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A Little Piece of Quiet

It’s past 10 pm, and from where I am, all I could see are faint traces of trees, and there’s not much to hear except crickets, the hum of the fan right above my head, and the occasional scurrying of a dog named Roque, who has declared himself master of the property after everyone has fallen asleep.

A few hours ago, while it was still scorching hot, I changed into something more comfortable—a very loose blue tank emblazoned with the words ‘Surf Eat Sleep’ (two of these things I could do quite expertly)—and, sweat profusely rolling down my skin, took the liberty of going to the beach, cellphone in hand (just in case I saw something interesting and wanted to take a photo of it). There it was again, amid the gentle sound of waves massaging the shore with the pace of a sleeping baby’s heartbeat. It was that stillness that had to come from somewhere. Certainly, it didn’t come from the sea, where there were occasional tourists zooming past while on banana boats and screaming for dear life, or partying aboard floating huts and getting drunk at 3pm.

I walked slowly back to the direction of the house, sand in between the soles of my feet and my rubber sandals, and looked around as I marveled at the sight of birds perched on branches and making themselves busy. I continued to walk, thinking about nothing basically, until I reached the small black gate that I had left unlocked. I was home.

And now, it’s almost 11pm. The stars are out, and they are beautiful.

And from where I am, on the second floor balcony where I have suddenly decided to write an entry once again after quite a long time, where I have come to realize at this point in my life that not all things really have to matter—these same stars, thousands upon thousands of them, seem to be dancing.

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Beautiful, Beautiful Bali

GETTING THERE. Bali, Indonesia is close to four hours away from Manila, by plane.  For the first time last summer, I and my friends all decided to spend New Year’s Eve outside the country.  It was to be the best decision of our lives.

WHAT TO SEE. Bali has everything a beachcomber/pseudo-backpacker like me would need:  great food, fantastic landscapes, even more food, side trips, great places to shop, and occasional temples for soul-rejuvenating. The carefully hand-crafted, almost always symmetrical Balinese aesthetic is evident everywhere you go, its weather-washed appeal tempting me to pull out my iPhone 5S to take a photograph or two–so for an entire week, I never ran out of inspiration.

BILLS OR CREDIT CARD? Withdrawing from ATMs there is fun (you do not need to use your credit card at all–just bring your Cirrus-member ATM and you wouldn’t have a problem)–what comes out is millions and millions worth of bills they call rupiah.  It’s a happy thing to be able to stash Rp1,350,000.00 at any given time in your pocket.  But, that’s really not much at all: it’s only close to about P4,800.00.

GETTING AROUND. There aren’t too many taxis, buses or trains around Bali.  But that’s the idea: you go to Bali to walk, and slow down, and shop, and stop, and eat, and walk, and stare at able-bodied surfers.  That’s the kind you’ll get used to seeing: mostly Australian dudes without shirts on, and their shapely girlfriends in swimsuits and cutoff denim shorts, walking the small streets in flipflops and smelling like coconut oil.

SPECTACLES!  And then, there are the beaches.  Hands-down, we have way better, and finer, white-sand beaches.   But when it comes to gently sloping shores and active waves, Bali doesn’t disappoint.  There’s just way too many tourists around these parts, so the garbage could be quite a concern (see dumptruck photo below: that’s their way of collecting trash along the Seminyak shore). There are quieter pocket beaches all around Bali, but if you’re in for a little rendezvous with new friends, Seminyak and Ubud are your best bets.

The best thing though about going to Bali during the New Year holidays?   New Year’s Eve.  Google it up and you’ll know what I mean.

Overall, Bali is so beautiful, and charming, that there was no other thought in my head but how and when next to go back.

Check out some of the shots I made.

Offerings to their Hindu gods.

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Restroom window, Earth Cafe.
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Earth Cafe.  Serves seriously organic food.

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Lamps for Sale.  Really cheap!

