Finding Meaning While Jobless

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

There was a lot of training sessions that I attended in the last few weeks, whether it was helping organize it, participating in it, or helping facilitate it. The last month was filled with a lot of realizations, learnings, and appreciation for everything I have now.

In one session I attended, we were made to watch a TED Talk video of Emily Esfahani Smith discussing the four pillars to a meaningful life. Her talk about the four pillars is a must watch, especially if you’re in that phase of your life when you’re finding meaning to your existence.

Smith’s discussion about having a meaningful life really resonated with me because a few years ago, I hit rock bottom and could not find meaning in my life at all.

Going jobless

My sister, Kristine, has a condition called patella alta or high riding kneecaps. This condition became apparent when she was ten years old when she had her first knee dislocation. Over the years, she would get two to three dislocations a year. We never knew when a dislocation would happen and some of them did even when she was only changing sleeping positions! By the time she was 26, her Medial Patellofemoral Ligaments (MPFL) were so overstretched from her knees’ constant going out of where they should be. I think it’s called partial dislocation because they always popped back on their own. Anyway, she needed to undergo surgery; on both knees.

In December of 2014, she had her MPFL reconstruction surgery on her knee. Everything seemed fine. She was recovering well at home after she was discharged. At least she was until she started having cramps. She had to be rushed back to the hospital. A slight error on the TENS machine during her PT sessions later, our lives took a sharp turn and everything went downhill.

Kristine was having cramps on her operated leg and the only way to alleviate the pain was to keep her on medicines and to massage her leg 24/7. Yup. Non-stop. A minute or two of pause would cause her leg to have intense cramps, so we had to hire nurses and caregivers on a shifting schedule just to massage her leg. When there were no nurses, we had to do it ourselves. We basically stayed in the hospital for almost a month, celebrating Christmas and New Year 2015 there.

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Our cousin Cristina, Kristine, and me.

At that time, I was working in an audit firm and I loved my job as difficult and tiring as it was. I would work in the hospitals at night and during the weekends because we were wrapping up the audit of a huge client.

I was earning very little compared to Kristine, but I was happy anyway. So, when it became apparent that it was getting more expensive to hire a nurse while I continued working and when our house help went back to her province and did not come back, I had to stop working to help take care of my sister.

I love Kristine, don’t get me wrong. At that time though, work meant everything to me. We were dealing with so many issues at that time other than her knee surgery and work became my escape. I was a workaholic at that time that my senior would even plead for me to go home because I would insist on staying and working. To lose my job felt like I was losing a limb. I was suddenly forced to face everything I used to run away from.

My job description changed after my last day in the audit firm. I became in charge of cooking breakfast and became a pusher. By that, I meant a wheelchair pusher. We had to bring Kristine to work in the morning and fetch her in the afternoon to bring her to her PT sessions at night. That was my job for five months.

In between caring for Kristine, eating and hygiene activities, I slept. I slept a lot because I could not handle feeling useless. I could not handle the envy from seeing my former colleagues move up in their career or start going abroad. I could not handle feeling so lonely because my friends from work were so busy at that time (which was not their fault at all) because of the nature of their work. I could not accept that I had to quit my job because we were basically penniless and dependent solely on Kristine’s salary to have a roof above our heads and food on the table. I felt that if only I were more successful in my career, we could have afforded to hire a nurse instead of needing me to stay at home. Sleeping afforded me peace from all the sadness I was feeling.

One day, Kristine talked about wanting to have her left knee operated on as soon as possible. Mom was very much against the idea and so was I. For one, we could not afford another complication. Mom wanted to save up first before the next surgery. I badly wanted to have a job. A fight ensued and my sister accidentally blurted something about being the only one earning. It felt like a bucket of ice water was poured on me. I cried for hours out of hatred for her. Looking back, I knew it was myself I hated more that day. I never felt as useless and worthless as I did on that day. I wasn’t the one who went through the surgery, but why was I the useless one? I asked myself that a lot.

