Today, I am celebrating New Year’s Eve with my Mom, Dad, our new houseplants we got this year, and our adopted cats Kat, Nip, Dylan, and the street cats we feed here too in the province: Mufasa, Scar, Luna, and Amber. I’m reminiscing the year that has been by doing an Examen. I’ve done this for 2016, 2017, and 2018 in my old blog, Quiet Maria. I’ve decided to write more here in my website so that they don’t have to be separate, so from now on, you can expect more entries here!
The Examen is part of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises wherein we reflect on the day we had. Below is a guide from Philip Kosloski:
- After placing yourself in God’s presence, first give thanks to God for all the many blessings received during the past year. Pass through each month, remembering the blessings that occurred.
- Pray for the grace to understand God’s divine providence.
- Next, review each month again and take notice of any feelings or movements that occur in your heart while doing this activity. Whatever you may feel (whether it was a good feeling or bad feeling), ask God to help you understand why an event happened.
- Fourth, ask pardon for any sins you committed, trusting fully in God’s mercy.
- Last of all look forward to the New Year think of ways that you can collaborate more with God’s loving plan for your life. (Article written by Philip Kosloski from Aleteia.org)
“Your posture has improved.”
My cousin Ouel told me that when we saw each other again for the first time after two years. In 2017, he and his brother Jango told me that I was hunched.
It’s a subconscious thing, he had said; he meant that no matter how hard I try to consciously sit or stand straight, sooner or later my body would go back to the form it was used to for several years. This would be the case until I figure out the root cause.
I didn’t know what it was, but now that we’re ending the decade, I’ve come to realize what it could have been.
This decade was the time that I went to college, graduated, worked a corporate job, pursued writing and illustrating, participated in art fairs and brought my art and words out into the world, and joined Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan. And in between these moments, so many things have happened, and these were a mix of both good and bad. But I won’t delve deep anymore into the nitty gritty of each year – I’ll focus on 2019 and how it has witnessed my posture getting better.
We live in a fast-paced society. I’ve been very busy, way busier than I was in college, finishing plates and all and writing and editing articles for the schoolpaper. I went by days and nights when I would find myself thinking hard about what transpired in the week, because my mind was clouded with the following:
1. things to do,
2. things to do,
3. things to do.
I’m most thankful for the quiet pockets of time when my mind can just be, when I can just be. These are the moments when I get to unwind and acknowledge my blessings. These instances include just sitting silently in the morning, reading a book, writing in my notebook or journal, playing with our pets, walking or running outside, or just laying down on the couch in the dark at 1 AM listening to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.
For this year, I thank God for the times I spent time with my Mom and Dad at home, when we go out, and when we went on a short vacation in Singapore. That was such a fun trip for us! I’m happy too to be able to spend Christmas and New Year with them and that they are in good health as well. I’m grateful for the times I got to see old friends and made new ones, for all the cats and dogs in our lives, for the new and old plants we have, for the job that I have and the team that I work with, for the opportunity to help out a little in our org Ang INK, for being able to self-publish my second book Though She is Weak, for the art fairs I was able to join and the people I got to see there and be friends with, for the projects that came my way from kind, understanding, and supportive old and new clients, for our cat community in the building we live in (the members and cats we feed!), for the days my Mom and I would go out on weekends and for the moments we looked for plants, for the times I got to run, for the opportunity to work on my art and writing, for the going on a December vacation for my cousin’s wedding in Arizona and our brief family reunion, and… Ah, the list is long! This isn’t even that specific, but there’s just so many I’m grateful for!
I’m grateful too for the times I was corrected either by the Holy Spirit, my parents, relatives, cousins, friends, colleagues, my bosses at work, or a sign! I’m very much open to corrections that can help me be better and improve more as a person. Although of course it stings a little in the beginning or I may be defensive about it, but in the long run, I’ll realize that it is for my own good.
Praying for God’s Providence
There were times this year that I was so overwhelmed by the things I had to do at work and in my personal projects. Or let me rephrase that: I was overwhelmed by the pressure I felt from all the growing responsibilities that I had, both personal and work-related. I felt anxious and scared whenever Monday neared to the point that I’d cry on a Sunday evening. In hindsight, this is probably because 2019 is the first year that I went full gear on both my corporate job and my art and writings. It was challenging to balance both, and I have other responsibilities too apart from those.
Sometimes, because my time was booked with the things I had to do and finish, I couldn’t pray anymore. My only prayers were as short as “Thank You,” “Please,” “Help me,” or “I’m sorry.” I asked help from God time and time again, and He would respond through the people I am with or a book or a movie – in any way that I would understand Him.
I ask help and advice too from my Mom and Dad and close friends. And there was a time too when I wanted to rule out if I had anxiety disorder, because I really got relatively worse around September to October this year. In 2016, I had two different episodes too of a panic attack. So I got worried because I did not want my health to be compromised again. I went to a psychiatrist, and thankfully, I was not diagnosed with any. I had to take medicine though, and it helped along with the encouragements my Mom and Dad and a close friend gave me, and of course, God’s providence always. I’m not taking meds anymore too! It took a conscious effort to pull myself out of my anxious thoughts and doubtful self, and it required patience, forgiveness, and the readiness to ask for help.
