When a heart breaks

The first time I got my heart broken, it was fifth grade, Valentine’s Day.

I’ve had this terribly huge crush on a schoolmate for a while now. He knew I liked him, because I told him, and ever since then I’ve been acting all weird around him so we weren’t really “friends.” Valentine’s day was fast approaching, and I wanted to give him something. I saw this pair of heart-shaped pins in our school’s bookstore, and being a romantic sap, I bought them. I put his heart (haha) in a little box that I decorated myself and asked a friend to give it to him. I didn’t see him accept it, but my friend told me he did, and I was elated.

Hours later, as I was waiting for my service to fetch me from school, my crush’s classmate came knocking at the classroom door. She handed me the box with the pin, and told me that she heard that my crush was planning to give it to the girl he liked. She told him off, took the gift, and brought it back to me. I thanked her and waited for my ride home quietly. As soon as I got home, a friend came over to ask what happened, and I burst into tears.

It was the first time I ever cried over a boy.

* * *

The last time I got my heart broken, I was a mess.

As in, a total, absolute mess. I cried all day. I cried all week. There was a moment when I was curled up in bed and crying when a part of me wanted to laugh, because I realized that all those rom-com movie/romance novel cliches where the main character talks about how she can’t eat and can’t sleep, and all she wanted to do was curl into herself, cry and wish for the pain to disappear was actually real. I wanted to laugh because I didn’t think it would ever happen to me, but I was there and it damn it, it all hurt. I wanted to laugh, but the urge to cry was stronger, and the pain just kept on banging in my heart.

I didn’t stay in bed the whole week, but I could cry at the snap of a finger. At work? Oh, of course. I had a pack of tissues beside me for the week, and I could easily finish the entire thing in a day. My teammates were sympathetic, and tried to make me laugh several times. A text message comes, and my eyes start brimming with tears. Crying in the shower? Oh, I’ve done that, several times. Complete with background music, because sometimes you needed effects to accompany you as you wonder when your tears will ever, ever run out.

And it’s true, too, how you just lose the zest to fix yourself after the shock of the heartbreak has worn off. I didn’t want to wear contact lenses or put on make-up because I’m going to cry later anyway, and it’s just futile effort. My eyes were constantly swollen, and because my defense mechanism was so awesome, I got allergy attacks when I cry too much. So I drink knock-out allergy meds at night to get rid of the sneezes and to help me get to sleep.

Funny thing is, I wasn’t even crying about lost love – only the possibility of it. See, nothing was ever official, and it would have gone on longer if I hadn’t decided to speak up and finally ask The Question I was scared of asking. I didn’t really lose him at that time, because we were still friends (sort of). I was crying because the thing that fueled me – the possibility of something wonderful – became an impossibility, and I didn’t know how to deal.

But like I learned sometime ago, you don’t cry forever. You really don’t. When the tears finally subsided, and I stopped randomly crying at every moment, I had to face an even tougher question: what now?

* * *


13 Things About 2013

I almost skipped this post because if I can be totally honest, yesterday’s post kinda took a lot out of me. But I wanted to keep with tradition, and I wanted to end the year with a joyful and grateful note, and there’s always something a little joyful in looking back, right?

So, 2013. The Year of the Brave. I can’t believe it’s ending, and at the same time, I am really ready to say goodbye to 2013. 2013 wasn’t as difficult as 2009, or really completely as happy as 2010 or 2011 or 2012. If I can use a word to describe this year other than it being courageous, it’s…well, equal parts heart-filling and heartbreaking. That’s the best I can describe it, and truth was, I actually expected that. You can’t be courageous without it somehow breaking your heart, right?

