to put off. Like my laundry that I promised to do last weekend. But I decided to write this instead so I can have an official post that I can look back and slap myself with after 10 years and I haven’t done anything for myself. HEY, now that’s long-term planning for you!

So for all my millennial peers and kindred spirits, for now it’s the second star to the right. Keep partying straight on ’til morning.

When you choose to love someone you know is wrong for you

When you choose to love someone you know is wrong for you, you have already willingly blindfolded yourself and aimed a sharp butcher knife pointblank against your heart. It could be his infectious laughter. Or the way he looks at you with a sly smile. Maybe he is terribly smart with a wealth of misadventures that keep you at the edge of your seat. His smell maybe? Or the way he sighs your name like a prayer. And you are the god. 

But the truth is there, lurking at the back of your mind, poking its ugly head seconds right before you fall asleep. You know this will not last. He is not right for you. Yet everyday you meander with your magnificent blinders on, light on your feet and sunshine in your pocket, telling yourself that he is the reason for your happiness. Every skeleton you uncover you call an unfortunate twist of events, a mere fossil too aged and must be forgotten. Red flags wave all around and yet you choose to ignore. Slowly you twist the knife in and say the pain is beautiful. This is what it truly means to live.

 

I am truly in love, you say. True love is when you embrace a person for all he is, you say. But when you see a scar and you say, what scar? Is that really love? When he says you are the salve for all his wounds, and you complete his being, is that truly what it means to belong to someone?

 

I say it is not.

Love is not cutting yourself up into painful pieces to complete his missing puzzle. It does not give a part only to take away a hundred fold. Love is secure on its own and does not patronize. It does not make you kneel just to appear bigger. Love is not omission of error. It does not romanticize lies. Nor give innumerable excuses for it and demand to still be understood and forgiven. Love changes for the better. Love wants you to be better. It kneels down to give you a lift and tells you to go on and jump from a plane if you want to, only to be your parachute and stable ground when you come back down.

 

One day, you will want to remove your blindfold, take the knife out. Now it is buried hilt deep in your chest. To take it out is equally painful but all at once — jagged ends, red eyes and throbbing veins. You are not used to the light and your eyes take time to adjust and see him again as if for the first time. He will be there with arms wide open but you know better. It is difficult. It will take time. It always takes time. You step away. You rediscover yourself, scarred and slightly scared, but stronger. A thousand steps forward and when you look back, don’t regret. Because true love won’t want you to.

Gravity

Something always brings me back to you…

I have always thought about writing as an act of getting naked.

You come home to yourself, drop all the baggage on the floor, peel your clothes off and throw them into the laundry bag of yesterday, wash the glitter down the drain, dust away the day’s worries, and slip into the comfort of your own skin. You close the door and open your heart into words that ebb and flow, much like the quick typing and sudden backspacing, moving onward, backwards, onward again. Fingers that slightly hover over the keys, much like pauses between conversations when we let awkward silences between what we say and what we don’t say magnify what isn’t there and what we don’t want to hear.

But ultimately, we write.

And it is within the jungle of words and hanging vines and lines that we try to make sense of the chaos in our mind. Eyebrows furrow deep into what we are not trying to say when we want to say something. We choose chaos, and chaos chastens us into submission. Caught in the middle, you try to meddle and get lost and wonder…what were you trying to say in the first place? But in the first place, there is no first place. There is only now and you try to stay with it, but you lose yourself and that’s fine.

Sometimes, you need to get lost to get home.

…It never takes too long.

Continue reading

Perishable Commodities

Tara is in the convenience store to buy some canned laughs. There was a news flash this afternoon and the grim reporter said a storm is coming to town and will stay for at least a week. Best be prepared, she thinks out loud, surveying the variety of colorful cans laid like a feast in front of her.

She picks up a neon pink can (Girly Giggles Guaranteed), gets three more of the variety and chucks the contents into the cart. Her hand swipes two electric blue cans (Goofy Guffaws Galore) and drops them to the pile. I need five more of these stuff, she murmurs and grabs five glittery orange cans (Gorgeous Glorious Grins). That should do it. She transfers to the next aisle to pick up some toiletries, candles and mixed nuts before proceeding to the cashier counter.

Tara’s mouth maintains a straight line, slightly pulled down at the edges in a permanent display of displeasure. She impatiently waits for the old stooped lady in front of her to move along. Finally. The cashier punches in Sarah’s grocery items like an automaton and asks “cash or credit?” without looking at her. Tara whips out her credit card in response. She couldn’t help but notice the cashier’s over-the-top bright red lipstick lined way over the outline of where her lips should be. Clown. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” snaps the cashier. “Nothing, hurry up,” she bites back. Sarah chews on her lips in silence and thinks of the orange cans.

