Dad vs. Twin

Since my twin sister moved to California a little over two years ago, her relationship with my dad slowly but surely deteriorated. She’s chasing after her dream, but while she’s doing it, she’s leaving my dad with broken promises and forgotten duties. I don’t want to get into the specifics of their falling out because it really is just one whole complicated web of unspoken feelings and pent up frustrations.

But throughout these two years, I watched how my dad gradually stopped talking to her and how my sister subsequently stopped trying to talk to him, all the while feeling this weight on my shoulder getting heavier and heavier.

Before I visited my sister this past summer, my mom told me to talk to her and convince her to see things from my dad’s perspective. And I did that. I talked to her. But after that, she asked me if I could talk to my dad after I got home and help him see things from her perspective. My mom asked me to do the same thing also. And I did that too.

Last week, I was finally able to talk to him. This is exactly how it started.

Me: Dad, I want to talk to you about something.
Dad: What is it, sweetheart?
Me: You have to promise me that you won’t get mad.
Dad: I won’t get mad.
Me: Do you promise?
Dad: I promise.
Me: It’s about Ach.
Dad *rolls eyes and exhales loudly*
Me: You promised you won’t get mad.
Dad: I’m not mad. What about her?

He kept his promise. He didn’t get mad. But he broke my heart a bit when he kept on saying he didn’t care about what my sister did/is doing/will do with her life.

At the same time though, I understand where he’s coming from. He wants what’s best for his daughter, and I get that it’s frustrating that his daughter refuses his ideas and opinions. I know he doesn’t mean what he said and that his words came from a place of hurt.

And my sister, she’s had moments here and there that infuriated me, that made me think that maybe she’s completely forgotten that she’s still my parents’ daughter and our sister.

But I can’t hide the fact that she’s been doing amazingly well with planning and thinking ahead when it comes to her future. I’ve never seen her more responsible, independent and confident than the two months I spent with her a couple of months ago.

So what do I have? A father who is angry because he’s hurting, and a sister who’s slowly turning into a stranger because she’s making her dreams come true.

I just… I’m not asking for advice or tips or whatever. I know it’s not my place, nor is it my responsibility, to try and fix their relationship.

It’s just that my sister’s coming home in less than 24 hours, and I don’t want her and my dad spending the Christmas season avoiding, ignoring or fighting each other.

Advertisements

To the girl with the broken heart

*I wrote this years ago for myself when my boyfriend broke up with me after five years together. In my mind, I wrote this as someone who, I imagined, would be able to reach me in spite of the many barriers I put up around my heart. Recently, one of my best friends got dumped in the worst way possible by her girlfriend of seven years, and I thought maybe letting her read this can help her in some way. And I’m reposting this here just in case this finds its way to someone else who needs a hug.

I don’t see your tears. I’m not there whenever you shed them. I don’t hear the achingly deep breaths you take, thinking it could lessen the pain that made your heart its home. I’m not there whenever you feel safe enough to tuck away the smiles you work so hard on showing off to everyone around you.

It doesn’t matter though. I see right through it.

I see because I’ve felt it – the feeling of giving your all and receiving nothing in return, of trying your hardest but always ending up second best, of loving so much while hurting even more, of knowing you deserve better yet settling for what’s there.

I know what you’re going to say, that I couldn’t possibly know exactly what you’re feeling and that circumstances are different for every person. And that’s true. Our experiences may not be similar, our pain not of the same degree.

But the remedy is.

Whatever he’s done and whatever he’s made you feel, in the end, it can only hurt you as much as you allow it to, as much as you let it. It all comes down to choice – your choice… which, truth be told, makes healing that much harder.

Because sometimes we choose to hurt. Sometimes, we’d rather lock ourselves in a dark room that was once bright, with pain we are so familiar with, instead of using the key we hold in the palm of our hand to open the door and walk out – all because we have not the slightest clue of what’s beyond it. We’re afraid to let go because we think that, if we do, we won’t find anyone else to hold on to and, more importantly, there won’t be another person who will want to hold us too. We’re afraid to be alone so we choose to stay with someone who not only hurt us but make us hurt ourselves and we rationalize it by saying, “At least he makes me feel, and feeling something, even if it is pain, is better than not feeling anything at all.” And I get that. The presence of pain may seem less unbearable than the absence of happiness.

