Friday, September 23, 2016

The Art of Letting Go: A Guide to Moving On With Style

Love breaks my
bones and I
- Charles Bukowski

Relationships have the potential to redefine how we look at the world around us, how we view people and how we value them.

When we get attached to people - that is "fall in love" with them to use a more poetic term - nothing else stays the same. We magically surrender our individuality for the sake of a perceived happier duality. Suddenly we do not become the center of our existence that role now belongs to the Significant Other.

Relationships are beautiful. They provide us with an opportunity to grow and know ourselves a bit more than when we are simply by ourselves.

However, despite the romantic descriptions I've already written down when it comes to relationships, it is not as idyllic as it seems.

Relationships require hard work and a great deal of command in using the power of distance and nearness to make it work. It requires you to compromise on things that are honestly quite hard to compromise. It forces you to face issues that you never really encountered while alone. It makes manifest certain attitudes and behaviors that you never really knew you have! Seriously, I never knew how clingy I was until I found myself in a relationship!

And sometimes, even if we've invested the hardest amount of work we could, when our partners call it quits we can't do pretty much about it.

I could not help but look back on the past break-ups that I had to undergo as I am writing these things. They were terrible experiences as I was going through them.

It destroyed me, and each of them redefined how I looked at love and other people.

Who would think that a few hours of talking in a cafe to "clarify things " because "it's not you, it's me", would haunt you for months to come? The break-up is terrifying but it's never as terrifying as the rough months that you have to weather to move on.

Losing someone could be difficult, even if you know that rationality tells you that it's best to end it there you still get fixated with the idea that they would come back to you or that everything else would be different.

The drama of break-ups are indeed frightening and when all hell break loose - we don't really know what to do.

I will be honest, I am not an expert when it comes to relationships much more keeping sane after a break-up! But hopefully these tips that I had to learn the hard way and from the gentle yet sometimes forceful advice of my friends would help you.

1. Cry

“We need never be ashamed of our tears.” 
― Charles DickensGreat Expectations

You lost someone. They hurt you in so many ways. Their absence is haunting and your self-esteem is crushed. You deserve to cry.

Crying has a lot of benefits, not only does it relieve your eye from bacteria, it can also improve your mood and relieve stress. It is perfectly natural to cry. There is nothing worse than trying to be all stoic after a break-up because you do not want to let people see that you are hurt.

But be honest. Aren't you hurt?

Just cry it out.

My advice is that you call your friends. Gather the gang together, have dinner or lunch or whatever - just go out where you could have some privacy. Tell them what you're going through so that they know what to expect from your encounter. Friends usually have the tendency to give advice or trash-talk the person who broke your heart.

In your state right now, you don't need any advice from anyone. Any advice would be stupid and you're not even going to do it. What you need now is to vent out every single particle of pain you're going through and you're friends are there to listen. Tell them all you need is a listening ear. If they're really your friends, they'll listen.

2. Delete everything that reminds you of them. Delete their number, block them from your social media accounts or if you can, de-activate for a while. 

"When he texts you, he’s thinking about you. When he calls you, he misses you. When he shows up, he wants you. When he suddenly stops doing all of the above for you, he’s doing it for someone else." 
— Amari SoulReflections Of A Man

You might be reasoning out right now "I don't want to block them. They might think that I'm bitter. I won't have them have the last laugh.".

Okay, okay. I get what you mean.

But let me ask you - aren't you bitter at them for breaking your heart, for making you feel like you are not that attractive enough, for shattering what was left of your already-shattered self-esteem?

If you are, then do it.

I also know that right now you feel that you are confident enough to "stand" because you are "better than that".

I hate to rain on your parade, but I can assure you that you will relapse. You will miss them in time, you'll want to re-connect with them, you'll stalk them. And when you do, you'll spiral back into the hellhole and you'd probably wallow in there for a while.

I tell you, it will help if you don't try to make a contact with them. If you are familiar with their route to school or to the office, make sure that you avoid that route yourself if possible. If you have pictures of them in your phone, be sure to delete it.

I know it's hard. But if you want to move-on, then you really have to do this.

3. Accept that the break-up was final
“Never waste your time trying to convince someone else of your worth. If they can't see it, they are not worth the effort.” 
― Amari SoulReflections Of A Man

There will be moments wherein you would overthink on your past relationship. You'd think about the things that you could have done differently. You'll play scenarios in your mind on what you could have done differently and you would begin to ask what-if questions.

