Friday, October 20, 2017

If You Wonder What Could Have Been...

As I was browsing shows to watch on Netflix the other day, I chanced upon this 2009 sci-fi, philosophical drama 'Mr. Nobody'. The only way I can describe this film in terms of feel and substance is that it's a combination of Cloud Atlas, The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar, peppered with the tone of the novels Einstein's Dreams (Alan Lightman) and Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami). 

To say that it's an intriguing movie is an understatement, and the price you pay for having your metaphysical imagination tickled comes in the form of a tenacious attention span. 

I won't even try to explain here what the plot is. I will, however, say that it's a very non-linear story-telling and if you are the introspective kind, I am willing to bet that you will hear echoes of your own existential questions in much of how the main character's life (lives?) played out. 

Though several ideas struck me in the course of watching this film, there is one that continues to haunt me: 

“ Every path is the right path. 
Everything could've been anything else. 
And it would have just as much meaning.” 

Mr. Nobody
Photo Credit: posiblesvidasdemrnobody

To anyone who has wondered about roads not taken, multiverses, or have simply asked the question 'Did I make the right choice?', I hope the above quote brings some semblance of peace. 

Try to be present in this reality. There is meaning in every triumph, resolution, failure, pain and restlessness we may have, and we only need to focus on making the most of every choice that confronts us. If you find your equilibrium disturbed by the what ifs and what could've beens, find comfort in the idea that there is another version of you that's already present in that reality. Let that version deal with its journey as you deal with yours because the real tragedy is reaching the end of your road with the realization that you were never fully present, that your life never weighed more than just a half-conscious existence.

Friday, October 6, 2017

When Will Death Really Matter?

Yesterday, I was at my son's school for an event. All the students, teachers, staff and parents were in the gym until at some point, the principal had to dismiss all the second graders so they can prepare to go on their field trip. I watched from the side as these adorable 7- or 8-year old kids stood and quietly walked out the door in their color-coded shirts.

Then something happened to me, something I've never felt before given such a mundane situation. My breathing felt labored. Sadness first took over, as if I wanted to cry and hold all those children in my arms. And then the anxiety, as if feeling claustrophobic and needing to step outside. I had to force my brain to think rationally and calm myself down. Fortunately, the sensation left my body only after a few, manageable seconds. 

It was pure fear triggered by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas59 dead and at least 500 injured.

Once again, we find ourselves engaging in discussions about gun control. It's absolutely necessary though undeniably frustrating that we have to be in this situation yet again. Every time incidents of gun violence surface, we clamor for changes. We donate, sign petitions, call, text and tweet to our representatives hoping they would listen to perfectly rational arguments in support of commonsense gun control measures this nation desperately needs. Honestly though, part of me feels hopeless because I askIf they never listened when our innocent, beautiful children died in Sandy Hook Elementary, if they were not moved enough by the images of those powerless six and seven year old children being slaughteredthen what would? And what makes me think this time it would be different? 

What would it take for our lawmakers to stop selling their souls to the NRA?

Don't think for a second that the NRA is doing anything heroic this week by announcing its support for banning 'bump stocks': a gun attachment that converts a semiautomatic rifle into an automatic / machine gun, the same type used by Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. Banning an attachment is not gun control by any means. To me, it's another a**hole move much like when someone thinks he's helping a 'country' that has no power, fuel and food by throwing paper towel to a desperate crowd. 

Yes, I hate the NRA with a passion. They would do anything and spend millions of dollars to block any legislation that would close loopholes in existing gun control laws. They have also asserted themselves in blocking research on gun violence which is of course necessary if any lawmaker is to push for new legislation with regard to gun ownership. 

I hate that the NRA preys on conservative gun owners by selling them the false idea that to push for stricter gun laws is the same as taking your guns away from you, even as you are a responsible gun owner. 

I hate that profit speaks louder than all the lives lost through senseless gun violence; that greed seems more important in our society than the gift of healing we can offer those who continue to suffer because they have lost loved ones in the hands of a mad man, a domestic terrorist.

I don't want school staff and students to carry guns in schools and campuses. 