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Buttered corn.  P180.00 each.  Yep.  IMG_2903

Traditional Balinese food: goreng-flavored rice, noodles and fried chicken.
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Seminyak’s shores.  Sunset.IMG_2793

Windsailing.  Seminyak.
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Mike’s profile against the sunset. IMG_2824

Duty done. Garbage collection truck, Seminyak. IMG_2817

Oh yeah, the things tourists will do to attempt to look cool. IMG_2810

My favorite flower that we call kalachuchi back home.
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One of Bali’s crazy-beautiful entrances to their villas.

That’s the best way to spend time in Bali–live in a villa.  Ignore the hotels! IMG_2811

Sunset. IMG_2815

Nicely weathered resto setup. IMG_2671

Mike being eaten by the yellow backdrop. IMG_2645

Chili. Yeah! IMG_2622

Balls, lots of ’em.  Late night partying.
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Chilis for the taking.  Balinese cooking class.IMG_2545

Balinese cooking class. And no, we weren’t able to enrol–they were fully booked. 😦 IMG_2543

Basic mode of transpo for everyone.  You rent one for cheap.IMG_2538

Iced tea that tastes like a hundred rosebuds. Sarap! IMG_2511

Bamburu Restaurant.  Very good food, in a fantastic, chill ambience.IMG_2539

Breakfast. IMG_2540

Rambutan and pool in the villa. IMG_2459

Probably the best place to have authentic Balinese food, in a breathtaking setting, is Bebek Tepi Sawah.

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Bebek Tepi Sawah restaurant’s rustic, seriously Balinese appeal.
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This is me standing right in the middle, with my best friends. IMG_2315

Among the many gods displayed in Bebek Tepi Sawah restaurant.
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Gilded doors to heaven.  Lavish.IMG_2196

Parasol. Another view. IMG_2212

Look at these doors! IMG_2079

Lotus. IMG_2225

Bali is one of Asia’s most prolific centers for modern art.  This is one of them.IMG_2175

One of Bali’s commercial art centers selling beautiful pieces from cheap to impossibly expensive.
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Instruments you can use.  This produces a sleep-inducing, relaxing plok-plok sound when you strike the bamboo tubes.
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Native.

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More bikes for rent to choose from.  IMG_2135

Quiet afternoon in the villa.
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Really good ice-cold.  This is Bali’s most popular beer. IMG_2087

And this is really good cold coffee with a softdrink fizz.  IMG_2126

Really nice, crisp, fresh Roka Salata.IMG_2088

Mouthwatering Mediterranean starter plate.
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Assorted meats and veggies. Yom.
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Lotus.IMG_2077

Genuinely fake watches. IMG_2069

Jean.IMG_2063

Gateway from our villa to the beach front. IMG_2052

Happy beachfront colors.IMG_3406

My kind of view. IMG_2060

This monkey was milliseconds away from harassing me. IMG_2045

Happy villa.
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Outdoor shower. Oh yeah. IMG_2039

Entrance to our bedroom. IMG_2037

Bambuku’s expert carinderia service.  So spicy-good. IMG_2032

Bambuku’s way of computing the food that you ordered. They give you a ticket per item that you ordered, then you present the ticket to the cashier during payment.  IMG_2021

Excellent spicy chicken dish from Bambuku.
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Lunch and Girl. IMG_2013

Bambuku, again. Hay, beautiful. IMG_1998

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Yes, Vespas for the renting. IMG_1996

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200 Reasons to Love New York City

For about 15 days last August, I was able to take a hike around New York, and immersed myself in culture–or the absence of it, as the whole place was exploding with different ones.

For a first-timer, it was an amazing place to drown myself in.  Just too many books, art pieces, Medieval stuff (oh, dear Lord, thank You), too much theater, people, subways, colors, smells, and experiences for me to handle.

I had 4,000 photos in my iPhone 5s when I got home.  It was only recently that I got to sift through them, and choose the top 200 that more or less describe how I saw, and wanted to capture, the city that never sleeps.

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15.


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5 Secrets to Happiness

We’ve all seen and read these kinds of articles before.  Facebook actually does a great job of feeding us with tidbits of inspiration (amongst videos of beheadings, news of a newly-discovered planet somewhere, smart-ass memes, items on wars around the world, and updates on the Binays).

