Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Search for Paradise

As I placed one foot forward, the dried leaves crunched underneath the soles of my rubber shoes.

I was kinda lost.

I checked my compass for the umpteenth time, assuring I'd been heading north. 

I looked up, searching for the sun. T'was there, hiding behind the branches and leaves of surrounding tall trees. Some ray met my eyes and it hurt. I looked away and thought I'd rather get hurt by light than stumble and wound myself in darkness. 

I pushed the shoulder straps of my backpack, pressing it tightly on my back. Then I moved forward. 

It was my first time to travel alone. I'd no one to lean on, just myself and maybe, the trees. 

Though forest trees looked all the same, I knew that each tree has a unique groove. I thought of them as the most competitive and most graceful dancing creatures long time ago. However, one day in a huge disco room, God dared them to play stop dance. For some reason, He stopped the music for a very long time and left them steady on their places. Maybe, God knew that someone like me would travel alone in the woods. Maybe He wanted me to play the music in my mind and dance with the trees to reach my destiny. But the moment I get tired and stop dancing, I'd freeze like the trees and get lost. That was what had just happened, I guess.

The sun seemed to want to help me too. The sun was my friend. I walked with it each day. For as long as it was there, things were bright and clear. But the sun was very playful. Hide and seek was its favorite game. I did not mind seeking it every time, for that made me happy more than the sun thought.

My goal was to see the Promised land, as they called it. I had no idea how it looked like. They just told me t'was going to be a Paradise. I wanted to be in Paradise; no, I desired to be in Paradise. They advised me to always go north . . . no matter what.   

I didn't know how it all occurred, but in the next few minutes I found myself sliding on a slippery slope and bumping myself here and there to rocks, tree trunks and some sharp edgy branches. Wrong move. Loose foothold. Mud. Trap. No matter what that was, something apparently went really really wrong. Stupid. I realized t'was more painful to make a mistake in daylight when I could still see my path clearly. But it even hurt further to know that there was no one else to blame but myself.

I didn't know if I was still breathing. My stomach churned from the pull of gravity and fear and uncertainty. I couldn't locate where the painful body part was. I was too hurt; I just closed my eyes and held my body loose and free. I expected myself to worry because for sure, falling wouldn't lead me north. But only one thing reigned my mind - I wished I'd come out in one piece.

The next thing I knew, I was floating, half drenched in something wet and cold. A body of water, I thought. I could have panicked if not for the intense pain I was feeling. I didn't dare a move. Everything in me ached - my limbs, chest and head. Slowly, I opened my eyes.

I saw the sun. I saw my friend, ardent and dazzling on the vast blue sky just above me. This time, no tree leaves and branches blocked my sight. There were attractive clouds in fancy shapes around it, but the sun outshone their beauty. Its rays were outstretched like arms offering an embrace to each creature in the world. Its light was blinding yet calm and nourishing. Few birds came out to my view and played in the sky. They looked like touching the sun and teasing it to play with them. It was the most calming sight I'd ever seen. Suddenly, I forgot all about pain. I never thought my friend, sun, was that beautiful.

And then I remembered the Promised land. And the Paradise. "Am I lost? Will I ever reach it?" I almost blurted the words out in worry.

And in some kind of playback, I heard them telling me, "Always go north."

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Computer Games Taught Me

They say I'm a gamer.

Actually, playfulness is one consistent and deepening yet (for some) inapparent trait I have in me. I guess it's basically rooted in the joys of my childhood. When I was little, I used to wake up each morning with only one goal in mind - to play.

The first time I laid my hands on our first ever personal computer, I almost glued myself to it. I got addicted to Sims (by EA games) - the original old plain one. I marveled at its graphics since it looked so real. Moreover, I loved the idea of building a character and family of your own, of creating and designing a house where they could live, and of manipulating the characters as if you, yourself, are in the game. Since I used to share the same computer with my siblings, I had no choice but to spend limited time playing. Nonetheless, I continued loving the game even until my sisters got fed up of it. So when I had all the chance, I played Sims more than I used to and thought about it a lot that I could say I mastered it. I came to memorize where the items in the 'buy' option were placed. I used cheats without looking at the cheat codes. I learned to navigate the program fast and easy. From time to time, we upgraded the game until it leveled up to an expansion pack. I was loving Sims more with the upscale and all when our computer crashed for the first time. We lost all the files . . . including Sims.

