New York is one major city that kept it real. Of all the major cities on the globe, New York is the one that was defined by its grit, dirt, and struggle. As the city is in a constant, grueling and convenient process of tidying up, the struggle is being glossed over, and the concept of earning is being taken for granted.
The Real Sheba’s first single brings that all back. There’s no need for glamour, no need for manufactured production, no need for fake smiles pretending that we’re all okay. New York will always be gritty and dirty and beautiful.
There is SO much to say about the week I just had. So much to say about love, and so much to say about challenge.
It’s ridiculous how, at several points last week, I was made to defend my choices to love, and explain why I love. Three to twenty-four hours later, I was brushing my teeth in front of my bathroom mirror, and had an epiphany:
God never had to defend his love for me. He just saved me. Neither did he have to explain why he loves me. He just loves me.
If a situation arises and you find yourself feeling bad about whom you love, get out. It’s a waste of your time. Walking it hardly exerts any energy and talking it is exhausting.
I met a new teacher this week. Initially, there was so much ambiguous fear surrounding this person, and whenever I’d ask other students about them, I’d get the same vague response. So I waited until they actually walked into the room.
When they walked into the room, I recognized my dead voice teacher in this person. My voice teacher in Manila didn’t need to tell me how great it sounded. Instead, he read me. He told me that I had anger issues, that I should stop thinking like a teenager, that I have what it takes, that I have a right to show other people how I feel.
This week, we were intimidated and afraid of what this new teacher might read off of us, but I leaned in in spite of that because I knew I could trust their guidance.
Most of what the new teacher said of me was accurate. His first impression of me cut me to my marrow.
Today, I literally ran into someone at an intersection while questioning certain life choices. Also, a prayer was answered.
My extended weekend was too lax. It was so lax that I thought my brain would explode. I was too bored for my own good, and could feel my existence rot as I scrolled down the unending ennui if my tumblr dash and my Facebook feed. I chalk this up to depression, but even my morale is fighting against that justification.
Being Sunday, I originally, I wanted to be out of the house by 3 pm. But that wasn’t happening. I needed some work done and my old laptop wasn’t up to speed with email attachments, and my ipad wasn’t cooperating plus it doesn’t help that our Internet connection at home is as sluggish as a nap on a beach.
Finally, I was able to get things done, heading out of the house in time to be at Irving Plaza by 5 pm.
But I hated going to church alone. I was kind of getting sick of that sinking alone feeling.
So I head out anyway, knowing that the questions I will get at resource will make my life. (Feel free to pm me about those…)
But I needed to go the bathroom.
But my roommate was cleaning.
I didn’t want to ruin her cleaning by peeing onto her labor.
Solution: hope for the Q60 bus to come and take me to the Sunnyside Starbucks.
Yes! My hope was met! The Q60 was right at my corner, waiting for the light to go green. It lets out that hiss, opens its front door and I was bouncing.
I get off at 48th street. I make my way to the Starbucks. I question my need for a Starbucks. I was thinking to myself “Am I really doing this? Is this smart? Am I really going to a Starbucks just to use their toilet? Haven’t I made enough questionable purchases already?”
It was then that Melissa miraculously in front of me, arms wide open, happy to see me. She saw me from across the street but wasn’t sure if it was me. She also saw how my face was debating over Starbucks and ethical bathroom use. Turned out, she was debating whether she should come to church. She was asking herself “Do I really want to go to church in scrubs? Do I need a nap? Do I go to Irving with a whole thing of girls scout cookies that I bought from a friend at work?”
It was inevitable that we’d run into each other. It was also inevitable that we found each other whilst questioning our life choices. And literally, in that moment, God didn’t have just my back, but hers as well. A gentle reminder that I am not alone.
She said she was so happy to see me, now that she has no reason to say “I’m tired from work, I’ll pass this Sunday.” (My girl Melissa is a nurse.) We chit chat for two hot seconds and we end up going to her apartment so she can throw on normal people clothes while I can actually use her bathroom.
After about ten minutes, we decided on taking a whole box of samoas, she treats me to Starbucks, and over conversations about yoga, cookies, and an impending sugar rush, I wasn’t alone on my commute to church.
I lost Melissa not ten minutes after entering Irving Plaza. Social life is rapid at Hillsong. You see someone and you want to give them a hug. They’re a table away from you but on your way around this table, you see someone else and give them a hug.
Once I made it to the resource table, my soul let out a sigh of relief. I made it. I’ll make it the rest of the week.
