Forgiving but not Forgetting

“Forgive and forget,” this was a common phrase I would hear growing up. That, in order to truly know that you have forgiven another person, you need to have forgotten the anger and the crime committed against you. Most importantly, it was the thing good people did. I wanted to be a good person.

Eventually, I realized that sometimes you just have to forgive even if you can’t totally forget. Or, better yet, that forgetting is a gift and a grace from God. There were days when I prayed so hard, I thought my heart would stop from all my longing, “Lord, please let me forget. Please wipe away my memory. Please let me move on with life without this memory.”

The brain is such a curious thing. As I was with friends yesterday, they mentioned one time we went on a trip. I happily recalled the trip, and yet had a feeling that I was forgetting something, an inconsistency in the memory. One friend pointed out that so-and-so was also on that trip– someone whom I had cut out of my life.

I was more amazed by the fact that the memory seemed intact. I still remembered the food, the smells, the seating arrangement. But with this person completely cut out of the memory. All that was left was this strange feeling that there was someone else in that day trip.

The brain really has funny ways of helping us cope.

In any case, when this was brought up, I could laugh it off. In the past, I would feel so bad for days about remembering anything related to that person. I remain perplexed with how my memory had re-written itself yesterday. There are so many ways that our selves try to cope with the difficulties of life and of traumatic situations that maybe it will take a whole person’s lifetime just to have a glimpse of what the human mind is truly like. Perhaps, my prayer was answered in a slow, incremental process of retaining the essential happy memories.

I have a long way to go, but at least for the past two years, I’ve learned so much about what forgiveness is like and how we can easily enclose and choke ourselves when we choose not to forgive. I had to move on because of the realization that life will pass me by, and that wonderful opportunities will go unnoticed simply because I am too caught up in the thought of retribution.

I can’t say that I’ve completely forgiven– to the point that I can befriend that person again. I’m not sure if that’s part of the equation even… I don’t want it to be.

For now, it’s enough that I don’t want to harm those who have hurt me. Eventually, I might actually get around to actually hoping for their authentic happiness.

So if you ask me– forgiving is possible without forgetting. I think that’s part of the point, otherwise we fall into the same trap again.

 

 

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Processing through Distancing

Everyone goes through some kind of trouble or emotional tragedy in the course of their lives. Some might even be carrying the burden of having to deal with emotional scars all through their life, uncertain with how to process the trauma or, alternatively distract themselves from confronting the actual issue.

On my end, I’ve found that it’s easier to see the problem by creating distance, and perhaps finding other people who have the same problem. Rather than going into analyzing my own actions and creating standards for myself, comparing the experience of other people helps a lot because it levels expectations on myself as well.

Sometimes, it turns out that what I perceived to be a problem is actually not a problem at all. An MBTI reading said that my type (INFJ) tends to isolate themselves, and feel isolated, because the perceived issues are not easily understandable to other people, even though I might feel very deeply about it.

I realized that not taking myself seriously was one way to ease the burden of feeling isolated. It also helped at lot to simply ask others what was on my mind when I wasn’t sure, rather than being afraid to upset them with my question. Other times, that exercise also made me wonder if I ever really took myself seriously anymore.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how much of these anxieties are imagined. I felt like being busy and a workaholic was one way to keep the feelings at bay; I’ve slowly been unraveling all these insecurities which I never quite processed… and things are making sense, thankfully. At the end of all that processing though, I still need a goal or a possible direction. I think that’s what I need to work on now; the feeling that my wants and needs are just as significant as other people’s.

How do you make work purposeful, without making it the entire purpose of your life?

De-cluttering Time

June is summer break at University. Faculty members usually make the most of this time to develop their skills through workshops and conferences, while others take some time out to finally write their research work or take care of other things they’ve been putting off for the past months.  Other teachers take some much-needed R&R after handling a lot of paperwork for the semester.

My routine has lightened up compared to the past month. May went by so quickly, that even my planner / organizer had only one or two entries in it for each week;  my schedules were haphazardly listed into my cellphone. To review the month, I had to combine my photos, text messages, and google events to piece things together– I really could not remember what happened on some days.

I realize that every June is usually a month of recuperation and re-learning for me. After two months of cramming and chasing after deadlines, the weeks after inputting grades can either the be most restful or the most disorienting. In my case, it felt like withdrawal symptoms from the hectic semester– I was looking for something to do and to be stressed about it.

In addition, I DID have something to be busy about because I agreed to teach a summer class. However, I think it’s the last time that I’d be willing to teach for the summer term simply because my momentum is off… and so are the students’.

Since last year, I’ve been having mid-year classes. Last year was more of a last-minute request, but this year was scheduled long before the break began. It’s a little disorienting, especially in the weeks after the second semester ended in May. Students were on break and very few faculty members would come in. The school grounds were very quiet, and I often found myself cleaning my desk or walking around school rather than writing or staying at my desk to read.

