Archive for the ‘Heart on My Sleeve’ Category

The Heroes in My Family

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

—The Fray, “How to Save a Life”

Not too long ago, my cousin, who is a nurse, decided to unwind after work. He and his friend went to an Internet cafe straight after their shift to play some games. Suddenly, a fellow gamer collapsed nearby. Without hesitation, my cousin and his friend jumped into action and performed CPR on the unconscious man. With their quick thinking and considerable medical skills, they were able to revive the him until help arrived.

This story was particularly dear to my heart, especially since acts of selfless heroism like this are far and few in between in today’s jaded society. Not only am I proud of my cousin’s intrinsic ability to help a perfect stranger, his modesty inspires me and makes me reevaluate my previous long-standing belief that millennials are nothing more than a bunch of selfish, privileged, and entitled generation. When he and his friend was saving the man’s life, he did so without even thinking about it. What is even more impressive  is that he said his instinct just kicked in and did what any person would do given the same situation. Outside of people whose jobs it is to save lives, not many of us regular folks can claim the same. Incidentally, my cousin’s younger brother is a Special Ed teacher, which is a different sort of hero, but a hero all the same.

Then I had some time to think about it, and I realized there are all sorts of heroes in my family. My number one hero would be my mother. She dropped out of college in order to run her father’s business to support her parents and her 10 siblings—9 of them were younger than her since she is the second of 11 children. She gave up most of her life to raise and support her family. Despite being a creative and talented woman, she gave up on her dream of becoming an artist to prioritize her family’s needs. And when they all grew up and had families of their own, only two ended up helping her. When no one else volunteered to take over the family business, she dedicated her life to keep providing for her mom, my grandmother (God rest her soul), and her youngest siblings. My grandfather was out of the picture long before I could remember him. Eventually, my mother got married and had children (all 5 of us), but she was still stuck managing the family business. Both my grandparents have long since passed away, but my mother is still running the store until now. My uncle, who comanaged the business with her as soon as he graduated from college, resigned some years ago after he got married to put up his own business. Only my mom and my aunt (her eldest sibling) are left tending the business after my cousin and uncle (another younger brother) almost bankrupted the company. The rest of my aunts and uncles got married, had their own family, and never looked back. Two of her youngest siblings, the youngest brother and sister, still rely on a “monthly allowance” from the company.

Then there’s my father. One time, our family went on an outing to a beach. During one of the small islands we visited, one little boy got swept up in a strong tide and almost drowned. My father sprang into action in a split second while the rest of us stood frozen in shock. He yanked the kid out of the water at the expense of the cellphone in his pocket. That day, I saw my dad as a hero. He become one again when the 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Bohol in 2013, which decimated his father’s newly renovated house. Upon hearing that Lolo Mando’s house—and his room, in particular—was totally destroyed, my father immediately flew back to his hometown to rescue my grandfather. We would have gotten my aunt too except she vehemently refused to leave Bohol. My grandfather stayed with my parents for over a year until he passed away on February 2015, exactly a week after his 91st birthday. Daddy’s tatay (father) never made it back home again. A week later, Dad and I went to Bohol to deliver my lolo‘s (grandfather) ashes to his final resting place. His house was still in ruins that a makeshift shed was put up on the lawn for my aunt and cousins to sleep in.

Not only are my own parents my personal heroes, they also play superhero to their grandchildren as well. When my brother and his wife had to leave their daughter with my parents while they work in Japan, my parents had to take care of my niece and my sister-in-law’s adopted son. At a time in their lives when they should be slowing down in retirement, they had to get up early, bathe the kids, prepare their meals, and drive them to  and from school. They are basically raising two 10-year-olds. Conversely, my brother and sister-in-law had to suffer being away from their daughter for long periods of time just to be able to support and provide for her and their adopted son.