Then, you'd muster the courage and then find a way to contact with them.

My advice is simple: If you find yourself overthinking, I want you to just stop thinking for a few seconds. Just breathe deeply and count to 10. Focus on your breathing. Notice how heavy you weigh and just let your lungs fill itself with life-giving oxygen.

If you still find yourself thinking about them after 10, then do this exercise again and again. The key here is to give your mind space.

You see, just as it is the nature of the heart to pump blood and just as it is the task of the kidneys to filter out your toxins, it is also the nature of your brain to think. Our mind is addicted to thinking and it loves to do it.

But when we breathe, it gives a pause in between thoughts and this gap breaks the chain of thinking. This is a key not to overthink.

When you are settled, go back to the experience of your break-up. Repeat the words they said and believe it.

When they said: It's not you, it's me - believe it. When they said: "I really just need to work on myself" - believe it. When they said: "You deserve someone better than me" - believe it.

Do not allow yourself to color out what they really meant when they said those things. Take it at face value and just believe it as it is.

4. It was not just your fault, it was also theirs.

"The marks humans leave are too often scars." 
— John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

Break-ups also make us feel like crap to the point that we come to thought that it was our fault why they left us. But it's not just your fault - it's also theirs.

There is no need to blame yourself for something that they chose to happen. It's okay to be hurt with what has happened, but to constantly blame ourselves is just a waste of mental and physical energy.

If you find yourself thinking about the good times, think about the bad times too. Your relationship ended because it had problems that could never be fixed by the two of you, otherwise if there weren't, why break up in the first place?

Both of you had issues. Both of you had lapses. It's not just your fault. It was theirs too.

5. You will relapse - and that's okay
"Part of recovery is relapse. I dust myself off and move forward again. "
- Steven Adler

There will also be moments that you would miss them so terribly that you just can't help but find out how they're doing. When you find out that they're already happy with someone else for example, you'd get pretty hurt that it'll just eat you from the inside out.

This is the reason why I gave the advice in number 2.

It is a guarantee that relapses happen even if we think that we're already okay.

It just takes a small trigger and the self-esteem we tried so much to repair crumbles like a house of card or a sandcastle being eaten by the waves.

When you do relapse, don't think that it's the end of the world. Don't blame yourself . It's perfectly normal in the moving-on process to relapse once in a while.

6. Be single for a while

“We hide our pain to keep us from getting hurt again. In the process we hurt people who never aimed to hurt us.” 
― Pierre Alex JeantyUnspoken Feelings Of A Gentleman

Moving-on is not a contest. If your ex-partner already has someone in their lives, so be it. If they've moved on faster than you, so let them. It's not a contest.

Take this time to process yourself and grow from the experience that you have just undergone. I assure you, at the end of the journey, you'd find yourself better than you were before.

Always remind yourself with the mantra "hurt people, hurt people".

As long you are still hurt, you are bound to hurt people. As long as you do not process the experience that you had to undergo, you will not be able to find the genuine relationship that you are really searching for. Would you like to hurt the next relationship with your unprocessed emotions?

If this were a plot line of any famous heroes' tale, this is the part when the hero has to venture alone. Take this time to grow and just be you. You would be surprised on all the things you have missed out.

I remember attending a spoken word poetry event in Handuraw Restaurant - Mango once. Aside from the great pizza and the bottles of beer, a young poet's piece struck me as I was listening.

The piece expressed the poet's frustration why her mother made her eat ampalaya (bitter gourd) growing up. Her mother would reason "Bitter things are surprisingly good for you". Now, as an adult, she knows exactly what her mother meant.

Break-ups are bitter things. It's one of the most bitter experiences that you have to pass through in your life.

But always remember that you survived all the hardships until this point - what makes you think that you won't survive this? I survived it to be honest and let me tell you that I broke most of the advice I gave until I came to terms to actually follow it.

Moving on is an art. As an art-form, it takes practice, dedication and embracing the experience as if you have chosen it yourself.

At the end of the experience, we become better people - even better than what we've never expected. If we must falter, then at least we falter in style.

Friday, September 9, 2016

4 Things My Parents Taught Me About Adulthood

“Being an adult means accepting those situations where no action is possible.” 