It’s not.

It only feels that way because we also have the tendency to entrust our happiness to anyone besides us. So much so that when that person walks out of our life, he takes our happiness along with him and leaves us with a whole lot of nothing. We know it, we do, but knowing isn’t enough to change anything. We still choose to depend on someone else than face the possibility of being on our own.

Because it would be easier, wouldn’t it? To have someone else make us happy rather than to actually make ourselves happy.

But we can, you know. Be happy with ourselves. Granted it may be quite lonesome at times, disheartening on some occasions. But you know what? It’s worth it. Do you know what it feels like to suddenly find yourself genuinely happy and content and realize that, for the first time since forever, it’s not because of some guy? What does it feel like to be the reason for our own happiness?

Fulfilling. Uplifting. Worth it.

What not a lot of people realize, and what I hope you will, is that there is only one kind of love, aside from the love of God, that will never disappoint and that will never hurt – self-love.

So, at this moment, make your choice. Think about what you’re going through, what you’ll continue to go through should you remain in the path you’re in and choose.

Choose what your heart deserves, not what your heart thinks it wants. Choose to stop putting your happiness in someone else’s hands. And if you already have, don’t be afraid to take it back. Maybe falling for the wrong person was never your choice. But moving on is. We can allow the pain to consume us or we can choose to acknowledge it.

Let it hurt, let it out, then let it go.

And when you’ve let it go, walk away.  And as you walk away, know in your heart that while you may be walking away from something good, you’re sure as hell walking toward something even better.

This started out as a rant. Now, it’s… not.

This was supposed to be a lengthy tirade about the fight I had with my mom earlier.

I had two whole paragraphs typed out already, complete with our difficult history, the play-by-play of the whole argument (which included direct quotations from the both of us) and a lot of unpleasant adjectives. All I had to do was click on ‘publish’ for the whole Internet world to see.

And then, I don’t know. I hesitated, reread the words I just typed, selected the whole post and pressed the backspace button. And then I started typing this.

It dawned on me that what I was about to do is exactly the kind of thing I’d end up regretting tomorrow. So instead of writing about the whole fight, I’m going to write about this very moment.

It’s amazing to me how just a few minutes ago I was so mad – as I was typing my original post about the fight, I was getting angrier and angrier by each word. Now, though, I’m just… I guess hurt is the word.

And I guess hurt is okay. I would choose hurt over anger. I can still think rationally when I’m hurt, and being able to think rationally keeps me from doing stupid and hurtful things. To my mom. Like posting a nasty argument we had with the intention of making her look like a villain in front of all of you. I was so good at that before. But I don’t want to go down that road again.

I realize now that no matter how mad and frustrated I am at my mother, I still want to be on her side the same way she’s still on mine no matter how many times I disappoint her.

So even if I’m not really feeling her right now, even if I may be avoiding any direct contact with her, the last thing I want to do – the first thing I’m not supposed to do – is to pit myself against my mom, and to encourage you to side with me.

A NEEDTOBREATHE song comes to mind right now. It goes, “Be more heart and less attack.”

This is me being more heart and less attack, I guess.

Don’t cry, Mom. Dad loves you.

The last time I saw my mom cry was six years ago. I was sitting right in front of her when she broke down. My heart was breaking but I remained seated, unmoved and trying to seem unaffected, as I watched the tears fall from her face, all the while knowing that I was the reason for her tears.

What happened today is a bit different. As she covered her face and began to cry, as her shoulders shook from the sobs, I was right beside her, hugging her and telling her that things will get better. Karen, my sister, was there too. It’s a good thing my mom had covered her face with her hands because if she hadn’t, she would have seen us desperately trying to keep our own tears from falling.

