Friday, April 26, 2019

The Case Against Looking for Closure

Original Image: Pixabay

Closure is something we've all thought necessary—at one point or another—in the process of moving on from an experience that has ended. Perhaps it was a relationship break-up, a loved one’s death, or the unexpected demise of a cherished career. In most of these scenarios, the ending we’ve experienced has left us feeling blindsided and stuck in a rabbit hole filled with ‘whys’. Instinctively, we think answering these questions serve as stable footing for our climb up, only to realize too late that questions have a way of endlessly reproducing themselves. We wake up one day feeling more confused than ever, drowning in our questions and completely consumed by even more loose ends than what we initially started with.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against closure. However, I do know that you never look for closure. You birth it.

To have closure means finally being able to accept what happened, lifting any veil or illusion to clearly see what is, where you are now, and letting the reality sink in that the situation has happened and could not be any other way.

To have closure is to no longer have the desire to rewrite history. It is present-focused and future-ready.  

Most importantly to me, having closure is to be ‘self-empowered’, as opposed to looking outwards and relying on another person to give you what you need, whether it be answers to your questions, forgiveness, explanations, or direction for the future.

Trust me when I say that these lessons I’ve learned on closure are all grounded in personal experience. I’ve learned the hard way that involving another person in your personal search for closure never, ever works. Doing so is actually a ‘counter-closure’ move because the more you deal with the other person—the more power you surrender to that person as the one who can help you or give you the closure you seek—the further back you get pulled, and no significant healing is achieved. You keep thinking this other person holds the answers to your questions. You keep thinking you need this other person to give you clarity on what really happened, and that you need all these answers in order to move on. But all this does is delay your healing. All this does is pick at your already stinging wounds, and make you feel less in control of your own destiny.

The lessons on closure I share here now came to me through an ex-boyfriend/fiancĂ©. Other than my husband, I’ve only had one other serious romantic relationship. Ours was a saga. We fell deeply in love; broke up in a confused manner; semi-got back together; semi-broke up again; semi-hoped for each other; I got tired, fell in love again, and married someone else (my husband now); resentments surfaced; became friends; fought; he married and had a family too; became friends again; fought and swore off each other; until finally, he died. Last year he passed and lost his battle with cancer.

We sought closure from each other and it took more than a decade of our lives until death finally interfered. We threw our questions and accusations at each other, hoping it will bring us the finality we sought. I tried looking for closure through my questions but I failed. Now I know that sometimes the questions serve only as our excuse to keep us afloat. We find solace in our questions because they feel familiar and less daunting than the pain and work involved ahead in permanently shutting one door behind us and confronting our new normal.

Sometimes, questions don’t end by themselves no matter how many answers you get. You have to decide to end them. 

What I know for sure is that closure is a decision. It’s a gift you give yourself every day, if you have to. It's mustering the courage to open a new door, while knowing that you are allowed to grieve the past, and that doing so doesn't mean you are resisting your future. It's deciding to believe that getting answers won't change what is. It's making the decision that it no longer matters what the other person's reasons, state of mind, motivations, or sentiments are. What matters is what you feel, what you perceive, and how you intend to show up from this point onward to work on your healing. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Social Media Rule of 3s for Greater Happiness and Productivity

Original Image by rawpixel from Pixabay 

At some point, we've all found ourselves complaining about how social media has negatively affected both our productivity and our moods. Numerous scholarly articles have been published on these areas, but you don't have to be any sort of expert to acknowledge that you can easily get sucked in some social networking vortex and then easily experience 'missing time phenomenon'.  (Thanks for the abduction, Mark Zuckerberg!)

Not only do you end up wondering where time has gone, you also suddenly question why your fingers are tired, your eyes are dry, and you're inexplicably feeling a bit more angry, depressed, or anxious. At that point, it doesn't take long for any of us to realize that instead of getting on with our days and accomplishing real tasks, all we feel like doing is grab a brownie or a bag of chips, and let the chair or couch swallow us whole. 

Personally, these feelings apply to me in relation to Facebook and Twitter, where people are allowed to elaborate on whatever they wish to share, or put out links to their news headlines of choice. 

Because of this, I've come up with a system that has proven quite effective although it definitely requires self-discipline and integrity since you'd have to strictly monitor yourself if you truly want this to work for you. 