Well, we won’t go into those now.

It has been raining very hard for two days now, and while most of us are stuck at home or elsewhere, barely moving from place to place because of the impossible winds and rain, I chose to go up to the attic of my dark little house, and start writing.

So here I am. Come to think of it, I haven’t used this room for quite some time. It actually felt good sitting on this high wooden stool without a backrest (does wonders to my spine and weak back), with my laptop on a bar table (perfect angle and distance from my eyes), and with the doors and windows wide open (the sound of the rain and the smell of the wind just feel so calming).

And then, I begin to think of a topic to write about. But, there are a lot of distractions.

1. There was a puddle forming close to the terrace door I just opened. Bad rain. Bad, bad rain.
2. The layered sounds of different television sets in my neighborhood were all about one thing–the storm.
3. All this darkness, and the wailing wind outside, were making me feel like a sorry character/victim in a Stephen King book.

And then, I realized:

1. I could actually just wipe that puddle off a little later, because I loved feeling the rain and the wind, and those two were more important to me than that puny puddle.
2. How thankful I am that I am warm and dry in my little attic.
3. That some things actually look or feel better in the dark than in bright light. Maybe a nice cup of coffee, and fashion-show music, could be great mood-enhancers at this point–at least in my opinion.

I also realized:

1. That caring too much was a source of worry. And I didn’t want to worry.
2. That these things I just thought of were just that. Thoughts. In the 15 minutes that I thought of those thoughts, did anyone else around the world even care? I don’t think so.

And so, there it was:  I was instantly happy.

Happiness doesn’t come too easy, when we are all distraught about the news we see;  some are counting minutes and hours, while in a hospital corridor somewhere, agonizing about the next scenario involving a sick loved one;  maybe there’s one right now who just feels so incredibly lonely.   Or is feeling like a fool.   Or a complete failure, or an under-achiever.   Maybe there’s a parent out there who feels too inadequate, despite all efforts;  maybe there’s a daughter who has been harboring feelings of deep-seated hate for her father or mother.

Just as there are billions of people, I could mention a billion more reasons to be unhappy. You could go add a few more–it’s pretty easy to add to the list.

But if you wish for otherwise, it’s even easier to follow just five. And make these, my friend, your little life mantra.

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1. Recognize that people who don’t seem to have problems actually have problems.

So there’s that suave, sleek officemate in head-to-toe Chanel again. Flashing a strange little gadget that, apparently, is her Audi RX-8’s high-tech door key. She boards her car so smoothly, like a python. And glides away into the sunset, like a moviestar. Problem-free? Methinks not.

People start to feel unhappy once they start to compare their lives with the lives of others. Who would have ever thought that this same Chanel chick has been having problems with her husband, with her unsettled credit cards, and with her unpaid taxes?  Yes, they’re people too. Like you and me. Maybe luckier, somehow, but no less vulnerable.

Speaking of problems, or personal issues, I’ve come to the conclusion that the moment I started to care less about things I used to rabidly think about, or process in my head (like problems), I began to feel these surges of happy within me.   You and I both know this: there will always be problems.  The question is: how do you deal with them?  Do you have to deal with them, all at the same time?

Do you deal with them like it’s your last chance to, or like it’s just another day?  Pick the second, and trust me: you will be happier.

So you may have made pretty bad choices in your life.   So what.  Miley Cyrus made pretty screwed-up choices, but look at how she’s now raking it all in. (Sorry for the example–mea culpa, bad choice.)   Point being: we’re all allowed to screw up sometimes.   It’s human nature to make a few (just a few, okay?) mistakes, and learn from these.  And learn to carefully maneuver your own life back to the right direction. That’s how you become better.

2. Worry less. Worrying will slowly eat you up.

Okay, listen.  It’s not about you all of the time. Unless your last name’s Jolie, or Obama, or okay, Cyrus, people will not really care about what you’re worrying about.

Let me say that again. It’s not about you all of the time.

If you’ve been sort of worrying and thinking that you’ve been the water-cooler topic these past few days or weeks, the question is: should you even care? How about you let them talk about you–and make them waste time doing it, while you choose to do something more productive.  Sounds better?

