19 December 2009

Home

When the plane touched down at JFK, I felt a sense of relief. As much as I had enjoyed my time in the Philippines, I still missed New York. The cold wind of the city whipped my face and shocked my coat-less frame that had spent three weeks in summer-like weather, but I felt alive in a way that I knew I could never feel in the Philippines.

I see now why my parents, almost forty years ago, had strived to leave their homeland for greener pastures and richer opportunities. Everything was there for them, including love and family, but to live and die there would have meant a life of complacency. So they left for the U.S., worked hard to make their fortune, and retired back to their beloved homeland when they had accomplished everything they had set out to do.

But I'm too young to live there now. I want to experience the world. I want more, way more than what I could ever achieve in the Philippines. And for right now, New York is where I want to be.

This past week, I walked down Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. I walked past a group of carolers singing Christmas songs, and something about the cold night air, the bright lights from the cathedral and the streets, and the melancholy tone of their song, made me start to cry. I could barely control the flow of tears from my eyes, and I felt an actual pain in my chest. I walked around Rockefeller Center and took notice of the groups of people who stood around the Christmas tree, and I came to the realization that once again, I will be alone for Christmas, and most importantly, far away from my family.

But I only have one heart, and it belongs in two places: in the Philippines where all my family are, and here in New York where I have set my goals to be fulfilled.

If only I could be in two places at once.


(source: Google images)
"Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven"I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world." ~ George Washington

02 December 2009

Corruption.... Faceless

I am here in the Philippines on vacation. I have been here since the middle of November. I couldn't wait to come here. I had been counting down the days, but since I've been here, I've been angry and depressed.

I hate that I had to come all the way here to see my family. My experience and outlook this time towards the Philippines is much different than in my previous visits. I actually hate it here.

The corruption is rampant and the poverty is stifling. I have seen no improvement in the country and the thought of it is sickening. How is it that other countries, such as Vietnam and Japan, countries that were once war-ravaged, are now prosperous, and the Philippines is still an under-developed country?

It is because the politicians here are corrupt and they only care about what goes in their wallets. Never mind that the mass population barely have enough food to eat and live in shacks.

Maybe the people of the Philippines should take lessons from the people of Romania. Remember what they did to Nicolae Ceauşescu?

That same revolution and bloodshed needs to happen in the Philippines. Otherwise, I fear that the so-called leaders of this God-forsaken country will continue to hold down this country. It is in their benefit to keep the people in oppression.

~~

These past few weeks that I've been here, I've been having vivid dreams of the past - the times when all of my family were together in the U.S. The dreams feel so real that I wake up disappointed to find myself to simply be a guest in my parent's home in the Philippines. I wish I could turn back time to happier days and happier situations.

These past few nights, I've been having dreams of an unknown person whose face I cannot see and do not recognize. It is the unrecognizable face of a man who makes me feel safe : a man who doesn't get drunk and then becomes intolerable, a man who has dreams and ambitions of living a simple and normal life, a man who does not let his vices and whims control his life or destroy the lives of others, and a man who stays true and loyal to me as I am to him.

I have never seen his face yet, but when I do, I will know, for it is the face that both haunts and graces me in my dreams.

I look forward to seeing him again in my dreams. Although only a dream, the faceless man has made me feel safe in a way that I have not felt in a long time.

I will take it any way that I can - even if I have to simply dream about it.

26 August 2009

Late August Lessons

I am convinced that real New Yorkers leave the city during the last two weeks of August. My office is eerily quiet, and almost everyone in my group is on vacation until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Only the lowly dregs like me are here to hold down the fort while everyone else is away on vacation.

The dregs and the mobs of foreigners and tourists are left to wander the streets.

Blah.

My bus broke down this morning at 23rd Street, and I had to schlep it all the way up to 52nd. And because I’m so brilliant and sharp-thinking in the morning, I figured I’d get in extra exercise by walking the thirty or so blocks uptown to my office.

By the time I got to work, my blouse was drenched, and my trousers were sticking to my legs. I don’t keep a spare suit in my office, so I was forced to let my clothes dry on me.

Lovely way to start the day, don’t you think?

Good thing I remembered to put on deodorant this morning. And can I just vouch for the effectiveness of my deodorant – it didn’t fail me! My pits were nice and dry.


It's just a shame that they don't make antiperspirant for your back.

Lessons learned today:
  • Realize that most decisions made in the early morning hours are not necessarily the most intelligent
  • Keep spare clothing and underwear in my office
  • Take public transportation, especially when it's during the most humid days of the season
And they say you can't teach an old dog new tricks!