I don't want guns in bars and restaurants. 

I don't want those on the terrorist watch list to have access to guns. 

I want everyone to go through a rigorous background check if they are to purchase guns. 

And I certainly don't want assault weapons to be sold to civilians. These types of weapons are solely meant for killing as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. They are not necessary for recreation, nor simple self-defense. 

All of these beliefs I hold dear, the values I allude to in the aforementioned desires, are the same ones that the NRA have relentlessly attacked and worked hard to kill in Congress. 

So yes, I hate the NRA with a passion. And this is why this is an issue I will continue to fight for in spite of my humble means...because I cannot continue being hostage to my anxieties every time I see crowds...because I know my prayers are not enough to keep every child out there safe from trigger-happy monsters.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Air Travel Tips for the Neurotic

*This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission should you choose to use the provided links and purchase the products I endorse. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and I was not compensated in any way to express my views.

The past week was filled with a lot of travel. My parents flew back to the Philippines, my husband had a business trip, and then towards the end of said week, our family flew to Chicago for my father-in-law's first death anniversary. Two out of these three trips experienced major delays and caused serious distress.

There are only two things I like about air travel: (1) the shortened travel time (assuming my flight doesn't get delayed or canceled); and (2) the people-watching it affords me which amuses my imagination. I hate everything else especially the airport lines, the germs I have no choice but to inhale while being in a claustrophobia-inducing aircraft, and all the rules and restrictions I have to factor in when packing my stuff. 

Given how neurotic I can be during our family trips, I've found that doing these five things have helped me tremendously in keeping me sane and making air travel more manageable. Hopefully, they could also help you and your family on your next flight.

Travel with a hyper-organized suitcase.

Since I discovered the compression system when packing our suitcases, travel has been a lot more stress-free. It maximizes the space in our luggage and let's face it, they make it look prettier. You can purchase these compression/packing cubes from many retailers these days such as Ikea, TJ Maxx, Walmart or these packing organizers from Amazon and I promise you, you'll never go back to your old ways. If you don't want to spend the money, you can always upcycle those plastic packaging 'cubes' most sheet sets are sold in. The point is, this system makes it easy to locate things in your suitcase, which of course would be very useful in case you suddenly encounter problems with checking in your luggage or have issues with airport security. I once thought these cubes were just a gimmick but I can honestly attest to their usefulness and would never want to travel without them.

Designate a travel outfit. 

The thought of traveling long hours is stressful enough. You wouldn't want to spend any more time figuring out what to wear every single time you have a flight (or a long drive for that matter). This is why I have one or two go-to outfits for every single long trip we have. If I know I would have a way to launder before I fly back, I don't pack a separate outfit for the return trip. I always go for a comfortable pair of jeans, my slip-on Vans to make it easy to go through airport security, and my trusty plaid roll-tab sleeve shirt. It's loose which allows for a lot of movement in case I need to raise my arms and carry multiple things. It's also long enough to cover my hips and butt in case I would need to bend down. The roll-tab sleeves are useful because in case I get cold on the plane, it can turn into a long-sleeved shirt. Give this tip a try and I'm sure you'll be happy you did. The less things for you to think about every time you travel, the better!

Pack a first-aid kit with these essentials, and make sure it's accessible to you during the flight.

I always make sure I have the following: (1) Advil or your choice of pain reliever; (2) a small tube of antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin) and a few bandaids; (3) flushable wet wipes because staying clean and fresh during a long trip are priceless, especially if you are with kids who always find ways of ending up with sticky fingers; and lastbut absolutely necessary for me when I fly—(4) a tube of Ayr Saline Nasal Gel. My son and I tend to suffer through the aircraft's low humidity and I've found that applying a little bit of this all-natural nasal gel helps us tremendously. Don't forget to include a few cotton swabs to help apply that nasal gel.

Bring your own water container...(Keeping hydrated is key for comfort and health, especially during travel).