Over-thinking–that painful, swirling void also known as “what if they think…”–is the worst way to perceive who you really are, and what you are actually capable of doing.   It’s time to stop thinking you’re any less than the people around you, and time to start believing you could do it.

Also, as with relationships, age does not matter.  If you feel you’re a bit too old compared to everybody else, exploit that edge. Older equals more experienced equals (hopefully!) wisdom. Too young? Even better.  Younger could mean fresher, braver, brighter ideas.  (Could.)

The bottomline:  turn each–or any–insecurity into an advantage.  It’s that simple.

3. Focus.

Okay. So you feel that you’ve been inadequate. You believe that you should have started to become successful way earlier, but are lagging behind all the other people you know. You know that you’re good–and damn, you’re really good, and smart, and driven. So, why the misfortune of being the last in line?

It’s because you’ve been focusing on the wrong things: more on the race, and less on the prize. Instead of looking forward and aiming to claim what’s rightfully yours, you choose to look sideways, and see who’s catching up on you, or getting past you.

And make it the biggest deal in the world that you got tired, and stopped, and eventually lost the race.

So, how do we deal? First, enough of the pride. There will always be people who will be better, or will be bigger, or will be making more, than you. There will always be better-looking friends who will snag the girl or the guy of the century. There would always be people bagging more awards, more bonuses, more congratulatory messages from their bosses.

Humbly accept these as fact.  Think about it: maybe next time, it’s going to be your turn.  Just work on it.  Slowly, and surely, like a lion quietly moving towards its prey, focus.  Force yourself to save money–however little you may have. Learn how to invest. And soon, you’ll get your share of rewards.

But if these still don’t come, heck: whip out the money you saved, hop on a plane, and spend it on a grand European vacation! There are ways, amigo.  There are always ways.

4. Be a little crazy. And a little lazy.

I have come to the conclusion that the busiest people are the most boring people in the world. I do not wish to be friends with them–those with too much on their hands, those who do not know that Saturdays exist to be enjoyed. People who are being OC about so many things, or keep a tight schedule, are unhappy people: they are slaves to a bad rhythm.

So, break that rhythm, and learn to have fun.  Travel as much as you can–and it doesn’t have to involve an airplane all of the time.

You want to make the experience more intense and fulfilling? Travel alone. Rediscover the world. And in the process, rediscover yourself.  Remember Eat, Pray, Love?

Happy people know the reason why beds, rainy afternoons, books, parks, and coffee cups were invented.  And why idle conversations with good friends are actually quite useful: they clear up our heads of too much clutter.  If you are a mom, a dad, a husband or a wife, pick a day of the week when you can just be silly you, with your silly friends (Tip: Before diving into any relationship, ask your potential partner if this one-day-with-pals arrangement is possible–if he or she doesn’t allow it, quit the affair.  You’re better off with your friends than with a modern-day Hitler).

5. Choose to be happy.

Happiness does not, and should not, come from other people, or other things. Not even your kids, your cutesy pets, your parents, or your crush, your new iPhone 6, or your best friends. Nope.

Happiness should come from deep within you.  From that place in the middle of your chest, that makes you all warm and fuzzy even without anyone telling you to, or making you, feel that way.  I know it’s difficult to comprehend that, more so if you’re a parent who’s happiest when your baby boy suddenly discovers how to giggle, a dude who has just met the girl of his dreams, or a pet lover who’s just acquired the fattest cat from eBay.

So to make things easier, let’s be a bit grotesque (and prepare to be stunned by these questions): what if your kid suddenly dies? What if cutesy pet is run over by a truck? What if Miss ‘Girl of your Dreams’ happens to be a lesbian, and is the least bit interested in you? What if your iPhone plops out of your pocket and into the sewer, never to be seen again?

Is it the end of the road for you? Is it the end of your happiness?  Now we’re talking.

