Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Excess Baggage

It's one thing to disagree with someone else when they say something about you that you want to strongly refute. But it's another when it's your self you want to refute, and know you can't remain in denial.

In my younger,  and definitely single days, my friends and I always talked about wanting to travel.  See the world, explore possibilities and be somewhere else to be someone else. The seduction of self-reinvention was something we constantly spoke about. One of my lawyer friends wondered if she could work for the National Geographic, or perhaps just be a barista somewhere in Europe and live a carefree life. I fantasized about food tripping and getting paid a lot for it, much like Anthony Bourdain and other travelling chefs and food writers and critics.  Most of all, I just fantasized about travelling all over Europe and falling madly in love with amazing architecture, breathtaking scenery, and yes, you can throw in an intellectual man in the mix.  

Of course that was way before we hit our 30's and truly realized that total self-reinvention was a myth and a lie most likely perpetuated by those under the witness protection program who wanted to romanticize their experiences. To be able to escape your life and have a complete reboot with no messes, only smooth transitions?....Yeah right!

A few years ago, I wrote about how I loved airports and the idea of travelling. I really, really meant that when I said they excited me. But now, the thought of airports, and airplanes and long hours and confined spaces cause me nothing but fear, dread, anxiety and mere exhaustion.  What happened to me?  What changed, you might ask. 

One word.  Motherhood. The exhaustion from long trips begin way before the trip itself because planning and packing already suck so much energy out of me. Trying to anticipate everything you possibly can and then pack accordingly (toys, clothes, snacks, first aid necessities, etc.) can be stressful. And then the crowded airports and jam-packed airplanes just make me think of viruses.  Oh and that person in line beside me who keeps coughing without covering his mouth?....yeah, makes me want to commit murder.  

So, yes, thinking of travel these days really don't excite me in a good way. Gone are the dreamy, romantic and enthusiastic looks on my face when vacations are mentioned.  Just this past weekend, flying to Chicago to visit my husband's side of the family made me wonder if I am turning into an agoraphobe.  I am not exaggerating when I say that the only thing that saved  my sanity was (is) prayer.

Parenthood, worries, problems, life transitions and crises do transform us.  But as my friend D.L. reminded me, Prayer does the same thing.  And it's not that it's an easy fix or that it guarantees solutions or automatically grants us our desires.  It's the act of praying itself, not to a magical entity outside yourself, but to a higher energy that resides in and around all of us.  The stillness brought on as we connect to that energy, that side of us that knows and desires only peace, love and faith, is an inner shift that can't be denied no matter how subtle it is.  Before long, you will find yourself calmed and in the moment, grateful for what you have, and surrendering to what you can't be certain of, knowing that there is always hope in every little step you will take.

It's hard for me to shun travel completely even though I still fear it tremendously.  Most of my closest family and friends are either in a different state or country and I know I want to see them sooner than later.  What a blessing that when I travel now, I have a hundred voices in my head travelling with me too.  And no, these are not just the neurotic ones slowly killing me with worries.  I also now carry with me the saner voices of loving friends and family who remind me to say, 'Now is good', 'This too shall pass', and 'All shall be well'. I know these mantras will help me 'travel light', instead of just carry unnecessary baggage that do nothing but weigh me down.

For those of you who either love to constantly travel, or just have no choice but to do so on a regular basis, what are your 'weapons of choice' when it comes to fighting travel-related anxiety?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Relic, My Wormhole

I blew a fuse last weekend. Again. And as usual, the little guy bore the brunt of it.  I was trying to relax on the couch when he tried to get my attention and said something like, "Look what I have, Mommy".  When I looked, I panicked and immediately said, "Put that back....NOW!"  Of course he got terrified by my tone, and no, I didn't shout.  But it was a deep, non-tentative, oh-my-God-if-you-want-to-live-you-will-do-as-I-say kind of tone.  He backed away, couldn't decide if he would run or do it slowly, but most definitely he left in tears.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the object and cause of my temporary anxiety....