Transcendence

The surgery was not easy on my sister. She has always been a go-getter, independent girl. To suddenly be so dependent on people to lift her leg for her when she got out of the bed, or a chair, or the car, was also taking a toll on her. As painful as moving around was, she had to show up at work because she was supporting our family. She must have had to swallow her pride and she might have felt like she was a burden too. I could not see that right away after the big fight. It took some time to understand her and what she was also going through. As difficult as the ordeal was for me, it was hella tough for my sister too. After all, she was the one who went through the surgery!

I don’t think we were both being selfish and self-centered at that time. It was more of a lack of communication between us that caused all the negative feelings. Maybe, if she were more vocal of her appreciation (which she later on expressed), and if I were more open about my guilt of not being able to help financially, we could have consoled each other. When we finally understood what each one was going through, we started being able to figure out what to do next.

I don’t remember having prayed as much as I prayed during this period. I complained a lot to the Lord, but even if my prayers were more about whining, just knowing I could talk to Him helped a lot.

Belonging

Kristine and Mom are my biggest supporters. Even if I was feeling useless, they knew I was going to be able to go back to work and they let me know they believed in me. We were a trio of strong women who always bounce back after a difficult situation and we always had each other’s backs.

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She used to help me stand. Years later, I was able to return the favor.

Purpose

I realized that being jobless did not mean I didn’t have a purpose in life. While it was not my life purpose, at that time, my purpose was to help take care of Kristine. I was not useless, I just had a different idea of what being useful was. At that time, I had a narrow-minded view on what being useful was that I could not see how much Mom needed my help in tasks like pushing Kristine’s wheelchair or lifting her leg.

Storytelling

Eventually, my sister could already walk with a crutch. That was somehow the go-signal for me to start looking for a new job.

The tougher part of job interviews for me was explaining the months I was without work. I wanted to be as honest as possible without making myself appear as a victim of circumstances. I had to convince interviewers that even if I was jobless for some time, that period that I did not have work was not a waste because the situation helped me grow. That growth may be useful to them because it spoke of my character, something that they could consider in hiring me.

 Throughout the interviews that I had over the last few years, the story I share about why I was jobless evolved. In my last job interview (for the job I am currently in) the story went something close to lines of:

My sister had a knee surgery that had a complication. I stopped working to help take care of her as it was the more financially smart thing to do at that time. I do not see it as a sacrifice. Instead, I see it as an investment because her knees are fully well now. Two years later, she started working in Hong Kong as a regional IT auditor for a multinational company. Her knees are now strong enough to handle all the traveling for her work. 

Before I arrived at those lines, I admit that I still felt bad about the situation from time to time. Yet, the more I said my story in a positive light, the better I felt about it and myself. The better I felt about it, the clearer the purpose of having to go through it became. There were so many things that I learned during that period that I was jobless, and most of them were things I doubt I would have learned has I kept on going to the office. I realized that you should never underestimate the power of the words you tell yourself. You might be amazed at how much they can influence the outcome of your ongoing story.

My story may not be that grand. I did not suddenly become a millionaire after a period of being jobless. I did not become an influencer afterward. Still, I hope that you learned something from my story.

No matter how difficult things are, hold on to the hope and the trust in yourself that you can make it through.

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Phantom Quakes and PTSD

“While the building was swaying and the ground was shaking, God remained the steady figure I could hold on to.”

It’s been twelve days since the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Central Luzon. I shared the story in my previous post, Shaken. This time, I will be sharing what I have been experiencing the past couple of days.

I have always had a fear of shaky rides and shaky ground. That is why I am not overly fond of theme parks and their rides. During field trips when I was young, I hated it so much when we had to walk on hanging bridges. Turbulent flights scare the hell out of me and the slightest shake of the plane would cause me to hold on to the armrest of my seat while I try to calm myself. From time to time, I would do something unusual like hopping on a zip line or riding the cable cars like I did in Ngong Ping and in Ocean Park. I thought of them as attempts to get rid of my fear of anything unstable. I never realized how bad the phobia actually was until last month’s earthquake happened.

