Le malheur de l’amour

“If he likes you, you’ll know. If he doesn’t, you’ll feel confused.”

The game of romance gets more complicated day by day that I refuse to be involved in it.

All these words that are not said or meant, actions that can be misinterpreted, and endings that can be messy don’t feel worth it to me.

I am not a cynic. I was not discouraged. And I am not afraid. Not of love. Never of love.

They say that love does not come easy, that you have to work for it. Does working hard for it include being a martyr? Does second guessing? Does trying and failing over and over again, wearing yourself thin? Why the confusion? If love is real, then why must it be complicated?

I think love can be peaceful. Like a swim on the beach on a sunny day. Where the waves caress you gently and the sun touches your skin. You are here. And you are secured.

I think love can be calming. Like a trek to the mountains on a cloudy day. Where the trees whisper sweet nothings. You are here. And you are safe.

I think love can be gentle. Like the sheets of your bed on a rainy day. The raindrops fill your senses. You are here. And you can rest on me.

Until it comes, I wait. For there is peace in being alone than the chaos that I don’t want or need.

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To Whoever

My soul is tired.

It’s tired of not living the life I want and don’t want. Of the possible bliss that would make me tear up laughing. Of the possible pain that would make me tear up in agony. Just tears flowing from pouring emotions that I didn’t know even existed, that I have never felt before, that will make me feel like my heart would combust. Instead it’s floating in a limbo of nothingness. It sounds so ungrateful. I am comfortable. I am safe. But is comfortable enough? Is safe worth it? Is it living?

It’s tired of not seeing the bigger picture. Of blindly living day to day to simply survive because that is what we can and must do. Live day to day until we tire and rest to our grave. Is that all there is to it? Is that all we’re set out to be? Is that all our souls and lives are supposed to do? I refuse to believe it. It wants to thrive, to bloom, to grow. Then to spread, to infect like a plague, of something meaningful. That all this mundane or tedious things have a greater purpose in time. That it’s not all for nothing. But that’s all I see. Nothing. All of it, for nothing.

It’s tired of wasting time on looking for that same light with people. Of shedding light on some who are dark and hollow. A black hole. No signs of even a tiny spark. Yet we try, and then the darkness ends up enveloping you, trapping instead of your light spreading through it. Until you become like them. And by some miracle, a spark comes inside you. All hope is not lost. But you can’t risk shedding that light again in another darkness. Because you might got lucky once. It may never come again. And everyone with light inside them has this fear now, hiding their lights inside, pretending to be the same as every dark, hollow people out there. Afraid of getting found out. Afraid of getting swallowed again. My light is here now, open and vulnerable and bare. And yet all I see is darkness.

I’m tired of portraying an image that one perceives or expects of me. I am not made of rock or wood or paper. I feel like water, poured into different containers. Of straight coffee cups. Of round wine glasses. Of beer bottles. That is what they think of me to be. But I break through coffee cups, shatter through wine glasses, and leak out of beer bottles. I belong in no container. I don’t think I’m simply water that belongs anywhere. Maybe I belong to the sea, with no shape or form. I belong in the raging waves. Maybe I belong in the rain, that comes in either small splatters or heavy drops. I belong in storms and monsoons.

I know I lack. A contented heart, yes. A sense of self, perhaps. A backbone, definitely. And I know I cannot simply demand these things. But is it too much to ask? To want? To need these things? Must I turn myself down and my silly existential turmoil? I might just need another mediocre, superficial, spiritual intervention. I have heard them before. I have done them. I do not need to tell you what happened.

The way I see it, ‘more’ is such a terrible word. The more you want to become, the less there is left for you. There has to be a balance. You cannot ask if you cannot give, and it’s so limiting.

It pains me to accept how limited we are.

My soul is tired, and I don’t know what to do with it but to carry on.

Carry on until I live the lives I want and don’t want. Until I see the bigger picture. Until I see the same light with someone else. Until break from the image you have made of me. So that my heart will be contented. So that I feel a sense of self. So that I grow a backbone. So that I don’t feel lost. Grow up. Face the tune.

Because that is all I can do.

How I Know

Maybe I know I love someone when I don’t forget the feeling when they leave.

When they leave me for an hour. A day. A week. A year. Or forever.

Maybe I know I love someone when I don’t forget how they make me feel worthy.

When they leave me a note. A letter. A whisper or confession before we part.

Maybe I know I love someone when I don’t forget why I let them in.

When I share my body. My thoughts. My secrets. My regrets.

Maybe I know I love someone when I don’t have to ask.

When I just know. I just do. I just will.

Dear Heart, Are You Alive In There?

My soul has been feeling tired for no reason for some time now.

