Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Remembering With Grace

Last night, my son Noah started playing with a 'new' Xbox game.  I say 'new' because we've actually had it for years but just didn't allow him to play with it for the longest time as we felt he was too young for it.  Last night, we finally gave in and thank God, it really isn't as inappropriate as we had imagined it to be.  Anyway, during our conversation this morning, I asked Noah if he knew where the game disc came from.  He said we've had it for a long time and that he thinks we've had it even when he was still a toddler.  However, he admitted that he really doesn't remember where it came from and when exactly.  What he meant to say was clear to me, but it was his delivery, the manner in which he phrased it, that struck me most.

He said, "I'm really not sure, Mama.  I didn't know yet then how to put pictures in my mind."

I thought that was a good way of conceptualizing 'memory'.  It's pretty accurate, if you asked me, because memory is like that.  Though memory formation is a highly complex process, simplistically speaking, it's like having a series of images, pictures if you will, that are filed away in our brains.  Some pictures are good and happy, some not so much. Some pictures are very short-lived, while some are extremely enduring, whether we prefer such endurance or not. One thing is certain though.  Our memories, the things we  (choose to) remember truly shape who we are.  

I generally have good memory (to a fault sometimes), although oddly, I have problems remembering certain events that happened during 2004-2006.  Interestingly, that was when I migrated here to the States and for years I couldn't explain this semi-memory loss.  It was just recently when a cousin of mine pointed out that maybe it was due to the fact that I was still adapting to a new life, and I guess that was traumatic enough to affect my memory process overall. There are also memories that are extremely blurry to me during Noah's early years and that I attribute to stress and sleep deprivation. Fortunately, I took a lot of pictures at the time and also had my Mom with us helping me with Noah.  She just happens to have one of the best memories on this planet, and no I'm not kidding.

I'm also very olfactory and it is a fact that smells aid us in memory formation. There is a smell that brings me back to my kindergarten days and an embarrassing event that I wish I didn't remember anymore.  There are also smells that will always remind me of weekends at home, with Mom preparing a sweet 'after-nap' surprise for me and my siblings. Then there's a smell that will always remind me of romance and make me turn my head expecting to see someone I know.  It's all tucked away inside me, memory after memory after memory.  But it's not just what these random images are, that make us who we are, but rather the choice of what to recall, what to keep, what to replay over and over, ad nauseam.

I'm not saying that we should choose to erase all our bad memories.  They're there for a reason and remembering pains and mistakes is necessary for self-preservation, as well as growth or learning.  However, having the capacity for memory is different from choosing to get stuck in memory hell, where all the bad gets replayed and everything gets emotionally charged once again.  I have seen this in people and I have heard the pain in their voices. You could deny it all you want and say that it no longer affects you.  But trust me.  Your eyes, your voice, something in and about you will inevitably betray you and your suffering will show through, all because of a bad memory that you choose to hold on to.  This is when the line is drawn between plain pain and suffering.  I know this. I, too, still struggle with my own demons, still working on letting the bad memories pass through me without draining me of even one drop of energy. Such equanimity requires discipline, one that I'm still working on with persistence because I am clear that I need to show kindness even to my Self.

When we create photo albums or scrapbooks, we take the time to really sort through our gazillion photos to make sure we select only the best; to make sure we discriminate between the mediocre photos and the real highlights.  We know we only have a finite number of pages to fill and it's clear that we need to select well in order to give a wonderful narrative truly worth remembering.  Why not treat our brains the same way?  Our brain should be seen as valuable real estate.  Let's do our best to make sure that we only give space to deserving thoughts and memories. Whether those memories brought you happiness or grief, just be certain that they are worth something in terms of helping you become a more evolved spirit.  It's not yet too late to work towards a narrative that brings only three main things that truly count in this life:  Love, Joy, and Wisdom.  

Do you sometimes catch yourself replaying a past hurt, an unpleasant memory that you feel drains you of joy?  What steps have you taken in order to free yourself from the shackles of this memory hell?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mixer, Mixed-Up

 I never told you what I got for Mother's Day.  Well, my husband chose to give me a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and I was genuinely surprised...and perplexed.  For the longest time, I was fine with not owning this kitchen appliance and actually used that as an excuse for skipping numerous recipes.  Every time I would see a recipe online, in magazines or on television shows, and find that they require the use of this mixer, I'd say with such relief, "Oopps!  Can't do that one!  Moving on!"  It was an easy and convenient excuse and I felt it saved me not only from complex recipes which I don't have much patience for, but also from unwanted calories.

