letting all the bad feelings out through “poetry”

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Artwork from deviant art: amalista

unsavory, like salt,

a scrunchy I left wet, hanging

on the toiletries rack, the

morning couldn’t get any sweeter

with awkward dances an­­d words

I was too sleepy to say, I don’t

have the tolerance for unironed shirts

today. Stay, we kept holding up

hands against the sun, grass and shoes

were about to give up, cold sweat,

unsatisfactorily everything, from half

hearted laughs to always one step apart.

I was pulling but breaths kept

at it until the quiet was quite as desperate

as fried chicken for breakfast. There is the

illusion that forms meant to taste like

cake, chewed on by a thousand dreams I

had for a fifteen-minute nap. It was

just as I thought it’d be with misspellings

and mishaps the saints in my head invented. We

were just as they told me when I prayed not

too long ago to do what the common

folk to with their tongues, for the sheer thrill

of being normal, in the streets there was

shouting instead of constant nods to hats tipped

off. I was no longer awake after more

than a day of crickets and throbbing and

the light showed itself out of my eyes until

I wobbled. My bedroom floor tasted like cement,

now that I think about it.

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Writing Anxiety 1: How do you keep at it?

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Since I’d have relatively more time for at least a couple of days, I decided to continue writing my novel. With God’s grace, I would be able to finish it before the year ends.

I just have a tad bit of a problem.

I conceived the novel idea last 2014 but it took me about a year to actually begin writing it down. And as you can see, it’s already 2017 and I’m barely halfway in. (I’ve just written about six chapters.)

I know that I can write and that I actually have no problem letting the words flow. It’s just that I’ve always found excuses to not write the book. I would often busy myself with work or other writing and creative projects instead of doing it.

I think, I’m just really worried about not getting it right that I’m obsessed with being in the perfect state of mind before I get to writing it (and if you know me, you know that that almost never happens. My mind’s always a wreck).

For this week, even if it’s just this week, I’ll try to turn that part of my brain off and just do it. I’ll sit down and write and let the world come alive again. It’s been so long and that’s why I may be too focused on making it good rather than telling the actual story I want to tell. I need to remember.

Last night, I started doing that. The dilemma was actually finishing chapter 5. It’s been almost six months since I began writing it that I didn’t know how to finish it. I actually thought that it’d still be a long way before I can cut it but I surprised myself by just doing it.

Now, I’m at chapter 6 and what’s so lovely about this journey is that I was surprised by one of my characters because *insert spoilers here*! It’s amazing when they come alive like that, doing things I didn’t tell them to do.

Okay. That’s it for now. Hopefully, I am able to stick to this thinking until the end.

how do souls brush against each other?

 

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Photo credits: Pinterest (Mishal Benson)

 

to remember that it was a kind of brown,

one that looked like a Monday, like coffee overflowing with sugar,

tucked away inside the eyes of someone who had a lot to say.

there was music and it sounded like pieces of piano keys falling, one by one, like

childhood and the last second before falling asleep. the room knew what was happening,

letting itself be occupied by vacancies and paint splattered on the walls. the paper knew

what it felt to be remembered, so it offered itself to idle strokes and the silence thereafter. in

that instance, there was a universe created, a silent agreement of

allowing the breaking of defenses and taking a step closer. there were secrets

unexplored still but it was then that looking into someone’s eyes meant

seeing them. (finally.)

To me he was Odin

If there was a rule to guard against attachment, it would be this: Do not let the name speak to you. Do not allow it to roll off your tongue. To use names would permit a sense of permanence and familiarity to settle atop your shoes and would bless the soil with that moment forever. (It would be too hard to commit to.)

But the eyes will always try to speak to you first. Despite your initial resistance, it will whisper to you. That day, it was Abby. And then, Odin. Before I knew it, my system accepted the register and I was holding your head. I said it aloud.

My hands never reach out first. They dread the split second they hang on air, wanting. But if I do attempt something, the heart suffers the most, because it explodes both at the thought of flying and actually getting somewhere.

I’d just like to think you understood me then. (Let me pay tribute, before I repress the happiness any further.)

Write about happy things, Pollen.

 

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My attempt at trying to look cute (sorry)

 

Maybe it’s because, for a really long time now, I’ve used writing for the bad stuff by default, that I feel somewhat awkward using it to document something good. Like for instance, an intense argument would prompt me to write a poem, immediately taking me out of my heaven-knows-how-long writing slump while the small miracles happening in my day to day life wouldn’t even deserve a short diary entry.

Maybe, because it’s so easy for me to come up with sad words, I’ve forgotten how to write about being happy, or at least how happy felt like, that now that the emotion’s overwhelming me, I don’t know how to describe the feeling.

