It’s the beginning of the Ber months and in the Philippines, Ber months (from September to December) is the beginning of the Christmas season. Although it don’t feel like it because of our narcissistic politicians and this so-called investigation on extra-judicial killings under the pretense of “fighting for justice and human rights.” Only God knows what are their real intentions.
It is always nice to be reminded of the good things from the past to guide us people living in the present. Like this letter from Virginia and the New York Sun’s surprising reply. It was heartwarming that an editor gave his time to answer a letter written by an eight-year-old girl. This is said to be “the most reprinted editorial in any English-language newspaper” in history. I first read this many years ago, reprinted in Philippine Daily Inquirer, the time when there was no Facebook, no Internet. A nice read, particularly in these times of hate and turbulence.
(Originally published in the New York Sun, September 21, 1897)
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.
We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
~Francis Pharcellus Church, who was a war correspondent, is the author of this famous editorial.
Francis Pharcellus Church
Virginia O’Hanlon, circa 1895. She lived until 1971 and died at age 81.
Original letter by Virginia but is suspected to have been written by her father on her behalf
Original article in the New York Sun
Note: Thanks Wikipedia and New York Sun and Google.
Last weekend I finally sat down and checked out TED Talk videos that I heard for the first time from a colleague, second time from Carlo Ople (I don’t know him personally but I listened to him as one of the resource persons in a social media summit that I attended a few months ago and he’s awesome), and third time from my Uncle Bibot because of his FB post.
Last weekend I was not in a great mood and to inspire myself up, I watched not just one TED video but two more. They were… amazing! If only I have all the time in the world to watch each of them. Perhaps I’ll just take each video one weekend at a time.
Today, I wanna share with you my favorite from the first batch of TED videos that I watched. It was the title that caught my eye: “Lessons from the Mental Hospital.” And when I heard Glennon Doyle Melton speak, just saying her first few lines, I knew I needed to pay attention one hundred percent.
Here’s a transcript of her talk. Just happy to share this with you and I hope it will inspire you to continue moving forward and being you, just the way you are.
LESSONS FROM THE MENTAL HOSPITAL
Hi. I have been trying to weasel my way out of being on the stage for weeks. I am doing fine. But about a month ago I was up early panicking about this. And I watched in all of TED Talk that Brene Brown did on vulnerability. Dr. Brown is one of my heroes. She is a shame researcher and I am a recovering bulimic, alcoholic and drug user. So I’m sort of a shame researcher too. It’s just that most of my work is done out in the field.
And Dr. Brown defined courage like this. She said, “Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” And that got me thinking about another one of my heroes Georgia O’Keeffe and how she said, “Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant. There is no such thing. Making the unknown known is what is important”.
So here I am to tell you the story of who I am with my whole heart and to make some unknowns known.
When I was eight-years-old, I started to feel exposed and I started to feel very, very awkward. Every day I was pushed out of my house and into school all oily and fuzzy and conspicuous and to meet the other girls seemed so cool, and together and easy.
And I started to feel like a loser in a world that preferred superheroes. So I made my own capes and I tied them tight around me. My capes were pretending and addiction. But we all have our own superhero capes; don’t we? Perfectionism and overworking, snarkiness and apathy, they’re all superhero capes.
And our capes are what we put over our real selves so that our real tender selves don’t have to be seen and can’t be hurt. Our superhero capes are what keep us from having to feel much at all, because every good and bad thing is deflected off of them.
And so for 18 years, my capes of addiction and pretending kept me safe and hidden. People think of us addicts as insensitive liars but we don’t start out that way.
We start out as extremely sensitive truth tellers. We feel so much pain and so much love and we sense that the world doesn’t want us to feel that much and doesn’t want to need as much comfort as we need. So we start pretending. We try to pretend like we’re the people that we think we’re supposed to be. We numb and we hide and we pretend and that pretending does eventually turn into a life of lies. But to be fair, we thought we were supposed to be lying.
They tell us since we’re little that when someone asks us how we’re doing, the only appropriate answer is: “Fine. And you?”
But the thing is that people are truth tellers. We are born to make our unknown known. We will find somewhere to do it. So in private, with the booze or the overshopping or the alcohol or the food, we tell the truth. We say actually I’m not fine. Because we don’t feel safe telling that truth in the real world we make our own little world and that’s addiction. That’s whatever cape you put on.
