Masked

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Once again, I find myself trying to fit into a space not meant for me. I try to break into roles the way I do with shoes a size too big or small; forcing my feet in and walking around with a placid grin stuck onto my face, thinking that if I never address my discomfort, then it would never be real.

I’m always torn between making things happen and letting it happen to you. When do you take initiative and control what you rightfully can? When do you let go and let things run their natural course? How would you ever be able to tell which the right decision is?

The problem always lies with what I’d like to be, what I am, and the secret compromise and negotiation going on between them, trying to figure out which one has more of their way than the other. I try to be three steps ahead of myself and throw on duties and personas impulsively; recklessly.

Let me give you an example: I believe in pragmatism, right and wrong, mercy and compassion and justice and love. At fifteen I realized this, and, wanting to walk the talk, thought of a way to further define and abide by my principles, and became a church girl. I was sobbing at sermons, donating my allowance as tithes and singing loudly to worship songs, despite growing up scowling, skeptic, at the idea of God, Santa, and the tooth fairy, among other imaginary creatures. I started to break nearly a year later, my persona weary and chipping away at the corners. I shuddered in guilt and disgust in the congregation instead of enlightenment and joy. I left and didn’t look back.

I’d love to have a smile plastered on my face all the time. I’d love to be kind all the time. I’d love to be on the genius-level of skill in art. I’d love to be a reliant friend. But the truth is I can’t be bothered to fake grins, I can spit out vitriol, my preferred art form is through words, blank ink on white paper and not the contrasting, fluid colors on canvas, and I won’t reply to friends’ messages promptly if I don’t feel like it and I can’t even comfort people well. As time passed, it’s been my refrain: I’d love to, but I can’t. I’d love to be that person. I’d love to love that thing. I’d love to do these for you. I would love to, and I could, but I really just can’t. I peel off the faces that they see in me; the faces they want me to have; the people they’d like me to be. I’m sorry, I tried. I can’t. It’s the trial-and-error solution; the dress-up game before the purchase of a dress; like the sing-song chant of he loves me, he loves me not. This should be it. No, it isn’t. Casting away wrong answers and poorly fit dresses until we arrive at something that’s right.

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road to nowhere

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When I am on the road, on foot with sore soles or on vehicles, slouched against seats; viewing proud, towering skyscrapers; hearing a cacophony of impatient sighs and traffic noise and snippets of conversations all dull and warm and deep, is when I feel alive the most.

There’s a certain feeling of purpose within each distance covered that even the most mundane of errands feels like a quest. Being around the presence of other people grounds you to the fundamentals of nature and society: here we are, in a chaotic world, trying our hardest to systemize and organize what little we can. Realizations that, as a whole, seem to whisper to me, goading me on: You are here. You are here. You are here.

No human being was ever created to settle. From the very beginning of civilization, we stay where we have what we need and where we may be needed. Over time, resources deplete or needs are modified and changed and we wander farther. One step out and there’s the feeling of liberation – our homes are far from being prisons, depending on an individual’s perspectives, but just one step out, and another, then another, until we are further out from our comfort zones of built routines around the basic necessities of human survival and there is freedom in where I can go and what I can do and who I’d stumble upon. I am awake, and life is no longer waiting to happen or merely happening upon me. I’m making it happen. I’m making the choices. I am hopeless when the slightest and smallest of things slip from my fingers, reminding me I am not in charge of fate – there is nothing you can do – but then, I’m reminded I can, however futile, take charge of my own.

I have the promise of purpose somewhere.

Calypso

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If there should be something that you must remember,
it is this: you are one of the many lovers
sinking their toes into the smooth sand of this isle.
I don’t say this in order to dull the fire
that we have stoked to flames, caressing the heavens –
but to confess and to stand witness to these piles of ashes.
soon you will leave, like the rest of your brethren,
to fulfill one of the Olympians’ worst curses:
inevitable love, the promise of loneliness;
my island a mere rest stop to your epic quests;
when you venture to the seas, gone the 0
(of us, of me) will be. you are a kind guest,

so please: keep your distance. let your sweet, sweet words fester,
on your tongue with your wistful desires- forever.

Photo credit: Tim Lane (British, b. Cheltenham, England, based Bristol, South West, England) – Sophia  Drawings: Graphite, Pencils, Paint on Paper

Raindrops

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The rain does not want to stop falling.

It’s relentless. From the breaks of dawn to the hazy sunsets, it comes in the forms of both light drizzle and angry torrents. The streets are perpetually wet, and I perpetually cold; my feet muddy and slipping on the pavement much more than I’d like to admit. In the neighborhood, we all have weary eyes looking up at the sky and our lips form the same dejected comments. We put on our raincoats, carry our umbrellas, slide our screens shut in the face of bugs seeking shelter, don warm clothing and pile up the blankets over our shivering bodies. We wait to wake to a bright morning, instead of a persistent haze of grey.

All that is left to do, it seems, is to cope.

•••

This fact has held true throught my existence of a whole 18 years. It’s not a very long time compared to, well, the rest of the world, but it just so happens that my birthday is dabsmack on the start of the rainy season in the Philippines – the perfect weather for mulling over your years. It just so happens that this year, I was not in the mood to celebrate, and it just so happens that turning eighteen is considered important, and I feel like I’m obligated to make some realizations.

It just so happens that rain is the perfect metaphor.

It’s a cheesy one, but it applies.

