Posted in relationships, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

A Letter From Me to Me

Dear Self,

For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been a fast learner. However, there’s one lesson that you’ve wilfully and consistently failed to learn: the lesson that, no matter what you do, you will never be able to please everyone. 

It’s frustrating for me to see how you bend over backwards in an effort to be “universally loved”. IT’S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN. Not because your efforts are lacking, but because that’s just the way the world is made.

Whenever someone comes up with an idea, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will always be one naysayer for every fifty supportive comments. This shouldn’t bring you down or stop you from making similar efforts in the future.

No, what you have to do is to file experiences like these under the heading of Character-Building. Its not good for anyone to think so highly of themselves anyway. We need detractors to keep us humble and to keep us grounded.

We need negative people to inspire us to do even better next time. Success truly is the sweetest revenge; if you can’t change their minds and their opinions about you or about what you’re doing, you can at least prove them wrong when you throw proof of your success in their face. 

The point is, you just have to remember the reasons for why you do the things you do. You’re not doing it to gain praise or for people to like you; you’re not looking for appreciation or any sort of reward.

No, you do the things you do because you genuinely believe in them. And that kind of conviction is a strength to be cultivated; it is what will make you go far in life despite people trying to drag you down.

There are more people who appreciate you than you know. They may not always say it explicitly but they are there to support you, your ideas and the essence of who you are. Those are the people worth listening to.

Actually, if I could have one wish for you, it would be this: that you’d have a better ability of filtering people’s comments so that you only give credence to the opinions of people who are worthy of your respect.

Don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle. I know its difficult to stay enthusiastic and engaged when you’ve been disappointed by people so many times before, but if you lose sight of who you are (and if you become negative as a response to the negativity being thrown at you), you’re letting them win.

DON’T LET THEM WIN.

So yeah, you can’t please everybody. And nor should you try to. You are not obligated to set yourself on fire just to keep somebody else warm. Do not take to heart comments that are so far beneath you that they’ll need a shovel to dig them out.

Have a little cry about it, its a natural response to people hurting your feelings. But pick yourself up and remember the eternally wise words of one Taylor Alison Swift:

Don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine

Chin up anj, everything always looks better after a good night’s sleep. If not, well, that’s what chocolate is for.

Love,

The More Rational Side of You

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, Feminism, relationships, Reviews, women

Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Now here’s a blinding flash of the obvious: sex, lies and scandals sell.

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Anatomy of a Scandal is the latest in a string of novels that tackle the subject matter of marriage and infidelity, and how passion can make anyone do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Honestly, I have long since removed my rose-colored glasses. I no longer see the world through the filters of my childhood Disney influences. I am grown-up and realistic enough to accept that there’s no such thing as perfect relationships.

However.

I am increasingly frustrated by the way marriage is portrayed in the number of books I’ve read recently. I mean, is nothing sacred anymore? When did fidelity become the exception rather than the rule? When did society learn to turn the other cheek when a husband is caught cheating on his wife or vice versa? When did we become so blasé about something that – to me- is so fundamentally wrong?

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Okay, now that I’ve had my little rant, let me try to actually get a coherent review of this book out.

Anatomy of A Scandal is actually a courtroom drama more than anything else. A charming and influential MP is accused of rape by a woman with whom he’s been having an affair with for several months. This makes the case trickier because the issue of consent is blurred by the fact that they’ve had consensual sex several times prior to the incident in question (a quickie at the elevator right at the heart of the Houses of Parliament, HONESTLY).

This book really gets down to the nitty-gritty. For all that I hate the fact that this is another book about a cheating cretin, I really do admire it for the awareness it brings to the public about the kind of rape where consent is a grey area rather than a clear-cut case of “she didn’t want it”.

According to this book, the prosecutor has to make the jury believe that at the point of penetration, the accused was fully aware that they victim did not consent to the act. So really, she could have been enjoying the foreplay but if she didn’t want to go all the way and yet the man still insisted on scoring a home run, its still rape. I never knew that.

