Single Struggles

Chronicles of a Christian Singleton's Struggles

This is for the suffering singles: the forgotten, middle children in this family-oriented world.  Persecuted and pressured, nobody understands us.

I have been chronicling my struggles and triumphs (there were some) in this area for more than a decade now.  On this page I will try to include all of my reflections/lessons as a single, Filipino, Catholic woman. Oh the cultural, religious, and social pressures are many.  Not to mention the singles' internal needs and insecurities.

Some of these writings were influenced by my being a very active member and servant of a movement of single Catholic professionals, Ang Lingkod ng Panginoon.  The link to all my Lingkod-related posts is here. See also the posts tagged as "Christian singles" and "singlehood" from the tag cloud located at the rightmost column of this blog.

But mostly, I just wrote what was going on, because this was the voice given to me, and no matter how difficult, I still wanted to be left alone.

I am single by choice. I would rather be single than be untrue to myself and my personal value system.

For the Good Girls (and Boys) Out There
March 11, 2010

I recently came across a few book titles that had bothered me. One was entitled "Why Men Marry Bitches." Another one was "Good Girls Finish Last."

If the titles reflected the books' contents, then something inside me begged to disagree with the respective authors.

This topic would require a longer discussion on what I meant by "good girls", including whether I believed they were always the opposite of "bitches" (pardon the language), and why I was bothered enough and could not disagree more with the implications of the world's logic as summarized in said books and similar publications.

As a person who had tried to do the right thing all my life yet still failed miserably after having to confront my own palpable weakness (read: sinfulness), I wanted to prove the opposite - that "good girls" in effect actually finished "first". The problem was that it seemed, based on the world's standards, that here on earth, the good girls always turned out to be the losers.

Then yesterday, I came across this word from the Lord: "But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:19b)

I heaved a sigh of relief. I was reminded of my conversation with a good friend a few months back, when I brought up this matter with her. She said that I should write a book entitled "Good Girls Finish in God's Time."

Ah, but I do no the time yet. I also need to research on and compile stories of real-life "good girls" (to be defined in full in the yet-to-be-written-book) who saw the fruits of their labors, and experienced how it was to choose God's way and to emerge victorious. These were concepts that were drilled in us in Lingkod, but my friend and I agreed that they had to be re-stated in more practical terms so that the doubt would be resolved in favor of obedience to God's will, over the pull of competing desires and wants.

For God's ways are not my ways. I know that. But do I always believe that? Have I actually experienced it? Am I willing to put my full faith in Him, despite my apparent successive failures and massive losses in the eyes of the world (and sometimes my own)?

The answer is not always yes. The book, once written, could be a powerful reminder of what it means to belong to God and to entrust my life to Him.

For I have not always been good.

With Friends Like These...
28 June 2009

My parish friends had fun teasing me this morning.  We just had a tour of our new building and were cooling ourselves under a tree when our parish priest told us that there would be a mass wedding at our church in July, during the fiesta.

Since this meant the wedding fees would be much lower (to share the altar with four score and seven other couples), I asked if I could have my wedding then.  I was told, "If you could book a groom by then, go ahead."  I laughed.  Then I looked at our clubhouse.  Then I looked at my friend's white car.  I asked him, "Can I borrow this as wedding car?"  He said, "Be my guest.  But the groom has to be captured first."

This started off all sorts of ideas on how Ate Ella could find a suitable groom.  I already had the church, the choir, the clubhouse, and the car.  One young friend of mine suggested that there should be an advertisement, "Huge Savings If You Marry Ate Ella."  They assigned someone to look for potential husbands for me.  I laughed with them.  There were suggestions to just marry anyone, to meet the deadline of submission of required documents.  I laughed some more. This was not the first time we were having this kind of conversation. 

Then I got home, had lunch with my parents, cooked dinner, folded the laundry, and got to thinking that I was not in a rush.  I don't need the "discount".  I am happy where I am.  Marriage is not necessarily a happier place.  In fact, if I ask a lot of friends, it isn't happy at all.

I have been thinking that being by myself, serving God, having wonderful friends and family, traveling at least once a year, indulging in my passions, expressing my talents, and learning new skills, I am so happy already.  I could live with this for the rest of my life.

I'm just not sure if I'm meant to.  But that's a question to be answered another day.