My mom is a soldier, you see. Whenever something bad happens, she doesn’t get hurt. She gets angry. When there is conflict, she doesn’t run away from a confrontation. She makes a beeline toward it. My mom is a soldier. And just as seeing a soldier cry can so easily move people to tears, the same goes for me and my sister when we see our mother in tears.

Now, my father, on the other hand, is an excellent provider. He started working when he was still in high school and he hasn’t stopped since, even now that he’s  passed the retirement age. It’s crazy how hardworking my dad is. He doesn’t even work for himself anymore. He puts so much value in our (his kids’) prospects and future stability that, truthfully, I could stop working right now and I’d still be set for life. It’s one of the many things he has instilled in us – work for your children so that your children could start working for their children. Needless to say, my family has always lived a very comfortable life and a huge part of it is because of him.

But some time ago, I realized that there are times when being a wonderful provider can get in the way of being a wonderful husband.

It’s been years since my parents went on a vacation together. My dad’s work and his dedication to his work have kept them from going anywhere that would require a long-distance phone call to reach his office. So while my dad goes to work to give us an even better future, my mom goes to work and waits until my dad is ready. My mom, like I said, is a soldier. But even soldiers need leave.

For the past couple of months, my mom had been planning a trip to Japan with my dad. The trip had been set for June, my mom’s birth month. She’ll be celebrating her 60th birthday on the 18th of June and she had told us so many times that she didn’t want a big party.  I just want to travel, she said. So they were going to travel.

Except that earlier today, less than two weeks before the trip, I received a text from my mom. I am very disappointed, she said. It turns out my dad backed out. One of his employees informed him that she would be going on a vacation the same time they were. My dad decided to stay because he didn’t want the office to be short of two people.

My mom tells me she’s disappointed but really, it’s her way of saying she’s hurting. The fact that she texted this to Karen and me while she was at a church meeting meant that she was hurting bad. So when we finally see her, Karen and I ask if she’s okay and we tell her that we’re worried about her.

And then my soldier of a mom begins to cry.

I wrap my arms around her but only for a few minutes because after awhile, she tells us she’s okay and asks us to leave the room. So we do. And then we go about our afternoon like we just didn’t see our mother in tears.

For hours now I’ve been wrestling with myself about whether or not I should do something. I want to talk to my mom about it but she’s made it pretty clear that she’d rather not. I want to try to convince my dad to follow through with their trip but I know that the possibility of him agreeing is very slim. The idea of telling my dad that he made mom cry has crossed my mind but doing that feels wrong.

So what do you do when you see your mom cry? What do you do when you know your dad’s the one who made her cry?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the answer is nothing.

No matter how badly I want my dad to take my mom to Japan, no matter how much I want to stop my mom from being disappointed in my dad, I have to accept the fact that it isn’t my marriage. At the end of the day, I choose to have faith in my parents’ love for each other and their commitment to each other.

But then again, it wouldn’t hurt to say a prayer for them.

The one where I correctly predict my ex-boyfriend’s future girlfriend

It happened three years ago, a couple of months after we broke up. I remember it so clearly because I was so sure of what I was saying. Our conversation that night was one of the most honest conversations I’ve ever had with him because, although we weren’t together anymore, we were at that phase where we still acted like we were, so saying what I said felt like a pretty bold, albeit weird, thing to do.

I was walking with him to my car. It was eight in the evening and I just finished my last class for the day. I’d been thinking about telling him this for quite some time already but I never had the chance. That night, she somehow popped into our conversation and I finally had the opening I was waiting for. So before we reached the car, I turned to him and said, “You know, you’re going to end up with her someday.”

I’ve thought about her many times before that night. She was a really close friend of his and while she never became a close friend of mine, she was someone I liked a lot. Whenever they were together, they were happy and genuine. There were no pretenses, no fake laughter at an unfunny joke. Everyone could see how great friends they were. And then eventually I came to see how even better they would be as a couple. And what I saw was definitely better than what we ever had.