This book also brings to light the reason why so many victims do not come forward about their experiences. I mean, I don’t mean to generalise, but there is so much burden placed on the victim to provide proof of rape. And when you do come forward, your character and history are scrutinised, criticised and judged by everyone involved; your business becomes everybody’s business.

If you’re somehow the kind of woman who likes to look good, dress sexy or flirt every now and then, people seem to think you deserved what happened to you. As if one thing led to the other. As if there was no distinction between being a flirt and unsolicited sex. In this case, the odds against the victim are stacked even higher because she was “the other woman”.

It’s book likes these that make me thankful that the world is now paying more attention to things like sexual harassment in the workplace and that victims of assault have found their voice through movement like Time’s Up and Me Too. Where there once was just ripples in the ocean, feminism is now making waves. And thank God for that because its about damn time that abusers (and I’m not saying that they are exclusively of the male variety) finally answer for their sins.

Anyway, this book isn’t really a crime novel, nor is it the kind of book you pick up if you want to enjoy a fast-paced and thrilling plot. The story unfolds gradually, and in a non-linear fashion through the use of flashbacks. There were very few plot twists and none that you wouldn’t see coming.

It’s told from several point of views, one of which is the wife of the accused, which is why I went on the whole cheating rant because I just felt so sorry for her. I mean, you work hard to maintain a marriage, you compromise in order to make a partnership work and you think things are going along swimmingly AND THEN you’re completely blindsided not only by the discovery of an affair but by a far greater and more public scandal. Its enough to turn someone off the whole institution of marriage altogether.

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I think I’m going to read a romance novel next just to remind myself that the world is still a romantic place and that as long as the people in it continue to believe in true love, hope still springs eternal. Sappy, I know, but I need to take this belief with me when I go to sleep at night.

Because if love no longer exists, and all we’re left with are the lies and the scandal and the constant infidelity, what is the point of waking up in the morning? Scary thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in bloggers, dating, relationships, Self-Discovery

Pavlovian Instincts and Toxic Relationships

Its been more than a decade since I took Psychology 101 in college but one of the first things I remember reading was about Ivan Pavlov’s experiments with a dog, a bell and a piece of meat.

As the story goes, Mr. Pavlov would simultaneously offer the dog a piece of meat every time he rings the bell, conditioning  the dog to associate the ringing of the bell with the appearance of food. He repeated this several times until it got to the point where the dog would salivate every time the bell was rung, with or without the meat.

I’d like to think that as human beings we’d have far more control over our impulses and actions than the dog in this story. But the Pavlovian technique is famous for a reason, because it is more or less an accurate reflection of human behaviour – or at least it IS in some cases.

I think of myself as a reasonably intelligent woman. I’m strong-willed, independent and capable of making it on my own, with or without a man. In fact, I’ve been told quite recently that I am the perfect example of an alpha female. Of course that person also said I have the tendency to be so bossy as to be completely intimidating, but hey, I’ll take that as a compliment.

However, the sad truth is that – just like everyone else – I have my own weaknesses. One in particular stands out as my kryptonite, my achilles heel, my very own Ivan Pavlov with that damned infernal bell.

You see, he rings that bell and I am conditioned to come running. He then tells me to jump and I’ll simply ask ‘how high?’. I’ve associated him with so many good memories and so many good feelings that even now, even after the struggles I’ve gone through to build back the broken pieces of my self-respect, all it takes is one message, one phone call and I’m right back where I started.

It’s as if the past 6 or 7 years never happened. As if I’m still that sad, lonely, overweight and broken-hearted girl whose self-esteem was so low that she had to turn to food to comfort, thus perpetuating a cycle that took the better part of the decade to break.

Why do we do this to ourselves? 

The stupid thing is, the feelings that initially brought on the impulse to please don’t even exist anymore. I’ve thought about this all day and all night and I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t possess even a single hope that this story will end with the two of us together. That ship has sailed a long long time ago.

So why am I bending over backwards trying to do so many things for a person who doesn’t even acknowledge or appreciate it? Who thinks he’s entitled to my time and efforts? Who takes it for granted as his due?