After having gone home the night of the earthquake, I was in my bed and I was watching videos on my phone when I suddenly felt something push my bed. I almost dropped my phone in the process. It turned out that a 4.4 magnitude earthquake happened in Bataan, a place around 50 km to 60km away from Manila. I didn’t sleep well that night.

I came to work the following day, seemingly okay. In my head though, I was already making plans on what our emergency bag should contain and what else will I need to get in case another earthquake happened. I was working just fine, completing tasks one after the other. Deep inside though, I was still scared. The 6.1 magnitude earthquake had its epicenter at around 67km away from Manila. I told myself it was not at all that bad compared to places near the epicenter. I felt guilty for being too scared and judged myself as overreacting. I could not understand why I was feeling that way.

Was it because for around five years now, we have been warned about the possibility of a major earthquake from the West Valley Fault that can damage the whole capital region and the recent earthquake gave us a tiny taste of a strong earthquake? We’ve felt earthquakes in the past here in Manila, but I don’t think there was anything as bad as the recent one.

In the past few days, it would take six to seven hours for me to finally fall asleep. I had migraine-like headaches and would feel as if the room is shaking every now and then. When I felt any sort of shaking, I would immediately check my phone for alerts sent by Phivolcs, trying to confirm if there was indeed an earthquake that just happened. I would suddenly feel dizzy and a little disoriented for a couple of minutes.

Phantom quake. I was experiencing a feeling like there was an earthquake even if there was not any. From what I have read on the internet, I am not the only one experiencing it. It would come when I am at work, it would come at night when I am in bed. I would feel as if the world was shaking, but it was only me. My mind was playing tricks on me.

I don’t think my productivity at work has been greatly affected, but I haven’t been able to go to my yoga classes anymore. My blood pressure is a little bit elevated, which probably explains the dizzy spells. Thankfully, except for the intermittent feeling of the room shaking, I can say I am fine.

Gradually, my sleep pattern is returning to normal. I still have difficulty falling asleep, but at least when I manage to, I don’t feel half-awake anymore. I still feel tremors from time to time, but knowing that it’s all in my head, I do not reach out anymore for my phone to check for earthquake alerts and posts over Twitter. I manage to calm myself more quickly now. Unless another earthquake happens so soon, I am pretty sure I’m on my way to getting over the whole thing already.

I also just want to say to those experiencing phantom quakes or PTSD that it’s okay to feel that way. We react to situations differently and even if the people around you do not appear as scared or shaken as you, it’s okay to feel that way. What is important is we acknowledge our feelings and we try to go back to feeling normal again at the phase we’re comfortable with. It’s okay to express our fear to our friends and family so they can help us feel that we’re in a safe environment.

Most importantly, pray. While the building was swaying to the shake of the ground, God remained the steady figure that I could hold on to. At the time of the earthquake, I managed to send Mom a message, asking her to pray for us (by that I meant everyone affected by the earthquake, including her). I told my sister the same thing, but she was unfortunately on a plane to Hong Kong from Korea at that time. It’s true that when all else fails, it’s only God that remains. That’s how powerful the Lord is.

Shaken

“An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain,” one of the survivors wrote. “The equality of all men”.” ― Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Close to seven hours ago, I was minding my business at work when I felt a jolt. I thought I was just dizzy, but some colleagues starting to look at one another. Then there was another jolt. Someone instructed, “duck, cover and hold.” I hid under my desk.

I am no stranger to earthquakes, but that minute or two of shaking was the scariest and closest I’ve been to an actual disaster. The building was swaying, the blinds were repeatedly violently slapping against the windows. I could hear officemates praying out loud for the shaking to stop.

It was the strongest earthquake I’ve felt my entire life and all I could think of for the first few seconds was my Mom. She was a city away and I knew she was feeling it too. I sent her a message telling her to pray for us, just as I was. Then, I texted my sister, who was boarding a flight from Korea to Hong Kong, to pray for us because the earthquake was strong. They were all I could think of at that moment.

