Thursday, May 16, 2019

Otherworldly



It has been a month since I came back from Argentina. It has also been a month since I have been trying to put my impressions from my fantastic time there on paper. I get stuck on the same sentence for more than two hours. I write paragraphs just to erase them at the end of the day. This obvious writer’s block, of course, could seem as the most frustrating and infuriating feeling in the world, especially for someone who thrives — who has always thrived — on words. The right words. But truth of the matter is that for the first time in my life, I stare at my blank page — and not being able to find them feels right; because I know in my heart that no matter how I will spin it, it will only eclipse what I unearthed. As simple, or as complex as it may sound, I found my truth in Argentina.

The second largest country in South America was the last destination on my bucket list. The original bucket list (the well, as long as long as I live, is infinite). I dreamt of it. I longed for it. And even when I finally set the planning in motion, it was only until I saw the boarding sign blinking that I perceived reality. When my family was preparing for my eighteenth birthday moons ago — the famous ‘debut’ in Filipino culture, in other words, the day one becomes a woman — my mother wanted me to choose a quote that would, to some extent, chronicle my visions, my character — my life. I smirk today because in hindsight, asking this from a teenager seems preposterous — notwithstanding, I remember taking the task seriously because Who am I? is, all things considered, the question we spend our lives answering. Then, I deemed Eleanor Roosevelt’s “The future belongs to the those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” to be the tailored-made answer. I am nearing thirty-four now; and if I could pat my younger self on the back, I would. She deserves it. I dreamt. I pursued. I believed — and this future, at least some bits of it, is now carved into my story, my character — my life.

Deciding on the countries that end up on one’s bucket list has always been a fascinating concept to me. It says a lot about a person. Dreams, more than facts, reveal the most about a person. Not implying that the entire world does not deserve a visit — but I trust that we are drawn to specific places based, actually, solely on who we are. Not curiosity. Not discovery. — who we are. New York spoke to the street poet in me. Israel spoke to my spasmodic faith. The Trans-Siberian spoke to my dragged-out journey. Japan spoke to my quirks and last but not least, I was confident Argentina would speak to my fiery, unfiltered self. Not only have I loved these unfamiliar territories even before setting foot there, but I also had this intangible, deep-rooted instinct that I had to go there. As if I already knew I would find a sense of home. As if I knew I would find a piece of the mosaic. More importantly, I cannot shake off the feeling that the timing for these adventures was always just that — appropriately timed. In sync with my state of mind. In sync with that stage of my life. And Argentina was no different. 

Have you ever seen anything like this? Memories past, like the pages of a flip book, rushed through my head. Red. Nuances of red. Mountains of love stretching as far as the eye can see. Impossible to contain my smile in the face of such majestic beauty, as candid as one can be, No, no, I have not. Rationally speaking, the dramatic scenery of Jujuy and Salta in Northern Argentina is of course “the product of a complex geological history, including above all marine sediments, lake and river movements elevated with the movement of tectonic plates” (https://www.earthstartsbeating.com). From a writer’s point of view, however, the better — and only valid explanation is that God, the natural artist, bursted with love on that day — and felt like painting. A work of art. A masterpiece. I have been fortunate to have lived in some of the most incredible mountainous regions in this world. With its postcardesque panorama, Switzerland spoiled it for me from the onset. Austria spoon-fed me as well. Norway, then, upped the ante with its whimsical fjords. Unquestionably, the hometowns set the standard high in terms of defining towering beauty; but it is only in the middle of Purmamarca, Humahuaca, Tilcara, Maimara and Quebrada de las Conchas that I finally understood, every ravishing, divine, bold creation -- in art or otherwise -- is the result of a heart that can bleed -- and mine does. Mine always does.  "Any life is made up of a single moment, the moment in which a man finds out, once for all, who he is." -- Jorge Luis Borges. 