Not to mention the shenanigans with a new found friend. I just love it knowing that Sunday never really ends.
Oh and the tall, good looking Mormons who briefly sat in at the 7 pm, looking so fine in their so-called uniforms, their name tags so shiny and new. (They didn’t look like pen salesmen, no sir.)
This morning, I felt happy on my own for what seemed to be the first time in a long time. It was a fight as intense as a space shuttle reentering the earth’s atmosphere in a blaze of fire. It was scary and I didn’t know if I was going to survive.
It was overwhelming. Too much to handle. Like my heart didn’t know what just hit it and couldn’t recognize it to the point of rejecting it because a) happiness shouldn’t really feel like this, and b) this will be happening again.
Yet my heart fought it. She was pounding in my chest, telling me that I needed this. That I need to remember what happy feels like inside of me. She was beating me up on the inside, fighting. Telling me it’s okay. Telling me I’ll be okay. Telling me that I’m doing great. Telling me that I owe it to myself to be happy.
As if being molded, trimmed, and fashioned, the worst was over, like waking up from a coma and saying “So that’s what happiness felt like. Now I remember.”
At least the next time this happens, I know it won’t be as overwhelming. I ever it does, I should be okay with it.
All the crap hitting the fan brings out the best in me, and by best, I really mean: Ilocano. A germination of a thought.
My mother and I have a close, practical relationship. I really love how can be very hands-on and very down-to-earth, but…if she were cloned five times and then all clones merged into one, she would have been a shrewd business woman, and an untouchable politician.
I am more than a decade older than when my mom got married, and a few years older than when she gave birth to me. Putting my life side by with hers, I can make sense of who learned what at which point, and I’m pretty sure we are neck and neck. Either way, I am glad that my mom paved the way for things she said that she must have figured I’d understand in due time.
And guess what, mom…I kind of get it.
Mom always would say: “Life is like politics.”
Initially, I didn’t understand this life view. Neither did I like it. Of course, her understanding of politics is from Ilocos. Unless you’re Filipino, and know what Ilocano politics means: it’s cut throat and mafia like. It also involves exchanges.
Mom actually said: “Life is like politics. There is a give and a take.”
If I got my mom right, there is power play, and seeing her move in and around the affairs of our family, information was her strength. She keeps her cards to herself allowing more rope to hang others with.
Ilocanos are tactful. I’d say we make for good undercover agents. We are unassuming and shrewd and we can keep, people, things, information and ideals close to us for a reason. I look scoff at the Maguindanao massacre and I immediately thought that it would have been more dramatic if the family and media entourage came home that day to find that their father was assassinated in his own home, instead of the mess of bodies and vehicles haphazardly buried in an open field. Too messy.
I’m just saying. Even my immediate family thought that was stupid.
It’s a bizarre thing to be writing about, but I am in a helpless position of trying to figure something out. Quite a bit of proverbial shit has hit the proverbial fan, and it seems that the mess is cleaning itself up in a way that, if I told you that it was cleaning itself up, you’d think I’m smoking pretty good crack.
Things have been said that no one would have appreciated, often repeatedly to the point that it makes recipients appear stupid. (In a former life, I used to say: the stupider you make me feel, the more powerful you allow me to be)
Information half received that didn’t need to be relayed. And this makes me ask: what motivates all this?
Confusion regarding the interests of various people in significant positions.
Problems that were once there suddenly disappeared, and you’re made to take flack for a) pointing that out, and b) pointing out that it’s gone because well, it’s all gone.
It’s all muddled, but there is a sense that I should keep my tail between my legs.
But see, this isn’t the year to do that. While I am getting the sense that explosive things will happen in mylife this year, I have a feeling that something is brewing that will leave me no choice but to lean on my mother’s wisdom, trust in God’s machinations.
In the Bible, the prophet’s protege failed to see the angels on chariots that have come to fight for them. I prefer that I don’t fight at all, because this takes away from what im supposed to do. I have the same defenses surrounding me and I don’t need to lift a finger. I’ll let God fight for me so I can just be as fabulous as he wants me to be.
All I need right now though is a phone call from mom.
You try to get through your day, try to do what you’re supposed to do when before you know it, you just stop. Then you feel numb. Then you ignore the fact that you haven’t had dinner or that you’re thirsty. Then, without even thinking of your dead boyfriend, you start to cry. Then your roommates come home, fearing that it’ll be worse when they start to talk to you about it so you just say hi and make the most of asking them how they are to pretend. You can’t read to get it off your mind. You can’t listen to The Moth, Neil Degrasse Tyson, This Amerian Life, Mars Hill in Michigan, or Radiolab. Radiolab can be freaky late at night so that one is skipped sometimes. You ignore how you used to love taking a hot shower at night, so you brush your teeth haphazardly, then go to bed. You try to ask for help on Facebook because it’s convenient.