It’s amazing the extent of the sacrifices parents make for their kids. I’ve  seen firsthand the unconditional love my parents had bestowed on me and my siblings growing up, and I have witnessed the great lengths my siblings go through for their own kids. While I have no children of my own, I can appreciate that parents are essentially their own brand of heroes. They work days and nights to provide for their family, stay up all night if their child is sick, and put their children’s needs before their own.

I do not use the term hero lightly. I think it is a disservice to brandish it around like insipid titles, not unlike how the word epic lost much of its meaning because of overuse. I do not necessarily think doctors, firefighters, and policemen are all heroes because I am not close enough to know one personally. But I stand by each and every hero in my life. They are what I aspire to be and hope the future generations would become. I am reminded every day that the world is not entirely a shitty place to live in and that people are not always self-serving. They restore my faith in humanity. I feel blessed that I don’t have to look beyond my own family to find the inspiration to live my life as conscientiously as I can. So this is how I pay tribute for being the heroes that they are. In my own little way, I want the world to know that there are still good people out there, and I am honored to have some of them in my family.

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In Retrospect: Doormat

Bedroom, May 11, 2014

“If they don’t appreciate your presence, perhaps you should try giving them your absence.”

–Tinku Razoria

313721_155033961252771_161781144_n-11155842_stdI got home from work and was looking for a hot meal to cap off my day. But instead of an inviting smell of dinner wafting from the kitchen, I was greeted by a locked door. And upon opening said door, there he was in the doorway, gulping down a glass of water as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He could have just opened the door for me, so I wouldn’t have to fumble with my keys. But no, he stood there next to the refrigerator with a blank look on his face.

So instead of the promise of food to fill me up after a hard day’s work, I had to cook dinner for the both of us. It would’ve been fine since I’m used to cooking my own supper, except for the fact that he was home all day long while I was toiling away at work. But I digress!

After dinner though, I had to wash and put away the dishes, while he went straight to his room to rub gunk out of his irritated eyes and go back to his so-called work. What burns me even more is he had the gall to mock me while I was finishing with the dishes.

By the way, it’s Mother’s Day today and instead of celebrating the joys and extolling the virtues of being a woman, I felt so darn unappreciated. I feel like a a dirty rag that has outlived its usefulness and tossed unceremoniously aside without so much as a glance. I may not be a mother, but I’m still a woman who gets fed up with being treated like a housemaid.

So let’s review, shall we! 1. He didn’t open the door even though he was just a few steps away, 2. I had to cook dinner for the both of us when I just got home and tired from work, 3. didn’t offer to help with the dishes and mocked me while I was doing it, 4. treated me like a maid who caters to his every whim, 6. acted like he didn’t care, and 7. ignored my advice time and time again not to rub his eyes to keep from getting even more irritated.

Sometimes I wonder why I bothered having a boyfriend at all!

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Tears

“I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes” – James Joyce, Araby

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There were days when I don’t cry for months. And then there are times when tears just gush in torrents down my face.

I can’t seem to find the strength or sanity to stop bawling lately.

In bed as sleep eludes me for the hundredth time, in the shower as I am getting ready for work and while sitting in the toilet, rivulets of tears just spill themselves with the faintest of triggers. A memory there, an image here or a haunting song from a distant past assailing the ears. Even as I am writing these sad thoughts down, a melancholic soundtrack from a Korean drama is playing softly in the background.

Every aspect in my life seems to be unraveling in front of my eyes. The job, which has been a point of pride then, is now a constant source of stress. So much so that I’d lose sleep and my body refused to function properly. The relationship, which has been stagnant for years, seem to deteriorate with the speed of light.  Health-wise, apart from the lack of sleep and the  asthma never too far behind, stress has elevated to greater heights than ever before. And since I’m away from my family, there is no comforting shoulder to be had.

Wondering how I can possible survive this adds even more stress to the mix. It’s only a matter of time now before I implode in epic fashion.

I will wring my hands and continue to shed copious amount of tears until reason or death dictates otherwise, so help me God!

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Casablanca Saga Part 2: Fleeting Life

Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By.” – Ilsa Lund

This is a story about Redemption.

