12 May 2015

Chapter 25: Onwards and Ever Upwards

Chapter 25: Onwards and Ever Upwards The Stillness in Moving Nicole Villaluz

Play this first.

~ CHAPTER 16 ~

My sister knocked on the bedroom door and told me to sit down.

My Papa had gone.

I was 16. Confused. Lonely. And angry. Very angry. So like any 16 year old, I dealt with my new reality the only way I knew how—I didn’t. I hid it under the rug.

I went from tormented to forgetting. No, no grieving. Just forgetting. Forgetting everything. I collected every little memory of him and buried it in a tight, dark room somewhere in a deep part of me. Kept it locked. Hidden. Never to be heard of, talked of, thought of. Never to be discovered.

I told myself that I had no right to grieve. After two years of suffering, almost completely bedridden, he was finally out of misery. At a better place where, I hoped, pain was just a word that didn’t hold any meaning. No more nights desperately trying to get sleep underneath the yells of him begging for the heavens to finally take him.

I was 16. And I was a deeply sad person.

~ CHAPTER 18 ~

My scriptwriting professor was away for a while. The day she got back she told us. Her papa had been in the hospital. She told us so many details I didn’t want to know. Everything sounded too familiar. She was hitting too close to home. My heart started to pound fast. My eyes burned. I was breathing through my mouth. I stood up and ran to the door. They all looked as I burst out the classroom. Ran down the stairs. Found a restroom and locked myself inside a stall. Still breathing heavily through my mouth. Some other girls were putting make-up by the mirror. Do not cry, I told myself. Do not cry.

I didn’t.

After some time, I finally gathered myself enough to step out. I opened the stall door, and two of my closest friends were suddenly there. They must have been waiting for me to come out. They reached out to me and sandwiched me in a tight hug that said “we understand.” I burst into uncontrollable, loud sobs. The other girls were looking. But it didn’t matter.

I don’t know if  I was crying because I was sad, or because they were there. We all didn’t utter a single word.

But they were there.

~ CHAPTER 19 ~

I was 19, at my cousin’s grand birthday party, and fireworks were going off overhead. I remember walking away. I walked away to stand at the edge of the garden, behind some shrubs, fighting back tears. I was looking up, watching the explosions in the sky, and they were so beautiful. But for every firework that exploded, a same explosion happened inside me, too. The bad, toxic kind. I looked at her and her perfect, perfect life, and I was dying inside. Because she is kind, and beloved, and beautiful in all ways, and I love her so so much. I thought, this is the kind of beautiful life that happens to only equally beautiful people.

The tears I had been holding back somehow escaped. I never saw myself as beautiful. I thought, this is the kind of beautiful life I would never, not in a million years, deserve. And for most of my life, I genuinely believed that.

I was so used to darkness. And pain. And loneliness. And disappointments. I didn’t trust in the good things, because the good things always seemed to come at a price. They were always temporary. If they came, I would be religiously always waiting, almost expecting, for the other shoe to drop. And always, it would. The shoe would drop, and always, I would be relieved that I was right. So one day I decided to build even sturdier walls around myself.

These walls cast more shadows than ever.

~ CHAPTER 21 ~

Years passed and I learned to live under the clouds. I brought rain everywhere with me. Loneliness followed me around like a pet I nursed from its first days. And, always, I would feed it. Let it sleep on my lap. Love it, even. Because having this pet felt better than feeling nothing at all. Sometimes it was nothing at all. And that was even worse.

But I got older. And as I grew, my pet did, too. On some days I’d lie on my bed all day unable to get up. To do anything. Every movement was a task. I would be awake until the sun was up. Some nights the pain would be so physically real, I thought I would just forget how to breathe. I would crush so easily under the weight of life. Of chores. Of responsibilities. Of people trying to talk to me. My daydreams would consist not of fancy love stories, but of stabbing my forearm repeatedly with anything sharp. A pencil. A fork. A pair of scissors. Anything with a point. 

I never lusted over ending my life, though. Death sounded too easy. That was not what I wanted. I wanted pain. Of inflicting on myself the only reality I thought I deserved. I became creative in finding ways to hurt myself, and even more creative ways in lying about the bruises they left, if anyone asked.

Sometimes I broke objects, too. And every time, I would envy these things for they cracked so easily. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t. I would look in the mirror and I was still there. A little battered, perhaps.

But still there.

~ CHAPTER 22 ~

Running. I was running. Running in the park with my best friend and her kind, amazing papa. I was running out of breath and I fell behind. Fell apart. Fell deeply. In the distance, ahead of me, I saw them. They were running and they were talking and they were happy. I fell behind again. These were the things I couldn’t have.

I got a new job and I was happy for a while. For a while. But one day the familiar noise in my head was back, and it wouldn’t let me do anything. One day at work my head was so noisy my desk was tilting from side to side. Like I was on a boat, and the waves were threatening to topple me over. A parade of red ants were marching at the base of my temples, right underneath the skin of my eyebrows. I had my earphones on but no music. No music. It was already too noisy. And the last thing I needed was anyone talking to me.