After the shaking, we were waiting for the go signal to go down the emergency exits. You see, our company wishes to ensure that before letting us out, where we will pass is safe too. It took a couple of minutes to go down from the 25th floor via stairs. My knees were shaking by the time I reached the ground floor. Then, we headed to the closest open area.

It took a couple more minutes before we heard anything from the news. A magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit a place that was 67kms away from Manila, a city only a few kilometers from us. If that was how strongly the earthquake was felt in Manila, I could not imagine how much worse the experience was for those who lived closer to the epicenter. News reports about shaken buildings, toppled commercial buildings’ water tanks, and ruined airport soon surfaced. What we experienced was milder than most.

I thank God for keeping us safe. I guess it’s really important to be actually present in our lives and not just watch each day go by. We need to tell our loved ones that we treasure them and to let them feel it. We need to be kinder to one another because you never know who will come to your aid at the time of need. We need to take care of ourselves so we can help other people, not only those who are close to us. We also need to learn how to share, whether material stuff or not.

Be safe, everyone. I pray for all of us.

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I am still not sure what my purpose in this world is. All I hope for is to have been the reason someone smiled wider, laughed louder, cried less, loved deeper, felt braver, stood stronger, and dreamed bigger.

May I be more patient, more forgiving, more understanding, more loving, more generous, and more gracious to everyone.

May I be more comfortable in my own skin, more balanced in my emotions, more focused on my goals, more attentive to my needs, and more accepting of my flaws.

May I be more optimistic about my future, more proud of my strengths, more appreciative of my blessings, and more kind towards myself.

May I always be a blessing to others in need, a source of hope for the disheartened, a voice of reason to the confused, and a shoulder to cry on for the lonely.

May I be a gift to the world in ways even I cannot imagine.

Twenty-eight years down, many more to go.

Back to blogging

I am finally back! Yes!!! The last three months at work were so busy that I did not have that much energy for my blog. At least I was able to write a thing or two every now and then.

Despite my failure to post regularly about my baking adventures, I did whip up a few treats during my absence.

Cakes in tin cans are kind of the trend in the Philippines lately. It’s the lazy baker’s perfect solution for not having be very artistic about cake decoration because you only have to worry about the top part. It’s also a convenient way to give cakes as a gift without worrying about how to transport them because tin cans are more sturdy and less accident-prone than your usual cake box.

For my share of hopping on the trend, I made carrot walnut cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

This is my first time to ever make carrot cake with frosting and I fell madly in love with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting recipe by Nancy of https://www.twosisterscrafting.com. I did adjust my ratio by using less powdered sugar because I do not like very sweet frosting. I only used 2 and 3/4 cups compared to her required 4 cups. Since I was not going to pipe it on the cake, I still had a pretty decent consistency for spreading on top of my carrot cake. Topped with royal icing carrot decorations and chopped walnuts, you’re good to go!

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I still badly need to improve my decorating skills.

cookiesI made tons of cookies for Christmas. Someone ordered 200 cookies to give away as gifts. I also made hundreds to give to my colleagues.

If I learned anything about cookies, it’s that no matter how consistent I try to be with temperature and baking time, each batch comes out differently. Some will come out thick and puffy while some batches will come out think and nicely spread out.

I guess people are the same way. We react differently to situations because we bring with us different points of view and we were all raised differently.

I also finally got to make brownies! Rich, chocolaty, fudgy brownies! Thank heavens for the recipe from Tasty.  I was skeptical at first when I watched the video because I wasn’t sure if the goo truly was from the chocolate chunks or if it was due to underbaking. I chose to trust the recipe and it didn’t fail me!

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I brought some to work and sure enough, there were colleagues who went for seconds! Two recipes gave me around 35 pieces of these squares.

Baking aside, I also got to hop on the plane again. This time, we went to Cebu because my uncle is having a house built there. Mom had to check on the progress so she can report to her brother.

I terribly missed Cebu! The last time I was there was exactly two years ago. It has not changed much but my Cebuano language skills has gone way too rusty so I still felt like the place was very foreign.