As far as Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is concerned, I don’t lack anything. My physiological needs are met, albeit a little too much sometimes in the form of samgyupsal and/or brownies, which I often turn to when there is budget and craving. I drink plenty of water at work to stay hydrated. My apartment gives me the peace that my old home could not, even if I have to walk for 15 minutes. The exercise feels nice.

My job, despite the amount of pressure it instills, gives me purpose. Not everyone can tolerate spending an entire day with roughly around 300 kids without going apeshit. I take pride in the amount of patience and dedication I have, the amount of energy I have to exert. My family is technically intact in a sense, who I see every weekends to do my laundry at home. I don’t have any chronic illnesses, maybe. The answer will be verified once I get my new medical card. I’ve got insurance as well, not a lot of adults my age can say that about themselves. My money makes all of my ends and my vices meet, for I’m just right in the middle, who happens to have no retail obsession.

My friendship circles are few but valuable and have stood the test of time. There are friends who have lasted over decades, and some close to it. They all move at different paces, some getting married and having kids, others drinking and partying at night, everything I watch unfold on social media and occasionally in real life. They keep me in the safe middle where my mentality is to take my precious time, despite how my coworkers tell me to get married and have kids already like they did at their age. It gets irritating sometimes, but they mean well. Slowly the circles have been expanding through my hobbies over music and beer and drag race. Intimacy is a problem of mine, which my friends understand and makes me grateful.

But this vessel inside this chest doesn’t feel anything.

And so if it was possible to just open my chest cavity and knock on the doors to my heart, I have to ask: dear heart, are you alive in there?

Words have been tangled in my head for a while now, and it’s taking too much time to string it out into something sensible. Something worthwhile. Something that will make me feel. I haven’t written in a while, and I’m afraid I don’t know how anymore. Whenever I stare at my laptop, or my phone, I think of what I can write. They say write what you know, what you feel. These two things are a mystery to me.

I was often told that my star sign meant that I was an emotional person, who poured her heart out like spilled milk. They should flow like waves in the ocean, unending and sometimes too powerful for those who try to brave through them. If people word vomitted when they were drunk, I didn’t need the alcohol. Liquid courage does not apply to me because I am courageous on my own. My emotions should be on overdrive, past the point of no return. People like me felt too much and too fast, but somehow I have become an anomaly. I’m beginning to think I wasn’t born on the right day and time.

But I do feel that something is wrong with me, like there is a hole somewhere in this body that no one can find and therefore no one can fix, constantly attempting and failing to fill it up. Any conscious or unconscious effort to get them out, legal or illegal, have failed. At least it has been acknowledged, for what it’s worth. I won’t deny that I have a flaw. There are plenty more, like my gluttony and lust for life. My bad choices, which I do just because I want to feel something. It was all with a purpose, in my defense. I had to make sure I was still alive inside.

Is being stoic really a flaw? Some people wish to be like me, warming up to the idea of getting a lobotomy for your emotions. Vices seem to help, but it could have serious consequences. I have somehow inherently made myself emotionless, which some people found inspiring. Emotions could get pesky, especially when you have to think logically and critically. It could make people do the most irrational, spontaneous things. It could lead to one’s insanity. It could break someone’s heart. The mind is there for a reason, to calm the devastating waves inside a thundering chest. To look at things in different points of view. Somehow mine has become a tyrant, overtaking everything, invading my entire body. Now I’m just a bundle of nerves and thoughts, cold and unfeeling.

Oh heart, what happened to you? I know you’re in there. I can still feel you beating. In the literal, scientific sense, you are present. I feel you when I get heartburn from my acid reflux. I feel you when you’re pounding from a extraneous brisk walking when I’m running late. I feel and hear you when I’m all alone in the silence. But are you there there? Figuratively, emotionally speaking? Because I haven’t heard from you in a while that it’s starting to bother me.

Were you taken against your will? Honest to goodness, I don’t think you’ve been alive for years. Maybe the casual fling here and there weren’t enough for you. You didn’t even bother with them, didn’t even try. We came off as heartless, hurting them in the process. We shouldn’t have gotten into them when we weren’t entirely willing to even at least make a small effort. I know, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have entertained them in the first place. I can admit my faults now.

Heart, what are we going to do with you? It must be the insecurity or the lack of affection growing up. No wonder I don’t reciprocate or give good hugs. Maybe it’s the fear of making another mistake that when something feels off after opening a tiny hole in the wall, we build another, stronger one. It must be the instant letdown I give myself masked as not assuming anything unless otherwise stated. We observe and notice the littlest things on others, but fail to notice the ones for ourselves.

Heart, should I let you be? It’s not the most ideal option, but I’ve tried every possible thing without getting incarcerated or dying. There won’t be any diving into details, for I have a reputation to uphold. Without it, I’d be broke and we’d really die, from humiliation first and fatigue second. Your absence has also affected my consciousness, now missing as well. Remorse and guilt have left me too. Did you take them with you? Will you come back? What else do I need to do?

