Panic

Last night, panic attacked big time. I was tossed about by big, mean waves of doubt and strong winds of unknowing. I was not getting anywhere with my final paper for the Bible Study Methods class. I tried to talk with God before going on to read resources for the overview and background portion. I knew I needed to talk with Him. Then I found myself running to Him, rushing to His arms to cling for dear life. This I did by reading something on my devotional book about worry and it led me to Luke 12. The Message translation was what I exactly needed to hear last night.

And after soaking in His words I just cried like a kid who doesn’t know what to do. I was a child trapped in an adult’s body who has been given a responsibility too much for me to handle. I felt incapable. The task just looked too insurmountable. But God’s arms were around me as I cried and wailed my heart out. The burden was too heavy I was literally whimpering under its weight. But I knew that I was where I belonged, right there in my Father’s embrace.

I stayed like that for a while, with a messy, tear-stained face, gulping great breaths of life-giving air from God. After that, I knew I wasn’t capable of doing anything more. I was relieved and comforted but I knew I also needed to rest physically. My mind couldn’t process well after that vicious attack from doubt. Thankfully, I had peace to go to sleep. It was the right thing to do. I felt safe that God is in control of everything. Time seemed to stop running too fast and went back to its steady rhythm. It could only have been possible through God because time is in His hands.

One thing that really helped me last night was a painting, a birthday gift from a very good friend. She said that I am the girl in the painting. I’m leaning on a tree, a Bible clasped in my hand, my eyes closed and my face a picture of contentment and peace. I am surrounded by a colorful field of flowers under a peaceful summer sky. I became that girl on the painting after that panic attack last night, leaning on something solid, at peace, and the world around me was as it should be. In the picture, I had long, wavy hair and I am wearing a simple but beautiful light blue dress. I was surprised to be able to comfortably see myself that way, comfortable in my femininity, in being the “weaker vessel.” Last night was one of the rare moments in my life that I was really thankful to be female. I felt blessed in being weak. It made me see and appreciate more fully my dependence on God, someone strong, solid and reliable. I usually despise this weakness in being female because I am someone who loves being in control, in full command of myself. But last night, another layer, another mask was stripped off of me. I am beginning to grasp and appreciate this kind of vulnerability in me. It’s meant to draw me to my Maker, to the Lover of my soul, to my solid rock and foundation.

Weakness is not necessarily a disadvantage, nor neediness something to do away with. Not when it comes to relating with my God and Savior.

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Theme for English B (by Langston Hughes)

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

a jar of thoughts

memory post

Back in 2007, while dealing with grief, I thought of doing something that might help assuage the waves of sadness that seem to come one after another no matter what time of the day or no matter where I am. I really haven’t thought of it as a therapeutic solution back then but I guess it was one of the things that really helped brought me closer towards healing.

One of the most difficult things back then was not being able to say the things I feel I wanted to shout out. To no one in particular. But I really felt I need to let them out of my head just to lessen its load of thoughts piling up. And so I decided to write those things on small pieces of colored paper, fold them up and place them in jar. I told myself that I’d give my jar of thoughts to the person if ever he decides to come back or throw it away in case I get tired of them. The latter happened which took about a year after I wrote the first note.

Talk about silliness.

But now, this little exercise might redeem itself from that. It just might be what I need. One morning, almost a week ago, while washing dishes, it suddenly came to mind while I was thinking of a way to start writing my first book. There. I’ve said it aloud. One of the big things I recently asked from God (which I’m currently still practicing because I realized I haven’t really done it before) is that I’d be able to write my first book before I turn 30.

What’s it gonna be about? Currently, it’s not yet put together and I’m also just letting it grow.

Now to look for a big glass jar, some colored paper and oh wow. I’ve lots of pens now from birthday and Christmas gifts. 🙂

 
photo by Pam Garnett (Creative Commons licensed)

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.

me and january

Light chases shadows. Shadows chase light. They run around in circles, or in spheroids if you will, since ours is a three dimensional world (or is it four?). I’ve forgotten my Physics. They run around, one after the other but you’re never quite sure which one’s chasing or which one’s running away at any one point.

I’ve been spending time outdoors on many afternoons this January. I’ve foregone some lunches to sit and read outside, choosing to nourish a starving soul over satisfying an empty stomach. Thankfully, I’ve always come away filled. There’s something about the January sun, bathing everything in its iridescent, soft glow making plants and trees, flowers and leaves, soil and pavement and grass take on a pearly sheen that you just want to bask in it.

Me and my dreams. Why try to capture such a scene with words instead of a camera and click away. After all, who wants to waste time imagining instead of seeing?

