Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The trouble with fairy tales

I've always been a romantic.

When I first started writing in grade school, I would write love poems, even if at the age of ten, I had no idea what real love was. As I moved away from poems and into prose, I found myself writing love stories about best friends falling in love with each other. I collected Sweet Dreams and Love Stories, teenage romance novels that were also about best friends falling in love, or the bad boy falling in love with the good girl, or the jock falling in love with the nerd. Even in adulthood, I gravitate towards chick flicks where the guy always gets the girl in the end.

The trouble with surrounding myself with these fairy tales is that I had become conditioned to believe that love ends with happily ever after. That you may fight a little, but you'll still end up with each other because you're meant to be together! You've found The One! He was right beside you all along!

The thing is, love is nothing like that. As I've learned, love isn't supposed to be easy and it's not even romantic. When you get down to it, love is a conscious decision to be fully present to another person. This means caring about that other person's life, being involved, ready to offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, cheering them on, and really knowing them. It includes knowledge of mundane things like food allergies and random things like being afraid of cats and total darkness. It means knowing a little bit about childhood anecdotes, but not so much that there's nothing new to discover.

Fairy tales never tell you about these things. They don't tell you what happens after the prince and princess rode on the white horse and into the sunset to their happily-ever-after. Does the prince snore and keep the princess awake all night, making her cranky in the morning? Does the princess have an annoying habit of leaving her clothes on the floor instead of putting them in a hamper, like a real princess should? Do they ever argue about which kingdom to visit over the holidays? Fairy tales don't tell you these things because these are issues of real life, which only means that the fairy tale is over and real life has begun.

The trouble with fairy tales is it makes you believe that real life is not a story in itself. I suppose it's why a lot of couples like to say "the honeymoon is over!" when troubles begin to arise. But I've found that real life is so much more interesting than the fairy tale. After all, there is beauty in the way the prince makes a cup of coffee for the princess as a way of apologizing for keeping her up. Everyone has annoying habits because no one is perfect. And arguing --if done correctly-- is a way of challenging each other and can teach you both a thing or two about yourselves to make you better people.

Now, when I read a book or watch a movie, I see it for what it is: a work of fiction. Because once you turn the last page and the credits roll, the more beautiful story called Real Life continues.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A love affair with words

While most people like to post photos of food or their outfits of the day, a look at my Instagram profile revealed to me that I like to post about words.

A couple of months ago, when the days were dark, I liked to look for quotes that inspired me to have a more positive outlook. I would post them in my Instagram account in the hope that someone else would also be inspired by it. It's the tech version of reading The Warrior of the Light by Paulo Coelho and writing on my journal after meditating.

Now that I've started reading and writing again, I find myself taking photos of passages that speak to me. Lately, I've started making very short poems-- just four lines, always about love, turned into an image using the Phoster app on my iPhone.

I don't know why I just realized it now that words have always been very important to me, so I've always felt that they're worth posting and sharing. Now that I'm a writer by profession, I suppose you can say I have an ongoing love affair with words.

It makes me realize that perhaps I've always

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What I learned from writing about one-night stands

Let me just put it out there: in this month's issue of Men's Health Philippines, aside from writing about how to beat procrastination, I wrote an article on one-night stands.

I hesitated about promoting the article because I worried about what my more traditional and conservative friends and family would say about me writing about such a topic. But then I realized, what I write about is not necessarily what I believe or condone. (Plus, it's a six-page major feature-- in terms of milestones, it's right up there with the cover story for Good Housekeeping that I did in 2010. How can I not be proud?!)

I have always chosen to look at the reality and not the morality of situations because I feel I am never in a position to pass judgment on the way people choose to live their lives, in the same way that I would not want to be judged for the way I've chosen to live mine. And there are many different realities that I've come across in this world: people cheat on their loved ones, people stay with the ones they love. People choose to give it to someone they love, someone they just met, someone they don't love; people choose to save it for the one they'll marry. People wait for The One to arrive, people actively look for The One. Whether all of this is good or bad is up to them to decide for themselves.

Which is not to say that I don't have my own opinions and feelings about things like these. For example, when I find out that someone is cheating on a partner, it really ticks me off, having been cheated on myself. But my stance is always this: I hope they know what really matters to them at the end of the day, what they're risking, what the consequences are, and that they won't regret the decisions they've made when the time comes. I can say what I want about how cheating is wrong and all that, but ultimately, it's your life to live. No one should ever tell you how to live your life.

