Category Archives: [Life] Lessons Remembered

Alone


There are many things in life that you go through alone.  Being born, surviving the death of a loved one, duties at work, your thoughts, your emotions, writing your own paper…authentic happiness, getting sick… death.

It is so amazing that amidst the billions of people in this earth, no one else goes through the same thing as you.

(Terminal, Ecoland, 05.09.15)

—- unfinished

Christmas Musings


Christmas Eve is just a few hours away.  Pretty soon the quiet will settle and I will have the house all to myself.

A couple of my friends have been incessantly inviting me to spend time and have Noche Buena with them.  Repeatedly telling me (and others) matter-of-factly that I’m spending Christmas with them.  However, I politely declined each offer.  I have such great friends who are so sweet, so giving, and so loving.  I know they mean well and they don’t want me to be on my own for Christmas.  But I don’t want to be an imposition.  And frankly, I prefer to be at home for this season.  To be closer to the memories of my parents.  Where I can be myself. (Put it this way, it’s easier to treat this season in a normal note rather than be reminded of things that have gone.)

When my parents were still alive, we didn’t have any Christmas traditions (the must-have foods like what’s commonly commercialized on TV).  As long as there was food on the table, and we went to the Christmas Eve mass that was already enough.  It was just like any normal day at home.  So I guess our celebration was just downplayed.  I guess as I grew up and we all grew older, Christmas was more celebrated in solemnity rather than being a party.

For someone who’s sometimes tagged by friends as a “social butterfly” in most occasions, I honestly prefer the quiet of my home during this Christmas.  I guess the past few years (since the time of my dad’s first hospitalization) I’ve lost my moxie in holiday preparations, cheers, and even spirit.  But then again, my Christmases were usually spent at my grandma’s house with my relatives.

Wow… I forgot about those memories…

Anyway, now that I’m currently on my own I should start on making my own traditions.  Maybe go out and ride my bike, turn up the volume on my music, visit my neighbors, play dress-up, map out my lifeplans… Lol. Well, whatever I may have planned, it’ll be something of my own.

To my bffs, if you’re reading this, please don’t worry about me.  It’s cute (and annoying!) that you’re constantly monitoring me but I am totally fine being on my own for this season.  I know (and you keep on reminding me) that I’m not an imposition and that I’m practically part of your family but I can’t help feeling like a spectator from the outside-looking-in.  And there are some seasons I have to celebrate on my own.  You guys enjoy your own traditions while I celebrate (for now) .  I’ll see you real soon!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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From the Outside Looking In: Siblings


I will never know how it feels like to grow up living with brothers and/or sisters.  Being raised as an only child, sibling dynamics (the unspoken bond of closeness, the rivalry, and the long history of memories).  I guess I can just speculate how it goes and will always be a spectator on the sidelines… someone from the outside looking in.

Although I have 3 older half-brothers, my relationship with them is not exactly the kind that most people who grew up with their siblings (on the same house)  have.  And honestly, many factors of the years didn’t do much to bridge the gap I have with them.  Civil, yes.  Comforting, yup… a little bit.  Close?  Not exactly.

My older half-brother – Kuya* A – came over to visit this afternoon. (*Kuya in the Philippines means older brother.) Normally, we’d just do the usual pleasantries that I’ve gotten used to over the years.  Most often (especially when Mom was still very sick, and during the weeks after she passed on), his visit would include me offering dinner to him and discussing standard matters such as how my Dad’s side of the family is doing.  But this time, Kuya A was very, very talkative.  He was talking about his older brother, my Kuya J, who is now in New Zealand and about the rushed decision in leaving the country.  He seemed very concerned about Kuya J’s welfare overseas with my 2 nieces (Kuya J’s daughters) left to the care of his in-laws in Manila.  Then from that topic, he veered off into recalling his childhood and how they grew up under the care of our Lola (grandmother).