But despite that, I still think that 2013 is good. It’s good. I remember telling my friend, when she asked me how I was, that I was good. I figured it was a more appropriate way than saying “okay” because okay is just…okay. Not really good, just…okay. Did that make sense? But good is another thing, and being in that place is enough for me now. :)

  1. With every year that I have gone to places, that is always the first thing I like to recap. :) 2013 saw me traveling again. The only new place in my list is Jakarta, my first out of the country trip this year. And then there were other places that I’ve been to before but took me a while to go back: Singapore and Guam. On the domestic front, I went to Tagaytay (for the nth time, twice), Subic and La Union. These trips, especially the international ones, kind of wiped my bank account…but what the hey. Money is just money, and I can always earn it back. The experiences in all those places are priceless, anyway.
  2. The first time I traveled alone. I think I don’t have to say why this is noteworthy, right? That Singapore trip was really a therapy of sorts (or as my friend Jam said when we saw each other, “rehab” :P), and it was a lovely, lovely time. I can’t wait to go out on my own again.
  3.  I think another reason why I was so broke this year was because I bought myself two big gifts: the much-awaited MacBook Air and my Kindle Paperwhite. I don’t regret them, of course, because I really wanted them, and they have made my reading and writing life a lot easier. :)
  4. My dog Batman passed away. On my birthday. :( I love that dog so much and it still makes me sad to remember him sometimes. He’s such a brave and lovely dog, the first one I really loved. I especially missed him on my saddest days in 2013. We had other dogs, sure, but I felt like Batman really knew me, and he really tried to comfort me when I’m sad. I’m sure other dog owners understand this, right?
  5. Grace.
    As I mentioned in my previous post, I ended 2012 with a note about graciousness, and that was definitely applied by 2013. There were so many exercises in grace this year, and I realized how grace is really hard work. This year saw me wrestling with un-gracious thoughts, trying my best to give grace and then realizing in the end that I need it just as much as I need to give it. I learned to lay my weapons down, to pick my battles (somewhat), cut people slack, and to ask for forgiveness. Grace is one of the many things that made this year brave and beautiful, and I am so, so grateful that it is free. :)
  6. Intentionality, again. I wanted to write a post on intentionality this year, and I read the post draft I had but it didn’t fit, and I didn’t feel like I am fit to write about it even after the whirlwind that is 2013. But I tried to be intentional this year, I really did. I prayed and tried to act with good intentions…but I think the biggest lesson I had about it this year is what a friend told me yesterday: sometimes good intentions aren’t enough. It’s a hard lesson to learn, because it required me to look even more outside of myself. Or I guess it’s really more in the context of expectations, really — how our expectations can sometimes kill our good intentions, something like that. I do believe that we can all benefit from being intentional with one another, but perhaps there’s more to this — I bet there really is. Perhaps there’s more to this in the next year.
  7. I finally finished a novelThis item was supposed to be I wrote a novel! but then I realized I’ve been doing that every year for NaNoWriMo. I joined Mina V. Esguerra’s #romanceclass this year, and I finally, finally finished a manuscript after how many years of leaving unfinished works in my hard drive. I even had it sent to beta readers, which is a great, great help, and I even got to revision stage. I pushed the release later and later because of some reasons (personal, among other things), but I am working hard to get it out really, really soon. And I even have an outline for the next ones. So let’s all cross our fingers for 2014 for this. :D
  8. I started tutoring kids.
    I will have a separate post for this eventually, but this is the short version: I became a Cornerstone tutor. In a nutshell, Cornerstone is our community‘s education program where tutors teach basic reading and comprehension and values formation to kids. I’ve heard of this for so long, but I didn’t exactly volunteer for it because I had busy weekends — or so I thought. Then things happened in my life and my SFC household head told our friend who heads the Cornerstone program in our area that I want to help. So I found myself waking up way too early on Saturday mornings just to go to our school and teach kids. I have more to write about this next time, but let me say that Cornerstone has definitely made my Saturday mornings brighter. :)
