I’ve always been surrounded by people. I’ve been trying to remember a time when I wasn’t, when I was utterly and completely alone, but I can’t. I guess there were some times back in freshman year in high school, when I had a bit of trouble fitting in with my group of friends in my section, but even then I had friends to eat with during lunch break, and friends to hang out with after school.
I remember back in college, the first time I took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, and I was an ISTJ. I didn’t understand it back then, but I find it funny now that I was ever labeled an introvert (I’m an ESFJ now, FYI). Now when I tell people that I’m an introvert, no one believes me, because like I said, I’ve always been surrounded by people. I’m not exactly the friendliest person around because I haven’t really mastered the art of asking questions, but I could hold my own well with a group of new people. I like being with people. Not in the party-in-the-club or in the shopping-crowd way, but you know, spending time with people I love. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep my love tank full.
A few weeks ago, I shut down. No, no, perhaps shut down isn’t the right term for it. I shut up. It started with something, an exhaustion of some sort that just hit me one day that got me gnashing my teeth, sort of, because I was so tired about that one thing that just. won’t. quit. So I shut up, and sat back, perhaps even staring stonily at the distance. But after that particular feeling has passed, I kept at it — the keeping quiet, not the stony staring into the distance. I felt like being quiet for a change, not be really “around”, fade into the background and sit and watch as opposed to always having something to say. Okay, this “fading” was really meant for my online life, where I had this sort of “omnipresence” that my friends teased me about. (I mean, really. I just happen to be online
all the time when things happen or show up on my feed. How can I not react?) When I shut up, I stopped looking at the things on my feed. I mean, sure, I browse and react sometimes, but other than that, I just didn’t say anything.
It was nice, not saying anything. It was nice to be an observer for a while.
I bought a present for myself last Christmas, something that I finished reading within five minutes but I didn’t regret getting: How to be Alone by Tanya Davis. I spotted the book while looking for a gift for some friends, and I knew that I wanted it as soon as I recognized the poem inside. I know, I know, I could read it online and even watch the video over and over again, but the book had illustrations, and I wanted to own something that had it. Something I could keep going back to whenever I needed to read it, to soak in the words and to dig for nuggets of wisdom in each page of that short poem with each reread. My favorite parts:
If you are at first lonely, be patient.
If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.
About a month ago, I attended my first The Better Story Project workshop entitled Love in 8 Chapters. It was about love, obviously, and I attended because: (1) I figure it’s about time I attended one; (2) Isa is a good friend of mine; and (3) it’s about love, and everyone knows I’m a romantic sap.1
I went to the workshop, ears, heart, and mind open, because I wanted to learn things about love. Things I don’t know, or remind myself of the things I knew but somehow forgot. It was a great night, and yes, I did learn a lot, and I’ve been meaning to blog about them but somehow I couldn’t find the words until now. There are several things that I want to write about, but for today, I will focus on these lines that the speaker shared, something she wrote in her journal some years back:
To set yourself free, you need to remember to love again. To sincerely wish love on the source of your pain, without want for anything in return.
That was all I got to copy when it was flashed on the screen, but it was enough. I kept on going back to this in the past days and weeks, especially during my prayer time. It’s a lovely, lovely thought, but it’s a hard one to really live out. To sincerely wish love on the source of my pain? Are you crazy? I’ve always thought that I could really, truly and sincerely say “I’m happy for you” when the time came that I need to say it, but the time did come and it killed me that I couldn’t say it. Because guess what? I’m not happy.
Okay, fine, I mean, I am happy, sort of, because other people are happy, but I am not happy for myself. And it’s so hard to say you’re happy for someone when inside it all feels like just a big lie. Who was I kidding, anyway?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is my ego talking right there. Down, ego. Down.
But what did I quote about joy again, at the start of the year?
Because joy and delight are not happy feelings: they are the choices to let love win. They are the choice to trust love triumphant.
I’ve been going back to what Carisse, the speaker in the workshop, said, and then back to that line about joy. It’s hard to wish love and joy on the source of your pain, because of the simple fact that they are the source of your pain. But think about it this way, too: somehow, the source of your pain isn’t solely just another person, but also, you.
In a way, I am also a source of my pain. Of course, I don’t mean to hurt myself, but there were many times that I did some things that caused me pain unintentionally. Or, you know, sometimes they are intentional, but in the figurative sense. More often than not, our actions and words and thoughts also become a source of our own pain. Like when we can’t let go of something. Or when we refuse to forgive. We don’t just refuse to let go or forgive others, but we also refuse to let go of our faults and forgive ourselves in the process.
So in a sense, wishing love and joy on the source of our pain is also wishing love and joy for ourselves. Right?
It’s hard, but I’m working on it. I’m working on choosing to take delight even when it’s painful, to wish love and joy on others and myself, even when it’s the last thing I ever want to do. Because joy is what happens when you let love win, even if it’s hard and painful.
I mean, just look at Jesus on the cross. That’s pain right there, the one we brought about because of our sins. But guess what? More than pain, that’s also love. The most triumphant love, ever.
And it’s the kind of love that has and will always set us free.
- Not lately, though, but that’s another story. [↩]
So I had this Valentine’s post planned that I started drafting last week, but I didn’t get to finish it because (1) I was busy writing; and (2) I honestly wasn’t sure where the post was going. And then I’m about to leave for Cagayan de Oro for the 21st SFC International Conference (yay) and it’s the first time I’m spending Valentine’s Day out of town (yay), so I would be even busier. So I thought: Nah, never mind. Screw that post. My blog will still live without it.
But I’m a sucker for dates, and I don’t know, it’s become some sort of a tradition, and I didn’t want to have the blog empty of posts for two weeks (because I didn’t write any last week).
So here. A short and sweet V-day post, written in advance, for you guys! I know some people feel bad about not having someone to spend V-day with, but if there’s anything I learned in the past years, it’s this: we are never without love. Sure, we may not always have romance, but we are never, ever unloved. :)
More posts when I get back! In the meantime, here’s a poem from one of the books I read recently, The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg. What a lovely and fun book. Here’s a poem that the main character read at the end, and I’ve been reading it over and over every now and then:
In the midst of happiness or despair
in sorrow or in joy
in pleasure or in pain:
Do what is right and you will be at peace.
In life there is no greater gift than peace,
May you always have love.
I hope you have a warm, joyful, and love-filled Valentine’s. ♥
Hello thereHi! I'm Tina, and this is my personal blog. I used to blog at refineme.org, which I have turned into a vault, because I can't let go of my old posts there. I like to read (and I am a part of a wonderful book club) and write and I
used to beam still disgustinglymushy/sentimental sometimes, but I don't really blog about it anymore. I get excited over nice pens and notebooks, anything with stars, sunflowers, tigers, cats and dogs. I talk to myself when I'm alone, I dance even when I'm not good, I talk a lot and I talk fast. I'm learning how to have a brave heart, and this is where I write it down. I live loved because I serve a great God. :) More?
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