No, thanks!

Promptly Written asks,

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where,
and why not?

Let’s start by taking hell out as an option. Self-explanatory.

I’ve been blessed with opportunities to go to many places all over the world (continents yet to be visited: Australia and Antarctica) as well as to have been exposed to a myriad of settings: urban slums and luxurious resorts, dumpsite communities and affluent villages, shacks and palaces, corporate board rooms, sugarcane fields, red light districts…the list goes on, and I have never felt regret over having gone to any place. I must say that the worst place I’ve been to was a club where naked women danced, put on flimsy clothes and sat at tables to entertain men and even be “taken home.” I was only eleven (yes, you read that right) when I went there — it was supposed to be an “educational trip” for me, so I’d see what some people, women especially, had to go through to get by in life. Was it traumatizing? Yes. Illegal for me to have even entered that place? I would think so, though I didn’t know any better then and my mom (you read that right again) certainly thought it was good parenting to bring me there. And she was right about one thing: I did see what some women were going through to earn a living.

So. Where would I never want to go? A brothel, definitely.

That club I visited decades ago was quite close to being one, I suppose, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over going to an actual brothel, as I have seen them portrayed in the news and in the movies. I’m not sure my heart can take it.

Still, I’m a social worker, and I don’t know what lies ahead in my practice of my profession. So I can’t really say I would never, ever go to a brothel. If it’s for a rescue mission, who knows? I know I wouldn’t like it at all, but if it would mean taking part in rebuilding the dignity and the lives of exploited women, how could I say no?

 

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Dividing Life

“My time I divide as follows: the one half I sleep; the other half I dream. I never dream when I sleep; that would be a shame, because to sleep is the height of genius.” – Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life

Some ten years ago a former boss said something in passing about me, a description that got ever-stuck in my head. I think I might’ve just left my job, then, and was having a reunion dinner of sorts with my team, the Boss included. The topic of conversation inevitably went to why I had to resign. I started reiterating what I’d already told them a number times: I was gonna finish my masters and do work for underprivileged children. Then the Boss went, “She wants to do too many things.” I can’t recall now how I responded then, but my heavily edited memory has me giving a retort, “Well that’s not necessarily a bad thing, yeah?”

Fast forward to March 2016. Here I am making a confession: The Boss was right about me then, and it was not just naiveté; even now, at middle age, I still have the desire to do far too many things, perhaps way more than my singular body can ever succeed at doing. I still maintain, though, that this is not necessarily bad.

I must admit that I am still a long way from becoming good at managing my time to accomplish all these many, many things that I am trying to do or am still dreaming of doing. Whatever I lack in discipline I make up for with sheer determination. AND FAITH. Lemme see…right now there’s a full-time job, domestic responsibilities (which entail all-nighters and lots of nursing and driving duties), inventory management and shipping tasks for my mom’s business, discipleship and other ministry efforts. I also take on moonlighting opportunities, most of which have me writing or editing technical documents.

As things are right now I literally am already quite sleepless. Which is to say that, following Kierkegaard’s reasoning, I’m afraid no genius can be found here. However I am not wont to drop any of the balls I am now juggling, plus:

  • I really, really, really want to be able to write regularly. That novel has to happen.
  • I would also love to be able to volunteer again, maybe teach in Sunday school or assist a community program for children.
  • I want to go back to school. I’m itching to start pursuing a PhD.
  • I’m still hoping to be able to teach someday.
  • It would be great, too, to be a trainer again. I miss facilitating stuff.
  • Finally, I want to be able to raise a child with my hubby.

If I were to live as long as my grandparents I’d have at least forty more years to do all these. Still a lot of time, don’t you think? Needless to say I must do better in the art of dividing. Whereas Kierkegaard spoke of dividing his time, I simply must divide all that are out there for me to do, between the dispensable and the significant. Leave out the fluff, the non-essentials, the time-wasters. Then my non-sleeping would be put to much better use.

I have to be realistic, though. I don’t know how much more time I actually have. So there is further dividing to be done. All my bullets above are great, and it would be oh-so-wonderful to be able to put a check on each of them, but truth is, I may not even wake up tomorrow!

Some time ago I took stack of ALL that I am capable of doing in this life and, I guess, divided them between those that I could give up, and those that I would really want to be the essence of my years–my life’s ultimate non-negotiables. Time and again I would go back to this second list, which I wrote from the perspective of having reached the end the race, so to speak. These are what the list contains:

  • I loved.
  • I shared God’s word.
  • I helped people grow in the Lord.
  • I depended on the Lord.
  • I worked excellently for the Lord.
  • I was a good example.
  • I discipled.
  • I obeyed the Lord.
  • I followed the Lord.
  • I reflected Christ.
  • I manifested joy in all circumstances.
  • I encouraged.
  • I listened.
  • I gave.