11 August 2009

Summer and Feet

We had our first day of 90 degree weather yesterday.

I'm actually not a big fan of summer. I can withstand the heat and humidity, but the thing that I hate the most about summer is... feet. I hate feet. I have something equivalent to an anti-fetish of feet.

Summer brings about the shedding of clothes, and then comes the shedding of shoes and socks. Bare feet.

And heat and humidity only serve to exacerbate the smells of the city: hot garbage, animal waste, dirty sewer water, and sweaty feet.

I am nauseous just thinking about it.

If people are going to bare their feet in flip-flops or sandals that accentuate long worm-like toes or stubby Vienna sausage-like appendages, please, please, for the love of God, clean your feet! It's bad enough that I have to look at your gnarled, crusty, crumby toes - I don't want to be able to smell them either!

Have mercy on a foot-phobic girl.

G, meanwhile, eats feet.


(G at 4 months)

Sigh.
"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair." ~ Kahlil Gibran

03 August 2009

Unwanted Admission

I was angry for a long time. Years, possibly. I knew she had stolen my Immaculate Collection cd. I mean, I saw it in her box of cds. When I confronted her about it, she denied ever taking it.

"I bought it. That's not yours,"
she said.

"I don't understand," I countered. Last week you didn't have the cd, and now you do, and mine is missing all of a sudden? I know that's mine."

"It's not yours."


(source: Google images)

That was that. She had a tone of finality in her voice. I didn't have the energy to argue with her anymore. It was just a stupid cd. But damn, it was my favorite cd. I seethed about it for a long time but never bothered to confront her about it again.

Years later, she got very sick. Cancer. She fought hard for her life. I didn't think she would ever succumb to it. When a priest came to give her Last Rites, she was defiant and refused to take it.

A day before she died, I was at the hospital. From out of nowhere, she turned to me and said, "I want you to know - your Immaculate Collection cd - I did take it from you. I'm sorry. I loved that cd and wanted it for myself. I'm sorry I lied to you, but I did take it. It's in my room. You can take it back from me."

I felt my heart breaking inside. Ripping into little shreds.

I was angry, not because she did in fact steal my cd, but because she decided to finally come clean about it. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want a deathbed confession. I wanted her to keep lying and deny that she had stolen my precious cd. I remembered some saying about people making peace with themselves and with those they have wronged right before they died.

I could feel her slipping. I felt the fight coming out of her. This wasn't supposed to happen.

I refused to accept her confession. "No, I don't want to take it. That one is yours. You have to get better so you can buy me my own cd."

"The cd is in the closet. Inside the box with all of my other cds. You can have your cd back."

She died the next night.

Later, when we were going through her things, I came across the cd. I didn't take it back. I left it in the box along with her other belongings.

For a long time I believed that she would still be alive if she never made peace with me.

I wish that I told her that I would have let her steal anything of mine if only she would never leave my life.
"Why, I did not know we had quarreled." ~ Henry David Thoreau, when asked by his aunt if he had made his peace with God

17 June 2009

Postcards from Above

My office is right on the Broadway strip. I sometimes like to wander into the tourist shops that surround my building. I walked into one today and saw the rack of postcards near the door. 8 postcards for a $1.00. On impulse, I decided to buy a pack.

“Why not?” I asked myself. “I could always use them as decoration or maybe actually send a postcard to someone.”

I always equated postcards with vacations. Either I would receive one from a friend on vacation, or I would send one when I was on vacation. Postcards = vacation.

With the pack of postcards in my hand, I realized that I had just broken the equation I had ingrained in my head.

I then thought of the best vacation I had ever taken in my life - a vacation I had taken thousands of lifetimes ago - to a magical place by the sea, the Adriatic Sea, in a little town called Termoli.


I was invited to Termoli after I defeated an Italian competitor in the weapons division at a martial arts tournament. I placed first, and A placed second. He and the rest of the Italian team invited me to spend Christmas in Italy with them to teach my sword form. After my first breakup with S, I was so heartbroken that I welcomed the escape. I quit my job and packed up and went to Italy.

Although known for its beautiful beaches, Termoli is not really a town for tourists, and is more of a place where people actually live. It was a place where A let me grieve for S while showing me that I can learn to love again. A and I would walk along the beaches and into the historic castle fort and we would not long for the past or plan for the future. We simply lived in the moment. I stayed in Termoli with A until my money ran out and I had to go back to the U.S. to face my responsibilities and real life.

