Gratitude is a muscle

So like most of the people I know, I started the year with a new planner. I didn’t plan on getting the Starbucks one, but circumstances (hanging out at the hospital everyday at the end of the year for my dad’s gall bladder surgery) had me complete the stickers. I had a bullet journal with me, though, so the planner wasn’t exactly going to be useful to me.

But since I chose grateful as my 2017 word, and I missed being all artsy~ in my planners, I eventually figured it out. I got the idea from a friend, who used her planner as her gratitude journal, and I thought that was a great idea and decided to do it.

So January came, and I took the time every night to fill the day with something I was thankful for. They were usually simple things – easy commute to work, waking up on time, good breakfast, getting some time to exercise. Or sometimes, something special, too:  my two-year anniversary at work, crappy first drafts, finding dresses and discounts for weddings, going to musicals with friends. And some days, I wrote about the bad things, too: falling into sin again, worry about changes at work, annoyances.

I kept it up for a month or so, with the examen at the end of the day to help me keep still. I thought, “Hey, this is actually fun and easy, I think I could keep it up until the end of the year.”

The last time I touched my planner (other than this week) was February 14.

Of course this would happen. It always happens. I’ve noticed this in the past three years or so that I often lose track of my word and my theme sometime after January. What happens is this: I get distracted, I get a disruption in my schedule (in this case, it was the trip to Iloilo for the SFC conference), and then I find it hard to get back into the groove because life just got busy.

You’d think I’d be ready for these things, you know? Or you’d think I’d be ready to at least fight for what I’ve been trying to do a little. But I don’t.

Now we’re almost halfway to June, and I’m in kind of a funk. I’m not sure why or how or when it started, but I found myself complaining more, or ranting more, or just becoming cranky and impatient toward other people. I feel a little troubled with this, especially when I found myself dreading weekdays, and finding the days just passing me by without finding anything meaningful to make them count.

Have you ever felt the same?

Then I remembered: gratitude, just like prayer, faith, joy, courage, and love, is a muscle. You need to choose to practice it actively if you want to grow into that kind of person.

And I remembered, too, the blank pages of my planner that I didn’t fill with things and people I was grateful for.

And because I needed to do something about this, I thought: let’s exercise that gratitude muscle.

It’s simple: I’ll open my planner and write the things I’m grateful for everyday, again. But instead of just looking into me doing this until the end of the year, I’ll give myself ten days.

Ten days of gratitude.

Ten days of writing it down, of being mindful and intentional about being grateful.

I digress, sort of: when January rolled around, I told myself that I was going to change my physical fitness goals, because the “lose # lbs” wasn’t working for me anymore (did it ever?). I decided to change my “KPI,” and instead of counting the pounds, I decided to count the number of workouts I did in the week. That’s something within my control, and easier to track. My goal was to hit at least 3 workouts within the week.

And you know what, that worked. Granted, I didn’t hit the 3 workout counts every single week, but it changed my priority and made me less frustrated when I go for my monthly measurements. I knew that I wouldn’t see any changes if I didn’t work out a lot, and vice versa. It made me more accountable, and it made going to exercise more enjoyable, somehow.

So just like exercising my actual muscles, I’ll go exercise my gratitude muscle. Just ten days. That shouldn’t be hard, right?

I’ll be back to write about it again. If you want to do this with me, comment below? I’d love to hear your journey, too. :)

16 Things for 2016

Right before I went on holiday break, I was trying to think of a year-ender post and realized that I actually had enough to write 16 things for this year. Maybe I was a little bit lazy in 2015, or maybe 2016 was just chock full of stuff, both good and bad but I need this little reminder to keep myself grateful for the following year.

But let me be all cliche for a while: I can’t believe it’s almost 2017.

So let’s start – some 16 things for 2016.

1. 2015 started with an intense longing to leave and maybe, quit. Haha, okay, so maybe this isn’t so positive? But there were several things that I wanted to end at the start of the year, partly for cleaning up, and partly because the environment wasn’t so healthy anymore. Without really going to detail, I did manage this — with some actual cleaning up and letting go, and with some decisions to stay. It’s funny when I look back on it now, but I realized that yes, decisions to leave or stay shouldn’t be done when you’re emotional.

2. Singapore! First SFC International Conference in an international setting. My first out of the country trip for the year, and also quite adventurous because of our airport shenanigans on our way back. Was terribly sick this time, though, but it was a good trip nonetheless.

Then I went to Singapore again later in the year for a business trip. My first out of the country business trip was very productive, and made me feel quite…mature? It was fun!