Red. Nuances of red. All my life, I have had to cope with the ramifications of my emotional outbursts. I am the happiest I will ever be and I am handicapped from sadness. I know no middle ground. Too much -- I heard it one too many times, I tried to defy it twice as often and in the months before I flew to Argentina, it had become something that I wanted to water down. Completely. I initilially flew to Jujuy to witness the Salinas Grandes, which did not disappoint at all — the salt flats are miraculous; but little did I know that those remote provinces were home to the most otherworldly creation in the world. There I was, far away -- both physically and mentally -- from everything I had ever known, the furthest I had ever been in my life, detached, stripped down — and I unearthed things that I never knew existed, or rather, that I always knew existed.  For this fiery natural fresco reflected exactly who I was. Who I am. How could I forget: who I want to be . As unkind as it is at times, it truly is, my temperamental nature is also the reason see beauty as intensely as I do. The reason that I can feel joy the way I do. The reason that I write the way I do. And in the end, that I love the way I do. To the point of madness. It is a strange feeling to talk about dreams in the past tense today. I set them free, in the process, I set myself free. And truth is, my truth, is that I am a heart that will always break easily. Let the light in. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Monday, March 25, 2019

Stealing from eternity



My friend of nearly twenty years was flabbergasted at the sight of my miniature coffee tattoo when we went for, well, coffee two weeks ago. You only notice this baby now?, relying on the premise that I had absolutely told her when I had it done three years ago. After long deliberation, some quirks and memory lapses confessions, she and I finally settled that I did, in fact, forget to mention it. It is gorgeous, she rejoiced. You know what you should do? Add a miniature cigarette right next to itCoffee and cigarettes — my morning ritual; for me, the soul mates per excellence; and my faithful associates for every piece I have ever written. For every great piece I have ever written. I will never give up coffee, I giggled. That is forever; until my skin turns to dust. But I cannot get a cigarette tattooedespecially that I plan to quit. Completely. Sure, I failed until now but it will happen. One day. Then, she said something that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and smile. Well, even if — when you do quit, and the joyful agony -- or agonizing joy -- of a lit cigarette will only be but a beautiful memory... Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part or time of your life, even if it does not last. 

I never believed in love at first sight until, of course, it happened to me. Truth of the matter is that it remains a mad concept in my eyes despite (or because of?) the reality that I am a living proof of its existence. It was the night I was not supposed to leave the comfort of my home. More importantly, it was the night I did not feel like going out at all; but the ever-lasting withholding dance with my posse, naturally, resulted in my defeat, Okay, one drink. We sat at the bar and I forced myself to have fun which, almost unconsciously, I did end up having. Pretty good company breeds good; and even though the one drink policy is, as everyone knows, the biggest lie we will ever tell ourselves; that night, I stayed true to my word. Well... Almost. I was ready to pay and head out when my friend, due to the loud music, shouted it my ear, Turn around, the man of your dreams is standing right behind you. I rolled my eyes. Come on. But turn, I did. And God knows I have not stopped spinning ever since.

The moment I locked eyes with him remains that one thing that still makes me stare into nothingness today — and wonder. For instantly I knew that that millisecond would split my life into two; that from then on, there would be a before and an after. That in this fucking crazy world, there is that One person that you can — and will — love ’til death do me part. I was done. This fateful moment got tattooed on my heart on a crisp autumn night ten years ago. I marvel. Ten yearsIn 1995, Before Sunrise, long before Before Sunset and Before Midnight rounded off the trilogy, breathed life into my ‘idea’ of love. It was filmed in Vienna. I lived in Vienna then. I see a connection there; but little did I know that I would go on well into adulthood and live my, somewhat, own version. Albeit that just merely two days ago, he managed to convince me that we were indeed a weird, yet unmistakable rendition of Jesse and Celine. I giggled. 

