I once read that January came from Janus, an ancient guardian of doorways and portals, a patron of beginnings and endings. So did Jan, the first name I was given by accident. It must have been an accident, for I am no guardian of openings. I am no goddess of beginnings, not when I am always the one worshiping them.
There is a poem here, I know it. I don’t know why I cannot start it.
This year has been all about strange feelings, the return of ghostly chapters and doorways I have been trying to keep closed. For nine years, unfailing, I have met sadness on January 30. Don’t ask me how and why I’ve kept track. Don’t ask me what it means or why it matters. All I know is that January 30 arrives and so does this heavy visitor. Some years, like this year, it doesn’t leave right away.
I’ve been trying to set motion for days, trying to jumpstart my heart and my hands into working real hard. You know, to start building the life of our dreams. But it’s painfully difficult and I can’t pinpoint why. It feels like trudging through mud, or quicksand.
Last year I caught up with a close friend I hadn’t seen since graduation, and I told her all about what had been happening in my life. About how I kept moving from place to place, about how home was just a label and still a blurry one I can’t stick anywhere. What she told me was that I lacked stability. I always had, emotionally, but now it was real and because of it I was suffering. She said I had this one thing – love – that was my only remaining shot at stability, at least for a while, and she was hoping with all her heart that it would be it. It would be the thing that stays and doesn’t blur.
It’s not hard to make me cry, but yeah, I cried. Because she was right, and it’s always a comfort to hear your pain realized in someone else’s words.
I read somewhere, though, that in any relationship someone gets to be a drifter and someone gets to be a home. The drifter needs someone to come back to for certain, and the home needs somebody to wait for and to welcome. Two drifters can be and two homes can be, but it’s not likely to work. You can be both a drifter and a home, but you need somebody to be the home to your drifter and vice versa. You need somebody who understands what’s going on and breaks the ground to put it to work for you, just as somebody needs you to do the same.
I am no doorway, no guardian of beginnings. I’m a drifter and I need a home.
P.S. This space is on its way to becoming a backstage room. In three days, I’ll be moving to a new safe place: applenocom.com. I hope you’ll follow me there! I’ll see you soon.
P.P.S. Do reach out to me at applenocom(at)gmail(dot)com <3
I have been feeling like a ghost.
I vaguely remember waking up one morning with a feeling of air embracing me, like a light-weight force field keeping the world outside.
It’s nothing like that time when, in the middle of campus, I suddenly felt like everything was two-dimensional and made of sintra. The world was a meticulous stage set put up exclusively to fool me. But that’s not what it looks like today.
Imagine constantly needing warmth and coolness at the same time. Imagine getting burnt or frostbitten each time because you couldn’t find the perfect lukewarm. Actually, imagine that your skin is just layers and layers of cotton and you don’t really feel much at all.
You’d think it feels like poetry. You’d think it was a glorious feeling to feel like poetry, but I’m starting to doubt that’s so.
What I meant to say is — it’s January. Early into the second week and I still haven’t said hello to you, or said goodbye to December for that matter. I had given myself cold hard deadlines for learning how to let go of things, but my fingers weren’t quite warm enough to move. That’s just another way of saying I’m still staring at the scars. And I’m still trying to un-learn the dangerous idea that what I feel is beautiful.
I’ve lost track of the story that I was trying to write,
but if you have the depth in your soul, maybe you were still seeing it. Maybe you saw all the things that have been happening in my quiet, unruly life.
M came back. But conversations aren’t what they used to be.
They aren’t what they used to be with anyone.
I wrote one letter, and no more.
My soul-mates are many more than I thought, but they are less alike to me than I hoped.
I feel like a poem—
one that the writer abandoned half-way through; she stepped off the stage and said she’d never try again. I feel like I disappointed her by not being the poem she wanted to say. I feel like she wanted me to be funny, to make people laugh and love her, and I feel like I made her realize she was lonely. I feel like the loneliest poem she had ever tried to write.
What’s bizarre to me is how things quickly become normal after you’ve given them enough time. I have moved homes — literal and metaphorical — so many times in the past four months that it has started to feel normal to be in between.
Like on airplanes, when you’re actually nowhere on earth. Leaving was strange and arriving was unnatural. That’s what it felt like, but drifting? It felt like home.
I am constantly finding new homes, never the ones I am looking for, just like this isn’t the letter I intended to write.
I am always finding new places to come from. But for some reason, I am never starting over.
I’ll see you soon.
1. A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami
This has actually been my “currently reading” book since October and I don’t see myself finishing it soon. Ergo, first on the list. I’ve read about five Murakami titles before starting this one, and this one is turning out to be my least favorite. I have two more from the prized author on this list, and I have high hopes.
2. Quiet, Susan Cain
Susan Cain is probably the modern introvert’s heroine. Whether you enjoy her work or not, you have to thank her for making introverts a hot topic in recent years. This book and her TED talk, “The power of introverts,” are arguably the most popular resources on introversion today. I got my copy at this year’s MIBF.
3. Yes Please, Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler is one of my heroines, after Hannah Brencher. I stumbled upon the book announcement when I was looking for more sources of Amy P. wisdom for me, particularly in written word. For some reason, I took it as some misdirected sign that I must buy the book immediately. I ordered it online and I believe it should have arrived at my permanent address by now.
4. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami
As soon as the news broke that Murakami was writing a new novel, it was all over my Facebook feed. Once translated and then distributed to Manila, I heard only the best feedback. I’m told it’s a solid, distinct book, even next to Murakami’s own titles. I don’t have a copy yet because I passed up the chance last MIBF. Maybe next year’s, or on my birthday, since I’m not in a rush to get it.
5. P.S. I Still Love You, Jenny Han
Most YA series that come out these days only get an eye-roll from me. Something in me felt like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han would be different, so I went out of my way to get it. Best. Decision. Ever. Adjusting back to YA writing was hard, but To All The Boys was one of my favorite things in the world this year. The sequel comes out in June. BUY ME THIS.
6. Paano Ba ‘To?!, Bianca Gonzales
This is the most recent release on the list and the only Filipino title. I only recently paid attention to her posts, and I think Bianca Gonzales is a great local heroine and role model. BUY ME THIS.
7. If You Find This Letter, Hannah Brencher
Hannah Brencher is my personal heroine; her work and her way of writing are my soul’s goals. Hannah Brencher announcing a book was the among the best things to happen to me without directly affecting me this year. This is the only book on this list that I found off my own sources and not from referrals or reviews. Comes out in March. BUY ME THIS.
8. 18 Minutes, Peter Bregman
I found this at MIBF and decided to buy a book I knew nothing about. I’m not motivated to read it but I am still curious enough to pick it up in the end. If it delivers, I think it will be helpful for me at work.
9. We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
I was trying hard to ignore this book because it looks and sounds exactly like the kind of YA books that drove me away from the genre. It piqued my attention when it appeared on Goodreads’ (a) Choice Awards 2014 (b) “Mental Health” subcategory. This goes onto the list of books that I’m just going to give a chance. Extra points if someone highly recommends it to me.
10. Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami
This is a wild card Murakami pick. BUY ME THIS.
Post-script: My writing game has been pretty slack lately, and I hate it. Writing this list was difficult. Publishing this post is harder because I’m letting it go in all its horrible glory. But I simply refuse to quit writing.
I am going to do a brave thing. All my worlds and heroes are telling me to let people be loved the way they are, and I am going to do that.
I didn’t love myself for a very long time. This isn’t news. I went through cycles and phases of loving myself at any state, and sometimes of twisting myself into a state I thought I could love. It’s the wild hunt for self-worth that melted and hammered me into the person I am today. I’m not grateful for the suffering. But at the start and end of each day I seem to like myself, and it’s difficult to not be grateful for that.
Here’s a trade-off: I forget people’s unwillingness to go through the fire themselves. Anyone who’s been through some tough times will tell you that we all come out stronger from it, but that doesn’t make the fire any more appealing. It is so easy to forget that.
I told somebody that I’ve been having these golden visions of a better time. A life long ahead of me when my suffering is purposeful, my heart recovered, my soul fulfilled. I envision myself a happy ending, one I will work hard to get to. One I will brave storms and hells to deserve.
But the storms never seem worth the trouble to anybody else. Hell is too big a price to pay for a happy ending that might come to us anyway. The present is wonderful and needs protecting too.
I think I get it.
It’s not the path I choose for myself, but I get it. And I release any duty I thought I had to make choices for other people’s stories.
I deeply appreciate what I’ve gone through and who I’ve become. But I look back on the girl I was before the first storm hit me, and I realize she needed protecting too. She needed validation too, for who she was then. She never needed to go through the fire and become me to receive the love that I am now receiving. She should have gotten it at the start.
Whoever let me have it would have been running the risk of preventing me from ever growing or changing. But letting me own that risk for myself would have been their gift to me. As it will now be my gift to anyone else.
We need people, and we need to be the people who give others the permission to sit in their own skins and not be afraid. That’s the best gift you are ever going to give someone– the permission to feel safe in their own skin. To feel worthy. To feel like they are enough. (Hannah Brencher, )
Because more than a brave thing to do, it is loving. It is kind. While it is good for my soul to give, it is better that someone has received because of me, and it makes all the difference. It is the whole point. It is everything about the kind of life I intend to be living at my happy ending.
So I’m going to go do that.
Hey, Internet! I need your help with a little bit of therapy.
You see, I have a lot of feelings, and not a lot of places to put them in. I’d put them out on the Internet, but having them there makes me come back to them over and over, which is the opposite of what I want to learn.
This past month, I thought of writing letters. I’m decent with that, but they still need somewhere to go. I need a regular exercise of sending things away from me and not having any power over what happens next.
If you think you wanna help me out, you can volunteer to receive a letter from me.
I can do email or snail mail (Philippines only, sorry!), totally up to you what info you give me. Everything you enter is completely optional and, of course, confidential.
This comes at no cost to you, except possibly the burden of what I tell you. If you want me to talk about something close to your heart, plug it in and I’ll try.
If you’re in, drop your info over at http://goo.gl/forms/7yM1nslQrA and I’ll get back to you when I can.
Thank you very much for reading! :)