Actually, I was on, let’s just say, a bitterness diet for so long, I almost thought that that was the “normal” for me. Well, real talk: Who wouldn’t be terribly bitter when you see yourself seized from your rather tolerable poverty to some measure of affluence only to be dropped back to hopeless penury? Freaking tease, you could say. You’re played big time by LIFE, my friend. So, that was shattering, and after being upended that way, it certainly took me quite some time to get my humble bearings back.
But no, as hard as it is to believe, it was not really that. It was, quite simply, just about old habits or recently picked up habits dying hard. At that point, self-pride was the least of my worries. Like any hardcore addict, I had trouble forgetting the pleasure I got from buying things for my family and sometimes for myself. I got thoroughly addicted to the joy of giving things and money to the people I care about. My family would always remind me not to keep buying things or giving all of my money away for they were actually fine with me not giving them any if only I could start having a stable life of my own. But of course, I just couldn’t help myself. And so it went on for some years.
Then time came when I could not take care even of my own needs. You can’t imagine how destitute I felt. Like Blue Jasmine, you could also see me talking to myself quite a lot, even in public places. But it’s a blessing, it has turned out.
Below are just some of the things I’ve learned from such a harrowing experience:
- Subsist on the barest minimum. My daily expenses seldom go over 100 pesos, and this already includes fare to and from work. I’ve learned “other” ways of eating, so to speak. My non-negotiable remains the same: clean (and no food server should be seen picking their noses or scratching whatever body part of theirs while touching food), but it now includes “reasonably priced.” I now factor in price and the amount or size of the serving like crazy. The meal should make me full like any decently-priced meal. I don’t see the point in spending hundreds in a posh place only to feel hungry (or hungrier) right after. Posh can’t make you full or look rich if that’s what you are after. And of course, I substitute expensive with cheap. (Again, kalamansi for lemons, pechay and chinese cabbage for lettuce, etc.) I’ve even learned to really chew my food (to make it last, especially during times of little food).
- Do away with unnecessary products. I have long stopped using lotion. It only gives me a lot of “libag” anyway. I only use mild soap, shampoo, toothpaste and that’s it. I think that if I want to make myself beautiful, it should be from the inside out, meaning, the old-school stuff: eat more fruits and vegetables, drink enough water, get enough sleep, exercise, manage stress, be happy, etc.
- Be truly humble and honest.. Self-pride certainly has helped me for there definitely were times when clinging to my self-pride was the only way I could survive. However, I think I also know now when I need to just brave it and drop it.
- Nip the spending temptation in the bud simply by staying home.. I go out only for my essential groceries and I use a list, and I think what is really helpful in curbing whatever compulsion I still have in me is this: “Be disciplined. Spend ONLY xxx.00.” (and I write this very neatly on top of the list).
- Stop feeling very poor. A good dictum for somebody like me: Stay content with what I have. While my imagination at times can still take me to worlds so rich and comfortable, you’ll shudder at the way they’re envisioned, I have learned to be more realistic and feel rich with what I have been given. Definitely, no more bitterness.