You will feel better in the morning but it won’t last long.
This isn’t about missing Artie, or being in a different place every weekend. This isn’t about wanting someone new just for the sake of having someone new. This is probably about being alive and experiencing this pain that you can’t feel anymore.
But at the same time, I don’t think I’d be who I am if the source of this grief hadn’t happened. Yet asking for help can feel like pulling teeth.
Then I think of Hillsongnyc. I love how those wonderful people were and are still there for me. Then I think of how beautiful they are. Keeping that in mind, I realize how broken they are yet are still smiling, dancing, running, jumping, exploring.
There is something’s staggering about, how, when someone tells me I look great, awesome, or pretty, it’s almost always after I’ve gone through a numb nightmare of hell.
Almost every Sunday, someone tells me that I look great or pretty. But how can they possibly know when I had spent the previous hours feeling numb and dark and sad? Then again what do they care? Is that relevant to how beautiful I can possibly look?
Someone said I must step over this. The only way I know that’s happening is that I’m out of my house, making myself eat, and that I will be with people who are just as beautiful as I am.
Thinking and writing about meeting someone in a romantic context can be all kinds of nerve wracking and maybe awkward. It’s either I have met them already or I haven’t. A shortage of options for paths my story could go has never been so staggering. This gives me a heightened sense of accepting what happens next.
Good intentions never translate well when my mom and other aunts told me “It’s never meant to be. You’ll meet someone better.”
Well what a way to put pressure on someone I haven’t even hypothetically met yet. It was meant to be. As much as the meaning of my presence was for Artie, there is more to be said about how he changed my life. So to say that it “wasn’t meant to be” negates how much he was redeemed and how I was transformed into this odd intensity that I never knew was there.
There is no such thing as “better.” Not for me, and not for the fortunate daredevil who will love me (or already loves me if they’re around and kind of knows what’s going on). Competitions are futile, and so are comparisons. Also, no one wants to compete with a dead guy.
Certain about the uncertain, or a post about this past year.
With the year I just had, it’s kind of hard to recap it. Just today, three posts on death appeared on my news feed. Just sitting still to write what I have to write feels like climbing a wall.
7 months after Artie’s passing, I’m glad to be alive. Meeting Artie, loving him, and knowing him are such milestones. When we started living consciously about our relationship, he talked about his ex girlfriend, Patty.
He talked about her with so much care, even when talking about moments when any other person would have abandoned a drug addict on the verge of killing herself. In that half hour of listening about Patty, I learned that she read a lot, loved cats, And loved making things with her hands. I asked him where she was because I was becoming fascinated with her.
She died, he said.
A year after she walked out of rehab, her heart just stopped and couldn’t keep up with her. Within that year, she found a job she loved doing, met someone, fell in love and married.
Good for her, Artie said. I want that. I want just that one year to be happy.
It’s hard to deny that when he was telling me her story, I heard a voice whispering to me that I should love him, that I already do. There was a depth to this “command” to love. It was tender and urgent. It was heavy and with an ultimatum. It was like I was being shown something from a veil.
It broke my heart that Artie didn’t understand what unconditional love is. There was no time to think of solutions for that. All that was needed to do was just to be with him effortlessly. At the same time, Artie lived like passion on two broken legs. He saw through people, and felt nothing but high regard for everyone he spoke with. He could get people to talk with him and he could make them laugh so easily. In spite of the rage that he would feel about the world he thought was so broken, he had a heart of gold.
A month after he died, I would still get phone calls from his friends scattered around Queens. They all sang the same song and they were all singing about me, as if singing me back to a completion that only makes sense if I live the exact same way he did.
Grief is amazing. I was told that I’ll be sad for a very long time. I read that grief only means that he was worth it. I also read that each persons’s grief has a different meaning. Grief is when your soul is stretched but you will never be torn. It is when your questions will only be answered by the wind. It is a thin line between pain and joy. Pain because your body feels the sorrow so tangibly like tingling under your skin or migraines after crying for days or weakness and a halting of duties like cooking a no eating.
There is joy because in a way my existence has expanded through him, and through the others that have gone before me, and made an imprint on my life. They’re all looking down on me, and after me and where they are is where I sit with them in their hearts.