One of my long-running mistakes is assuming that happiness should be the default. It’s the standard. If you’re not happy, what are you doing with your life? You must have done something wrong; you’re doing something wrong. You’re hindering yourself. Take charge of your life; speak it into action to the universe; don’t you know the Law of Attraction? Think positively. Be better. The problem lies within you, not the world you keep blaming.

I think I’ve forgotten we’re still human. I’ve forgotten there are things outside our control. I’ve forgotten that I cannot keep the sun from rising and setting, nor hiding away, tucked in the dark clouds of a thunderstorm.

There is nothing I can do about the rain, except grabbing an umbrella and wrapping yourself in raincoats and sloshing around puddles of mud in boots; making hot chocolate and falling asleep as the raindrops thud harder against the roofs.

All that’s left to do, it seems, is cope.

Of Fears

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I have a fear of heights and the dark. Well, I used to have a fear of heights and the dark. I’ve read something – a book, an internet post, a message – that said I did not fear heights or the dark exactly, but the unknown that lies within them. It is not the dark that I am frightened of, but the countless shadows that seem to form, taking on personas of various monsters and demons with the purpose of harm. It is not heights that I am frightened of, but the answer to the question, what happens after I fall? and if you think that the answer isn’t “unknown” to the latter exactly – and yes, I know, I get it: my skull could crack and my bones could break and I could lie dying in a pool of my own blood, but there’s the uncertainty lying within the number of possibilities that could happen. There’s the uncertainty lying within the thought of how it’d feel to fall and hit the ground. There’s the uncertainty lying within the thought of death.

Do all of our fears lead to the same thing: the fear of the unknown? What’s your fear? Spiders, ghosts, banshees, blood, the death of loved ones – some of these we cannot even begin to explain the origin of dread that makes us shudder. Some are just mere possibilities. The idea that it could happen frightens us, despite circumstances that say there’s a higher probability it wouldn’t.

Then again, we never know, don’t we? It’s what has haunted mankind for centuries. We are born into this world unknowing, and we leave it the same still. We throw ourselves into exploring and finding what we can, but instead of arriving at answers, we reap new questions. The majority of us focus on making survival as comfortable as it can get, with our questions left to gather dust at a corner in our heads, manifesting as the universal fear; as the reason why we hold on to God and fate, and find solace in the promise of forever and heaven; in wearing lucky charms and blowing dandelions to the wind. You never know. You never know. you dread this at the same time it gives you hope.

metathesio

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All my life, I never knew what exactly I feared. The eyes adjust to darkness, and a familiarity of a place eliminates any fear. Ghosts are rare to come by. Cockroaches are just pests, ones that give me shudders because they’re ridiculously ugly and unclean. I can’t say I fear heights when I’ve stood on top of mountains and I know my survival instincts will kick in if ever I do fall – and see, I’m afraid of falling and breaking my bones, not heights itself, which is sensible for any human being.

No, I never knew what I feared. I didn’t know what personal terror I possessed deep within me. It’s fine, really. The most frustrating thing I’ve encountered because of my lack of knowledge is that I can’t do a self-insert when reading about Harry Potter’s boggart, a creature that transforms itself to your darkest fear, or when watching It, where the freak clown weaponizes your fear against you. Maybe the boggart or It will turn into a cloud of confusion and I end up saving the day.

In the quiet lull of the morning, sitting in a bus bumping along a road I’ve taken for a decade, my fear finally dawns on me.

•••

To all beloveds and friends who talk of us existing in the far, far future, I always say:

“You can’t promise me that.”

“We never know.”

“We’ll see.”

“You can’t say that now.”

Or sometimes, I smile and never say it aloud, letting quaint fantasies delude both of us. The lovechild of Time and Fate is Change; powerful with its inevitability. It is in humanity’s nature to fight a lost battle, and even though I know better, I let myself hope and believe that despite billions in testimony it is all in vain, I – we – will defy the odds.

It’s romantic, and pathetic. I look back at those moments full of promises and images conjured of us years older and still together the same way we’ve always been, and I can’t believe myself.

It is change that I fear, and I choose to turn a blind eye to what I know to be true: that in time all that I know will decay and wither and cease to exist. I take my comfort in the monotony of routine; these mornings that, now looking back, are almost indistinguishable from one another.

And so I gladly sit through the traffic; on the road I’ve been on for years. I cannot promise even myself anything. I turn to the window, and try not to think of the day I will last set foot on this road.

#MentalHealthBlogathon2018: Voices for Change

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Before I start this post, here are some of the mental health services I discovered through the event:

• University of Santo Tomas Psycho-Trauma Clinic (free for all)

• Bahay Aruga

• Mental Health PH Database for services available nationwide

•••

On the Internet, especially on social media, mental health is becoming more commonly discussed. News of celebrity deaths through suicide are on our timelines and feed, it seems, month after month. Suicide hotlines and threads regarding depression and other mental health disorders are shared throughout every social media platform.

I don’t believe that discussion is enough to address the stigma and the issues around mental health. But I believe that discussion elevates awareness, and the more we realize how alarming it is that many Filipinos go undiagnosed, without help, unaware of their own illness or unaware that help is possible, the closer we get to a more sustainable solution for each and every one of them.

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And for that reason, I participated in Mental Health Philippine’ first Blogathon on April 28, 2018. I have had this blog for three years, posting prose, poetry, and the rare personal blog post of an event. This year, I was committed to extending my reach as a writer, and I think having meaningful content to share with my audience, no matter how small, is part of it.

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