There it is, my BIG, FINAL LIST. No matter how much time I have, this is the list that I can, and will, live out. Does it still show that I want to do too many things? I suppose it does.

That’s not necessarily bad, though, yeah?

——————————

*Writing prompt, “Divide,” courtesy of The Daily Post.

Secret

I discovered something about myself a year and a half ago. I have not had the guts to tell anyone, but I think it is high time that I own up to it and stop living a lie.

Okay, here it goes:

Contrary to how I have always identified myself, I am, in reality, an absolute introvert.

There. I’ve said it. I-N-T-R-O-vert.

Whew!!!

Having been raised by an extremely extroverted mother and having been used to speaking and laughing loudly, I never ever considered myself to be not an extrovert. However I realized I had just been ignoring different clues that had been popping up all my life. For one, I have always been super-awkward with small talk. Most times I also feel self-conscious and uncomfortable when in a group. And how else could I explain the fact that I don’t have a single friend–truth is, I have never had a personal conversation of more than five sentences with anyone–in my neighborhood where I’ve lived for the last ten years? I don’t even know the names of my next-door neighbors. Come to think of it, this one’s not a clue; it would be a screaming red flag to any true extrovert! Oh, how could I have kidded myself for so long?

More and more, too (and perhaps this is a function of age as well), I have been finding the most amount of enjoyment in solitude. This is why I particularly love Saturday mornings, when I am usually able to spend a couple of hours just driving around the University of the Philippines campus, or reading a book on a patch of grass, with just a cup of coffee for company.

I suppose it’s this job that I’ve had for the last couple of years that has allowed this truth of my introversion to sink in. After so many years of working in the context of communities and big groups, being an organizer, trainer, facilitator and other stuff that extroverts are known to do, this assignment has got me glued most days to a home office. And I have come to realize how perfect this arrangement actually is for me.

As the cliché goes, the cat’s out of the bag.

I’m feeling the need to be alone and hidden under my blanket now.

—————————

Writing prompt, “Secret,” courtesy of The Daily Post.

I want…

…healing for every single physical illness.

…to remember what an eight-hour sleep feels like.

…to be transported to a deserted island, just for a couple of days.

…to have the luxury to spend my time just reading and writing.

…to have a decent waistline again.

…world peace, and no, I am not kidding.

…to see a big smile on every child’s face and to know that all the world’s children are able to laugh and play.

…to be more useful in God’s kingdom.

…to watch the Zoolander sequel.

…to have a ridiculously long vacation.

Haha, my list is so random.

The randomness does not make it any less real.

———————–

Writing prompt courtesy of Language is a Virus.

Ticket

Once in a while, Murphy’s Law happens. To me, especially.

This time, it all started one bright Sunday morning.

The hubby and I just came from church, and were on our way to Capitol Commons to run  errands before heading to a family lunch.We were coasting along C-5 when we were cut by a van; the violation stunned the hubby for a millisecond, which was all it took for us to miss our turn. He let out a small grunt and decided to let it go.

“The next turn might offer a better route, anyway.”

So we made sure not to miss the next corner, chatting away as we drove. He started telling me about how rowdy the boys were the previous day — he handles a judo class for kids on weekends — and I could see him getting all worked up as he recalled their antics, as if the class had just finished.

He was re-enacting a discussion with one of the boys when we made a left to Capitol Commons. As we did, we saw the lady traffic enforcer stationed right at the gate of the complex flailing her arms, and that was when our eyes landed on the huge “No Left Turn” sign at the corner. Whoops.

On the upside, the officer was straight as a barbecue stick, and very cautious, too. She instructed the hubby to stay in the car and not to take out his wallet but just to stick his driver’s license out the window. She also stopped him from pulling her clipboard with his ticket into the car; he had to put his arm out and sign the form in the light. A really good cop, this one.

On the downside, well, we got a ticket, there’s no need to explain that one.

Three days later…

The hubby had to be at work, so I got his authorization letter and ID and drove to the City Hall to pay the fine and get back his license. It took me a while to negotiate the traffic and even longer to park. The local government complex consists of several buildings spread across several blocks, with the parking building located right in the middle. I didn’t sleep well the previous night so I had to drag my feet three blocks to the TPMO.

When I got there, the first thing that the officer looked for was my community tax certificate. It was a requirement for the issuance of a receipt, he said. In all my thirty-nine years it was the first time I heard that, but what could a felon’s wife/representative do?

