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Grabbing the Reins

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As 2010 draws to a close, I’m prodding myself to grab the reins of my life.

I’ve let myself stay on auto pilot for years and kept doing certain things that aren’t working on continual loop. It’s what others call ‘insanity’ — doing the same things over and over knowing you get the same, predictable, undesired results.

Year in year out, this is what I do: daydream, plan, procrastinate, get distracted, lose focus. Repeat.

I have stuff on my ‘Wish List’ that only remained ‘wishes’. With 2011 almost upon us, I resolve to change this once and for all and turn my long-held dreams into tangible reality.

Mind you, most of them are not really big dreams. They’re mainly simple things like wanting to practice Tai Chi or Qigong, learning to play the African drums, be more health-conscious, perhaps booty shake it like Shakira (lol) etc.

In my inaction, I’ve undermined my own self. With my long-overdue show of self-love, however, that is about to change. First, I take responsibility for my inaction and its inevitable non-result; I acknowledge it and now it’s time to get off my derrière and just do it.

I’ve examined my life and I know there are aspects of it that seriously need fixing. I have dreams that I know I have the power to bring into fruition.

From now, this is what I’ll consciously do: desire, intend, commit, focus, persist and—when it materialises—celebrate! Repeat.

Marianne Williamson, author of ‘A Course in Miracles’, wisely tweets ‘owning your desire will start the cosmic engine‘. Even before I read her tweet, I know 2011 will be a very interesting year for me in terms of goals because of my strong intent to make things happen this time.

Taking stock of my life journey this past year, a few things were noteworthy:

1. unintentionally becoming a wannabe jet-setter. This, of course, created a big hole in my pocket, but I’m grateful for the experiences and to the various people who helped make those trips worthwhile, fun and memorable.

2. actualising my desire to write, express, share, unzip, unload and reveal where I stood on certain issues by starting a blog. Writing is one thing that I’ve actually managed to do something about but to date it’s only a hobby.

3. being in a pleasant office environment where any potential dramas and conflicts are ‘repelled’ by the good-naturedness and strong work ethics of the young people who work there. I’m lapping it up at the moment while it lasts.

The last few months of 2010 found me:

4. unintentionally becoming a vegetarian. Losing my desire to eat animal flesh was an unexpected but welcomed change. This has become a precursor to my New Year plan to improve my physical fitness.

5. falling in love… with farm animals and joining Meat-eater Anonymous!! Recently, I mentioned sensing ‘love is in the air’. I caught the love bug but I wasn’t expecting this type of love!

6. advocating for love and compassion for animals

7. de-cluttering my space at work and home (ongoing)

8. re-starting a savings plan

9. appreciating people and situations more, and more and more loving life!

However, it’s my dormant and unactualised ‘wants’ that I’m focusing on next year. I’ve started to list my desires/goals/wishes for the new year. Without solid plans and just empty dreams, many will remain in limbo, like I was in the last many years.

Right now I’m ‘stirring’… and have started to do and put things in place in preparation to actualising my intentions for 2011. And I’m getting excited!

‘Lovelier’ the Second Time Around

I’m funny like this. I shook my head vigorously when I asked myself silently, ‘Am I now a vegetable lover?’

I’m not a fan of vegetables!

I was a meat craver who is now learning to adjust to a non-meat diet. Add to this ‘comedic situation’, being a closet prima donna, if no one peels, de-seeds and slices fruits for me, I don’t remember to eat them.

How am I going to feed myself?

Once, several years ago, I attempted to become a vegetarian for health reasons, not for any moral, compassionate, empathetic reasons. But my first attempt didn’t last long.

Late 2010 and my once-held desire to be a vegetarian is re-awakened. This time I resolve seriously to eliminate all meat and some animal by-products, and possibly seafood, in my diet.

To help family and friends decide what food to prepare for me when I go over to their homes and visit, remember this:

I dislike zucchini, eggplants, okra, soggy capsicums, string beans and olives.

I eat but I’m not a big fan of corn, green peas and cucumbers.

I cringe at fresh or cooked tomatoes and has no intention to eat them for the rest of my life! Never mix them in your food or salads if you plan to share them with me.

So how do I intend to stay a vegetarian, if not a vegan, being very fussy with food?

Well, I like yellow squash, pumpkin, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and potatoes. I love avocados. I don’t mind the different kinds of lettuces.

