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.

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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?

The Future

We had class yesterday. North America in the 19th century. Transcendentalism, frontier and the pioneer spirit.

I live in Manila. I am a college instructor. Lately, shifts in our educational system have made teaching more demanding, shifting more pressure for professors to document the learning curve….

Exams have to be measurable, do-able, reasonable. Work progress, predictable. No homework on weekends. Be mindful of students with special needs. Meanwhile, I also need to keep researching and studying as well.

In college, I was taught to think outside of the box. That, if I wanted to soar or at least make sense of this existence, I needed to expect problems before they happened. Teachers could flunk me on the basis of being asleep in class… never mind if I had to stay up late to complete assignments. Asking why my grade was low was such a difficult thing to do because I needed to figure this out on my own.

As a teacher now, I need to remember that I simply facilitate the discussion. There are no wrong answers… or maybe there are… just don’t make them feel horrible about it. Classroom discipline is needed, and this is my weak point. I forget that most of the time, students are not as interested to learn as they are to get the highest grade with the least effort.

I was trained to assume that nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. This meant, taking the brunt from the boss to staying quiet because it would be rude to speak up. You get to speak when you have established yourself somehow, or at least have a good backer.

Everyone has an opinion now, and curtailing that chance to speak– in any way — is offensive and a disregard of an individual’s rights.

They are very particular about rights; I hear nothing about taking responsibility.

I became a teacher, dreaming of a Manila that would be more intellectual. A place where conversation could take place without anyone getting hurt or dying. Where emotions could be safely kept in order so that the other can be heard better. I believed that teaching would be the best way to reach young minds, and was eager to share what I knew about the world so far.

I dreamt of Emerson, the pioneers, the spirit that pushed a civilization forward while they pushed others aside. They achieved their goal of changing the world, including mine. They became part of my ruined country’s history, they are still the gods to us, and that land is still where many Filipinos hope to find better futures.

After class yesterday, a student expressed her disappointment with her drink. She asked if I felt the same sometimes when the drink I bought did not meet my expectations or feel worth its cost.

I thought that it was such a petty problem. And I found myself hoping that they could weather greater problems than a sub-par beverage someday.

 

 

2018 Resolutions (again)

2017 was a rollercoaster kind of year.

There were so many disruptions, unexpected changes, political events… to an extent, it almost appeared absurd that many of these things were even happening. I’m not going to dwell on these things in this post, however.

While there were many instances for me to just give up and accept defeat, there were also insights and opportunities that gave me the privilege to enjoy life and what else it had to offer. Perhaps because of the resolutions I made for 2017, I had subconsciously decided to focus on my own challenges and duties than on what is going on in the internet world or what the media would report. There was just so much that needed to be done, that it became clear that there really was nothing that I could do— as much as I hoped that I could— for these events outside and far away from me.

All I had was my community, my immediate circles, and myself to deal with.

In hindsight, that’s actually a lot of influence right there. I don’t mean social media influence either, but actual interaction. The need to be in the moment and to absorb what can and cannot be done with my limited time.

Because of the challenges that 2017 presented to me, I realise that 2018 should be about focusing on what needs to be done… to rebuild boundaries and to challenge myself to say no and accept that I will be criticized for my new behaviour.

I think I got a taste of what this challenge would mean, just this past week. It takes a while for people to get used to a “new you”, when they’ve been used to a version of you that they didn’t really need to get to know or to take care of… someone who was fun to be with and agreed to everything that needed to be done. Most especially, someone who used to change themselves readily to fit into any given situation.

Now that I’m learning to say “no”, or to offer some resistance to things I actually don’t want to do, it’s been more obvious that people are surprised by this behaviour.

While it’s made more relationships a little rocky, compared to before, I’ve seen that it also brought out the people who are truly friends. By this, I mean the people who respect me as I am, rather than how I make them feel all the time. People who share common interests but also common values with me.

I’ve also realised how many friendships I had made and kept out of necessity. It’s eye-opening for me that I’d give so much of my time and effort for this level of friendship, too.  I’m not saying that gave more, either (I never thought it should be a competition of affection) but that I sincerely did believe that I valued them as individuals. For that reason, though, a lot of times I did give up my own individuality.

I think 2017 had to teach me about expectations. Both mine and others’ expectations of me. There is no doubt that everyone has expectations, but it’s not very often that people know what they actually want… they’re more likely to criticize or comment on things that did not meet their expectation.

This 2018, I begin my resolutions again… keep at trying to be a better version of me even if I don’t appease everyone all the time. At the same time, know when I need help and have to ask for it.

 

The Magic of Cleaning

2017 is coming to a close, and we’re back to that time of the year when everyone has to re-assess the things that they’ve been doing and where they wanna go in preparation for the coming new year.

Along with these preparations, I’ve downloaded the manga version of Marie Kondo’s (Konmari) “The Art of Tidying Up” and finished reading the whole thing overnight. The next day, I felt this urge to begin reviewing the things in my room, and how much I needed to clean up. This was also the day before I was heading out to Japan with my family and preparations for the trip had pre-occupied my mind more than anything. The cleaning was a welcome break from strategising and managing tempers.