Back home, Tara triple locks the door before organizing her groceries. Unpacking her items, she noticed that one of the blue cans was expiring today! Fuck. She slaps herself and fishes out the can opener, her expletives further drowned by angry peals of thunder. Storm’s coming. Laughter uncanned, she sniffed at the blue goo inside and drank it all in one go, clumsily spilling some of the liquid laughter over her drab gray dress. 

The effects started 10 seconds after. Her chest began to heave and her shoulders began to shake.

HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHHAHHA! Ohyes. HAHAHHAHAA! Ahhhh… HAHAHA!

Tara’s knees weaken and she slips slowly to the floor, guffawing, her eyes rolling to the back of her head.

HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

But Tara knew the laughter was going bad.

HEHEHEHE! HEHEHHEHE!

Oh no, no no..

HEHE… HE… HEHEHE… HEHE… HU… HU HU HUUU..

Canned laughter promises at least 10 minutes of “uncontrollable belly-aching euphoria”. Tara has only been laughing for two minutes. But her cheeks are sore, shoulders involuntarily shaking with quiet chuckles. Her thin lips are stretched too tight, upturned into a wide tooth-baring smile. But she is no longer laughing. Dammit. 

As she spent the next six hours, miserably lying in the cold floor waiting for the convulsions to stop, the storm came howling into town. BOOHOOOOOOO.

ALS Awareness: Breaking the Ice

Earlier this month, the ALS Association launched an awareness campaign that spread like wildfire on social media. With the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge, celebrities and well-known groups alike poured ice buckets on themselves, tagged another person or group, and challenged them to do the same within 24 hours. Failing to do so, the tagged person or group must donate US$100 towards ALS research. Not a bad way to raise awareness and research funds.

But what is this ALS and why should you care about it?

What is ALS?

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurological disease that targets and degenerates motor neurons. These are nerve cells located at the brain, brain stem and spinal cord that give us voluntary control over the muscles in our face, arms and legs.

With ALS, motor neurons become unable to send signals to the muscles causing them to weaken and waste away. ALS patients soon lose the full ability to talk, move and walk. In worst case scenarios, even the lungs are unable to function without a ventilator support causing many to die due to respiratory failure. Although ALS does not impair a person’s mind, heart, and five senses, a patient may still suffer from depression and have difficulty in decision-making and remembering memories.

What are the symptoms?

ALS starts out very quietly. The symptoms are so subtle that a person may tend to overlook them. Here are some telltale signs of ALS:

  • Cramps and muscle twitches
  • Stiff, tight muscles
  • Weakening of the arm and leg muscles
  • Slurred, nasal speech
  • Trouble chewing and swallowing
  • Struggling to do simple tasks like writing, handling utensils, or buttoning shirts (upper motor neuron damage)
  • Sudden awkwardness in walking, tripping over your own feet, and stumbling on flat surfaces (lower motor neuron damage)

Know the signs and raise the alarm immediately once spotted. Go to the nearest doctor for a complete check-up and ECG. Although the appearance of both upper and lower motor neuron signs may be a strong indication of ALS, some symptoms may be caused by a different disease. The earlier tests are conducted, the better to save a life.

Treatment for ALS
The cause and cure for ALS is not yet known. Continuous research is being done to test new drugs and learn more about this neurodegenerative disease. Currently, there is only one FDA-approved drug called Riluzole that is being administered to ALS patients. Although it does not reverse the damages already inflicted by ALS, it does slow down its progression. Coupled with physical therapy and use of special equipment, patients are also given other medicines that relieve pain, reduce fatigue, ease cramps and promote uninterrupted sleep to make them more mobile and comfortable.

Once diagnosed with ALS, a person is given an average life expectancy of 3 to 5 years. But each case is as unique as the person. As supporting technology improves and continuous medical research yields more answers, an ALS patient can still live actively and productively for even 10 to 20 years more. More importantly, the unending support and love a patient’s family and friends together with the ALS community are priceless gems improving their quality of life.


Author’s Note: When a group of people gathers for the first time, it is common practice to hold a fun activity to “break the ice“. This aims to reduce the awkwardness of the initial introduction and encourage a positive vibe around a room full of strangers. I would like to do the same with my first blog entry. So here is a video of myself, tagging myself to do the #IceBucketChallenge. I do not have $100 but I hope this entry helps in spreading ALS awareness to more people. Buckets up!