I trust that it is in my bones to have an inkling for momentous, yet eternal passionate love -- especially in art form; then again, we are all aware that life itself is unlike any stupendous film, song, painting or epic poem. For all the reasons known to mankind, we do not work. Routine betrays us. Values do not mesh. Visions differ. Real life does not do us any favour. We tried so many times over the past decade, only to have honestly given up on the probability — or possibility — or hope that maybe, just maybe, we do belong together somewhere down the road. Well... Almost. The first time we said good-bye was the hardest thing I ever had to go through. It felt all kinds of wrong granted that, in hindsight, it was of course the right thing to do. That is my definition of heartbreak: putting back pieces together that do not fit. Then, life happens -- as it should; and I kept reminding myself that he was not the right one as every Girl Code magazine would beckon. Thus, life happens as it should. You move on. You do love again. You can get your heart broken again. Each time you think you can no longer recover from yet another disappointment, funnily enough, God has a fantastic way of pulling out a surprise. Time wounds all heals.

But the thing is, the thing is, while experience, maturity, good conscience -- all the rational things indubitably narrow everything down to life's most precious lessonthe art of letting go; still I contemplate, if after the first time — and nth time, he and I still wind up staying in each other's lives -- I ask even the most romantic or skilled -- or doomed wordsmith: what, in the end, is love? From where I am standing, I came to the conclusion that it is still utterly impossible to truly pin down what happens when you fall in love. Madly in love. Selflessly in love. I write. I tried. Just the same, I cannot find the words that could explain why I love him. Still love him. Always have, and always will. 

This is a journey that does not have the happy ending as we would like to read. Yet it still bottles something quite... spectacular. Arresting. Out of this realm. "If there is any kind of magic in this world... it must be in the attempt of understanding someone" (Before Sunrise). He knows my soul and I know his. Essentially, there is little else that matters. At the end of the day, or when my skin will turn to dust, I will rest assured that I did love someone unconditionally, beyond reason, beyond words. It was love at first sight once I locked eyes with him. I knew it then, I know it now. Ten years on, and I have stopped fighting it, forevermore. We are the love that steals from eternity. We are the kind that have lived different versions of ourselves through the years, but always find a way to return to our favourite spot, the Ex Bar. Laughing. We are corny like that. For us, sporadic lasts. Momentary is permanent. My longtime friend's statement simmers in the back of my mind: “Even if — when you do quit [...] Notwithstanding, you would still love it, won’t you? You cannot regret a part and time of your life, even if it does not last.” Well, not in the classic sense at least. Ultimately, not all of us will have a fairy tale, but that does mean the story is any less magical. The saying rings true. Some people do live under your skin. I adore my tattoos. Each time I look at the ten (and counting) of mine, I smile. I can never regret them. I will not regret the One tattooed on my heart.

Usually, the books I pick up end up twice their size after I am done -- 'thickened' with notes, underlined passages, penned emoticons and if the read is that good -- countless pages marked by a folded corner. My favourite French Literature Professor once told me that the 'masterpieces' of your life are the books you can -- and will -- read again every couple of years. Whether you feel exactly the same or see it in a new perspective will not matter -- only the fact that you bookmarked it will. I guess I could not agree more. Love can be described, but never explained. I write. Here, I try. 

For writers, nothing is ephemeral. For writers, what makes you feel alive lives on forever.



Saturday, March 23, 2019

A page folded at the corner




I just ordered 
My third cup of coffee
After all, I am in good company
Words spilled before me.

Could they have known —
I will always look for
The smell of old books
In this digital world.

Words, my words,
My heart treasures
To put pen to paper.

Time is unkind
For a writer,

Nothing is ephemeral.

You are
A page marked by a folded corner
A love I will come back to
In the future. 



Thursday, March 14, 2019

Friday, March 8, 2019

Comforted nest


The sound of heavy rain woke me up this morning, and instantly I knew, winter only stepped out for a quick smoke to return in full force. I am expecting snowstorms. In the past two weeks though, Zurich graced us with marvelous spring weather (in the middle of February!). Cafés all around the city were eager to bring their service out on the terrace, thus, swiftly becoming overcrowded with smiles beaming behind designer sunglasses; I could even spot teenagers in shorts and t-shirts at the skate park, obviously thrilled — and brave enough — to skip seasons. I, too, was elated to strip down to accommodate the power of the sun, replacing my coat with my beloved black leather jacket. It lasted a minute. Notwithstanding, instead of frowning upon the resurgence of darker, colder days, I reveled in the sudden gratification. I embraced the day. I was a creature of the moment. 