What can I do, heart? There must be something I can do to get you back to at least some sort of normalcy, even though I have forgotten what it feels like. I must be missing something, must have forgotten a detail that would help me get you back. Give me a sign, heart. Most likely in the form of skywriting, because I have gotten oblivious like that, thanks to you. Okay fine, in print will do.

Maybe you need time and space. There’s not much left though, given the broken state of this world. We could die any minute now from a nuclear bomb, get hit by a car because I walk around with earphones on, or a bullet from a gun. I can’t blame you, though, if you wanted a sabbatical from me. I don’t like myself either. How much do you need? A month? A year? A decade? No pressure for me. Don’t listen to the people around me.

I’ll let you rest for now, heart. It’s been distressful without you, but I guess I’ll have to make do for now. I know you’re in there, in hibernation maybe. It must be for the best. Maybe you’re waiting for the right moment, because I can’t seem to tell what’s right or wrong anymore. You’ll call the shots now, whenever you are ready. Until then, I’ll be waiting here.

I Have Accepted That People Will Always Get My Name Wrong

After two and a half decades of difficulty finding them in Coke bottles, keychains, and coffee orders, I have accepted that people will always get my name wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks. For one, I don’t have to wait an extra week to get my NBI license because someone with the same name as me has a police record.

And… that’s about it.

It’s that extra h in the end, which must be a Filipino name giving thing. Some get it in the middle, like Jhun or Jhemerlyn. I could simply say that it’s silent, like the m in mnemonics, to make it fancy. I could use my second name, which is French variant of a Celtic word that means ‘sea’ or ‘bright’, but it’s too late for that. Some people even get too lazy to say the second syllable and just call me Ai. But yes, I have accepted my fate and the doubt that comes with having it.

It’s not so bad right? My mother said she first thought of naming me Antoinette, which would have been mortifying for two reasons: one, combined with my family name, it sounds redundant. People would probably think my parents were trolling me. And two: it’s pretentious as fuck. As glamorous and remarkable as it is, I don’t want to be named after the model of the excesses of the monarchy that tells people to ‘eat cake’.

But a name, after all, serves one big purpose: identity. The name is associated with a face, then the face is associated with the history. It is the name that endures in epitaphs, obituaries, yearbooks, etc. And when it’s constantly mistaken or confused, it can invalidate the person. We all know this to be true. If your identification card is wrong, you cannot get, say, your cheque when you win the lottery. Why? Because it’s not you.

So is it a big deal? To some yes, because it must help them feel validated. But maybe, and I’m speaking for myself here, it doesn’t have to be.

When Freddie became part of Queen, he changed his family name to Mercury. Edson Nascimento became Pelé, one of the most famous football players in history. Hedwig Kiesler became Hedy Lamarr, the actress who helped invent WiFi.

Names are just a mixture of letters that they associate to what you are, but it does not dictate it. It is the actions that you do, the mark that you make, that will affect your life and others. Names can be changed, but words, actions, and time cannot.

So sure, you don’t have to spell my name right. No pressure. You can call me by my second name, too. Call me names for all I care. But will it affect my life? Meh.

2018

It’s a gloomy dusk before we ring the new year and rain has fallen nonstop. I just recently came back from a final beach trip in La Union, my future retirement home. I had, as expected, the best time. It didn’t bother me that there were showers there too. Walking on the beach despite the drizzle, I told my friend that it looked sad to which she replied:

“It’s not sad. It’s poetic.”

I laughed my ass off at that remark. It was typical for us to think like this, to find the beauty in the somber and macabre. I’m at that certain age and generation that liked to romanticize and glamorize death, that had anxiety and depression, and just the general feeling of the crushing weight that is our existence. We would talk about the best ways to die or if Jesus had a brother while we were sober. We said ‘what the fuck are you doing’ to our friends lovingly. We laughed at the faces of the people who hated us because the joke’s on them, for we hate our own selves more than anybody else. We spend an overwhelming amount of money on alcohol or Grab. And we rely on memes to utter the words that we are not brave to say, such as our daddy issues and lack of self-worth. This was how we cope, and hopefully, recover from it.

Not sad, but poetic. That was what 2018 was for me. It was the best and the worst of times. My mind, body, and soul were in constant arguments, resulting to the most unexpected year I have ever had. I had unexpected getaways such as going to Baguio impulsively on a weekend. I had my first international trip this year in South Korea. I froze my imaginary balls off in there, wearing many layers instead of almost nothing like I do here in my tropical country. It was also the week where I walked the most I have possibly ever had my entire life, in heels, but had the best samgyupsal ever afterwards. I went to concerts, gigs, and events on a whim, without second thoughts. I met people, fought my social anxiety to merely say hi, to strangers and people I never thought I would have the courage to talk to.