And so what happens is all of us end up living in these little teeny, controllable, predictable, dark worlds instead of altogether in the big, bright, messy one.
I binged and purged for the first time when I was 8 and I continued every single day for the next 18 years. It seems normal to me but you’re surprised.
Every single time that I got anxious or worried or angry, I thought something was wrong with me. And so I took that nervous energy to the kitchen and I stuffed it all down with food and then I panicked and I purged. And after all of that, I was laid out on the bathroom floor and I was so exhausted and so numb that I never had to go back and deal with whatever it was that made me uncomfortable in the first place. And that’s what I wanted. I did not want to deal with the discomfort and messiness of being a human being.
So when I was a senior in high school, I finally decided to tell the truth in the real world. I walked into my guidance counselor’s office and I said ”actually I’m not fine. Someone help me”. And I was sent to a mental hospital.
And in the mental hospital, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a world that made sense to me. In high school, we had to care about geometry when our hearts were breaking because we were just bullied in the hallway, or no one would sit with us at lunch. And we had to care about ancient Rome when all we really wanted to do was learn how to make and keep a real friend. We had to act tough when we felt scared and we had to act confident when we felt really confused.
Acting — pretending was a matter of survival. High school is kind of like the real world sometimes. But in the mental hospital, there was no pretending. The zig was up. We had classes about how to express how we really felt through music and art and writing. We had classes about how to be a good listener and how to be brave enough to tell our own story, while being kind enough not to tell anybody else’s. We held each other’s hands sometimes just because we felt like we needed to.
Nobody was ever allowed to be left out. Everybody was worthy. That was the rule just because she existed and so in there, we were brave enough to take off our capes. All I ever needed to know I learned in the mental hospital.
I remember this sandy haired girl who was so beautiful and she told the truth on her arms. And I held her hand one day while she was crying. And I saw that her arms were just sliced up like pre-cut S. In there, people wore their scars on the outside, so you knew where they stood. And they told the truth, so you knew why they stooped in there.
So I graduated from high school and I went on to college, which was way crazier than the mental hospital. In college, I added on the capes of alcoholism and drug use. This Sun rose every day and I started bingeing and purging. And then when the sun set I drank myself stupid. The sunrise is usually people’s signal to get up but it was my signal every day to come down — to come down from the booze and the boys and the drugs and I could not come down. That was to be avoided at all cost. So I hated the sunrise.
I closed the blinds, and I put the pillow over my head when my spinning brain would torture me about the people who were going out into their day into the late to make relationships and pursue their dreams and have a day – and I had no day; I only had night.
And these days, I like to think of hope as that sunrise. It comes out every single day to shine on everybody equally. It comes out to shine on the sinners and the saints and druggists and the cheerleaders. It never withholds; it doesn’t judge. And if you spend your entire life in the dark and then one day just decide to come out, it’ll be there waiting for you — just waiting to warm you.
All those years I thought of that sunrise as searching and accusatory and judgmental. But it wasn’t – it was just hope’s daily invitation to need to come back to life. And I think if you still have a day, if you’re still alive, you’re still invited.
I actually graduated from college which makes me both grateful to and extremely suspicious of my alma mater. And I found myself sort of in the real world and sort of not.
On Mother’s Day, 2002 – I am not good at years – we’ll just say on Mother’s Day, I had spun deeper and deeper. I wasn’t even Glennon anymore. I was just bulimia, I was just alcoholism. I was just a pile of capes. But on Mother’s day — one Mother’s day I found myself on a cold bathroom floor, hung over, shaking and holding a positive pregnancy test.
And as I sat there with my back literally against a wall, shaking and understanding watched over me. And in that moment on the bathroom floor, I understood that even in my state, even lying on the floor that someone out there had deemed me worthy of an invitation to a very, very important event.
And so that day on the bathroom floor, I decided to show up. Just to show up, to climb out of my dark individual controllable world and out into the big, bright, messy one. And I didn’t know how to be a sober person or how to be a mother, or how to be a friend. So I just promised myself that I would show up and I would do the next right thing. Just show up Glennon even if you’re scared. Just do the next right thing even when you’re shaking.