3. I turned 30. Funny how I was more scared of turning 30 when I turned 29 than when I actually turned 30. I turned 30 quietly, with my family, in a comfortable bed with wine and cheese on the side. If you’re almost at this age and you’re freaking out – don’t. It’s actually quite nice. :)


4. Switchfoot x 3. My third Switchfoot concert! I will never get tired of watching them live. :)


5. #AprilFeelsDay + #FeelsRushIn. How do I describe this? Oh, I already did. This is a happy day in the middle of a hot summer and pre-election madness in the Philippines. Kilig is the answer. :P


A few months later, we had #FeelsRushIn, organized in 10 days by the awesome girls (wasn’t hands on with it so much because of school). It was just as fun, discovering new talents and observing the crowd and all that. A preview of what’s to come? :D


6. Speaking of elections…talk about toxic? Still toxic now, but the bright spot was always #romanceclass and how we all managed to find the kilig in everything, despite the madness. Like that fic we wrote because of a picture and a ship we formed. The fic remains unfinished, because we couldn’t take reality. Sort of. :P


7. Finished school! I started a Certified Digital Marketing Course in 2015, and finished it this year! I took up Social Media Marketing in April which I enjoyed immensely (and learned that I have been underestimating social media marketing a bit) and took the final Marketing 360 course in July. Both of my defenses were on the day before Feels Days, haha. But I am now certified, so yay. Studying is fun!


8. Lost a dear friend. This year was also the year that I faced grief from losing a dear friend to death. It’s surprising and sad and I still miss him terribly, but I am glad that I had good memories shared with him. Thanks for everything, Chief.


9. Published books 1.5, 2, and 2.5. After a book and writing that is 2015, I made up for it this year! I finished and published It’s a Match last May, Keep the Faith last July, and Five Minutes Till Midnight, part of Make My Wish Come True in December. It was a challenge to keep pushing words out because I still face a ton of self-doubt but the accomplishment of seeing it out and having them read is satisfying. So yes, I’m still here, still writing and not going anywhere. :)


Special mention to the Christmas anthology because I organized this, and like I said, it was fun because it wasn’t so hard to organize it with a bunch of talented writers. :) ♥


10. So much theater. I think it was in 2008 to 2010 that I thought I was a theater person because I watched some shows but those years were lightweights compared to 2016. I was in the theater 10 times this year: 3 Stars and Sun, Godspell, Rak of Aegis x 3, Love/Sick, Ako si Josephine, The Tempest Reimagined x 2, and Mabining Mandirigma. I credit these theater experience with #romanceclass, especially Tara, who kept on organizing feels trips so we could support our friends. Definitely going to more shows next year. :)


11. Romance Lectures. Learning doesn’t have to be boring, and kilig is always the answers. I wasn’t able to attend the previous #romanceclass discussions in 2015 because I had other commitments, but this year we changed it up to  being paid lectures. We did 2, but that was because the second one was kind of the peak? Haha. Not complaining, because hey, I never thought I’d meet Atom Araullo in the flesh until #romanceclass came along. ;) (I already met Champ through a friend years ago, but I only discovered his LI factor during the rockstar lecture. :D)


12. Conference Sharing, Part 2. I was blessed to go onstage to share at the TEACH Expo in 2014, so when the opportunity came again this year for the SFC Metro Manila Regional Conference, I said yes. And man, what a journey it was to write my sharing, polish it, and then deliver it. It was my sort of coming out to SFC Metro Manila about my writing. :)


13. #romanceclass x Manila International Book Fair. Talk about dream come true. Every time we were asked if we’ll ever have a booth in MIBF, we always say no because it was too expensive. But BDAP generously offered us a booth, and we took it and it blew us all away. I wasn’t there for the first few days but news of our books getting sold out was crazy thrilling, but it was even more crazy when I got there on the weekend. Probably the first MIBF I attended that I didn’t get to buy books, but the most memorable of all MIBFs I have attended. Thanks to everyone who bought my books! ♥


14. New stuff at work. So the earlier part of the year had me struggling for things at work, which was a usual struggle of staying or going. I held on to opportunities to be poor in spirit, and held on to God’s work, no matter how slow it can be. Later in the year, so many things changed at work that left us breathless, but has introduced me to more doors than I can count? Really getting by with God’s grace, and still getting by with that in the coming year. :)


15. FeelsFest All Feels days are specials, and this one was extra special because we had a lot of time (well, a month hehe) to prepare for it, plus there were so many feelings this day! And new books! And other things! I posted a longer recap here, but my favorite part would be having my favorite scene in Keep the Faith read by Gio and Gab. ♥ ♥ ♥



16. Lots of family time. I had a lot of out of town (read: Tagaytay) vacations with my family this year, and it’s always extra fun with my nephew around. This Christmas, I was all set to celebrate with them via Facetime, but God was gracious and gave us time to be physically together for the holidays until the year ends. :)


2016 has had a bad rep, and in fact, I’m nursing an allergy attack right now so it’s really a hassle. But it’s so easy to focus on the bad and make us feel bad when in fact, there were good things that happened this year if we just care to look, and if choose to be thankful. Despite all the darkness, despite all the craziness in this world, let’s not forget: gratitude is always an option. :)

See you in a bit, 2017. :)