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The parable of the chocolate ice cream

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Below is a letter I wrote my best friend who is currently going through a rough time in his relationship. This applies to everyone who are still looking despite the fact that what they are looking for is just right in front of their nose. This also applies to everyone who has been in a relationship long enough to have passed the honeymoon stage and are now feeling doubtful, bored, unsatisfied. This letter can only do two things: shed some light or get you more confused than you already are. (Note: * not their real names.)

Dearest Monkey Potatoheadski,

Where to start? Last night I started writing something about obsession. I get obsessed with a lot of things and a lot of people. When I want it, I have to make sure I get it. I will do everything in my power to have it. If I have to cry or throw a fit or jump over a mountain or roll down a hill, I will, if that’s the only way I can have it.

Now, what does that make me sound like? A spoiled brat, right? Terrible.

I obsess when it comes to love. I am in love with love and romance which is why my life has become a huge romantic drama comedy movie.

But I want you to know that sometimes, I really like something only for the reason that I cannot have it. It’s the challenge of proving myself I can have anything and everything that I want. And then once I finally get it, it’s over, too late to realize I never want it in the first place.

I always tell my friends about my story of chocolate ice cream.

Imagine. All your life you’ve been eating chocolate ice cream. It’s the only flavor you know, the one flavor you ever tasted. You know the creamiest and sweetest details down to the littlest bits. You know how it melts in your tongue and how it can send you to moments of glory. One day you decide to go to the shop to get your chocolate ice cream and to your dismay, you find that there is none. Lots of other flavors are left, strawberry, pistachio, mango, vanilla, caramel. You name it. All new and exciting flavors are waiting to be devoured. Very tempting isn’t it?

And you start thinking: “should I just wait until the chocolate ice cream is available or should I just get a new flavor?”

It’s your call, but think about this: why did you go to the shop in the first place? Is it because you want ice cream? Or is it because you want chocolate ice cream?

If it is because you want ice cream, then go ahead and try all the new flavors you want. Two at a time, three at a time, get a dozen different flavors if you will. But if you went to get nothing else but chocolate ice cream, chances are you will wait until the shop restocks, or you will run to the shop, next block, to get the exact same thing.

Should you decide to try a new flavor, there are only two things that can happen, you will either love it and think that this will be your favorite flavor from now on, or you will regret it and feel terrible not getting your old favorite.

So, you like this girl and you think that if she likes you just the same, you will give it a try. *John, why do you like her? You said she’s the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen on earth. That is a pretty big statement coming from you, and yet it is embarrassingly and undeniably shallow at the same time. Is it only because she is pretty? What else? How well do you know her? How well does she know you?

And what about *Lilly? The two of you have been together for what, seven years? You’ve been through the best and worst of times together, emphasis on TOGETHER!

Maybe, because she’s traveling to Asia for some months, it has been easier to entertain new thoughts and consider new feelings of liking. I don’t know how she treats you, I have no idea how she shows you or make you feel her love, and obviously, I only know little about how you make her feel that she is loved.

What I do know and believe is that when you are in love, you stop looking. There is a reason why, out of the blue, you started looking, why you started reaching out to a girl from three years ago.

When Hisham broke up with me last September, Chris, my ex-boyfriend from Michigan, started sending me a lot of emails. This was the guy I met when I was 21 and had a two year relationship with. I am very sure that at that time, I loved him deeply. It was real and sincere. Four years later, he sends me an email telling me he’s been in serious relationships with other girls after me, but he can’t take me off his mind. He knows that I am the one he wants to be with.

I guess if I was the same person I used to be four years ago, tears of heavenly joy would have rolled down my cheeks and I would have easily left Egypt and flown to the U.S., but I am so much different now, and I also know that four years would have changed him as well. He said he still loves me, but that is not quite true. Who he loves is his idea of me when I was 21 and I am no longer that person.

I don’t know what it is with being or staying loyal to someone, but I am the kind of person who can only be in love with one guy at a time.

When I am in love with someone, I stop looking. I never looked for anyone because there is a reason I am with a certain guy to begin with. I never experienced being confused or torn between two lovers when I am in a relationship because I know what I want, I know what makes me happy and I choose to be with that person that I want and makes me happy.

When I went to Australia last August, I was still dating Hisham then, I travelled to Queensland for a few days and met this Brazilian guy who looks like a perfectly photoshopped image, and to my surprise, he was interested in me. If I was single at that time, maybe I would have awkwardly flirted back, but because I was with Hisham, no one catches my eyes but him.

The same story goes with Ali and everyone else I have been with. Whoever it is that I am with will always be the best, most loving, most attractive guy in my eyes despite his dirty nails or the snot in his nose, or his snort of a laugh that is clearly unattractive.

