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.

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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.)

 

Read More »

Existentialism is overrated

We’ve all come to a point in our lives where we have to confront the question, “What is the meaning of life?”, or maybe something simpler, “Why am I alive?”, or “Why should I keep living?”

When you’ve witnessed great suffering, or experience the numbness of pleasure, there seems to be nothing further ahead. Does it get any better, does it get any worse? And at that moment, you probably begin thinking about what you’ve been spending so much time on in the past weeks or years.

Sometimes, we get stuck with the question, and it isn’t easy to answer. For some existentialist philosophers, perhaps the meaning of existence goes only so far as your needs exist. But what if you wanted or needed nothing? What if, at some point of great suffering or great pleasure, death finally lost its sting, and the unknown presented itself as a better reality than what you currently have?

Are you willing to philosophize, to the extent that you’re willing to risk your life?

It sounded cool back in college to think about these things, to spout out names and words about existence and how reality is manufactured and how we’re all part of some system. But when I actually went through the reality of death, the possibility of it, while lying on a hospital bed for the first time because of some stupid sickness, I suddenly felt very small and insignificant. I wondered how fortunate I was to receive medical care, and if other people in the world even had other people tending to them when they really needed help. At this point, pursuing the why of existence came to a halt because mine could possibly come to a halt and that would simply be that– an obituary.

I obviously survived that sickness, making a promise to redeem my pointless angsty life by making a difference in wherever I was placed. It was from that sickness that I also learned that life is not about dwelling on the meaning of it, but making relationships that create greater meaning out of it.

Years later, because I had lost track of my vision and instead made pleasing people my goal, I had found myself at the same dark pit. Only this time, I had myself to contend with. The reality was that I had friends and family, but this was a reality that my distorted mind had presented differently: I did not matter, I never did. Somehow, I believed this, thinking that I only had myself, and that I can only take care of my choices and my life.

It was at this point that I wondered, if atheistic existentialist philosophy was really what I believed in… I really wouldn’t have anything to live for. If it made me happy to just die, then why prolong life? If it made me happy to be alone, then why bother trying to be with others? It was an endless cycle of trying to find some meaning where there was none to be found. A pit of self-pity that I needed to get out of, because I had lost my purpose. I had been betrayed by someone I had trusted, and realized that I did truly know who they were all along. And for some strange reason, the world just did not matter anymore, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had accepted God years ago and it did not make sense for me to take my own life when He said it wasn’t time. I was begging Him to– why else should I be around?

But He stayed silent, and showed me, at my pace, why I needed to live. I wanted revenge, I wanted to hurt, I wanted to throw away everything. But He reminded me each day, through unexpected interactions, through messages from loved ones, about what I was missing out on. He reminded me that, on my own, He had already given me worth.

(If you’re reading this and can relate. Know that you are enough.)

I did not save myself that day, because left to myself I don’t think I’d be here. Thankfully, it wasn’t up to me. Since that day, life has been better– day by day, little by little. Pieces started falling into place, realities were unraveled to me, and I realized that I had almost wasted my life for such a useless thing.

Of course, to say that life is so much better does not mean that it is devoid of difficulties or of rainy days and broke days. But it has been better because I have come to accept all these realities as part and parcel of the journey to becoming an authentic human being. All the darkness and the light, and how I can decide on which one takes over me. I have come to acknowledge my darkness, and if I acknowledge my limitations and ask for help, I can keep it in check.

 

So there you are, a little survivor story. You’ll know it’s a survivor story because it doesn’t use the suffering as a focal point.

Your suffering is not the best part of your story, it’s your determination to improve and recover. And you can’t do that without acknowledging that pain or need for improvement.

 

Forgiveness

Today is Good Friday.

In a predominantly Catholic country such as the Philippines, it’s today that feels like a legitimate vacation throughout the entire year. Holy Week is supposed to be solemn, and a time to invite everyone to rediscover their faith. Growing up as a Filipino Catholic, I also had my shares of strict rules during Good Friday:  this could mean from not playing music and being quiet, to not being able to laugh the whole day. It can be easy to say that it doesn’t make sense, but now that I’m older I’m thankful that the silence is part of the necessity of observing the solemnity of holy week. It’s also become a reminder of the small pleasures in life which are overlooked.

Holy Week usually meant going out of town and visiting our home province. It also usually meant catching everyone also doing the same thing and being stuck in traffic for hours. Now that my parents, siblings and I have grown older, Holy Week has become a time of the year when we can enjoy Manila at its quietest, and most traffic-jam-free.

It’s also a great time to catch up with spiritual activities. Like yesterday, we went to Makati to go to the church for confession and for prayers. Majority of the mall being closed, and following the Stations  of the Cross, we eventually found the church which was not completely lit up. A couple of times, the lights would go out and the only light left would be the one on the altar, since the church was just running on generator power. Nonetheless, It was heartwarming to see the many other people who were there to pray and also refresh their spiritual life.  It felt like a real community, and something which I had not always been sensitive to in the past.

The best part was confession. The priest who heard my confession, despite the tiredness in his voice because of the many confessions he had heard all day, really knew what to advice me. I wouldn’t call it inspiration or passion, because the kind of hope that he gave me was a steady and calm kind of hope. Not the kind that burned bright and run out quickly. Maybe it was something I needed to hear again:  that the path towards God was not in bursts of energy and passion, but in a steady, committed daily walk to become a better self. It was consistent, humble, and constantly reminded of how life on earth is a blessing– yes, despite all the evil in it and all the pain in it.

The Judge

“Stay your hand,” He said,

as I cried for the hurt in my chest,

for the shame and the anger

and I yelled out, “Avenge me, Lord”

 

I wanted vengeance ten times over,

and I knew He had this power

 

“Stay your hand,” He said,

more a reminder than a command

“When will You avenge me?” I sobbed,

proud and confident that He would–

“I will give you something better,” He said,

and as I felt the weight lift from me–

“I will restore your Life.”