And I am that. Always craving for answers and dreading any stage of hoping. Always controlling. Always hesitant to any organic shape-taking. Crazy about fulfilling schedules, shunning away and cringing on any disturbance. Comfortable with lists and must-do’s, and clear cut step-1-2-3’s. Scared to death of anything unstructured.

So when this year dawned on me being in a different place and set of circumstances from where I’ve planned to be, my days have been shadows and lights playing with my eyes, my writing as unsteady and fickle minded like the January sun, sometimes peeking shyly, sometimes appearing confidently, sometimes not bothering to show up at all. And I am left bewildered and surprised, mostly clueless on how I’m supposed to make the most of it. And it makes me wonder if I’ll ever be comfortable with this writing thing seeing it is very much unlike me in predictability. Oh to be more like Lady Mary who whispered to her husband-to-be at the altar, “I should hate to be predictable.”

You came. To be honest I wasn't completely sure you would.  I'm glad to hear it. I should hate to be predictable.

You came. To be honest I wasn’t completely sure you would.
I’m glad to hear it. I should hate to be predictable.

 

But then I’m just starting anyway. Maybe I’m still getting used to it. There’s work to do and more practice is needed. But I’m also giving it breathing space, a chance to grow naturally. It still feels stilted and forced right now. Maybe after a million more words it would feel a bit like second skin. Anyway, it’s just the last day of the first month of 2014.

 
image courtesy of: http://oneithersidetheriverlie.tumblr.com/post/42744024532/i-should-hate-to-be-predictable

i’m staying

The call of the great unknown has been beckoning ever since I finally realized what I want to do in life. Finally the great unknown has a name. Writing.

Suddenly I wanted to drop everything and go someplace where I could be alone and do nothing but read and write. For a certain amount of time, of course. And being the nerd that I am, formal training in school was what I had in mind after a time of seclusion from the world.

This made perfect sense to me since I spent my high school and college years studying the other end of the academic spectrum, sciences. How else should I learn writing but attend classes and listen to and work with professors (experts) and classmates (people who have the same passion, supposedly). Logical, right?

But this thing, writing. I’ve heard so much about it, particularly rumors that it cannot be taught. I’ve read so many times that if one wants to learn it, one just writes. You learn it by doing it. I kind of got that as, “That’s why creative writing classes are like workshops, right? There’s a lot of doing, writing, involved in them.”

But then I meet a real (professional) writer who graduated with a degree in creative writing who tells me, “No!” when I told her I planned to quit my job to pursue writing by going back to school and learn it formally. Like all the articles and books I’ve read on writing, she told me to just write and keep on writing. Buy books and read a lot and write some more.

Instantly, the strategist in me was baffled at the audacity of such a course of action. Really? I don’t have to have formal training to learn writing? Then she goes on to say she thinks the only purpose of taking that course is so she could tell other people not to take it. Okay, I’m in serious trouble, I thought. The big plan of leaving everything behind to pursue my dream just got shattered. Now what?

I knew then that I had to decide whether to still go my  own way or accept this piece of advice which would essentially render all  those months of trying to work up my courage to leave and take a different path as nothing.

But as I thought about it more – prayed, listened, wrestled with my thoughts – I found that the courage I’ve been building all that time isn’t for naught. I needed courage to stay. Courage to accept that mine isn’t a journey of change in circumstances (at least not yet) but a change in perspective. Courage to accept His will to be done His way. I’ve quite forgotten that at the very beginning of searching for this dream, I knew that the answer can only be God-given, something that He alone could unravel and turn into a reality. Somehow, along the way, I’ve reduced it to strategies and steps to be taken.

Maybe there will come a time, someday, when I would need to leave. But right now, I’ve been summoned to stay. So, that I’ll do. I’m staying.

the biggest excuse

warmed note

He told me to write. He didn’t ask me to be an expert on it.

So I guess that idea of going back to school to learn writing was my biggest excuse. I’ve put my writing on hold when every blog or book or quote I’ve read told me to just write. I’ve jotted down and compiled every writing prompt that came to mind and posted them on boards, both physical and virtual, instead of turning them into pieces of writing.

Photo0241

I guess it’s true what they say that the hardest part of writing is to get started.

So here I am cancelling my biggest back up plan.

This is me taking the jump.

This is me starting to write.

 

 

(message on the first photo by Jeff Goins)

i didn’t know what else to do so i wrote

Too tired to move. Otherwise, I could’ve cooked some real food for dinner then washed clothes after. I feel like I’ve been wanting to write for days now but I have no definite reason or idea to rave about.