It is not about being with the perfect person but being with the person who makes you feel that you are perfect.

I don’t know how *Lilly makes you feel. And even I have not experienced being loved as though I am perfect. On the one hand though, I know that whenever I love, I make that person feel that he deserves the best and that, to me, he is perfect. It is quite sad realizing that in all my relationships (at least the recent ones) I always have to beg for their love. It felt like a constant battle of trying to win them over and fighting not to lose them, which I now regard as half-assing myself.

Like I said, you have to be with someone who makes you feel perfect. Who will love you for everything that you are, and accept you for your past, present, and future. At the same time, you need to be with someone who you will love for everything that she is. Someone who can make you stop looking, someone who can make you taste different flavors of love and life even when she is just one person.

And about your century long relationship with *Lilly, you have to really clear your head and look at it in all angles. Why are you with her? Is it because you love her or just because it’s the right thing to do? Is it because it is convenient or comfortable for you? Who knows, maybe she’s also thinking the same thing, I don’t know. And how will that make you feel if you find out she’s having exactly the same thoughts as you do?

If there is one thing I have learned, you shouldn’t stay in a relationship because it is the right thing to do or because it is what is expected of you or just out of responsibility and obligation. You should stay in a relationship because it makes you happy and because your heart is in it.

So, think. A lot! Where is your heart, *John? If it’s with *Lilly, then no doubt, stay. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. But if it is somewhere else, then do your heart a big favor and let everything go before you cause yourself a serious cardiac arrest.

Whichever you choose, there will always be a consequence. Nothing ever comes easy these days! If you go, then you have to understand that *Lilly might not be back should you realize that the other girl is not what you want after all. And if you choose to stay, you just have to let go of your thoughts and the maybes and the what ifs and all the what-could-have-beens with this other girl. The unknown can be quite attractive but it can also turn to ugly once you submerge yourself in it.

Tough luck, Monkey, but I know you’ll get through this.

You know I’m always here.

I love you,
Lazy Daisy

PS. Why do you think the shop ran out of chocolate ice cream if it isn’t the best flavor there is? 😉

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The Big “O”

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No, this is not about orgasm. Tricked you!

I obsess. That’s what I do.

I am the kind of girl who gets darn right fixated on things that I want. It’s not just a mediocre, so-so want, but the I-need-to-have-it-be-mine kind of want.

I get obsessed with a lot of things. And when I start obsessing, I will put all my will power and effort, and will even do back flips and cartwheels, if I have to, just to get it.

This obsession applies to both material and non-material.

There was a time in my life when I got so obsessed into diving that I lived in an island in the Philippines just so I can dive everyday. That lasted six months.

I have a two-year standing obsession with chocolate mint candies ever since I tried one heavenly scoop of chocmint ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I make sure I have a supply of chocolate mint bars in my cupboard to last me at least three months (in case the shops run out of stock which will be equivalent to when all hell breaks loose!)

My current obsession is dancing salsa which is not a bad thing at all considering how I am enjoying the company of good friends while doing something I have passion for.

And then, just as you suspected, I get obsessed with people too. All the men in my life? I obsessed about them, in the way that I want their attention all to myself. I obsessed about them in a way that I want myself to be their only source of happiness. Hallelujah, that’s a perfect example of the omniscient god syndrome right there.

The ugly thing about obsession is that it is awfully ugly. I guess that’s why no one will admit they are obsessed. The stigma attached to it is just downright degrading.

“Oh, she’s the crazy girl who wrote to her ex boyfriend for three weeks without fail, how desperate? Ooh, here comes the irreverent daughter who left her family just so she can indulge herself to diving leisure.” I can already here some people whispering behind my back.

Worse, someone might open my cupboard and all 24 boxes of choco-mint candies will fall right out leaving whoever-decides-to-go-in-my-kitchen for dead.

Obsession makes us go crazy, or look crazy and a little bit mental. It turns us (at least me) into this horrendous chocolate eating monster turned creepy facebook stalker.

But if there is anything that I learned about obsession, it is that some of my obsessions don’t last too long. Sometimes, the soonest I get fixated to something or someone is also the same rate the fixation fades away. There are also instances when I get so obsessed about something, drive myself to the core to get my fix, and then realize it’s not what I want after all. What a waste.

Now, the thing with obsession is that it is very tricky. Often, we commit the mistake of interchanging obsession with passion. How often do we hear people say “I love” compared to “I obsess?” There is definitely a line that draws the two apart, but oftentimes, that line easily turns to grey and we find ourselves torn between loving and obsessing. Which side will you rather be at?

Obsession, like passion, can make you marvel in a lot of things, the way I feel I’m soaring when I dance salsa. Or it can send you to a downward spiral just like how I felt with every failed relationships.