Being an adult can be the best feeling in the world. In addition to the freedom you've always looked forward to have since you were a teenager, adulthood gives you the opportunity to do the things you've have always craved doing.

Adulthood is an initiation. It is an invitation to start a life independent from your parents and other forms of restrictions.

I grew up in a moderately conservative family. Being the Kuya (the eldest) brother among five, I had ample time to integrate my parents' advice and wisdom. I was trained at a very young age to be discerning, decisive and most importantly, to take experience, frustration and hurt as teachers that could propel me to be a better man.

It wasn't until college that I started to hang out, visit bars, drink with friends and party until we "morning-ed the night".

However, despite the sheer awesomeness of being an adult, it did take its psychological toll on me.  I had to contend with friends leaving, lovers betraying, promises and ideals being crushed daily, and all those things which psychologically exhausted me to the brink of angst.

Usually, though I was oriented about the responsibilities that's supposed to come with the job description, it struck something within me that I both liked and disliked at the same time.

While yes, I may enjoy the perks of my job, I could not help but cringe at the social interactions and the dramas that I had to face.

Growing up the way I described it - being moderately conservatively raised  - I grew up with pretty rigid values and principles and it took some time for me to soften and loosen up.

Despite everything, I've always found my value system ingrained in me by my parents as something quite helpful to deal and survive my present predicament which I believe can also help you too.

1. People who love you will prioritize you.

"Kuya, people who love you will treat you as a priority and never an option."

I could still remember my college days wherein having friends was the utmost importance. Popularity was the currency. The more people knew you, the more likely you felt good about how you stand in the social ladder.

When I started working and most of my friends also started working, it became quite difficult to meet up over random cups of coffee or drinking sessions. I started to notice that I increasingly became a loner. Not in the negative sense, I just enjoyed the alone time most of the time. However, it did not start that way. I found it difficult that most of the friends that I valued the most started to drop off like dead twigs.

Most of our friends also have their social lives outside your once college-bound social circle so we can't really expect a lot from them.

I recalled one incident that I got heartbroken by a long term ex.

She was literally the love of my life. We broke up due to many reasons I will not disclose here.

I tried to keep it quite for a few hours but being the emotional guy that I was, I could not contain the emotional daggers constantly stabbing my heart.

I immediately called up some college friends, crying (manly tears) and asking them to meet up over coffee.

I could still recall how they dropped everything they were doing just to be with me because as they put it "I was in an emotional nuclear war".

During that time, although it took some years of reflection time to realize it, that I am and always have been a priority in some people's lives.

If you ever want to know how you stand in a person's life, try to see how they make you a priority in theirs.

Prioritize what and who matters.
2. The fewer the friends, the better.

"Kuya, diamonds must be rare in order to be valuable. Would you still value diamonds if it were as abundant as sand on the seashore?"

I have always been a friendly guy - though tactless at times - but still pretty friendly. I also have a tendency to project an aura that people find intimidating which can be both a blessing and a curse.

I tend to have some friends here or there from any nook and cranny I find myself in. However, having a lot of friends to comment or like your social media status doesn't really amount to much.

There are circumstances in our lives that just have to happen. Business goes bad. A girlfriend decides to leave. You are broke as hell.

When these circumstances do come, try to look around you. You will be surprised to see that the great multitude of "friends" has dramatically shrunk in size.

Heartbreaking it might be for a while, but the thing is - those who are left by your side are diamonds.

Keep them.

We were friends since I was still in High School. A decade later, nothing has changed.
3. You are not indispensable. 

" Kuya, love your work. Love it but never be in love with it because it can't love you back."

I know of a lot of friends who are so dedicated in their work that they burn themselves out every single day just to finish a task at hand.
When they get home, they stress out because of what they should do at work tomorrow.

Work takes care of us when it finds us important for its benefit. But what about when work finds us too aged, stubborn and replaceable?

Therefore, it is of paramount importance for us to invest in people - our family, friends and the people we love. In a world where everything constantly shifts, finding people who will be our center will be our solace and consolation.

We have to start looking at work as something that we can use to invest on what truly matters - not something that we need to emotionally invest on; but as a tool to attain happiness. Work must cease to be the axis of our fulfillment and happiness because when our tired, aching bodies wear down it will sweep up aside.
I love my work because I get to be with people.

