Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Happiness and Forgiving Oneself

An old friend of mine shared this quote recently and it resonated so much with me that I've decided to share it today. These truly are wise words, for we can never let happiness in if we are so filled with regrets and resentments, especially towards our own selves. 

Happiness is there, but only if we allow ourselves to see it.



Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday Motivation: Fall Into Healing



I had an interesting dream last night, the kind that gave me a feeling which I wanted to stay with me way after I had woken up. More than the images or characters in my dream, it was the message that struck me. I actually woke myself from the dream because I sleep-talked. I remember that the word that unconsciously left my lips was 'healing'. I caught myself actually saying it and hoped I didn't wake my husband up. 

I still need to figure out the significance of my dream and that word, but in the meantime, I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you to reflect on the Fall season and how we can transition with it. 

Perhaps as we watch the trees gently shed their leaves, we can also look within and think of what we need to shed or let go of, in order to prepare for a fresher start. 

Perhaps being surrounded by trees engaged in the act of self-preservation and preparing for the future serves as an inspiration to us so that we may tend to our own wounds in order to find ourselves more whole again, wiser and more equipped for the seasons ahead. What may feel and seem like death is actually a necessary process for survival and renewal. 

I know I have wounds and pains that need to be heard, baggage to be unloaded. The journey to confronting them is far from simple and light. But the trees are showing me that the choice is clear. Letting go may be painful, but sometimes you'd be surprised at the beauty and richness this process brings. 





Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Motivation: If You Want a Friend, Be a Friend

Image by: Nagi Usano
When I permanently migrated to the United States from the Philippines, I knew one of the biggest challenges I'll face is making new friends. And it wasn't about replacing my long time friends back home, but rather the clarity that I will continue to need, perhaps more than ever, the energy that can only be given by female bonding. I was a newly-married, newly-transplanted adult and I knew my sanity and yes, to a certain degree, even my happiness depended on it. I needed new friends to hang out with so I can unwind; friends I can vent to and who would understand and not judge; just simply someone I can relate to, trust, and feel comfortable with, other than my husband and family. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that the task ahead demanded a lot of patience and humility. I can't even tell you how many times I thought of quitting and convinced myself that I didn't need friends. But I knew it was a facade, a lie. Sure I was okay. I was functional. But I knew something was missing and it was that energy that one can only get from being with your kind, your tribe. I'm an introvert, and for me to say that I have that need says a lot. It's not about having a big group, but just to have a handful of people I can really talk to, be silly with and still be accepted, even loved.  

Finding new friends as a married adult takes a lot of work. First you need the humility to admit that you need friends. Without that step, nothing will jolt you enough to push you to make any effort. And it does take some effort. You have to want it to get it. And to want it means you need to be a friend. You need to allow yourself to open up bit by bit. You need to make time, carve out time to spend with others so that you get to know them better, otherwise you'll always be stuck with making excuses not to put yourself out there. I get that parenthood is a challenge and maybe sometimes it's easier to convince ourselves that our children need us so bad that we really can't find time for ourselves and (potential) friends. If you find yourself thinking that, then just be honest that you are making excuses. Been there done that. I know it. But when I looked at my situation honestly, I knew it was just that I didn't want it badly enough which led me to my default lame excuses. 

Don't ever delude yourself that you don't need friends. Science has shown that having friends (real, not virtual), social connections and support, positively influence both mental and heart health. 

An interesting article from The Atlantic likened loneliness to hunger. John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist and author, said that the lonelier one gets, the more likely you are to interpret social situations negatively. He noted that lonely people's brains tend to spend more time searching for signs of social threat. Just as evolutionarily, humans are wired to be more sensitive to bitter tastes when they are hungry because 'bitter' translates to 'possibly poison', lonely people tend to more easily interpret social cues as negative. They find it safer to detect 'foe' instead of 'friend', for self-preservation reasons. No matter how hungry you are, it's better to stay away from, or spit out, what might possibly be poison (heightened sensitivity to 'bitter'), than take a chance and keep engaging ('chewing'). As such, their isolation ends up begetting even more isolation. 

Any human connection is a risk. But don't allow yourself to get to the point of extreme hunger because it will only further heighten your sensitivities and possibly give you even more excuses to stay in your shell. Open yourself a little while the appetite is there. You have to want it to take that first step and keep moving forward. You can't expect people to want to be around you when you don't seem open enough. You can't expect trust when you aren't willing to trust.
A handshake only happens when both people are willing to extend and open their hands. 


You cant stay in your corner of the Forest 

waiting for others to come to you. 

You have to go to them sometimes.

---Winnie-the-Pooh


Monday, October 1, 2018

Monday Motivation: Movimiento Es Vida


Original Image by: Vijay (CC)


In the movie World War Z, Brad Pitt's character—Gerry Lane—uttered a brief but profound lesson: "Movimiento es vida". Movement is life. And if I may further add, 'The Universe rewards action'. 

If you've always lived by "If you don't know what to do, do nothing", you may want to rethink it. In my own experience, I've realized that's not exactly the best choice. 