It's a snow globe.  It's tiny, approximately only 2 inches tall, and inside is a kneeling cherub holding a harp.  Now please don't go all judgmental on me and ask, "Is that thing worth getting angry over and scaring your kid in the process?"  Even after 4 days, my answer would still be yes and here's why.

This thing you call 'merely a thing' is obviously more than a 'thing' to me.  I don't love it because I'm extremely religious.  I love it for what it represents; a part of my life that I can never go back to or build on; a past that now feels so distant to me and yet one I fully treasure.

I had to explain to my son why this snow globe is so important to me.  I told him first and foremost that it's irreplaceable.  I bought it more than a decade ago (perhaps even closer to two decades, if I'm not mistaken) from somewhere in the Philippines.  I can't even remember what store, which mall although I have a vague recollection of how I spotted it.  I think it was a store selling religious items and most of their figurines were of angels.  At the time, I had a fascination for angels and snow globes and was determined to start a collection.  I was single, in my 20's I think (most likely), and optimistic and romantic, idealistic, quite religious and I guess you could say, innocent.  I was perusing the store and had almost given up, when I spotted this angel sitting on the counter, by the cashier.  I wasn't going to buy it but I knew I would regret leaving the store without it and would torture myself thinking about it.  So I purchased it and have cared for it all these years.  This cherub has seen our old home, before we even moved to our newer one.  It has experienced sitting on my desk at the faculty center when I was still teaching.   I had brought it to an apartment where I lived with a friend and it was my first experience of living away from home, from my parents.  It stayed in my bedroom at my parents' house for years after unexpectedly getting married and migrating for good here in the U.S. So when we visited Manila back in early 2008, I knew I had to bring it back with me, together with other 'treasures' (books, pictures, letters, other valued knick-knacks).  I'm just glad it didn't break and that it survived the almost 20-hour flight.

I don't think my son understands at this point what I explained to him.  Even though I told him that this snow globe has sentimental value, that I can no longer purchase anything exactly like it, and that it reminds Mommy of home and connects Mommy to her life before, I don't really expect him to understand fully just yet.  I think that unless you've also experienced being very far from your 'home', or have uprooted yourself from all that's familiar to you knowing that there's no going back, can one fully grasp having such intense feelings towards a thing, or any object that connects one to her/ his hometown, and most importantly, a 'past life'.

He's five.  He doesn't know Mommy wasn't always a Mommy.  He doesn't know Mommy wasn't always with Daddy or didn't even know that Daddy existed. Mommy has family he hasn't met or doesn't remember.  Mommy has friends he hasn't heard Mommy speak of.  Mommy used to work outside the home, used to teach, thought she'd study and travel in Europe, used to ride something called a 'jeepney', used to live in a place so different from where we live now, used to dream of doing things, going to places, meeting different people.  Right now, Mommy is just Mommy to him.  And though that may mean the world to my son, a big part of me still wants him to know and understand (eventually) that there are far more many layers to his mother than what he sees right now.  

A lot of things may have changed in my life since migrating and having a family. Dreams and aspirations have come and gone; joys, loves and pains all savored, soothed and treasured.  Not all of those are possible to resurrect. Neither do I desire to, for a lot of them.  But I still do fantasize about some of them knowing fully well that it's no longer possible because of where I am now and what I have chosen to become.  I think it's mainly for the purpose of reminding me of who I am deep down, affirming those parts of me untouched by time, unmoved by the drudgery of the mundane.  The perpetual challenge for me now is to allow these parts to show through for my son's sake.  I want him to know who I am, beyond the caregiver role, the pots and pans and such.  I wonder how much he will see.  More importantly, I wonder how much I would still be able to show.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Seriously, I Don't Need A Straitjacket...Not Just Yet

I've always said that one of the worst combinations one could ever encounter in this life is arrogance and stupidity. Amazingly, the two are in a tight partnership. Almost always, annoyingly arrogant people are also stupid, whether in a latent or manifest way.  Well you can imagine how crappy I must feel (although I must admit, it's liberating!) when it hit me last night that I have become exactly that...arrogant, and thus stupid.  Not only that.  I've also just realized that it is this arrogance that's killing me.  