I believe one of the nicest human experiences is to visit someone’s home for the first time, and in less than a month, I was invited into the lovely kingdom of four even lovelier people. One of my closest recently moved into his new loft. With one, we finally decided to eat in in lieu of roaming around town to search for food gems. Up until last Sunday, I only had to pick this friend up so I was simply a regular of her front building. Sooner, or rather later, I rang his doorbell. Though we had known each other for nearly three years, it felt right to shake things up. Funnily enough, I did not necessarily plan to squeeze in ‘these visits’ in such a short amount of time — and each time, to witness this other side of people I am actually most fond of, melted my heart like butter.  

I am one curious gal. Not in a nosey way, not in a prying way, hopefully not in an intrusive way — but yes, absolutely in a cocky way. Home, if anything, is a life museum. Personal. Exclusive. Howbeit the reality that we might recognize a thing or two from our common giant supplier IKEA -- unique. Every picture frame lets you dive in a field of memories. The bookshelf, or lack thereof, is a walk through a person’s mind. The painting on the wall is their message to their own world. The furniture, the decoration, the creativity, the details. I like to scrutinize. I will ask questions... because all things considered, how someone ornaments his/her private space is, for me, the crown into the depths of an individual. We are at our most relaxed at home. At our most intimate. At our most raw. And even though that I may know someone for years, there is such newness to tiptoeing in my host’s comfort zone. It sparks joy. 

I have the impression that households around the globe, in a snap, got besotted with the delightful Marie Kondo, expert organizer, declutter ambassador, and true to form, a real joy sparker. The catchphrase works. She was completely off my radar until Netflix released her series, however, now I cannot get rid of her (pun intended.) I see articles everywhere. She has become topic number one at dinner parties. She was invited to the Oscars. A worldwide phenomenon, and with good reason — I adore her. Like millions of people since the beginning of January, I also felt the need to konmari the insides of my four walls. It is a lot of work, time-consuming, energy-draining; but it has also been such a majestic experience. I am not nearly done; yet what I have achieved so far, such as a methodical make-up area, a library that is not only alluring but functional and a kitchen worthy of a Michelin chef, is bliss. I am still afraid to attack my closet, for everyone who has met me appreciates that clothes are a sacred matter to me. But so random. Oh-so full. My outfits will be exhilarated to be konmari-d. 

I have moved around since the day I was born, it is a fact, my family was carrying boxes to the new flat when my mother had to go into labor. With her being in the foreign service, I had the immense privilege of living the expat life long before the term was even coined; and until my parents’ retirement in 2016, home to me was always but a state of mind. I would not have it any other way. Sure, Zurich has been my base for the last decade — but the feeling of being ‘between houses’ only settled when I settled here. And only here. Geneva was home. Stockholm was home. Berlin was home. Oslo was home. Brussels was home. Zurich is home and today, there is no home-away-from-home to go to — not as often at least. If only I could fly to the Philippines every other weekend. In this respect, I did not give a lot of importance to a ‘fancy’ apartment for the simple reason that home equaled to being on the road. Finally, I invested in a magnificent bed. I bought the suitable closet. I chose my writer’s desk wisely. No offense to IKEA (though it feels like it, huh?), it is not quality but personality it lacks; my next buys — a grand dining table, chairs that do not hurt my butt after twenty minutes, a chic couch — will say a lot about me. When you change cities every couple of years, ultimately, home was in the furniture. I can be picky now. I am at a stage of my life where I want to make myself at home. 