Because you can't go through airport security with liquids beyond 3.4oz, and buying bottled water at the airport isn't exactly cheap, the best solution is for you to travel with an empty water container which you can just refill using the airport's hydration stations. You can bring a recycled plastic water bottle, but I personally love using our collapsible silicone water bottle. It's very light and I love that I can roll it and put it away in my purse once it's empty. There is no fear of crushing or cracking plastic, unlike with traditional water bottles. 

Gear up for your inner world, and minimize the outside.

As an introvert and a paranoid, I need to make travel as relaxing as possible so as not to be hyper-aware of anxiety-inducing elements beyond my control (e.g. airborne illnesses, confined spaces, rude passengers). As such, I've found that bringing headphones and an eye mask help decompress me when needed. Headphones also come in handy for signalling to others that you're not interested in meaningless chitchat and would rather be left alone. I mostly use mine to listen to calming music and I highly recommend that you download Marconi Union's 'Weightless'. It's known as the most relaxing tune ever composed. Bringing with you a good travel pillow is also highly recommended especially on long trips. I've loved my convertible travel pillow and have tested its usefulness during our 22-hour trip to the Philippines last year. It was a lifesaver!

I know travel is always exhausting and we all wish we can travel first class to make the long hours more bearable. But since most of us don't have that kind of privilege, I want to mention one other thing you might find worth looking forward to—entertaining and pleasant flight attendants. On our most recent flight last week, one flight attendant left us with these wise words and I hope they stick to you as they have on me. After all, what it speaks of is the one thing we all need more of to make life bearable: 

Remember that there are still a lot of kind people in the world. 
If you don't know one, be one.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Tale of Two Streps

Original Image: Guy H

It's never fun for me when I notice my son constantly clearing his throat or hear him sneeze. While most parents simply shrug those off, (or don't even notice), I go the opposite and obsess. It's not plain neuroticism on my part but because 8 out of 10 times, it's never 'just a cold', or 'just allergies' with my son.

On Thursday, August 31, his back-to-back sneezefest started. He also slept feeling very congested that night. He went to school the following day sounding very nasal but still behaviorally normal. He also didn't have a temperature. However, by the evening of September 1st, he developed a fever. This continued all weekend long and by Sunday morning, he started complaining of a slight sore throat and had a dry, 'croupy'/seal-barking cough. I thought, "Oh, it's an upper respiratory infection (URI). Ibuprofen and Mucinex should help."

I was glad that Monday, September 4, was Labor Day so at least he didn't have to miss school. He remained miserable, struggling with dry cough, fatigue, and a worsening sore throat. His fever was also not going away and kept hovering around 102F. By Tuesday morning, I decided to bring him to his pediatrician. I suspected he had Strep, although I was thrown off by his other upper respiratory symptoms. I prayed for a definitive result when his throat got swabbed.

The result came after a few minutes. He was positive for Strep and was prescribed with Augmentin for 10 days. 

I was oddly relieved when I heard this because knowing is better than guessing, and I'm sure the sense of hope I felt when antibiotics were prescribed is something any parent can deeply recognize.

As expected, my 10-year-old had digestive issues with the antibiotic. This was in spite of him taking it with food and amping up his probiotic intake. He had very loose stool for about a week, but fortunately there was no vomiting involved. 

I wish I could say this is the end of our ordeal. The fact is that my worries peaked when I noticed that his fever still didn't end in spite of being on the antibiotics for 48 hours. The evening of September 6 marked his fifth day of having a fever and it was not showing any signs of going away. I was completely losing my mind and couldn't help but utter that prayer every parent knows all too well: Please just let it be me and spare my child. I was deeply concerned and thought it was one of two things: Either he contracted a virus on top of his bacterial infection, or his Augmentin is not cutting it and may need something stronger.

I waited until Friday morning (September 8) to take him back to his doctor. By that day, he finally showed some improvement although he still had a low-grade fever (below 100.4). Nonetheless, I asked that he be re-tested for Strep, as well as be given a flu test. 

Both came back negative which was great news. The doctor said that it means the Augmentin is doing its job, and that judging by my son's appearance and the sound of his cough (wet/junky), she believes he does have a viral infection with his Strep throat. She simply told us to continue with the medication and return if his fever goes back to above 101 again.

