Tag Archives: inner work

On being a reformed doormat

I stepped out about two hours ago to throw the garbage. I had the whole night planned: light dinner, a movie, then maybe read a chapter or two from the book I was reading, and then bed. I had just put down my bags when, suddenly, I was verbally ambushed by a neighbor I had never seen before. He started screaming at me saying that I threw my garbage in the wrong site (A little backgrounder here: I live in the wonderful city of Mandaluyong (within Metro Manila) where there are no garbage bins for people to throw in their trash, but only designated areas without official signs or markings.). I told him that I threw it there because that’s where the broker/compound owner told me to. He continued with his tirade and refused to acknowledge anything I said. Just to stop him from ranting, I said that if he showed me the right place where I was supposed to throw my trash, then I would gladly pick up my bags and take them there. We both turned and he started screaming at me again.

That was it; I’ve had it. He was an old man (he mentioned that he was 60 with high blood pressure) and I wanted to just take everything in and then walk away, but no. I was being verbally abused. I already agreed to his request so he had no right to berate me. I did not raise my voice, but I did raise my hand to tell him to stop. I told him that I understood where he was coming from, but that I felt violated and abused. He paused; I don’t think he expected me to do that. I continued and he cut me off. He was on a roll and nothing could stop him. So I had to raise my hand again and told him to hear me out. I told him ̶ respectfully ̶ my side, but it was like hitting my head against a wall. So I, again, respectfully asked him to just show me the place so we could go on with our lives. I got my trash, he pointed out the place (the next lamppost about 3 meters away), I thanked him and walked away.

I was shaking when I got back home. I abhor it when, right or wrong, people scream at me. My cats instantly knew I was upset and all piled up on top of me. That made me weep, of course. And then I got angry and started banging things. And then I shook it off. I did the right thing. I defended myself and that was a good thing. It made me want to thank that old man, actually, because I realized that today ̶ a horrid day, one for the books ̶ I was challenged by a number of different situations and people, and I stepped up and defended myself, my rights, in each one. I was growing my spine back, which has been softening for the past couple of years, and that rude man made me realize that I was back to being me again, but better.

I wasn’t always a doormat. I had an extreme personality; there were no grays in my life. I’ve always had a stubborn streak (more like a side, actually, a very big one), and would fight back and not let go of things. This trait was magnified when I lived in Spain ̶ in a country where they love to argue, I learned how to raise my voice and let my thoughts be heard. When I returned to Manila, I saw myself as being too brash and abrasive. Not everything can be bulldozed into a cubbyhole. I was hanging out with people who would do that and were that. Birds of the same feather… and I realized I didn’t want to be that person. As I said before, I saw things in black or white. So I adapted a different persona ̶ beyond Zen or centered, but more of a doormat. I hated conflicts and arguments so I avoided them or just folded. I didn’t want the roaring bitch to come out so I had to shut her out.

Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s a result of my actively trying to change things around in my life, but I am slowly finding balance in things and in myself. I am still very temperamental, mind you, but my rage dissipates and transforms instead of growing and consuming everything in its path. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age and having gone though different experiences in life or maybe I’m finally getting it and that all that inner work is finally paying off. I still have a long way to go, but I am extremely proud of myself for finally defending myself without being hurtful to the other person. I am happy that I was able to say what I was thinking and feeling without raising my voice or resorting to trash-talking or insults. Age or hard work? Whatever it is, I am glad that it is happening. I am neither an angel or a witch, but finally just me.

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Meditation Monday: Clean Out Closet

From Dori Midnight's Dirty Tarot deck: Clean Out Closet

From Dori Midnight’s Dirty Tarot deck: Clean Out Closet

In 2003 I went back to Barcelona to study Contemporary Art Practices. On the first day of school I met Dori Midnight, one of my American classmates. She was a self confessed “witch”—an intuitive tarot card reader, counselor, and healer. She was definitely one of the most interesting (hence, memorable) people in the group, but what she said to me on the first day was what struck me most about her. I had barely said hello when she said, “Hey, I had a dream about you last night. You were making floating sculptures.” I laughed because, 1) we had just met so how could she dream about me? and, 2) sculptures? I had never made a sculpture in my life! She insisted that that was what she saw and we left it at that. To cut a long story short, I did end up making sculptures, not because she planted the idea in my brain, but because at that moment I hadn’t received the painting materials that I shipped to myself before leaving Manila and that I really enjoyed sculpture class. I was a practicing graphic designer in Manila so it was such a joy to work with my hands. And I found out that I could express myself better though 3D art.

Zen Garden

Zen Garden

We developed a friendship while doing the course and before she went back to the US she gave me a precious gift: a deck of her Dirty Tarot cards. It is probably one of the most unique decks out there in the world; she designed it herself. It doesn’t have the Major Arcanas nor the Minor ones. She divided her cards into special categories (with each containing the four elements: fire, earth, air, water): body, home, food, transportation, sacred space, clothes, transformation, altered state, souvenir, and lucky omen. It looks nothing like a traditional tarot deck, but it’s the most responsive of all that I’ve seen. I was a dabbler in the art of divination, but I never really took it seriously until I got this. I didn’t read everyday, mind you, but I studied it and would occasionally read for a few of my chosen friends. And they all loved it. I eventually lost touch with Dori (My bad: I am not really good at exchanging emails; this was before Faceook), but I kept her cards close to me.

I shelved my deck permanently, though, about 2 or 3 years ago. I was going through a rough patch, felt overwhelmed by everything, and felt totally disconnected with myself. My intuition was nonexistent and I refused to do any inner work. Fast forward to last week: I receive a SPAM email from Dori’s address. I thought nothing of it. The following day an old friend asks for a reading, then about a week later another. Then last Saturday I get a personal message in Facebook from a highly spiritual and intuitive friend asking me if I still did readings. She just thought of me, she says. Strike 3 (or 4, actually). So I searched for my deck. I moved houses in October last year and could not remember where I put it. After about 3 hours (and running low on patience), I decided to look at my “trash pile” and opened an old shoe box. Lo and behold—it was there with my other neglected tarot cards. I felt guilty, but mostly relieved that I found it. I took the cards out of the pouch and it was like encountering an old friend. My brain was foggy, but I knew each one of them and I knew what to do. I definitely didn’t want to part with them again.

So I promise myself to use them again, maybe not for reading other people, but for helping me reconnect with my intuitive side again. I feel as if I’ve buried it a long time ago by not writing, by not blogging, by not making sculptures, and by not reflecting on things. I would like to use these cards to make me focus on things, to anchor my thoughts. Dori gave some suggestions on how to use her cards, and one of them was to pick a daily card to meditate on. I don’t think I can do this everyday (at least not for now), so I will go for a card per week to reflect on for the rest of the week.

The card I got last night (Sunday night) was “Clean Out Closet.” It’s description: Distilling. Making choices. Simplification and practicality. True desire. Purifying ritual to make more room for what you really want and need. Having intention in purging and consuming.

I’m getting goosebumps while I am writing this; it’s synchronicity at it’s best. This is exactly what I’ve been mulling over, not just physically, i.e. sorting and throwing things out, but also emotionally and spiritually. I need to distill a lot of thoughts and make clear choices. At least the cards are backing me up on this one and are asking me to sit still and figure things out. I am grateful for that.

I am still in the process of “meditating” over this card. Maybe I will write about it in my journal or maybe I’ll even share it with you here. We’ll see. But for now, I will dedicate my Monday posts for the cards I pick for the week. Let’s see where this new roller coaster ride takes me. 🙂 

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