This is one of the worst feelings, wanting to accomplish something but you’re just tired most of the time. Not to mention sleepy. You can’t even sit up and type on the computer so you grab a pen and small notebook to scribble words which you can only hope to understand later when you read them again.

I have a paper to write. A real academic paper – the final requirement for the research and writing course I took, after a year’s delay. I don’t exactly know what pushed me to finally take it and during the busiest season of my work year at that. What is clear to me though is that it is the first concrete step to a life of writing.

Problem is I feel I have not been giving my best effort on the requirements. I crammed each and every one of them. (Which reminds me, I still haven’t submitted my reading report that is now a week and a day late. *Sigh*) I feel frustrated with myself.

I wish I could just write songs out of these frustrations instead of mere thoughts and monologues forcing my hand to scribble whatever word my brain dictates my hand to jot down next.

Am I really meant to write? I ask myself. Well, at the very least, I sense a bit of an accomplishment just seeing these blank pages get filled with squiggly writing. I answer my mind. I do feel I was, I have been, I am meant to write. Maybe not academic papers because I feel exhausted just getting one footnote right. Maybe not obviously useful pieces. But maybe the type where you are allowed to start with a conjunction (like this sentence). Maybe the type which grants me poetic license. Maybe the type where I can echo how I felt about a particular thing at a specific point in time. Maybe the type which a particular set of people will care to stop and give a moment to, in hope of finding something which resembles their questions, thoughts and what-not’s. Maybe the type which won’t treat conjunctions and run-on’s as crimes if they can give the appropriate tone and emphasis a thought deserves. But I definitely want it to be my art, my craft.

Useless, most people might say because they may find it as “art for art’s sake”. I don’t buy that idea though. Any art for its own sake is phony. At least in my own opinion.

Yes, it will be the type of writing which may not feed my body but will definitely make my soul breathe, my mind grow and my heart unafraid to feel. It will make me live my days thriving, not just surviving like what Jon Foreman sings out right now as I write this.

I don’t know if I am making any sense right now. Maybe I better start that paper on Colosse. Or if I can’t squeeze an original statement from my brain about its location, history and religious setting, I just might spend the night strumming random songs on my guitar.

 

on writing…

So I’m reading this book called The Art of War for Writers and I’ve finished part one which tackles the idea called Reconnaissance. It wasn’t a word I understood before I encountered it in this book but I’ve come to like it. In the author’s own words, it is “observing the battlefield before entering the fray”. One of the exercises suggested was writing down my reactions to some statements from different authors, hence this post.

I decided that I would continue to write as long as I lived, even if I never sold one thing, because that was what I wanted out of my life. -George Bernau

When I’ve read this statement months ago, I immediately closed the book and cried. And then I haven’t opened the book again until recently. I didn’t have the courage to go on reading it I guess because there were many things happening and a lot of them were confusing me. My circumstances felt heavy and they left me burdened so that I didn’t have energy left for other things aside from trying to figure out the things happening around me, the different feelings and reactions inside me. But as I read these words again today, I feel that they are my very thoughts and feelings, as I read through the first few pages of The Art of War for Writers. Thoughts written down. Solid. Can be grasped and clearly communicated to people.

I don’t really plan on becoming a published writer (at least not right now). I just wish to write. I just want to become really good in my craft so that I can use it in whatever worthwhile cause that may have a use for it. I don’t care if I get paid for it or not. I just want to be able to jot down in words all of the thoughts, reflections, feelings, and stirrings inside me as a proof that I am alive. Really alive. Not half asleep to the things that are happening around me. I want to be really alive in Him who created me and who has written down my story even before I was conceived. I want my writings to be my gift to Him who gave me the gift of living this one life he personally crafted, for me to experience, know and worship Him. I want to write because being able to put into words the things that are happening around and within me means I no longer fear of drowning in them. It means I have taken the time to think them over and process them and lay them at His feet, recognizing that He is sovereign in all things and circumstances. Being able to write means I have taken the time to gaze at beauty, to listen to silence, to rest amidst chaos, to take joy both in simplicity and complexity. Being able to write means I have taken the time to listen to, to journey with and to learn from people who are willing to share their thoughts, feelings, opinions, perceptions, experiences and learnings; people who are or would be willing to open up to their own story. I want to write. I wish to be able to write well.