Over the weekend, a long-time friend stirred a little whirlwind. ‘Look, Nicole, people will settle for anything unless they define — legitimately, point-blank, honest-to-God define what they desire. But as soon as they take a good look at the future — the one they create for themselves; and work hard enough, are patient enough — have enough faith, they will attract it; because that would leave no room for anything else.’ Noise-canceling. Standards met. No more mediocre coffee. A cheap pass at someone done and over. Marie Kondo’s slogan is to let go of things that do not spark joy. It is hard to let go. We continuously put it all in the storage room, keep clothes in the closet that were not worn since 2008 and pile up — piled up so much shit (let us be candid here); but there is indeed such a liberating process in tidying your home, and life, konmari style. I moved so often that you would think I would be her disciple by default. Wrong. Far from it. I carry my baggage, and hold on even though it no longer serves its purpose. I just bought a brand new colander. 

This morning, the sound of heavy rain woke me up violently — I smiled. I do not desperately miss the sun when it is hiding behind dark clouds like I used to. Good times come and go, bad times also come and go; nevertheless, what stays, what should remain, is a comforted nest. Where I am at my most comfortable. At my most intimate. At my most raw. In my own home. In my own skin. It is time to be picky. There will be no room for things, people --  has-beens -- that do not spark joy. This, my friend, is my life museum. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Extra fries



I will order 
Those extra fries
Like the best things
In life

One is never enough.

If everything 
We have been through
Did not put a halt —
A story
We keep coming back to

Are we moving forward
Or am I in love
With a bookmark? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cupcake



Do not take it too seriously,
Following a recipe to a tee

Unless you are making 
Cupcakes,
No need to fake it 
‘Til you make it,
It is a sweet life
You are baking. 

A creature of the moment
A pinch of salt
Is the secret

Your concoction
Puffs up in the oven — 

The frosting,

Make it 
‘Til you become it.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Karl Lagerfeld


"Personality begins where comparison ends." - Karl Lagerfeld 

I first heard of Karl Lagerfeld when I was interning for a German eCommerce during a semester break ten years ago. One of my main tasks was to write short biographies of successful German designers -- and the second I started the research process on the fashion mogul, I was, naturally, hypnotized. I have been a follower ever since. I was the most thrilled person on the planet when the news broke that he was launching his eponymous label. At least, I like to think I was (I do groupie like no other). To say I love his designs is a clear understatement. To say they compliment my outfit nearly every day of my life is an accurate statement. Finding, or defining, your own style -- how, what and who you expose to the the rest of world -- is not easy, but Lagerfeld made that quite effortless for me. I immediately identified with his designs, better yet, his designs modeled my identity. This morning, my heart skipped a beat when I read my best friend's message; for today, February 19th 2019, will be remembered as the day the world lost the most iconic Karl Lagerfeld.

"Change is the healthiest way to survive." - Karl Lagerfeld 


More than being a giant in the fashion industry, a forward-thinking designer, a pioneer of all sorts, his work spoke for itself, what fascinated me the most about Lagerfeld was the 'enigma' behind those dark sunglasses. Since his passing a couple of hours ago, a number of photographs of him resurfaced with his eyes... unshielded, and while it may not be the first time that I see him without the signature look, I have to confess that it shocked me almost as much as the news itself (I am exaggerating). The eyes, chico, they never lie (Scarface), but his gaze was truthfully such a rare sighting that it seemed as if they revealed absolutely nothing (I mean this in a positive way). He himself once stated that he wanted to be caricaturist and in the end, he actually became a caricature. As a matter of fact, it is this wondrous, mysterious idea of him that always persisted. We never really quite knew him, yet he knew exactly who he was. Savage humor, his wit was adamant. His thirst for knowledge, exemplary. His take on the past, quintessential. His love of beauty and rejection of the ugly, supreme. Moreover, he was as much true to his 'karlisms' as he was detached from them, claiming for instance that his words or vision could change and no longer be relevant the very next day he uttered them. The fact that he was completely aware of this ever-evolving versatility is the real reason he was such a legend. The legend. Unapologetic. He was so unapologetic. I adore that. I still aspire to be like that. 