I was keeping to myself the whole time but was honestly fascinated by his stories of growing up.  How Kuya J would cry when they’d be running late for school in elementary, how he would prepare Kuya A’s stuff for school so that they would be late and practically dragging him hurriedly as they walk from their house to the school.  Then to the stories of how Kuya J defended him against punishments dished out by Lola because he came home late or caused a lot of commotion at home.  How Kuya J defended him from their eldest brother, Kuya M when he was being his obnoxious self.  It was only today that I knew about Kuya J’s “violent” side when Kuya A said Kuya M got a nosebleed when Kuya J punched him because of something he did to Kuya A.  After the childhood stories, he continued on to Kuya J’s lovelife and “love” problems with then girlfriend (and current wife).  One thing struck me most… when, after an argument with the gf when Kuya J brought along Kuya A to watch a movie with them, Kuya J said “Mas mawala ka pa, kesa kay A.”  (I’d rather lose you, rather than A.)

Blood brothers.  Siblings.

I saw my half-brothers in a whole new light tonight. It became so easy to see how they grew up to be the persons that they are (behavior-wise and personalityp-wise).  And even if, as adults, we’ve remained pretty close I would never know nor experience living a life with siblings… growing up with them together, sharing stories and secrets of childhood, and truly being comfortable in just being myself to them.

I will be forever mystified by the prospect of the relationship between siblings.  Regardless of how close I may be with my friends and no matter how “included” I may be with their family and however close I may be to their brothers and/or sisters…  And no matter how akin to a sibling-type relationship we may have, it would not be the same.

And I feel I missed out on something very wonderful.

P.S.  If I were to report on Alfred Adler’s birth order theory in class again, I’d cite my Kuyas as example.  However, I think Mr. Adler would have a field day in breaking down my birth order – the only child, the youngest, the eldest.  Have fun Mr. Adler!

Labels


I remember how surprised and a little bit impressed the Guidance Head of my University was during our interview for the Peer Counselors Society – a club I wanted to join in college – when I was able to explain the importance of putting words on feelings.  I said that “when we are able to identify feelings, we acknowledge and accept them for what they are.  Thus leading to addressing it properly.”

I guess that got the nod of approval for me to be one of the few who became club members.

When I started working in the academe, working with young children proved how important it was for them to put a name on how and what they feel in order to help them process it.  Last year, it became detrimental that a child acknowledges how he feels to help him resolve conflict among his peers and within himself.  Sometimes it was easy, but during other times… it required more rationalizing.

For those who worked with different individuals, I think you know what I mean.  The use of proper terms and correct labels can make or break the discussion.

But then labels, when attached to someone’s personality and not the behavior nor emotions, become factors of contention.  Recently I’ve been hearing a number of concerns from my co-workers on how easily others would complain about the behavior of pupils in their class (just because they’ve self-diagnosed or heard that may have some special needs).  It has become bothersome how quickly they put their hands up in surrender when a child misbehaves in the classroom, conveniently complaining that they can’t manage them in class because the kid won’t listen nor participate.

Take Rod for example.  He’s a new student and has transferred from a small school of a population of 16 pupils in his class (from his previous school), to an estimated current class size of 35 pupils in a very big school.  Add to that he is raised by his fraternal grandparents.  His parents are not together.  He sees his dad when he’s in town and has never seen his mother for a very long time.  He’s an only child and spends most of his time with his grandparents.  He’s not allowed to play computer during weekdays but is allowed to watch YouTube during weekends.  During the few times I’ve observed him, he tends to put up walls when he gets scolded, or when his classmates keep on reminding him on how to behave.  The same behavior has also been observed by his grandparents as they disclosed during one of our meetings whenever Rod gets reprimanded.  He only eases up when he is approached in a more calm manner.

It’s only been 3 months since the start of the school year.  And I believe he’s still in his period of adjustment.  So many stimuli around him, accompanied with so many changes, and so many baggages he’s carrying in his little 6-year old shoulders.  During the conference I had with his guardians.  I suggested behavior modification (complete with contract signing and token-reward system) as initial intervention.  I found no need for referral to an expert or a DevPed during this time yet.  The grandparents were quite cooperative, and I was very optimistic.  I updated and informed the persons involved of the plan.  However, I was much surprised when a certain individual kept on egging me on that I was aware of Rod having special needs.  Which, in turn, I explained again that I only saw his emotional need to be very high.  No need to label his behavior of not listening to the teacher, and standing up during class hours as AD or whatsoever knowing that a number of teachers were able to manage him well during their own subject’s time.