Fortunately, he became fever-free all day that Friday and throughout the weekend, and was finally able to go back to school on September 11. To this day, he is still dealing with some cough but nothing too serious. 

As further proof of God's listening ear and sense of humor, I am here to report that just two days ago, September 13, I also tested positive for Strep. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise considering I was with my son the whole time he was sick. I'm sure he must have coughed on me and breathed on my face when I slept by him.

I'm showing similar symptomsstarted with that throat tickle/itch, dry cough turning junky, tight chest, fever, chills, fatigue, and of course the sore throat. I'm now on Augmentin as well. I don't have the loose stool (just the rumbling stomach), but I do have the headache side effect. Oh yay! 

As PSA to other neurotic parents out there, here are some of my takeaways from this highly bacterial and viral past week:

1. Google, Dr. Sears, Dr. Greene and all the over virtual doctors your fingers have access to are never 100% accurate. Even when they say Strep almost never occurs with nasal drainage and coughing, don't rely on them too much. My son and I both started with mild URI symptoms and then felt the sore throat after two days. Go to the doctor and ask to be swabbed/tested. Don't rely on just a throat visual either. Only an actual Strep test (rapid and/or a throat culture) can confirm the diagnosis and make sure you are not taking antibiotics unnecessarily.

2. Don't underestimate the power of prayers and positive thoughts. I was so desperate on Wednesday night that I posted about my son's condition on Facebook and asked for prayers. Just the thought that people all over the world were praying for and with us, gave me comfort and faith that things will turn around. I felt the difference and I'm sure my son did too. I also had a doctor friend reach out to me, as well as other moms who have been through a similar situation, and I felt so blessed to have received both their support and wisdom. Thank you!

3. Outshine Fruit Bars are the bomb! No, this is not a sponsored post. This was recommended by my friend, Holly J., and now my son and I are hooked. It's non-dairy which makes it really great for strep throat, and is made from real fruits. My son hated the way his Augmentin tasted and Outshine bars saved the day...or 10 days, really. 

4. Never be afraid to ask doctors for tests and be as detailed as you can be with your concerns. You may not be as trained as they are, but you are the best advocate for your and your child's health. When I went to my doctor, I wasn't sure I had Strep. I didn't want to have it and can't even remember the last time I had this infection. But I had to say I needed to be tested, not only because of my sore throat, but also because my son just had it. It made sense to me and that's all that matters. 

5. I highly recommend keeping a 'sick journal'. I had written about this back in 2013 and continue to keep this system. It helps remind me of what is 'normal' for my son and helps me spot red flags more easily. It also helps me keep track of his responses to certain medications so I know not only what to expect, but also what may or may not work for him given certain symptoms. 

I'm just on day 2 of antibiotics and still feeling very fatigued. I think I'll lie down now and ignore the world for a while. I know I need to wash my sheets and sanitize everything, but frankly I don't have the energy yet. For now, walking around with a can of Lysol spray would have to do. Stay healthy, folks! 

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Ultimate Key to Scrapbooking Success

Like most families this past summer break, yours also probably spent at least a week at some resort, vacation spot, cruise ship, or a city you've always wanted to visit, in order to spend quality time. You want to make memories with your children, I get it. 

But now that the break is over and the kids are back in school, you find yourself with thousands of pictures. Kudos to you if you've actually uploaded those photos from your device to a computer and ordered prints! You can pat yourself on the back now 'cos you're on your way to being a scrapbooking Jedi!

If you're one who orders photo books, good job! You can live your life now. 

But if you're one who prefers to create your own scrapbook, with every sheet, sticker and caption your heart desires, then this post is definitely for you. You need to hear from me, the wanna-be-scrapbooking-mom who has unlocked the ultimate secret to making sure you finish—yes, you heard meFINISH your scrapbook project once and for all.

I have one word: Procrastinate.

I know it's counterintuitive but hear me out...

