Sunday, February 25, 2007

Said woman take it slow

Patience has never been one of my virtues. That's probably why, despite wanting a position from which I can influence change and believing that education is key in societal formation, I have never attempted to be a teacher. I'm afraid of scarring my young students, or eventually giving myself a heart attack.

Last night, I was talking to a friend, and my impatience got the better of me. I flared up, and my legendary temper reared its ugly head. We eventually worked it out, but I was left thinking about my Lenten pledge. Abstaining from anger is really turning out to be a challenge.

My father was short-tempered himself, and I remember hating it every time I asked my mother to tutor me in Chemistry (she was a Chemistry teacher before being a change management consultant) because she would often get mad whenever it took me long to grasp her lessons. Funny, because her other students loved her teaching style.

I guess patience is not something I learned from them.

But they weren't as bad as one of our neighbors long ago. I heard this woman teaching a toddler his or her ABCs (I never got to know any of the neighbors after the original family moved out, so I don't know if she was the yaya or the mother), and the kid was having a hard time memorizing it all. She would scream at her/him, "I told you it's C! Letter C!!!" and the kid would be crying hysterically but still say, "A... B... C."

Growing up, I found it difficult to express myself. I probably didn't learn enough communications skills, as we weren't very communicative to begin with. I suspect that, not knowing any better, I reached my twenties stewing a number of issues, and now my pot is overflowing. From pretending I'm not affected just to keep the peace, I now act as if every little irritant is a prelude to World War III. I need to find the balance.

According to an anger management article:

(T)he type of people who hold in their anger their whole life NEED to learn to become more aggressive in order to become balanced. It is important to learn how to not be a doormat and have people walk all over you. It is important to speak up for what you believe and not take garbage from everyone.
I have been taking steps to manage my anger. The one that works for me is to go away for a while. I find that I always calm down whenever I see things in proper perspective.

I've also been visualizing the permanent release of this deep-seated anger. During mass, or when I pray at home, I imagine a white light clearing out my mind and heart. When I shower, I imagine myself cleaned from within as well.

I've also been quick to process the reasons behind my anger (I used to stay angry for days, but now it takes but a few minutes for me to understand it), which helps me to understand myself better.

Unfortunately, my knee-jerk rage response is still pretty strong. It's frightening because I've got a knack for finding the most hurtful words and hurling them at the person with whom I'm angry. I don't want to hurt anyone.

I know patience can be a learned skill. I'm still learning, and this Lenten season is a good time to do that. At the end of forty or so days, I expect to be a more expressive, but more patient and forgiving person.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fasting and abstinence

After Ash Wednesday mass yesterday, Mamu, Kai, Nana Tin, Keona and I went to Southmall. The original plan was to watch "Bridge to Terabithia" but my sister changed her mind about going with us, so we had dinner instead. I had fish and fries, my sister had a tuna sandwich, my mom had seafood kebab, Nana Tin had a tanigue (mackerel) sandwich, and Keona had mashed potatoes, tomatoes and carrots from my mom's plate.

I had been open to eating chicken (and was in fact eyeing Inasal Chicken Bacolod), but Mamu told me it wasn't allowed. And she's right. Now, I didn't know that. Seventeen years (I added my graduate school years) in a Catholic school, and I didn't know that.

So I guess that means I'm having no chicken for sure until Palm Sunday.

When Pioq, my sister's husband, arrived, he told my sister that he had eaten the ground beef she had packed for his lunch. "You will burn in hell!" I joked. And I really was joking--I don't subscribe to the belief that whatever you eat will decide your afterlife. (But ask me again when I fully understand Buddhism).

I believe, however, by virtue of common sense more than religious affiliation, that whatever you eat and don't eat will affect your life. As they say in both nutrition and writing, "Garbage in, garbage out."

As for this Lent, I'm not abstaining from meat or fasting because I don't want to go to hell. I'm doing this because I want to be a better person to be able manifest God's love better.