You must want it enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft – then you can add all the genius you like. -Phyllis Whitney

I remember one writing class I took during college. It’s a basic creative writing course in Filipino. I’ve always felt more comfortable writing in English even in my grade school days but I took it anyway because there were no slots available in the English creative writing class anymore. I can’t remember a single piece I’ve submitted in that class which the professor found acceptable. Most of the time she just reads until the third line and then she puts it down and goes on to others’ papers. She would do this to all of our submissions and then the class would usually end early because there are no more papers for her to read. Sometimes, when she gets in the mood to teach, she lights up a cigarette and goes on to do the same. But on those rare times when she suddenly feels responsible enough to use all of the allotted time for the class, she would read more than three lines and would thoroughly slice/rip/tear the written piece into nothingness. She would treat all of our pieces as if we didn’t put time and effort into them. It was annoying for me the way she did that when she didn’t even take the time to give us lectures/workshops about the basics of creative writing. Isn’t that what the course is supposed to be all about? But most days, if she’s not late, she wouldn’t appear in class at all. And then she’d come on a day when it is the deadline of submission and all of us just come to class with pieces that we’re written in cluelessness. The most I got from her was a criticism on how clueless I am on our country’s history. What was her word again? Naive. She said she saw that I’ve put a lot of effort into writing that poem, what with flowery words and clear rhymes and even a narrative embedded into it which is not necessarily required of a short poem. But she thoroughly attacked my view of Philippine history and even discussed each stanza to show how shallow my view of our country’s past is. Well, I didn’t know then if I should be happy she saw the effort I’ve put into writing but that she attacked my personal view. (I am very fond of learning history.)

But all in all I thought that that class was a nightmare. I didn’t get anything from it really but now that I am recalling all of these things, I guess I wasn’t quite ready for criticism back then. And certainly not for unreasonable criticism. I don’t know if I ever will be. But I guess I am well aware now that one gets a lot of disappointments and discouragements on learning the craft of writing. And I hope this awareness would help me to face rejection.

Yes, I do want to learn my craft. I really wish to write well.

In Boot Camp, tough sergeants deliberately try to break the morale of inducted men. Those who break they send back to civilian life, or to some more or less ignominous chore in army life. There are two or three hundred thousand ‘writers’ who ‘write at’ writing in this country. Ninety percent of them make next to nothing. The few who do get by are those who were not “broken” in the Boot Camp of their own wills, or lack of same. -Jack Woodford

So what does boot camp look like? Is that basic creative writing course in college part of boot camp? And if it is, then am I one of those who were broken and should then be sent back to civilian life (a.k.a. have any other occupation other than writing)? In fairness to my younger self, I didn’t even know what I wanted out of life then. I wasn’t aware of my personality type yet and I didn’t know my strengths and weaknesses. So maybe I wouldn’t consider that as part of boot camp because going to boot camp means you are aware of what you are entering into. Lately, when I discovered how important language, writing and reading are for me, I became so excited with the thought of honing these particular skills. I feel like these are the things that I really love doing and think that I can be good at (given the proper practice and training). I became so excited with the thought of really learning about writing. I began to scout for online courses but later I felt that I really prefer the classic classroom setup because I can have people around me who I can learn from and who could possibly learn from me; people who have the same passion for writing. For literature. For art. For beauty. For music even. For life. And so I tried to check out the creative writing degree that is offered in my alma mater. Lo and behold, I felt so alive upon seeing the list of courses to be taken. I felt so excited with the thought of going back to the university and finally learn about things I am passionate about or seem to be passionate about at least. And if passion and determination be the major requirements of entering Boot Camp then I think I’ve never felt this ready for it before.

Not to be carried away by my emotions and ideals though, I’ve also looked into the implications of entering ‘Boot Camp’ in my present life. Of course there’s the question of whether I should quit my job and become a full-time student or should I be a student and work at the same time. Where should I get the training fee? Do I really need to go back to university and get a degree in writing or should I just join writing workshops because I don’t plan on becoming a published writer anyway? Can I just treat blogging as Boot Camp and treat the blogging community as my critique group? What comes next after Boot Camp? Where do I plan to use my “enhanced writing skills” then? Should I look into the possibility of finding a living in writing though as of now I really don’t see myself becoming a published writer? What should I write about? What do I want to write about? Often, I would be left with, would it be better if writing remains only a hobby? Or is this just me trying to run away from a difficult decision to make? Excited as I am with the thought of learning more about literature and writing, I am also beset with doubts. I doubt if even this desire to learn to write well is valid. Is it my desire or did I just absorb it again from someone else (much like how I easily absorb another person’s laughter, expressions or even mannerisms)? If it is indeed my own desire, then did God give it to me or is it just one of my outrageous, weird ideas which keep my parents on their toes because they feel I am not establishing anything in life?

But I can see some hope from the very meager fact that I was able to write these confusing thoughts down.