The Grass is Not Necessarily Greener on the Other Side
29 April 2008

"If you were bleeding before, you're gushing now."

Astute observation from another person, if I may say so.  At least I felt validated in my feelings of panic and depression when he gave that comment.  I had reason to go mad, and I could blame it on the series of circumstances around me.  Or I could stand up, walk, and live.

I had coffee with a good friend in between a busy day for both of us.  I looked up to this friend, for she had it all - beauty, brains, talents, husband, career, kids, community.  While I could not even figure out where I would be nine years from now (a question I had to answer for an insurance agent).  I was poised and ready to pour out my heartaches to this trusted, dependable friend.

I was surprised that she had her fair share of woes.  I said how could she complain when she, let me repeat it, had it all?  I used to sing "I just want to be where you are" to this girl (instead of to God, I know, idolatry).  I told her she should be thankful she had someone to share life with, her triumphs and failures, her dreams and miseries.  I reminded her that single people went through life insecure and alone at times.

She said that when you get married, your problems are multiplied.  Aside from your own family's concerns, you absorb your husband's family's issues, your yaya's, your helper's, your driver's, and it would seem as if no one would eat in your household if you don't wake up early enough to make the decisions.

Just when I was falling down regarding my own troubles, this friend of mine also wanted to rebel against everyone and to be irresponsible for one second.  We both could not afford to.

The bottom line was that we were no longer young and we had to face our responsibilities as adults.  We were each on the side where the other thought that the grass was greener, and we reminded each other that it was not.  We did not give in to hopelessness and despair.  As sisters in Christ, we remembered that we could go through life - however broken or broke we'd become - in Him who strengthened us.

My circumstances have not changed but bit by bit, I am gaining acceptance of it all.  

By the way, do visit the blog of another friend of mine,  Her entries are both heartwarming and funny.  Her outlook in life is both fresh and refreshing.  She lives up to her name:  Gay.

Hurting All Over and Loving It
March 26, 2008

I woke up and felt the pain, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes.   I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed, as I suffered an almost sleepless night due to the summer heat and the adrenaline rush from last night's dance practice.  But work beckoned and I had to prop my head and lift my body by sheer willpower, to rise above the pain.  That's why Alaxan was invented, to dull the pain - something I knew I was good at.  So I took the pills and went to work.

Since last week, I had returned to dancing with the Lingkod QT's to prepare for our Easter Celebration this coming Lord's Day.  We hadn't danced in a year because our dance guru Karreen had to deal with an ACL tear and an ankle injury.  So we were all excited to go back to our group workout and fellowship sessions through the power of dance.  That we were doing it to the tune of Kirk Franklin's "Looking for You" made our jumps higher and our spins smoother (or so we wished).  His praise songs were just so danceable and we didn't have to worry about improper lyrics.

I knew that my body would be shell-shocked from all the twists and turns that Len, Jayson, and Karreen made us do, but I still went on with it.  As I complained today of aches and pains, Karreen asked me, "But ain't it worth it?"  Well, it was!

Some pains are so worth it that people don't mind going through them  - like in the case of a mother who stays up all night taking care of her newborn baby (or so I heard), or an artist who endures many sleepless nights creating his masterpiece, or a lover who waits with a mixture of intense longing and sheer excitement for the return of his beloved.  

As I walked every excruciating step in the office today and soothed my poor muscles with Lander Crystal Ice Analgesic Gel tonight, I did not have regrets.  I had fun practicing.  I knew I was going to have fun on Saturday, and I once more experienced one of the best forms of workout there was.

If only we could do this every week.  Come on, QT's, we've been planning to do this regularly for years.  Then there would be no more pain.  Only dance, and music, and toned bodies.

Of Wasted Time and Missed Opportunities
February 4, 2008

There is a reason why earthly time is divided into seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years, and so on and so forth.  They were invented so that we human beings would take note of the shifts and transitions, and move along with them, rather than resist them.

We are given opportunities to take little vacations every day, but we ignore them.  We pack our day with activities and slump into bed exhausted at night.  Weekends were intended to be utilized for rest and relaxation.  The Sabbath Day was ordained by God to be set aside for communing with Him and resting our souls.