Since when has effective classroom management been replaced by convenience just so the need for processing be circumvented?  Shouldn’t it be a collaborative effort to help address the concern?  Why is it suddenly convenient to put a label on pupils that they have special needs and should be diagnosed to address their behavior?  On my own observation?  Yes, they do have special needs.  But not the kind that needs to be assessed by experts.  The special need that I am talking about pertains to their need to be understood.  To understand the individual contexts each child is coming from.

I guess that’s the challenge now.  To know when to use the proper labels, and when labels are proper… and necessary.

Counseling and Me


Some people think that counselors have an easy job. Often, others think that they (counselors) just stay in the comforts of their own offices and relax until they are needed. I beg to differ. Counseling is more than just a profession. It is a vocation – a calling.

Counseling is a tough job

Counseling requires skills and capabilities that are measured not by the quantity of the output, but of its quality. There is no TOS (Table of Specifics) nor general lesson plans that can be followed in helping each individual as they encounter the road bumps of their lives. As counselors journey with their clients, they are brought to deepest and darkest moments of these special people who are in their most vulnerable moments and become witnesses of the inner strength and revel in their potential as they struggle in overcoming their issues.

Counseling is for the strong and open of heart

Counseling is like believing in the magic of miracles. It is with the belief and the knowledge that just by being there – actively listening, quietly accepting – we make the world a better place for those who are lost and confused. As we see the each little challenge and success of our clients, we become empowered in being the best that we can be. Always looking at the bright side of the horizon.
As clients open up to us, although we are one with them in their journey, it does not break us down as humans but build our character as we are called to serve.

But most of all, counseling is all about knowing your own person – identifying strengths and weaknesses and making the most of improving yourself. It’s about being genuinely you without invading someone’s unique individuality. It is achieving harmony and balance between the possible and the impossible.

“We are sent into the world to live to the full everything that awakens within us and everything that comes toward us.” – John O’ Donohue

Here’s to the Crazy Ones


Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs

My Happy Place


Everyone has a “Happy Place”.  Somewhere they can go to when the heart is stricken with sadness, loneliness, and fear.  A place full of possibilities and promises… where acceptance is never a foreign word.  A place of nurturing, of genuine care, love, respect, and great faith in you as an individual plying along the busy streets of life.

When I hear people say “I’m going to my happy place now” I always pictured them transported into a large meadow of the greenest grass… of birds flying along the horizon, flowers blown by the breeze as they dance to the rhythm of the wind, and dream lighting illuminating the scenery.  Then cue an orchestra of sweet music of course.

So… “cartoony” right?  Well, even I couldn’t visualize a more concrete place in my mind’s eye except for that very elementary and surreal picture.   Sure, I consider my home a sanctuary while growing up.  I’ve also made my workplace cubicles, rooms, and office spaces as personalized as I can to give me a sense of comfort during life’s rollercoaster ride.  It gives a momentary respite, yes, but I still end up searching for that place when the little stresses build up into something more.

During one ride home, as I was slowly rehashing another eventful day of the social kind, I was drawn to checking old chat messages from my friends when an epiphany struck me.  Like the sound of echoes reverberating in the deepest caverns of my brain saying “happy place… happy place” – my little crate of worms that I turn to when I need a good laugh, a place to vent, and just be myself.  A small corner in this technologically advanced world that a couple of my friends (some who are very far away) and I made to be able to keep in touch.  And since then, it has become my sanctum – my source of smiles and comfort  when life brings me down.

To clear up the risk of sounding crazy, let me just say that it’s not just that little niche that makes it meaningful but what it symbolizes.  The long-lasting friendships, the endless meaningful conversations, the teasing and bantering, and surprising paths to self-discovery… things that can never be measured.   It is a reminder that no matter how I may feel and regardless where life may take me, there is always, ALWAYS that one place that I can go to for comfort and clarity and set me back on my course.

My happy place.  A segue between reality and realization.

Thank you (you know who you are!) for being a part of my happy place!!!

Quick Question:  What/Where’s your happy place?

(Un)Planned


Since it was a holiday today, I had my day planned out this morning.   Work on my assignments in some of my post-graduate subjects (three backlog assignments to be exact)… finalize my teambuilding module for the Math department… accomplish my bridesmaid duties… catch some sleep.