We are beings that are actually capable of generating happiness, without anything helping to flip up their happy switch.  Single could mean happy.  Kids who were abandoned by their own parents, and still manage to succeed, know happy.  Dude X, who is still keeping an ancient Nokia in his front pocket, while all the rest are scrambling for the latest smartphone, knows happy.  Girl Y knows happy, as she squeezes–smiling–into a packed train, while all her friends are driven by chauffeurs in nice sleek SUVs.

They choose happiness. They work on it. Listen carefully: They don’t need anyone, or anything, apart from themselves, to earn it, or to prove the existence of it in their lives.

So how to be happy? Simple. Don’t read sappy novels too much. Or happy novels that start with ‘boy meets girl’ and end with ‘boy marries girl’, while here you are, still single, and wanting to crucify yourself because you’ve just been too lonely ever since you can remember.

Music can also make or break you. So if you’re this close to losing your mind while listening to a break-up song, do yourself a favor: just turn your iPod off. Bad, sad or low feelings make us sad. We don’t want to be sad. We want to be happy.

Do things that make you happy (and if it means reading sappy novels, crap. Go ahead, you loser. Just kidding).

Lastly, and this could easily be Tip#6:  Think of your life as an airline’s cockpit.  You have all these command buttons ready, right in front of you, to make you feel alright.  A friend, a piece of cake, a journal, a Bible, a movie, jellybeans, jumping off a cliff–and getting out of it alive, and in one piece.

All you have to do is this: Just press the right button.

And now.

Image Credit: Thoughtpursuits.com

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Am I Dying?

Some bloke had said once that life begins at 40.

This year, I turned 41.

So, I must technically be just 1 year old by now–more than ready for the next big adventure, and taking baby steps to that great, mysterious, fantastic unknown.

Now here is what happened a few days ago.

One of my best friends suddenly just collapsed, and died a few days later.  She was 42 (just a year older than I am). We went to college together, shared birthday celebrations together, drank so much liquor together–and dangerously crept back to our homes after a few happy rounds together.  Oh, did we have so much fun when we were in our twenties.  We were so similar in so many ways–we were both Aquarians, and we loved our families so dearly.   I was proudly part of the group that took charge of her wedding.

Incidentally, I was to be with that same group that would help arrange her funeral.

She was cremated soon after; and there I was, a few feet away, staring blankly at a marble urn that contained her greyish-white ashen remains. That was my friend who was alive just a few days ago.  She’s gone now, and I barely heard the flick of her switch–she was just that.   Gone.   It was unbelievable.

I was thinking to myself:  how could a person you’re so used to seeing, and talking to or texting or having dinners with, just vanish from sight, plucked off the face of this earth like a weed some unseen hand had uprooted so swiftly, without it at least e-mailing you or calling you, to let you know in advance?

So, am I dying too?

Let me ask that again.  Am I dying?

Soon?  Can anyone tell me?

Every day since I could remember, it has become quite a disturbing preoccupation:  trying to select, from a horrific menu of possibilities, an interesting way to exit. Will there be a perversely careening bus headed for my car sometime this year?  Is there a strange virus lurking deep within my body, replicating like crazy and quietly shutting down parts of my system, until I wither and die?   Is there any relationship between my occasional headaches (few and far between) and a possible, previously unknown tumor in my brain–much like what had happened to my sister?   Is my 5-pound weight loss during the past month an indication of something I should be worried about (or could it just be, after all, the successful effect of my diet regimen)?    Does my feeling weak after a long work day have something to do with a sickness?

Or am I sounding a bit stupid now?

Sometimes, in the dead of night, I am suddenly shaken awake, from having snored too loudly, or from a bad dream.

I grab my phone and, while squinting at the bright display, start to Google things. I key in words like “non-stop cough.” Or “headache.” Or “migraine.” Or “sleepless nights.” And see if each is a symptom of something else. You’ll never know, right? I may just have cancer. Like my mother had. Or her own mother did.

Or maybe, I’m on my way to heart-disease-dom, like my father ended up in.  Why am I thinking that?  Hmmm.  Maybe, because my heart happens to skip a beat sometimes?  (Or, it could just be because a crush happened to pass by, Ian, damn it.  Come on!)