And so I stood up. Now what they don’t tell you about getting sober, about peeling off your capes, is that it gets helluva lot worse before it gets better. Getting sober is like recovering from frostbite. It’s all of those feelings that you’ve numbed for so long. Now they’re there and they are present. And at first it just feels kind of tingly and uncomfortable but then those feelings start to feel like daggers, the pain, the love, the guilt, the shame, it’s all piled on top of you with nowhere to run.
But what I learned during that time is that sitting with the pain and the joy of being a human being, while refusing to run for any exits is the only way to become a real human being. And so these days I’m not a superhero and I’m not a perfect human being. But I am a fully human being. And I am proud of that.
I am fortunately and frustratingly still exactly the same person as I was when I was 20 and 16 and eight years old. I still feel scared all the time, anxious all the time. Really all the time. I still get very high and very low in life daily. But I finally accepted the fact that sensitive is just how I was made, that I don’t have to hide it, and I don’t have to fix it, I am not broken. And I actually started to wonder that maybe you’re sensitive too. Maybe you feel great pain and deep joy but you don’t feel safe talking about it in the real world.
And so now instead of making myself tougher, I write and I serve people to help create a world where sensitive people don’t need superhero capes. Where we can just all come out into this big, bright, messy world and tell the truth and forgive each other for being human and admit together that yes, life is really hard. But also insist that together we can do hard things.
You know, maybe it’s okay to say Actually, today I’m not fine. Maybe it’s okay to remember that we’re human beings and to stop doing long enough to think and to love and to share and to listen.
This weekend was Mothers’ Day which marked the 11th anniversary of the day I decided to show up and I spent the day on the beach with my three children and my two dogs and my one husband. My long suffering husband, you can only imagine.
And life is beautiful. And life is brutal. Life is brutiful. All the time and everyday. And only one thing has made the difference for me, and that is this: I used to numb my feelings and hide and now I feel my feelings, and I share. That’s the only difference in my life these days. I’m not afraid of my feelings anymore. I know they can come and they won’t kill me. And they can take over for a little while when they need to but at the end of the day, what they are is really just guides. They’re just guides to tell me what is the next right thing for me to do. Loneliness that leads us to connection with other people. And jealousy that guides us to what we’re supposed to do next. And pain that guides us to help other people. And being overwhelmed that guides us to ask for help.
And so I’ve learned that if I honor my feelings as my own personal prophets, and instead of running I just be still, that there are prizes to be won. And those prizes are peace, and dignity, and friendship.
I received an email last week and it’s now taped to my computer at home and it just said: Dear Glennon, it’s braver to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman. Carry on, warrior.
And so today, I would say to you that we don’t need anymore superheroes. We just need awkward, oily, honest human beings out in the bright, big, messy world. And I will see you there.
Glennon Doyle Melton – Author
“It takes less effort and dignity to stand outside shouting against those we view as corrupt. It takes more character to join the institutions we disdain as corrupt and accept the personal challenges of working from within to effect change. Only a person with a strong moral compass can emerge from corrupt institutions untainted!”
Left office for a while during lunch break to go to Likha Diwa in Krus Na Ligas and buy my favorite food there, tuna quesadilla and vegan chocolate cake. (Sometimes I get tired with rice and a viand and crave for something different.) I didn’t bring my cellphone. My mind was just focused on one thing: to take out food from Likha Diwa then leave, return to office.
At Likha Diwa, while waiting for my takeout order, I saw this dog looking longingly at me beside another table. Being fond of dogs, I said hello. Then I sat down. I looked back again at the dog and he was still looking at me. Seconds after, he stood up then slowly walk and I was hoping towards me and not anywhere else, and indeed, he approached me, smelled me (a dog’s way of getting to know a human), and perhaps discerning I’m safe, went under my table and lied there so comfortably at my feet.
I’d carefully reach out my hand to him, he would sniff at it, and since he didn’t move away that was the time I touched his forehead. Forgetting that he’s not my dog, I attempted to touch his pointed front teeth and I succeeded (which is what I’d do with my own dogs during our bonding moments). He liked me!