I achieved unexpected heights that I didn’t think I could. Passing and topping the LET was one of the greatest achievements I have ever had back then yet I never really felt proud of it. The impostor syndrome I had was so high, resulting in me cringing when somebody ever mentioned that fact to people I just met. The solution I had, healthy or not, was to continue on learning and growing in my profession. Since then I have finished two courses given by the US Embassy and just passed my comprehensive exam for my Masters in Education. There was a slight setback on the latter, for I was supposed to graduate in the summer but my scholarship got delayed due to my busy work schedule. No one is in a hurry, myself most of all. I’ll cross the bridge when I get there. I still think I don’t deserve all of these things, and perhaps I never shall, so I can only keep on going until I find myself worthy of… well, I don’t know. Something. There is beauty in the pursuit after all.

This year was filled with unexpected discoveries in my personal life. I started dating again after a long hiatus, which is still a work in progress. I am, and might always will be, the densest person when it comes to relationships. Revelations were made, some I saw coming, some I did not, but one thing is for sure: I still don’t know what to do with it but to just let it be. Granted it is the passive, traditional way, we are living in the modern age after all. I. Just. Suck. At. Dating. And. Everyone. Just. Needs. To. Accept. That. It’s funny in a sarcastic way, how I know myself to be an overthinker whose instincts are often right on everything else and yet when it comes to men I am just completely thick. Whoever cursed me to be this kind of woman, please free me already. I’ll wait.

I went through unexpected breakthroughs. Albeit I lost my writing juju sometime this year, I intend- nay, I am determined- to jump back to it again. I have future projects, big ones, that I have brainstormed and plan to slowly but surely execute until its fruition. I’ve been thinking too much that I forget to just simply relax and take it one step at a time. No one is pressuring me to be someone great. I don’t expect people to remember my name when I die. So why rush?

Ultimately, I came to unexpected conclusions. They might sound like old news to you, but it has only taken 2018 for me to realize them.

One: you cannot expect or force yourself to have a happy life, but what can you be without the scars that you bear from your past? What will you be when you don’t let them haunt you?

Two: How you take care or be yourself does not necessarily have to be the same with others.

Three: You only have this life. Here and now. Say yes, say no, say one day. But don’t give up on it yet, not until death greets you and says it’s time. By then life wouldn’t be truly sad or poetic, just real.

Cheers to all the beers, tears, and fears I got through this 2018. May life be less ridiculous by the next.

I Am Single And There Are Some Things You Need To Know

My name is Airah and I am single, and here are some things you need to know.

I am not a man hater. I don’t think men are scum. True, there have been instances where the male species made me want to roll my eyes out like slot machines at a million miles per hour. Sometimes they use their dicks more often than their brains. But there are moments where I find them redeemable and, dare I say it, attractive. I love a man with wit and a sense of humor, who can make me laugh even if it’s a dad joke. It also wouldn’t hurt if he was a man of culture and taste. And, most importantly, it reaaaaaally wouldn’t hurt me even a tiny bit if they looked like football players in the World Cup. So I don’t hate men. I love men. A little too much in fact.

I don’t have insanely high standards. Albeit it is important for a woman, or any woman, to have an idea of what their future partner will be like, I’m realistic. I know I’m not perfect, and I’m not saying that to bring myself down. I still think I’m a strong independent black woman on the inside. Yet I wouldn’t expect myself to marry someone immaculate because that only happens in the unrealistic contemporary romance novels twenty- to fifty-somethings like to read nowadays to quell the drought and unleash their wildest, messed up fantasies. Hey, it’s all relative anyway. Besides, it would be hard to keep up with it. I still like to look like a slob every now and then, like sweatpants and baggy jackets with mysterious holes in them.

I like being alone. I enjoy eating by my lonesome self with a good book for company. I like to watch movies alone even if the rest of my friends don’t prefer it. I walk aimlessly around the mall, with no one to ask if the clothes I try on make me look baggy. I don’t ask anyone, not even my own father, to pick me up when I have a ton of shit to bring home. I have an app for that. More often than not, I’d like to be by myself than be surrounded by people I don’t enjoy spending time with. I’m an introvert, where I have a very low social interaction budget, and that’s perfectly fine with me.

I’m not desperate for a relationship. I don’t need another person to make me complete. I’ve tried that before and when they left, it didn’t matter to me eventually. I can rely on myself, which is why I have the strength to help others who can’t help themselves. Relationships are welcome, but not a priority as of yet.

I have plenty of time. I don’t know what the future brings, for all I know this could be my last. And even if it was, not having a relationship is excluded from my list of regrets. I’d be much more concerned about the fact that I missed out on spending some time with my loved ones, reading all the books in the world, going to places, and taking risks. I don’t want to dwell on my inevitability, I can only make the most of the borrowed time that I have. And relationship is not something I feel that lacks me.