To be honest, that realization was more reassuring than I could ever admit to him. Up until that point, I was constantly exhausting my brain and heart with questions I probably knew the answer to but never could confess. What are we exactly? What are we doing? Is what I have with you right or just convenient? So when I was finally faced with the answer, it was more of a relief than anything else. It’s nice to be given a clear answer – even if that answer doesn’t seem to work in your favor. At a point where all I’m surrounded with are maybes, what ifs and I don’t knows, it felt nice to be given a definitive NO.

So when I told him he was going to end up with someone else while we were still, I don’t know, whatever we were back then, I didn’t say it to be reassured or coddled. I said it out loud for myself. I said it to pave the way for an end… an end for him and me – which was something I think I needed more than he did.

He dismissed what I said, of course. He said it would never happen. I asked him why, thinking (or was it hoping? I’m not so sure anymore) that maybe I was the reason, that his feelings for me would never go away. I don’t really know what I wanted his answer to be, what I do know is that I heard what I needed to hear. He said it would never happen because he would never want to jeopardize his friendship with her. She had never been in a relationship and so he didn’t want to be the first one to hurt her.

I knew then that I was right. It took three years, but I was right.

Last week, I was browsing through my Instagram feed when I saw a photo of the two of them with a heart and one of those smiley kisses for its caption. And you know what my reaction was? I was happy. Honestly. Although I don’t really know which one made me happier –  the new couple or the fact that my prediction had come true. It’s probably the latter.

And I guess I’m also proud of myself. I’ve always wondered how I would feel when he’d find someone new. I kept telling the people who would ask that I wouldn’t be affected at all if he found someone else because I honestly believed I wouldn’t, but in truth, I was secretly afraid that, when the time would come, I’d only prove myself a liar. I wasn’t afraid of feeling bitter or jealous. No, that was never the case. But I was absolutely terrified of finding out that he had found someone and then being consumed with one devastating question, Why haven’t I found mine first? I think a lot of times that’s how people usually feel when ex-lovers find new lovers. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want his newfound happiness to ignite a petty insecurity in me.

And it didn’t. I was just happy.

For him.

For her.

For me.

Mostly for me. It’s a good feeling, fate proving you were right all along.

Emptying my box of first love

IMG_3717

This is seven years worth of memories. In this box, I kept notes, letters and scribbles that were once the most important things in my life. Were.

The items in this box are from my first love, like the first Valentine’s Day card he gave to me back in 2003. Back then, First Love was just the nice boy who’d smile at me from afar. I was “kind of” with another boy who treated me like crap. On that day, I saw that boy make a Valentine’s Day card and because I was “kind of” with him, I thought the card was for me. It wasn’t. It was for a girl in another class. Before I left school and had the chance to cry my heart out on my pillow, First Love walked up to me every so shyly and handed me a red envelope. In it was a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card and on it was written a poem about how much he wanted to be my friend. It was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had.

There are two #1 candles inside as well. Those are from the cake he surprised me with when we celebrated our 11th month together. There’s a reason why that cake was bought from the store and not homemade. When we celebrated the month before for our 10th, he baked a cake. He didn’t know how to bake a cake. He ran out of flour and figured that he could just put double the amount of cocoa to make up for it. The cake tasted like dirt. We spent the whole afternoon in school that day, fooling people into taking a bite and then laughing at how some would unashamedly spit it back out and how others would actually pretend to like it. When we ran out of people to fool, we finished the whole thing with the help of our friends.

IMG_3718

Inside the white plastic bag is the sash that was given to me when I became prom queen. Prom night fell on the same day as our first anniversary so First Love decided to do something big for me. He knew we were going to “win” because everyone knew it was our anniversary but just to be sure, he approached people and asked them to vote for us. After we were crowned, I turned to leave the stage but then he told me to sit on the chair. And then, in front of our 90 or so schoolmates, he sang She by Elvis Costello. I thanked him by punching his arm after he finished the song. I don’t react well to surprises, you see. It was the boldest thing anyone has ever done for me. And when I came home that night, I looked at the sash one last time and put it in that white plastic bag. I never held it since. It had too much glitter and I hated glitter.