The week after grades were due, we had our “spring cleaning” day. Our institution makes sure that we recycle papers, and that papers which are dated from five years ago or older than that should be discarded. I began to discard memos and letters from 2013. Since I work with the Humanities, it’s obvious that I need to be a bit more careful with how I apply that rule, or I end up throwing out everything. Needless to say, the past weeks have been dedicated to cleaning up my work and freeing some head space.

Since I’ve been trying to adopt the minimalist lifestyle, especially with the KonMari techniques, I decided to try to apply the same approach to my work space and my digital files. In the process of just sifting through my emails, I also found how much information I think I can fit into my head… subscribing to at least three different mailing groups about literature and teaching, only to find that I have no time to actually read them all every week though I thought that this was one way to improve myself.

In the process of cleaning up, I realized that my largest clutter is my digital clutter. I dedicated a whole morning just to organize and clean out my Google Drive and Dropbox account. I found redundant files, broken links, and a number of word files filled with potential research ideas or plot bunnies that remain unfinished. I completely forgot about them until I opened them again. When I was halfway through that, I decided to go through my email and unsubscribe to mailing lists which don’t benefit me anymore.

While my physical desk is so much cleaner now without all the papers, my online folders have a long way to go with organizing. I have yet to figure out a system for all these files, especially for books and digital readings that which have their occasional usefulness for classes. While I want to live a minimalist lifestyle, I realize that being in the academe seems like a paradox to that ideal way of life.

How do you organize your online files and clutter? I’m all ears.

A Balanced Day

The second semester is done, and I’m relieved that the five months are finally over. A lot of this semester’s challenges were more on classroom management and my own time management. There was a lot to learn about time management this time around.

In the past year, I promised myself that I would make time for the things that matter and not to make work the most important aspect of my life. However, in the midst of all the deadlines, demanding students, and following-up bosses, this easily becomes a forgotten goal. Before I knew it, my weekends were also filled with things to do for work. I also began to do something which I promised I would stop making a habit of, which is  checking and responding to email while out with friends or family.

I listened to a podcast which also gave me a clarity about the work-life balance that I want, and why other co-workers seem to be able to live both at the same time. While some people can live both work and personal life as one, unified entity in their life, there are others who need to compartmentalize these aspects and create a clear separation between the two. I realized that I was the latter… which is why I get so stressed out when students message me at odd hours in the evening, or on non-working holidays.

One of the productivity ideas I thought I’d put into practice at the start of the semester was to use Sunday as preparation day for the coming week. While that worked and usually gave me a better sense of control for Monday, I also realized that the momentum of work in my workplace was very different– they usually began assigning and following-up on tasks for Monday and this would often change my plans. More often than not also, there would be a lot of disruptions through chats and emails on Monday. At some point, I would begin finding another work area so that I could focus on my writing and reading tasks.

So far, the method that’s worked for me is to dedicate the morning to writing and reading about the week. I make sure to do this away from my work desk– the library, a coffee shop or another room where I can work uninterrupted.

By lunch time, I actually drop by at my desk and begin to receive updates, which gets me out of my “too much thinking” mode from the morning. After consistently applying this, I realize that there is NOTHING related to writing and reading that I get done during those times I am actually at my work desk. Not only because of the disruptions, but because my cubicle is situated in such a way that I easily get distracted by people passing by.

It’s a welcome thought that people enjoy talking to me and keeping me updated about things I’d otherwise not be aware about. However, for the remaining months of the semester I think it’s about time that I create some boundaries and make these working conditions work to my advantage.

This is still better than working from home. I’m not sure how people get anything done when they work from home. All I want to do is watch TV and sleep when I tried working from home.

Reading Out Loud

When asked if I was willing to take on a teaching assignment, I thought that it was the best offer I had been given in a while. I said YES immediately, looking forward to this class, because it was a topic close to my heart (Literature) and with a group of students that I had taught before. They were insightful, curious, but most of all, not readily resistant to new ideas. It was a perfect semester ahead of me– full of ideas and curious questions and great reads.

It was not until the later meetings that a colleague suggested that I should change my approach. Though I was surprised at first by the suggestion, it greatly changed the quality of insights that students would share with the class.

Her advice was to read with the class, and to read passages out loud.

By this, it also meant that it had to be ME who read these passages, rather than what I’d gotten used to, which is to ask students to read the passage.

One thing that I realized was that students will definitely read the text and that it usually wakes them up… but that I can always expect some awkwardness and hesitance with some words. This time around, I had to take on that awkward situation and read the material in the way that I thought it should be read.