Sadly, I never did see A again, and I haven't been back to Termoli since then. He passed away a few years ago - a tragic, unexpected death, and a devastating loss for all who knew and loved him. I received a letter from his family a while ago, inviting me and G to come visit them, my family, in Termoli.

I only spent $1 on the pack of the postcards, and I got so much more than I imagined I would: a flood of memories, a bittersweet reminder of A, and the inspiration to live in the moment.

Here's to you, A. You were always my angel. I'll see you again someday.
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

12 June 2009

Devil and Sprinkles

It’s the 12th day of June. It rained ten of the twelve days. I love rain. But too much of anything is never good.

I realized last night that a certain Verizon commercial stresses me out.

I grew up poor. We were always taught never to be wasteful. The pouring of the excess sprinkles in the commercial really bothers me. Some may find that commercial funny. It stresses me out on so many levels.

My OCD nature rears its ugly head when I least expect it – when I’m trying to relax in front of the television and a stupid commercial like that one makes me think of all the cleanup they had to do to pick up all the little sprinkles off the floor – and the thought of wasting all that good sprinkle when so many people in this world are starving.

Yeah. I got issues.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo of my little devil. She’s really not, though. She just likes to pretend she is with her little red devil horns. ♥


"Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them." ~ Richard L. Evans

08 June 2009

Tough Skin

I really have to develop thicker skin.

I've been feeling really good these last few months about myself. Despite my busy schedule, I've been waking up early every morning and exercising, and I've been eating sensibly. I've even dropped down to a size 2.

Seriously, it only takes a few words to shatter one's (my) confidence.

As I passed by the reception desk this morning, the receptionist says, "Oh! Have you gained weight?"

I smiled at her and approached her desk. I thought she asked if I had lost weight. I was about to tell her my minor lifestyle changes and how happy I've been with how my clothes have been fitting, when she says, "Yeah, your face looks fuller. Have you gained weight?"

The disappointment must have shown in my face, because she quickly came back with a disclaimer.

"Oh, well, I haven't seen you in awhile, so I don't really know!"

I said, "No, I'm just always this chubby."

Now I feel like stuffing my face, because what's the point, right? After months of exercise and eating right, and people think I still look fat.

Either I stuff my face or don't eat, ever again.

I just can't win.
"It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to." ~ W.C. Fields

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." ~ David Brinkley

11 May 2009

Alone

I haven’t been able to sleep well lately. There’s this gnawing, queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that I haven’t been able to shake. There are too many things happening in my life right now, and unfortunately, none of them are good. Every day is a constant battle to stay positive, but it’s rather difficult when negative people and things are always in my path. I can only do so much cleaning and throwing out of the things in my life that cause me stress. I am down to a skeleton-crew of friends, so to speak. I’ve been burned too often and too much by everyone I trusted. I almost feel like I can’t rely on anyone except myself.

Maybe part of this funk that I am in is a result of being overworked. I work all the time. I have no financial support from anyone, and even worse, others actually depend on me for financial help. I worry about such things as my health and what would happen to G if something happened to me. My parents are getting older and my brother has his own life with his wife – I cannot rely on them to always catch me when I fall.

It's a painful feeling to know that you're alone in this world.

"It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” ~ Albert Einstein
"At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self." ~ Brendan Francis

02 May 2009

Change Your Skies

Two years, six days, four hours and twenty three minutes.

That was how long ago since he had left her. She left him, too, although he did not seem to be aware of it, because he was no longer there to see for himself. She left him when she went out on dates with other men. She left him whenever she went to the old places where they used to go. "See, I am here! Without you!" she imagined herself saying to him.

She wanted to tell him that she was no longer with him and that he wasn't the only one who had left. She thought that by not staying by her phone and by not waiting for his call, that he would feel the loss of her.

She made trips across the ocean and visited places she knew he would never dream of going. She thought that by being anywhere except for where he expected her to be, that he would know that she was lost to him.

But in the two years, six days, four hours and twenty three minutes since he had left her, he never came back for her. She had hoped that he would, only to find that she had also gone. More than anything in the world, she wanted him to know the feeling of having been left.

After two years, six days, four hours, and twenty four minutes, she realized that she had never really left him. No matter how many times she thought she had left him and no matter how many places she had gone to leave him behind, she never really did leave, because she had always carried him with her.
"Those who cross the sea, change their skies, but not their souls." ~ Horace

27 April 2009

2 A.M. Texts

Catie fucked up his world again last night, and she didn’t even know it. All she did was text him “I miss you”. It was 2 a.m. She did miss him. What was so wrong about letting him know?