4. Accept people as they are.

"Kuya, people will always be people. It's either you accept them for who they, try to run away from them or be miserable. The first option is the hardest to do but it's the only way to do it." 

My parents have always taught me to see the best in people but I won't lie - I am a very judgmental man.

Sometimes, I encounter people whose value systems are so diametrically opposed to mine that we just flare up when we see them. A part of me feels an urge to preach righteous condemnation against them. When they do piss me off, it takes literally a long time for me to forget a slight. I would convince myself that I don't deserve what was coming to me.

Truth be told. It is not their job to change for me and neither it is my job to change for them.

I've learned that unless I can accept that we come from different contexts and that we were never taught the same values growing up, I could never be happy.

People will always act in self-interest, it is always to preserve what is fragile and innocent within us. I do that and so do you. We are on the journey to discovery together.

What fascinates me most is that we all have different stories to tell.

Adulthood is a journey. It is the dark forest that most of us are compelled to enter and explore, at the same time it is the hell which we dread.

I think it's also a perfect opportunity for us to look back and reflect on what our parents have always taught us and profit from their wisdom.

My parent's have been there, they've been to hell and managed to survive it. They may be imperfect but think about it - can wisdom exist when you lack the experience of failure and heartaches? But one thing is for sure, these four things that they taught me will definitely stay.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Drop it.

If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.

― C. JoyBell C., Goodreads

One day, a senior and junior Buddhist monk was walking down a path together on their way to the monastery.

Along the path, they reached the part where a river flowed. Since it was a mountain path, a bridge had yet to be built to facilitate easier access for pedestrians. But until such a bridge was built, people had to cross the water to get to the other bank.

Unfortunately, the strong rains up the mountain caused a strong current.

Undeterred, the monks prepared to cross. As they were about to cross, a young, beautiful woman in need of help to brave the waters approached them.

The senior monk smiled and obliged. He offered his hand, and carried the woman on his shoulder. They crossed the river, and let her down gently on the other bank.

The senior monk carries the woman to the other bank.
The woman prostrated in gratitude and the senior monk, being the gentleman that he is, prostrated back and blessed the woman.

They parted ways.

The senior and junior monk went about their journey in silence. But one thing was off - the junior monk was obviously upset with what he saw.

Hours went by and the senior monk noticed the discomfort on the younger monk. He then asked: “Is something in your mind?”

The junior monk was irritated that he would even ask such a thing “As monks we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you carry her across the river?”

The senior monk replied “I left the woman hours ago at the bank; however, you seem to still be carrying her”.

The hardest thing to do is to let go of things that bother, hurt or annoy us. Like what the junior monk must have felt, I remember how a past relationship left me in emotional shambles and unspeakable hurt.

I carried the feeling for months – my thoughts flashed countless alternatives of what I should do with this situation.  I was plotting my revenge scheme alongside with a though that I should probably just let it go and forgive her. My thoughts alternated between the two diametrically opposite choices. 

The more I thought about the choices, the more I got fixated on the situation. 

The more I fixated, the unhappier I got.

When we think about it, it is really easy to let go of the things that causes a sense of happiness or joy. When we are able to laugh at something, the feelings of glee just pulsate through our bodies. Then, after the feeling dissipates, it’s gone. 

When it comes to pain however, instead of letting it flow through our bodies like how we let happiness just flow naturally when we laugh, we resist letting the feeling flow in a misguided attempt of bravery and manliness.

Emotion is energy in motion. Emotions have to move. But if it is not able to move, it remains there. It’s frozen.

If you know you are hurt but don’t like to acknowledge it, you be able might repress it for some time but it’s bound to haunt you and alter the way you deal with situations at present. 

A new relationship might already be there in front of you but because of your repression of a past hurt, you might not see it. Take the junior monk for example, he was unable to see that helping the woman was an opportunity to live out the Buddhist virtue of compassion because he was trapped within his ideals.

Pema Chodron
 “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart,” Pema Chodron advised “it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart...”

If we turn our attention to hurt and embrace it – if we were to ride out the waves, so to say, then I believe we would be able to grow in ways we do not even know we are capable of.

There are experiences that really have to happen in one’s life and just because they must happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it these experience do not hurt us. 

We have to get hurt but when hurt does come, the wisest thing is to stay with it and ride it out and when we’ve ridden it quite enough – to drop it and let it go.