I think this will make me sound even more insane than what we have already established, but there is something about obsession that is just so delicious. It’s that feeling that you have a goal or a purpose. It adds meaning and direction, if not rainbow colors, to a once dull life.

Maybe, it’s true, no matter how strongly we deny it, that we love a good challenge. We always want what we can’t have. It gives us that feeling of adrenalin rush exploding within us. Maybe it’s about proving to ourselves, if not to everyone, that we are much better than good enough. That we are capable of getting anything that we want at anytime that we want it, at any rate, no matter the cost, no matter the means. Maybe getting our daily fixes of whatever we are obsessed with gives us that gratifying feeling of getting something we think we deserve.

All in a year of dancing salsa

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“Yo no se manana…” you know you have been dancing too much salsa when you start singing songs even when you have absolutely no idea what the words or meaning are.

February marks my first year of dancing salsa. Applause! (Queue Baila mi Hermano in the background.)

One year means I have danced at least 500 dances with at least 70 people, and met more than 200 people on at least 25 salsa events. One year also means at least 30 pounds lost and at least 50 liters of water if not diet Coke consumed.

Well, that’s not really accurate, but you get the idea.

I started dancing salsa in Manila on September 2010. Anna, one of my dearest friends was the one who dragged me to my first and last salsa class.

You know how it feels when you know that you are bound to be really good at something the first time you tried it? Well, I didn’t have that feeling. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t follow any of the dance steps and I just felt so inferior by mere watching other people dance gracefully and flawlessly on the floor.

When I moved to Cairo, I decided to give salsa a second try. My first ever salsa night was at Stiletto in Dokki on February of last year. I remember how I was so shy and felt alone. I came by myself. It’s quite frightening when you walk in a restaurant and just feel so left out and disconnected. Everyone’s dancing, everyone’s talking except you. Everyone knows everyone. Your eyes sweep the floor and all you see are awesome dancers who will probably put you to the hall of shame should you dance next to them. And then you are left with nothing but that feeling of wishing you are as good as them. You start dreaming that maybe one day you can dance as beautifully as they do even when you think it is very unlikely. That’s how it felt for me.

I sat on a table closest to the dance floor where there were a few ladies sitting. The first girl I met is Dajana, a German girl who, eventually, became one of my best girlfriends. She is a phenomenal dancer and she lit up the environment for me that first night. She introduced me to everyone and made me feel so comfortable. She brought out in me the confidence in dancing that I didn’t even know I have.

And it was through her that my first dance in Cairo was made possible. She introduced me to Amr, the first guy I danced salsa with in Cairo, and just like Dajana, he is also one phenomenal dancer. What is more admiring about him is the fact that he can make you feel that you are good enough in the dance.

It is only after a few months of dancing salsa that I will realize how there are certain people who wants to shine or showoff in the dance floor, but with Amr, I have always felt that he is the kind of dancer who wants whoever he is dancing with to shine brighter than he does. That, to me, gives him the gold medal!

So, that night, I had one dance and that was it. But I met new friends, who, even after a year, still remain to be my good friends. No time or opportunity wasted.

It’s interesting how the salsa community in Cairo is so small. There are four different places you can go to for a salsa party on different days every week and yet if you go to every single one of them, you’ll find that you’ll be seeing the same people and dancing to the same songs.

Eventually, I came to know mostly everyone who goes to the salsa events and they came to know me. I have become a household name, while salsa has become a slight addiction.

I started breathing salsa. I lived in it. I’m not being melodramatic or exaggerating when I say that salsa keeps me alive because it does. I have times when I feel worse than being sick when I don’t dance in a week, let alone in a couple of months. There is something truly inviting about salsa. It’s the way people sing to every single Spanish song without even knowing the words or the meaning. It’s the way people celebrate their individuality and own style. It’s about the people you meet, their characters and different backgrounds and how they own both the dance and the floor. I guess, most importantly, it’s about the dance itself, the way it can look so sophisticated one minute, and so street the next, the way it can lift your sorry mood and indulge you in moments of pure dancing bliss. I’m sure every salsero and salsera will agree with me on this.

I remember during my first couple of months, every time a guy asks me to dance I would have to say a disclaimer that I am a beginner. It’s quite nerve wracking especially when you’re thinking that this person you are about to dance with is bound for disappointment when he learns you haven’t even passed beginners level. That’s how I used to think and feel and it didn’t help me because it only made me more nervous than I already was, thus, making it much easier for me to screw up the dance. And then I will have to apologize and throw a pity party for myself afterwards.

But it’s really true, that old man saying that practice makes perfect. Through time, I was able to improve and dance so much better compared to when I was just starting. I guess it would be a shame on me if dancing 500 times throughout the year did me nothing good.

