Coffee & Flowers: It Draws A Line


The thing about loss and grief is that it draws a line: not just between the dead and those left living but also between the living and those around them. Lately, I’ve been thinking about my Dad’s death not just as the death of my father but as the death of my father: something that now belongs to my family and in part, on a more personal level, to me. Inevitably, I think, death brings up (or should bring up) in us ideas of how we would like to live before we are brought to that inevitable line, when we cross it a next time, first-hand.

I can’t help but think of different friendships that I’ve made throughout the years–whether people who I’d known for years or people I’d met in the past year or people I’d only solely interacted with through my stories–and how, when my Dad died, it was such a relief to see familiar faces or to hear people reach out even if they couldn’t be there physically. Maybe as a lover of and active participant (haha) in the making of fiction, I must say that empathy is something that I value. I don’t think I’d loved any of these people as much before as I did in that moment: to know that despite the discomfort of knowing they would never be me, never truly share my pain, they’d decided to subject themselves to being there anyway in whatever way, shape, or form that they could be.

Somehow, it felt like home. I am still resolute in the conclusion that reading prepares us for terrible situations: it highlights the things we may take from these terrible experiences, it helps us in the struggle to construct not just meaning, but meaningfulness.

[Side note: this talk by Andrew Solomon has helped. ]

However, likewise, I can’t help but think about people who could have been there but chose not to be. Everyday is a struggle not to lash out, not to be bitter, not to say where were you? I think of different friendships lost or destroyed in the process of growing up, think of people who I wish well, and who, despite the strain between us, had someone they loved died, I would have reached out to. I can’t help but feel stung by that active absence: maybe in another time, I would have been able to simply assume they had not known about it, that they had not heard because they hadn’t read the obituaries, but in this time of social media tributes and text blasts and 24/7 chatting, of profile-photo changing and Facebook-status eulogies, I know they know and know they had chosen to not just be apathetic but vicious (I don’t want to get into that). I wonder about that and am trying very hard to look underneath my anger and find a way to learn from it. I keep on trying to find a way to forgive people who aren’t sorry, or else forget the pain of it. Life is short, but everyone knows that.

Loss draws a line between those of us left living: conditionals, if-thens, and their converses. If _________ , and _________ does not _________, then __________. And today, as I write this, I find myself at once hopeful and terrified. It terrifies me that I am capable of true hatred: that I can’t find myself to empathize with some people who I once treated as some of my closest friends because the line has been drawn and these are not people I will forgive. These people are no longer the inhabitants of benign, empty shells of friendship: they are malignant and I can’t let them touch me because it will eat me up. But on the other hand, I am hopeful because it gives the loss of my Dad gravity: this is how much I love my father that I cannot forgive people who knew him not giving it importance. I am hopeful because underneath everything, even the absence of forgiveness, there is a kind of love.

Head First, Fearless Days 5-6: Stop Making Plans, Start Making Sense

Can you have your cake and eat it too?

Even if I still love that song, turns out that you and me—not-so forever young.  As the ins and outs of life progress and I carry myself through work day after work day, I find myself looking back at everything that I’ve done since 2010 and I feel like my main “edge” back then was that I was still a student but I was doing these other things even if really, the fact that I was still a student was kind of sad. It’s funny how life works: if you pair almost any extracurricular thang with at studyante pa siya, it begins to look impressive.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this whole MoarBooks thing.

Maybe it was a brave thing to set out and do (given my previous experiences with “putting it out there”, this was really an exercise in overcoming trauma) but since then, part of me has become kind of afraid to make plans or to “look ahead” because a lot of the time it can take the piss out of everything and also because you end up disappointed a lot. I’m not good with disappointment: I can handle anger, sadness, stress, anxiety, whatever but disappointment just makes me want to stab someone repeatedly.

Anyway, this fear of disappointment both in myself and in others is what I feel has been holding me back with regard to MoarBooks. I think I went into this whole thing being in denial that I would have to do most of the doing. This is ridiculous because it seems like the kind of thing you should realize as you’re lugging five bags of inflated pillows down Ayala Avenue on a hot, hot summer afternoon in 2012 but hey, if we weren’t kind of naïve at some point, we would never do anything.

While I had previously asked some friends to help me out and they did (do, still) in their own ways (thank you guys!), I think that I had failed to see the limitations that my friends had already let me know they had (however subtly) from the beginning—sometimes with regard to capacity, other times with regard to willingness. Lately I realized that if I want this to work, I have to sort out a way to get it done on my own. I have only recently realized that while my friends are investors, talent, consignees, supporters, fellow-sellers, fellow aspiring writers and artists, ultimately this endeavor is mine. The reluctance to bear that responsibility is also the reason why it is difficult for me to appreciate the good things about it or to properly recognize what it needs to become. I never got what people meant by “own it”—well, I do now.