When we abuse our bodies, we suffer the consequences.  Instead of having idyllic days in some vacation hideaway as some enlightened people get after planning their lives properly, the rest of us are forced to rest by groaning bodies and pounding headaches.  We then stay at home but are unable to enjoy any minute of our "forced vacation" as we're nursing a sickness that is our body's protest letter to our stubborn refusal to rest.

Maybe we don't want to rest.  We want to be busy, important, and hard to reach.  But all that leads to empty days of sickness, when we regret all the precautions we ignored - a persistent cough, a sore throat, or a painful back.

I've been trying to sleep since this morning but these thoughts have been bothering me.  Unable to rest, I picked up a book to read, which two of my best friends recommended to me.  

The book's title is "Love, Rosie", written by Cecelia Ahern, daughter of Ireland's Prime Minister.  It is akin to Bridget Jones' Diary in theme but more like Griffin and Sabine in style.  It is an exchange of notes, cards, texts, e-mails, and letters over a span of 45 years between Rosie and her best friend Alex.  

Although the lead character is Rosie, the letters from Alex were the ones that blew me away.  I will type parts of the two letters that I loved the most below.  Reading this book was the perfect escape from reality that I needed.  

1.  Rosie,

(I deleted some portions so as not to spoil it entirely for those who intend to read the book.)

He is the luckiest man in the world to have you, Rosie, but he doesn't deserve you and you deserve far better.  You deserve someone who loves you with every single beat of his heart, someone who thinks about you constantly, someone who spends every minute of every day just wondering what you're doing, where you are, who you're with, and if you're OK.  You need someone who can help you reach your dreams and who can protect you from your fears.  You need someone who will treat you with respect, love every part of you, especially your flaws.  You should be with someone who can make you happy, really happy,  dancing on air happy.  Someone who should have taken that chance to be with you years ago instead of becoming scared and being too afraid to try.

I'm not scared anymore Rosie.  I am not afraid to try.

2.    (This letter was written about 10 years later.)

My dear Rosie,

(Spoilers deleted)

I'll get straight to the point because if I don't say what I have to say now, I fear it will never be said.  And I need to say it.

Today I love you more than ever; tomorrow I will love you even more.  I need you more than ever; I want you more than ever.  (x x x)

Rosie Dunne I love you with all my heart, I have always loved you even when I was seven years old and lied about falling asleep on Santa watch, when I was ten years old and didn't invite you to my birthday party, when I was eighteen and had to move away, even on my wedding days, on your wedding day, on christenings, birthdays, and when we fought.  I loved you through it all.  Make me the happiest man on this earth by being with me.

Please reply to me.

All my love, 

Only a woman could write a man's feelings that well.  

And now I will go back to getting better so I can go back to work tomorrow, a bit more careful not to waste time and to miss opportunities.  Or I'd end up like Rosie, who finally found happiness when she turned 50 years old.

That's 16 and a half years from now, for me.  

Getting Back on My Feet
September 4, 2007

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Gen 22:1-2)

This is a familiar story and many of us have, at one time or another, experienced something akin to Abraham’s “Moriah experience”, where we had felt God asking of us our most treasured possession or beloved, and we had reluctantly surrendered to Him, unable to take after Abraham who simply told his son Isaac, when the latter was looking for the lamb to be their burnt offering, that God would provide.

I’ve always related this story to particular people in my life that I’ve had to sacrifice just because it was wrong for me to hold on to them. While driving home tonight, however, I realized that my recent and most concrete Moriah experience did not pertain to a person, but had everything to do with my career. This is the wisdom and clarity provided by hindsight and a cup of coffee shared with an old friend.

I could be second-guessing God, over-spiritualizing my life, and jumping to conclusions, but then again, being human and of limited understanding, I could only grasp at what my life means and where God is taking me. I am entitled to be unsure of what God is truly up to, as usually it takes me a lot longer to figure things out. But I have wounds that are healing, and these new insights that I discover along the way help in easing the pain and in letting me walk again. If they point to the truth, I am all the more relieved.

So what was my Isaac, “my only son”, one which I had waited for for a hundred years under pain of a huge mistake along the way, like Abraham did? It was something I had to wait for a very long time to achieve, and, surprise!, it was my being a lawyer. I had written about it many times before that in my pride God showed His mercy by letting me fail the bar exams and teaching me to put my complete trust in Him when I took it the second time. Just like Abraham, I thought my career would pave the way for God’s other promises to me. God promised Abraham descendants as many as the stars in heaven, and Isaac being his only son surely was going to be instrumental in the fulfillment of that promise.

