The Novice

I have nothing to say

I have too much to say

I don’t have enough to say

Will it ever turn out right?


Should I leave this behind?

Should I leave this for now?

Do I wait or contend?

Do I struggle or let go?


Is this for me?

Or did I buy into an illusion?

A will-o’-the-wisp

Or a seed waiting to grow?



Planes and birds fly in confused circles on an orange-y pink sky at dusk. I try to breathe slow and calm my heart as I cool down from yet another afternoon run. I’m grateful to be back to running a few kilometers non-stop and I tell myself, “not bad” as I sit down on the grass. I let languor – very much like the feeling one gets after crying a lot and just before surrendering to sleep – embrace me. All of this is sublime and yet I’m left wondering at the strangeness of my life these days. Two months into moonlighting and I thought I would’ve already gotten used to il dolce far niente but somehow she remains aloof, a stranger I do not know how to befriend. I thought we were going to have a jolly good time together when I stepped down from the bullet train of routine. I sought her company because I believed she would help me harness and act on the ideas I didn’t have the time to pay attention to in the whirlwind of responsibilities and concerns that come with a full-time day job. Instead, I found the very space and time she moves in so different. And so I remain ill at ease in her company.

I look again at the confused creatures and machines flying high above me and see that they mimic my thoughts going on endless circles. I continue to watch them and wonder if they know I’m doing so. Can they sense my confusion from where they are? Can they trace the meandering paths my thoughts take to go where I can’t seem to find them again? I look around me and try to get a sense of where I am. Ah yes, I’m back in the city. The famous oblation statue stands proudly a few meters behind me and I’m sitting on the grass-covered grounds. Right before me is the university avenue, the main road to and from the country’s most famous and sought-after state university. I focus on the row of towering streetlights in the middle of the busy road. Public and private vehicles come and go – some going in, some just passing by and some leaving the campus – but you don’t have a way of knowing which one’s coming or going or staying or just passing by, though you can identify whether it’s a car or jeep or bike. They’re very much like the ideas in my head, identifiable by name but their purpose or connection to one another (or lack thereof) I can’t seem to grasp.

And so one doubts whether the decision to step away from routine, even if only for a time, was a sound idea at all. My mind seems to take all focus in trying to make sense of this new landscape I’m moving in that it can’t accommodate anything more. Big deal. The world has so many pressing problems for one to waste time on such trivialities.

The sun’s sinking lower as I wave off another failed attempt to relax in the luxury of doing nothing. Maybe I need not try to dissect it into the littlest of details. Maybe all it takes is receiving it for what it is. Planes and birds fly in confused circles on a now darker orange-y pink sky as dusk slowly yields to night.

An Attempt to Analyze

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of good education, a stable job, and acceptable looks must be in want of a husband. However different her feelings, thoughts, dreams and goals are in life, this is so fixed in the minds of people around her that they constantly badger the happily contented single female nearing the age of 30 with questions, teasing and endless seemingly innocent inquiries on what her plans are regarding marriage. The happy, young woman however just brushes these off. Sometimes she laughs and joins in the joke. She playfully chooses among the many suggested candidates they throw at her and invents reasons why so-and-so is much deserving than the other one. But in her mind none of them even comes close to one with whom she may consider sharing her life. She can’t help it. She’s a stickler to details and she knows what she wants and why. If anyone would care enough to sit down with her and really listen to what she has to say and not just bother her with unsolicited advice, she would directly tell that person that she prefers not to be married.

She plans to go back to school and study some more. Not because she’s a degree hoarder but that she finally found what she wants to do in life. She wants to write. And she’s going back to school to soak herself in the music of the best poetry and prose as she tries to find her own voice and rhythm. She wants to be like the minds who forever gave the world a deeper understanding of reality and who gave access to secret worlds that were once hidden inside their minds. She wants to know other souls like her who have the same passion for life, for truth, for beauty. She wants to mingle with crafters who work with words or colors or sounds or wood or metal or mud or maybe with two or three or all of these. She wants to build bridges toward them and see if they, too, had struggled most of their lives looking for what they were meant to do. She also wants to know the stories of those who have known all along what they want to do in life. She wants to explore how they knew, if anyone helped them or if there was a vivid moment that told them what it is they were meant for. She wants to see what she could accomplish together with these people. She wants to reach out to the ones among them who have yet to know True Beauty and tell them why all their lives they have been yearning to express, to create, to experience and how all of these yearnings point to Him. She longs to be there with them as they discover why they have been designed and gifted that way, and why they are who they are, even as she herself continues to discover these things in her own life.