Remember what I said about just dancing once on my first night of giving salsa a second chance? Well, now, whenever I go to a salsa party, I come home really exhausted. I would be dancing non stop for at least three hours to the point where I have to politely say no to guys who are asking for a dance. On average, I dance about 25 songs on one salsa event.

So, what has a year of dancing salsa taught me? If anything, it taught me that I met some of my really good friends (and by really good I meant these are people that I also see outside salsa and the same people I trust, feel safe, and most grounded with like Katie, Lucy, Mana, Star, oh, they know who they are) at a salsa party. It taught me that I can be good at something even when I wasn’t good at it at first. I also remembered how I danced salsa on the streets of Zamalek one night in October, with my friends and we are positive that we are the first group of people who’s ever done it (at least in Cairo.) One year of salsa also reminds me that I used to be a beginner who felt so little about herself before, and that I shouldn’t have.

I think everyone who’s learning or trying out something for the first time shares that common feeling of being shy, embarrassed, and little.

I try to talk to them and bring out the confidence they don’t know they have the way my best friend, Dajana, did to me. I like to encourage new dancers and make them feel that they own the dance because they really do. I like dancing to beginners too. If it weren’t for the amazing dancers, who spent their four minutes to dance to a beginner like me a year ago, I would probably still be stuck with my two feet. I like to think that giving my four minutes to a guy who is just learning salsa will do him good eventually. Maybe it will give him the confidence to dance more, maybe it will make him relax and feel comfortable in the salsa scene. Maybe it will make him feel that he’s good enough and that he is accepted and that there is no need to feel shy or embarrassed or small. Maybe this is my way of giving back to the salsa community for all the good parties and events and workshops I had, for all friendships made, and for all the amazing dances and smiles, and bloopers and memories during the last year.

So, here’s to a year of dancing salsa and more!

I have a crush? When did that happen?

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This feels surprisingly weird and unexpectedly awkward, but let me be flamboyant about it: I have a new crush.

I’m not sure how people have crushes nowadays, like how and when does it even start? When do you realize you have a crush on someone and pinpoint why you have a crush on them?

It’s a crush based on what? Exceptionally good looks? Amazing personality? Striking abilities? Common interests?

This new crush feels weird because I don’t get crushes on people I don’t know and I don’t know him. In previous times, I get crushes on people I go out with, people who are my good friends. People I know through work or school or in an organization of which I am a member of. That’s why guys who come up to me randomly never catch my attention. They don’t stand a chance. “Hello? Stranger, get away from me! Now! And fast or I’ll call the cops!”

It also feels awkward because if you have been following my previous posts, I was just swamped and crumbling from a broken heart a couple of weeks back, yet here I am jumping up and down because of this new crush.

I’ve seen him a few times at salsa. It’s funny how, now, when I think about it, I can remember vividly the first two times we danced because it was on a really fast song.

When I dance salsa with a guy for the first time, I get nervous because I don’t know his moves, I’m not sure when he’s going to turn me around or pull a shine or decide to let go for an improv.

I obviously cannot remember all the first dances I had with every new guy. In fact, I don’t remember any at all, but for some reason, I remember the first couple of dances I had with him. I didn’t even have a crush on him at the time.

The first one happened at Bellini’s on a Tuesday. He asked me for a dance and I was like “hmmm, this is a fast song, nervous nervous nervous.” But the whole night was just spent dancing with my usual dancing partners and friends after that first dance with Mr. New Crush.

The second time was at Portobello on Friday the same week. I saw him coming to me and I was like “this is the guy I danced a fast song with and he’s walking towards me on the queue of another fast song? Give me a break!”

The thing with salsa, it’s difficult to appreciate the dance and the dancer when it’s fast. It’s like you are short-changing all the moves and just putting your mediocre, off-beat ass on the floor.

So, after the second dance I told him I remembered how the first time we danced was on a fast beat and the second time was the same. I told him we should dance on a song that is in a comfortable beat and I’m glad that we did.

It was a good dance and I finally get to appreciate his style. He is a good dancer (at least in my standards.) He gives me this feeling that I am safe in the dance, that I shouldn’t worry about getting off balance, that I should just enjoy it because he won’t let go and he won’t let me fall face flat on the floor. (Believe me, I’ve seen that happening to other girls before, like their dancing partners just throw them for a turn and forget to catch them, oops!)

Since the first two dances, we have been dancing frequently but I will not put any color or meaning or imagination to it. I guess we dance a lot because 1. We are already familiar with each other and 2. There’s not a lot of people to dance with.