It’s not difficult to prepare food for vegetarians. Just cook some of your favourite food the usual way and just don’t add any meat or seafood! Voilà, you have a vegetarian meal!

My eyes light up when I see desserts. I hope to develop that feeling when I see vegetables.

I love some fruits. I love all kinds of nuts. I love pulses and legumes. I love brown rice. I just have to learn to love vegetables.

Surprisingly, I haven’t been craving for meat (granted, it’s just been a couple of weeks, lol). I can’t stand the thought now of what animals go through to serve one of my physiological needs. I no longer see animals as food. Would you care to join me in this lifesaving, cruelty-minimising crusade?

I’m no longer sure I can still handle raw meat and cook and serve them at home for family and guests.

When I think of a hamburger or any of my ex-favourite meat food, my face contorts. So it’s a good sign and I’m optimistic announcing this intention of giving up meat for good on my blog is not something I’d regret later on.

I’ve been reading on the many pros and cons on being a vegan or vegetarian and lots of advice on what supplements to take so as not to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.

My reasons for this life-changing decision is as I described in my Empathy post, not necessarily for health reasons. So far, I feel good. In months to come, I’m positive I’ll even feel better.

By the way, I went to see an eye specialist. When I offered the information that I’ve become ‘a vegetarian’—which felt funny when I said it—he gave me more than a pat on the back. He replied, ‘your body will LOVE you for it!‘. Hearing the word ‘love’, I took it somehow as an indication the universe approves!

I love giving up meat! It’s surprisingly easier for me this time around.

* * *

A friend let me know of these vegetarian restaurants. If you’re in Sydney, check them out too:

Green Gourmet
Bodhi Restaurant
Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen

Read if you will:

Animal Rights: The Abolitionist
ihealth Directory
Vegetarian Starter Guide
The Definitive Vegetarian Starter Guide
Vegetarian Diet: How to get the best nutrition

Unzipped

Once more with feeling…

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[This was originally a guest post but have since got the rights back to publish in my blog. I thank Joe for allowing this.]

For those of us who desire to be more comfortable in our own skin but don’t have the courage to do so, writing is the next best thing.

Well-known author and poet, Paulo Coelho, tweets writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.

When I started my personal blog, a few people told me I was being brave. I didn’t realize it then, but they were really telling me I was needlessly exposing myself to the entire world.

For a nude prude like me, showing too much flesh doesn’t come naturally. So why the sudden disregard for modesty?

To answer that question, let’s compare how I see getting undressed to writing for blogs:

1. There is supposedly an art to undressing; while writing is definitely an art.

2. Unbuttoning your clothing is like uncovering your innermost thoughts so you can prepare to write.

3. Removing your top is like getting rid of unnecessary mental baggage and putting it on paper.

4. Unzipping your trousers or your skirt is like opening up yourself and your life, and risking being scrutinized.

5. Slowly removing your undergarments is like slowly stripping away self-consciousness and the fear of embarrassing yourself, as you risk being criticized.

6. As you dance to the music and strut while peeling off each layer of clothing, in writing you silently peel away your personas and reveal facets of your more authentic self that you don’t dare show many people, sometimes even those close to you.

7. Being naked makes you feel vulnerable; but so does writing and disclosing your secret life.

So what good does exposing figuratively and/or literally in public do for writers? Writing is liberating and therapeutic. In the right place, so is undressing and being naked.

I quite enjoy writing and wish I did it sooner. I’ve been laughing a lot, sometimes almost to tears, reminiscing funny incidents that have happened in my life. I’ve also cried my eyes out, though not too many times, remembering sad and painful moments that are best forgotten.

I highly recommend it, writing I mean. I can’t say the same for getting naked, but you’ll surely laugh yourself silly looking in the mirror and seeing how funny you appear. Either that or you’ll cry your heart out dwelling over real or imagined imperfections.

My life, little parts of it at least, is now an open book, or should I say an open blog. So in my husky voice I dare say, “Look at me in all my naked glory – moles, scars, warts and all!,” while I stumble as I strut in my red stiletto shoes and pretend to be comfortable writing my life away.

P.S. I don’t really have warts. 😛

Interesting reads:

Writing (by Paulo Coelho)
Art of Writing
Writing Naked

Wish You Were There

Thinking about my recent trip to the Philippines, I can say I had a lovely, fun and relaxing time.