Delay your scrapbooking. Take your time. Don't rush to do it. I speak from a place of expertise. I am now finally close to finishing our family scrapbook showcasing our Disney World photos from 2012! I let five years go by and I am now finally almost done. I never knew this day would come and I feel like crying, shedding Mickey Mouse-shaped tears in one eye, and Buzz Lightyear ones in the other. I'm not necessarily advising you to wait as long as I did but putting the project aside does have its merits. 

Somewhere along procrastination road, the realization hit me that I did the right thing. After all, wise people do say that good things come to those who wait...and wait some more.

Here are my top reasons why procrastination leads to scrapbooking success: 

1. You will be more selective with your photos. When I first had our photos printed, the pile measured over 3 inches. I sorted them chronologically and thought I was set. Wrong. If I include all of our photos, nothing becomes remarkable anymore. Besides, there were clear duplicates and images that were plain insignificant and would be a waste of scrapbook space. Choosing to wait gives you better perspective in choosing which images deserve to make the cut. You'll be more honest that not every smile, group hug or mascot needs to be memorialized. The less photos you're left with, the less overwhelming the process becomes, which increases your chances of finishing your project. 

2. The focus moves from perfection to completion. Five years have gone by. The face of my child in real life has changed from what I see on my five-year-old photos. I don't think focusing on the 'pretty' and 'fancy' embellishments would be wise for me at this point and I see that now. As I worked on my long overdue scrapbook, I was less obsessive about making everything Pinterest-worthy, or finding the cutest sticker that can go with a photo. I just worked with what I had, forgave myself for not being a scrapbooking goddess, and focused on finishing. A mediocre scrapbook is still better than an imaginary one. 

3. You'll save more money by choosing to wait. By not rushing to finish your scrapbook, you're more likely to encounter sales and be able to compare prices when you buy your materials. Trust me, those cute stickers do add up if you're not careful. If you take your time, you can shop around and come up with more creative, cheaper ways of jazzing up your scrapbook. If you wait as long as I have, you'll find that most anything will do for decorations and you'll force yourself to just make it work. You'll be the MacGyver of the scrapbooking world!

4. Self-love will be an unintended consequence of the process. And who in their right mind would say no to that? Here's what I mean...If you wait long enough, you may notice that you looked differently in your old photos. Maybe you're skinnier now compared to your photos from years ago, and you'll feel happy about your weight-loss journey. Or maybe you're heavier now so then you'll end up appreciating how skinny you were before and simultaneously realize that if you've done it before, you can do it again! Hooray for motivation! 

No matter what you looked like, celebrate the fact that you survived that vacation without losing your mind, or having anyone strangle another, and for that you are a superhero!

5. You will have a greater appreciation for the profound nature of time and of memories. In getting reacquainted with your photos after putting them aside for several months or even years, you will realize how time passes so subtly and quietly, and yet carries so much with it. Nothing ever stays the same, and as you glue or tape each photograph on your book, you whisper a quiet pledge to not take any moment for granted from here on. Of course you will fail, but you will try harder, knowing that memories fade and that what's more important than capturing a photo is just being present in each moment.

Whether you follow my advice or not, just remember that you're not there to create the prettiest scrapbook, but the most personal one. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do All Loves Deserve a Second Chance?: A Review of Biscuit Love

After hearing all the hype about this breakfast / brunch place in Nashville, our family finally decided to try it out and hoped for the best. And when I say 'hope for the best', I not only mean praying for impressive food but also to be spared a long wait which, we also read, is not unusual for this place. Thankfully, it was a weekday and we had also heard of a second, less-crowded location in Hillsboro Village. 

I'm referring to Biscuit Love, a Nashville restaurant that has its roots from a food truck business, and which has quickly become a destination place for both locals and tourists. They boast of made-from-scratch creative takes on some popular breakfast and lunch dishes, and of course, as their name implies, biscuits you can fall in love with. 

Here's what we tried:

The Gertie -- biscuits with chocolate sauce, HUGE dollops of peanut butter, caramelized banana jam and pretzel bits.