We had a few conversations here and there about usual introduction stuff-where are you from? What do you do? What do you think of Egypt? When did you start dancing salsa? You get the picture. (Kinda tricky to do when you are at a salsa party because people are usually there to dance, not to talk. Plus, the music blasting in the background is not really chat-friendly, but somehow, we managed.)

Well, I’m not sure what it is about him, but he just looks pleasant, like the kind of guy that you won’t run away from. Or maybe it’s his aura that seems to tell me it’s safe to get close to him, he won’t bite. Or maybe it’s the way he smiles and laughs in a conversation. I don’t know.

When I dance salsa, I usually have this automatic look-at-me-I’m-a-serious-salsera look on my face, but when I dance with him, I just find myself smiling throughout the song. I can’t help it because he is smiling too!

And tonight on my way home, I’m wondering if he noticed that I held his hand a little bit longer and a little bit tighter than usual. Well, I certainly noticed it.

It’s like a revelation. There’s a voice inside my head telling me “Jennifer, you’re dancing with him and you feel different. Happy. You don’t want the song to end and at the same time you can’t wait for the next song to start so you can dance with him again.”

And that same voice is probing me with endless questions. Why do you get so shy when you’re around him? How come when he’s surrounded with people you can’t come up and struck a conversation? Why has it been impossible to say hello when you see him enter the restaurant, while you can approach everyone else? Why can’t you manage to say goodbye before you leave when all the time you do it with everyone else? You are singling him out and chances are he’ll think you are avoiding him.

Voice inside my head, shush already!

I don’t know about avoiding him when I want him to be my first and last dance in every salsa party I go to. He turns the dance into something more, something that makes me smile (at least in my head!) He was my last dance tonight which makes me jittery. I asked if we can dance one last time before I go home and he politely said that I don’t even have to ask.

I think that’s what it is, he is polite and pleasant and there is this subtle tenderness about him. Now, I’m getting weirded out with myself considering I’m not really good at judging people. And what gives me the credibility to say that he is polite and pleasant and has this tenderness about him when I don’t really know him? I’m even having a hard time saying his name!

But that’s another thing though, I want to know him! And I want to know if maybe he wants to know me too.

So, there, I said it, I have a new crush! Wear your party hats on, blow those balloons, and pop the champagne!

I’ve written so much about my heartache already, why not talk about family for a change?

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Sometimes I like to refer to myself as the worst daughter in the world. What makes it even worse is that I can acknowledge the problem and yet do nothing about it.

I came from a broken family which is not a surprise considering how breaking up and legal seperation and divorces seem to be the trend nowadays.

My parents marriage came to a halting end when I was nine, my brother was eight at that time.

And when you are just nine, you really don’t have any clue as to what is happening. All you know is that you went to sleep the night before with their loud voices on the background, and you woke up the next morning with broken china on the floor. You ask your dad why there are broken vases and he just tells you it fell because of an earthquake that you didn’t feel while you were asleep. And you are left with nothing but acccept what the ‘big people’ tell you.

So, if they say sleep, you sleep. If they say you need to go to school, then you go to school, and if your dad says you won’t be seeing your mum again, you just inhale it as it is. No questions asked because how can a nine year old girl understand ‘big people’ problem?

When they separated, I was told that my brother and I have to go with my dad because he loves us. That goes to saying that my mum was the one who left us. They said she got pregnant by another man and that was the reason our family fell apart.

My brother and I really didn’t get to go with my dad because for the first year of the separation, my dad left me and my brother to our grand parents. No complains here because our grand ma and grand pa are the sweetest and loving people in the world (which is kinda surprising that my dad did not inherit any of my Lolo Pidoy and Lola Chita’s loving characteristics, just kidding!) We would only see dad on weekeneds when he comes to us bearing gifts like stuff animals or a new ball.

I loved those weekends with dad because he always takes us out to McDonalds and we would go see a movie and ride our bikes to the pier. That was like a weekend of heaven for us that it didn’t bother so much when we didn’t see him on weekdays. It was already enough for my brother and I to know that we will have another amazing time with dad the following weekend.

From then on, my mum was never in the picture. I never saw her, never heard from her or about her.

For that whole year that I was staying with my grandparents, I kept thinking that one day, my brother, my dad, and I will move to a new house, just the three of us, and we will have the best life even with the absence of a mother.

That day finally came when I was 10. I remember excitedly packing all our stuff from my grand parent’s house because my dad is taking me and my brother to our new home. But it wasn’t what I was expecting.

In fact, what happened didn’t even come close to my imagination.

We moved to a new house but it wasn’t just the three of us. There were another two people who were going to live with us. It was a lady and her six year old, obnoxious son.

I hated that six year old boy. He was my worst nightmare–always vying for my dad’s attention and always wanting this and that to himself.