It's one thing to be reckless, it's another to be so caught up in caution and overanalysis to the point of paralysis. Been there, done that, regret it. I'm not saying I will stop being an overanalyzer. All I'm suggesting is that there needs to be some balance so that analysis doesn't become an excuse for inaction or stagnation. In those times when I allowed myself to push on in spite of feeling insecure and uncertain, I ended up with answers, a higher degree of certainty and satisfaction. I'm not saying I always ended up successful or that I got exactly the results I had hoped for, but at least I wasn't left with just questions and fear of the 'what if'. The truth is, the regrets I have in my life now are borne of those times when I let circumstances (or other people) decide for me. I did not move for fear of making a mistake or getting hurt, and demanded the perfect circumstances before making decisions, and yet everything around me demanded movement. The joke is obvious, isn't it? I wanted so much control over everything that it kept me from moving, that in the end I ended up with no control at all and was left to make do with the consequences of others' decisions. 

Roll the dice. If that's too much for you right now, at least pick up the dice and feel it, maybe just throw it gently. 

Rock the boat. If it's too scary, at least dip your hand in the water and see how that feels. Make gentle ripples with the tip of your finger. 

It may be a job, your health, or a relationship you need some movement with. You don't need anything drastic if that scares you or you just don't feel equipped for a big change as of yet. But opt for some movement. Make decisions. Feel the reality that life does offer you choices and you need to choose a door, a road, one way or the other. Life is about movement and energy so don't waste any of it. LIVE.

















Friday, September 28, 2018

Choices

If you've not been living under a rock and you have a school-aged son, then most likely you've been made aware that Fortnite Season 6 launched yesterday, September 27. Unfortunately, it was a Thursday / school day and I'm betting that a significant number of boys either chose to miraculously rise from their beds on their own very early in the morning (without a parent having to drag them), or rushed through their homework after school just so they can start playing online. 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/39943037982


Mine chose the latter. 

He did a few quick chores after grabbing a small snack, assured me that he finished his homework when he had free time in class, and then went upstairs to his computer room. 

He promised he would do more chores before bed time (e.g. fold his clean laundry), and just double the minutes for Khan Academy 'tomorrow' (which is later today).

I let him. I've been letting him make choices as part of our training. I'm training myself not to hover as much, while my husband and I are training him to be accountable and learn real responsibility. And besides, his plan seemed sound enough to me. I had the assurance that everything that needed to be done had been done. 

Until Friday morning came...

He got up, showered, got dressed and when I saw him walking towards the kitchen for his breakfast, I saw he had a book in his hand. He read and flipped through the pages while he chewed on his cereal. At that point, I had to ask. I'm sure he knew a long lecture was coming.

"What is that?...And don't tell me it's a book 'cos I can see that it is. What I need to know is why are you reading it now?", I asked with a calm 'Mom voice', which of course only shows up when we're asking a rhetorical question. 

Casually he responded, "Oh, I just remembered that I needed to learn and memorize something here". 

Then I had to say it. "I hope you realize that you've chosen poorly last night. And that choices always have consequences."

Instinctively, but reluctantly he said, "I'm sorry!"

"Oh, no, no, no. I don't need you to apologize", I quickly responded. "If anything, you need to apologize to yourself for making a bad decision. You do see that's what you did, right? Your behavior shows that to you, gaming is more important than school work and responsibilities. And I keep reminding you...CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES. When you make a decision, you have to accept its consequences and live with them. YOU will carry those consequences, not me."

I was done talking after that and neither did my son have anything else to say. I hope his silence meant he digested more than just his cereal and smoothie. 

All I could think of at that point is that, more than ever, I need my sonthis boy, this maleto be wiser and make good choices in life. I pray he fully understands what accountability means; that inasmuch as I desire that he reaps rewards for positive choices, I know too that poor ones teach immeasurable lessons if he humbly submits to them. 

I pray he understands that it is not I, nor his father, who defines who he is, but only himself and the choices he makes. 

More than ever, with what's going on in our society and the plight of women, I pray he grows up knowing how to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and to fathom the truth that how he treats others is a reflection of who he is. 

May he always choose to be a person of integrity. This is my prayer. 




Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Motivation: Don't Choose Snooze




Nothing good ever comes out of hitting snooze on your alarm. Sleep experts have said that doing so only confuses and messes up your body's natural tendencies, giving you a lingering foggy feeling, making you feel even more exhausted. 

Just get up when you're supposed to. Of course it won't always be easy but once you're up, it just gets easier from that point on. When you hit snooze and resist getting up when you need to, it's as if you're greeting your day with heaviness and negativity. The dialogue becomes more like "I'm not ready, maybe later, I can't do this, I'm too tired, No", instead of "I'm here, I can do this, Thank you, Yes!"

Welcome the day. Just keep moving. Rise from your bed and say, "Here I am. I'm showing up today!" 