I don’t know. 

All I know is that I am not a dog. In fact, that is an insult to dogs. In this scenario, dogs probably possess more intelligence than I do. Their EQ is probably higher than mine is at the moment. At least they know who deserves to have and keep their loyalty.

There are so many things that I still want to say but if I say it all at once this blog is going to turn into a book. I guess I just needed to get this off my chest. I have come so far to fall back on bad habits and toxic relationships now.

I’ve learned – or at least I thought I did – that I need to cull out those relationships that do nothing for me. Even if that leaves me single and with only a handful of friends, its still better than tolerating something that’s bad for me just because I’m afraid to be in my own company. I happen to love me, especially the me that I am now.

I’ve worked so hard to make peace with the kind of person that I am, to get to the point where I can look at the mirror and feel pretty, and where I can look at my life and feel proud for what I’ve accomplished. This week has felt like a step, no, a huge slide backward. And all because my Ivan Pavlov rang that bell.

It stops now. Enough is enough. I am taking that bell and crushing it with the force of my will, and then I’m throwing it into a metaphorical ocean so that I will never hear it in my head ever again.

I refuse to be an example of the conditioning theory. Go to hell, Ivan Pavlov. Go to hell and leave me alone.

Posted in College, friendship, relationships, Self-Discovery

Dear 21-Year-Old-Me

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status to remind everyone in our year that its been 10 years since we graduated from college and we are, in fact, getting older by the minute.

Honestly, you could not pay me to be 21 again. At 21 I was heavily overweight, insecure, confused and emotionally stressed. I had no idea what the future had in store, all I know was that I was damned petrified of it.

At 21, I was looking back at my college years with some measure of regret for the things I’ve done and the things I didn’t do. I think I was having some kind of identity crisis because I felt like I could have lived a little more in college, and by live I mean drank more alcohol and maybe partied just a little bit more.

But its different when you see things from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight. So I have just a few things to say to my 21-year old self.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Do not worry that you’ve never experienced an overnight party or had a hangover. In 4 years you’ll find yourself vomiting up those unfortunate shots of Jaeger bombs somewhere in Lambeth North station in London of all places and you’ll tick that off your bucket list.

It will take you a good five years to get over your current “great love” and the source of your emotional stress. But get over it you will, and you’ll be a better person for having gone through it.

Finding our true love is proving more difficult than I thought. Prepare yourself for some rough years ahead. Haha

Your years as a clinical instructor will change you in ways you’ll never imagine. Be prepared for “scandals”, be prepared to be hurt but take comfort in knowing there’s something great waiting around the corner. So sign that job contract, do not even hesitate.

You will find yourself thanking the stars time and time again that you were intelligent long before you grew into your looks. You’ll find ways to cheat physical beauty later.

Try and go easy on the cakes and the steamed rice and the servings of lechon. But don’t worry too much about your weight. We will find a happy balance in the future and we will learn to love our body. Mostly.

The people you meet in college are some of the best people you’ll meet in your life. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by how different they are from you; those differences are the very reason why they were brought into your life. By the way, 10 years from now those people will still be grateful you chose to study instead of party. Almost as much as they’ll still be talking about your wonderfully loopy handwriting.

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done. You are more or less a good person, and at least you can take credit for trying to be one.

Do not listen to that voice in your head telling you you should have gone into medicine. That’s not your calling.

Be nicer to your family. Even your annoying siblings and cousins. They will soon become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Yes, even your brother.

Hey by the way there’s this thing called Instagram that you may want to invest money in. Lol

David Archuleta will not win American Idol. You’ll get over it.

In about 10 years, you’ll find yourself a bit more settled, in a foreign country and having experiences you never thought you’ll have. You’ve travelled, you’ve met new friends, and you’ll still be scared and confused most of the time…but really, 21-year old self, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. We’ll be okay.

