The Better Story Project: On Hope, Beauty and Courage

I confess, I have a love-hate relationship with self-help. Once, an aunt lent me her copy of The Secret, and I couldn’t get past twelve pages because there were too! many! exclamation! marks!!

My relationship with feelings and hugs has about the same level of maturity as an eight year old’s relationship with cooties. Mostly, they make me somewhat uncomfortable, unless the talk of feelings is done in a clinical setting. (Hello Psychiatry, I’ll be seeing you soon!)

What was I then doing in a Better Story Project workshop, my second one at that?

The first reason is that it’s related to my career. In the coming years, I’ll be dealing with patients with mental health conditions. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be pursuing a career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. You know how they say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? I think this is, potentially, quite an effective form of prevention. Building a safe community for girls and their issues, giving them a safe place, before they reach morbidity, I think that’s something that’s worth supporting. I’d like to be there as it happens.

The second reason is that it helps me. When I was younger, I felt that my pains were unique, and maybe, in the sense that they were mine, they were. But for the same reason that books and lyrics resonate with us, certain feelings are universal, and yes, cliché. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Maybe not.  In Ilustrado, Miguel Syjuco wrote: ‘Clichés remind us and reassure us that we’re not alone, that others have trod this ground long ago.’ It helps to hear an actual person get through something similar to what you went or are going through, a testament that getting better is a real possibility.

Last November 30, that person was Julianne Tarroja, she of ‘Tulak ng Bibig’ and ‘Grateful’ fame. In a multilayer sandwich of songs and stories, she shared her peaks and valleys, told of ‘breakings that had to happen’, and how, after years of personal struggle, she understood that real beauty transcends pain. With Carisse Escueta and Rizza Cabrera, she spoke of stories that you write for yourself, and those you write for somebody else.

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Once more, I was surprised, because though we read different books to help ourselves, talked to different people, and had seemingly different, non-intersecting lives, so many of her realisations echoed my own.

Many were lessons: ‘If they don’t appreciate you, they don’t need to be in your life.’  For me, that doesn’t automatically mean that you forget people, or neglect them, or cut them off. It means that you have to learn how to love (not pine, not stalk) from a distance.

Some flashes of clarity were painful, such as ‘I felt like I wasn’t worth fighting for, like I wasn’t enough’, or ‘There are compromises you make, because the grand wish you had was shattered’.

Other realisations where hopeful, like ‘People saw strength, people saw perseverance, people saw my will to live’, and ‘Whether you like it or not, someone will come, and it will come in the least expected form’.

It was, once again, a particular, personal take on general, universal subjects. Even though it was laughingly referenced at some point as group therapy, and even if I have an ambivalent relationship with self-help, this I am sure of, I like better stories. I like Better Stories. See you in 2014 🙂

P.S. Videos aren’t of the best quality and shaky, I know. Sorry about that. I just used my mid-range (and only!) phone, and when I ran out of memory, my tablet. But, but, but, don’t they sound awesome? Just close your eyes or something. Haha.

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