Upon getting my order, I asked if they’re the owner of the dog. The female crew said he’s an abandoned dog, who used to live in a house beside their restaurant. So they adopted the dog and gave him food everyday.
I asked about the dog’s name.
“Daniel,” replied the female crew.
“If I return, will he still be here,” I asked.
“Yes. We already adopted him,” was her reply.
I don’t know how long before I could return but I am looking forward when that day comes. I regret not bringing my smartphone so I could at least take a picture of myself with the dog for a remembrance. Because he’s so adorable! He brightened up my day.
As I leave, Daniel followed me. Had to alert the crew because I didn’t want Daniel to leave his “home.” The female crew commanded Daniel to stop. Daniel was obedient.
I truly believe in this. Because this happened to me before, not just once. And it will happen again I’m sure. But in the end, the universe is actually leading you to the right path, to wonderful destinations or experiences that you never dreamed of. Life is full of pleasant surprises. Just continue to have faith.
People who think they know me well better than I know myself, who last saw me when I was 19 or 20, then expect me in my 30s to be the same person hundred percent.
I was watching MUSIC HERO in Eat Bulaga, a contest of teenagers strutting their stuff with their musical instruments like the drums, piano, keyboard, saxophone, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, name it, they have it. It’s a portion that I look forward to in Eat Bulaga because I love seeing musical instruments, I love music, everybody loves music. And it’s fun to discover who will be the judges for the day, the icons and tried-and-tested musicians and singers, even showbiz personalites, of our country today, such as Pepe Smith, Ney Dimaculangan, Jeffrey Hidalgo, Jay Durias, Barbie Almalbis, Mark Escueta, and so many others.
I’m not a musician, but I super admire musicians. I don’t know how to play any musical instruments but I can brag that I know good music when I hear one. I can listen to mushy and silly love songs, ethnic, heavymetal, instrumental, Hawaiian, alternative, pop, Christian, rhythm and blues, novelty, even the videoke singing of my neighbor. My ears are flexible. And if there is one thing I admire about those young guns, it’s not their musicality, it’s their lakas ng loob. I believe there are other young people out there that are musically gifted than them but just lack the lakas ng loob because of fear of losing or maybe they don’t watch TV (I know people who don’t watch TV). I observed that most of the contestants I’ve seen performed in the competition are just good, but don’t come close to greatness.
“They’re still young, what do you expect?!” I hear you say. But I’ve seen a four-year old drummer and boy, he rocks!
In MUSIC HERO, there is a young drummer that already got in as one of the finalists. He’s enthusiastic with what he’s doing, he looks good while playing the drums, there is just one irritating quality, a big one, that I don’t like about his performance: his maniacal desire for speed. Each time, he would play his drums so fast, literally “strutting” his stuff, or just an arrogant display of skills in drum-playing despite him, smiling. I wasn’t happy. I love the drums. If I had time and resources, I would love to learn the drums. I just feel he’s lucky he got in because… there is no one better anyway. The finalists are in equal footing with one another. Too bad that each time this boy was on the stage, there was a different set of judges. I hope Mark Escueta was there, to give him a bit of advice. Jay Durias did that, when he judged the other set of contestants. He gave observations. But the second time he judged in MUSIC HERO, all he said was all positive but you can see by the look of his face that he did not enjoy the performances. (I don’t know if the production advised the judges to be kind and encouraging, to not be Simon Cowell, and just keep the real score to themselves.)
The teenaged drummer has it: talent. But he lacks soul. It was all porma. It was yabang pero walang angas. An impressive drum-playing doesn’t need to be fast, full of exhibitions to impress the judges. What I want to hear is good music, that’s all.
This solo drum performance by Mike Portnoy shows the right way. He’s doing what he feels he’s good at, you could feel that his body and the drum set are one, you could feel the rhythm, and because of that, I feel emotionally connected to him, to his drums that I feel empowered without knowing why. To the young ones who are already proud that they know how to play the drums, that they’re rockstars, maybe there is more to learn by watching this best solo drum performance I’ve ever seen by Mike Portnoy. (Thanks to Allen Uy who introduced me to him ancient’s ago.)
A beautiful drawing by my cousin, Stacy Eduarte.
“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” ~Cyril Connolly, The New Statesman, February 25, 1933