I swear, that day, I thought I had gone officially mad.

~ CHAPTER 23 ~

I was suddenly 23 and I remember being so sick of being sick. Let it end, I prayed. Let this sadness end. I don’t want to live like this anymore.

I was supposed to go on a trip, but it had been raining again and I couldn’t find my umbrella, so I didn’t want to go. But my friends had no need for umbrellas. They had always been dancing whenever it rained. I thought just this time I would do that, too. So I hopped on a plane with them.

This trip turned out to be the beginning of the life I had never known. It was here that I met the remarkable people who showed me the iridescent life that is the road. Of bright, wild, youth. Even fell deeply in love with the idea of a mysterious stranger who came into my life to set me free. Who taught me about loneliness, and freedom, and fear by showing me all of his. By telling me that everything in life is chemistry. That I had no reason to not go after the things that made me happy.

Of course this didn’t happen altogether overnight. Like everything in life, it was a process. A long, tedious, painful process. But still a process, nonetheless. I have come to realize that happiness—like all the other things in life like freedom, suffering, love—was a choice. My new friends showed me this. Happiness and freedom was a choice available to us all.

One day I woke up and the clouds were gone. For the first time in my life, sunshine. Sunshine everywhere.


I must admit. On some days my old pet would still call out to me. Ravens. A flock of ravens flying wildly inside my head all day long. I desperately searched ways to get rid of it all. To finally, truly heal.

"How much of your life are you willing to sacrifice for safety?" My traveling friend's voice echoed in my head. "Travel. It's therapeutic," he said. So I took his advice and I traveled. I traveled a lot.

In my adventures, I tried to fill the spaces of my soul with the presence of fun, free-spirited people who would always make me feel alive. Who would, even for a fleeting moment, always make me forget the darkness inside of me. Wrote more. Photographed people. Listened to the stories of strangers. Did more of the things that made me happy. Went hungry quite a few times for always choosing passion over earnings. Dropped things, beliefs, and people that made me feel small. Sought for spirituality. For inner peace. For healing that, after all those years, I still hadn’t achieved albeit, admittedly, I was a little better. But little wasn’t enough. I wanted to be changed completely. Utterly and irrevocably.

I avoided small conversations. Became more honest. Talked more about life. Tried to crack myself open. And when I didn’t, tried to crack myself open some more. I wanted to let the light in. To be more open. More vulnerable. And to love. Love more.

All these efforts made me start believing in something I couldn’t explain, but an energy I could otherwise feel ever so present. And always, this energy brought me to the right places, to the right people, and to unfathomable moments of bliss, that my eyes were opened to the knowledge that everything in life is cosmic. That everything I was going through was a process I needed to know and to grow from.

No, no coincidences. Only magic. Like all events are weaved together and every place, every person, every flower, every wind that blows upon my face was there because it was meant to be there in every way that I was, too. It was the universe, pointing me towards all the right directions.

I knew. I was finally starting to heal.

And it is only in acceptance do we find the strength to open up. So for the first time in almost a decade, I opened up about my Papa to my Mama. I told her about my locked room full of memories, how it was heavy, and that I no longer wanted any of it. She told me: “Maybe it’s time you opened that room. Set it free. Set him free.”

“I don’t know how,” was my sobbing reply.


2015. This year we would find it, whatever “it” is. This is what J and I agreed.

I was on a northern trip, hanging alone from a parasail 300 feet above the ocean. Everything was so clear. I looked up to the sky and whispered, “If you could see me now.” And in my heart, I was hoping he was proud of me. Of what I had become.

The next day I had just gotten out of the water from my first try on surfing. It was euphoric. I was euphoric. I come back to my phone to find a serious message from my friend: “Nic,” it said. The ugly thoughts that come to your head when your friend texts you something so short as your nickname.

She tells me she dreamed about my Papa. But you don’t know my Papa, I tell her. I saw him in a picture once, she says. But she doesn’t know. I have never talked about it, and not one of my friends knew of the tainted stories beneath those pictures. And then she wrote, “He wants you to know he is watching over you.”

The next seconds were a hazy limbo between crying, and laughing, and bliss. Genuine, unadulterated bliss. I ran to a corner and cried. “Thank you,” I write to my friend. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

I couldn’t believe it. There it was. Ten words. “He wants you to know he is watching over you.” I have found it. My locked room was open, and empty, and bright.

I was healed.

~ CHAPTER 25 ~


Today I stand at the precipice overlooking a year so bright and full of love. Today was the right time to tell you all this. Today I am finally 25 and, always the light packer, this was just another baggage I didn’t want to carry any longer. I want only mighty space in my life for light, happy possibilities.

It took me nine years to heal from a dark past. Nine, painful, long years. The same number of years I also tried to write exactly this down. Wrote so many drafts, threw away so may drafts. The right words always evaded me. Or I evaded the right words. But somehow I always knew the right words would eventually come, and at the right time, and now I know that it was true.

I tell you this in chapters because I see it now. Everything in life is a story. We are all stories. And so my wish for you is may you not skip the pages of yours. May you go through each and every word, sentence, period, question, spaces because, I promise, they are important. If we keep skipping then we’d all be dusty on a shelf, novels with blank pages.