If you've been following this blog, you know by now that I have been feeling so stressed out.  And the stress is all self-inflicted.  If you recall, two blog entries ago, I confessed to being overly paranoid especially when it comes to my son's health.  I guess that confession happened mainly because I have been feeling that my breaking point is fast approaching.  They say crazy people don't really know they're crazy.  I suppose I'm one of the lucky (?) few who can still recognize it.  Now if only recognition brought instant healing.  However it is true that sometimes, knowing and knowing too much can cause you even greater suffering, and this is how it feels for me right now.  I have recognized and acknowledged the source of my sorrow, the insanity staring me in the face and about to eat me alive, and I refuse to be defeated by it.  I started dealing with it last night by doing what any unemployed (translate: no moolah), self-help junkie knows how....Self-therapy.

This is pretty much how it went...

I'm feeling so stressed out. I'm exhausted.  I'm tired of feeling this way, perpetually worrying, perpetually afraid.  Afraid of what?  I'm scared of dropping the ball.  This means you may be feeling overly-responsible, even for things beyond your control.  And maybe that's the problem, because you think, would like to think or actually believe that you can control things.  But you don't.  It is utterly arrogant of you to think you can do it all, figure it all out, manage everything.  The fact is you can't.  No one can.  Even if you dropped the ball, the world will not end.  I know it won't but I will blame myself for it if I think that I could've prevented something and I failed to.  I feel as if whatever bad thing could happen, would happen on that single moment when I look away, or relax, or decide to release the reins even just slightly.  You speak as if 'Life' is out to get you; as if it has some evil game planned out for you.  I guess, yes, in a way.  You don't have faith.  You need to believe that no one or nothing is out to get you.  And most of all, you need to believe that whatever happens to you, you will be alright.  I always think the worst.  Don't.  Because then you'd attract the worst.  You know better than this!  You know that thought IS energy.  Stop weighing your self down.  Don't you see that you are doing this to your self?  Your overwhelming and completely misplaced sense of responsibility is torturing you, killing you, draining you mentally, physically and spiritually.  Stop the arrogance, the stupidity.  You cannot control everything and can't do everything.  Be humble and learn to surrender.  


                                                                                 Let go..............


After all this introspection, one resounding truth clearly surfaced.  It's not as simple as having such strong protective instincts for my son, but it's also about my fear of not measuring up to impossible standards I've set for my self as a parent. When I panic and want to control everything to protect my child, I know that it's a host of fears kicking in. It's my fear of being judged, my fear of being perceived as inadequate, my fear of judging myself as a parent, my fear of not being able to forgive myself for making mistakes, missing or ignoring symptoms, taking things for granted, 'dropping the ball'.  It becomes about this tremendous pressure I have chosen to put on myself and all this translates to choosing fear instead of love; a choice that drains me repeatedly.  I have been making the mistake of thinking that to be the ideal parent is to be protective and highly involved.  But we all know that's not really the ideal.  We all know that when this type of parenting persists, this type which has become more about the caregiver than the one being cared for, then the end result is but a crippled child.  I want my son to be strong and resilient, mentally, emotionally AND physically.  He will never develop these necessary muscles unless I allow him to exert them himself, unless I learn to back off a bit, unless I learn to 




Ultimately, there is only one goal in parenting and that is to adequately prepare the child for what life has to offer. And the fact is, Life is messy, unpredictable, challenging and has far too many variables for any one human being to anticipate, let alone control.  The sooner my son learns this, actually lives these truths, the stronger and better equipped he will be.  I just need to constantly remind myself that it needs to be about him and not me.  For his sake, I need to show him my humanity, my frailties, my inadequacies; that parents do make mistakes, and drop the ball. Most of all, I need to teach him that Mommy is only able to keep it all together because her every breath is actually a prayer. And maybe it also won't hurt if every now and then Mommy seeks therapy?....maybe.  For now, be patient with me.  I'm doing my best to  find my way to greater self-kindness.