If I was going to make it in life, my career as a lawyer would define it, as it provided me with many opportunities. There came a time, however, when God called me. I was sure of it; I consulted others about it; and I was able to confirm it – He wanted me to give up being a lawyer and to serve Him as a volunteer mission worker. The mission field before me then was Lingkod, and I sad yes. It was like setting myself up to be burned alive, however, as my decision was tested and contested by many people. I had to endure months of doubt and disappointment. I left everything and followed Him. Or so I thought.

Things did not fall exactly into place. I did get a fulfilling service in Lingkod, and I had the support of many friends, brothers, and sisters; still, something did not fit. I was restless again, but since I had discerned about it, I did everything I could to make it work. I addressed the people I had difficulty serving with. I endured the pain of correction for my mistakes. I helped point out matters that could be improved. I thought I was living out my dream, but happiness remained elusive. There was the knowledge that I was “seeking first God’s kingdom” and “building my treasure in heaven”, but slowly I grew tired of meeting the high expectations I set for myself as a supposed servant of the Lord.

I checked with Him again, after months of crying almost everyday, if there was any other way He wanted me to sacrifice my life. What was it that was so wrong with my situation that it was not bearing as much fruit as I knew it could? People said I was doing a good job but I did not believe them. I could not feel the “click” that I was looking for. I could not see what was in store for me. I was stuck in an idealistic mold.

Slowly, I lifted my eyes in prayer and God gently showed me that I did not have to struggle so much. I went through discernment again – retreats, spiritual direction, consultations – and heard God’s encouragement to be free to serve Him the way He created me. It was hard to understand because I believed at that time that I did not have to be a lawyer anymore. I stopped paying my membership in the IBP. I refused to accept consultations. I stopped reading the news. I soaked myself in all things spiritual and shunned anything that was “legal”. I said to myself I had a whole lifetime to figure out why God allowed me to be a lawyer who did not want to practice.

I eventually got back on my feet and found a job that was a blessing (a subject of many previous writings). Just as if I never left it, God gave me back my profession, and even allowed me to expand what I could do with it, breaking away from the traditional mold of a lawyer-in-a-suit appearing in court. I am now applying my interests in technology, research, writing, organizing, and working directly with people. I’m no longer prepared to say this is it for me, that I’ll die in this company. No, I’m just thankful to be here where I am now, and to see that what I had sacrificed, God gave back to me, with so much more than I had before.

I thought I had placed myself as a sacrifice and God refused the offering my life. That was a major cause of my tears before, that I displeased God in some way that’s why the decision to be His alone did not last.

I was wrong. Jesus had already offered the ultimate sacrifice, and He did it for me. God did provide the sacrifice, but so that I would see and understand, He waited to see how I would respond if He asked it of me, like He did for faithful Abraham. In some ways working back in the corporate world seems like a deviation from the path to heaven that I was aiming for a year ago, but on many levels it is a part of the personal journey where I could give, receive, and become the person God promised I could be, which could still be hiding somewhere inside me.

Another Old Testament character who was tested, Job, put it best when he said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21) As we have read from the Bible, God spared Isaac and fulfilled all His promises to Abraham. As for Job, “…the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. (Job 42:12)

Therefore, regarding my career as a lawyer and I, I believe that love should be lovelier the second time around.

A Wise Woman Told Me
May 4, 2007

Don't be too hard on yourself, my spiritual directress told me during our session this morning, which was our first in several months. Her words to me were like the first drops of rain on parched land. I had been given that advice often enough in the recent past to realize that I must have a tendency to, well, be hard on myself.

I came to see her because I had finally made a decision regarding something that I'd put off for a long time now. I wanted to hear her inputs on the matter. I wanted her to tell me if I was crazy for throwing away what's familiar and structured to accept something that was unchartered and disorganized. In the alternative, and this was what I was hoping for, I wanted her to assure me that the path I had chosen would bring me closer to God.

She listened to the pros and cons of both choices and then asked me to weigh what were "needs" versus "values". If I operated on "need" all the time, I would never be able to feed it, and would always ache for something that might never be filled in this world. On the other hand, if I chose based on what I valued, I would be willing to make sacrifices, and to die to myself, like a seed falling to the ground and shedding off its old self in order to grow, take root, and bloom.