In the past few days I have begun making plans for my little tsanak business (baby daw eh). I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve laid down a couple of goals for myself and for MoarBooks to accomplish by the end of June and these were the most difficult bricks to lay out because they include all of the things that I’m terrible with—including having to be stricter with people I like and (even more so) with myself. It’s all still driving me insane.

Head First, Fearless Day 3: Top of Your List

I feel like the things I’ve addressed through these entries so far are “baby fears”—tiny things. And reading my friend’s entries for this is extremely daunting. I feel like I haven’t taken this exercise in fearlessness seriously enough—or not concretely enough. She resigned from her job, I wore a black tank top to work. Nowhere near the same thing but you know, whatevs—I swear I am going to do better.

Let me assure you, this isn’t for a lack of things that I am afraid of: it’s just that mostly the things I fear are out of my control. I am afraid of people dying, of people leaving, of being embarrassed, of dying in a plane crash, of being murdered. I don’t have a lot of fears that have to do with things I can do something about.

Furthermore, I guess one thing that I didn’t factor into this entire challenge was the fact that I think there are definitely certain fears that are in place for a reason. There are some fears that hold you back and there are others which protect you or keep you from doing dumb things. I suppose I needed to make that distinction.

I was initially going to write about being tattooed and why wearing a tank top or any kind of sleeveless anything is always an ordeal for me but instead of doing that, I decided to instead share the list of things to do that I’m afraid of.

This is not for 97 days and I am going to be adding to this list as I go along—I’ll make a separate page for it, eventually and put it up on the sidebar for easy access. Also, these will be done in no set order because I’m not that much of a control freak. I figured sharing this on here would be the scariest thing to do because that would create even more pressure on me to complete this challenge and it would invite opinions or suggestions from the people who read this—not that I’m averse to that (I’m not!).

Ze list:

  1. Be completely honest about something without explaining that I am resisting the urge to cut corners because of a blog challenge.
  2. Talk to someone I haven’t talked to in years.
  3. Have a burning ceremony for those letters.
  4. Do something thoughtful for someone in a platonic way without explaining my fear of being misunderstood and all those other stupid anxieties. (In a nutshell: trust someone not to misunderstand me, I guess.)
  5. Go swimming by myself and make a day of it, too.
  6. Say sorry to someone with whom I would like to make amends.
  7. Finally get my “graduation tattoo”
  8. Break from my usual routine
  9. Cross the street between Adelentado and Makati Cinema Square
  10. Be vulnerable

Head First, Fearless Day 1: Vulnerability & An Introduction

Last night, my friend Raine messaged me asking for a favor—she said that she was going to embark on a quest to get out of her comfort zone: that is, for a hundred days she was going to do at least one thing a day that frightened her in an attempt to grow as a person. She asked if I would be there to remind her to do these things, once a day—and I said yes, of course. I also said yes to joining her on this quest to be fearless. Just because I love the T. Swift song, I am going to name this Head First, Fearless to go with the whole shiz-named-after-songs-thang e.g. Coffee & Flowers.

While I can’t and shan’t speak for Raine, who is an infinitely more private person than myself, I suppose I can tell you what she told me that made me agree to this whole lotta cray in the first place. She said that there was that whole 100 Happy Days thing floating around but that the problem with that is happiness is so fleeting—we shouldn’t base our growth around happiness. We should base it around fear—and conquering it because that way, we get stronger and really, truly progress as human beings (whatever that means). And I agree. So, as I vowed not to keep a journal this year in an attempt to avoid my tendency to live wayyy out of the moment, I will instead post it up here so that a) people who are maybe a lot like me and scared of everything can find some semblance of good juju here and b) I am able to process my thoughts and introspect without completely cutting myself off from the rest of the world.

So, onto today’s entry: vulnerability.

Continue reading “Head First, Fearless Day 1: Vulnerability & An Introduction”

Coffee & Flowers: Laughter

Of all the pleasures that are available to people on this planet, I think laughter has got to be one of the most intoxicating. When I was younger, one of the things that I liked to do the most was make people laugh—for instance, I remember doing endless impersonations of our school bus conductor (mang Angel, pronounced ang-hel) in fourth grade and then proceeding to chase after the school bus, flaring my nostrils; this went on for far longer than it should have.

In high school, I remember long lunch breaks when I wouldn’t be able to finish my food because my friends and I were so busy sitting in a circle, clutching our stomachs and laughing at ridiculous things like throwing candy at upperclassmen or showering unfortunate (or maybe fortunate—it’s hard to tell) strangers with chips and corn bits from the third floor balcony.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to discover that laughter can also be a kind of darkness. When you’re a kid, it feels like laughter is carefree—a kind of release. At 23, I think I can say that laughter is viscous: it’s profound, thick. If you’re not careful, you can drown in it.