As I went down for breakfast, Mom and Jeany (my cousin who’s living with us) were talking at the table.  Still shaking off the lethargy in my body, I just quietly sat there eating a piece of bibingka while listening to their talk and contemplating which homework I should finish off first.  Suddenly Mom asked me if I could accompany my cousin in visiting her father along with my other cousin – Pie – who was coming over for a visit.  Seeing that my mom really wanted me to go, I couldn’t say no.  Family would take precedence over my homework especially during holidays.  (Actually… partly procrastination, and partly the call of having reasons in going out).  Jeany had to run some errands and Pie was still on her way so I had enough time though for a head start in finishing off 2 of my homework.

We had lunch by noon and were discussing how to get to my uncle.  You see, he’s currently detained at the City Jail.  Not something major though… domestic disputes that spiraled out of control and the law high on its heels.  Jeany hasn’t gone to visit her father, and it felt like my responsibility to be with her.  Thankfully Pie came along too.  I haven’t been to the city jail…EVER.  So I don’t know where it was to be exact and what their rules and regulations are.  I remembered having met someone – a co-volunteer during typhoon Pablo – whom I befriended who works there.

She gave me these information:

1. Bring valid ID. 2. DO NOT wear: YELLOW or BLACK top, Sando/sleeveless tops, shorts, and tight-fit pants. 3. Foil wraps, knife, and metal spoons and forks are not allowed inside the facility. 4. All visitors are subject for SEARCHING. 5. Visiting hours: 01:00PM – 04:00PM (Tuesday – Friday) 09:00AM – 04:00PM (Saturday and Sunday) No Visits (Monday)

Good thing that I asked.  My other cousin and I wore yellow shirts so we had to change.  We bought food for my uncle then went off to BJMP.

I admit being at a loss when we got there.  Although I expected the jailers/officers to be terse in their interaction, what transpired before we got inside was something you’d only get to see in old Pilipino movies of people who were visiting inmates.  i can accept that everything they do was just Standard Operating Procedures.  I get that.  I have no problems with that.  But it doesn’t change how I felt when they did their “SEARCHING”.  It wasn’t something I had expected really.  And they did it TWICE!!! Pie was lucky enough not to get in (according to the officer’s standards, her pants were capri and therefore not allowed passage inside).  She had to wait outside for us and look after our bags while Jeany and I went ahead.  After a couple more setbacks (and the second “SEARCHING”), we finally got to sat down with my uncle.

Now I’m not particularly close to any of my relatives (on both sides) but I guess time and age allows you to be more observant and sensitive to your environment.  The father-daughter moment unfolding in front of me was… heart-wrenching.  The type you see in movies.  Regret.  Shame.  Uncertainty.  Out of duty.  I felt like a spectator.  I wasn’t sure if they would talk to each other at all if I left them on their own.  I guess, now I know why my cousin brought me along.  To be the icebreaker.

it feels weird to talk about grown-up stuff with uncles.  Even weirder to be placed in their collection of pedestals.  He was pouring out his frustrations and disappointments… and in that moment, I saw a glimpse of my mom’s little brother still peeking through the guise of a golden-aged man.  It was a cry for sympathy, for care, for love.  A cry of regret, deprivation, and self-doubt.  But then again, that’s the unconditional positive regard influence.  I never knew my uncle very well.  Just from the stories and one particular event when I was young.  That’s another story to tell though.

We talked some more about what happened (the WHY it happened), his plans after this adversity, and what to do for the moment.  I asked my cousin to jump at every opportunity during our conversations and was lucky enough to see them reach out, albeit adroitly.  When the signal for 4:00PM sounded, we bid our goodbyes and went on our way.  Thank God they didn’t do their “SEARCHING” anymore in going out.  (Twice the experience is more than enough for trauma to set in!)

Pie was waiting by the roadside eatery.  With so much adrenaline still pumping throughout our bodies, the three of us decided to walk off the energy first until we reached the end of the block.

It was a new experience going out with my cousins as who we are right now.  Sure we hung out when we were much younger, but this was different.  Being able to talk about family without having to describe each and everyone and finding out a little bit more about yourself is just surprising… to say the least.  But that’s another story to tell.

Something I [re]learned today, sometimes things don’t go as you planned for initially.  You fall down… make mistakes… face trials… lose sight of yourself at some point… make up for lost time.  But no matter what happens along the way, it’s the process… the learning you gain along the way… and discovering more about yourself – about who you are and what you’re made of.

