that old story

Last night, over pasta and frosted java, I recounted to two friends a not-so-happy heart story from my teenaged past. I figured I could retell the decade-old experience with detachment and even amusement.

I was wrong.

Time, after all, does not heal all wounds. There are wounds that Time can do nothing but anesthetize – and we can ignorantly mistake this respite from pain as healing. Until one day, without any warning, the numbness wears off and a disconcerting tingling heralds the return of a familiar ache.

It’s interesting how in our telling of old stories we hear our true selves, sometimes for the first time.

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maroon sweater

If not for the cloudy weather and cooler temperature today, I’d look downright silly and pitifully drenched in perspiration wearing this thick maroon sweater. As much as I like this maroon sweater with the brown stripes (and the cool way it matches with my brown pants and gray-blue sneakers), I am well aware that I live in the tropics—specifically, in the oven that is Metro Manila. Good sense dictates that thick sweaters—no matter how cool and fashionable—be left folded in the closet for the most part of the year, only to be worn during the few cold months of the year. But when your laundress decides to abandon you without notice, leaving you with a mound of dirty clothes, and the only thing left in your closet decent enough to wear to work is, yes, a maroon sweater, you could only hope for appropriate weather, ample coolness to pull off the look, and a nice spot in the MRT under the aircon vent.

Tonight I will swing by the laundry shop to pick up a ton of clean clothes (heavily-scented with Downey—mmmm… achoo!). Strangely, the thought excites me—but it’s probably just relief, not excitement. If, for some reason, I am unable to accomplish this simple yet critical task of picking up my laundry, I could be coming to work in a jusi barong tomorrow. Perish the thought.

reading slowly

I have temporarily abandoned Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. After reading more than half-way through it, I still feel an awkwardness in navigating through the novel’s linguistic tides. Immersing in the richness and depth of Eco’s language (translated to English from the original Italian) has compelled me to come up to the surface for air—oftentimes that meant flipping through the dictionary after every couple of pages to befriend strange words; backtracking several paragraphs to try to recover my bearings to make sense of the plot; and, lately, that has come to mean temporarily parking the book by the desk lamp and turning to another one for company. (This business of expanding my experience with books is proving to be quite a challenge!)

Retreating from Eco’s prose has allowed me to spend more time with Elisabeth Elliot’s Shadow of the Almighty (which I first picked up around the same time I set out to hurdle Eco). As it turns out, this biography of Jim Elliot, the author’s martyred missionary husband, is just what I need right now. Elisabeth invites readers to know a man whose passionate and single-minded love for God permeated every part of his life, even infecting those around him. Wanting the reader to somehow experience Jim’s very heart and soul, Elisabeth extensively quotes from Jim’s writings, culled mostly from personal letters and journal entries. Jim’s words reveal not a perfect saint devoid of doubt or struggle, but a man who loved God deeply despite his imperfections and lived his life to reflect this intimate devotion to his Creator.

Some books you are forced to read slowly owing to their tricky or unfamiliar language or theme. Others, penned with a beautiful and yet potent simplicity, you simply choose to read carefully and slowly because the words ring with oft-neglected truth and personal relevance that engage more than your mind—they touch your very spirit. Jim Elliot’s life and faith has forced me to mount my own under a spiritual microscope, to be examined against the ultimate standard of godliness and holiness. I am still on page 70 of Shadows as of this writing. Each time I pick it up, I sense that I do so not to relax nor escape, but to interact with God and wrestle with my inner self. I simply can’t sustain this engagement for long stretches. So I take my time. One good thing about books is that they are patient friends, postponing their message until you are ready to receive it. But even more patient is the One who chooses to creatively and unmistakably speak to you through the printed word.

* * *

In one of Jim’s meditations, he expressed a sentiment that has strongly resonated with me about writing with integrity:

I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shamming heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not write what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible, that I may know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unrecognized, inconsistencies.

Amen. I echo this as my tap-dancing prayer.

overtime

Stuck in the office finishing a flyer. Another one of those rush jobs. I couldn’t write the copy soon enough to assign one of our two graphic artists – the ninja turtles, I fondly call them – to design it. (Besides, they’re loaded with book cover projects these days.) So it was up to me to take on the flyer challenge – writing and designing it at the same time. After all, what am I “head of creatives” for if I couldn’t hurdle a simple flyer? Bah. Nothing like a little pricking of the ego to motivate sluggish self on a Monday. Hehe.

The worst part is over. By divine inspiration and assistance, I’ve managed to write and design a decent flyer. Got the tentative nod of the boss minutes before he zoomed to his badminton game. Now Alma, my HP printer, is churning out print-outs of the flyer – but not before I cooed and cajoled her so she would agree with my spacing and color requirements. You see, Alma and Booknoy, my PC, are not always likeminded. Booknoy is awfully snail-paced these days. But that is a different story altogether. Anyweay, I was expecting Alma to get to my nerves tonight – as she is wont to under pressure – but, alas, she pulled through, except for one minor paper jam episode. She dislikes board paper, but tonight she took it like a good team player. Sigh… I could be in love with Alma. Hahaha!

There’s still a powerpoint to do, but that can wait. Or that’s what I’d like to think. I’ve used up my creative reserves for the day.

P.S. Hey, wait. Look at me, I’m tap dancin’ again! Thanks to those who were patiently swinging by day in and day out to see if the wordlessness cloud hovering above this blogger has finally lifted. It’s still a bit cloudy this side of me, but things are looking better. God is good 🙂