I miss him. It’s been seven months and I still think he’ll come around or call me. It’ll never happen, but it makes sense in the same way the impossible is possible: we will see each other again soon.
Joyce Carol Oates said that the cardinal rule of the widow is that on the first anniversary of the death, she is to be glad that to be alive.
In five months, I know I’ll be alive. I know I’ll be okay. I’ll still have stories to tell about him.
This year has been an adventure. So many beginnings and endings and probabilities to be afraid of. So much anxiety to pull out of. So much living.
Before talking about being high on coffee one Saturday night in Manila, let me just say that machine brewed coffee doesn’t taste as good as French pressed coffee. I’ll also insist that cream is for pansies. I’m no coffee connoisseur, but I am a better tea drinker. If anyone wants to gift me with coffee beans, please make sure it’s Kona.
John, Micko and I did things regardless. We didn’t do things on a dare. We just did them. Period. Our friendship was such that our heads would turn at the same things, we laughed at the same things, and also, we could communicate just by looking at each other.
One Saturday night, our family had a late dinner/get together at our casa. Micko and John were invited. The food and the clan wouldn’t be ready until about 8 or 9, so we had time to hang out.
I had a French press, and a bag of Kona beans. Micko had Ghirardelli melting chocolate. John had an appetite and was really hungry.
Micko’s family are staunch coffee drinkers. Micko likes his with a hint of creamer, making the contents of his cup looking like a mestizo. John had variable tastes. The boys ooh and ahh-ed at my press. They gasped at the Kona.
Micko’s Girardelli was a gift from a coworker. Or from an aunt. No one in his household knew what to do with it, but it seemed to make sense for us to have a cup of coffee and dump a stick of chocolate in it.
So there we were in Micko’s kitchen. We threw lines at each other while waiting for the water to boil. We bitched about work while the coffee brewed. I did the honors of serving them, and Micko passed the chocolate the disappeared into our cups.
It was amazing. I was so good. It was so good we were laughing so loud that Micko’s dogs were barking at us from the backyard.
We looked at each other and the inevitable was realized.
Let’s do that again.
By this time, we were giggling. The verbal jabs we were making at each other and the one ups were reaching a height of comedy gold. My skin was tingling. Micko was shaking his head in approval. John was making some proclamation about being the Master of the Universe.
Soon, it was 8 pm, and my brother Rod was asking for us to head over to the house for dinner.
I’m not sure if we actually took public transportation, Micko’s car, or if we walked. I do remember walking through the back gate of our huge house and cousins, uncles and aunts were shoveling food onto their plates.
After presenting Micko and John to my mom, she had seen enough to actually take me aside and ask “Nakung, are you high?”
"We had coffee."
"You’re acting like you’re high."
"We had chocolate in our coffee! TWICE!"
She looked at me and she must have realized that she didn’t smell anything sketchy. Then she happily handed my buddies a plate each.
Making someone's 13-12-13, or, missed connection anyone?
I returned an overdue book the other day at NYPL. It’s a graphic novel about the Knights Templar aptly called Templar. It’s all things swashbuckling, quirky, smart, with a dash of Ocean’s 13, and the bittersweetness of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was that marvelous.
I wanted to hold on to it for another borrowing duration but it was on hold and cannot be renewed.
I’d like to think that I made someone’s Friday the 13th, on the off chance that the book is available to be borrowed 706 years to the day of the arrest of the Knights Templar.
Whoever you are, consider yourself lucky, or better yet, blessed. Because sometimes, the universe conspires around people who need a better day. I know I had a great day. I hope you had one and I hope I made awesomer.
The only thing helping my anxiety is the 70’s rock station on Pandora. Reading a fictionalized graphic novel about the Templars had to be out on hold for the moment.
I feel on edge. I hadn’t had a phone conversation with anyone in more than a week. I hadn’t written in a week. I can’t even bake, cook or crochet.
It’s so weird how the drastic changes in my life ironically make me forget that I’m young. When my family moved to the Philippines, it was never explained to me what was going on. My parents just told me that we were riding an airplane. I met adults who loved to pinch my cheeks and spoke to me in an language I couldn’t understand. It freaked me out how the money coming out of my mother’s wallet wasn’t the same green.
I needed answers for questions I didn’t know how to ask. And I’m in that same spot right now. The sense that things aren’t the way they were is deeply felt. At the same time, it’s like there’s nothing I can do to go back.
Sometimes I hear Artie say “I can’t believe I’m dead.”
