Jar of Hearts

It is no secret that last year was a hard one for me and the rest of the family. I spilled my grief and tears over this site like a super typhoon with no sign of letting up. The colours of the rainbow faded into grey. 

In that state, it was hard for me to look up and see the sky which used to give me so much joy. I am either hunched over looking at the pavement or staring straight ahead with my mind mercifully blank of any active thoughts. 

It was hard to pick up the brush again and make something beautiful apart from what was required of me. True, the technical skill and preseverance were still there but the heart is somehow missing. My usual happy literary muse abandoned me without a word.  What was left was my angsty muse. This made holding on and developing a thought extra hard. Being inspired to flex my literary muscles  was painful even at the best of times. For a while there, I almost permanently put my pen and paint brush as I no longer want to give affirmation to the pain and loss. 

I, the social butterfly, had withdrawn from most social activities as it was hard to smile when happiness doesn’t reach both my eyes and heart. It was hard to be around happy people. 

Then last year, one of my good friends, taught me something to help me cope. She challenged me to find a jar where I can put pieces of paper on which I am supposed to write the things that made me smile or happy. The cynic in me did not want to do it because I thought finding joy right now was unrealistic. 

But I discovered something … Grief does not work 24/7. Even when I am mostly on auto-pilot, there were instances of little joys. The moment I allowed myself to see and feel the possibility of happiness, more came my way. So I decided to write on tiny pieces the reasons for me smiling or feeling happy. 

Perhaps this is what the ‘Law of Attaction’ is all about. If I allow for happiness to come my way and I give out smiles then I will attract same. Slowly, my jar starts filling up and the smiles come easier. My literary muse returned and I started writing poems again. I started looking forward to the mornings and looking up the skies. Pictures of beautiful cloud formations started to fill my timeline. The gray world gave way to the colours of the rainbow.

 My hands started itching to pick up my paint brush so I can make something beautiful again. Music can be heard again in my flat and my poor telly has finally been put to work again. Life has a semblance of normality again. 

Oh the grief is still in the background and every now and then it will rear its ugly head to weigh down my heart just like today. But it doesn’t stay. It doesn’t linger. It does not encroached on my whole being. It leaves because there is always a reason to smile. Today was slightly trying – the lack of sleep and staring at raw grief made me an easy target for grief. I acknowledged the grief but I did not hold onto it. I like my colourful world so much better than the sad gray world I was in. 

When I got home, I looked at my Jar of Hearts and smiled – there had been plently of reasons to smile in the last two months and I am hopeful that more will come my way. 

Give love, receive love. Sow happiness, reap happiness. This is what my jar of hearts is all about. So if you made me smile, thank you for filling my jar of hearts. 


Ah Valentine’s day…again!

Having had only 4 hours of sleep last night and worked nonstop from7:30am to 20:00 today, I should be hitting the sack right now but… It is Valentine’s Day tomorrow but the hopeless (or hopeful as my friends insist that I should be) romantic in me insists on penning my thoughts. 

As I sit hear letting my fingers run over the keyboard, I am wondering what my mood in this piece should be. Shall I be bitter, exasperated as title seems to imply? Or should I stick to character and remain to be the optimist who believes in love?

Who am I kidding? Valentine’s day is a big deal for our family. I still remember the little heart lockets that our parents gave to us. I remember the gold  bracelet that Papa gave Mama with little hearts on it. We always make a point of having a special dinner on the day as whether at home or restaurant. Yep!We are a family of hopeless romantics. 

I think Valentines day is a big day in the Philippines. When I was in college, our barkada will always go for a pre or post Valentines outing. Even when my friends have their boyfriends – we adopted them to our group and bring them along too. I never felt alone during Valentines season because I was surrounded by friends and family who love me. 

So nowadays… well… earlier this evening when a colleague mentioned that it is actually Valentines’ day tomorrow, I replied ‘Bah! Humbug!’ But nothing can be further from the truth. In fact to unwind this evening, I actually baked my healthy muffins with heart designs. Whilst I might not have a Valentine tomorrow, I am more than happy to watch and immerse in the exchange of love by everybody else. 

So Happy Valentines’ day my friends and family. May your every day be filled with love. Remember to say ‘I love you’ – not only tomorrow but everyday as every single day should be a celebration of love. 

There Are No B Sides

In the age of social media, we are constantly flooded with snapshots of people’s lives. We are getting updates on people’s lives even if they are thousands of miles away, don’t talk to us personally and whether we like to know their news or not.

Social media is unfortunately one of my guilty pleasures. I am on facebook on a daily basis. It can be addictive so much so that some of my friends have willingly gave it up as their days are consumed by it.

Some years ago, I noticed that newsfeed was flooded with proud parents praising their kids’ academic successes. Hey, I do not blame them. If I had a kid, I’ll be trumpeting his/her successes too from the rooftops (just like what my Mama did for us). But it did keep me thinking… if all their kids are doing so well in school, are there average kids left? Another thing I  noticed are all the posts of dinner out and beautiful vacations taken by my friends. I would be lying if I won’t say that I haven’t thought that I wish to go or eat there too. Everybody’s lives seem to be made of roses only… then last night whilst watching NCIS,one of the characters,  Palmer said something that stuck with me, ‘in social media there are no B sides’.

No B side…I guess the millennials will not be able to relate to this one but for those of us who were already around when music comes along in long playing albums vinyls or cassette tapes, we get it. When albums were released decades ago, the singles, that are likely to be hits, are usually placed on A side and the rest are on the B side. So just like the way we thread on social media, we only want to present and remember our greatest hits. Even the biggest heartaches (e.g. death of a loved one) are part of the greatest hits of our lives the same way that ‘Someone like You’ by Adele was a hit. Heartaches that people can relate to also garner a lot of attention.

But what we miss out from those pictures are the tantrums or undercurrent tension between partners because all we see are the plastered smiles. All we see are the beautiful sceneries of a vacation and none of the pining by the photographer of wishing someone else was with her to share the experience. All we see are all the craziness of a night out and none of the hangover or the loneliness when all the noise and lights die out.

I guess it is part of our humanity to want to remember only the good parts. It helps us remain positive and make each day easier to go through. If we are asked to remember our childhood, our memories will most likely be basked in eternal sunshine.

But what we need to understand that the B side of our lives make us complete. It helps us appreciate the good things that happen to us. It teaches us important lessons that the A side won’t be able to impart. It helps us be grateful for the blessings received.

So, I guess it is important to remember when browsing through social media to stop comparing our lives to that of your friends who seem to be having the time of their lives all the time. You have to remember that you are only seeing their greatest hits and none of their B sides. We all have our own stories to tell and well… I guess we need to interact outside of social media to know people completely – B side and all.