I’ve had so many reasons to be happy over the past couple of months but I haven’t really been keeping the stories about them, even in my private journals. At the time, I figured, I wanted to feel them in the moment and keep them alive only then because I’ll remember the feeling anyway.

However, now that I’m looking through the things I’ve written during this time of happiness and bliss, I realized that there weren’t many memories to look back on. Yes, I remember feeling happy and I still am happy, but I couldn’t find the little stories that built my big moments.

Hence the questions: “Have I forgotten how to write about the happy things?”; “Do I still know how to write about the happy things?”; “Why am I not writing about the happy things?”

Not wanting to miss out any further, I decided to write this post, just so I could remind myself later of the reasons why I have been and am happy.

“Senpau”

At the time I’m writing this, I’m preparing for my fourth week as a teacher.

I always knew I was going to teach someday but I didn’t expect to be teaching this early. Despite my initial worries, I’m so glad I took the risk anyway because I’ve found a place where I can do purposeful and meaningful work every day.

Though the workload can be overwhelming at times, at the end of the day, my job makes me feel like I’m serving God’s purpose and I’m making a difference.

(Sometimes, I wonder if I’m normal because I didn’t think it was even possible to love something you do so much that the stress feels like a minuscule part of the job package. Is it still normal to want to do this so much?)

Good people

Now that I’m back home, I’m constantly around the people I love the most – family, best friends, orgmates… etc. In a way, that has healed me and brought me back to a healthy state of mind.

I’ve also met a lot of new and nurturing people who make me so so so happy. All of them are very supportive during tough times and are good company when in need of a good laugh and deep conversations. I’d like to think we were brought into each other’s lives not to just cross paths and make a difference for a short amount of time, but to keep each other as wonderful friends from now on until who knows when.

My best self is myself

The past few weeks has helped me constantly meet my best self, and Pollen, when she is her best self, could be absolutely wonderful. Pollen is at her best when she is unafraid, when she trusts herself, and in those moments, she can do anything.

To know that my best self actually exists within me can be absolutely life-changing. There’s a part of myself that I like and I can trust and that means everything.

The things I can do, the purpose I can serve will be limitless if I kept being my best.

(I like this writing exercise. I’ll try to write more of these happy reminders.)

[REVIEW] “Better At Weddings Than You”: A New Take on the Classic Pinoy Happily-Ever-After

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Full book cover of “Better At Weddings Than You”

When Mina V. Esguerra, the romance author of my teens, announced on Twitter that she was doing a blog tour of her new book, I knew I had to participate. But other than being an obvious fan of hers, something about her latest novel caught my attention – it was about weddings.

Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

I’m the kind of romantic that could obsess over wedding details and all the over-the-top lovey-dovey moments, even if it wasn’t my own. (A/N: I honestly love weddings so much.) I’ve also had a bit of experience organizing corporate events so I felt like I would empathize with Daphne (the main character) at least with how she does her work.

With that in mind, I signed up to get a copy and dived in the world of weddings, scrapbooks, and finding love in a job that involved a ton of tension and drama.

Expectations and First Impressions

Honestly, I was expecting this book to have the sweet familiar charm that weddings bring to a love story. I guess, with the many local and foreign teleseryes and movies that use weddings to resolve everything, it became normal to expect so much joy and pure goodness to come out of that one event. I thought that this book will use the concept of weddings like that too, but just accentuating a different angle of the drama (because weddings are great for those too).

But, a few pages in, I’ve already encountered such strong characters and immense (unspoken) tension. It didn’t feel like the usual wedding planning setup; it wasn’t overly sweet and cutesy to the point that you could already picture people walking down the aisle, but it wasn’t too serious,  dramatic and over-the-top either.

The tone of the first chapter set a mature urban mood that nudged me and said, “Hey, this isn’t your usual wedding chick lit. Hold on tight.”

Characters

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I don’t know if this is just me not reading as much as I did before, but I’ve never encountered a Daphne before. She isn’t the type of girl that needed to develop before she could truly fall in love. Yes, she still did need some learning to do about life and stuff (which she does throughout the story) but that didn’t mean she needed love to be able to tell her who she was. She could look in the mirror and recognize herself. She was a person, whole and self-assured, and she knows what she wants.

But, at the same time, she didn’t fit the archetype of a woman who was strong but reckless and violent, nor was she made to be intimidating just to fall putty into the hands of a man when she falls in love. She commands respect, not just because she’s beautiful, but because she’s good at what she does and she’s headstrong about her decisions.

It’s refreshing really, to be able to read her story and thoughts, because to do so can really be empowering to an extent.

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Aaron, on the other hand, took a while longer to figure out and like. He’s handsome, and I won’t deny it, very swoon worthy even from the start. He’s an industry newbie and is the kind of guy who’d be oblivious to his best friend liking him for years. But, his character felt familiar and new at the same time and it was hard to put a finger on how I really thought of him. (Mainly, I was trying to figure out why would I like him other than his dashing good looks.)

