The Prodigal Daughter

Today is Father’s Day, but instead of talking about my father, I’ll talk about myself instead. At the risk of sounding self-centered, I have always wanted to live a life of my own for most of my adult life. I valued freedom and independence and struggled to live out of my parents’ shadow. I didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to have my own identity, even if it meant making choices that I knew they wouldn’t approve of, exactly because I knew they wouldn’t approve of them. In my effort to define myself as different from them, I ended up in opposition to them several times. 

But life has a way of teaching its lessons, and I realized that no matter how far I thought I could go away, literally and figuratively, I would always end up going back. And for the nth time, here I am again, now married with children, still struggling with a lot of things, but no longer with going home. 

Years before I got married my father emphasized the value of interdependence, telling me that humans need and depend on one another in order to survive and thrive. It was his way of telling me that I needed him, and that he needed me too. Back then I just wanted to prove that I could make it on my own, because I wanted to be proud of myself, and I guess I wanted the world to see it too. But I don’t know what time and experience have done to me, because now I realize that that kind of thinking is self-centered and naive.

For most of my adult life I have been trying to separate and differentiate myself from those who have given me life. And while it may be the way of the world to consider that as growing up, maturity has finally caught up with me in another way. Not in escaping my parents’ expectations, but in embracing them. I am no longer running away from my father, but facing him head on. I am ready to be part of his legacy. There is nothing wrong with sharing someone’s legacy especially if it benefits not only the family, but the community. Just because it didn’t start with me shouldn’t make me feel any less proud.

Because I AM proud of my father. He is flawed, just like anyone else, and is difficult to understand and talk to sometimes. Growing up, I felt small and incapable around him because he was overbearing, critical and expected only the best. Sometimes I still feel that way around him. But in spite of all our differences, it is a fact that he is a visionary and it is a fact that no less than a great man is able to bring his vision into fruition. No one really knows how old he is, but I don’t think it really matters as he still works, still plays, and generally still enjoys life. Aside from fulfilling his duties as president of Atheneum and vice-president of the UP Alumni association, he still has the time and energy to party with his high school classmates, and UPSILON, play tennis with the Noveleta Tennis Club and horse around with his grandchildren. He is always busy, but always makes it a point to spend time with the family. Maybe that’s what I am most proud of. Certainly that’s what I am most grateful for. 

I know that we will continue to have our differences, but that’s okay. I know that I will continue to strive for my own identity and wish for my own home someday, and that’s okay. I know that there will be new challenges as we once again, live and work together. But for now, in my father’s house, I am home. 

My mother, the survivor

I used to wonder why my mother seemed to be angry most, if not all the time. She would shout and sigh, and sometimes even cry. Now that I am a mother myself, to an infant and a toddler, I realize why. It’s a cursed fate. With everything that has to be done, the truth is, motherhood isn’t all fun. It’s challenging, it’s painful, nerve-racking and exhausting. I remember asking my husband and my mommy friends, is being masungit and constantly angry part of mommy territory? I want to ask my mom how she did it. How she DOES it. Because I realize just now that a mother is a mother forever. Even when there are grandkids. Especially when there are grandkids. The telling you what to do and what not to do will never stop. The worry and concern, the love, no matter what has been said or done, will never stop. How do you survive, Ma? Someday I hope you’ll share your secret with me. I have no delusions of becoming even half as beautiful as you are when I am your age, but hopefully at least half as strong and resilient. And even a quarter as able to endure hardship without others knowing. Love you.

Don’t leave me

Alone with my thoughts

They take me to places

Where I often get lost

In a maze of dark places 

I see familiar faces 

That take me home 

Where the shadows swallow the light

Where darkness becomes very bright

It shines 

On everything in sight

Here I am always home 

Where I am alone 

To the little person inside me

There is a little person 

Sleeping inside me

Whaaaaaaat?

It’s not what you think hahaha

It’s the child within

That longs to be a giant

It’s the volcano that has long been dormant

It’s the flickering flame

Waiting to be stoked

It’s the laughter that got caught

In one’s throat

The years fly

Time goes by

The little person dies a little bit inside

She’s no fairy tale princess

Who needs true love’s kiss

Because the spell she’s under 

Can’t be broken by a lover 

She has to listen closely to the voice

inside her

Though it may be softer 

than a whisper

Saying 

“Wake up…

Open your eyes and see

It is not too late 

To be all that you want 

and everything you’re meant to be”

To the little person sleeping beside me

There is a little person sleeping beside me

I never thought our relationship

Would become complicated so suddenly

How does one transition from being THE baby

To the older sister at the ripe old age 

Of three?