You’ll soon find yourself where I’m sitting, giving yourself a pat in the back saying, “We did good.” So for now, enjoy all the years in between. See you soon. Xx

Posted in bloggers, family, Moving to London, relationships

Bad Dreams and Irrational Fears

Yesterday I had a long shift at work that eventually ended in me sprawled on the couch at 9pm trying to decide whether I’m more tired or hungry, and whether it was worth giving up being horizontal to prepare dinner. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods.

In the middle of all this, my mum FaceTimed me from the Philippines – as she usually does around that time. She gets up early every morning to go to church (every morning without fail! Now that is a woman who does not feel conflicted about her faith) and she makes a point of ringing my sister and I before she leaves. Maybe so she’ll know if anything’s come up in our lives that necessitates her praying for our eternal souls.

Anyway, I’m ashamed to say that I was too tired last night to bring myself to have a decent conversation with my mother. I was so self-absorbed and cranky that my dad eventually told her to just let me off the phone and rest because I seemed so tired.

I felt incredibly guilty after that. I mean, I so seldom see my parents because I live abroad and these phone calls are their only means of ensuring we stay connected. I’m very lucky that my mum makes an effort to call every day despite the 8 hour time difference; its gotten me through the worst of homesickness when I first got here and through tough times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. They made me feel supported and loved.

Of course my neurotic subconscious chose to express my guilt in the form of a nightmare where my mum was on a ship that had problems at sea and everyone on it has been now been declared missing and presumed dead. I woke up at 2am still in the grips of emotional upheaval and thinking that the last thing I ever said to my mother was that I was too tired to FaceTime her.

I of course rang her telling her about this nightmare and she laughed in my face and told me I was crazy. I probably AM but that’s beside the point. The point is I’ve always had this irrational fear about phone calls. I don’t like receiving missed calls because you never know who was trying to ring you and whether or not it was something catastrophic. Especially missed calls in the middle of the night. Or missed calls from work or your boss.

My mum once rang me in the middle of a working day (London time) and when she couldn’t get a hold of me proceeded to leave the most serious voicemail in the world asking me to call her back when I can. I thought someone in the family had died. It turned out she was just testing whether her new sim card for international calls worked. I nearly had a coronary. I told her never to do that again.

I also sometimes think about how life can suddenly throw curveballs at you. This may seem fatalistic but we never know when a certain conversation with someone we love may be our last. And if you think about it, we take so much for granted that we sometimes forget to even say ‘I love you’ at the end of a conversation with our parents or siblings or partners. This really gets to me, the fact that you never know. So you have to make the most out of it, out of every moment.

I guess what I’m just trying to remind myself is that you should never get to the point where you’re too busy to make time for the ones you love. You have to learn to prioritise, see the bigger picture and remember what’s important. In addition, just because it appears to be ordinary doesn’t mean its not important. Life is made up of small ordinary moments; its what you do with it and who you do it with that makes it extraordinary.

Now that I’ve done this little self-talk, I’m going to ring my mother again and hope I can now sleep better tonight. Lol

Cheers!

Posted in dating, Lifestyle, relationships

You Can’t Fake Chemistry

When I was in college Chemistry was one of my favourite subjects, and one that I used to ace effortlessly. At one point I think I may even have had the periodic table memorised (it was a requirement at the time but also, I was a big nerd).

There’s something amazing about how two elements can form something bigger (and infinitely more useful) when they come together; they’re stronger together than when they are apart, as the song goes.

It was also a source of endless fascination to this nerd that certain elements attract and can bind with other elements but seem to repel others. I find that a truly apt metaphor for personal relationships and is the one aspect of chemistry that I can honestly say I apply in real life situations.

Chemistry At Work

I work regularly with two men who on the surface are pretty similar and cut from the same mould: intelligent, decisive and brimming with so much confidence that it can easily be mistaken for arrogance (sometimes it is). In short, alpha males who are used to ruling their own little kingdom. Being an alpha female myself, it stands to reason that there might be some impediments to forming a harmonious relationship with these men.