She wants to birth books. But any husband would want to have children. And so she cannot reconcile the writing life and the married life right now. She can’t imagine how she’ll ever accomplish any writing with a husband and a child or children to take care of. This might seem selfish but think about the considerations she has to make. She, who has been a hopeless romantic all her life, is now confronted with the reality that she might have to choose between her craft and a “normal” life. Not that she’s scared of being different. What concerns her is that almost all the old maids she has known are either sickly or grumpy or have some sort of weirdness in them that she doesn’t want to have. If ever she’s meant to be a Miss all her life, she’d want to be like her favorite author, beloved and delighted in by her nephews and nieces, brother and sisters. But Ms. Austen is cheerful, gay and able to write in a common area and accommodate anyone who comes near her. She, on the other hand, is mostly serious and oftentimes a loner, and can write almost only within the confines of her room. That doesn’t spell like someone who could be a favorite among those who know her.

She is aware though that there are many women who write and have a family. And so she doesn’t dismiss the possibility of being married someday. Maybe someone would come along who also has an artist’s spirit, someone who knows and understands her craft as much as she does. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be willing to ruin someone else’s life by pretending that she can be a good domestic partner when, in truth, she wants to be so dedicated to growing her craft and to fly free and see the world because she always wants wider horizons.

As of now, this is how she sees things. This is what makes sense to her. Time may change her perspective on these matters but whether she ends up married or single for the rest of her life, she has the comfort of knowing she has found what she loves to do. Not many people can say the same for themselves.

freedom is

goldfish jumping out of the water

finding one’s true self.

becoming comfortable in one’s own skin – with flaws, imperfections and all.

dreaming big and not being swallowed by these very dreams. freedom is submission to the dream Giver.

a decluttered heart. freedom is fully experiencing an abundant life, knowing more, not merely knowing about, the very Giver of this life.

courage to confess, knowing we are loved and forgiven.

courage to be different. to go on a different path. or to forge new paths. to follow a different timeline, not hurrying through life just because everyone else seems to know where they’re going.

being freed from trying to impress others to get to notice you.

getting out of the trap of “utang na loob”.

finding and making time and space to create even when conditions are less than ideal, in the whirlwind of day jobs and responsibilities.

learning to fully depend and call upon God.

not letting a blank page intimidate or bore you.

letting yourself discover how you learn best and what you love to learn best. freedom is embracing and pursuing this.

letting yourself fly, discover new places and patterns and rhythms of life, unshackled from the false security of routine.

learned through responsibilities and disciplines.

getting out of the black hole of social media, of false maturity and confidence, and of instant knowledge and spoon-fed discoveries. knowing and discovering are sweetest when done with patient observing and searching. freedom is reading books instead of skimming through things that are said about them.

embracing heavenly thoughts and the eternity in our hearts.

letting  go of the temporal and holding on to the eternal.



image from:

poignancy of a blank slate

I chewed on that thought while going home from work today. It’s how my life looks like right now. A blank canvass. Nothing to look forward to. Nothing set to achieve.

For some time now this truth keeps slamming into me. Disappointing. Discouraging. At an age when I thought I’d already be doing well in a career I personally chose, I still do not know what direction to take. I told myself when I was a kid that I’d get married by the age of 27 or 28 but here I am, months away from turning 27 and Darcy-Foreman-Harris-(insert Capt. America’s last name here) all rolled into one is still nowhere in sight.

Pathetic, sorry life.

Or so I thought.

As I contemplated about my past mistakes and misses, gratitude somehow managed to creep into my heart making me realize that this blank slate of a life is nothing short of a miracle. Instead of a reality shambled into pieces because of wrong choices, I have a fresh, clean page before me.

But oh how I’ve spent days that quickly turned into months mourning this sense of emptiness. My life feels like a vast desert. And I simply can’t keep it to myself now. Spending time in this wilderness is painful. Hope is sapping out of me as quickly as acetone in an open bottle evaporates. Being in this wide expanse of nothingness leaves no room for scheming how to get out of here. I feel like nothing else is true except for that sense of being lost. It feels like trying not to get drowned in a dry ocean of desolation. You try to keep your head above the waves which aren’t really there because there’s nothing. Emptiness contains nothing.

But as the laws of matter go, something can only be filled when it is empty. Anything full has no space for anything more.

Instead of pages filled with dirty smears, inkblots, and scrawls, what I hold are clean, blank leaves.

What a miracle. What a gift.

Blank, empty pages waiting to be filled.

With what? I know not yet. Clean surfaces can be intimidating to work on. It may take a long time before I get the courage to finally start filling these pages but I find that I wouldn’t trade these possible future masterpieces for present, contrived artworks.

I’m still learning to be thankful for this emptiness.