He didn’t sleep after he got her message. He stayed up all night, thinking about what it meant.

He decided to tell his best friend about it.

“Now I won’t be thinking about anything except that for the next month.”

“Did you respond to her text?”

“Yeah. I wrote ‘You have no idea.’ She didn’t answer back.”

“Well, maybe she does have no idea. I mean, well, you’ve seemed so happy with Melissa. How would she know?”

“It doesn’t matter how happy I am with anyone. Because it still isn’t Catie.”
No disguise can long conceal love where it is, nor feign it where it is not. ~ Francois De La Rochefoucauld

30 March 2009

Alway Get Back Up

There’s a song on my iPod workout playlist that always inspires me to keep on exercising even when I’ve already convinced myself that I don’t have what it takes to keep on going. It’s my fight song, so to speak, and it also holds a special meaning for me.

When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, she did everything she could to fight it. In addition to her regular “Western” doctors and oncologists, she also saw numerous herbalists and special healers. If she heard about it, read about it, or even just thought about it, she went out and she tried it. When her doctors all told her that she had only a few months left to live, she set out to prove them wrong.

This song was very popular during the months before she died. She would listen to it over and over, and she would laugh about how cool the song was even though it was about drunken people getting back up to keep on drinking.

But the song also brought out a serious side of her, and she would sing along and pump her fists in the air with passion. Once, after we had listened to the song together, she told me that she would never let the cancer get to her and that even though it may knock her down, she would always get back up and keep on fighting.

During her last days before she died, she would slip in and out of a morphine-induced coma. At one point, we had called the priest to her hospital bedside to give her Last Rites. While the priest was administering her Last Rites, she jarred herself from her semi-unconscious state, and she interrupted him. She said that she didn’t want her Last Rites as she wasn’t yet ready to die. The priest had told her that he wanted to prepare her for her meeting with God, but she, two breaths away from death, defiantly answered that he didn’t know exactly when she was going to die, and that for all anyone knew, she could live another forty or fifty years.

After ten months of intensive chemotherapy and multiple and painful hospital stays, her body finally succumbed to cancer on March 31, 2000.

In the end, she had stayed true to her word. She never gave up believing in life, and even as her body gave in to the cancer, her mind, her spirit, and her will to live remained intact to the very end.

This song is a reminder to me of her fighting spirit and of how no matter how many times you get knocked down, you can always, always get back up.

I miss you, Alanna.

22 February 2009

Memories

I had a strange dream a few nights ago about losing my memory. I could see myself in my dream stumbling over my thoughts and my words as I tried to tell a story to someone. I was screaming at myself to remember, and I felt the anger and frustration even after I had woken.

A number of years ago I had met a friend's grandmother who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She appeared "normal" enough when she first welcomed us into her house. After she had offered me something to eat a few times even as I had refused every time, I had thought that maybe she was just extremely hospitable, and the type of grandmother who just insisted that a person must eat if they are in her home.

My friend had left me and his grandmother in the living room alone while he went to the basement to talk to his grandmother. As we sat in the living room, his grandmother had started to tell me a story about something and she went into a large living room chest and produced a photo album. She pointed out several photos and then put the album back in the chest. She sat back down and then she started to tell the same story over again. She again went to the chest, retrieved the same photo album, pointed out several photos and again put the album back into the chest. She sat back down, and repeated the same cycle over and over again, and in between asked me several times if I had wanted something to eat. I started to feel sadness and fear in my heart, of what I was not sure, but mercifully, my friend came back upstairs from the basement with his grandfather, and the cycle with his grandmother finally came to an end.

She eventually had to be moved into a home for the elderly as the grandfather was not able to care for her any longer. One time, I accompanied my friend to visit her. Sadly, she no longer remembered her grandson anymore, but kept referring to him as her son (my friend's father).

That was my first experience with Alzheimer's and one that still affects me to this day. I was reminded of it again that night I dreamt of losing my own memory.

I talked to an old friend yesterday on the phone who told me about a coffee pot that I had given him a few years ago. I had forgotten all about it, and although the memory of a coffee pot is quite insignificant, I still felt the fear of losing my memory of even the little pieces in my life. I want to remember it all so that when I am older, I will know how I got to that point and destination in my life, wherever that may be.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.