Although I got a bit devastated with my loss, I easily recovered through the online crash cart game, big fish games, 'dash' games, pokemon, Red Alert, Counter Strike and a lot more which were soon installed in the computer. I realized t'was more fun to have it all in variety. Different graphics, different rules, different characters, different of everything. I felt proud for being like a generalist. Unfortunately, one day, a virus got our computer really ill that all the files, including the games, had to be erased.

I played the best computer games ever when, finally, my parents bought me a laptop of my own. Although I promised myself to take care of it and not to fill it in with games like I used to, I still had in it Sims 2, then Ragnarok, then Diablo and eventually, several others which I barely remember. Initially, I thought I was the happiest kid in the world. I had absolute control of my time. I dribbled my fingers on the keys and did heaps of clicks whenever and wherever I wanted to. During vacation, I played all day as if the laptop was on fire.

However, gradually, things changed.

I started to get envious of my characters. I thought that I made them better than me. My sim already maxed her skills, was on top of her career, got a great family and lived in a luxurious house. I wished I was as successful and fulfilled as her. Elsewhere, my Sorceress was clad in highly resistant, durable, gold helmet, armor and boots with full gems and perfectly combined runes in it, was using a gold powerful staff, had its frozen orb at 15 and was in the Great Marsh of Nightmare Level. I wanted to be as strong as her, I thought. My archer got into third job and had become a sniper. She was nicely dressed in a durable and highly resistant to poison armor and got this card clipped in her so she could release arrows as fast as thunder. Her falcon was the strongest bird that could strike 1000+ continuous damages in just a split second. I hoped I was as experienced as her. There I was, bringing these characters to greatness but robbing off myself of it.

Little by little, I let go of the keys and mouse. I lessened my playing time and increased my reading time. Soon, I uninstalled Sims 2 in my computer . . . followed by Ragnarok. (Don't ask me about Diablo) One day, I was left alone in the house. I chanced to spend that time thinking and reflecting. I sat in the middle of the room and looked around me. Suddenly, I realized that I can be just like the characters I've played. I realized that life is like a computer game played in 5D. You, yourself, should be your character. This time, you don't need keyboard and mouse to navigate - just your senses, mind, heart and initiative. Of course, there is the disadvantage of not getting an overhead view of what's happening. But of course, just like other computer games, life has defects and glitches too. You, yourself, are going to feel the difficulty of honing a skill, of hunting useful items, of earning simeleon, gold or zeny, of fighting an enemy, of losing life, mana and stamina. But if you wish to fight in the feared arena and win, or reach the highest level and finish the act, you'd do all you can to resurrect yourself and start over again.

Well, they say I'm a gamer. Indeed, I am.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Other People Flaunt Their Strengths

I used to think that some people need their heads banged on the wall.

I like windy days but not "windy" people. "Windy" people are those who're aware that they have something worthy to be proud of and flaunt it right to other people's faces. They have this apparent overflowing confidence to the point of (unintentionally) making other people feel bad about themselves. 

You won't know if a person is "windy" until you talk to them. Usually, you could discern just by the person's extremely rising or ebbing tone of voice, his/her choice of words (often plenty of pronoun "I") and most importantly, the content of his/her sentences. I've been seeing, meeting and talking to such people almost everyday. I actually used to admire them . . . but then hate them, and now, I think I understand them.

I don't know if it's true for most "windy" people, but based on my observations and occasional conversations with them, they are merely compensating. These folks are fully aware of what's good about them as much as they're fully conscious of what's bad about them. So to bury the bad things down to prevent others from noticing, they magnify the good things. Well, for most parts, they're not doing it for other people but for themselves. They need a majority to confirm that they're personifying the "best version" of themselves wholly and clearly.

Along side with compensation, these people are usually perfectionists. They want to clear themselves out of their "bad sides". They tend to hide their weaknesses and efforts from people's knowledge. They instinctively defend themselves when committed a mistake, and they declare that everything's okay when frustrated or disappointed. Most of them can easily notice other people's flaws. Aside from their high standards, pointing out dirt to others' eyes can be their way of keeping their eyes out of their own dirt.

Gathering the two reasons above, let's say that these are all results of some dark history. Such people might once was cruelly treated by their parents, relatives, teachers or classmates, and that could have affected their self-esteem. Maybe, they used to be punished for failing marks or even for committing simple mistakes. Or it could be that they had an embarrassing experience which bore heavily in their minds and affected their self-concept. We can't know for sure what the cause is but probably, there is always a reason behind each behavior; we were born with minds as clear as empty slates.