In theory I’d probably develop – at best – a tepid working relationship with both of them. But actually, because of some random unexplainable law of chemistry, I actually get on with one of them really well. He gets my jokes; sometimes we look each other in the eye and I can tell that he’s thinking the same thing that I’m thinking. I know how to read him and I know just how to time and gauge my comments so that they’re received in the way that they are intended. He does the same with me: certain comments that may be offensive when coming from others just sit right with me if he’s the one saying it, I’m not sure why.

With the other one I just can’t seem to do anything right. He laughs at me when I’m actually trying to say something serious. And he takes me seriously when what I’m saying was meant to be a joke. One time I said something in jest and he ended up lecturing me so earnestly that I couldn’t find the heart to tell him I was only kidding. He’s a very nice man but I just don’t feel the same ease and warmth with him as I do with the other.

Chemistry and Friends

I sometimes think that chemistry is the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe. Laugh all you want, but I’ve given this a lot of thought and I think we seriously underestimate the value of meeting and getting to know someone who is on the same wavelength as we are; and that’s true for friends, colleagues, lovers or partners.

I think about all the friends I have and why I’m closer to some than others. I have friends who I interact with when we’re part of a bigger group but I would’t be caught dead having an intimate conversation with them over coffee because it would just be too damn awkward.

On the other hand I have friends that I can randomly call or ask to meet up with, and we’d start off chatting about inane things and we’d somehow end up talking about our hopes and dreams and our plans for the future – all while having a laugh. We’d look at our watches and we’d be amazed that we’d already spent four hours just talking. CHEMISTRY.

Chemistry in Love

On a different and somewhat related note, people who read my blogs regularly know two things about me by now: one, that I am a subscriber to online dating (despite the fact that it goes against everything I believe in) and two, I am something of serial first dater. I’ve gone on a lot of dates but very few of them pan out. Despite how meticulous I am about guys I choose to go out with, despite the fact that they seem to tick all the boxes and are perfect on paper, there always seems to be something missing when I meet them. I now think that something is basic chemistry.

I think about the few dates I’ve had that have panned out and progressed into something more. Ironically, for those ones I didn’t even know I was on a date until I realise I WAS ON A DATE. All I knew was that I was having so much fun: the conversation was flowing, we were having a laugh, he’d get a little touchy feely, I’d get a bit light-headed. There was nothing special planned, no design for the night to be anything than a casual drinks-after-work affair, but because of CHEMISTRY, VOILA: magical evening that I still look back on fondly even though things didn’t quite work out like I hoped they would.

I think about chemistry a lot as I continue to embark on this seemingly never-ending journey to find THE ONE. It may seem shallow, and its true that you can have chemistry with someone and yet are unable to establish a lasting relationship with them (think Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – sizzling chemistry, messed-up lives). But I don’t know, I think if you have chemistry – real chemistry – with someone you will always find yourself going back to them time and time again.

I have a friend who described a relationship he had with someone as having “the best chemistry” he’s ever had with someone in his life. At that point they wanted different things. He made a go of dating other women and she did the same; but they were always on the periphery of each other’s lives, connected by friendship and a love for the same sport.

Eventually they did end up back together. They worked out their differences and they’ve been in a steady relationship for the past three years. And being around them is inspiring because you can just feel how perfect they are for each other and how they push each other to be more. That, to me, is the reason why I don’t settle; why I believe in waiting for the right person rather than being in a relationship just for the sake of having one.

 

In conclusion to this rambling blog, I think that real-life chemistry is harder to explain than the concepts you read about in textbooks. I think in real life I can be sodium and he can be chlorine but there’s no guarantee that when we come together we’ll form salt (GET IT?!). There is no equation that explains why you get on with some and not with others; there is no formula to ensuring that a date will turn out to be something more.

All I’m  saying is that its something to think about when I go on dates and spend hours worrying over the perfect outfit or the shade of lipstick that will bring out my colouring. The superficial trappings don’t guarantee that the night will turn out like you expect. You can’t fake chemistry; you can’t contrive it or make some cheap, knockoff version of it. You either have it with someone or you don’t.