I should have brought pen and paper, for while she spoke I wanted to capture what she said. I knew all about focusing on a need that seemed to never be satisfied - even if it was something good as the need to receive spiritual teaching, formation, and support. She showed me how much I was limiting the Lord's presence in my life.

Then, she mirrored back to me what I said - that I was "in waiting", that this time was still part of my transformation, hence a pause from one structured life on its way to another.When in transition, my forms of prayer could change, and that's alright, she said. I need not fear "backsliding" after I left Lingkod and the many graces I had experienced there for eight years. I should be free to make mistakes, if that was the way to teach me where to go next.

She likened it to making a U-turn. She said it would only cause an accident if I was given a small space within which to make a U-turn. Similarly, in my spiritual life, I should go about change with as much space as was necessary for me to find my bearings again. I should not fear the loss of one aspect of my life when the invitation to a new life was so clear. She reminded me that the Easter season is about new beginnings, and to be thankful that God had revealed to me a fresh direction to take in life.

In less than an hour she was able to answer my questions and assure me that I was taking a leap of faith in the right direction. Whatever doubts or fears I had, largely caused by previously-cherished beliefs and values, were one by one dissolved by her assuring tone and compassionate smile. I was growing and changing, as a person and as a Christian, and I should embrace it with a grateful heart.

She asked me to look back at my years in Lingkod and to thank God one by one for all the blessings I received. It was one way of having proper closure, and it would allow me to appreciate more what God had done in me and through me. It would also prepare me for my new "community" and the new challenges I would face. She asked me what the title of the Lingkod chapter of my life would be, and what theme song for me recurred during that time. I was very clear about the song - it would be "Something More" performed by Lea Salonga from the album of the same title produced by the Jesuit Music Ministry. The song could be my title, for it captures my search for what God has in store at the end of each road that I take.

It is not going to be easy revealing my choice to some people, especially those whom I love and respect. I could only pray that they see that my physical absence does not mean I am going over to the other side of the battle. We would still be fighting for the same values, only on different roads. Best of all, we would be serving the same loving God, in whose family we all belong.

All My Friends are Getting Married
July 11, 2006

Somebody sang this song to me today just because I told him that two of our common friends are getting married, to each other.

I’ve never heard this song before, but I Googled it, and found it’s from an album released in 1970! I wasn’t even born then yet. I’m quoting a portion of the song here:

All My Friends Are Getting Married 
(Greg Macainsh) / Skyhooks

Well all my friends are getting married
Yes they're all growin' old
They're staying home on weekends
They're all doin' what they're told
But I'm caught up in this magic
I'm all caught up in the fun
I'm all caught up in this music
Maybe I'll never have a son

x x x 

Well sometimes I feel like I'm left behind
And sometimes I feel like I just left school
Wonder if I'll ever grow up
Maybe I'm the only fool

But I'm all caught up in this magic
Yes I'm caught up in this fun
I'm all caught up with this music
Well maybe I'll never have a son

Well my dear friend, we can at least enjoy the music! I wanted to tell you that the only thing worse than a single person’s loneliness is… someone else’s marital misery. But I wasn't sure if you would agree with me.

As I was putting on anti-aging products on my face tonight, I thought of my singularly lonely friends and my maritally miserable ones. I also though about those who seemed to have everything right - marriage, work, children, all of life perfectly figured out. And a quiet voice reminded me that all of us, without exception, would be worse than just lonely or miserable, but would be downright hopeless, if we didn't have an awareness of the love of God for each and every one of us, and if we didn't live our lives towards coming up with our own best response to that love.

Married is not necessarily better than single, and vice versa. I asked one of the greatest living people I know what following God was really about, in his opinion, and he said that everyone else would often say that it's about getting what we want when we want it everytime, but for him it's about taking up our cross and following our Lord Jesus. If we want to be serious about our relationship with God, we have to stop this whining and complaining, and start getting our acts together. So we might feel left behind sometimes, but that's just temporary. The only thing eternal is the love of God, whoever we are, whatever our status or situation in life is.