Both mom and dad happened to die right in front of me, while I was holding their still-warm hands. It was altogether painful, surreal, and expected.  We expect everyone, you and me, to depart from this world in different ways, but theirs happened a bit too soon.

So am I dying soon?

In a few weeks, I’m scheduled to board a plane.  I will be up there, in the clouds, 30,000 feet up in the air, and staring into nothingness, as has always been the case during past flights. For about a day up there, I’ll be sitting still. Reading the plane’s travel magazine from cover to clammy hands-stained cover. Watching the in-flight movies, or at least trying to, while half-asleep, half-tired and half-anxious. (Wait, so that’s already one and a half of me).   While I’m hearing the muffled sounds of the aircraft’s engine, I am also instantly reminded of these airplanes in the news:  vanishing without a trace, or being shot down by a ground-to-air missile, or crashing into a populated city due to bad weather.   All of those on board have, in seconds, turned from human beings, into statistics.  Groan.

During each flight, I move my legs, stretch a bit, close my eyes, open them, shift positions, shift to another side, raise my ass up to make my blood circulate, or walk to the airplane’s restroom to make myself busy for a few minutes at least.   As I enter the restroom, then lock the door and begin the deed, I wait.  There it is again.  The plane shakes and sways to and fro.  I could not concentrate.  I could not target my piss properly.  I just couldn’t.  I suddenly begin to feel so sickeningly afraid.  What if I get trapped in here?  What if the plane shakes so badly and I lock myself in this same cramped restroom, while everyone else is instructed by the captain to (ohmygoodnessIcouldntimaginethisreallyhappeningbutitcould) brace for impact?

Wait, I reckon while pretending to ignore the occasional shudder of the engine: Was that a creak I just heard from under my feet?

So am I dying soon?  I wouldn’t know, until I realize it’s time.

Or is this just an unwarranted, morbid anxiety that’s just killing me very, very, very slowly?

Oh, dear God.

 

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0

5 Steps to Find Out If You’re Annoying

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Photo Credit: http://funzypics.funnypicturesutopia.com/board/pins/271/8506

 

 

 

The thing about people who are easily disliked is that most of the time, they do not know that they’re sending out annoying signals. So they move around and talk, assume they’re the coolest dudes on the planet, and leave the room not knowing their reputation is being knocked down flat with insults and laughter from all over.

So before taking the next steps to greatness today, try to take a breather, and do a little self-analysis with this question:

“Are you being annoying to other people?”

Here are 5 tiny bits of wisdom to help you get started:

 

1. Recognize that the world does not revolve around you.

There’s a reason why Marcos, Hitler, and Mussolini lived and died way ahead of you. It’s for you to not be like them. And try to change, as early as now while you’re still alive, this pretense that you’ll always be the leader, the best, or the hottest in your posse;  and the rest are your followers, or slaves, ready to cater to your every whim.

There’s a reason why smart asses are called that way.  So don’t be an ass, Miley.

When people look at you with this “hey, he’s interesting” stare as soon as you enter a room, take the compliment quietly, and move on.  Don’t swallow it, and let it get to your head.  There will always be people in that same room who are better, more equipped, stronger, richer, or smarter than you.  Try to claim everything, and you’ll be in trouble.  Nothing is funnier than someone sporting a stupid swag because he’s wading in too much attention.  And after all: simple is sexy.

 

2. Dramas are better seen and watched on TV — than heard.

Sharing the worst things you’ve experienced today with somebody who doesn’t have to hear them is always a no-no. I don’t know if my Facebook friends are aware of this (well, now they know), but I actually un-follow ‘Friends’ who treat Facebook like a punching bag, a drop-box for all their complaints in life (from the traffic, to rain, to an officemate, to split ends, to not having farted much today), a victim’s diary (“I hate you (insert name of ex-boyfriend), leave me alooooone!” or “Why is life treating me this way?  I think it’s time I killed myself”), or a boxing ring to thrust their personal issues versus other people out in public (nothing is more thrilling for these people than votes of approval from others, with equivalent likes and comments. Woopee. What an achievement).

