the real you

                       instayou

I wish we could stop with the pretenses.

I don’t want the Facebook status-constructed, Instagram-filtered, Twitter-trimmed you. I want the real you. I don’t care how many friends you have, how many restaurants you’ve tried, or all the cool places you’ve been to… they tell me nothing about who you are. I want to know, feel, breathe your true soul, with all imperfections intact. I want to be acquainted with your personality, your character, your values, your idiosyncrasies and quirks, your everything, simply because they are what make up you. Because in my eyes, the real, genuine you is the beautiful you.

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hope is

                         street-bw

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future—and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” – Rebecca Solnit

rant to the ex

                           cheart

Breaking up with someone does not necessarily mean it is the end. Close book, walk away, completely forget. Most likely, the person lingers in your mind for a (long) while, emotions are riled up, and you find yourself adjusting to a new normal. Although the relationship is over, the adjustment and “moving on” process is another half dozen chapters to the book, if not more. At least that’s what it has always been like for me.

Yet when someone I try to move on from keeps trying to come back into my life, even when I’m just about over them, it angers me. It pisses me off, because I don’t want to care what he’s doing. I don’t want him in my life. Sometimes you need to cut certain people completely out of your life, and he is one of them.

So, this rant is for him:

Stop with the phone calls. Stop with the texts. Stop with the random Facebook adds and messages. Stop trying to edge yourself back into my life, like shit never went down. Stop creeping back in my mind. It’s over. It’s done. You fucked up. I walked away. You had your chance, and you blew it. That’s all there is to it. So stop. Stop trying to stir old embers up. Stop giving a shit about me, and what I’m doing now. Just leave it dead. Forget about me, so I can finally forget about you. For good. Please. No more.

Just. Fucking. Stop.

Okay, rant over.

I suppose no one ever said that break-ups were easy. And who ever did, has never broken up with someone, or had a broken heart. That shit hurts. And the healing process can be a long, arduous one. Although I don’t want to cut people out like this, in this case, sometimes you have to do what you need to do for you. To heal, to move on.

Why I need feminism

                               WomensEmpowerment
I was doing an intake interview with a new client at work. She was seeking help at our agency because one of her male co-workers sexually molested her when she fell asleep (most likely having drugged her). He then proceeded to harass her incessantly through calls and texts the next day.
I watched the tears fall from her eyes as she recounted her story… and I found myself taking on her suffering, and feeling my own heart clutch with anger and pain. People say that oppression doesn’t exist. That advocating for women’s rights is a bunch of bull because the system is already “equal” and well, women are just being a bunch of “whiny bitches” for making mountains out of mole holes.

Well, for those people, this is your rude awakening. Rape happens. Sexual assault and harassment exists. I hear stories like these as a therapist more frequently than I would wish, and see the extensive damage it causes to one’s life and psyche. As women, we navigate these risks every day, because some men cannot conceive of the fact that a woman’s body is completely hers and what she chooses to do with it is HER right, and NO ONE else’s. Instead, certain men think that they have a right to our bodies, and that our bodies are their fucking privilege.

That’s why I “need feminism.” That’s why I speak out. Because if we stay silent, if we just sit and take it like the “good and complacent women we should be,” then we will lose our rights, our identities, our voices, and our dignity. If we let the oppressive take, we will have nothing left.

Having to look into this client’s eyes, and the eyes of my other clients who have been victims of harassment and assault, I see clearly how inequality and oppression are very real.

I don’t care what anyone says, no person should be subjected to this kind of agony, pain and trauma, and denying the existence of this pain is equivalent to gouging your eyes out and willing yourself blind. Just because you don’t want to see it, does not mean it doesn’t exist.

blog crush

                             adam-young-forest-light-owl-city-shadow-sun-Favim.com-91689

I suppose this is what they would call a “blog crush.”

This is the first time in so long that I’ve been so enamored. It was by happenstance that I came upon his blog and within minutes I found myself engrossed in it…not only because it was written with a keen and descriptive eye, but it was open and genuine and so utterly captivating and heart clenching that I could not breath for many seconds. It was as if his words were a mirror into a hidden piece of me. A fellow believer, a ceaseless dreamer, whose words somehow threw the jubilant colors in my head into unbelievable degrees of color bursts. And I thought, “This person must have been birthed in the same pea pod as me,” for which you speak of, I see and know and can undoubtedly feel fanning inside me.

I fell in love with his words. It was drenched in soft poetry, with streaks of obscure humor, and scattered with beguiling dots of longing, hope, and regret. It yielded a certain beauty that I struggle to define but was drawn as a moth would flutter to a flame. At last I’ve found someone who rode the same odd yet enigmatic wavelength as me! If only I could meet him and tell him in person how much I enjoy his writing, and the wonderful images he paints. If only I could pick his brain, and converse with him about the bizarre and the silly, the beautiful and the ugly…about the smeared lights that linger over the winter skies, or about the universe and how odd it is that it is filled with tiny colored balls that circle ‘round and ‘round like God’s merry-go-round.

Perhaps in an alternate reality, we met at a mutual friend’s party. And then as I reached for the ladle sitting inside the ruby red punch, his hand knocked into mine and we embarrassingly and awkwardly apologized to one another. Then we talked, drank punch and prattled about gravity, birds, extraterrestrials, and the absurdity of catfish. And that pulsating feeling was there, charging our atmosphere, awakening our senses. We danced to the beats ringing in our heads, for they were one in the same. From that moment on, our lives were forever changed, because after many years of searching, we each finally found our musical, our life, our everything soul-mate in one another.