It's my Rule of 3s: Three minutes, or three 'upsetting' information on my news feed, which ever comes first, is my limit.

This means, when I go on Facebook or Twitter, and start scrolling on my news feed, I keep in mind that I only have three minutes to spend there. However, if even before my three minutes are up and I've already scrolled through or read three headlines, news bits, or updates from contacts that upset me, made me angry, depressed, or negative in some way, I would have to shut it down and get on with my day.

I allow myself to go through this process about three times per day, on average. So far, it has worked wonders for me, especially in terms of my mood. 

I know that three minutes are not enough to allow you to go through your contacts' updates, but that further forces you to focus on what's truly important to you. Let's be honest, not everyone on your friends' list carry the same weight of importance in your life. If there is someone you truly care about or want to be updated on, then go on their page and spend time there. Message them personally, or give them a call. Hang out if you can. Let the Rule of 3s help you filter through the rubbish so that you don't carry that with you and allow it to affect your mental and emotional health. With my Rule of 3s, I've found that I'm able to easily shake things off by taking a deep breath at the end of it, and then walking away, either physically, or just detaching mentally so I can focus on other goals for the day. 

I hope you can give this a try if you still find yourself drowned by the social media abyss. You can do this, and hopefully have more energy for the things that truly matter in your life. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

5 Simple Things That Surprisingly Bring Me Joy as a Homemaker

The terms 'homemaker' and 'mundane' easily pair together. I mean, how much excitement can there really be if your work is home-based and for the most part you're alone all day? Don't get me wrong, every aspect of that previous sentence is nourishment for my introverted soul. However, I still can't deny that looking for motivation, no matter how silly or trivial, is essential for me in my line of work if I want to look past the drudgery of it all. The fact is, there is no paycheck for me to look forward to, and the intrinsic rewards are vastly different from those gained by employed people. 

So let me share with you a few things that I realized put the 'happy' in my otherwise boring and predictable days:

The melodic song of my washing machine 
letting me know its job is done

I love the sound of my washing machine when it finishes a cycle and it belts out this ice cream truck-sounding melody. If you think about it, it's really just saying, "Hey, get your butt here and clear me out. Get on to your next chore", only it's doing it in such a polite and cheerful way. What more can I ask for?

When I have to pee so bad and find that the toilet is ready for use, no quick cleaning required

What I mean is, (and I say this as the only female in my household) there are no pee drops on and around the toilet, the toilet seat is down ready for the queen, and there's toilet paper for me to use...installed on the holder.

Discovering that I can adapt a traditional Filipino dish for my newly acquired Instant Pot and be done in half the time

A lot of people have raved about this pressure cooker and it intimidated me for the longest time. However, a couple of months ago, my mother-in-law gifted it to us and since then I've made the effort to search for recipes online to see how creative I can get with it. There are a ton of Instant Pot communities but mostly sharing Western or American recipes. So when I experiment with Filipino staples and find that it works just as well, I am thrilled to the core.

When I discover a new cleaning product peddled by some social media influencer, find it in my grocery store, and then end up loving its scent and cleaning performance

Cleaning is a big chunk of my daily routines, and if I see something that might (a) ease my job at a reasonable price, or (b) make the job a bit more pleasurable, then I'm all for it. I'm also very olfactory and so finding products that perform well but don't smell like they're trying to simultaneously dissolve my internal organs is a win-win!

And this last one is certainly not the least...

When I hear the door open in the afternoon and my middle school son walks in

To be home when my child arrives from school and greet him with the best smile I can offer regardless of how my day went, if only to let him know how he lights me up, is a gift I never ever take for granted. Truly, this highlight just never gets old and I thank God every day for this simple joy.

Friday, March 8, 2019

It's Not For Pinterest, It's For My Mental Health

Not my real home, by any means.

My mother-in-law recently visited and stayed with us for about a month. I wanted her to feel welcome and at home but most of the time, I wondered if my home felt too 'sterile' for her, too 'stiff'. I made it a point to keep repeating to her that I didn't care what she touched, used or whatever, I just wanted her to feel comfortable. But then she always made a comment about how neat and organized everything was, and though I took it as a compliment, I also wondered if my home made her feel stifled. I hope not. 