Walking along 5 Pointz the night after it was whitewashed, I thought I heard him say “It’s alive in your memory, baby, like me.”
I still hear him call me Little Person, Piglet, Baby.
One day, I happened to be on the phone with Irene and Ann. Irene was the cool mother figure and Ann is his actual mother. For some reason, they both spoke to me in that sing-song way that Artie does.
There was so much love in his voice. So much hope for others, if not for himself.
When I went out with him for the first time, I felt so lucky to be in the presence of someone who lived New York at a certain time. They were the generation that missed being drafted to New York by a hair. They were the burgeoning middle class that set out to do whatever they wanted. They started bands, raced cars and motorcycles, they were smart and daring rebels.
Meanwhile, he’d marvel at how I know every band name he’d talk about. He thought he hit a jackpot when he landed a cute Asian girlfriend who understood drum beats and saw the movies that he saw.
We were too good to be true, holding hands in Manhattan, being stared at, being wondered at. We laughed at the silliest things, we cried at how out lives would have been different had we not met each other.
My mind has gone to a place where it is easily convinced that he’ll call me. He’ll say he’ll see me again. He’ll say that he’s met my dog, found his cats, and met my amazing aunt Elvie. He’ll say that he’s hung out with Patty and that she thinks that I’m such a cool girl.
Because of his death, I feel like my existence has expanded. Someone who knows me, felt me, touched me, held me, loves me from beyond this familiar world.
Knowing that is sad and peaceful. But I know Artie.
In a matter of hours on Friday, Typhoon Haiyan completely devastated parts of the central Philippines. It was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The death toll is estimated up to 10,000 with hundreds of thousands more displaced. The country has declared a “state of calamity.”
I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about this thing called Filipino resilience. Filipino resilience is beautiful, tragic, and painful.
It’s beautiful because we have the ability to smile in the face of danger as well as in the aftermath of it.
It’s tragic because that smile can be a defense mechanism that can often deny us the opportunity to face the truth.
It’s painful because one day, it’s all going to have to blow. If not, then dysfunction.
There was mention of desensitization, which hits the nail on the head.
The Philippines, being hit by typhoons more than any other country, takes so much shit. If there’s a typhoon in any other Asian country, we took it first. We saw it first. We hurt from it first.
And personally, I see the shit-taking qualities in me. Then I smile. Then I say I’m okay. Then self-damaging denial takes its toll. It feels monstrous and unnatural, cruel and cold.
It takes more strength to say “No I’m not okay”. Saying “I’m okay” or “I’m fine” is such bullshit.
My boyfriend just died. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that. A storm just hit my country in the worst way possible and I’ll have to admit that seeing “back to normal like nothing happened” posts are disturbing.
Didn’t we just have an earthquake before?
Feel things, people. Look around you then look inside yourself. Things aren’t okay but it’s totally okay to cry.
Asking for help is as easy as it is daunting. In spite of school, church, work, roommates, and family, I still feel alone.
Joyce Carol Oates said “There is a terror in aloneness. Beyond even loneliness.”
On my way home from a birthday party tonight, I was desperate for someone to talk to. Highs from a social gathering more often than not bring me to lows of varying depths. While settling from the celebration, I found myself saying to myself: I’m not used to this!
The people at the birthday party were an amazing group of people. We celebrated a wonderful person tonight and it was gratifying to work and put this surprise party together as she herself has done a lot for everyone. The birthday girl leads several teams at church, and most of the people at the party are part of one host team or another.
One of the first responders to my moment of crisis were the host team of my church. A team leader immediately sent me an ecard. Electronic, yes, but it was heartfelt in its immediacy. I needed that at that moment.
I also received emails. These letters told me that they were praying for me. A few of them even said that they loved seeing us together, hands clasped, walking into church. Little did they know that Artie initially had mixed reactions about church. Most of these reactions were excuses that I’d ultimately not hear towards his final few weeks.
It was a struggle to get him to church sometimes. He knew how that made me feel. But whenever he went, people saw us and had no clue.
Whether or not they saw the struggle or knew of his apprehension, we were still seen. We’d still clasp tour hands together, and for some reason, this was the main attraction of our entrance into Hillsong NYC.
I didn’t have to worry about him after all. I didn’t have to worry about having those differences. I didn’t have to worry about what he thought of super nice people saying hi to him and calling him by his name.
Then, like a Greek chorus singing assurances, upon his death, these church volunteers who see everything, laud the way we held hands in church.