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The 30 Days, 30 Letters blog challenge revisited

When I decided to do this project, where I have to write 30 letters to 30 people on a pre-selected list, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. That’s exactly why I wanted to do it — to step out of my comfort zone and see  what’s beyond it. I also wanted to get into the habit of blogging regularly, since I’m a very sporadic blogger. Now, a month after I posted that first letter, I have gained so much more than I expected. Through those letters, relationships have been healed and strengthened, and I was able to reach out to people I have lost touch with. Aside from that, I gained a deeper understanding of my own self. So to celebrate, here’s a recap of some of the letters:

Most difficult to write:

Easiest:

Most fun because of the memories:

Most cathartic:

Most fulfilling:

Taught me the most:

I’d like to thank everyone who took this journey with me. And for those bloggers who are still doing this or thinking about it, may you find the same satisfaction that I did. I think you’ll discover that the views are better outside of the comfort zone. 😉

Day 30 — Your reflection in the mirror

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

~Henry David Thoreau


To the girl in my mirror,

Who are you, really? I used to think I knew you, but over the years, when you should have grown more familiar, you have instead become more enigmatic. There are shadows in your eyes now, and hesitation in the shape of your lips, and I am finding it harder to remember what you used to look like when everything was clear. You have changed.

Today, I find that I can no longer define you. Shall I characterize you by what you believe, when I know that you now have more questions than answers? Shall I label you by what you do, when you have come to realize that activity and movement can be a mask, a charade? Or shall I identify you by the people you love, when your relationships are marked by ambivalence and uncertainty, with you longing for and at the same time fighting against intimacy that can hurt or heal? Years ago, I would have jumped right in with a richly detailed answer to the simple request, “Describe yourself.” Now I realize that it is the most complex thing you can ask of a human being. I don’t even know where to start.

Maybe not knowing where to start is the start. Maybe, at this time in my life, I’m supposed to be a little more unsure, a little less self-assured. Maybe these questions will lead me somewhere that I need to be, somewhere closer to the real reflection of who I am. Maybe.

If that happens, I wonder if I will be able to say —

I love you,

Abigail

Day 29 — The person you want to tell everything to, but are too afraid

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.  ~Albert Schweitzer

To someone who wants to be there for me,

I want to tell you everything. I want to lean on you for a while, to allow myself the unimaginable luxury of resting in your strength. I know that you care. And yet I hold back.

I hold back because sometimes, caring isn’t enough. It isn’t the same as being willing to enter the battlefield as a soldier, knowing it isn’t going to be easy. And that is what I need most in my life right now — someone who is willing to fight for me and with me. And honestly, I don’t know if I can ask this of you. I don’t know if I can ask it of anyone.

So I pretend. When we’re together, I use cheerfulness as a shield. I hide my need and my longing behind smiles and wit, for they are the easiest escape. And you laugh right along with me, but there are times when I can see something in your eyes. A patient understanding, perhaps, like you’re just waiting for me to finally let you in. Can you see through me? Will it be enough?

You see, I’ve tried this before. I let someone in, asked him to lend me his strength. I took the incredible risk of exposing the vulnerability of my conflicted heart. And just when I was finally learning to rely on someone else, just when I allowed myself to get used to not being alone, he changed his mind. That’s when I realized that caring isn’t enough. Now there’s an invitation in your eyes whenever I see you, the same invitation that I once accepted from someone else. Will it be different this time? Or will you also change your mind?

I need you more than I allow myself to admit. But still, I hold back.

Hesitant,

Me

Day 28 — Someone who changed your life

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force…. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

~ Karl Menninger


Dear K.R.B.,

“Why don’t you tell me your secrets?”

Three years after our encounter, your words are still as clear to me as they were that afternoon of April 10, 2007. You see, no one had ever asked me that before. No one had ever tried to see what was beneath the confident, overachiever mask I put on to face the world. No one had even suspected that it was a mask.

But it was, and I was trapped beneath the pretensions. My spirit was dry, shriveled, exhausted. Lost, I longed for someone to find me, yet I was terrified of being exposed as a fraud. So I carefully weighed my options. You were a stranger — you had no expectations of me, no preconceived idea that I had to fulfill. If things went wrong, I could choose never to see you again for the rest of my life. And you seemed like a kindred spirit, someone who was familiar with grief. But most of all, more important than all these, was that I was desperate. I could not go on any longer with the terrible loneliness and the aloneness of being unknown by the people who surrounded me. So your invitation, simple as it was but with a wealth of kindness behind it, seemed like my only lifeline, my last shred of hope for redemption. With seven little words, you changed my life.

“Why don’t you tell me your secrets?” you said.