Later, I will find out that that lady will become my step mom, and that her six year old son, that I abhored so much is actually my half brother.

Surprise! Someone, please, punch me on the face so I could wake up from this horrendous dream!

It wasn’t until I was 13 when I started doing the maths. Slowly, things are starting to make some sense. My dad’s ‘other’ son was six years old, so that meant he’s been cheating on my mum for at least five years even before they separated.

That was a lot to take for a 13 year old. Imagine living years and years in a lie believing it was reality when it wasn’t. I couldn’t take it. It was as though I was fooled. All the time I hated my mum and thought that she didn’t love us.

I blamed my mum for a lot of reasons. How come she never tried to reach out to us? I had to spend all my Values class in school crying when the teacher starts talking about family. I have to secretly cry in the girls bathroom when I overheard my classmates talk about how their moms are taking them shopping for their evening gowns for the prom.

I envied my friends who talk about their moms as though they are the world’s best friend.

That was something that was lacking in my life–a mum.

I didn’t get to have the chance to go shopping girly things with a mom. There was no one I could talk to when my first period came. There was no one to tell on about my crushes in school. There was no mum who would be so proud when I ace my exams, or win a singing contest.

I envied my classmates who complained about their moms nagging at them all the time. I’m like really, can you just stop whining already? At least you have a mum who nags. I don’t even have a mum.

I also blamed my mum for taking out years of my life when I was just hoping I could act my age and be a kid. At nine, after she left, I felt that I have the responsibility to be my brother’s sister and mother at the same time. I had to look after my brother, make sure he’s not fluctuating in school, that he has good friends, that he’s not out getting fuck drunk when he was 14. I thought that was a mom’s job but that job fell in my hands without my consent.

I only saw my mum like four times after the separation. The first time was when I was 18, I don’t know how she did it but she found me in the university I was studying in. The second time was when I was 22 and she was going through a stage one uterine cancer. The third time was when she was recovering after the operation, and the last time was just before I left for Sydney in 2010. All those encounters felt the same. Awkward.

It just felt like I was meeting a stranger. I don’t know anything about her, what she’s been through, how her life has been all those years. And she acts and treats me as though I was still the nine year old girl she left behind.

And on all those times that I saw her, I didn’t give her a chance to connect with me. I didn’t give her a chance to get to know me, to know what kind of person I have become. I didn’t give her a chance to give me the mom and daughter talk because at that time, I thought it was all too late for me.

Now, if you will ask me about my step mom, I’d say let’s not just talk about her because it will ruin my day. Enough said.

As for my brother, I think he took my parents’ separation much better than I did. My brother has always been that kind of person who always goes with the flow. He’s a chamelion. Throw him lemons and he will make amazing lemonades out of it. That’s one thing that I admired about him.

Let’s go back to my dad. He is a lawyer and law professor at the same time. And he will never admit that he is a ladies man. Yes, my dad has a lot of women and I don’t get it especially at his age. He’s turning 62 this year and boy, I can bet you my life he has girlfriends who are probably my age! (Ew, gross, right?) I do not agree with the things he did or still does, but I still love him, maybe because he was present the whole time I was growing up. Maybe because he provided me with all the things that I needed–good education, monthly allowance, holidays, whathaveyous.

I actually blame what happened to my family with what person I have become today–emotionally unstable, disconnected. I have a lot of intimacy and trust issues.

A couple of years back, my brother and I had this profound conversation about marriage, and I told him I would never want to get married. I said “why get married? Look at our parents’ marriage, it didn’t work out. So, why get married when you know it’s bound to end anyways?”

Like I mentioned, my brother took my family’s downfall in a better way. He told me that our parents’ mistakes weren’t ours, that we are our own person, and our life is different than theirs. That since we know the mistakes our mum and dad had made, we know what to avoid, we know what to do and what not to do, we know better.

My mouth was left open wide after hearing my brother. Damn it, I can tell you right now, that whoever woman my brother will settle down with one day will certainly have a trophy for a husband.

I guess with everything that happened in my family, all the drama, and endless arguments I had with my dad and my step mom and her little devil, I just disconnected myself.

I thought that I can prove to them that being by myself will do me much better than being in a problematic family. And at first I thought I made a good decision shutting them out of my life indefinitely.

Working outside the country was a quick escape from my family and all the drama. Like, I can just be on my own without the baggage. But, lately, I have started thinking about a lot of things, and evaluating my actions now and in the previous years. I guess this is what is popularly referred to as quarter life crisis.

At 25, I am having a quarter life crisis and I am still living far away from my family. My brother is now 24 and is a data analyst at an IT company in Alabang. My dad still remains as a ladies man and still have endless fights with my step mom regarding his ‘other women.’ I guess my step mom, of all people, would know very well about my dad’s interest in women. After all, she’s the one my dad cheated with.