In the words of St. Augustine in his Sermon on Prayer and Fasting:

"Abstinence purifies the soul, elevates the mind, subordinates the flesh to the spirit, begets a humble and contrite heart, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, extinguishes the fire of lust, and enkindles the true light of chastity."
I also got a forwarded email with a PowerPoint presentation attached. It contained tips for a different kind of fasting. I've copied-and-pasted them below:
1. Fast from anger and hatred. Give your family an extra dose of love each day.
2. Fast from judging others. Before making any judgments, recall how Jesus overlooks our faults.
3. Fast from discouragement. Hold on to [God's] promise that He has a perfect plan for your life.
4. Fast from complaining. When you find yourself about to complain, close your eyes and recall some of the little moments of joy Jesus has given you.
5. Fast from resentment or bitterness. Work on forgiving those who may have hurt you.
6. Fast from spending too much money. Try to reduce your spending by ten percent and give those savings to the poor.
So in sum, over the Lenten period, I will:

1. Abstain from red meat and chicken.
2. Abstain from refined sugar.
3. Go to mass everyday.
4. Fast from anger and hatred.
5. Fast from resentment or bitterness.

 
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent 2007


I have had relative success in Lenten abstinence in the past few years. After Lent, I just didn't pick up my guilty pleasures anymore. My blog count-ups show that I have been cigarette-free and soda-free for over 700 days now--that's two years.

For this Lent, I am abstaining from red meat and refined sugar. But I would like to add something else, an abstinence that bites.

I know Catholics really shouldn't eat red meat during Lenten Season, but we hardly practice that at home, so it's a sacrifice for me to abstain from it. Refined sugar, however, is something I struggle to give up.

I don't know how far I can take not eating red meat (I'm saying I don't know, because I'm not 100% bent on not eating it forever and ever yet), but I would like to totally eliminate refined sugar from my diet for as long as I live.

I am still trying to come up with more things I would like to abstain from, but food and television are the only things I heavily indulge in. I don't have sex, I don't gamble, I don't drink alcohol. I whine and make excuses, but that's already being taken care of.

Does sleep count? I mostly sleep the recommended eight hours. And I don't think I'm ready to give up television just yet, even though I know I have to. I can't quit that cold turkey.

TV or the net? I need both to work. I write an entertainment column, and I email and post my pieces on a weekly basis.

Can I abstain from a life of sloth instead, and do something I hate? Or something I have difficulty doing? Like pledge to walk for an hour every morning, go to church everyday?

I'm off to Ash Wednesday mass in a while. By the time I get back, I should have something in mind.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Flexing my biggest muscles


My heart and my mind.

When I think about it now, I realize I was long overdue for something like what happened over the weekend: Upon the persistence of friends, I finally said yes to a leadership seminar (FLEX), and it was like my mind took a long, long vacation and came back not just refreshed, but enlightened.

Which is not to say the way I live my life has already changed. I'm still in the process of recognizing and solving a host of issues. But my level of awareness has been lifted, and I now recognize the struggle that frustrates me so--where it stems from, why I'm frustrated, and why I have it in me to solve them.

No more pity parties. No more self-deprecation. No more whining. No more excuses. No more hatred. Less and less anger. Less and less self-doubt. Less and less negativity. More action. More daring. love.

And no more rolling of eyes when people say happy-happy-joy-joy stuff.

***

I think the things I picked up from the FLEX seminar can be found in one of my favorite animated movies, "Happy Feet."



P.S.

I want to join a Toastmasters Club. I found two in Alabang, but was only able to email one (thankfully, the one whose meeting schedules I prefer) because the email I sent to the second one bounced. Do any of you know any other clubs near Las Piñas City?

Friday, February 16, 2007

I need this song


It's more than just last song syndrome--I've got these lines playing in my head of a song I love hearing during mass (our choir usually sings it during communion). I love this song because it's so appropriate for me right now. I know the title (it's "I Need You, Lord") but when I google it, I only get a Hanson song.

The lines go: "I need you, Lord, please stay here by my side." and "There's no other love I think I'm sure about." And there's "forever more" somewhere in there too.

Does anyone know this song? Help!

Oh, and for Valentine's day, I gave myself bangs. And I cut it all by myself. Eek.




