open letters

Confession

Today is First Friday and I want to confess about burnout.

As some of you know, I haven’t been back to the Catholic church for long (just since December 2014) and have been reading at the Mass for much shorter than that.

Some of you are living testimonies of how I loved it.  There was a time I felt everything else – daughter duties, work, leisure, relationships, self-love – was sagabal to my service, and if I could only be in church every minute of my life, I would.  I could stand not eating on Sundays.  I bought books that taught how to read and practiced everytime I can.  I researched the context of each reading to properly convey the right emotion.  My copies of Sambuhay had marks indicating emphasis and where to have eye contact, pause, or stop.

But I’ve lost it.  It’s only been two and a half years but I don’t love it anymore.

Today, getting myself to wear the uniform I once thought were the most beautiful pieces of clothes ever designed is a struggle.  Dati, I would spend half an hour doing my face and my hair so I would look at least presentable (and hopefully sophisticated) but now I just don lip balm and tie my hair in an effortless ponytail.  There were even mornings in the recent past that I don’t shower or even wash my face.  Now I don’t even polish my black heels.

At our monthly meetings, I’d rather stay in the back, wishing I were somewhere else.  I’d wish we’d just go straight to the schedules and adjourn.  Then, when I see how many serves I have, possibly more than anyone, I’d curse inwardly.  Always on the verge of crying and breaking down, I secretly (but not anymore now) hate that I’ve been doing First Fridays ever since I learned how to.  I’d scream inside: ano bang tingin niyo saken, walang pamilyang kailangan asikasuhin sa umaga?!  Or, alternatively, kayo lang ba ang busy?

I learned to despise Kuya Sarsi’s “lika n holy hour ngaun” messages.  When I used to be at church at least twenty minutes before the Mass, I’m now a buzzer beater.  I don’t even have time to, or bother to, pray the Panalangin Bago Magmisa.

Then came the judgments.  It turns out, for some, I’m not good enough.  In the beginning, I only cared about the idea that God was smiling at me for what I was doing.  I didn’t care whether I was appreciated by people because I knew God appreciated my efforts.  But later the criticisms and gossips and parinig and sumbong just turned too much, eventually alienating me, numbing me, making me think, if you’re so good why don’t you do it?, making me wish they’d just kick me out instead.

And then came the envy.  I started to envy the people who have lives, who own their mornings and their weekends.  I envy the anonymous parishioners who have the freedom to be at the Mass without the fuss.  I even started to envy those who do my much-needed yoga… because apparently Catholics must not.

Gone is the reader who Father Peter praised to be “very good,” coupled with his happy smile and two thumbs up.  In her place is this spiteful, empty robot who can’t even remember the readings of the day when she leaves the church.  In her place is this person who wishes she can go back to the invisible anonymous churchgoer.

I’m so tired.

Today is First Friday.  On First Fridays, we confess.  This was what I confessed and I’m confessing this again now.

I’m sorry for feeling this way.

I’m sorry for being ungrateful.

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To Inoo, My Prince

You should’ve turned eight yesterday, my love. I should’ve made a cake for you. I was saving the carob for yesterday, because dogs can’t have chocolate, and Chloe Coscarelli has this recipe for pupcakes I was dying for you to try. But I didn’t bake. I didn’t even cook your favorites. I don’t know, my prince. Not a lot of things interest me anymore since you flew to heaven. Most of the time I dread going home because you wouldn’t be there to welcome me. Or waking up because I wouldn’t be seeing you anyway. Truth is, I also find it hard to pray because I’m still secretly angry at God for not letting you live for 200 years when that’s all I was asking for. I hate our resident priest, too, you know, because he said dogs can’t love so I shouldn’t love you. The only beautiful thing that’s happening now is Uncle Francis. He takes care of mawmaw as you asked. He still includes you in our prayers. Does God tell you? The rest I don’t really care about.

I’m wondering, my love, when do I move on? But more importantly, do I really want to move on? Do I want that, to not miss you anymore? To slowly forget? I remember someone saying how our pain is self-inflicted. This could be. But I wouldn’t want this any other way.

I want to remember you forever. If that means I’d mourn for you forever, I want that, too. I love you.

Do you remember these pictures? These were when you jumped on the bed and let me hug you until I fell asleep. For the last time. 

Mawmaw’s Goodbye, 17 Days Later

On April 29, seven years, eight months, and eight days since I carried him in my arms for the first time, the handsome white and black dog with the broken heart on his right died.  He died and I wasn’t there.  At 7:02 p.m., all I, his mother, stuck in traffic from the airport, could do was weep in silence “Father into your hands I commend his spirit” as the joy and meaning of my life cried his last cry a hundred and thirty kilometers away.  When I arrived at 10 to what I used to call home – for it’s all different now that the one-dog welcoming committee and the master and the heir is gone – all I could do was take his still warm body in my arms, say how handsome he was even then for he didn’t look like he suffered, feel awed at the fact he wasn’t heavy at all despite his being fat, and bury him.

I’m not a person who prays for much, and, although I forced him to make pinky promises with me, truth is I didn’t have the illusion that my Inoo will live forever.  All I prayed for was for me to be there when God decided to take him, so I can hold his paw, so I can lay with him on the floor, so I can shower him with kisses, so I can whisper to his good ear a million times that I love him and that he is loved and that Mawmaw loves him, so I can sing for him our kunikuni song, so I can hug him even if it meant I can because he would have no more strength to resist.  Because I had hoped being there will ease his pain and sadness.  Because I had hoped if I prayed hard and if I went to church as much as I can and if I served at least four times a week, God would listen.  Because I know that I am his life as much as he is mine.  Yet God decided that my Inoo should go exactly when I wasn’t and I can’t be there.

I don’t get His logic.

Or maybe I do.  Maybe it’s God’s way of reminding me that even if I go to church everyday, even if I pray hard for this one wish, even if I serve, in the end, it is His will… His timing.  Even the fact that I don’t eat animals and advocate not eating animals couldn’t change His mind.

Maybe this is God’s way of reminding me to cherish every second I am with those I love, because I never know when they or I will be gone.

Maybe this is God’s way of teaching me to pay attention to signs.

Or maybe this is punishment because I had been neglectful the last three months.  But no.  God is not that kind of god.

But I refuse to go there.  I refuse to reduce Inoo to a set of faith or life lessons.

All I want is to do is grieve: grieve the fact that the meaning and joy of my life is gone.

I love you, Devil Dog.  Now you can watch over Mawmaw 24/7.  Wait for me.  If Catholic heaven doesn’t allow dogs in it, wait for me by the gates of dog heaven instead.

What Makes a Keeper

Keeper (Urban Dictionary)

  • Someone who would make better marriage material than baby momma material.
  • Someone who you’d likely spend the rest of your life with if you found him or her.

What makes a keeper?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

Drink beer or drink champagne.  Choose bonfire over candlelight.  Don pants or a frilly dress.  Be one of the boys or be a lady.  Wear makeup or don’t.  Cook or bake or don’t.  Laugh out loud or be prim and proper.  Straddle his motorcycle or ride like a Disney damsel.  Sit on the passenger or drive.  Or walk.  Reply at once or take your time.  Call or don’t.  Be skinny, be athletic, be fab.  Choose a traditionally female job or a traditionally male job.  Or don’t have a job.  Do your hair however you choose.  Be loud or be quiet.  Pay for your meals if you wish.  Stay the night or don’t.  Like kids or don’t.  Be a princess or a cowgirl.

Remember, you are not defined by whether or not he thinks you’re a keeper.  You are in charge of your womanhood.

After all, getting a guy to marry you isn’t the purpose of your life.

Happy women’s month.