Overall, I can say that "windy" people usually have the purest intentions. However, since they're more concerned about always putting their best version forward, they become insensitive of other people's feelings. "Windy" people may appear selfish or self-centered, but actually it is their insecurities which are killing them inside. It is their selves whom they're fighting against. Inwardly, they have a difficult, bloody battle
between the good and bad version of themselves. What they need is someone who could bring that long lost peace. Perhaps, only an accepting and loving person can do that. 

Without understanding, there is no acceptance. Without acceptance, there is no love.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Why Keep a Journal?

I was fixing my cabinet, one afternoon, when I saw my old journals piled in the corner of one of my drawers. I took the one above and blew the dust off its front cover. T'was a notebook I bought in Papemelroti way back in highschool. "Live life to the fullest," it said. I leafed its yellow pages and felt its crispness between my fingers. No detached papers. No brown edges. Good thing I was able to preserve it well.

From time to time, I stopped and read some pages. I saw how my penmanship and writing style differed as I aged. I read fascination and innocence between my words. Little by little, I saw my old self being formed in front of me as if I was turning back time. I remembered lying with my stomach down on the floor, enduring the warmness of the room and filling the notebook's pages rapidly with my thoughts. I remembered how bad I fixed my hair during that time and how often my eyeglasses slipped down my nose because it wasn't properly fitted. I remembered the thin fingers holding the black pen and the thin wrist which moved as I filled line after line. I saw how my brows knotted down my eyes while writing. I saw how my facial expression changed from sentence to sentence. I felt the old Elaine's joys and desires. I shared with her fears, doubts and worries. For the first time in a long time, I felt how it was to be the old me again. I missed the old me. I missed her because once in my life, I came to the point of hating her. I thought that she was too weak to survive in this kind of world.    

I turned the notebook to its last page and realized that I filled the whole thing with my writings. I put down the notebook and closed my eyes. I know it's not a good habit to stuck useless things inside your cabinet until they get old and dusty; some things are not meant to age just like cheese and wine. However, I realized that it goes the other way around with journals. They're the priceless treasures one can keep for oneself. Keeping journals is more than keeping a photo album. Words recount not only images of a memory but also the thoughts and feelings of the person in it. For me, reading that old journal felt like being in that exact place and time. It was not like just looking into the history but being in the history itself.

The simple reminiscing rendered me more therapeutic effects than I expected. It made me whole. I learned to understand the old me. I learned to appreciate her . . . and love her. More so, I finally came to understand my present self . . . and appreciate myself . . . and love myself. I never thought that I had to live until such a long time to get an unbiased third person point of view of who I was. I never thought that that unknown part of me, which I so long recognized had been missing, can only be found in my old journal. T'was more than completing a puzzle with a puzzle piece. T'was even more than finding a chest of gold. I don't know how else to describe it, but it was like I lost a part of my soul, found it crying in a corner, cheered it up, asked it to join with me again and got me whole. :-)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Give Me Up

She dusted off her skirt and sat on a bench under a tree. That day, the wind was blowing fast and heavy. Looking up, she saw the sun shining brightly behind a couple of huge clouds. Oh goodness. It was past lunch, and she hadn't eaten anything yet. With a sigh, she slipped her feet out of her heeled black shoes.

"Oh, blisters." She uttered dryly.

Few people were passing by her, but she didn't care how she looked anymore - oily face, sweaty armpits and all scrunched up clothing. Her long raven hair was disheveled, dancing with the wind in strands. She pulled her bag close to her body . . . tightly, and thought she needed a hug.

"I'm tired." She admitted to herself.

It wasn't a declaration of retreat but of reality. It had been several months now and still without a success. Time seemed to be testing her grit, she thought. She stared blankly on the green scenic view toward her. It helped her rest her eyes and her body . . . and mind . . . and soul. For the first time, she forgot about her plans, goals, worries, frustration and disappointment. For the first time, it was emptiness which reigned within her. It wasn't a good feeling, though. It made her languid and feel lifeless. That sense of emptiness deepened quickly and piqued her vulnerable self. 

"Why?" She broke the silence and teared up a bit.

Suddenly, she realized that she'd been running away from something she knew she deeply wanted. For the sake of her loved ones, she tried living in a world where she did not seem to belong. She wanted to be happy, but couldn't afford to be the cause of someone's heartache. Moreover, not living her dream seemed to be a pain too great to bear. It was a bewildering tug of war between her dream and others' need of her. T'was a war between two different forms of love and suffering.

She zipped open her bag and clutched the rosary inside it. Desperately, she pulled out a pen and a piece of paper. On top of it, she wrote:

"Give Me Up"