The highlight for me was spending time in an island, goofing around with my family in my ‘2-piece’, while trying to cover myself with a towel. 😀

Family

Having most of my family in the Philippines and the US, time spent with them is always cherished. I spend as much time bonding and just having a laugh with them each time I travel to see them. We’re a big clan, both sides of my family; we laugh loud and often.

This is also the time I try to show off my ‘comedic’ skills, assured with the knowledge that no matter how unfunny my attempts at making jokes are, my family won’t and can’t disown me. 🙂

We had a family reunion of some sort. As always, there were lots of food and, of course, laughter. It’s hard to stop and make real conversations though because of the limited time you have while on a brief holiday/visiting relatives and the many people to say hello to, and hug and kiss. Not to mention that a lot of time is spent taking photos to capture each moment and making sure there are new pics to choose from for our Facebook profile photos!

The plan from now on is to spend as much time with my family, as often as I’m able, especially with my parents. My parents are both in their early 80s. I’ve always appreciated the fact that I, together with my brothers and sisters, have both parents while growing up and are with us for a long time.

Let us not take our parents for granted. Count the many who have lost either or both parents early in life. I am one of the lucky ones and I truly appreciate it.

I intended to share some photos of the trip here earlier but I was preoccupied, so only took the time to do this now. You can view them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/earthianne/

There are no close-up photos of me so as not to scare you away!

Cupid’s Little Arrow Found its Way to My Heart Way Too Early

Let’s take another break from all the seriousness of ‘Religion’, so here’s something ‘light’ and brief.

Image from istockphoto.com

I’m back in my childhood…

It was a fun time, living in a place which was only a stone’s throw away from my very first school.

Just weeks before, my family and I arrived from the South, where I was born, and was staying temporarily with my Aunt and her family.

The ‘convenience’ I’ve experienced during my first grade wasn’t going to happen ever again during the rest of my school life. You go out the door of your place one minute, and the next few minutes, you’re sitting in your classroom. It’s almost like ‘teleportation’. 🙂

I remember my very first teacher. She was elegant and always had her hair in a bun. She hardly smiled but she wasn’t strict. Of all my teachers in all my school years, hers is the only name I clearly remember – ‘Mrs Lavastida’.

Mrs Lavastida spoke to us in ‘Tagalog’, the lingua franca in Manila, which isn’t my mother tongue. It is at this school in my first grade that I was taught the English alphabet. As I mentioned before, I first learned to read and write in English, before I learned to read and write in Filipino, our national language. Not only that, I first learned to write using cursive handwriting, not manuscript handwriting. This is significant for me because these two occurrences were to put me in trouble in 2nd grade and diminish my confidence (but more on this in one of my future posts).

At six years old, I wasn’t that fluent yet in my mother tongue. At the same time, being new in Manila, I was just starting to pick up ‘Tagalog’. To make matters worse, in school I was being taught to speak, read and write in English. No wonder I ended up not fluent in any of these languages!

I noticed a handsome boy, as you do at six years old. I still remember his name: ‘Florentino’. He was the most handsome in my class, possibly the whole school. He was also the most intelligent and the smartest, both in brain and in wearing his school uniform.

Cupid’s little arrow struck my young heart many years too early. It wasn’t quite a bull’s eye, but it was enough to awaken the beginning of that feeling that every one of us experience at least once or even many times in our lifetime. Picture me at six years old: innocent, ignorant and already having a secret crush on a very good-looking boy.

But I wasn’t the only one. Not surprisingly, he caught a lot of girls’ attention. Perhaps from other classes as well, who knows? The girls were unabashed in showing their crush on him, while I kept mine to myself. This is a typical Scorpio trait; we like keeping things secret.

You could count on your fingers those who didn’t have a crush on him in my class. I think you could put me in both lists: the long list of girls who had a crush on him—even though mine was secret, I still qualify as I had a crush on him; and the short list of girls who didn’t have a crush on him—nobody knew so I fall in this category too! Am I confusing you?

Anyway, the girls gush over him and once during our recess and he was nowhere in sight, I observed them giggling and queueing up, taking turns in sitting and sliding on the armless chair he sat on earlier. Each of them had a few rounds, presumably to feel what it feels like to sit on his chair. I don’t know what these girls were thinking! I’m talking about little girls who could barely dress by themselves.

