Raw

The Conversations That Make Me Cry Every Tuesday

I’ve just attended another session of ‘Reclaiming My Time’, a 6-week facilitated dialogue with the goal of building community to dismantle oppressive systems.

I feel unsettled, vulnerable, rattled… like my foundation has shifted slightly. I feel inaccessible to people close to me, and I think I know why. Some of the people closest to me are white, or look white. They do not look like me, they do not walk in the world like I do, and therefore, don’t understand my experience. And that is very alienating. It feels lonely. I feel lonely.

It makes me question where my alignment lies. My experience has been white-washed. And I’m starting to discover the healing power of being around people whose experiences are similar to mine. It is healing for me to see faces like mine, and to talk about concepts like being the perpetual foreigner; being an immigrant; being constantly viewed as the “other”; internalized racism; internalized oppression; what colonialism has done to us, and how it has shaped our narrative and what we tell future generations.

But the question remains: why do I align with whiteness? It’s a question I ask now, and will keep asking. If you are reading this, and are white, and feel uncomfortable, please don’t take it personally. Please take the time to educate yourself and understand it’s not about you.

The deeper I get into this, the more alienated I feel, like there are less and less people who get it.

I feel this sense of urgency because I want children. But I feel like I’m not learning enough, like I’m not learning fast enough, like I’m not prepared enough to teach them the beauty and complication of what they are inheriting. I want my children to feel whole. I don’t ever want them to feel like they’re missing something.

I feel the hole left behind in me where my roots used to lie. I feel it in the clumsy way I speak my native language. I feel it in the contradiction of being with a white man (historically, “the oppressor”) and loving him. I feel it in the way that I often feel like an imposter; someone who doesn’t deserve to be here, and who shouldn’t be here.

* * *

This Is What I Want To Tell You, My Children

You are Filipino.

Your mother is Filipino, but at times, has not felt Filipino. Your mother has been dragged from country to country, each time, leaving little pieces of herself, and trying to glue randomly-found pieces to herself, in an attempt to fill the holes. Your mother is a puzzle put together by pieces that don’t quite fit.

I want you to feel the full weight of your combined identities, and to not take them for granted. I want you to feel all dimensions of yourself and feel the healing pride that comes with that. I want you to feel the weight of your ethnicity, your culture, your appearance — and how people treat you as a result of your appearance. I want you to know that there is a difference between gender identity and sexual preference. I want you to recognize that in this instance, you are able-bodied and mobile.

I want you to be self-aware and to constantly think about how you think. I want you to know the patterns of your mental and behavioral habits. I want you to be a more empowered thinker.

I want you to have options—real options—in who you are, and what you do. I want you to not be constrained by expectations often pushed so early and so often on children.

If you are born a biological female, I don’t want you limited by the color pink or white Barbie’s or the phrases “you look so pretty today” or “boys pull your hair because they like you” or “don’t ask questions”.

I want you to hear the phrases “you can be anything you want to be” or “you are so curious and smart; I love it” or “you know you can say no”.

I want you to have full range of motion, to not wear constricting and form-fitting clothing, so that your perfect arms and legs can reach for the sky and plant themselves firmly on the ground, and in general, take up as much space as possible — so that when you are grown into your body, you are not held back by the very clothing you wear, or the voices inside your head telling you that you are not worth the space nor the time. You are free, you are worth the space, and you are worth the time. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You’re my baby, and for as long as you live, I want you to feel empowered to pursue happiness in whatever form appeals to you.

If you are born a biological male, I don’t want you constrained by the color blue or plastic toy trucks or the phrase “don’t cry; it means you’re weak”. Right now, that is all I have for you, my unborn male child. It doesn’t mean that I love you any less, because you are also my baby — and I acknowledge that I just have less to say to you at this point in my life. And that is all I can do right now.

There are only three things I want you to be. I want you to be kind, I want you to be honest, and again, I want you to be self-aware. Be kind, honest, and self-aware.


Daily Post prompt: Focused

Advertisements

The usual

Don’t look at his ex’s Facebook, don’t look at his ex’s Facebook, don’t—

*click*
*pause*
*huge sigh*

Wow… they looked so cute together.

*scrolls down*
*click*
*pause*
*huge sigh*

Damn, she’s got her shit together.

*scrolls down*
*click*
. . .

———  15 minutes later ———

. . .
*pause*
*huge sigh*

I’m a loser and I don’t know why he’s with me.