The community tax certificate could be obtained at the main City Hall building. Now if you were a Filipino you’d know that this predicament presented me the following options:

  1. Walk five blocks to the City Hall main building to get my community tax certificate — Declare I’m unemployed, pay ten pesos, done — and walk back to the TPMO to get the business over with. Thirty minutes, tops.
  2. Walk three blocks back to the parking building, drive home, get a copy of my latest income tax return, drive back to the parking building, walk two blocks to the City hall main building, have my community tax computed, pay the equivalent of a day’s salary, and walk five blocks back to the TPMO. I would likely finish this whole ordeal near the end of the day. Not to mention pay for parking twice.

I, of course, chose Option 2. How could I not?

I decided to have lunch and a bit of rest at home first — I was sooo sleepy, I could hardly think. So it was afternoon by the time I drove back to the City Hall, armed with my income tax return. I went through the whole routine as I had anticipated, and was walking to the TPMO again by 4:30 P.M. Finally!

But wait. There’s more.

Officer: Alam mo ba kung magkano babayaran mo? (Do you know how much you need to pay?)

Me: Ang sabi po yata sa amin five hundred? (I think we were told it’s five hundred?)

Officer: Two five, eto o. (It’s two thousand five hundred. Look, here it is.) 

He pointed to a piece of paper with a hand-written list of fines, taped on his desk. And right there at the very top, it read: “No Left/Right Turn – 2,500.”

I checked my wallet though I already knew what I’d find: I had one thousand five hundred pesos, a thousand short of what I needed. By then it was 4:40 P.M., and the offices would close at five.

It took all my self-control not to get my hand through the tiny window of the counter, straight to the officer’s neck. With all my strength I took a deep breath, smiled and asked him to please, please wait for me, I would run to the nearest ATM to get cash. He said yes, but of course I didn’t believe him.

So I ran like there was no tomorrow. There was no way I was gonna go back there the following day. This had to end, this day.

I had to make a quick decision: Sprint three blocks to get to my car, find an ATM, drive back, park again and sprint back to the TPMO — in twenty minutes, during rush hour, in Metro Manila traffic (ahahaha I was kidding myself); or, hail a tricycle, hope for the best and let my fate rest on a road frenemy (If you’re not from Metro Manila, I would leave you to do your research on the havoc wreaked by tricycles). As if on cue, a tricycle did appear right in front of me as soon as I got to the TPMO gate. Yay!

The ride was horrendous, with the bumper-to-bumper traffic, the reckless driving, and the driver and his wife interrogating me and giving me a tip: to look for a certain “friend” of theirs from “inside” and get his “help” to lower my fine. Seriously.

But I somehow made it. With three minutes to spare!

I paid the fine, got the license back, and prayed I’d never have to go through something like that again.

——————–

Writing prompt, comedy of errors, courtesy of Promptly Written.

 

A letter to my ten-year-old self

Hi there!

This would be a bit of a shock, but I’m your 39-year-old self, writing you from the future.

I would like you to know something: In spite of all that you are going through and all the challenges that you will face in the next years, you will be all right–no, in fact you will be great! You will thrive, and you will have joy and peace in your life. Would you like to know why?

You will experience fullness of life because you will surrender yourself to Christ. And you will spend your days learning to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and learning to love others as yourself. Your life will not be perfect but you’ll have a perfect God with you every single moment.

You will experience much pain, yet you will be a conqueror.

You will be disappointed a great number of times, but never by your God.

You will face many uncertainties, but you will also have an unfailing reason in Christ always to take heart and have courage.

You will find out how weak you are, and also just how strong you are precisely because of this weakness that will cause you to depend every moment on a sovereign, all-powerful God.

You will have many questions that will take long in getting answered, yet you will remain faithful and steadfast and still, knowing that God is God.

You will experience love and grace beyond what you can ever give.

You will find a source of hope that never runs out.

Are you excited yet? You should be! 🙂

Remember to look at this letter every time you feel discouraged or angry or sad.

Hugs and kisses!!!

I’m embarrassed…

…by the insect bite scars on my legs and the zit scars on my face.

…by my belly.

…by my clumsiness.

…by how messy my house is.

…when I realize too late that the email I sent or the blog I posted had grammatical errors.

…when I speak English and my tongue doesn’t cooperate.

…when I read some of the things I wrote in the past.

…when I speak loudly during the ads and then the movie house suddenly turns quiet.

…when my husband takes his time to do something and I see people waiting and/or being inconvenienced.

…when I fail to watch my tongue and out come nasty or stupid remarks.

…when I insist on being right only to be proven wrong in the end.