I left that conversation feeling how simple the solution to my boredom and restlessness really is, but I have to be reminded of the truth point blank or else I'd keep going around in circles, repeating past mistakes, pursuing dead ends, trying several U-turns, and not understanding why I could never seem to get anything right.

Maybe instead of singing or writing about my problems, I should do something about them and actually face the people who are in authority to correct the seemingly erroneous situations that make my life difficult these days.

I have discovered how averse to conflict and confrontation I really am. That's why like a lot of Pinoys my age, I enjoy the ease, comfort and detachment of blogging and texting. But my conscience has spoken, and I have to heed his voice otherwise it was a mighty waste of his precious time.

Where did this blog lead to? I was only planning to write about the song about all my friends getting married. This conscience, really, is hard to ignore.

My Kind of Beauty Experts
November 18, 2004

If you're single and unattached at 30, I'm sure you've experienced being scrutinized at some point by well-meaning friends who want to increase your marketability (read: sex appeal). I was the subject of such a conversation earlier in the office. When the boss is away...

My officemates have always been befuddled at my uncanny ability to intimidate men and/or to shun their unwanted attention, or so they say. Some of my friends have shot down my list of essentials and preferences, with comments ranging from "Superman is already taken" to "Only a saint could match your expectations" and to "Better prepare for single life; NO ONE can match your standards". I have prayed about my list of essentials and preferences after months of discernment so I am not about to budge, unless God tells me so in clear and unequivocal language.

The topic during our coffee break was my visual impact, apparently. My bombshell of an officemate suggested I wear deeper necklines and to accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! She is frustrated at my refusal to buy chunky earrings and audacious necklaces, but I told her that those accessories hardly match my personality and environment. Another officemate was bolder in his assessment of what I needed in order to improve my prospects of dating - he insists on me wearing micro-minis and to ditch my suits. He is much younger than me so I managed to think that he said that more for my benefit than his visual feast. He even had the gall to ask me why I loved to wear suits! My closest friend in the office came to the rescue and said, "She's a lawyer and she's required to wear suits, you moron!" Okay, she didn't quite use that exact language but I was this close to saying that. Thankfully I was able to stop myself as I'm giving a talk on Proper Speech to Lingkod this coming weekend. I had to practice what I preach.

I made a graceful exit from the conference room and returned to my cubicle to think. Why was I so stubborn? Why couldn't I listen to those love gurus whose avowed common project was to find me a boyfriend? I appreciated all their efforts but could not take their advice if I were to remain true to myself. Of course finding The One is a project I would love to undertake but I have come to realize that my standards are no longer of this world. My time frame is no longer bound by impatience. My body clock has finally been surrendered to the Lord.

Manang. Laon. Old maid. Bridget Jones. Ally McBeal. Clerk of Court (private office joke, but clue - ejusdem generis). I've heard all sorts of titles and I'm not so affected anymore. If being myself, growing in faith and confidence, and fixing my eyes on an eternal perspective have placed me in a league of my own, sui generis, then so be it. Maybe it's not yet time. Maybe the man who would appreciate me for who I am - toned-down jewelry, decent skirt length, matchless passion and wit (could NOT resist! hehe) and all - is still being pruned and formed by God. I am not anxious... anymore. :)

I was able to compare this indifferent feeling that I had towards my officemates' beauty tips with how I felt recently while talking to one of my elders in Lingkod. We were discussing formation courses that I had not yet taken and I immediately signed up for the Joy of Discovery (not Discovery Weekend... yet!) series that they would conduct next week. Everytime I speak to her, I would find myself striving to know more of how to grow in character and maturity. Same goes with my spiritual directress; whenever she would give me three-page assignments for my spiritual formation, I would get excited and spend at least an hour a day praying and working on them. Lalo na whenever I talk to my father confessor and to my other priest-friends, I take their advice to heart and munch on their words for days on end. When I talk to gifted speakers, musicians, writers, pastors and leaders who serve the Lord, I make mental term papers (and not just mental notes) in order to follow their example and channel my endowments expertly like they have.

I do not want to alienate my officemates and friends but really, I have metamorphosed. All the experts I want to listen to at this point are those who would lead me closer to being attractive, marketable and pleasing to One Man: Jesus Christ! Of course I still pay attention to my looks, and I have been labeled kikay and vain in the past, but what really motivates me now and consumes my waking moments is my process of yielding to God's will.