She isn't the first one to make that observation. Every so often someone would visit and give the same compliment about how neat and put together everything looks. I appreciate such comments but if I'm being totally honest, I can't say it gives me pride. A lot of the times I shrug it off, say thank you with a bit of a nervous laugh, and then, depending on how comfortable I am with the person, I say, "It helps my sanity"...or some iteration of that. I think people assume that I say that jokingly, but really I don't. 

I was prompted to write all this today because of Wendy Wisner's essay on Scary Mommy, where she admits to having the need to keep a neat home because of her anxiety disorder.

I, too, get stressed out with messes. I can tolerate a certain level of it but definitely not for a prolonged period of time. This is why I try not to linger too much in my husband's work space. I know I'd end up throwing a bunch of stuff or putting things away where he might no longer locate them, both of which will end in a fight, hence more tension and stress for me. I've learned that the best thing is to keep my blinders on and offer him some help in organizing every now and then. 

Don't get me wrong, no space in my house is perfect, and my office in particular is not as clutter-free as I want it to be. However, I always feel the need to have 'stacks' or 'groupings' or 'containerized messes', basically any method that just allows me to see open, clear surfaces...breathing room, if you will. Otherwise, it becomes unbearable for me, and I feel suffocated. 

When messes build up in my space (I'm not one to judge other people's homes), I get cranky, my chest feels tighter than normal, I get tension headaches, and then I can't control the compulsion to tear through the messy space and ruthlessly declutter. There have been a few times when my husband has had to step in to snap me out of this trance and call me out on my unreasonable grouchiness. It's not a pretty sight, which is why I've learned that the secret is to not let any space I frequently see get to that point of chaos.

The relationship between clutter and stress isn't anything new. The science behind it was even further highlighted by a UCLA study of 32 families in Los Angeles confirming that the more 'stuff' one possessed, the more elevated the stress hormones were, particularly for the mothers. 

I've never been formally diagnosed, but I don't need a doctor to tell me that I'm an anxious person. Unfortunately, my anxiety bothers me enough to consider the possibility that I do have an anxiety disorder and led me to check the Mayo Clinic website to read the list of symptoms. I pretty much checked off 8 out of the 12 listed. 

When anxiety strikes, it's often a challenge for me to control. My brain races and I catch myself starting to hyperventilate. I can't even begin to tell you the amount of effort I put in to calm myself down, to rationalize, to observe my thoughts and practice mindfulness as Eckhart Tolle teaches. 

I pray, whether it be personal words or something repetitive like the rosary to silence my mind. 

I talk to my husband and ask him to help put things in perspective, knowing that my brain is on overdrive and can only see worst-case scenarios. 

It's like being in a speeding car that I neither have any control over, nor desire to be in. 

I feel stuck. It can be scary. It's exhausting. 

A lot of the times, all I can do is wait for it to pass. I think that's still a blessing, that I'm able to convince myself that this too shall pass

And 'this' could be anything: my son's health or a minor illness he's going through; a home repair that needs to be done; an upcoming vacation; some unfounded, out-of-the-blue worry about family overseas...really mostly things no one has much power over. 

These things I worry about I can't control, and there's no telling when or how they will pass. So in the meantime, I control what I can—my physical surroundings, my home's stuff. Sometimes, the more out of control my inner world is, the greater the compulsion to organize my physical surrounding. It's really about feeding my sanity a sense of order which bears the fruit of a sense of comfort, calm, and predictability for me. Where predictability exists, a sense of power resides. 

No one likes the feeling of powerlessness. And this compulsion for neatness is definitely one of the ways I'm able to feel that I'm not completely powerless after all; that not everything in my world is unpredictable and that I don't have to ride that speeding, reckless car at least for the moment. 

I don't want anyone's pity. I'm not sure if all this revelation on the darker side of my mind is a total surprise to anyone who personally knows me, or if it's something that's always been apparent. But whether or not this changes how people see me, all I ask is for you to have more compassion for anyone who you suspect suffers from anxiety. 

It's definitely not something we desire, something not all of us choose to simply medicate, and we absolutely hate the thought of inconveniencing others with this burden. 

But it is what it is, and I'm doing my best to keep it together, to cope how ever I can, even if it means hours and hours of sorting and clearing away the cobwebs, at least the tangible ones for now.