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.

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.

under the apple tree

                            apple-tree-print

This struck me very deeply.

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

asserting your identity

                              woman-looking-into-sun

Erik Erikson proposed that during adolescence, we seek to find and develop our identity. We try out different roles, experiment with different activities, all in order to find who it is we are.

But one key aspect that does not seem to be as emphasized by Erikson, or by most texts I’ve read in my classes, is how we assert that identity once we “find” it… especially in the face of a society that pushes all of us to be a certain way, or adhere to a social construct of “normal.” Because when we don’t fit the mold of “normal,” we are criticized harshly, told to change ourselves, to modify our identities because it is simply “wrong.” We end up feeling the enormous pressure of having to change what may be true to our real selves, so that we can be loved and accepted by others. What a painful dilemma, that is.

People have argued to me that sometimes other people just know better, and it sucks to be rejected or not loved. True, it does suck when someone doesn’t like who we are. In an ideal world, we can be our true selves and have everyone who encounters us likd us. But it’s not a realistic expectation. Not everyone will like who we are… but that’s okay. Because it is just as painful, if not more, to live a life that is not yours. And I would argue to the death that sometimes people DON’T know better. That you know you better than anyone else. Only you have the power to define who you are and who you want to become, what your values are, what drives you, what you choose to make up you. In the same vein, you also have the power to give the reins of that control over your identity to someone else, or to society at large, if you so choose.

Personally, I grew up being bullied most of my childhood. People called me many, many names; I’ve experienced racial slurs to attacks on my physical attractiveness. I’ve had rocks thrown at me in 5th grade, and eggs in 7th. If I choose to give the reins of my identity to others, then I would be defined as an ugly, unattractive, loser girl, who no boy ever, in his right mind, would want to date. I would be on the bottom of the totem pole, invisible, unimportant, unworthy, not good enough, stupid, in need of a diet, deserving of a stoning… the list goes on. For a long time, I did live and think this way. And I suffered with depression for nine years as a result. If I continued to believe what everyone told me I was and took their words as indisputable truth, I wouldn’t be alive today. My demons are very ugly and dark, and I’m certain I would have killed myself by now. Because an ugly shit like me who is unimportant and not good enough doesn’t deserve to live.

But we always have a choice. I cannot stress this enough. We have the choice to either define ourselves by the mountain of shit people throw at us, or to take the wheel and create who it is we are. And in the latter, there is so much power in that. We can take control. No one has power to define our identity except for us. I know who I am, and surround myself with those who see that. And whenever someone tries to define or place a label on me, I respectfully reject their opinion, while in my head I think, “Fuck that shit.” Because I control what goes in, and what goes out… and I don’t need others’ opinions to define me anymore.

I think Friedrich Nietzsche said it best: The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

reconstruction

dream-memories

Chasing after repressed memories and rusting dreams.

Because, as Joy Kogawa writes, “all our ordinary stories are changed in time, altered as much by the present as the present is shaped by the past.” Like sticky cobwebs, the past sticks and remains, even as we lay the stories in the attic to be forever forgotten. We often say that our past molds the present, but I would dare argue that our present can reconstruct and re-mold the past through the simple act of remembering.

For it seems that our being, encompassing past, present and future, is a living and breathing entity. Changes in one, ripple throughout all others. And the persistence of the past can only be reconciled when one “submits” to its existence, and acknowledges it in the present. As we remember, the past lives, shifts and grows as we do. And there is remarkable power in that.