Langit lang ang destinasyon, my non-community friends warn me when they think I've gone to one too many retreats in one year. Yes, I want to reach heaven but it would not hurt; nay, it would glorify my Maker if I also fulfill my mission and my purpose here on earth. The process is painful, just like any period of pruning and morphing. In the expert hands of the Lord and in His loving gaze, however, I willingly and happily yield. Or would like to try to. ;)

What on earth am I here for? Rick Warren asked. Contemplating my Life Purpose, I found out that it does not involve adorning myself like a Christmas tree. In fact I have discovered that the less dazzling I appear on the outside, the more spectacular I feel on the inside.

When I was installed as Branch Women's Moderator in June 27, 2003, the following passage was read from 1 Tim 2 (RSV):

9 also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire 10 but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.

I am learning from my own set of beauty experts as well, from those who would prepare me for my call to let go of all earthly attachments and to "go on mission". I have quite a long way to go, but it starts now. In Iloilo, the Lord spoke:

You received without paying, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. (Matt 10:9-10, RSV)

And thus this disciple was called. Now, as to how to explain this during coffee break in the conference room without sounding preachy, I ask for the inner grace and beauty to handle that. In His perfect time.

Superwoman Goes to the Supermarket
October 23, 2002

Women and shoes. Women and chocolates. Women and shopping.

It doesn’t take a marketing genius to know that whenever hormones and/or emotions cloud a woman’s judgment, she usually goes out in search of a way to part with her cash or to swipe that plastic.

Most women are also prone to making drastic hairstyle decisions during these dangerous moments. Take for example the poor hair strands of Kris Aquino. I pity them, what with all those chemicals they have to contend with regularly. No wonder they’re sticking out in all directions these days.

Uh-oh. Ella left her halo somewhere.

There are, definitely, deeper and latent reasons for my behavior, but I can only share the immediate triggers to this hormone explosion. One culprit is the fact that I face Goliaths inside my head and in our office. Hitting at them with my paltry tirador has not been working so far. I went home earlier than planned today, as exhaustion got the better of me.

The little orange glow in the shape of a gasoline tank reminded me that I needed to stop at the nearest Shell station. Then my cellphone rang. It was a friend from law school, calling to ask me to be one of the two emcees at his wedding this January. Most likely this caused the greatest mood swing in the history of (wo)man. I agreed to be my friend’s Wedding Emcee, while a list of To-Do’s ran through my head. Have to meet with bride and groom to know the program. Have to prepare script with my co-emcee, whom I have never met as he’d be coming from the Bride’s Side, of course. Have to find an affordable couturier to make me a winning dress. Or should I wear a gown? Come to think of it, I’m emcee-ing another wedding this December and I don’t have anything to wear yet! This led me to the clincher: All my friends are getting married! And to the inevitable conclusion: I’ll be the last single woman of my age. Ever.

Yes, sisters, it’s that time of the month. And of the year. And of the decade.

This ushered in an avalanche of memories, most recent of which happened at our office. There are five divisions in Sandiganbayan, and each division is administratively headed by a Clerk of Court, who is always a lawyer. The colorful cast of my sitcomic life discussed yesterday how one Clerk of Court was so lucky to be able to spend one month vacationing abroad to visit her sister and nephews. She was a single lawyer and she could afford to go on that trip. I tried to stay out of the conversation and concentrated on my work in my cubicle. I couldn’t help overhearing how they proceeded to discuss that ALL the clerks of court were single women! Being the only single woman in our chamber, the conversation naturally landed on me, whom they knew was within hearing range. They said, “Si Attorney Ella kaya, someday, lalakad din mag-isa para dalawin ang mga pamangkin niya sa Sydney?” Then laughter. They were condemning me into a life of lonely singlehood. With money to spend for month-long trips abroad, to visit my siblings’ families. It could be a blissful life, but when I heard it, it sounded like a curse. I joined the laughter but stepped out of my cubicle to give everyone my scariest dagger look. It didn’t work. They all concluded, “Attorney, lumabas ka naman diyan sa cubicle mo paminsan-minsan, para makapag-asawa ka naman!” I’m soo glad I made their day!

I returned to the voluminous records on my desk and resumed trying to make heads or tails out of the arguments of the huge law firms which represented the parties in one of the cases I was reviewing. There must be more to life, I sighed.