We went to my Mom’s half cousin’s vacation house before we left for Manila. I terribly missed that house and uncle’s jetski, haha. Too bad though because there was a very low tide that day so riding the jetski was not going to be a great idea. To pass time, I just took pictures of the flowers in auntie’s huge garden.

My sister came home a week before Christmas. With her was her Korean boyfriend. I was sad that my work schedule (3PM to 12MN) did not allow me much time to hang out with them. I actually spent time with them on the day they were going to leave and go back to Hong Kong. Guess I’ll just have to visit Hong Kong soon to spend time with my sister.

Anyway, as usual, every time my sister and I see each other, I get tons of hand-me-downs and also new gifts. For one, she gave me her old iPad (she got herself a new one) and brought with her the Pooh plush toy I asked her to get me from Disneyland!

Christmas and New Year were pretty much uneventful for me. If there was anything I did, it was to sleep a lot and reserve energy for our Q4 sign-off at work. I am so glad it’s over now.

Please stay tuned on my next adventures this year. Hopefully, there will be more travels to write about.

My 2018 Review

“Life is an onion – you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.” ― Carl Sandburg, Remembrance Rock

It’s the last day of the year today. I still haven’t decided how to feel about this year. To be honest, it feels like 2018 happened so quickly that I am trying to figure out what happened in between. I was thinking that maybe, by writing this post, I can go back to the days of 2018 and see how it was for me.

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At the beginning of the year, I was just one month into my new job. The people were great, the job was challenging in an awesome way, and I felt grounded. I felt a sense of permanency that I haven’t felt in a while. Not having to travel far from home for work meant I did not have to put plans on hold to check whether there was going to be an out-of-town assignment or not. That meant that I had complete control over my schedule which meant a whole year’s worth of weekends to do anything I wanted to do.

Having so much time in my hands, I spent a lot of it learning new things. I started by making soap using melt-and-pour bases. I had so much fun concocting soaps, most of which were used at home or given away. It was therapeutic, watching soap bases melt and harden again, this time, scented with essential oils and decorated with dyes and whatever I could find in my kitchen.

I attended a workshop on how to make simple sandals and had a blast making footwear for myself. The sandals I made were eventually used when I sprained my ankle because they were the only comfy footwear that did not hurt my foot more than it needed. In the process of healing, I also learned about epsom salt and made tons of foot soaks for myself.

My inner warrior showed itself when I attempted archery for the first time. Now, this isn’t the type where you have a viewer to help you hit the target. This was traditional archery where you have to rely on your instincts. Oh, and I popped a balloon target while at it *wink*.

I was big on workshops this year. I attended one that was about caging crystals and making accessories! Despite not being a fan of jewelries and trinkets, I truly enjoyed the hobby so much that I bought my own tools and materials to make myself lots of baubles! On days when negative thoughts in my head would not let me sleep, I turned to my stones and wires to help me quiet my thoughts. They helped me a lot, to be honest.

I don’t wear my creations so much anymore. I guess I never was the type to wear accessories. I would still like to make trinkets one of these days to gift to friends.

Still on workshops, I attended two about tarot reading. Oh yeah! Being someone who enjoyed reading about witchcraft (the Harry Potter type only) and oracles, I was truly excited about tarot cards. I mean, it’s like getting you the answers you already know deep inside but cannot put a finger on.

These stuff, astrology and other forms of fortune-telling intrigue me. I don’t believe anyone can ever know what will happen in the future but you got to admit, these stuff are fun!

In the kitchen, I still suck at cooking. This year though, I established quite a relationship with my electric oven by making treats, most of which I only made for the first time. I learned how to make bread and I finally got to make corn muffins which I have dreamed of making since I was a little girl. Oh, don’t forget the cream puffs!

I also started bringing my baked stuff to work for my colleagues to try. I started with just my team but eventually allowed people from other teams to try what I bake. I think it’s my way of saying that I have completely opened up myself to them. You see, I only bake for people I have come to care about. By bringing my baked goods to work, I basically opened the door fully for them to be in my life.