I have this theory (I’m sure I am not the first to “theorize” this but I will say it anyway) that the thing which allows (the loss of) something to be sad or the thing which gives something weight is its ability to make you laugh.

I used to be an avid Lizzie McGuire fan. Those jokes really made me laugh—the digs at her kid brother, Ethan with his rinse, lather, repeat joke; that show cracked me up. Years and years later, it tore my heart apart to realize that despite the weird romance of the let’s-cut-Miranda-out-of-it movie, she and Gourdo didn’t end up together because the movie takes place mid-series, not at the end. Meaning the romance stuff happened before the end of the series, meaning Lizzie and Gourdo just stay friends minus the you rock, don’t ever change bit.

This also reminds me of the guy who I used to watch Lizze McGuire with when I was 11—that year (2002) I moved to a different school and this guy was one of the first people who I met there. We were fast friends: of course that began with him mocking me which lead to really hilarious things like him taking my books and hiding them in his locker while commissioning his friend to steal some of the things I needed for clearance and hiding them away, complete with a ransom note left in my bag—this sparked an odd “hate” triangle between me, him and his friend whom I nicknamed Dalmatian because of the inordinate number of moles on his face (children can be cruel, we already know that haha) where we would take each other’s stuff and do our best to insult each other based on our physical attributes that were deemed unattractive at the time (e.g. kulotsky for me, Dalmatian for the friend, Buddha for the guy). I think, despite the fact that my 11-year-old self would never admit it, the promise of laughter was one of the reasons why I really looked forward to going to school that year. In the mornings, I would wait for Buddha to get to school just so I could make fun of him if he was late and then we would spend our subjects comparing notes, stepping on each other’s feet under the table (no shoes, and not competitively, even—just kind of resting our feet on top of one another) and then at night we would text each other while watching re-runs of Lizzie McGuire (the show aired new episodes at 4:30 pm, which made it impossible for us to catch the actual screening since we were dismissed at 3:30 pm). Sixth grade flew by, to be honest—until I realized that we hadn’t moved seats even if it we were well into the second quarter. With that realization, other hints began to creep up on me like that our class adviser would always make us sit together even if everyone else was constantly shuffled around. By the time I realized the unnameable it, I’d already formed a strategy against it: something that ripples through my life, even now. I made up a crush on this upperclassman I didn’t know (he was gorgeous, though) just so I wouldn’t have to face the humiliation of possibly liking this person who I used to spend all this time with. We didn’t talk for 8 years.

See? Laughter can break your heart.

We did end up talking in our second or third year in college, though. I ran into him outside school and we chatted for a while. We talked about food and cutting class (which we were both doing at the time) and our majors and remember when? And it was all pleasant but 19 isn’t 11—you can’t run into someone almost a decade later and suddenly say hey what’s up wanna step on my feet? It would be nice, but things change and people change and they should.

I realized today that most of the people and the things that I miss are people and things that made me laugh. Also, they are things that are lost in time: like the mosquito in Jurassic Park, it’s sealed up into its own old sphere. To force that preserved thing to come out of the past gives birth to monstrosity. There is a time limit for everything. I still think Einstein was wrong about that. Relative is as relative as relativity gets.

Five years ago, there was another boy—there always is, isn’t there; while some people argue that talking about men is un-feminist, I beg to differ (but that’s a whole other post)—and I remember laughing a lot: it was like being a kid again. Play-fighting, yelling, giddiness, jokes, routines, bus rides, friendship. That was also when Ondoy happened. The night before the storm, I was partying it up at a club with my friends. I cut class the day the city drowned. Has it recovered? Have I? Has he? Have any of us?

Filipinos laugh at everything. That’s a very true cliché. That’s why it’s so difficult to turn on the TV, to listen to the news—that’s why it makes me cringe to hear people talk on public transport, to hear canned laughter, to be faced with the harshness of hilarity so deafening it’s impossible not to hear the despair behind it. My parents laugh a lot.

I’ve been laughing a lot recently: with my friends, with my boyfriend, at work, at home. And in that moment right before the funny moment ends, you see everyone coming out of the state of laughter and there it is—the knowing that the moment is over.

So why is this a coffee and flowers entry? Because I don’t think I would trade laughter for any other pleasure in the world—not even booze (harhar). I’m not a very religious person but when I think of the end of life, I think that we can only judge our lives by how much we’ve laughed. I think that is the only accurate measure of how much we’ve lived and loved and how much pain we’ve felt; how much we’ve truly cared about something. I’m not sure about what that has to do with anything in the “greater scheme” of things, but having had those things is the closest to a dinosaur that our mosquito-amber memories are going to get.

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