And I did. For the longest, most difficult two hours of my life, I poured out my guilt and my shame, my confusion, my fears, in barely coherent sentences and sobs that seemed to be drawn from the deepest, most wounded part of my soul. I exposed my heart to you, a stranger, knowing your response could either wound me or help me heal. And I’m glad I did.

You were wonderful. You listened carefully, with no judgment or condemnation, just perfect acceptance and a focused attention that told me you cared about what I was going through. You didn’t say very much, but what you did say cut to the heart of the matter and showed me what I desperately needed to know — that there might be a way out. For the first time in a long while I began to feel a little less helpless.

The journey’s far from over yet, but I know that it began that afternoon, with you. And when it gets too difficult, I remind myself of the miracle that led me to you when I needed you the most. The God who cared enough to make it happen is still by my side, still working on making me whole. And someday, it will happen. Someday, I will be healed. And I hope that along the way, I can also be to someone else what you were to me — a listener, a lifeline. A keeper of secrets. That is the only way I can think of to thank you for all you’ve done.

Gratefully,

Abigail

Day 27 — The friendliest person you knew for only one day

I think the eyes flirt most. There are so many ways to use them.

~Anna Held

Dear gorgeous stranger on the ship,

Okay, so you’re cute. And charming, and smart, and funny — in fact, you had me laughing despite my reluctance to encourage your romantic overtures. What can I say? You had that mysterious confidence that drew people in and made them feel lucky to have caught your attention. And you mastered every trick in the book. A memorable introduction by helping me carry my luggage to the ship? Check. Compliments that actually came off as sincere instead of slick? Check. Intelligent comments on the book I was reading? Check. You even managed to pull off the tricky move of catching me in your arms when I slipped and fell. Well played, so far, well played. Before the 24-hour voyage from Manila to Puerto Princesa was half over, you had turned the other passengers into a captivated audience waiting to see if I would finally give in to your charm. The boring trip was starting to feel like an episode of The Love Boat.

 

But here’s the thing. There’s a warning you must have missed in the flirting manual, so I guess it’s up to me to tell you this. Pay attention: Dude. Never, ever, ever ask a random stranger to marry you less than 24 hours after you learn her name. You can flirt with her a little (or in my case, a lot), you can try your best to get her number (and in my case, ALMOST succeed), but you do NOT propose. Seriously, that just crossed the line from real life into romcom land, and I happen to be one of those people who prefer high fantasy and science fiction for my entertainment. Granted, there are women who’d fall for the line, “If I don’t ask you to be mine, I will regret it for the rest of my life.” But that situation’s even worse. I mean, what if I was one of them? What if I actually said yes? Would you have asked the captain to marry us right then and there, and then sailed off with me into the sunset? Yeah, right. You’re obviously having too much fun being the unforgettable stranger that women spend a few fleeting moments with and then remember for the rest of their lives to settle down. Even a romance amateur like me can see that.

 

So no more proposals, okay? Save it for when you mean it. Although, to tell you honestly, I have the sneaking suspicion that when that girl comes along, all your confidence would fly out of the window and you’d have to scramble to keep up with her. Now that is one romantic comedy I would actually like to see.

By the way, you did succeed, despite the wrong move with the proposal. You’re still my unforgettable stranger. If only real life could be written by Nicholas Sparks, you know I would have said yes.

 

Remembering you with a smile,

The girl who said no

 

A note from the post office

Hi guys! I’m going on a vacation, so I’ll be offline for a week or so. Posting of the letters 27 to 30 will resume when I get back. Actually, I thought about saving them as drafts and scheduling the posting date and time so that I could stay on track even while offline, but there’s always the possibility that something might happen during the next few days that could affect what I write. So I’m holding off for now. 🙂

I promise you I’ll come back to finish the 30-day challenge. Thank you so much for reading! 🙂

Day 26 — The last person you made a pinky promise with

Let go. Why do you cling to pain?

~ Leo Buscaglia

Dear JB,

It wasn’t an easy promise to make, was it? I think I used up a month’s supply of charm and persuasiveness just to get you to agree. But it’s worth it, if I can save you from a few mistakes. You’re hurting enough, JB. I didn’t want you to have any more regrets.

The thing is, I understand, perhaps better than you think. This is the kind of hurt that fills your every waking moment, and makes you desperate for anything that will make it stop, even for a while. Anything that will help you forget and allow you to be someone else aside from a person who’s broken inside.  I’ve been there. But I assure you, it won’t always be this bad. It won’t always be this difficult. You won’t always have to pretend you’re okay. Sooner or later, the hurt will subside and your smiles will be real again. I hope it’s sooner, because I haven’t seen your smile for so long. I miss it.

You’ve never broken a promise to me before. I believe in you, JB. We have thirteen more days. You can do this. 🙂

Love,

B