I still have not decided whether to make baking a sideline to earn more money. For me, baking is something very personal and must be made with love. To bake batches and batches of cakes and cookies for people I have no connection or any established relationship with is a very alien idea to me. Still, I am not shutting the idea down.

There was not much travel this year unlike in 2017. Still, I managed to go to Hong Kong twice and got to visit Pampanga and Cebu.

I miss flying. To be honest, I did not want to have a desk job while I was growing up. It felt like it was going to bore me to death. So, in this new job, I have to admit missing the hustle and the bustle of the airport. I missed the excitement of going to unfamiliar places to meet people I only knew through their names on the company’s database. I missed the side trips on weekends like swimming with turtles or hopping on a zip line! I also learned to appreciate travel so much more now that I have to pay for my travels.

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Despite that, this new job made me feel grounded. It has given me a sense of permanency that my heart longed for after it has gotten weary of the constant packing of the suitcase and catching flights across the country. From 2016 to 2017, the house we’re renting felt so unfamiliar to me; so unfamiliar that it felt like the hotel rooms we stay in when out-of-town. I am much more at home with the place now. I bet that if I stayed at my previous job, I would still feel like a nomad.

I truly love Hong Kong! While I do not wish to live there, going there to visit my sister meant mini adventures that I always look forward to. There was so many firsts for me in Hong Kong like riding a cable car and going near a cow. I also experienced riding the tram and sitting at the upper deck of their double-decker bus. I enjoyed doing not-so-touristy-and-more-residently type of things there like going to the grocery or watching a movie.

Locally, I only managed to go to Pampanga and Cebu. Still, both trips were worth it because I got to spend time with friends and with relatives.

Speaking of friends, I am so glad that friends I have made from my previous work continue to be friends to this day. In fact, they still invite me to some of their events! I miss them a lot to be honest. That is why I treasure moments I get to spend with them because they have proven to be real friends through thick and thin.

I am also blessed with awesome colleagues at my new work. They make working so much more fun despite the workload and difficult conversations we have to make throughout the year. I am fortunate to be working with people who keep me motivated to do my best at all times regardless if it’s operations-related or not.

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When it comes to health and fitness, I went back to yoga this year. I admit I had to stop for a bit because of some complications due to my sprain earlier this year and heavy workload. I plan to be more consistent in 2019 because I enjoyed yoga so much. Not only was it good for my physical health, it was also good for my mental health as it allowed me to know myself in ways only yoga can allow me to.

Career-wise, there were a lot of changes that happened to our team that allowed me to show what I got. I celebrated my first anniversary with my current employer early this month and I realize that in a span of one year, I went through so many phases of personal and professional growth because of all the changes and challenges that the team had to face. That is why, even if it’s basically a desk job and is a tad bit routinary, I am far from being bored. There’s just always so much to learn, so much to discover and so much to contribute. That motivates me to go to work everyday, albeit some days can be draining and exhausting too.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

When it comes to faith, I recently started going to service, although with a different church. It’s not a Catholic one which I grew up in. I still fail to go consistently, maybe because going to church was not something my parents made sure to make a habit for me and my sister. Still, when I manage to go, I always leave with answers and more questions.

More questions. Yep. This year had me going through lots of introspection and reflection, not only about faith, but about life too, in general. This is the year I really questioned my purpose and the reason for my existence, not so much because I was being emotional, but because of a true need to figure out where I am headed.

Yesterday Rizal day. Jose Rizal, our unofficial national hero, once said “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” What he means is that a person who does not know how to look back cannot reach his destination. I believe that looking back allows us to see where were got it right and where we need to improve. I look back at 2018 filled with gratitude for everything it has taught me about myself and about life. This year was all about growth for me.

I am excited to see what 2019 has in-store for me. I hope it will be a good year for everyone. With that, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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Photo by Martin Hauenstein on Pexels.com

Epiphanies

“Sometimes, things happen because we make them happen. And sometimes, things happen because they are meant to lead you where you’re supposed to be in that exact time and moment–because that is exactly where you need to be.”