As the story progressed, Aaron felt like a classic boy-next-door who was always there when you needed him. Of course, that guaranteed pogi points already because 1) he knew exactly when to swoop in and 2) it was obvious that he, like Daphne, was also good and knew what he was doing.

But, he proved to be more than just that as a character, as he exposed his sentimentality in how he handled his work and in how he interacted with people in general. I felt like he was the kind of guy that understood and emphatized with people.

Also, and I think this is one of his best characteristics, he had an element of being “lost” in him, showing that he’s grown up but he still has a lot to learn and work hard in doing. It was a great balance to Daphne’s straightforwardness.

Setting

Oh Manila. You were perfect for this kind of story. There’s no place better to embody the drama and hectic-ness of wedding planning and falling in love in the most unlikely of situations than you. And because the author wrote you and the city life really well, everything fit in really well.

Plot

As I mentioned earlier, the story started off with a lot of tension already, especially with the interaction of the two main leads. But, as it went on, the story and the leads themselves became more relaxed and honest. (The story showed how freeing it can be to not give a shit.) And because of that honesty, their banters and interactions became more playful and enjoyable to read.

Even during the first chapter, things were already pretty steamy so I was really curious as to how sex was going to be used as a plot device for the book. To me, I think it was utilized greatly to show a shift in character among the leads. It was what allowed them to be raw and vulnerable which helped them to understand more of each other’s personality and us to get a sense of who they are without the bravado they’re all trying to portray.

The overall story flow for me was paced just right, allowing me to discover the characters and understand their decisions. The ending did feel a bit hurried though, but when I thought about it, it must be me wanting for more scenes of the leads being together.

(There were also empowering scenes for women that I really loved, mostly of Daphne sharing her philosophy on taking care of herself and dating. Kudos to Ms. Mina for this!)

Overall

As the title of this review suggest, I did experience a different take on weddings because of this story. It didn’t focus on the couple getting married and what the wedding would mean to them. It wasn’t the usual wedding story that I’ve grown up knowing either. Instead, the story showed how wedding planning is as an industry and what it takes to be a wedding planner.

And in the end, for me, the story was a reminder that when you allow yourself to get away from the hectic and the commotion, and just become honest with yourself, you can find a love that’s worth it. (And even when you can’t, all you need is one thoughtless moment, to be honest about what you really want and who you really want to love and fight for.)

Where do you get this book?

You can buy “Better At Weddings Than You” by Mina V. Esguerra on Amazon: bit.ly/chicmanila9 ($1.99 pre-order price until April 30, $2.99 starting May 1). Free on Kindle Unlimited.

About the cover: designed by Tania Arpa, photography by Alexandra Urrea. The photo comes from one of the shoots we did for #romanceclasscovers, our project to provide romance-cover photos with Filipino models. (More about that project here: instagram.com/romanceclasscovers)

In Between States

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Photo source: ours80s.com

In school, we were taught that there are three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas. The most prominent characteristic that differentiates each state is the compactness of their molecules, solid being the most compact.

(If you’re going to be really particular, yes, there’s another state of matter – plasma – but for the purposes of this post, let’s just stick to the first three for the metaphors.)

We were also taught that a material can change from one state to another. The most classic example is ice (solid) that turns to water (liquid) and then water vapor (gas).

I was reminiscing these lessons as I waited for a jeepney at a police outpost near my alma mater. At the time, I had just finished requesting for some documents I needed for something I was planning to do in the near future. Something that would dictate my life for the next few years.

You could say that I was worried. That day was a day of setting things in motion. I was actively trying to get a move on with my life and disrupt the routine I had learned to live with for almost eight months. Everything beneath my feet was shaking with the idea that from there on out, anything was possible and I was in-charge.

As cars continued to pass me by, I found myself dwelling on the changes that happened to me in a span of a year and how I got to where I am. More often than not, each change brought some sort of discomfort that I had to overcome. And at the time, when I was slowly being overcome by changes and worries, I needed to have a metaphor to anchor my sanity to.

I was in a state of confusion. I only had a general idea of where I wanted my life to go, but who was I kidding? I felt like I had no direction and that I was just making up plans for the sake of having plans. The best way I could describe it was being in between states, like being whatever it is that’s no longer water but not yet vapor.

Solid to Liquid

I graduated college feeling like life finally proved me wrong about not being good enough.

You see, though I excelled in school during elementary and high school, I never really believed like I could do great things. I was surrounded by people who were better than me and I always felt like I had to catch up or else I’ll fall off the roster.

But in college, I ended up fulfilling a wish of mine, which was to deliver the valedictory speech at the end of four years. Though my aim was only to inspire my batch mates with a speech (just like how our HS valedictorian inspired me), I found that after the four years in college, I became a solid person that can be proud of herself and can dream of better things.