I wanted to share that to break the stigma we have of mental illness and health. It’s always okay to ask for help! Open up to people you can trust and seek professional help too! There are always people who are ready to help and to listen. Always.
Feelings during Events
For art-related events, I was always happy and hopeful, because I got to do what I really love to do.
For work-related, I would feel pressured because I put high expectations on myself. I want to be able to be a good leader and serve my teammates, but I’ve come to realize that I can’t put unrealistic standards on myself. I should also know that I could never ever please everyone! I’ll always make some mistakes sooner or later or not communicate effectively, but I should not beat myself up for these moments but take them as lessons. I’m actually blessed, because my teammates are superb and we work together so well even under pressure, and our bosses too are understanding, kind, approachable, generous, accommodating!
For personal events, I’m in joy for the ordinary moments, for the little hours, of just being with my Mom and Dad, our pets and plants, in home. I was also so happy being with our relatives in the States this December.
Sins and Mistakes Committed
There’s an anime I like entitled Run with the Wind, and one of the main characters said he wanted to be a good communicator.
I wish the same for me and many other things.
I wish that I wasn’t so shy that I cannot initiate a conversation with others except a very few people I am close with. I wish that I wasn’t so introverted that I isolate myself from people and to not let myself have a good time. As if ‘I wasn’t trying to enjoy myself,’ to borrow that phrase from a book. I wish that I wasn’t so fearful of rejection or of the other person thinking I was insincere or boring to talk to. I wish that I could have the courage and intention to ask the important questions, to turn the small talk to deep talk. I wish I wouldn’t base my worth as a person on whether someone wants to genuinely talk with me or not. I wish that I wasn’t so self-absorbed, so I can really get to know the person I am talking with deeply. I wish that I wasn’t so self-conscious about my accent or pronunciation when speaking in English, so I could focus more on getting my message across right. I wish that I was like other people who were confident in themselves, who can approach people and really get to know them. I wish I was a better communicator, a better speaker, so I could really talk with family and friends eloquently, clearly.
For some reason, I can communicate in writing more because there’s time to rehash and reword and rephrase and reorganize, but in speaking, in conversing, time is divided into thinking it in our heads and speaking it with our mouths.
I really do want to know people deeply, so I may love them deeply. Or maybe it’s the other way around – I want to love people deeply, so I may know them deeply. I don’t know. I just want to have better relationships with God and the people around me, and maybe it starts by me opening up first. To get to know someone else, you have to let others know who you are first. I believe that relationships are how love is sustained in this universe. Even if I am a shy and introverted person by nature, I value caring for the people I am with, if only I don’t get hindered by my own fears.
And if there’s another thing I can share here, it would be my self-centeredness. Because I am so caught up in trying to be a better version of myself, I am more critical, unforgiving of myself. The only person I see is me, me, me. My mistakes, my shortcomings, my lack of experience. Although the goal is to be better, it has become my only focus.
So I am reminded of John in the Bible when he said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” It’s good to aim for being better, but the foundation should be God. The goal should not be centered on me, but on God. And I hope and pray that I can think of myself less and less and less and less, so I can think more of God and the people (and animals and the planet) around me!
“The more I focus on how I am doing – the more anxious and neurotic I become. The more I obsess over my need to get better, the worse I actually get; I become morbidly introspective and self absorbed. And because I’m so preoccupied with me – how I’m doing, if I’m growing whether I’m doing it right or not, spending too much time pondering my spiritual failures and brooding over my spiritual successes – I become less willing and able to notice the needs of others around me and meet those needs.”
— “One Way Love” – Tullian Tchividjian
Collaborating more with God’s Plan this 2020
It’s the beginning of a new decade. But before I could even begin to think of that, I want to be present for 2020! This coming year, I offer my writing projects and art to God. There are so many ideas that came up in my head this year – I know and feel that it is through the Holy Spirit’s stirring my soul that they came along. There are also some decisions to be made and discernment and prayer are required. The future is uncertain, but we have today to make our wise and informed choices, inspired by the heart, pondered about by the head, and guided by God.
Earlier in my post, I said that I’ve realized what helped me improve my posture. Actually, I knew the reason in 2017, but it was in 2019 that I affirmed it more.
I said to my cousin Ouel two years ago that I did not love myself at all. Insecurities, envy, weight and personal issues have always been with me growing up. But then after our meaningful talks and the two years that have passed, I consciously made an effort to really better myself. In my relationships with God, myself, and my family. In health, by running and lifting weights more intentionally. In forgiving myself for the times I was unkind and critical to myself. In the way I saw myself… Even in my hair! This 2019, I have fully embraced my thick curly frizzy hair, never to straighten it again. I know that it’s such a simple thing, but it gave me a push towards the right direction. These things do not happen overnight, the improvement of the posture and self-perception, but with the little efforts made consistently and forgiveness peppered all throughout the journey, it can be done.
I started the decade with a hunched back, and I end it now, standing straight and tall.
Not because I am proud.
But because I’ve come to learn how to love myself.
And to God and to the person reading this, it’s because of you. Thank you.
What people think is not beautiful or nice (may it be yourself or something truly beautiful or nice in this world), I hope you prove them otherwise. Everything that God has created is as radiant as the stars above and as pretty as a coral.