In college, I didn’t really see cleaning as something therapeutic. It wasn’t until grad school that I realised how relaxing it was (sans the scrubbing and sorting and dust bunnies, of course). Reading Konmari’s method has given me an even deeper perspective on how to tidy up, and as she claims no one has gone back after they tried her method of cleaning.

A lot of it has to do with her approach to integrate the act of cleaning with why we keep things. Through her method, you can also imagine why she usually allots two weeks for the whole cleaning-up process (of course, it also depends on how much cleaning needs to get done). From the easiest category (papers, everyday items) to the toughest (things of sentimental value), one must reflect on the significance of the  item in their present life and if it should be part of the future that they want for themselves. It sounds like a tall order, but once you get into the system, you’ll find yourself losing track of time. In my case, it felt like a presentation of my past year, and previous years— how far I’ve come and how much I’ve changed. And, on the funnier side, how some things about me have remained the same.

In the end, all that cleaning taught me how to embrace both good and bad parts of myself, while staying hopeful for the road ahead. Funny how cleaning can be such an eye-opener!

Cheers to a productive, positive and focused 2018! 🙂

 

 

Where to…?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering.

Not about MY suffering, but suffering as an experience, in general.

Pain comes in different forms, but suffering means pain that needs to be endured. It implies that suffering is not inflicted upon others, and is more likely to be recognized and endured in solitude.

There are also instances when it is a solitary experience, and other times it is endured with a collective.

Nonetheless, we become aware of our suffering, regardless of the levels of pain that instigated it… and perhaps for that reason, it makes sense why not everyone will acknowledge your suffering as “bad enough”.

There is one thing that I’ve been thinking about suffering, and mostly because of Viktor Frankl’s work explaining Logotherapy in Man’s Search for Meaning

that is, while we keep trying to find reasons why we must suffer, the lack of finding purpose in our suffering easily turns it into a source of anxiety.

I don’t also mean that one must invent positive and feel-good reasons to offer a “purpose” for their suffering. Rather, it might be more purposeful if, in light of the suffering we endure, we think of the good that can still come out of it.

That, regardless of our own decisions or the control that we have over the situation, all we can truly do is to avoid making the same mistakes and to keep moving forward.

In this way, suffering becomes a tool for self-improvement and reflection, rather than a consistent source of existential anxiety and angst.

Through the pursuit of making meaning out of your suffering, soon enough, those wounds will heal too— you’ll see. The world is such a big place, and you have so much to see outside of your own inner world.

Hiatus and Recovery

What Recovery Looks Like

One of the things I had hoped to do since last year was to actually put my experience into writing. Over the past year, everything was about getting better– I even had a plan about it, from the goals to the deadlines.

Many times, I fell short of my ideal goals. This also helped me learn that the decision to be better required discipline and humbling. Along the way, I found a lot of reference materials and resources. It also helped a lot to go back to the classics, reading up on both literature and spiritual reading to keep me inspired and keep working towards my goals for 2017. It was even more comforting to know that I had a safe space, with friends and family who were also very supportive of me despite my many setbacks.

If there’s anything that I have learned over the past year, I’d sum it up in three items:

  • Falling back into old habits happens in a span of two weeks
    • The first week of working on a resolution is a make-or-break. But getting past two weeks towards a third week is when you know that it has become a habit
  • Goal-setting is a holistic process
    • You are a human being, a complex and rational being. Along the way of trying to become better, you’ll realize that there are many aspects of your life that you’ll need to resolve. This is also why you need an anchor, or a center that keeps you in check after the overwhelming amount of help that comes your way. In my case, I had to constantly review my “promise” when I asked for divine intervention to take me out of my situation.
  • Your idea of your best self has a better version
    • The best part of working towards becoming a better version of you, and of being accountable to something greater than you (in this case, I decided to become more serious as a Catholic), is slowly finding out that life has even more to offer. In a way, you just needed to be prepared for the greater things ahead.

So much of the amazing events within first half of 2017 were small miracles. Moving forward from discovering that I was recovering from Narcissistic Abuse has been challenging in ways I had never imagined.

The most difficult part is that not everyone can understand that it actually happens. Sometimes, they’ll say that it’s nothing compared to what they’ve been through, but most of the time they tell you that you’ll get better– and I guess that’s what really matters.

Within the past year, this was what recovery looked like:

  • not wanting to be avenged anymore, or learning to understand that it could have happened to anyone
  • learning that love finds it way to you, despite how convinced I was that I was meant to be single forever (happily single, not resigned to it. Haha!)
  • that while the fear returns every now and then, it no longer cripples me
  • and most of all, that I’ve been able to forgive my offender– and myself for failing myself.

In the process of trying to figure out how to understand what I was going through, I accidentally found this Youtube channel. It gave me a lot of comfort and realizations, aside from the prayers and goal-setting I tried to integrate into my journey to healing.

I’m sharing this here in case you also need to process things. Her videos are very patient and empathetic towards those recovering from narcissistic abuse. And as for my story, here it is… *drumroll*

The Back-story

(Basically, what I was recovering from in the past year.)

 

Continue reading “Hiatus and Recovery”