In this reality, it is unlikely that our paths will cross. But in a lingering dream, I imagine that we were once connected to a large puzzle that broke into billions of pieces, and were scattered upon the earth.  Maybe in another time, we will be pieced together once again.

the two selves

                     Naty Chabanenko

It’s the same with people. You put up disguises, masks and decorations so that all they can see is your version of the perfect self, with flaws covered and hidden away. Because people will make assumptions about you, whether it’s right or wrong, whether you like it or not. Since you know you’ll always be judged, you don on your delicately placed mask so they will take your disguise as who you are. But if the onlooker is astute enough, he or she will see past your dogged attempts to hide. The masks protects you, but if you take it on for too long, its artificial quality will become you. You’ll begin to appear false, fake, cold and weak. You become one without bravery and courage. You stop seeing yourself truthfully… you become incapable of loving yourself.

But if you make no effort to conceal your flaws to the world, people will recognize the real person. The real you. You appear genuine. Honest. You are unapologetic in who you are and take no shame in being that, flaws intact. Paradoxically, you become a mystery, an enigmatic thing. And people grow curious, is there something more? They see you for your true potential and find security in your being. You do not become a false image as is the fate of wearing a mask… you simply become you, for all you can be. In the act of being real, you begin to love and accept you.

In this society, it seems that it is much harder to be real than it is to maintain an image. Yet as you get older, you’ll grow weary and the mask will crack. Perhaps, now, it is already cracking. And you are right, being the real you is certainly a battleground in of itself as well. But if virtues are our tools to carving our future and identity… then authenticity and honesty will be the order of my day.

The Day I Almost Killed Myself

                               field light

Writing this story is not, by any means, a simple feat. To memory, I can only recall telling this story two times in my life. I still continue to feel fear at how people may respond to one of the most painful moments of my life. But Maya Angelou once said that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you… and I am beginning to realize how accurate she is.

I was eleven years old. During that time, I was an outcast, a “loser,” a black sheep, a reject. Coming from a poor, immigrant family, my parents could not afford me nice clothes or shoes to wear like all of the other “cool” kids. My mother forbade me from wearing make-up. And it did not help that I was a little socially awkward, and the only “Asian” kid in my class. I stood out like a sore thumb, and people picked on me and made fun of me daily, though I did not know them and they did not know me. Although I had a group of friends initially, they soon ostracized me for reasons unknown and began to pick on me too. I had no one. And the thoughts that reverberated in my mind were, “What did I do to deserve this? Why do people hate me so much? There’s nothing I can do to stop them. I’m hopeless. There is no one. I am alone.”

My parents were always at work, and my siblings abhorred helping me… because one of the family rules I had growing up was, “Don’t ask for help. Figure it out yourself.” So I had no one to turn to. No one in my life to help me, to tell me that someone’s treatment of you didn’t define who you are, that it was fucked up what they did to me. That I was beautiful, not ugly, stupid and weird like the kids at school were drilling into my head.

One day, after a group of girls in my neighborhood had thrown rocks at me for the umpteenth time, I remember I was sitting on the couch in our living room, sobbing and crying, drowning in my pain. I was home alone and thinking, “Is there no escape to this? Will this be my life?” My thoughts turned darker as I sunk deeper into my depression, sadness and pain, and I begun to consider something that no person should ever consider, especially one so young. I want to die. If I kill myself, the pain will stop. If I kill myself, I can finally escape.

And so, I went to the kitchen, tears still streaming down and stinging my eyes. I let out a sob as I opened the drawer and pulled out a kitchen knife. I pricked the sharp tip with my finger, my view getting blurrier. Gripping the handle, I thought of stabbing myself deeply in the heart, with the intent of meeting Death and ending all the agony and suffering. It is the only way. Please God, just let it end.

But as I raised the knife slightly closer to my chest, my vision was suddenly blinded by a translucent, white light. It was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had in my life. Clouded by the fuzzy white, I heard a voice, strong and clear, ringing in my ears: Anna, put the knife down. Do not do this to yourself. Put the knife down.

To my very bones, I knew and recognized that voice as God’s.

Instantly, the urge to drive the knife into my heart vanished and I slowly placed the knife back in the drawer. The pain was still beating heavy, but it became evident then that I could not follow through with my intent. One moment there, one moment gone, I knew God had just intervened in the precise second that I needed him, when I wanted to give into my demons and take my life. At that time in my life, there truly was no one to turn to in my world. But I was never alone. I realized later that in His intervention, God kept me from making my most fatal assumption. He saved my life.

This is my untold story. This is one of my deepest pains, bare and open for you to see. I’ve held it inside me for fifteen years of my life, afraid of others’ judgment. But I no longer wish to hold it inside anymore, and have the shame eat at me, perpetuating my agony. I hold no shame, and I own my pain. Although I did not know this at the time, the pain was molding and shaping me, turning me into the sensitive, insightful, compassionate person I have grown to become. Although I still struggle with my demons as a result of my experiences, as C. S. Lewis argues, pain shapes us into the person we have the potential to become, like a piece of silver being refined in the fire. We are made perfect in our suffering, even though many times when we are in our suffering, it is difficult to see. For me, it was very difficult indeed, and I was so young. But that did not deter Him. He came for me before I could give up.

But this is not a story of shame. It is a story of success. Because I am alive today, dedicated to making a positive impact as a therapist, and with my words.

For anyone who also has an untold story inside them too, I urge and encourage you to speak up. Speak out. Do not let the shame, guilt or pain take the wheel of your life, keeping you bound. Your experiences are completely valid, regardless of what anyone says. There is a purpose, a function to your pain. And you are not alone. Please tell me, and others, of your story. You deserve to be attended to. You have a voice that deserves to be heard.

I am a survivor. I am a fighter. And if you are alive today, reading this, so are you.