Jhois and I were invited to attend a celebration that we always wanted to be a part of. However, after Papa’s ordeal we cannot help but feel unsafe whenever there are invitations such as this. We did not want to infect anyone (NCR was recovering from the omicron-variant spread) and we did not want to be infected as well (heaps of deliverables made us sleep for only a few hours, allowing us to be more vulnerable to health hazards or contaminations). I decided to scribble Papa Nardo and Nanay Linda’s story and relish it as if we were there to witness this momentous event.
I think the opposite of being a good friend is to be the questioning one. To ask something is to dive deep into uncharted territories that your friend may probably hasn’t gone to yet or hasn’t confronted yet. You don’t want to preempt a process that s/he should have started because you don’t want to be rude. Sometimes, being a nice friend kills you. I never thought being smiled at would hurt my core the most because at times, a smile is a tiny grain of deception in the world of truths and I prefer the truth. I have always been comfortable in the rarefied atmosphere of questioning. You don’t want the people you love to get drowned first, too late for you to help them. In spite of that, you keep waiting— most likely longer than you expected until they feel safe to open up their pains.
I’m filled with gratitude for the gifts that my struggles bring. It tastes bittersweet but leaves me with a warm feeling. It gave me back my voice. I almost forgot how my voice sounds like because in the past, I rarely used it. It constantly allows me to reach full awareness of myself, sift through what matters more to me, extract my truth and live it. I think this is what integrity is all about, isn’t it? Integrity, from its Latin adjective “integer” which means whole. I’m thankful for this inner sense of wholeness.
Jhois and I have learned not to judge others’ path no matter how different it looks from our viewpoint. Their paths are not something that should make sense to us. Those only need to make sense to them because those are calling them, not us. We heed our own call. We pay attention to what feels like magnets pulling us in and yes, even as couples we have differences, too. I’m grateful that Jhois allows me to fully express myself in ways that I want and of course, I allow her to do the same. We’re complete opposites and it’s a miracle that we manage to complement, in more ways than one. It’s a liberating feeling. No suffocation. No feeling of being trapped or constrained in our little world. This is why we don’t believe in comparison, competition or even jealousy. We don’t want what’s destined for you. It’s not calling us. It’s calling you. We don’t have, even the slightest hint of interest in getting what’s meant for you. That’s all for you. We’re only interested in what’s calling us and we don’t want to get distracted in decoding what our inner guide says by wasting our time checking on others’ lanes.
People-pleasing or fawning is a trauma response. It’s a false safety net that involves an indirect condition in which, if this person does all these things that the other has expected, then the latter would be indebted to do the same. Is it? If that’s the case, it’s not love. It’s a form of manipulation. It’s a slow death of the individual self among couples, friends/peers or even within a community. People-pleasers are easy-targets for abusers. There’s nothing wrong with communicating your boundaries or standing firm on not compromising your values. The ones who truly love you would make sure they get to honor you because of that and live up to those qualities that make you feel more safe and at home for simply, being YOU.
I remember during the first few months of this pandemic, Jhois and I were vacillating between being joyful (the longest time we were physically together due to work from home setup) and being furiously sad (what’s happening outside was just crazy). We were also vacillating from overfunctioning and underfunctioning (common responses to grief) at home. Nothing wrong with these, actually. Then, we felt we were in this dreadful spiral and we needed a breather. So, we decided to stop and pause. We tried new habits such as “crying breaks”, “laughing breaks”, “shouting breaks”, “sound/music-chilling” and a more frequent walk-in-the-park with my Father and our dog, Maple. Gradually, things appear clearer. We managed to be calm then we focus on what we can control while praying for better days to come, not only for us but for everyone.
I always remind myself of how Brene Brown sees the act of giving. She says, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” We will always be in need of help because we’re humans. We cannot always have it all at a certain time. I always remind myself of the courage it took for a person to ask for help and probably, sooner or later, I’ll be needing help from somebody else as well. We’re never meant to handle everything alone. Being turned down by other people doesn’t mean the whole world turns its back on us. All we have to do is to keep on knocking.