(May 14, 2014)

from His to mine own heart

Dreams flash before my eyes

on a Thursday morning ride

when life suddenly slowed down

on a week seeming not to end.


I’m left wondering why

all of a sudden

this place feels like home again

I’m finally not outside looking in.


Is it another trick?

It is another trap?

Or is this how it should feel

when you’re finally learning to trust?


Walls fall down

Hands unclench, arms relax

Opening up to hear what is

from His to mine own heart.

i ain’t florence nightingale

You’re wrong. I’m not a Florence Nightingale. Even while you were telling bits and pieces of her story I don’t know why you thought I am like her. (Ate M can pass off as someone like her but not me.) And now that I’ve read her story too, I’m aghast she should be compared with me who’s not even half or a third as brave as her. She must be ‘cringing in her grave’ when you unwittingly compared her to such a one as me.

Let me tell you why.

For one, she never thought of being in the spotlight while I have always wanted a top-notch career. I grew up with the standard of not settling for anything less than a white-collar job though I don’t exactly know why I had that notion ever since I was little. Florence chose a path that was disdained by society because only slow-headed ones and drunkards were seen fit to take such a role. I, on the other hand, have always craved to be respected as an expert in my chosen field, whatever it was to be. She wanted to help other people and make things better for them; I’ve only cared about succeeding and only bothered about protecting myself so as not to get hurt or experience as little discomfort as possible.  At seventeen, she already sensed a calling full of purpose; I don’t even want to recall the impertinence of my concerns when I was at that age.

Secondly, I marvel at her decision of declining a life with the man she loved, who loved her so much he waited seven years for her and who I think has a similar calling in life. I, on the other hand, have always been a hopeless romantic. And while I won’t throw myself to any man less than the one who meets my standards, I don’t think I would have the strength to say no to the one I know I love, who loves me as much or even more and who thinks we would be great partners-in-crime. That is, if ever such a person exists.

Yes, the conditions of the life of a married woman and the dynamics and expectations of society then and now are so different. But have I lived in her time and she in mine (i.e. I would face less or no freedom at all in pursuing a career and she could experience a married life where both husband and wife can actively practice a career/ministry/craft, etc.), I think we would still have decided as we would. She’d still say no and I still wouldn’t let go of the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with. Again, only if such a person does exist.

But yes, until now, I see this schmuckness I have over romance as a weakness. So it’s not like I’m comfortable being like this. And neither is expressing these opinions.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Florence Nightingale is brave, resolute, single-minded and strong-willed while I am a fainthearted, self-doubting, scaredy-cat, can’t-even-let-others-read-what-I-write-for-fear-I-might-be-found-lacking wannabe. She found her calling and fought every obstacle down so she can go ahead and just do it. I found my calling and I think I’m crazy for even thinking I’m called to it. I’m so scared I’m never going to make it, I have thought a lot of times dismissing the thing altogether even before starting.

She was right. She indeed found her calling and as a result, she saved thousands of lives, redeemed a previously shunned occupation, and pioneered a whole new era of medical/nursing care.

I may really be wrong. I may be a fake who’s just trying hard to fit into something that may not be for me after all. And lives may be ruined, a respectable job may be shunned, and a whole don’t-imitate, what-went-wrong story may be written if I continue to pursue this calling which I still can’t seem to fully claim as something I have been meant to do.

Tell me really, what made you think I am like Florence Nightingale? Aside from avoiding social events, preferring books over dresses and being geeky?

But anyway, thank you for mentioning her story to me.

Now, if only there’s a way to be a Florence Nightingale of writing, one who thinks nothing about self-glory, only of honoring the One who called her by accomplishing what He has prepared for her to do, I would gladly follow that path.

not these

Nothing will keep me from drawing near to You.

Not a foul mood.

Not an ill-timed conversation.

Not frustrations over not knowing how to share openly with supposedly the closest people to me.

Not seemingly lost important papers.

Not a delayed devotion schedule.

Not confusion over whether I made the right decision by staying.

Not my not having my own room so that I could really be alone with You.

Not the seeming pointlessness of struggling to keep praising You.

Not the lack of warm feelings in our recent conversations.

Not a still unestablished writing routine.

Not listlessness even after a boost of excitement over the weekend.

Not unfulfilled timelines.

Not a lack of things to say.

Not an overwhelmed mind on the chaos of life.

Not the slowly growing cynicism on things hoped for.

Not the unceasing noise of the city.

Not the erratic, unsteady rhythm of every day.

Not the greater burdens told by the news of wars and calamities and poverty and disease.

Not the seeming unenoughness of 24 hours.

Not these. Or even those I can’t seem to put a finger on.

Instead, I lay all of these down at your feet.

And just as I am, Father, I come before Thee.