Ok, but I’ll be a little bit nicer here, and tell you one (if not the only–just kidding again!) nice thing about my step mom. When she and my dad had the worst fight ever (that includes finding another woman’s underwear in my dad’s car, using foul, attention grabbing swear words such as ‘putang ina mong hayop ka sinong kinakantot mo?’ that can easily be translated to ‘son of a bitch, you animal, who are you sleeping with?’ for all our neighbors and security men to hear, leaving me no choice but cover my face when I go out of the house, and let’s forget about all those broken kitchenware that must have been thrown at my dad) she came to me and said:

“Jen, we know that your father is weak when it comes to temptation, but he will still need someone by his side as he gets older. I will be by his side no matter what.”

And so I think I should give my step mom a few brownie points and best martyr award for wanting to be by my dad’s side. I wouldn’t want to be at my dad’s side which is why I left the country. OK, bad joke, but just kidding!

And my half brother is now… well, can we just skip this part?

Whenever someone starts asking me about my family, it was only my dad and my brother that I always talk about. It’s only those two people I consider my family, but now, after a lot of thinking, I want to start opening my doors to my mum. I want to be able to mention my mum’s name whenever a conversation about family springs from anywhere. I want to be able to say that when I am coming home, I am coming home to my dad, and my brother, and my mum.

I want to know her and I want her to know me. I was so foolish to think that everything was already too late when I was 18. It is never too late. It’s only now I am beginning to see that a mother will always be her kids’ mother no matter what, where, when, why, or even how. Such a shame I had to wait this long to even realize how different it would have been if I stayed connected with her that first day she found me in the university.

I am 25 and I think it’s time to turn the tables around and knock off all those regrets one punch at a time. I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I can’t wait to see my mum when I get back to the Philippines in September. I can’t wait to take her on a good 5-day holiday by the beach. I can’t wait to know her, and I can’t wait for her to know me. Maybe then, we will finally be able to have our first ever mom and daughter talk. Maybe then we can finally go shopping!

Everything I need to learn about love and happiness, I learned from children and the books they read

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At 25, I feel so dumb and naive when it comes to love and relationships. It’s like when I am in a relationship, I lose sense of everything and care about nothing except that significant other. I turn into this monster girlfriend who swears and nags. I turn into the ultimate drama queen who cries at every fight, no matter how serious or petty the root of the problem is. I turn psycho and paranoid. My actions start resembling that of a toddler who whinges and throws terrible tantrums when she doesn’t get her lollies.

I also become that person who is needy, clingy, dependent, acts like a spoiled brat, second guesses if not doubts herself. I become unfocused at work, I start pulling a no-show on my social circle because all I want is get stoned and high from love.

Simply put, I lose it. I get crazy.

It’s like 25 years of living taught me nothing more than be childish and selfish. It’s like when I am dating someone, the world just stops, my life is put on hold for that period until whoknowshowlong and I just tend to forget that I have a full life before I start diving in a relationship.

Yes, I dive in a relationship, I sink into it and it swallows me whole that I just start disappearing from everyone other than that significant other. Bye bye to everyone, Jennifer is out of service and cannot be reached.

Now that I am back to being single, all of a sudden, I have all these free time in my hands. I have time to see friends, write more, dance salsa, read, run, do art, play the piano, play with my god children, do art again, cook and bake, sing. Plan my holidays, talk to my dad. The list just goes on.

That doesn’t make me feel better though because it meant that for a time, my friends, family, and the things and activities I was passionate about just came in last.

It makes me feel as though “ok there’s no one to love, why not clean the house, or talk to my dad, or invite my girlfriends out?”

It’s embarrassing to admit that when I had a boyfriend, all my hours were spent on the phone, on choosing what to wear and putting make up on to impress him, on make out sessions that I can never get enough of, on Facebook, stalking and checking out my boyfriend’s profile.

It’s like all of a sudden, I’m back to junior high all over again.

Shallow. Foolish. Stupid.

It makes me realize how, oftentimes, I’m really not smarter than a 5th grader, and today is another day that proved how children think and act more grown up than I do.

Kids never fail to surprise me.

I usually spend my Saturdays with my god children–Jem, who is the most curious 6 year old boy, and Bella, the sweetest 3 year old girl on Earth, but when I started seeing Ali, I abandoned my role as their god mother.

I know, right. I’m guilty of being an irresponsible aunt.

Today, I tried to make up for all the Saturdays I went on AWOL. I spent the afternoon with them at a sports club playing tennis, and painting a bunch of ceramic art.

And then at night, before I tucked them in to bed, they asked that I read them their bedtime story.