Over at the Shell station, with the sudden urge to take control of my life overpowering me, I asked for the fullest tank of gasoline money could buy. When that didn’t satisfy me, I went to the service station and asked the mechanics to repair everything in the car that needed repairing. I scheduled Rand (the car’s name) for auto-detailing and asked the Shell-Meguiar’s team to remove all the bumps and scratches they could find. I asked for protection against rust. I also arranged for a beauty makeover for the window, the wiper, and the trunk. I made a checklist and felt empowered with what I did. I am a single woman and I won’t let it be said that I don’t know how to take care of my car. (At least while I’m the one driving my father’s car.)

It was too early to go home and sulk. I walked to the nearby mall, bomb threats notwithstanding, and began my search for a David’s Salon, determined to have a considerable length of hair chopped off. Or maybe allow myself to be convinced into coloring my hair purple. Before I could find the salon, I stumbled into something better! You see, more than Watson’s Personal Store and Ace Hardware, the one part of the mall I could spend considerable time and money on is the Supermarket. I was a woman with a mission and I trudged on into war, armed with my Visa and my Mastercard.

At first I thought only of buying personal items for my own use at home and in the office. But when I saw the aisles of merchandise calling out to me, I let loose. No one was there to stop me from buying three different kinds of shampoos! I had the freedom to buy every cookie and candy my nephews could recite from memory. As was my custom, I went through every aisle and compared prices as if my life depended on it. I bought something for everybody. I was the Consumer Queen. Packaging and promotions worked on me. I was a little hungry, a major no-no if you’re grocery-ing while dieting, so my little pushcart got heavier at every turn. I had an answer to every need – from plaque remover to fabric softener. Grocery-shopping has always been a stress-reducing experience for me. There have been many movies wherein the heroine would suddenly bump into a single, interesting male in the grocery. They would look at how similar their grocery items are, look at each other’s eyes, and have dinner afterwards. No such luck for me, who was proudly waving her single-hood at the Ever Commonwealth Supermarket. The last time I checked, hunks were not in the habit of shopping there. Of course with my mood, I wasn’t looking for a polite gentleman who would carry the grocery bags for me. I was partly looking for a hunk that had the same fascination for Nestle yogurt as I did.

When the load became too heavy for me, I stopped shopping for my lifetime supply of toiletries and paid for everything with a single swipe of a card and a signature. I knew my family and officemates would be so delighted to see what I bought for all of them! There was even a bonus for this single shopper! Ever Commonwealth Supermarket was raffling off two (2!) Toyota Corolla Altis units and I earned several raffle tickets. Back when I was a little girl, I won P200 in a raffle sponsored by Carnation Milk. My family stuck to the notion that I was lucky in raffles and I’ve signed hundreds of raffle stubs these past two decades. But I’ve never won a single peso since then. Who knows? I could be driving a brand new Altis, minus the Brad Pitt-hunk of a driver, next year. The future is so uncertain, it might as well bring in blessings such as that, my racing mind thought.

I went home proud of my purchases, yet still unsatisfied. There were some things Visa couldn’t buy. Not even Mastercard!

I probably should have been shopping for Wisdom, Perseverance, Knowledge, Endurance and Patience, but since these things were not available at that precise moment that I went on a shopping spree, I filled my shopping cart with all the earthly things I could get my hands on.

Tomorrow I shall be driving a cleaner, shinier car, thanks to Shell Service Station. I shall open a relatively-stocked cupboard and refrigerator. I shall have liquid soap and bar soap to use when I take my shower. But I guess Goliath couldn’t care less if I used Donita Rose’s shampoo and conditioner.

I just consumed a bar of chocolate that I had been craving for for a long time now. Of course I’m still tired and I still feel empty, uncertain, and even hopeless. Mastercard wasn’t lying when it advertised that it couldn’t buy priceless things, like an unwavering faith in the God who watches over me every step of the way.

Ok, I give up. Time to pray for purity of heart and mind, again, and again, and again. Lord, I don’t deserve that halo yet. Please reserve that for me until we see each other face to face.

I’ll pick up my paltry tirador and kill these Goliaths with their own swords. Doesn’t sound like a happy proposition for me.

I think what I really want is for the real David to come and kill all these Goliaths for me. My name isn’t David.

It’s Ella.

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