You probably don’t even realise its missing from your relationship until you find someone you have real chemistry with, and then its  like the time you realised how dissatisfied you are with the wool coat you got from Primark when you were finally able to afford the real thing from Prada. 

So anyway, I guess I’ve now added a third criteria when people ask me what I’m looking for when I go on dates. Its not much really: hygiene, sense of humour and chemistry. The sulphuric acid to my iron, the permanganate to my potassium, the bicarbonate to my sodium. Lol. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

Happy Sunday, folks.

Posted in Books, LGBT, Movies, relationships, Reviews, romance, Self-Discovery

Book Review: Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

I’ve always believed that a book’s power lies in its ability to make it’s readers feel. As someone who’s been both an avid book reader and an extremely emotional person all my life, feeling for the stories I’ve read has never been a problem for me. Its probably why I spent my first 10 years as a reader reading romance novels because they always guaranteed a happy ending; they were probably so far off the mark as far as realism is concerned, but they were relatively painless and angst-free.

This book is not painless and angst-free.

I’ve never read any book where I spent the first three chapters with a hand over my heart because it was throbbing so badly from feeling too much and because I was relating too closely to a character. I was probably twenty pages into the book when I started questioning my sanity for voluntarily subjecting myself to the kind of reading experience that exposes far too many truths about my own self and my own experiences.

Elio and Oliver meet when the latter spends the summer at the former’s villa in Northern Italy (his parents usually adopt graduate students over the summer). Elio becomes infatuated with Oliver even before he consciously realises it. It first came on as a desire to please, then later this need to be around another person all the time, as if you might die if you’re not within their orbit or if you can’t keep them within your sight at all times. It then turns into an all-consuming infatuation, even something that can almost be mistaken for love.

I am not a good enough writer to even come close to giving this book a fitting summary. All I can really say is how it made me feel. And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to take away from whatever message this book is intended to convey about love being love no matter what; I also don’t meant to disregard how important works like these are to the LGBT community (of which I am an avid supporter). But I mean it as a compliment of the highest order when I say that while I was reading this book, I completely forgot that I was reading about two guys who are discovering that everything they knew about themselves may have been a lie. All I knew was that I was reading about and relating to two people experiencing love, and all the joys and aching sorrow that comes with it, for the first time.

I was watching a video on YouTube where the actor who plays Elio was giving an interview and he says that this story, both book and film, transcends gender issues and will mean different things to different viewers/readers. And therein lies the magic of it: It becomes one thing or another depending on who watches it. Yes, its very much a thousand steps forward in terms of gay cinema/literature, but for me its simply a love story. You don’t have to be straight, gay, bi or trans to relate to this story, you just have to be human.

Anyone who’s ever felt the torture of wondering whether your feelings are reciprocated or not, anyone who’s ever experienced the agony of waiting for just one kind word or compliment from the object of their affections, anyone who’s ever felt jealous when said object seems to have feelings for someone else, anyone who’s ever done something they didn’t need to do just because the other person asked for it, anyone who’s ever been simultaneously afraid and exhilarated by the feeling of having given someone the power to either make you happy or break your heart into pieces….they will all relate to and love this book.

There’s one more thing I want to say before I end this review:

Memories are a powerful thing; they sneak up on you when you least expect it, and they surprise you with how much you can still feel even after so many years have passed. This book reminded me of two things: the first time I ever gave my heart to someone, a long long time ago; and the first time I’ve ever felt the pain of saying goodbye to someone that I knew I could have loved if we only had more time. Both were experiences that, if you ask me, I’d really rather forget because they just hurt too much. I think I pushed those memories aside so that I could have the strength to carry on with the business of living. In the process, I also probably closed off a vital part of myself without knowing it. You believe a little less, and doubt a little more because your heart’s been bruised before. I think now that I may have been wrong about that and so many other things. As Elio’s father says towards the end of this book:

We rip so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not feel anything – what a waste!

I highly highly recommend this book. Five stars, applause and a 10 minute standing ovation. Click on image below to buy on Amazon!