Nah, I’m not having any of that.

Un-follow.  No questions asked. No matter if we’re close, or we’re important workmates or old friends.

We all have our own issues to settle.  But, we don’t need the entire world to know about that. They have their own problems, too. Spare them. If you really need to, call a friend. Or your mother. Or a psychiatrist–it could just be a mental disorder spike.

Or just jump off the roof, for crying out loud. Remember the girl who slashed her wrist, and posted the brilliant move on Facebook, to just let people know how heartbroken she was? Well, no one really cared if she squirmed to death right after her stunt. Grunge and angst are so 20 years ago. Quit the dramz. Flash that smile, and be instantly hot.

 

3. Observe yourself during conversations. How many times do you use the words ‘ako’, ‘me’, ‘I’, ‘my’, or ‘ko’?

Oh, yes. Nothing is more tiresome than having to deal with Mr. Me.    When you’re speaking with somebody and he suddenly, mysteriously turns away, either he’s running late, or it could be that he’s thinking, “Oh God, does he ever get tired of talking about himself again?”

Talking too much about oneself is one thing.  So is talking too much, period.

By just looking around, we could see more things that could be talked about than just your being an over-achiever, a praiseworthy colleague, or the whiz kid of 2014.   Talk about the weather. Talk about Bong Revilla. Or the MH17. Or okay, the Large Hadron Collider.  See how many topics or ideas are actually not about you?

If at once you realize that you accidentally mentioned these bad, bad I-me-myself words, just stop. Then, divert, and change the topic to something else that doesn’t involve you too much, or your opinion. It could be hard for self-centered you, but everyday is always another chance to behave a bit better.

 

4. When you’re just too loud, you are hated.

This is the classic way to annoy people. Just a few seconds ago, this dude beside my table in a coffee shop kept on telling his mates how happy he was that he finally got for himself the third car he was planning to buy. His voice was loud enough to be heard by the entire coffee shop. Not too long afterwards, everyone except him had furrowed foreheads.

At once, I murmured to myself as I looked at him and was feeling so sorry for him:  “Oh, I see.  His appearance doesn’t quite match up to someone who would own three cars.”  Kaya pala tatlo kotse niya. Kasi pangit.

Oops. Sorry for hating.

Anyway: A way to find out if you’re being obnoxious is to ask a friend, “Was I being too loud?” A friend–a really good and trustworthy one–would tell you off, outright. Or shut you up. Or shush you.   And you shouldn’t take offense.   It’s not for him, but for you.

And while we’re at it: yes, it’s okay to wear loud outfits, or tote loud designer bags. Go right ahead–it’s a free country.  Just make sure they’re genuine.   Otherwise: prepare to be the next day’s blind item.

 

5.  Once people stray away from you, it’s because they couldn’t stand being seen with you.

Wearing the right clothes and grooming yourself well are half the battle.  If you’re channeling Tom Cruise but look like an extra in the Walking Dead, expect less and less people to mingle with you.  Clean fingernails and toenails are easier to manage than people who are pissed off at you for being downright dirty.

It’s also always a nice thing to be with somebody who’s in shape, and who doesn’t appear like a slimy, sweaty blob, who snorts like a seal.  It’s alright to be overweight–but a squeaky-clean version of that.  You would, at the very least, look cute.

Oh, and one more thing.  Have you checked the smell of your underarms lately?  Yes, you.


Have a great day.

 

 

2

The Probinsya Life

Unfortunately, I was born and raised in Quezon City.

There’s really nothing to see in a cramped, busy city punctuated with the sounds of blaring bus horns, the temporary glitter of malls here and there, and horrible traffic jams.  This city has taught me about patience.   A lot of it.   At 41, all I could ever want is to relieve myself of all the cares that the city unsolicitedly affords me.

Elementary school gave me an idea on what to do with the rest of my life.  During summer, everyone else in school disappeared.  And when we got back together the next school season in June, I would still look the same.

And everyone else?  They were much darker.  And happier.

I would ask them where they went during the summer break.  In unison, most would answer the same way: sa probinsya namin (“To our hometown”).