"No deadline for a new life" - Karl Lagerfeld

The last 'celebrity' passing that devastated me, and still does, was Amy Winehouse's back in 2011. I continue to listen to her on a regular basis. I have lost count of the number of times she inspired my poetry or essays. It is plenty. I miss her. Always. Admittedly, I oftentimes feel somewhat daneben to feel deeply for public figures, mainly because they genuinely are unattainable to us mere mortals; but truth of the matter is that whoever manages to touch my soul has a place in my life -- even more so in my writing. My idols influence me through their brilliance, art, intellect, creativity, talent and/or life stories. I admire them. I love them, because they make me optimistic on the writer's life I create for myself. And ultimately, I want to thank them for that. Like Amy Winehouse or Marlon Brando or River Phoenix, dearest Karl Lagerfeld, you left giant footprints on my heart that no wave of time can ever erase. Thank you for your genius. Thank you for making monochrome the most colorful days of my life. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Big little things




My niece
Hugging me tighter
Than usual;

Words spill
On my heart
Making a mess
My mind
Will not erase;

Kissing me sweet
Clenching my fists;

The big things
Rest on that microscopic grin
On the right corner
Of my lips --

That is where you lie,
In the space between
My lines.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cauliflower rice


I do not consider myself a good cook. In fact, I do not think I will ever call myself a beast in the kitchen. Nonetheless, in the past couple of months, and this time consistently, my cute little old-school kitchen mutated into my most-liked, most-spent place in the world. I have always had an all-consuming relationship with food, and by all-consuming, I mean I consume a lot. Then, the more gourmet — as well as the more greasy my meal was — the better. Nevertheless, what got in my belly was never my own creation: I practically grew up sitting at the end of table waiting for whatever was being concocted, at home and in restaurants. I was made for food; yet food, I did not make. I am not proud of it — but I did not bother to spend one minute behind the stove until I got my own place and even then, I do not suppose boiling water for pasta and adding ready-made sauce counts as a home-cooked meal. If I mastered al dente, that was already the victory. That all changed recently. 

Overweight. Underweight. Normal according to the BMI calculator. At times, I was all of the above in the space of a year. I got fed up of yoyo-ing and truth be told, losing the weight is a piece of cake compared to maintaining it. In the past, I would be over-the-top disciplined then as soon as I lost the kilograms, not have a care in the world. Always at unhealthy extremes. For instance, I would psych myself up for major cheat days in order to survive the agony of eating clean during the week; because for the longest time, I believedclean’ meant boring salads which, to this day, I still can hardly stomach (pun intended). Talk or feelings about the right bodyweight is one of those issues that requires such... diplomacy, not only from our surroundings but really, from ourselves. We are hardest on ourselves. Sure, no one in his right hand mind wants to be... on the heavier side of things (I am all about body positivity, trust me), like no one in his healthy mind wants to be... skin and bones either (I am all about body positivity, trust me) — but what we do want, what we all thrive for — is to feel comfortable, amazing, sexy as fuck when we look in the mirror. 

Like millions before me, with me, and after me — I began to be painstakingly conscious about body image, rather altering mine, when my health started to fail me. In my case, it was not just physical health — though I will not lie, of course a main motivation was also to feel comfortable, amazing, sexy as hell every time I would take a mirror selfie. I am grateful to live in a time and age where we can access information in less than a second (though it must be said, like a double-edged sword, the overflow of information can often become overwhelming); but what surprised me the most was how little I knew. How little I actually controlled. How I never explicitly concerned myself with ‘good health’, this based on the belief that it is only something we must face if sickness strikes (obviously, guilty as charged.) Thus, how my life was starting to feel like I was sitting at the end of the table simply waiting for whatever was being concocted for me. In every aspect. I have struggled my entire life with the ever-pressing desire to stay in control. I still cannot, and never will. However, what I could  — I aspired to master it. What followed, what happened in the kitchen, resulted in one of my proudest achievements.  

