a very challenging year

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Seen on my FB wall, very funny because it’s very true

As the year is coming to an end, the nights are darker and colder, and the crows have come to rest on fences and telephone wires. They perch and wait for the bodies to fall. These are frightening, very challenging times indeed.

There’s something in the air and it’s not just the pollution.

Just today, I saw a status update from a friend of mine. We haven’t been friends for long but he’s like family to me now. He updates a lot on Facebook and often times he’s funny and sometimes he shares his apprehensions and doubts. It’s never detailed, though. He’s not one of those over-sharers. But I remember one of his darker updates a few weeks back and today, there was an element of humor, a flippant and dismissive way of structuring the post but I caught something between the lines.

Somehow, I just saw it there. It can’t be my empathy since it’s something I read. He wasn’t in front of me so it wasn’t something I felt or could decipher from body language or the tone of his voice. I chalk it up to my Literature training. I could read between the lines, certain words just called to me.

So I asked him how he was doing and things were bad on his end. I wouldn’t have known from social media. We talked about his situation and I offered my most genuine best wishes for a happy outcome. The best I can do, given the circumstances. I let him talk and articulate his feelings so that he could get it out. The best consolation I could give was something I discovered while watching Hemlock Grove, something written by Wendell Berry called The Real Work.

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He told me how happy he was to read it. He said it was “something he needed to read at this time.” He thanked me and we talked a bit more.

I was glad to be of help. Even if I’m here in Bacolod and my friends are in Manila, I’m happy that I seem to have the words that can bridge the gap and substitute for a real hug and the warmth of a reassuring smile.

***

Several days ago, another friend sent me a text message asking if I was still awake. It was 9pm so that was a weird question in of itself. I answered and my friend went into a barrage of messages talking about how angry she was over someone.

It was emotionally charged and desperate so I immediately called her up and we started talking. She cried as she talked about her frustrations and anger. I talked her through it and reminded her of who she was based on my experience of her. I reminded her of what she went through as she had told it to me during the beginnings of our friendship.

I’d like to think I got her out of it. She told me that I did. She definitely felt better afterwards that we were able to catch up on our lives since it had been awhile since we last saw each other. We spoke for an hour on the phone, maybe even longer, but she was way up north for work, further up than Baguio and here I was in Bacolod and eventually the signal cut us off and we couldn’t get back to finishing our catch up session. But I was there for her when she needed me and I’m happy for that.

She was in a bad place. I felt that I was able to reach in and bring her out of it.

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It has been a very challenging year and there are still two more months of it left (Photography by Cecile Golez)

Last week, I was able to read between the lines again from the Tweets of another friend. My friend is accustomed to tweeting about how frustrated he is and how tired and exhausted he is and he uses very severe and extreme terms and phrases, using millennial catch phrases. I recognize it as a subversion of pop culture language and a very generous dose of hyperbole. He does this often and I see it on my Twitter feed often. But there are tweets that sound exactly the same as each one but for some reason I can tell that it’s more charge than his usual. I don’t know why but I can feel which ones are more truthful than jest.

When I come across those Tweets, I send him a text message to ask him how he’s doing. When he replies, he lets me in on where his anger and frustrations are coming from at that moment. It’s usually heavy and, as I suspected, emotionally charged. It happened again last week but it was more severe and more painful than usual. We talked it through and I offered an observation and he was surprised by it because it was a rather simple truth that he understood immediately. “How could I not have seen that,” he replied. He thanked me for the perspective.

This was quite a long exchange over iMessage and we weren’t sending short back-and-forths. Each text was long and complex. I’d like to think we dug deep and went straight for the core and didn’t try to play nice. He’s very bright, very smart, and very strong. He could take it and I think it was what he needed.

***

Just a few minutes ago, I was feeling very good about myself. I feel so distant from my friends in Manila but it’s good to know that I can still be there for them online and that despite the distance and not being able to hang out with them once a week or every two weeks that I can still hear them somehow and pick up the signs that they need a friend.

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I have to remind myself of this every fucking day of my life

I don’t have to be there to be a friend. I want to, though, but I can still do my part from here.

I’m just scared that I’m going back to my old ways where I am putting everybody else’s needs before my own. I know that these people that I have now are worth it. They are very much unlike the people I used to hang out with before. These people I call my friends — friends who are family — they are the exact opposite of the people that I used to hang out with back in my teens and early twenties. These people take care of me and they love me and they make me feel it.

But I have to be careful that I don’t forget myself. I have a darkness inside of me too. I have dark thoughts and I have angers and frustrations and challenges. And I never talk about them. I don’t ever talk about them. Not to anyone. And I don’t know why.

I am there for everyone I love but I force myself to go through the darkest parts of me alone. And I don’t know why. Again, this stems from these feelings of unworthiness that I’ve been struggling with my whole life. I’ve gone to a theta healer for it and it has opened me up to forgiving myself for transgressions I’ve made in my past lives. I’ve taken classes in loving myself and had psychologist friends tell me that it is unhealthy.

I’ve gone back to my journals and revisited the writings of my youth and sought it all the times I felt undeserving and shifted the perspective of my past. I’ve been letting go of past hurts. I am learning to forgive myself as quickly as I forgive others.

I try my best never to play the blame game.

It’s just harder than I realized it would be and it’s a constant learning. It’s not something you do once and that’s it. It’s something you have to do everyday. Every fucking day.

***

It’s really a very challenging year for everybody. No, that is a generalization. It’s a challenging year for many people around me. I wish for everyone to make it out alive. I wish for everyone to celebrate the year’s end wiser and stronger than they were before coming into this year. I wish the hardships we all felt will no longer be so difficult when we come across them again in our future because we have learned.

I hope that we do not lose hope. I hope that we never stop learning. I hope that we do not forget how to love, ourselves and each other.

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