Besides, with all of these differences in experiences, decisions, and ways of living, there is so much to learn from others. Rather than judge, I choose to learn. My life is richer and my view is wider because of it. Through the years, I've learned to respect and accept views and experiences that are very different from mine, and I think it's interesting that such a variety of experiences, opinions, and emotions exist, all in just one world we live in.

So in writing this article, I learned what drives women to engage in one-night stands. I learned that evolution has a role in courtship, in the way men and women enter and view relationships, in the way we see sexuality. As a writer, it is my responsibility to share these insights so that men who do choose to engage in one-night stands can be better informed about how their partner feels as well. It was my privilege to hear the stories of women who trusted me enough to share their experiences on something that hardly anyone talks about so candidly-- and it's therefore my duty to do justice to their stories.

I'm proud of this article because I've never written anything like it before, and I hope that you'll learn something from it too. The December issue of Men's Health Philippines is available in newsstands, bookstores, and supermarkets nationwide (writing that phrase just brought back a whole lot of memories of my past life in PR!) and I hope you'll drop me a line to let me know what you think. :)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Happiness Project

"You hit a goal, you keep a resolution."

Photo from Google Images

I just finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and one thing it made me realize-- I'm pretty happy with my life.

It was at the end of the book that I realized this, when I was reading her tips on how to start your own happiness project. It said that aside from thinking of what makes you feel good, you should also think of areas in your life that make you feel bad, that don't feel right, that require more growth. Looking at the big picture of my life, I'm in a good place. But upon closer examination, there are areas I want to improve on:

1. Exercise more often. Because the book suggests making it a concrete, actionable goal, I need to set a specific time of day to get on the treadmill. On the days that I have work, I plan to park much farther than I usually do so that it's a considerable walk to the office.

2. Find time for prayer. Honestly, I end my day with a phone call from my fiance, not with prayer. I don't start my day with prayer either, and just find myself talking to God randomly throughout the day. Which is not a bad thing, but there had been a point in my life where I was able to meditate and write on my journal on a daily basis. I need to carve out some quiet time in my life, and I think it entails waking up earlier every day.

3. Read a book. A confession: I love reading in the toilet. Where other people bring a magazine or the newspaper, I bring my books. But ever since I got an iPad (and later on, an iPhone), I found myself using Toilet Time to browse Facebook instead. I decided to bring back my old habit by starting with The Happiness Project and realized that I could actually work through my never-ending book list by reading just a chapter every day, one book at a time. It would be a bonus if I could find the time to lounge in my big chair with a book, but at least I've come up with a minimum requirement.

4. Blog more often. Being able to blog on a daily basis seems to be a difficult goal to achieve. Not only because I'm busy with work, but I also find that I don't have so much to share every day. When I was much younger, I had an opinion on everything and itched to blog, sometimes more than once a day, every day. But as I grew older, I realized that you don't have to have an opinion about everything, and even if you do, the whole world doesn't need to know about it. Editing my thoughts and the words that come out of my mouth has been a worthy exercise all these years because it means that I try to say things that I mean and in the precise way that I want to say them. I do want to keep this blog going though, so I think I just need to be realistic about how often I want to share things that are actually meaningful and worth talking about. Maybe once a week is doable?

5. Spend more time offline. Now that I have a job that requires me to be online and "always on" (and I have the gadgets to make it easier to really be always on, anytime, anywhere), I need to make a conscious effort to unplug and spend some time offline. When I think about it, some of what I can do for my job can actually be done offline, like brainstorming or mapping out a structure, then I can just go online again to flesh out the ideas. There is something to be said about sitting away from a computer, thinking without looking at a screen, getting up to stretch every so often. And because my work requires me to be online much of the time, as much as possible I'd like to spend my non-work hours offline.

I suppose these five things are enough for now. The book actually encourages you to come up with things like your Splendid Truths (which are basically words you live by), or a list of things that make you happy, but there is a danger for me to get caught up in making the lists, such that I forget about actually getting up to do something. So maybe it's better that I've started with the resolutions, right as the year draws to a close. At least I have time for a bit of a dry run!