Truth be told, it took me one month before I finally gave in and decided to open the box.  For weeks, I stared at it and wondered if I should just return it to the store.  It's not like I'm dying to have, what my bff called, "another tool that furthers my domestication"...or subordination...whatever, they seem to be the same, right?....

When I finally gave in to it and took it out of its box, I let it stay on the floor for a few minutes.  I approached it as an intimidated puppy would an unfamiliar creature; circling it cautiously, as if sniffing away to gently familiarize myself to it.  I was, undeniably, completely intimidated yet simultaneously mesmerized and awed, tempted by its grandiosity.  

Did I say that this sucker is heavy??  I was planning on storing it inside one of the lower kitchen cabinets but I realized that if I did that, I would never have the energy to take it out and use it...ever.  So I ended up reorganizing the kitchen until I was able to create a spot for it beside my trusty rice cooker. 

Now it just sits there in the corner, like a temptress in red.  The next challenge is for me to actually read the manual and figure out how to operate this appliance.  Hopefully, I'd get to it in the next five years.  Wish me luck!

Have you ever received a gift you were ambivalent about?  Did you end up being friends with it?  If you're a Kitchen Aid Mixer fan, do you have any good advice for me?  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Vacations Cost ME Too Much

We recently just got back from a two-week vacation to the Southwest and West Coast.  I am happy to report that I was a bit less paranoid this time about having people cough and sneeze around us, or germs in general on the plane and every single crowded place we went to.  I kept my sanity the whole time and focused on the fun and family bonding time ahead.  It was definitely great to be able to reconnect with family and friends, especially since it was the first time that Noah and my West Coast relatives were meeting each other.  Prior to this trip, I had worked so hard to go on a diet to lose a few pounds.  Unfortunately, after a grueling five weeks and losing only four pounds, I gained two pounds back.  Still, I say it was all worth it!...worth every fried and salty Filipino (or Asian) dish we stuffed ourselves with, much like any deprived 'Pinoy' living in the American South would do, given that diversity isn't exactly the 'it' trend over here.  Seeing Manila-based restaurants on US soil made me extremely nostalgic, which all the more made it oh so irresistible for us! 

But as all vacations go, the laid back times do end, and 'real life' beckons.  It's always great to be back home, right? In spite of great hotel rooms, endless buffets, and interesting sights, I still miss my bed, the familiar smell of home, my recorded t.v. shows, and most of all, my beloved laptop and fast wifi connection.  Sadly, my shows and highly active online life would have to wait some more because after almost one week now of being back home, there is still this...

I still haven't finished unpacking and I'm trying hard to convince myself that maybe this is a magical suitcase that will bring itself upstairs and put away the clothes that are still in it.  Actually, this suitcase in the photo is the least of my problems.  What puzzles me most is that I don't seem to be running out of dirty clothes to launder.  I'm beginning to feel like the Biblical multiplication of loaves and fish has happened here, only now it feels like a curse instead of a blessing!

Naturally, when the clothes washing is non-stop, so is the folding once they're dry.  And did I mention that I hate, HATE, folding laundry??!!!  I hate it so much that I now have 3 piles waiting for me to have a change of heart.  

Any Folding Elves out there?....anyone????

And did I mention that a price I have to pay for wearing dressier outfits during our vacation is that I also now have a ton of clothes (mine and the husband's) to iron?  Ah yes!....ironing clothes during summer in the South equals the bane of my existence.  If only ironing guaranteed weight-loss.... *sigh*....

Maybe if I leave them hanging for a month, the wrinkles will just magically disappear?

Some people are huge fans of vacations and travelling.  I'm clearly not one of those.  I like it occasionally but I really don't see myself as getting addicted to it.  I stress before the trip because I have to do most of the packing.  I stress (though less now) during the trip because I'm afraid that one of us might get sick and it would just make the trip terrible altogether.  And then I'm still stressed when we get back home because I'm still the one in charge of unpacking and bringing normalcy back to our household as quickly as possible.  What I really dream of is to travel by myself, worry only about myself, pack and unpack only for me.  But what if I get sick?  And if I travel alone, how will I know where to go and how to get around?  Arrrghhh!  Who am I kidding?!  What I basically need to be able to relax is to get myself a lobotomy and maybe have a personality overhaul!  That might just do the trick!