I wasn’t complete as a person yet, but I felt concrete. I felt like I existed and I knew who I was.

But, when I was thrown into the corporate world, I found myself blending in to try to adopt. I wanted to do my best, and being blinded by the need to adjust, I mindlessly gave too much of myself.

Here’s a hard truth: I was too obsessed about finding a job and doing what was expected of me that I forgot how to define my life, that I lost parts of myself I didn’t need to lose.

For a short while, I was proud of myself for being able to survive in Manila all by myself, for accomplishing tasks I thought were impossible, for putting myself out there and for enduring challenges alone.

But I lived in the now. I just wore myself down as I tried to get by. Because I allowed the system to swallow me, I wasn’t accomplishing anything meaningful.

Liquid to Gas

Just because I realized that something was going wrong doesn’t mean that I was able to do something about it immediately. I was stuck in a situation and the next steps were vague, if not invisible.

I endured. That meant I was aware of how toxic my routine had become but I was unable to take action. Everything proceeded as it did before but I got unhappier as the days passed.

Those were dark days. What got me through was the thought of going home to Lipa. I counted the hours and I had to actively find motivation to do anything.

It was like being in Limbo while yearning for what it would feel like to be in a better place.

Slowly, I was feeling stagnant and, I don’t know, I was just really down.

Gas to Solid

In the state of being lost, I found a flicker of hope. It started out as a crazy idea at first but at least it was something. I used that fantasy to build myself up, to be busy about something for myself. It wasn’t much, but it was a plan that made me smile.

It was only in desperation that I accepted that idea, to be honest. But it gave me myself back and even if it doesn’t go through, I’ll feel really thankful for it. (It was also thanks to thing thing that I was able to confirm what I feel like is my mission in life.)

It wasn’t easy to force my life to change, to take charge of my life. From being confused about who I’ve become to trying to become someone better, I had to silence my worries and trust my gut about most things. I had to exhaust all options and keep an open mind to where certain opportunities would lead.

It took everything in me to become someone I recognized once again.

I’m currently at this state now. I’m still trying to be a solid person again. I’ve made choices. I’ve committed to purposeful things. I’m moving forward.

As the days pass, I’m getting closer and closer to the person I want to be. I’m regaining confidence in myself. (The funny thing is, things aren’t going according to plan but they’re becoming better.)

Nothing’s set in stone yet but for the first time in a long while, I’m feeling excited about something meaningful again.

(Hello Pollen. It’s been a while.)

A Happy Poem

Mt. Manabu peak

​I’d like to write about happy things

again. Sometimes, I look at the sky

and come up with words like ‘soggy,

brow-beaten cheeks’ instead of 

‘tomorrow’. My best work is defaulted

that way – to be of uneaten

breakfast and bottled coffee left

under the bed. Sunlight, if ever

it comes, barges in between cracks

on the roof while I wish to stay

asleep, and my pen reaches for it,

merely to immortalize the pain

of waking up. My handwriting sounds

like birds, drilling the concrete, because

it tells the story of a little girl 

crying. There is no air to breathe 

in my poems, should I write 

one. If there were better things,

happier things, maybe I could.

‘Unlearn’

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Photo credits: “Lost in Thought” Art Print by Davies on Society6

My favorite English word is ‘unlearn’. To me, it’s impossible to unlearn anything and yet, that word exists. It’s a sweet simple paradox.

This morning, ‘unlearning’ came to mind as I stared at a press release written for one of our projects. It was being edited and I was called so that I could learn from the revisions.

I thought back to my college days, when I was writing for the school paper, and began comparing notes. I knew that the context of the situations were different but, at times, I couldn’t help but internally reject some of the practices/tips given to us because it was different from what I learned. Most of the time, I have to turn off the pub-side of my brain to be able to write press releases according to how the industry wants it to be written.

It’s been almost eight months of that now. Of course, I haven’t been writing press releases only. I’ve been writing various communication materials also, and because of that, I had to adopt the business/marketing language – whatever that is.

This morning, I was just worried that unlearning is actually possible. I worried that by trying to adopt to a certain communication style, I had unlearned one that I am proud of having acquired. If that was the case, then the special-ness of my favorite word would be gone and I’d have to blame myself for being so careless with words and communication.

But then, as I spaced out and thought about it some more, I realized that I did not unlearn. I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to write a good news article, using the rules I came to know, if I tried. It won’t be phenomenal, but I will be familiar and okay.

Maybe, just because I haven’t been doing it as much, I have temporarily forgotten. I may have put that skill to sleep in the comforts of my head, but it’s there. And everyone knows, you can’t run after waking up. It takes slow and sluggish steps to get accustomed to being alive again.

Writing is who I am, and like the things we learn and come to realize, our identity is not something that can simply be taken away.