Bonuts -- fried biscuit balls (hybrid between biscuit & donut) sitting on blueberry compote and topped with lemon mascarpone

Bananas Foster Oatmeal -- with fresh bananas and pecans

Chronic Bacon --- thick cut and described as sweet and spicy on the menu

Southern Benny -- biscuit served with country ham, eggs and sausage gravy

For our drinks, my husband had hot coffee, I ordered iced coffee, and my son  had sweet tea. 

I'll go directly to my main point. In our family, we've established a rating system for the restaurants we go to. We have 'Bad' (there-is-no-chance-in-hell-we're-going-back-there); 'Meh' (it's-ok-nothing-special); 'Good' (we-enjoyed-that-and-wouldn't-mind-going-back); 'OMG Yes!' (we-are-absolutely-going-back-and-I'm-already-craving-it!)

For this particular Biscuit Love visit, I went in expecting an 'OMG Yes' but walked out with a 'half Meh-half Good'.

Service was good. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. When you enter this restaurant, you are handed the menu right by the door and you place your order and pay even before you are seated. We visited on a Wednesday morning, arrived at 11 a.m. and the place was wide open. That was a very pleasant surprise. 

I would agree with every single comment and write-up out there that the Bonuts were good. I'd say that was the highlight of our meal. But even then, my husband found it too greasy. I argued that all donuts are greasy since they're fried. He didn't buy it. He just didn't particularly enjoy the oily feeling when he bit into them. I didn't mind it. I enjoyed the mascarpone and blueberry combination in each bite, but again, I wouldn't say it was mind blowing, nor life-changing. I've had dishes before where it was 'OMG, I just forgot my name' with one bite, but this wasn't like that. 

Now let's talk about the Gertie. On paper, this is amazing. Who wouldn't love chocolate and peanut butter?? I was really excited about this and it was actually my son's idea to order this. After several bites though, we all quickly realized that we didn't like the execution of this dish. The peanut butter component was just too much. You put this in your mouth and you wouldn't be able to speak, nor taste anything else, other than the gummy peanut butter. If they had toned down a bit on the peanut butter, this might have worked. The other thing that didn't work for us was the fact that the biscuits were not strong enough vessels to accommodate the other sweet components. They just crumbled on the plate every time we would cut into them. I'm not sure if some people like that sort of biscuit texture, but we were not fans of it. 

The picture below shows you the aftermath. And as you can see, there's just way too much peanut butter, even for a peanut butter lover like me. When I ordered the Gertie, the server informed us that this was a creation of the owner's child. A+ for playfulness, but there was much to be desired in terms of finesse and restraint in this dish. 

I ate the Gertie with a side of their Chronic Bacon. Again, this one was better on paper. It said sweet and spicy, but it just tasted like regular thick bacon for me. I also realized that I'm more of a thin, crispy gal than a thick cut one. (In case you're confused, I'm clearly not referring to my body type).

My husband had the Southern Benny. Again, he wasn't impressed with the flavors. There was nothing disgusting about it, the flavors were okay. But again, it just had to do with what he expected vs. what he got. He said he's used to biscuits being flaky, not cakey or fluffy. I'm not sure if Biscuit Love does both, but for all the dishes we ordered, the biscuits were fluffy. Some people say REAL biscuits are meant to be fluffy and crumbly. Others say they should be flaky. It doesn't matter to me, as long as I see that the texture goes well with the intention of the dish or how you're supposed to consume it. I prefer my bread to be a strong enough element in my dish such that it doesn't just crumble on my plate and be swallowed by all the sauce. 

Finally, the Bananas Foster Oatmeal. My son and husband both said they found it too sweet. I disagreed with them. But could it be because I moved from the Gertie to the oatmeal? Maybe. But sweetness aside, I thought this was one dish that was very well executed! The creaminess was spot on and I think that's an achievement. Oatmeal can easily turn gloopy but this wasn't anything like that. This one exceeded my expectations.

In sum, Biscuit Love isn't bad at all, but we didn't think it was ahhmazing either. This place didn't wow us and we were left wondering about all the hype. Maybe we didn't order the right things from the menu? Yes, I've considered that possibility. But then again, I walked in there thinking that after all the raving reviews, I couldn't go wrong with any dish off of their menu. Clearly, that wasn't the case. For the price we paid just for breakfast food, we wish we stepped out impressed and not just half Meh-half Good.  

