When I was married, I used to (unconsciously) adhere to this atavistic belief that my body belonged to my now ex-husband. I would get uncomfortable if another man found me attractive. I did not want to invite the male gaze. I didn't want to dress provocatively. Not that I dress that way now, but interestingly, as I was going through my closet the other day, I noticed a stark difference in my wardrobe before divorce and post-divorce.
I was going over my old writing and memorabilia the other day and I came across a short story that I had printed from an email. I do not remember who the email was from, nor the author of the story, but I thought I would share it, as I feel like it would resonate with a lot of people.
As if 2020 could not be more challenging, a few weeks ago, my mother got diagnosed with Stage 4 Cholangiocarcinoma, also known as cancer of the bile ducts.
She is 68 years old. She has Type 2 diabetes, but apart from that, is relatively healthy. She very rarely drinks, does not smoke, or partake in recreational drugs.
In November 2019, before thoughts of the pandemic were even in our consciousness, my therapist suggested I take a break from dating and having sex. She thought this would help me grow and find out what I truly want as I was vacillating between having casual sex and wanting a relationship at the time (which was just mere months after my divorce, by the way). I was aghast and indignant, feeling betrayed, as if she had no idea who I was after months of seeing each other on a regular basis.
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. But despite the chaos, uncertainty, and anxiety brought about by 2020, I see myself looking back at the past year and I realize that I truly have a lot to be grateful for.
I AM THANKFUL FOR...
MY HEALTH. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I often take it for granted. However, now more than ever, I wake up thankful that my body is healthy and it allows me to do the things I love and be able to expand on them. I have been better at self care and making more effort to nourish both my body and my soul. This year, I fell in love with paddleboarding, climbed Half Dome, ventured out on my bike again after my accident, went snowboarding after more than 10 years, and I jumped off an airplane. I am so excited to see what is next in store for me!
Driving out West is so much different from driving out here on the East Coast. Man, the rugged beauty of the Sierra Nevadas really just takes your breath away and there's no feeling like it when you're driving through these mountains and seeing the beautiful vista. In fact, I don't think there's any place on the East Coast that I can properly use the term "vista", IMHO.
A friend of mine shared this beautiful poem with me almost 20 years ago. I had no idea then that this would resonate with me in a deeply profound way through numerous points in my life. It made me realize how much he really knew me, more than sometimes I even knew myself. It is amazing when you are truly seen and heard by another person and that means everything. It is such a rarity with the ubiquity of social media and the constant curating and crafting of our personas. Allowing ourselves to be authentic and vulnerable is one of the hardest things to do and something that I am constantly working towards.
I was born and raised in the Philippines, a country of 134 ethnic groups, 120 different languages, and 7,107 islands. Growing up close to the capital, Manila, I was most enamored by the southernmost portion of the country, called Mindanao. Though most of the country is Christian, that part of the country is predominantly Muslim.
There are 18 different ethnic groups that live in Mindanao. One of them are the Badjao/Bajau, also known as Sea Gypsies, as they move with the wind and tide in their small houseboats called Vintas. These seafaring people have the most fascinating rituals that illustrate their concept of life and their relationship to the sea. For example, it is said that immediately after birth, a newly born infant is thrown into the seas and the rest of the family save the newborn.
The COVID quarantine was a very challenging time in our lives. I have to admit, I was really anxious about being alone for the first time in almost 20 years. But I came out of it learning so much about myself and also had the time to pursue one of my passion projects...Worthy Goods!
For all my life, I have prided myself in being very positive, optimistic, and full of joy. I always have a smile and a hug for everyone and I love to have fun and laugh. I never showed any weakness or asked for help when I needed it because I thought that was what being strong was all about.
I also never really learned how to feel and process my emotions or learn to be vulnerable. No matter how I was feeling inside, I kept a bright, smiling facade that I always showed the world. I kept myself so busy, jam-packing my schedule with work, meetings, projects, events, dinners, nights out, parties, and dates. I surrounded myself with people and had no time to really listen to myself and know how I truly feel.
During the past year, because of the drastic changes that have occurred in my life, I decided to start seriously working on myself: finding out what I want on my own, what gives me joy, what I want to cut out of my life, what I like, how to be vulnerable, how I want my life to unfold, where I see myself in the future, and the impact that I want to leave on the world.
Then COVID hit.