The colored rolls of paper were given to me that same night, after he sang to me and after I punched him. In each paper, he wrote down a reason for why he loved me. There are 100 rolls of paper. The first one reads, “I love you because of who you are.” The last one reads, “I love you because of who we are when we’re together.”

Eventually, we stopped loving who we were when we were together. Or rather, we couldn’t love who we had become the longer we stayed together. And so we broke up.

That was three years ago.

IMG_3719

Yesterday, I decided to empty this box. Using my mom’s paper shredder. It wasn’t done out of anger or bitterness. We may have gone our separate ways but I will always, always wish him well the same way I know he wishes me well.

Believe it or not, it was done out of love. Love for the good five years I spent with him. I’ve decided to say goodbye to the memories of First Love this way because it’s the only way to keep what we had always just between the two of us and no one else.

And you know what? Love for myself. I did it out of love for myself. Because maybe, just maybe, the reason why I kept this box around is to remind me that I was once loved the way all girls want to be loved. And I’ve come to realize that that’s such a terrible reminder.

In the future, when love comes around and hopefully chooses to stay, I want to be loved the way I want to be loved. I want to be loved the way I deserve to be loved, the way I’m supposed to be loved… not the way I was loved in the past.

Third-Wheeling: Dinner with the significant others

Of others obviously, not mine. I don’t have any – all my friends do though. I was having dinner last night with a good friend from college and her boyfriend when I realized something. Most of my nights out with friends consists of a friend, the friend’s significant other and me. Her, him and me makes three.

Two nights ago, I had dinner with my childhood friend and her new boyfriend (our dinners almost always includes a boyfriend and the boyfriend is always hers). A few weeks ago, my best friend celebrated her birthday with her boyfriend and me. In February, I went out with a close friend of mine from high school and his girlfriend.

Basically, I get invited to a lot of dates. Either that or I invite myself to meet the significant others.

And you know what? I love it. Not kidding. I feel like it’s a super power of mine – to feel naturally comfortable sitting alone on one side of the table across two people who, I like to think, are in love with each other, while not making either of them feel that they have to treat me like I’m a lost puppy or a super spy watchdog.

Over the years, I’ve found that being in the presence of two people who are connected to each other is wonderfully fascinating. There’s always a story there. I like watching how they treat each other, how they talk to each other or how they act around each other. I know my being there changes things a bit but that’s the whole point. I get to understand my relationship with my friends more when I understand how their relationships are with their partners.

There’s something about being able to witness real relationships – old, new, short and true – even if I’m not actually a part of it, that captivates me. I see two people and so much more. I’ve seen the awkwardness of a friend who’s trying to get me to like her date without making it seem like she’s trying too hard. I’ve seen the anxiety in the eyes of a friend’s new boyfriend who’s internally figuring out whether I approve of him or not. I’ve seen affection, companionship, friendship, lust and infatuation. Sometimes, I see love, and if I’m lucky, I can even feel it.

I’ve been told once, quite publicly too, that I am the ultimate third wheel. It’s true, I realize that now. But I don’t see it as something to be embarrassed about, nor do I see it as a constant, blaring reminder of me not being in a relationship. I like being single and being with people who are in a relationship. Truth be told, I actually enjoy being part of these dates more than being with a big group.

Take note, I’m talking to you, guy who labeled me as the third wheel, I used the phrase being part of instead of tagging along, because I may be a third wheel but I’m the wheel in the front. Unlike you, I don’t need a boyfriend to spend time with my best friend and his girlfriend. I don’t force my friend to invite another single friend before I agree to meet with her and her boyfriend. And unlike you, I know how to have fun in all my singleness with people in all their ‘couple-ness’ and, you know what, they also have fun with me.

I may be a third wheel but, damnit, I third wheel like a boss. That, my single and most probably insecure friend, is how I roll.