How does it look?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

*Smiles*

This used to mean a lot to me as a kid! Little did I know it would be the story of my life. Haha.



Thursday, February 8, 2007

Web 2.0


I changed my mind about writing a separate blog focused on my goals. I'm having a hard time maintaining this one as it is; other efforts should be focused on more financially-rewarding ventures. Help me come up with one. :)

Anybody needs a freelance writer who would rather not get into too technical writing?

I'm seriously considering relocating, maybe within the country first, after I graduate. I need to spread my wings and prepare to fly, butterfly.

I just wish I knew which industry to jump to. Right now, I'm all excited with the possibilities the internet offers. What kind of jobs are available for creative writers in this industry?

I found an interesting video on Web 2.0 on YouTube. Check it out!



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Thesis rut

I'm stuck in a thesis rut. Ever since I heard that a book on the history and culture of Las Piñas has been launched and is set to be released in bookstores "early this year," I've been waiting for it to come out before making any major revisions on my thesis stories. So far, there's no sign of the book. Maybe I should go back to my original plan and start researching on my own.

I have a story brewing in my head that's set in the Manila Memorial Park, probably one of the country's most beautiful cemeteries. It's actually a storyline that's been working itself out since college. I don't know why it takes me so long to write, when my stories are always very simple. Well, actually, I do know. Because I'm so lazy to make outlines. But I ought to start putting structure, not just in writing, but in everything I do in my life.

The thing with structure is, it doesn't seem to leave much space for magic. Or maybe that's just my shallow understanding of it. Maybe it's much like science or math and this whole business of the creation of the universe--when you understand the science or math behind it, you also find that you are looking at magic.

My thesis project

My thesis project is a collection of short stories set in Southern Manila, specifically Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas. Even more specifically, the Southern Manila of my childhood and adolescence. It's not as simple as it seems, though, because even if its clear to me that I'm referring to the more suburban areas, Southern Manila still includes the poorer areas of Parañaque, like Baclaran, a place I've only been to maybe four or five times in my entire life; the "other side" of Muntinlupa, which I've been to even less times; and the Las Piñas area that I only pass through when we take short cuts to the City of Manila, the place which has the historical Bamboo Organ, which I've never seen--or don't recall ever seeing. This Bamboo Organ of international renown that is Las Piñas in the minds of my would-be readers.

How to make such a seemingly bland place live in fiction? My first assignment, according to my mentor, is to make a written map of the place.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Eulogies

A friend's dad's friend, Tito B---, died last week, and, having met him many times too, I went to his funeral. We were late, or they were early, and by the time we arrived, his coffin was already buried underneath clods of soil and flowers from the wake.

The occasion was tragic, but it was a beautiful day. The cool wind softened the mid-afternoon sun and, as the little children ran around, unmindful of the gravestones, I stood with my friends and listened to the dead man's friends tell his widow what a character, what a good friend, her husband was.

They swapped stories, shared anecdotes, elaborated on each other's recollections. Most of them hadn't met her before, and they probably wanted to give that side of Tito B--- that was unfamiliar to them a side of him that they knew well.

I wonder what people will say about me at my funeral? "She was so funny!" for sure, and even something like, "She was a shiny, happy person who got along well with everybody."

If I've had a little success, they might say, "She was a great writer," or "It's a monumental loss for Philippine literature." Or even, "I never really liked her work anyway."

If I've become a failure, they might say things like, "So who's going to support her children now?" or "She died poor and lonely." or "She was holding an unfinished manuscript--I think her graduate school thesis from years ago--as she breathed her last."

Frankly, I'd settle for, "So who's going to inherit her billions now?" but I think, in that scenario, people will mostly likely shake their heads and say, "This is proof that you can't take it with you. Tsk, tsk."

But what I really want for at least one person to say is something along the lines of: "She brushed her teeth twice, once before flossing, and again after it." And, "She liked to wet her feet first before the rest of her body when she took a shower." Also, "She liked thyme in her spaghetti."

Or, "When she was a little girl, she liked to hold out one hand and clasp it with the other, pretending someone else was holding hands with her as she played alone."

I would go in peace, knowing I had been known, seen, that I had been.