I became curious. Aware. Experimental. Definitely not a natural talent. Remarkable apps such as Buzzfeed’s TastyShaun T’s revolutionary Insanity program, POPSUGAR's workout videos and success stories have now become a staple in my routine. Food is a science, a fun one at that; but still a calculating, know-your-shit matter nonetheless. I researched — and more than following the current fitness or diet trends, whether it be paleo, keto or what-eo, I was impelled to get my head around the benefits from nutrition and sports — and how, truthfully, they are the ingredients to finding balance — or imbalance — in life. More importantly, it took a journey of a lifetime to realize that physical, emotional and mental health are intrinsically intertwined: my nutrition affects my mood and my sweat session alters my state of mind. Not always drastically, but drastically in the long run. I am going to rely on cliché here; but healthy body, healthy lifestyle... A healthy soul must follow. Essentially, when it came (and it still comes) to a point where my not-always-kind thoughts and feelings seem to steer the direction of my days, I am convinced that I am still capable of managing how I fuel my body. 

Life is like a savoury dish. There are ingredients. There is a processThere is portion controlThere is just the right amount of salt. And in the end, it is the blend that will not only make us feel satiated — but balanced. There are too many life metaphors in cooking. All true, nonetheless. Some vegetables are a pain in the ass to cut, but the result is very much worth the labor. I prepared butternut squash for the first time this week. Baking requires following a recipe to a tee, which can be tricky for people who despise orders; yet oftentimes, we do need to accept and trust the system — because it works. Some courses need relentless stirring, as living does, as does the learning curve. Unconventional inventions continuously take the Internet by storm, and my appetite in the process. Exploring never stops. Zucchini pizza? Hummus on tomato toast? Avo-egg-in-a-hole? So creative. So healthy. So yummy. My favorite is something I stumbled upon a couple of weeks ago, and I can safely say that I fell head-over-heels in love with cauliflower rice. I was reluctant in the beginning — because while I may be a huge fan of rice (I am Filipino, after all), I did not have a particular inkling to cauliflower. Broken down however, it is culinary heaven. 

I was fed up of yoyo-ing; but life, ultimately, is the game of yoyo-ing per excellence, isn’t it? It is full of ups and downs, sure, yet what always enslaves us is that we cannot predict how long a high lasts — or a low, for that matter. Despite our best efforts. It is even more frustrating when we take necessary measures and advice to heart, still, a right 'recipe' does not exist. I discovered that when I cook, I am at my calmest. Grounded. Mindful. Patient. There is patience in cutting vegetables. There is patience in marinating meat. There is patience in seeing the meal broil in the oven. There is even patience in arranging the plate in such a way that is instagrammable for the food diary. When some battles break our hearts, we should let them. Fall of the wagon. Lack. Remorse. Throw in the towel. Curse God. When what weighs heavy throws us off balance, and there is not much more we can do; break down, then grind it like cauliflower rice. Because the most fulfilling recipe I learned from becoming a beast (I changed my mind, I will call myself that) in the kitchen is that us humans are capable of taking something raw, crude, underdone -- and still create something delightful out of itA binge-eat session (or a thousand) will not outweigh consistent effort, nor will a mental breakdown (or even a thousand) define the flavours of our lives. When we learn to become patient with food, along the way, almost unconsciously, we become more patient with ourselves.

Last Thursday, I could not help but notice how one of my go-to cafés mutated from a smart 'digital natives' coffee house to this sultry after-work space after sundown. There were candles. I was caught off guard. Perhaps also because I had never stayed as late. Same place, other world. God knows that this accept and love yourself mantra is the most arduous, labyrinthine, nearly impossible achievement in life. We are hardest on ourselves. One step closer to the goal, then the goal changes. Or did we? Truth is, while adopting a healthy lifestyle and embarking on a fitness journey may alter our body, tremendously, outrageously; it is even more miraculous how it trains our mindset. It can catch us off guard, but it is really the same person we are looking at in the mirror; only stronger. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. We are not creatures of habit. We never were -- and we should not live as such. We are beautiful creatures of transformation. In the end, maybe that is what it is all about: what begets change is the tiniest change in the kitchen. That extra rep during workouts. That one minute during the day. Because if cauliflower can turn into rice, what are we capable of? 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