Oh, right.  Yeah.  Was I so sorry for myself.  City-bred boy.  Sad, bored, city-bred boy.

Little did I know that this little frustration of mine would soon drive me to madness.

Since I was little, the allure of water–more so the kind that you can step into, submerge yourself in, stare at as the sun set from thousands of miles away–has beckoned to me.   It was not just a wanting feeling that gets satisfied after a four-day trip to Boracay.   It was this steadily growing feeling of wanting to get closer to the sea.  And growing old by the sea.  And being wrapped in a gentle embrace of wind, in the sensual feeling of sand beneath your feet, and in the sound of the sea’s rhythmic, hypnotic, calming waves.

And realizing that a day has actually happily passed as the sun disappeared from view–because you didn’t wish, at all, to take track of time.

For years, and years (and yes, seriously), I looked for the best way to settle in a house by the sea, no matter how simple or small, as long as it guaranteed quick and easy access to the ocean.  Mom and dad always knew that, but they didn’t think I was that obsessed.

A few years ago, I got my first chance to live near the beach.  I was able to strike a good deal with a housing developer in Laiya, San Juan, Batangas, a popular beach area, for a lot that I paid for in increments, without interest.  (While this is actually impossible–banks and developers offer loans as the only way to pay for non-outright cash payments, but, well–it does pay to befriend your agent!  That’s a little tip for you.  Just make sure your developer is a reputable one.)

But, there wasn’t a house on that lot yet.  So, I felt it still wasn’t the right time to move forward and begin settling there, and decided instead to use the property as investment.

So, I reverted back to my favorite hobby:  Switch the computer back on.  OLX, Real Estate Section.

I knew which drop-down menus to click or press next:  Batangas, Rest House, Beach House, For Sale.   Pressing each of these buttons was quite the thrill for me.  The feeling of looking at photos of nice beach houses (worth upwards of P15 Million–naaah) was probably most akin to the feeling of a rapist looking at a naked, big-breasted, willing, spread-eagled woman (or man, depending on preference).

But then, I didn’t wish to live in grand ones.   I wasn’t a rich businessman, or a politician with ready access to the national budget.

I lived on monthly salaries, and just always saved whatever, and whenever I can.  Another tip I could share with employees with payroll accounts (like me) is to open another account in the same bank branch.   BPI and BDO banks have flexible and user-friendly online controls, so I could easily transfer portions of my income to another account that I don’t touch.  (Or at least, not too often.)

And the bottomline was, anyway, I just simply wanted to be near the sea.

Until finally, after months and years of searching, I laid my eyes on what seemed to be the house I would want to see myself in, for the rest of my life.

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And no, it’s nowhere near grand.  It’s just a small house.  Near a beach.

Not a spectacular beach, even.  There’s, well, sand, and there’s water, too.  It’s not even white sand.   And the waters aren’t even close to cerulean or emerald.

It’s a beach.  A simple one.  It’s everything I ever wanted.

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Finally, I’ve found what my future looks like.  No blaring buses, but birds.  No pollution, but fresh, clean breezes blowing straight from the ocean.

I’m naming the house after my mother.  I’m having it painted yellow, and white.  She was that way when she was still alive–full of energy and cheer, a light that shone so brightly in my heart, and still does, years after she said goodbye.

The house’s name shall be Lily.

And she will be my life project.  Probably the last big one I will ever get to fulfill in my life.  It will take me some time to fix Lily, as it’s been standing there for a few years.

I will make sure to savor each minute of re-building, decorating, fixing, re-arranging, and landscaping Lily.  That might take an entire lifetime.

But, that’s alright.  I ain’t rushing.

Here is where I’m seeing myself truly grow into an older, happier, version of me, together with trees I will forever be watching until each one grows strong and mighty;  a family that will always be a source of strength;  a beloved one who is a true wellspring of patience, and yes, probably a few handsome golden retrievers to have nice, long chats with, until darkness falls.

Thank God for this beautiful chance to experience life, all over again.   City-bred boy finally gets his wish.

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