All food reviews depend on the reviewer's preferences and expectations. I'd even say there are so many extraneous variables that can affect one's assessment like mood, weather, parking situation, etc. That said, all I can say is that my husband gave it a Meh and I gave it a Good. Would we go back?...Let's just say I'm more forgiving than my husband.

Have you been here? Share your thoughts!

Monday, July 31, 2017

It Is What It Is

It took me a while to appreciate that phrase given our rough history. I'm sure it had to do with my ex-boyfriend using it a lot on me whenever I would whine about something we're not being or doing. I would launch my complaints, impassioned questions and analyses about why we're apart, why I'm not getting what I want, or why we're unhappy, and then at the end of it all, he would calmly respond with, "It is what it is." I don't know if it was his calm personality or our 12-year age difference that made him see the gift behind those words way ahead of me, but now I've finally caught on.

This phrase used to make me want to pull all my hair out or bite the other person's head off, but these days it just makes me take a pause and possibly a step back. It forces me to breathe in the moment for what and how it is, not necessarily with resignation, but with forgiveness.

Saying the phrase now or hearing it reminds me that I need to accept that the situation could not be any other way, at least at the moment, and that it needs to be respected. Whether or not I want to proceed with it, and deciding which direction to proceed, are separate from the initial clarity of seeing what is, independent of labels or categorizations. 

Often, saying 'it is what it is' makes me see the situation much clearer. I'm one who is prone to overanalysis, over-attribution, overthinking. I keep guessing what the other person's motives are, over-complicating what is obvious with different scenarios that are tainted with my own hopes, denials, and desire to always assume the best about people. 

But the truth is, we are all flawed and are never the best versions of ourselves at every minute. We always disappoint and hurt, fail and give up. 

It is what it is. 

People who used to be dear to you, now no longer want to have anything to do with you and you don't understand...

It is what it is.

A relationship you've always defined by a certain label no longer seems to suit that label and it's confusing...

It is what it is.

You made a mistake and everyone tries to criticize and analyze what went wrong and what should have been...

It is what it is. There are just certain things that are meant to be seen for how they are. In the end, the truth is that not everything merits analysis and explanations. And if we're just brave enough to see, we may realize that there is no deep explanation because 'what is' speaks loud enough. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Gift of Numbness

I sat on the dental chair with a 'let's-get-this-over-and-done-with' attitude. Replacing two fillings should be pretty straightforward and relatively painless. First, a little numbing gel was applied. No biggie. After a few minutes, the dentist came and with him was that quintessentially fear-inducing fat metal syringe that made me want to curl up and turn away, if only I could. In a matter of seconds, the syringe was in my mouth and I felt the initial prick of the needle. Then it hit me....the thought, that is, not the pain, although I can't deny that one as well...

We have to succumb to the inevitability of pain before the numbness sets in. 

I felt the sharp needle prick me momentarily, as I conjured the image of a nerve getting hit. I could feel the anesthetic slowly burrowing through my gum tissue. I squeezed my eyes for a bit as I waited for the pain to pass. After several minutes, the numbness set in as I felt the right side of my jaw, my tongue and lower lip feel heavy and thick. 

Our relationship with any kind of pain that touches our lives is the same. It builds, and builds, and we take as much as we can. We have to feel it all first, suffer through it, be broken by it to some degree, before the possibility of numbness surfaces. 

Pain needs to peak, before numbness peeks. 

Numbness gets its fair share of criticisms. Sometimes it's used to describe someone negatively: unfeeling; unsympathetic; indifferent. But it can also be a necessary friend, one we call upon for self-preservation. 

Beneath all numbness is a long history of pain and a deep desire to survive. I can't say that's deserving of negative judgment. Yes, it's great to be able to feel. But if feeling too much hinders the promise of normal functioning, or a happier, healthier state of mind, then perhaps an infinite capacity to feel and surrender to pain is overrated and even detrimental. Perhaps numbness is a gift we should not be embarrassed about because it's a reflection of self-love and self-respect. Perhaps if we just let it be, Numbnesslike every other emotionpasses when we are ready and strong enough to feel again. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Good Guy, Bad Guy...and How Much Can You Take?