Bella told me to read The Heart and the Bottle.

It’s this simple story about a little girl who has strong interests and liking in the world. She seats at her favorite chair everyday just appreciating the beauty of life itself, but as she grows old, she realizes that the world is not a safe place and so she decides to put her heart in a bottle. That’s when she starts losing interest and liking for the world, that’s when her favorite chair starts feeling empty. But at least her heart is safe.

Years later, the girl grows up to be a woman and here comes a time when she wants to get her heart out of the bottle but she cannot remember how to unlock it anymore, until she sees this little girl who has strong interests and liking in the world. The little girl takes the woman’s heart out of the bottle and all of a sudden, the woman’s favorite chair is filled with the beauty of life itself.

The Heart and the Bottle is just a 3-minute story, and as soon as I finished reading, Jem asked me:

“How did the little girl get the lady’s heart out of the bottle?”

And I said:

“Let’s say I am the lady and Bella is the little girl. When I get very, very sad, it feels like my heart is locked in a bottle, it can’t breathe, it can’t move. But when I see Bella and she says ‘I love you, Auntie Jen’ I don’t feel sad anymore. My heart feels happier because it can breathe again, it can move again. That’s how the little girl gets the lady’s heart out of the bottle.”

And with that, I gave Jem and Bella their kisses goodnight.

On my way home, I realized how much of a semblance the woman in the story and I have. She didn’t want her heart to be broken and so she kept it in a safe place, her heart was safe but her chair felt empty.

After Ali broke up with me, my life felt empty and unhappy. I lost interest and liking in the world. It is only now that I am beginning to realize that Ali is not the only person who can make my life full and make me happy.

Love and happiness doesn’t have to always come in romantic packages. It’s not always about the butterflies-in-the-stomach, jittery-fluttery feel. It’s not always about the kissing and the slightest touch that sends you off on a rocket trip to cloud nine.

When we are in love we tend to take for granted everything that we have and forget all the other emotions and sensations we were enjoying before the relationship was even there. Which is probably why when we go through a heartache, we feel as though we have nothing because we gave up everything.

Love and happiness sometimes come in the simplest and the littlest of forms. Tonight, it knocked on my door in the sweetest form of my god children and it was the sincerest form of love. It is the kind of love that makes your heart breathe, makes your heart move. It is the kind that is healthy and does not change me into something I am not. It is the kind that does not require me to nag, unless Jem and Bella are being extremely naughty.

I thought I was going to make up for all the Saturdays I missed out on my god children, and instead, they made my Saturday.

And when I got home, it felt as though my heart is out of the bottle and my favorite chair isn’t as empty anymore.

How cheap is it to die?

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I am mad. Angry. Furious. Disappointed! Can anyone, please, come up with a better word to describe how I am feeling?

I am outraged. Egypt, when is it going to stop?

Today, at least 73 lives have ended in Egypt because of football. That’s 73 people who will never see tomorrow because of sports violence.

These people have names, and family, and kids, and wives, and husbands, and fiances, and whoknowswhatelse.

These are people who woke up this morning thinking they have midterms next week, why not go to a football game tonight before the tough week starts?

These are people who are probably getting married next month, or whose son or daughter is celebrating his or her birthday tomorrow. These are people who kissed their moms and dads goodbye tonight saying they will be home after the match and will not be late.

These are people who will no longer live another day, who will no longer take an exam, or see their moms and dads, or see their children grow up because of what? A riot? Sports violence?

How cheap is it to die?

And it is not just about the 73 people who died. It is also about the people and the lives they left behind. Imagine that 5 year old boy who will no longer see his daddy. Or that 37 year old woman who will have to start planning her husband’s funeral when they are supposed to be celebrating their 10 year marriage. Or that professor who will wonder why her student has stopped coming to class. Or that girl who just lost her brother and best friend and still does not know it yet.

These people are people who came to watch a football match to have a good time, to root for their favorite team. They didn’t go there to die.

The news says the cause of death for the most part is stab wounds. I cannot, in any way possible, imagine that some people would actually go to the stadium with knives or any sharp objects thinking “it’s kill fest tonight.”

That is just inhumane and it makes me so sick in the stomach.

What good is the January 25 revolution that we just remembered and celebrated a week ago if tragedies like this just keep on recurring?

On that revolution, the people who made it happen wanted change, they seek freedom.

Well, here’s what’s wrong about Egypt, it’s the people. But you already know that, don’t you? You want change? Be open to it. Change yourself, your attitude, your mentality. You seek freedom? Free yourself from ignorance and hate.

Don’t be a hypocrite. Admit your faults and start doing something about it. Stop blaming the country and start changing your views and actions. Only then will we see change, only then can we start being free.