Right timing really does go a long way. I know that better than ever now. Things will only really unfold when they should. How they should. For, really, nothing good gets away. Whoever said that there are no shortcuts in life knew what he was saying. And so I wanted you to know. I wanted to tell you he was right. There are indeed no shortcuts in life. All feelings are necessary. All events. All pain, all suffering, all joys, all fears, all love. And I wanted to let you know that you will be okay. Just love. You will be okay.

The bad days are over. Life is incredibly beautiful now. And I don't know what, but something quite tells me, this is only the beginning.

From here on, we go only onwards and blissfully, infinitely, ever upwards.

"Wade through the fire and jump the fences,
for the light we create is so much bigger than the darkness
we've come through.

Let the clothes burn and rip on the wire.
Nothing will stop us.

— Tyler Knott Gregson


  1. This is one of the most beautiful stories I've read. I hope one day, I could also find the "key" to my secret room. I'm genuinely happy for you, Nicole. Happy birthday!!! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Jo. And I hope so, too. I hope one day you'll be able to unlock and empty your secret room. You will. All in good time. <3

  2. Hi Nicole! I just found you website link and I loved every piece you wrote. As a girl with almost the same dark past like yours, I literally found the old myself again when I read yours. I feel the spirit, the freedom, the curiosity, and the strength to grow more.

    Keep on writing and inspiring!

    1. I don't know if it's the right thing to say, but it somehow comforts me when I hear other people say we are the same. I guess I find a sense of belonging in that. I guess because, for most of my life, I didn't really believe even the closest people to me understood just how lonely I was. Because they didn't go through what I have. They haven't seen what I have.

      I hope that whatever darkness you knew isn't there anymore. I hope you are enveloped in light now. I hope you are happy now. Thank you for reading and leaving such a heartfelt message. I really appreciate it. x

  3. Happy birthday. Your music, writing and story has moved me beyond words. I have never seen you but I can tell you are beautiful inside & out. Your words are inspiring, you are so brave. Thank you for this.

    1. Danielle. I don't know how to say thank you enough for this. I am moved beyond words, too. Often times I still forget to be gentle with myself. So thank you for reminding me what I am capable of. Know that I shall carry your wonderful words with me for a very long time. I wish you a life full of light and love. You are so kind.

  4. Thank you for this. Now, I know I should stop running from my dark past, from everything. Thank you for inspiring me, and the others. Ate Nicole, you, yourself is a beautiful story.

    I don't really know the exact words to tell you, but, your photos, your writings help me to be a whole person. I feel so lost before, then I stumbled here at your site. I started reading your stories, then suddenly, I'm lost with your words, lost with my own thoughts, then, I'm crying. A cry of finding myself, a cry of being whole. Thank you so much ate Nicole. I know your dad is so proud of you!

    1. It is the most difficult thing, facing our darkness, so be gentle with yourself. Allow things to take time. When the time is right, your soul will know when to stop running. This is what I have learned, at least.

      Ah, Patricia. For you to tell me I help you feel whole, such heavy words. So overwhelming. I don't know what to say. I feel like thank you is not the right response. It will never be enough. But I want you to know that you make me feel whole, too. All you kind strangers leaving beautiful, heartfelt messages on my stories. You keep me inspired. You make me feel whole and utterly full.

  5. Hi, (ate) Nicole. I want you to know that this is the most beautiful, vulnerable, raw, honest work I have ever read. There were familiar feelings along the long way and for a moment it seemed like this was written for me. Thank you for your words.

    1. Thank you so much, Rose. I am wondering what parts resonated with you, but this is one of the reasons I wrote this in the first place. I know I am not the only one. Hold on, keep searching for the light, and just always love. Love more.

      And remember: There is no light at the end of the tunnel. You are the light.

  6. This is beautiful, Nicole. It's also very funny because I somehow felt/thought that you were writing about me and how sad I was. Keep doing this. :)

  7. I cried, a lot when I read “He wants you to know he is watching over you.”

    My father passed away a few days ago.I thought I was ready but when that moment happened when he took his last breath while I held his hand, I never expected that this could be this painful. Damn, this is painful.

    I just want you to know how your post has touched me, my life as a whole. thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

    1. I am so sorry about your dad. Really, nothing can ever prepare anyone for that kind of loss. I am glad to hear though that my story has touched you; I can only hope that this can somehow help you make sense of things. Hold on, Jon. There is light to be discovered in this, I promise you. Look for it within.

  8. What a beautiful story, Nicole. I teared up on “He wants you to know he is watching over you.” My stepdad passed away nearly three years ago and I have been in that very dim room too, as you were, for a time. And he did something magical like that too. It's a very long road to tread, but when we start letting the light in, hope, reasons, and everything in between follows.

    1. "It's a very long road to tread, but when we start letting the light in, hope, reasons, and everything in between follows." This is so beautiful, too! And yes, I believe in it completely.

      It gave me goosebumps reading your stepdad did "something magical" too. We have angels watching over us. The thought makes me happy. :)