On Courage

I was sorting through the files and folders of my laptop when I came across this question I asked the kids a few semesters ago. I remember saying and asking this out of the blue while we were discussing courage, then I typed down the lecture/question after class so I wouldn’t forget.

“When we were kids, we’d be the bravest people on the planet. We’d jump from the highest step in the staircase, climb the highest bars, swing from one branch to another; we were never afraid to get our hands dirty and discover. We were never afraid to tell what we feel. We were never afraid to believe– in Peter Pan, in Neverneverland, in Narnia, in magic. When we were kids, it was always so very easy to say the truth, and so very easy to say ‘I love you’, and ‘I hate you’. Then we grew up, and suddenly we start being scared. We develop all these phobias that were never really there when we were children: heights, darkness, water, elevators, enclosed spaces, bugs, and cockroaches… truth and love and commitment and honesty. We start to doubt, and question, and second-guess. We lose hope and faith. Why is it that when we grow older, instead of being braver, we become more afraid?”

*nganga lang mga bata*

And then last month, I came across a(n) (e)book and saw this. I never got to share this with my kids:

“He’d never laid claim to being a brave man and he’d only got more cowardly with age. Strange thing, that — the fewer years you have to lose the more you fear the losing of ’em. Maybe a man just gets a stock of courage when he’s born, and wears it down with each scrape he gets into.”

The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie

I stopped reading after I saw that passage.

But only because I wanted to finish the Dramione I was reading on the side.

The Open Room

My mind is a spacious room with three concrete walls,
a curtainless window, and a glass door that never closes:

All over the floor, random trinkets lay about-
Half of a heart
Whiteboard markers
Fancy letters
Yellow book pages
Dried up flowers
Concert tickets
Torn up pictures
Bended forks
Post-its
And even a
dismissal notice parading as
a ‘Thank You’ letter.

I never put them away,
so oftentimes when I’m not
watching my step,
I would trip over an item.
Pausing from my walk, I would
pick it up
sit down
and remember
for a while.
Sometimes I’d smile.
Other times I’d frown.

For the ‘smiles’
I would put it back where
I got them from
(just laying about on the floor,
ready to prick my foot the next
time I don’t watch my step).
For the ‘frowns’
I would walk to one corner
of the room where boxes
are piled on top of another,
if not side by side.

In those boxes,
I keep the things I do not
want laying about:
Things I do not
want to see,
things I do not
want to remember,
but
things I do not
want to throw away.

I sort them out sometimes,
the ‘smiles’ and the ‘frowns’.
I would sit down on the floor
and look at them
one after another,
(remembering, always
remembering
sometimes
forgetting)
before deciding whether
they belong to
the floor
or in one of the
boxes.

Sometimes, though,
a stray, unwelcome trinket comes
flying in from out the window
or the open glass door
then I would have to
immediately stuff it inside a box
so I won’t trip
and remember
or forget.

It might sound cold,
and cruel,
and calculating,
but this is how I function.
This mere act of sorting
and deciding
I call ‘compartmentalizing’.
It is how I can operate
and walk
and laugh
and stand strong
amidst the presence of
random trinkets
and the onslaught of
memories they hold.

My mind is a spacious room with three concrete walls,
a curtainless window, and a glass door that never closes.