At first, while I was hesitant, I eventually grew to appreciate this approach to literature. The quality of insights changed, and became more introspective. I’d like to think that it was not only because other insights would be shared, but perhaps because putting sound and feeling into the words on paper also changed its meaning. It could have also been because there was time to think since there was less nervousness about being asked to read out loud (or maybe that’s just the introvert in me making this excuse).

Teaching Literature this past semester has taught me that there is so much more to teaching in this discipline than I expected. Initially, a good storyline and well-developed characters would be the sure way that I would keep reading a book. In recent years, I realized that another element to literature is terseness, or the exactness of words to convey an idea or experience. That’s where I find the excellent writers set apart– in the amount of editing to find the exact words for extremely complex human thoughts and experiences (or perhaps even for extremely simple ones).

Great literature has a way of creating connections between otherwise unrelated concepts, emphasizing one word or phrase so that the subtext becomes even louder. All together, these communicate a distinctly human trait– that human beings can  and will want more than what the animal self can be complacent with.

Since the second semester, I had also been telling students to read their paper out loud when they’re in the process of editing it. I find myself needing to follow the same advice, even if at times my arrogance can sometimes get ahead of me and say that I have learned to write much better (of course not, no one is exempt from proof-reading).

Reading out loud is such a simple advice to follow, but how it’s changed the way I see and think about things!

 

How to write off friends

In college, I got writing papers down to a science.

Even if I didn’t feel like writing, I could somehow manage a five-page research paper that could get me a higher-than-average score. I also managed to make some extra income by writing blog posts about paid ads… which lasted just enough for me to buy my long-coveted PSP.

On the other hand, all that writing also required focus– the kind that meant turning down parties or time with friends outside of class.

It didn’t feel so bad then to choose work over friends. I knew that they would understand. In any case, if they didn’t understand, I felt no greater need to keep them as friends– they were always free to go, always free to return. I couldn’t absorb the idea of friendship meaning giving up my own priorities, or me demanding that they give up theirs.

It wasn’t until I graduated and began working that I had to re-think how I kept my friendships intact. Much of it began as an indebtedness, while others were necessary for work to remain smooth. At this point, it was unquestionable to me that there were times when I needed to give up work in order to maintain some friendships.

You know how some things become so commonplace, that you don’t give it much thought anymore?

That’s what happened to me in the next couple of years. My work became my life, and my friendships, or what I understood to be friendships, defined me. Unimaginable to me today, but at the time I couldn’t see a future where I was without specific friends in my life. I slowly became a workaholic– but the kind that used it to maintain friendships. Not being able to perform well on a task or turning down a favor meant severing a good friendship.

It wasn’t until last year that I had regained my sense of self, by acknowledging that I had reached my limit. It’s an unnerving feeling to look at yourself in the mirror and not recognize the person. But even more unnerving was how I would say it didn’t matter, because there was so much more work that needed to be done and needed doing.

My family knew how much work meant to me. They left me alone when they saw me at my desk on weekends, and were enthusiastic enough to watch Youtube videos I indulged in when I actually took breaks.

Recently, my sister told me how work defined me. She figured I was that kind of person who thought about work more than anyone else did.

So what changed?

For one, I realized that it wasn’t like I worked at a competitive, multi-national corporation. I was in the academe, and the pay was going to be pretty much the same as everyone at my ranking. So what was making me work weekends, if I’ve pretty much delivered what was expected of me and of everyone else?

I started losing friends. Well, maybe not losing more than it was that they realized I had changed, and perhaps that I actually got angry for once. I learned to walk away from the demands and the blackmail, and realized that they needed me more than I needed them. I learned that friends whom you practically gave most your life over wouldn’t think twice about dropping you when you start setting boundaries for yourself.

I needed to learn to pick my friends better. And, more often than not, they were friends for a cause and an end. While I couldn’t absorb that kind of shallow friendship in the past, my older self has learned to be grateful that friendship can and should be compartmentalized. I don’t mean this in order to enable you to use people (although I’ve also read up about people who are very good at doing this), but so that you can keep yourself healthy and intact in relationships. Friends should not demand access to your inner world, or that you trust them– that sort of thing happens over time, and with communication.

While I’m sure that I’ve had my own lack in being a good friend, I know that life is passing quickly with my poor choices. Ever since I’ve been having some “spring cleaning” in my relationships, I’ve learned to appreciate my individuality better. And, though I never thought it could happen before, I actually found friends who have the same eccentricities that I do.

Writing off friendships doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, it frees you and clears your blindness to experience better friendships.

Human

Human beings are light and darkness

they are mundane and sublime

they can do good or evil

they can be skeptical or devout

trusting and betraying

every-day and exceptional…

 

how can such a complex being contain so much in one package?

how can it all be purely accidental that they are the way they are?