*scrolls down*
*click*
*pause*
*huge sigh*

I don’t deserve him and they should just get back together.

*scrolls down*
*click*
. . .


Daily Post prompt: Thorny

Memorization is for basic b*tches

The first thing I could remember memorizing was my multiplication tables in the third grade. I spent three full evenings trying to cement those numbers in their neat little columns into my brain. I recited them like a mantra, for that was what brought me nirvana at the time — pleasing my teacher, Ms. Betty.

Since then, life has been a blurred montage of things to memorize: best friends’ phone numbers so I could call them right after school, addresses, birthdays, street directions, credit card numbers, my passport number when I am lucky enough to travel … all of these a random jumble of letters and numbers. We leave a trail of them as we shuffle through life, walking through doors that only these alpha-numeric keys can open. I look at my trail behind me and I see evidence of someone who has lost several credit cards, moved many times, owned a couple different cars, has had a few boyfriends whose birthdays she has cared enough for to remember. It’s a seemingly ordinary life, if you were to look at my record.

Just remember, it’s the stuff you don’t memorize that make your life incredible, precious, and uniquely yours. It’s the stuff you wrote down, like journal entries you’ll forget and look at twenty years later and chuckle at how much of a hot mess you were. It’s the stuff you felt with your own skin, like the very first time your newborn wrapped her whole hand around your finger. It’s the stuff you utter out of your own mouth, gone into the air and never to be said exactly the same by anyone else on Earth ever again.

Memorize the rudimentaries, but leave enough of your mind uncluttered to experience life at its most complex and messy and beautiful.


Daily Post prompt: Memorize

FOMO: The digital version

There are just some days when synchronizing with the world feels too damn tiring.

* * *

I went camping for the first time in my life just a few days ago. I slept outside, surrounded by the buzz of insects and the hard ground beneath me. That part of camping will take some getting used to. But one of my favorite parts about camping was being out of reach of any cell phone towers. Those tall, ominous beacons couldn’t find me. And therefore, no one could find me. No one who cared enough to message me. Yesss, I sighed with relief as my phone finally comatosed into silence a few hours into the trip.

The mental vacation lasted about 4 days.

Driving back from the trip, my phone returned to civilization — and the madness started. My phone took a life of its own as the landscape around me got busier. It started buzzing and ding-ing as messages and event notifications came pouring in, reminding me of the “life” I had been missing out on while I was “gone”. I felt the anxiety I had been delaying for days, full of dread at the level of decay my relationships must have suffered at my non-presence, feeling this enigmatic inadequacy wash over me all of a sudden.

I felt like a dam had broken, no longer shielding me from the inevitable deluge.

* * *

Every time I go offline, I feel refuge from the flood of notifications, messages, and daily mental comparisons I make of my life to others’ seemingly more copacetic ones.

In our modern world, we are inundated with opportunities to “synchronize”:

  • Read the same headlines as everybody else
  • Find common ground with complete strangers in a heated forum discussion
  • Admire the same glittering social media accounts that someone else does, recommended to you by some algorithm
  • Take pictures of the same waterfall as someone else — that waterfall now has no soul
  • Share your location and find yet other people who have been to the same place

This causes me to backtrack mentally sometimes: are human beings meant to be this social? Are we really meant to be trapped in these webs of interaction, lured in by FOMO — the fear of missing out? These attempts to connect with the world at large — are they as tangible as the wiry feeling of moss on a tree branch, or the scatter of moonlight on the forest floor? Are they as genuine as a close friend that tells me what’s real in his everyday world?

I say this, tired, and yet, here I am, throwing my thoughts at other people like e-confetti.

* * *

The world is run by hash tags and other identifiers that are meant to unite the world and bring some pattern to this otherwise meaningless chaos. I get it; it’s our way of feeling less alone, less isolated in this digital biome. But sometimes, it’s too much. The overstimulation, the almost competitive drive to be “caught up” — caught up with what, I really don’t know some days.

Sharks — they gotta keep swimming or they’ll just sink to the bottom and die. It just seems, in the world we live in today, that you will do just the same, if you don’t keep swimming in this sea of information overflow. Would I really miss out on life if I ignore my phone? Or would I actually experience it the way it’s meant to be? We can choose to be “offline” for any given number of time, but, outside of completely adopting a hermit lifestyle, it never really ends.

When can we just rest? When can we ever rest?


Daily Post prompt: Synchronize