Gestalt Prayer


Been running into Gestalt theories lately.  Thought I’d share this:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)

 

Another Close Encounter


Sometimes, all it takes is an invitation to be able to experience something communal and yet so uniquely your own in appreciating life’s little wonders.The Student Development Center (SDC) is one venue that provides opportunities in seeing the world in a new light.  As one of the representatives of SDC, I am a witness to that.

It was with the invite from COPERS (Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services) for a debriefing of soldiers formerly assigned in Basilan, that I reached another set of “first moments/milestones” in my life.  1. Visit Butuan City.  2. Travel overnight for volunteer activities.  3. Debrief soldiers in the likelihood of the “torya-torya” module of Dr. Gail Tan Ilagan, Ph.D. (author of the book War Wounded).

The travel was last Sunday (June 23, 2013) was quite uneventful (mainly because I slept all throughout the trip – from 12:00MN to 6:00AM approximately – with a few waking moments in between) since it was the ever-famous “Nonoy Legend” who was our designated driver on the trip, making sure we were all safe and sound in the van.  We arrived in Butuan City roughly around 6AM.  Had our breakfast in Dottie’s , took a couple of snapshots, and went on our way to our destination.

Arriving at the camp, we were warmly greeted by the officers and had our short introductions.  While we were taking a couple of minutes rest in our transient facility’s room, my roommates and I were able to discuss how to get on with the “torya-torya” (as some of them were new volunteers) and my ever-ready GLH engaged in practicing activities that may help in the debriefing.

True enough… her skills were called for during the lull periods in between (as evidenced below):

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Ever-the-ready entertainer

Anyway, since there were only 20 volunteers accounted for and an estimated 360 soldiers to get to know better, the numbers became a bit overwhelming.  However, the actual number lessened so 15 of us were assigned to one team composed of 7 soldiers to talk to.

At first, I was having doubts on my capabilities… worrying that they might not want to talk to me about their life and if I would be of any help at all.  Or worse, would be at such a loss that I’d have to raise my own white flag in surrender!  Facilitating teambuilding I could handle, but this might be more than what I bargained for. Thankfully, the soldiers were very gallant and were easy to talk with that it felt like being able to see how they live their lives whenever they have operations.

Here are a couple of photos of the encounter.

Under the proverbial mango tree (not really a mango tree though).

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Team A

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Team Agila and Me

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The A Team

After all teams were gathered and closing remarks were said, time for some photo ops!

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Class Photo

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Class Photo… Wacky?

A surprise token of appreciation for volunteers.

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Copers Volunteers

Authentic Boodle fights.

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Boodle Fight!

A surprise token of appreciation.

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A Token Much Appreciated

Volunteers were also debriefed.

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Volunteer Debriefing

Sharing This One: Making use of what you have

Most times you always come prepared.  Other times… not.  Sometimes, starting and progressing in an activity are easily prepared.  It’s the wrapping up part that blocks you.  Like how you would be able to capture each person’s insight in one statement.  Words make you clumsy.  Nearing the end of my personal “torya-torya” with my team, panic started to creep into my psyche as to how I should make a fitting closure for our group.  Thankfully I had a pack of Mentos with me.

My story of the Mentos.

Imagine that you are a Mentos candy.  It has a hard outer shell.  Much like every person.  How we were raised, how we were trained, and what we’ve experienced make us strong, tough, and – sometimes – hardened.  But no matter how hard and unyielding the exterior may seem, on the inside of a Mentos candy is a soft and malleable core that can easily adapt and mold in any way.  So regardless how hardened we may be of whatever life throws us, in the core of our being, we can adapt well with the changes that may come.  It changes us and we become refreshed and come out renewed.  Be like a Mentos.

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A Mentos Moment… Be Like A Mentos

It has been a humbling experience in being able to meet the frontliners in the country’s defense.  To be witnesses of what each individual goes through for the service of others.  I truly admire their quiet reserve, candid openness, and their ability to rise up against the experiences that some people might see as dark and hopeless.  Sometimes it’s not the war that they fear.  But how civilians shun away from their presence… from fear perhaps?  Stereotypes?  May be.

So the next time you see a soldier, take time to say “Hi” to them.  Your smile and warm greeting will definitely go a long, long way.

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