  9. Heartbreak. I know, I know. This sounds like the juiciest item, but let me elaborate. I guess we can start with my dog passing away, and then there were many more instances of it after that. Then there was also Haiyan/Yolanda, and that absolutely broke my heart in so many ways for my country. And yes, there was some that came from the romantic front. Okay, a lot of it came from there, and in some ways, I know it came from my own doing, too. And that is all the elaborating I would do, because the other details don’t need to be written down (at least, not now). Suffice to say that I learned the most from this, and it taught me to let go of so many things, and hold on to God’s goodness. Donald Miller hit the nail right on the head with this tweet: “Sometimes the most self-respecting decision you can make is to choose heartbreak over instant gratification. You’re worth the pain.” Yes, it is, and yes, I am. (You are, too.) I know I have done my share in breaking other people’s hearts too, and for that, I am really, really sorry.
  10. Vulnerability, being seen and loved. I learned about Brené Brown this year, and her TEDx talks on vulnerability and shame were some of my most favorite discoveries. Then who knew that I would be able to apply them this year? But I guess it follows because I wrote about having a brave heart last year, and having that means I have to learn to be vulnerable. It means trusting people, and allowing myself to be seen and loved and to be in the now. It means allowing myself to hope, to keep on walking, even if it was the last thing I feel like doing. It was this year that I really believed that while vulnerability reminds us of our humanity, it doesn’t make us fragile, not one bit. (And I am definitely reading Brene Brown’s book in 2014. :D)
  11. I found my core people this year. I’ve always known that I have a great set of friends, but this year they really, really shone in my life. I lost count of the times I slept at four to five in the morning to hang out, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. I lost sleep for so many nights but I don’t regret any of it because those were some of my favorite moments this year. More than those fun times, I also saw how my friends loved me and took care of me and were patient with me. Like what I told them last Christmas, their love and time and patience were some of the most precious gifts I received this year, and I am grateful. It is my hope that I can extend the same care and love that they showed me, too. :)
  12. Time is a friend. It took me a while to really, really feel this. If last year, I learned that space is good, this year, I learned that time is a friend. I didn’t understand it at first, and I resisted it even — because I am an impatient little girl who doesn’t know what’s good for her. :P I have made so many mistakes because I hurried things or wanted to hurry things, and I apologize for that. But I have learned, and am learning, that we really can’t hurry some things. That things really take time for it to work. And most importantly, healing takes time.
  13. Forgiveness. And just like last year, I got some last minute lessons this year, too. Before this year ended, I learned about forgiveness. Oh, it’s not that I don’t know about it. It’s really more about learning it all over again, and really, really feeling it this time. I remember during one of the times I went to Confession this year, the priest told me about how Jesus never said “love” in the Lord’s Prayer, but mentioned “forgive” twice, and perhaps it was because Jesus meant that forgiveness is a kind of loving. This year — especially in the last few weeks — I faced forgiveness, both in giving and receiving it. I learned how hard it was to forgive the people you love who have wronged you, and how it was even harder to ask for forgiveness from them. And even way harder is to forgive yourself from all the mistakes you made. Like courage, forgiveness is a conscious decision, a constant choice and sometimes even a battle because you need to work hard in forgiving all the time. I really liked what the priest told me then: Pray for a big heart. A small heart gets irritated by the smallest things and refuses to think about others. A big heart absorbs the pain and knows how to forgive. Jesus had a big heart that He was able to bear the pain on the cross and forgive. You need to pray for a big heart. That has been my constant prayer ever since I heard it, and I’d like to believe that God is answering that, one day at a time. This year, I prayed so hard for redemption…and I’d like to believe that it was an answered prayer. So thank you, thank You for this gift. Because she has been forgiven, she can love. Because she is loved, she can forgive. 