I was raised a Catholic. I went to Catholic schools from grade school to college. In my high school years, I happened to often be assigned to be the commentator for mass celebrations. I am not sure if that’s what you call that role but I basically led the people in their responses and I instructed them when to stand, sit or kneel. When I wasn’t doing that, I was in the choir.

However, what most people did not know was how detached I felt every time I was doing it. Okay, maybe not the part when I sang with the choir because I liked singing even if I was far from being an awesome singer. Still, going to mass was something I didn’t voluntarily do. Growing up, most of my mass attendance were because of the first Friday mass celebrations in school. The rest were for special occasions that called for a thanksgiving mass or something of that sort. It felt mandatory.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God, I pray (mostly in my head) and I base most of my decisions to what I grew up thinking was right. But, I didn’t feel like I fit in. Because of that, I would feel ashamed when asked if I went to church on Sundays and I would say I don’t. I would feel like I am this delinquent child of God who would rather spend time at home than go to His house.

But lately, I’ve been feeling that I should do something about my faith. I just do not know whether I should be doing less of something or more of something. I do not know where to start. Granted that I’ve always relied on God and Jesus through everything I had to go through, I felt a compelling need to know or discover more than what I grew up with.

Last Sunday, I went to a Christian church service where my third cousin was serving as the pastor. I have never heard him speak about faith until that day. The last time I saw him was eighteen years ago when we had this huge family reunion and I don’t even think he knows about my existence at all (although he was my Facebook friend in my old account that I recently deleted).  All I knew was that if I was going to a Christian church service, he had to be the pastor on that day. So, I braved myself to send him a Facebook message and prayed to God for him to notice that message and reply to it because, yeah, Messenger has a separate storage for messages from non-FB friends. By God’s grace, he replied and I made it a goal to see how he leads a service for myself.

Their whole service was so much different from the Catholic mass celebrations I grew up knowing. But for some reason, I didn’t once feel like an intruder or asking myself what the heck I was doing there. I felt like I was supposed to be there and that recent events were all leading to that day when I would find myself there. My cousin was so awesome in his sermon. I was not bored at all and there were parts of his sermons that were not even his major points but managed to hit me close to home.

I left the assembly place feeling as if a bunch of questions I had suddenly had an answer. Although, more questions also came up but figuring out their answers will be for another time. It was a wonder how one church service could make me realize so much about myself and my fears.

I’m going back this coming Sunday to see if it still feels the same. I want to see where this will lead me. Whether I will convert or not remains to be seen. I want to grow spiritually and I shall do what I have to do in order to achieve that. All I know is that at this moment, what I still hold most important is that no matter what we believe in, what is important is that we treat each other with love.

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Excited for: My Sister’s Visit to the Philippines!

I cannot count the times my sister and I made sacrifices for one another. I guess that’s sisterhood. You give and you take.

My sister has always been my rock. She was the stronger sister, the one I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. And while there were moments I felt like she was the favorite child, I knew that she was only doing the best she could in everything she did. She had the responsibility of setting the best example for me and that was not an easy task as well.

My sister is not the affectionate type. But, from time to time, she will become malambing (affectionate; touchy-feely) and hug me like I was a life-size stuffed toy. But more often than not, she expresses her lambing (affection) in other ways like buying me make-up or treating me to eat out or just getting me lots and lots of stuff. Yeah, she’s the type to shower people she loves with gifts.

She used to help me stand and walk. But a few years back, she had two knee surgeries that had her needing help to get around. The first surgery was worse. She could not walk at all for months. I quit my job and spent five months helping care for her. Suddenly, the roles were switched.

But, all of that paid off and seeing how she’s now based in Hong Kong and is always travelling makes me feel like it was not a sacrifice on my part. It was an investment. And that period showed me how much my sister tried to remain strong for me and mom during our most trying times. It made me understand her so much more.

I can’t wait to see her again!