To date


In the last couple of weeks, people bombarded my social media feed with their #10yearchallenge photos. Some were entertaining. Some, quite sweet. A few, on the other hand, were downright cringe-worthy. I guess there is something about ringing the new year that makes us want to revise how much we have changed — or haven’t, for that matter. Now I am not quite sure what should stick. January 2009, for me, was the time I decided to secure my own little space in the vast, exciting www jungle; and for someone who is very much obsessed with peculiar dates and celebrating anniversaries, I cannot believe I almost forgot this milestone. Perhaps because of continuity. Perhaps because I have always written. 

In a time and age where our entire lives are already being archived while the events are still happening, looking in the rear view mirror still manages to beget all kinds of emotions: joy, surprise, fear, regret, envy, love, nostalgia. A complete and utter reassessment of self. The other day, my friend told me that he would do anything to be to able to share useful insights with his younger self on... well, life. Mitigate the confusion. That being different is okay. That it gets easier. If the more energetic, less wrinkly version of ourselves were armed with other — better tools —, would they have dealt or taken a different — better approach to life then? Straight away, this train of thought got me to brood on this utopian wishful thinking. I could not help but wonder — why, really, do we devalue inexperience?  Why should we have known better?

We have a tendency to glorify as much as curse innocence or past events. We miss the lightheartedness as much as tremble -- as soon as we reminisce about the first pains of #adulting. A moment molds a person. A decade changes a person — beyond measures. Ten years ago, I could drink a whole bottle of vodka and wake up the next day as if I were sipping only water. Now, I actually only drink water. Ten years ago, I was confident that my broken heart would never recover from, what I imagined, was my one chance at love. Now, I know true love comes in very different shapes and forms. Ten years ago, I was less understanding. I was more judgmental. I was less predictable. I was more stubborn. Having said that, I acknowledge that these more or less features were -- and are, naturally, strongly influenced by external factors. Experience does that. Nevertheless, experience also taught me that there are qualities that are deeply rooted in our core -- regardless of what will happen. Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse tells a story in Before Sunset which I often come back to: it is a study of two types of people who have different fates. One — cynical, hard-headed — wins the lottery, and the other — kind, full of life — becomes a paraplegic. One would assume that the first will be enthusiastic for the rest of his life while the other stays relentlessly mad at his unfair circumstances; but once the new situation settled in, both went back to being exactly who they are. I trust that this is true. I am still as disciplined. Curious. Gregarious. Spontaneous. Nice. Opinionated. Wild. Hopeful. Still somewhat naive. Sure, there are times I wish I could have watered it down because it either got me into trouble or hurt me -- to be this way; but fundamentally, no amount of bad eggs, expired milk or terrible poems can ever water down who you truly are. Ten years ago, I went in with my head first. Now, I go in with my heart.

We read hundreds and hundreds of quotes every day on leaving the past where it belongs. In the past. I am not saying I do not agree, because I do; but I am one who also cannot live without it. And sometimes, I admit, I still live in it. Perhaps because I write. Perhaps because I have always written — and words always succeed to get me inside the time machine -- even it is just the time of a read. During this ten year challenge, and toasting to my very own ten-year blogging anniversary, I frantically had to urge to edit some of my old posts, before deciding not to. They were valid then — and they are valid now. Do I write the same? Do I write differently? I came to realize that inexperience has always been a writer’s best friend; because the more I know, the faster I write. But the less I do, the better I write. The same goes for living

I am more at ease in my own skin today than in my twenties. Doubts still persecute me. Dreams, then, will fill me. Growth is not always change; but change always means growth. In hindsight, things really happen the way the are supposed to because at the end of the day, no matter how old we are, no matter what path we take on, it is the one life we own -- and the only way we learn how to live is by living.