I’ve always liked the New Year because it always meant that everything seems new and fresh and there are always infinite possibilities. I am so done with 2013, not because it was a bad year (despite it being heartbreaking for most parts) but because I am ready for the next year. I am ready to welcome the coming year with all I am. I am still messy and imperfect and awkward, and the new year will not really take that away in a snap (if it will ever be taken away, that is). I will carry all that and the lessons I learned in 2013 to the new year, and I trust that God, in His infinite mercy, will use all of that and bring new things from this. Or perhaps He will make some of the old things seem new because He will give me new eyes to see it. I don’t know exactly, but I’m not really scared. :) God is good and faithful and He delights in me (delights in us!), so what’s to be scared about?

Image from we heart it
Image from we heart it

If I haven’t said thank you to you (family, friend, acquaintance, someone I argued with, someone I hurt, someone I asked forgiveness from, someone who hurt me and yes, I forgive you) yet for being a part of my 2013 then here it is: THANK YOU. Thank you for being a part of my year of courage. Thank you for being a part of the brave stories that roar. Thank you from the bottom of my sunflower-loving, solar-powered stargirl heart. ♥

Have a joyful 2014, everyone. :)

A nationwide heartbreak

To say that last week was stressful is an understatement.

In a way, it almost felt like last week didn’t exist, with all the stress and devastation I saw on TV and online. But to bury it all and pretend that it didn’t happen feels like some kind of injustice — the kind that I promised wouldn’t happen to me because grace is not about forgetting, but knowing you can start anew.

In the midst of keeping myself up to date, seeing photos, checking which news articles to believe and fixing our own relief efforts in our book club, I came to this conclusion to what this feeling was, the one that bugged me and drove me to tears every now and then when I read news, see photos and hear stories.


This thing that’s stirring our hearts? This isn’t just a simple sadness over what happened to our country. It’s not just sympathy.

It’s heartbreak.

I don’t think anyone’s a stranger to heartbreak. We’ve all had our hearts broken at some point — by a friend, a family member or someone you love. We’ve all had that, and while every heartbreak is different, it doesn’t make it less painful.

What we had last week, and what we’re still having now, is a nationwide heartbreak.

I wrote this last week, during one of those nights when I was feeling a little too much and thinking a little too much (but in a good way):

We are like lovers reeling from a fresh heartbreak, reacting in different ways we know how: lash out, rant, mope, judge. We wonder how people can be so happy and seem so apathetic by posting anything unrelated to the typhoon, while a third of our country suffers. We talk about sensitivity and inefficiency, we curse the people who continue to steal and lie in this tragedy, and make it hard for the people who need the relief to get what they need.

But some of us move, organize things, reach out, help. We move because not moving makes us feel the heartbreak even more, and moving makes it easier for us to breathe, somehow.

We have our own ways to cope because a heartbreak comes unexpectedly, no matter how ready we are, no matter how strong we think we are. Our hearts break, and we do what we can do to heal.

We move, and we wait for healing to come.

And it will come. We just have to wait a little bit.

If healing was fast and easy, then how would we learn the things we ought to learn in the face of heartbreak? If healing comes in a flash, how would we learn compassion, kindness, generosity, strength? Would we be able to appreciate the tireless efforts everyone is doing to heal from the heartbreak? If things become okay in a snap, would we even appreciate what kind of people we become after this heartbreak?

It may seem so far away, but I believe we’re slowly, slowly starting to recover. It’s going to take a while. A long while, probably. And this road won’t be smooth — definitely bumpy, and will probably mean more work for us. Possibly with tinier heartbreaks; small waves of grief that will make us cry again, and punch us in the gut.

But it will not steal our hope.

It will not silence our love.

The thing about heartbreak, I learned, is not really about waiting for things to stop hurting before you do something. A broken heart can and will heal with time, but for time to actually do its job, you need to move. Movement will heal you, free you. In movement, you will learn, and in movement you will be wiser. In movement, you will find people who will move with you.

And you will heal.

swirlOur nation’s heart is broken. But if there’s another thing I learned about heart break (and I quote1 ): Even when hearts are broken, they still keep beating.

Our hearts are broken, but it’s beating. Loud and strong.

P.S. – Not too late to make a difference! Keep on helping, keep on praying!

  1. From Corpse in the Mirror by A.S. Santos []