In the course of the last 12 months of therapy I have learned how to be a better friend to myself and my Self. Believe me when I tell you that it is one of the hardest lessons to learn, after so many years to suppressing this relationship, putting others first, and shelving personal projects, some of which I eventually forgot about.
Sundays are my nostalgia days, when I treat myself to remaining at home in my pyjamas, enjoying the company of my cats, and pottering around the apartment. This particular weekend I need to detox emotionally and physically, having indulged a bit too much in copious amounts of food – Christmas-related events of course. Now that all the decorations are up, this oasis that I call home is a safe haven, the much needed anchor where I can safely fall apart and pick up the pieces, discarding those that are no longer suitable to carry around with me.
Although the end of the year tends to bring around a lot of sentimental thoughts, it is also a time to face up to some accountability and evaluate the past 12 months. Dividing my life into three main categories: Body, Mind, and Soul.
The decision to resume playing tennis is by far the best decision I made this year. Not only did it force me to take up a sport again, but it also re-introduced me to a much needed structure and strategy in approaching people and issues in my life. Consistency is the name of the game, along with timing and strength, but most importantly, control.
I have also learned to cook for one person and treat myself to good, healthy meals, putting in a lot of effort to breakfast or dinner. Starting over after the divorce and learning to cook only one person is difficult, and the loneliness of eating along at the table is crushing to the soul. But the body craves for basic nourishment and I have always enjoyed cooking.
Lesson: Cooking for one is easier to accomplish than baking for one.
It took me much longer to summon up the courage to bake for myself and give in to a craving or two. It would be so much easier to run to the bakery and buy some slices of cake or a pastry, but that would be cowardly, and the easy way out. So I started out with a chocolate cake, loaded it with chocolate chips for good measure, and drowned it with rum afterwards.
That was for the first Sunday of Advent.
This week I took things a step further and decided to give in to another craving: cinnamon rolls. I dislike the commercial cinnamon rolls with a passion. They are loaded with icing and so sweet that you can’t enjoy the bread or indulge in the cinnamon. It has been so long since I last baked these goodies that I completely forgot how much I dislike the yeast rolls, as they turn out heavy. So it was back to the drawing board for a recipe with baking powder instead.
Intellectual cravings are something I learned to ignore while getting caught up in the daily rat race. Doing the laundry and cooking suddenly took precedence over reading a book, running errands and paying the bills were more urgent than visiting a museum or a lecture. The money that could have been used for a an educational trip was used instead for repairs or medical emergencies.
Beginning to sound familiar?
Welcome to my world.
If it were not for this blog, I would have fallen into the abyss of the ordinary, and that would have undoubtedly spelled the death of me in more ways than just intellectually. I do not stand for small talk, never could and never will, and categorically refuse to be categorised as “normal”. OMG, how boring is that?! Strive to be different and not just stand out, but rise above the others said my father, and my mother introduced me into the world of the socially controversial and taboo. She was a nurse who saw a lot and was not afraid to talk about it or try to make a difference somehow, so I learned to sink my teeth in matters that went beyond the boarders of superficial politeness. Ask the tough questions, hunt down the answers, travel to the source, do anything except sitting on the couch to absorb the media nonsense hook, line and sinker. Don´t waste your time and saliva on those who are not worth it, she said over and over. This applies to books, movies, exhibits and social events. Yes, you could say I have a very discriminating taste, but in my book, entertainment must have a moral or intellectual value attached to it. I don’t want to superficially entertained with shallow bullshit that the film and television industry likes to dish out. My mind needs to be challenged with social issues, my emotions taken on a roller coaster throughout the plot, and in the end, there has to be a learning experience. So yes, there are days I truly struggle with finding something to watch on Netflix…
I’m beginning to sound like an impossible bitch and a snob, but at my age, and after everything I have gone through in the last five years, I am done with hollow experiences. I push myself, my limits, and certainly don’t shy away from a challenge, whether it be learning a language, a skill, or simply navigate my way through a ridiculously complicated web of bureaucracy. Sure, I will stumble and fall (and fall apart), but that is the whole point about accepting the challenges.
This is also how I ended up with a photography website and this blog, both a shots in the dark, and learning something new every day. My limits are challenged at every turn with the technique, the perspective, the opinions, and the research. Many of my blog entries require research, and thorough research at that, in order to establish credibility and accountability. Photography? It is not about technique, but having the discerning eye. I can shoot with a disposable point-and-shoot for all I care, but learning to seize the moment makes all the difference.
Idleness is good from time to time in order to rest and recover, but my mind never sits still. If it did, I would never have churned out the books and plan even more books for the next years. Self-publishing was interesting and certainly there were many lessons learned, but now that a publisher has my back, a whole new horizon is within reach. Calculated or not, if the risk tickles my intellectual curiosity, why not pursue it?
I can’t bring back the dead or fix broken dreams, but I can let go of the pain, forgive the past,
and forgive myself.
Clinging to the past, to the people who no longer play a role in my life, to dwell on mistakes and failures is like volunteering to remain imprisoned in a cell, torturing myself unnecessarily when I have the key to the lock in my pocket.
Are you like me, who tends to think and re-think (over-think) episodes of your life over and over, dwelling on the “what-ifs” and “could’ve-beens” instead of chanting “let go and move on”? Trust me, I am learning to undo 50 years of that and it most certainly won’t happen overnight. We harbour a self-destructive tendency to build altars for people and places that have hurt us so deeply that we forget what the past is all about – a teacher for the present and a distant relative of the future, but nothing more.
My soul yearns to be free again, to be unburdened from the guilt, the anger, and the frustration of having digressed from a plan that was made for another lifetime. I can’t read maps, and have no interest in doing so, much to the chagrin of all my travel companions who can and insist on doing so. My motto is to get lost on purpose, to savour the flexibility of a digression. So what if I took the long way around, or walked in the wrong direction? I can always turn back or keep going to see what the new path has in store for me. I never get lost, I just get caught up in an alternative route! Living life by the book leads to frustration and has prevented me often enough from soaking in the newness of things around me, to be mindful of details and nuances. Adaptability and flexibility are key tools to any form of survival.
I miss my parents terribly during Christmas, and this year is the third Christmas without them. Each time I put up the tree, all the decorations conjure memories of them, beautiful moments of my childhood and youth. When they moved from the big house to the small apartment during Daddy’s illness and final confinement, we put up a smaller tree and bought new decorations, because all the old ones she had already passed on years ago so that my daughter could enjoy them. Mommy sensed that they would no longer be around for much longer, so she instructed me to buy native Filipino decorations that I could be proud of anywhere in the world and always be reminded of my heritage. I followed this to the letter and shed tears each time I decorate.
But there was something missing.
I craved for the decorations of my youth that she had sewn with her own hands in the company of a sewing group in Mexico. These had remained in a huge untouched box that I didn’t bother to sort out during the separation. Lo and behold, thanks the generosity (of time and spirit) and kind heart of two people, the decorations found their way back to me a couple of months ago. I hid them in the basement along with the other decorations and, to be honest, forgot all about them until the other night, when the cats and I were watching a movie and admiring the lights. So I ran to find that special bag of Mommy’s decorations and added them to the tree. Oh how my soul rejoiced! That was exactly what I needed – special memories of the past to remind me to be grateful for the time I had with them, for everything I learned – good and bad – and for the strength to be in the present.
Life isn’t easy and no journey is authentic without the pain mixed with the joy of discovery. The secret is to figure out that the logic of the mind is the instrument that guides, a manual if you want to call it that, but the true compass is the soul. Prayer is my sail, and writing my paddles.