Without A Trace, Well, Almost…

“You sometimes think you want to disappear, but all you really want is to be found.” -Kid Cudi

I dislike wearing heels to work. My pigeon-toed feet cannot bear it so I wear flats. In my previous workplace, it was usually fine. That was, until the new group head came.

The group head was strict about our attires and I have seen more than a few instances that she called someone’s attention for what they wore. Wearing heels for women is one of the things she looked at.

Even more unfortunately for me, her office was beside the workstation of my boss. And one fateful day, my boss asked me to go to his station. Midway, I stopped in my tracks because the group head just arrived and was talking to some people outside the cubicle of my boss. I hurried back to change into my heels that I kept in my pedestal cabinet. In my haste, as soon as I wore my heels, I rushed to go to my boss without fixing my flats under my workstation.

Joan, who happened to be my teammate and very close friend too, turned to my station, hoping to ask me something. But, all she saw was my phone on my desk and my shoes on the floor. She did not know about my changing into heels and going to our boss. Finding it funny, she took a snap of my workstation and sent it to our group chat.

It was like she’s looking for me with Mark laughing, saying that my shoes were the only trace I left behind.

I laughed when I saw the group chat after I got back. For the entire day, we pretended to our friends on fieldwork that I went missing. I did not answer calls and messages. I enjoyed “disappearing” for one day.

For so many years, I wanted for a day when I can disappear. To shut the noise of the world away so I can be at peace. To breathe. Then to scream out all the pain I have kept inside from all the bullying I experienced, the dysfunctional relationship with my dad, the sometimes-empty-sometimes-full-of-guilt feelings I had, and from years of feeling never enough. I wanted so badly to disappear.

And as incomplete and as far from my expectations my “disappearance” was, it felt good when I would hear from time to time that our friends were “checking up” on me, asking if I “returned” already. I would get messages from them on my phone telling me to be back already, maybe because they had some stuff to ask me. Regardless, they didn’t just shrug at our joke, not caring what was up or what was going on.

When I “returned,” I told them what happened and we laughed about it. It was a silly day but it meant a lot to me.

Truly, I have found friends I can be myself with. These are the friends who will bother to find out how I was doing or if I needed anything. I have seen these people in action when one of our friends was in great need. These are real, dependable people I have come to really love and I am so glad that I found them.

Jacuzzis and Discoveries

The earth laughs in flowers. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A recent trip to Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino had me dipping alternately between hot and cold water. I went with my former colleagues who happen to have become my really good friends.

I am not sure about the temperatures stated because the jacuzzi was not as warm but the cold water pool was as cold as the winter in Hong Kong.

We had fun teasing some of our friends into diving into the cold water without warning them how cold it was.

The jacuzzi was relaxing although I would have liked it just a tad bit hotter.

Because we swam towards the time for the sunset, we did not have to worry about too much sun exposure or the weather being too hot for comfort. Although, I admit wishing we started a little bit earlier, like an hour earlier.

While the others were still in the pools, I wandered a little bit because I saw this flowering plant with buds of flowers bursting with bright pink, yellow and white colors. They looked so cute I had to snap a photo! But since it was a little bit windy, I could not get the flower to stay in the center.

Just when I thought the flowers were the most exciting part of this plant, I was surprised by something else.

It has fruits! Or, at least I think they are fruits.

I tried researching what these flowers and fruits are but I guess I am not using the correct keywords because I was not getting what I wanted.

That’s me, sometimes. I zone out and withdraw from the group to recharge. Along the way, I discover little wonders that I probably would not have seen. If I stayed in the pool, I would not have see these cute little wonders of nature.

The nice things about the friends I have made in my former work colleagues is that we all have our quirks and unique qualities but they are accepted as part of who we are. We do not bother about “fitting in” so much because there was no need to in a group so welcoming to the idea that we are all different.

They called me when it was time to go to a different pool so I bade the plant goodbye. I do not know why it was alone (I did not see more of the same plant around) but I wish I got to let it know that it was so beautiful.