"Optimus Prime is now a bad guy in this upcoming movie??" It was a sincerely puzzled question from me to my ten-year-old after seeing the trailer for the latest Transformers movie. From what I'd seen, Prime was attacking humanity and so I assumed my son would answer in the affirmative. 

Instead he said, "Well, no. It's just that he was overpowered by dark energon."(FYI: the fuel or energy source of the Transformers race). 

I found his response fascinating, which made me ponder the question of what constitutes 'being a bad person', which, if one really gets to the bottom of it, points to one's moral identity. 

My assumption that Prime is now a 'bad guy' stems from what I saw in terms of his actions. He was attacking innocent humans and was out to destroy Earth, therefore making him bad. For my son, however, Prime's actions don't necessarily make him a villain because he's 'not himself' and appears to have no choice given that he was 'injected with dark energy'. Moreover, my son argues that 'Prime isn't bad because he doesn't intend to be'. 

The principle behind my belief is obviously that we are what we do; that behaviors, being external and observable realities, define who we are. For my son, it's not so much the behavior but rather the intentions. If one does bad things but he didn't really intend to, then that person can't be defined as 'bad'. 

The more I think about our difference in beliefs, the more I realize the complexity and merit behind both camps. I can't simply label my son's thought process as naive and inaccurate. Behaviors are important, but so are intentions. The trouble is, intentions are intangible and there are often complex processes and intermediate variables that stand between intention and behavior. As such, we define those around us based on how they behave towards us, how they treat people, how they navigate social situations.

Simple, isn't it?

Not really. 

If you're a 'black and white' sort of person, then yes, this would be simple and you can categorize people based solely on what they do and how they relate to you. Defining who to avoid or sever ties with is pretty straightforward. 

But for some who thrive in 'grays', such things don't easily translate. Benefit of the doubt is always considered. Motivations, intentions, state of mind, star alignments, hormones, pollen count and everything else worth factoring in will be factored in. Letting go of anyone will always be a challenge. 

I've been both at different points in my life. I've been black and white, but admittedly mostly gray. I've had people hurt me repeatedly, and some of them I've chosen to let go of, while some I've repeatedly taken back and chosen over and over to be a part of my life. 

For me, the decision has always hinged on two things: (1) history ; and (2) my so-called 'oxygen levels'. Deciding that someone is 'bad' really translates to when someone is 'bad for me' and deserves no space in my life. The decision as to whether or not a relationship with this person is worth pursuing has to do with the past we share, whether or not that person has added value to my life with the experiences we've lived, and whether or not continuing a relationship with the person is still healthy for me. If continued exposure to this person—to the 'bad' he/she exhibits—damages me, my sense of worth, my peace of mind, sanity, and all that is positive and necessary to my well-being, then it is not worth choosing the relationship over my Self. If the 'bad' steals the good in you, then what good would be left for you to continue giving? The oxygen mask has to go on you first.

To my ten-year-old, Prime can't be bad because he has always known him to be good. My son is relying on history, on track record, for his assessment of Prime's moral identity. In addition, he is able to justify Prime's destructive behavior based on his absence of free will; that Prime doesn't intend to be hurtful and bad but just can't help himself because of the dark energon within him. I, on the other hand, can more easily shrug my shoulders and walk away with the conclusion that Prime has become dark. Clearly, between me and my son, it is he who has a past and a deeper relationship with the Transformers. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Kids' Summer Routine

It's only been two-and-a-half weeks since school ended and it's already started. It doesn't matter how many games I suggest, what camps there are to go to, or how many play dates I arrange, the end result is always the same. Is this something that kids learn in some 'How to Drive Your Parents Insane 101' class that they all secretly enroll in? 

To cope with my misery, I decided to write a haiku.

Raise your hand if you're a parent whose head is also about to explode with the incessant nonsensical complaining.

God help us all...