Like most stories, this one began during my childhood. Although frequently punctuated by bouts of asthma, diarrhea, flu and asthma, I had a fairly happy experience growing up. I often played with my cousins during summer. We would spend entire days climbing guava, mango and mansanitas (little apple) trees and running around the vast compound on our grandmother’s house. While I had lots of fun hanging around with my cousins, I was always a shy and awkward kid who preferred to be left alone.

Sometimes I wonder, had I walked the path of straight and narrow, would I have wanted things differently? While I consciously stayed away from illegal substances and wanton promiscuity my entire life, I spent quite a chunk of my high school and college years seemingly adrift and barely surviving.  I hopped around from one school to another, taking up various courses I never intended to finish and most days, I just lay in my bed watching the world pass me by. It took a long time to find myself and finally had to courage to get up and start living my life.

When I was a child, I thought I’d live forever. As a teenager, I was busy day-dreaming about the future. In my 20’s, I was confident I’d still have time to accomplish the things I wanted to do. Then I barely blinked and I was in my 30’s  wondering how fast my life just went by without me.

Obviously, I have regrets. But nothing hurts more so than causing my family pain. When I finally graduated, I promised myself to mend their heartaches and support them unconditionally.  By then, most of my peers have left me behind. They were settling down and starting a family.  And here I was just beginning to live, not even sure if I want to have kids of my own. And as each year passes, I thought about having children less and less.

Life is just a series of moments that zips by so fast, you can barely see the picture against the blur. There’s no doubt in my mind that if I could live my life over again, I would jump at the chance in a heartbeat. All I have now is the memories of faded dreams and moments frozen in pictures.

While I’d like to think that I redeemed myself to my family, some days I still struggle to redeem myself to me.

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Casablanca Saga Part 1: Marriage + Babies

“.. it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” – Rick Blaine

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Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in this, but I have to say it nonetheless.. I don’t want children. Or at least, not conventionally.

When I was young and naive, there was a time when I wanted marriage, children and a nice little home with white picket fence. Now that I’m all grown up though, I often wonder how it all changed.

After graduation, I thought a lot about wanting to establish a career, with a lump of savings and meet the right guy to settle down with. But life, it seems, has other plans for me. As my career took off, I found myself wanting to expand my experience further. My savings were depleted and replenished a number of times and health constraints prompt me to re-assess my priorities.

I figured that I’d help out my family first, build a little nest egg and gain lots and lots of experience, before I finally say my precious “I do”. Somehow, marriage and starting a family got pushed farther and father into the background.

I realized I don’t want to bring a child into this world by sacrificing myself. It’s not entirely for selfish reasons. I am not in the best of health and as I get older, I get all kinds of maladies and strange afflictions adding up to my usual plethora of diseases. It would be inhumane to leave a child in this world without a mother, as I am convinced I am not going to live long and prosper.

Also, I haven’t the slightest inkling of maternal instinct. I understand women are born with nurturing genes hard-coded in their DNAs. Maybe when I was made, I missed the programming. Of course, I might be wrong, but I just don’t to risk my life and unborn child to find out.

Furthermore, do I really want my children to inherit a messed up world full of selfish, self-serving people? Here’s a fun fact: Homo Sapiens are the only species on this world who willingly want to harm their fellow beings.

I thought it was just a phase and I’d grow out of it someday. but as the years go by, my resolution against child-bearing became more and more concrete.

After all, in a society that thrives on traditions and conventions, there might not be anyone else likely to understand my sentiments. I mean, even if I’d be okay with marriage, who would want to marry a girl who doesn’t want to have children?

I’m still waiting for that light-bulb moment when I would tell myself, “You’re wrong! Having a kid is the most natural thing in the world.” It hasn’t happened yet though. But if it does, I might gladly surrender my crusade. Until then, I would go on believing that should I want to have children in the future, I would likely go for adoption or surrogacy.

Is it just me? Do other women feel the say way?

Or maybe I’m unique after all!

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