You’ve been doing a great job adjusting

Even if it can be quite confusing

And you resort to crying and screaming

To express your feelings

Am sorry that am no longer the same mommy

Who would carry you around

And spend time with you all day

Playing, singing, dancing, reading

Doing things your way

I feel guilty when I easily get angry

And hurt you with what I do or say

Now you prefer other people’s company

And I am grateful they are there for you

But it also makes me lonely

I ask myself how

How to be the best mommy for you

And the best for the baby too

I still don’t know the answer

But I hope to find it sooner rather than later

I see you everyday and I miss you

You seem so much more

Mature than before

And you haven’t even turned four

I tell you

You’ll always be my baby

I say I love you

And you just stare at me

I know I need to spend more time with you 

We used to be so close

When it was just us two

I know that you may be thinking the same way

How much fun we had together back in the day

Where do we go from here?

I honestly don’t know

I watch you sleep and my tears just flow

Dear Lord please guide me

Help me be the best mommy 

Not only to the baby

But also to this little person

Sleeping beside me

To the little person on my chest

There’s a little person on my chest

Who just finished sucking from my breast

He’s been at it for almost nine months now

I don’t only feel but look like a cow

He’s been sucking my time

My love and attention

My strength and energy

Sometimes I feel I might go crazy

Or haven’t I already

But don’t get me wrong

I do it willingly

Do everything for the best of the baby

My mother tells me

Even if you lose sleep

Even if you can’t do anything else

Even if you lose everything

(Including your sanity?)

Sometimes an accident happens

Mother tells me it’s my fault

Sometimes an illness happens

It’s also my fault

Because I didn’t do this

Or because I did that

I feel guilty

Unworthy

Maybe I’m not meant to be a mommy

But I look at this little person on my chest

Breathing quietly 

Sleeping soundly

With beads of sweat on his head

(Where’s the towel? He might get sick again if you don’t wipe the sweat right away)

And think about how he has grown literally  

Beautifully 

Just from sucking from my breast

How it seems to be 

The thing I can do best

The thing that only I can do 

And I thank God for you

Because you need me

And I need you to (need me)

Even if experts say that’s not love

But co-dependency

It’s okay

We’ll figure it out along the way

I pray

That as we depend on each other less and less

We grow to love each other despite each one’s mess

We both grow and die a bit every day

One day I will look back and miss 

And remember this moment with bliss 

When peacefully you slept on my chest

After sucking everything from my breast

Forgiveness and the Fool

How do you forgive someone who is unaware of hurting you? How do you forgive someone who loves you so much but has hurt you without even knowing how?

How? You just do. You make a decision to forgive and let go of the pain you’ve held on to for so long. Because by holding on to the pain, you just hurt yourself even more. By keeping grudges and hanging on to resentment, you waste so much energy that can otherwise be redirected towards something positive and productive. If you’ve ever felt stuck in a rut, and unable to move forward in different aspects of your life, it is because so much of your energy is wasted on anger and bitterness. Do yourself a favor. Forgive those who hurt you. Focus all that energy on creating something good instead. 

I’ve forgiven my parents for loving me too much to the point of hurting me. Of course, they are unaware of that, because they do what they believe is best for me, and continue to do so. But I’ve held on to my resentment since I was an adolescent, and magnified it in my mind, that it has hurt me through my early adulthood and until recently. I realized that I have been trying to get back at them through self-sabotage because I know that hurting myself meant that I hurt them, too. When I realized that, I told myself, if I was angry at them, I didn’t have to harm myself in the process. But later on, what struck me was that it was exactly my anger that was hurting me. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others what you want others to do unto you,” but the reverse of this is also true: what you do to others, you do to yourself. I was angry at them, but I was inevitably hurting myself. The negativity I was sending out would just boomerang at me. That was the real self-sabotage.

Growing up means that at some point I have to stop blaming my parents, or other people for that matter, for my troubles, and start taking responsibility for myself. I don’t want to have to say that if I am ineffective as a parent, it’s because of too much or a lack of something in the way I was raised. But I have observed that my relationship with my parents affect the way I relate to my children, and I have to let go of the pain, anger, resentment, grudges, bitterness, if I want to have a healthy relationship with both my parents and children.

I have been a fool all this time for hanging on to all of that. And I am an even bigger fool for not seeing that it is myself I have to forgive, for thinking of my parents that way. 

I may also be a fool for exposing myself like this, to be scrutinized and even criticized for being ungrateful, etc, etc., but I risk the vulnerability, thinking that if there is even just one person out there who can relate, and then decides to do herself a favor and forgive another, then it will have been worth that risk.

A caveat, though: should you decide to forgive, ask for forgiveness as well. Be humble and wise enough to realize your own faults and imperfections, before you expect the other to own up to his. And in case he doesn’t? Forgive anyway. 

Someone has to go first. Believe me, it is for your own sake, and for the good of everyone, that you do.