I must confess I wasn’t any better. When those girls were gone and only a few of us were left in the room, I sat on his chair demonstrating to some clueless few what those ‘shameless’ girls were doing earlier. 😀

The Heart of the Matter

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I plonk on a seat on the train next to a window, where I could sit comfortably and read a book.

The train ride to my first stop is about 45 minutes. It’s peak hour and it’s all stops. This is going to be a long but enjoyable ride, or so I thought.

Halfway through the first page, I heard a man belch loudly. I moved my face sideways, not quite looking at where the sound was coming from. A hint of annoyance could be read from that slight movement of my head.

Shortly after, I could hear someone murmuring from behind me. Deaf from the usual noise when reading a book, I ignored it. I first learned to read in English before I learned to read in my own language, but at this very moment, as I go through lines after lines of English words, I couldn’t read a word. I thought the book is hard to read, but those damn racist remarks won’t stop barging in my head.

I Turned Dyslexic and Everyone Became Deaf

I closed the book and sighed. Cruel words incessantly try and invade my hearing space. Something about Asians, Asians taking over their jobs, how they shouldn’t be in this country. Oh, here we go, I thought, and rolled my eyes. Not quite dark outside, I looked out the glass window as the train hisses past buildings and trees, but not really seeing anything.

The train was filled with all sorts of people. Everyone was minding their own business, busy with their own thoughts, their own reading and, like me, pretending they weren’t hearing anything.

I decided to continue ignoring this man’s ramblings about Asians to no one in particular. Maybe it will stop and he will tire of it, run out of words to say or reach his train station soon.

Leafing through another page, and on and on the man continued. I stole a quick glance over my shoulder, and I saw the man is standing on the aisle, holding a bottle of beer.

As I attempt to correct my sudden-onset dyslexia, it was becoming obvious the man talking loudly on the train had zeroed in on a ”lucky” someone. Slowly, it dawned on me, that someone was me! The man, the harasser, was talking to me all along.

Very Cheeky and Pushing It

Indirectly, he told me to vacate my seat because, he said, I didn’t deserve it. He wanted me to give up my seat to an elderly Anglo-Australian who I didn’t see was standing next to him. The elderly Anglo-Australian giggled and nodded in agreement to what the harasser said. Under a different circumstance, on my own accord, I would have offered my seat to any elderly person. The harasser explained to a non-Asian female passenger, who clearly looked scared, that he hated Asians because Asians took over jobs meant for Australians.

Encumbered with all the stuff I had with me, including a box of birthday cake, I restrained myself from engaging in a potentially messy, chocolate-mud-cake fight. For a while, I vacillitated between wasting A$20 (at that time) worth of cake to smash it across the man’s racist face or to just ignore him as best I could and not to stoop down to his level. In the end, I chose the latter.

Not content with throwing insults in my direction, the harasser blocked my way when I tried to get off the train. With my hands and arms full of stuff, I couldn’t shove him off so I could get out before the train moved. I missed my station as a result. As the train started to move, I screamed out loud to his face: ”YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!”

No other words were necessary. I thought that was the heart of the matter—he was just being exactly as I described him. There was no need to explain or reason out to him, nor was there any need to expend any energy to try and enlighten him.

He shrugged his shoulder. ‘I hate Asians’, he said, and walked away.

For two months, I was paranoid. I would sit at the farthest back of the train thinking I’d rather have my enemy in front of me where I can see them, than behind me.

Questioning My Own Willingness to Help Others

Would I have helped if it was someone else who was being harassed instead of me? I’d like to think, if it was clear there was someone being victimised and this person appeared helpless, that I would have. My ”Beautiful Serpent”, as author, poet and blogger Ed Pilolla beautifully calls it, rears its ugly head from time to time, and can sometimes be a bit fearless.

I thought about it for a long time. None of the passengers in the crowded train uttered a word. No one bothered to report it to a train guard on my behalf. They were either indifferent or too scared to help. They say there is strength in numbers but, even against an averaged-built man, no one dared to raise their voice. I guess, if I wasn’t saying anything, why would they?

Later that night, as I took a bite of a piece of the chocolate cake that almost never was, I shudder at the thought that people’s deafening silence and pathetic lack of courage to come to my rescue was because they had the same deep-seated fear as the ignorant man.

If you were in my shoes, what would you have done?

If you were one of the passengers, would you have lifted a finger to help a stranger being harassed?

As always, I welcome and appreciate your comments.

Read related articles:
The Racist Workplace by James Adonis
End Racism

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