80%  of  life is showing up. Woody Allen


Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Motivation: It Doesn't Matter Where You Start, Just Start




Original Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash


I can't even tell you how many times I've thought of quitting. If I got paid for every time I thought of myself as a 'loser', I'd already be enjoying a fat bank account and living my dream life as a gazillionaire philanthropist. Right this second I admit that I'm even thinking of deleting what I've typed so far and struggling with the all too familiar voice in my head challenging the worth of what I've set out to do. 

"No one cares. It's all been said before. You'll never make a difference. What you do has no impact. You are irrelevant..."

But I want to keep doing this. Writing is a need for me. It helps me, fuels me, and I feel even more miserable not being able to do it. The worst is when I talk myself out of doing it just because I feel like it's too late; that I haven't been doing it as much or as regularly as I should; that I've already lost so much time; that I'm already so behind

Haven't we all said those things before? I don't care if it has to do with being a better friend, spouse or parent; or about looking for a new job; exercising and reaching a healthier weight; saving more money; starting a new business, etc. It's highly likely you've had those thoughts before. 

Haven't we all self-sabotaged, even though deep down we knew we could still do something, anything?

As Nike says, Just Do It. 

Do something. Move with what ever energy level you have. Make anything out of what you have at this moment. Start from where ever you are, no matter how low, or how behind you feel you may be. 

Trust me, you will feel exponentially better if you just start creating without judging yourself. 

You don't know how much time you have left. Don't waste another second focusing on how inadequate you feel or perceive yourself to be. Just start something, somewhere and create. 

Create something, tangible or intangible, as long as it affirms who you are, or aligns with what you want to be. It may simply involve formulating a positive thought for yourself. It could be a small act of kindness. Perhaps it means finally making that dish you've always wanted to create and share; a DIY project; a poem, music, a photo or painting; an Excel spreadsheet organizing your finances; a journal entry...ANYTHING.

Perfection is not the objective, rather it's the process of simply finding the strength to take a step forward. It's to simply affirm to yourself that you still CAN. 

I know how crippling it feels to drown in negative self-talk. I know how it is to feel as if you are completely depleted and lost, clueless about where to go, what direction to take. What I've found is that in those dark moments, what you need is just enough will to simply choose to take one step forward. 

Pick up a pen. Write a word. Lift yourself off of the couch. Stretch your body. Take a full, deep breath. Strum one string. Call one friend. Fry an egg. Draw a line. Water a plant. Put away one dollar. 

Just one simple step, and the Universe will meet you somehow.

Start where you are no matter where that is. Know that every little positive thing counts. Every moment of action matters. 


 Act as if what you do 
makes a difference.     
It does. 
—  William James



Friday, August 17, 2018

Why We're So Scared That Our Child is Average

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It's only been a week since school started and I'm already exhausted. And I'm not even the student, although it feels that way sometimes. Year after year, I find that the stress I feel as a parent of a school-aged child is far worse than the stress I had while in graduate school. (Except of course for that time I was finishing my master's thesis and preparing for the defense). 

It's the emotional stress. Perhaps it's because I know I'm responsible for someone else's well-being, that I'm the one who should know better and the stakes are much higher. Some days, I'm just not so sure of myself. Certainly all of that self-doubt applies to any aspect of parenting. But there's something about the academic environment that completely hurls me into a complicated vortex of deep-seated insecurities and guilt-ridden voices. Am I not parenting right? Should I be stricter? Am I not spending enough time teaching him? Should I have ordered that expensive workbook from Amazon? Did I not pass on the right genes???...

My son Noah is an eleven year-old 6th grader. This is his first year in middle school. In elementary, he's been a consistent straight-A student. Most of you would say there's really nothing for me to complain about. And I agree...sort of.

The problem is, I sometimes feel that being a straight-A student nowadays is no longer enough. The 91-100 range is no longer that impressive. You need to be between 96-100. You need to be in the advanced sessions. You need to be in the 'gifted' group. 

I remember when we first moved here, a mom approached me and started chatting with me about the school and how impressive the system is, and that we're very fortunate to be in the school district we're in. Her son is a little older than mine and I was happy to receive all her tips and insights. It didn't take long for her to volunteer the information that her son was in the 'gifted program'. She didn't elaborate but it was obvious that she wanted me to know that her boy was 'gifted'. I remember feeling confused because the boy didn't strike me as anyone special. I didn't bother clarifying what she meant by 'gifted' because I didn't want her to feel challenged or insulted. I let it go, but in my mind I was thinking, "Could it be that her definition of giftedness is different?"

Every time I think of that mom, I'm forced to confront one resounding question: When did being average become so bad, so inadequate, that parents seem to go out of their way to avoid having their children be labeled as such? 

These days, everyone wants to be 'exceptional'. Childhood has become so competitive, so cut-throat, courtesy of 'success'-obsessed parents who want only the 'best' for their precious children from pre-school to university and beyond. I am guilty. Though I acknowledge that my son is not 'gifted', I am guilty of pushing too hard at times just so my son can be spared from wading in the 'average' pool. 

I know what 'gifted' looks like. Through the years, I've met a few kids from my son's school who truly deserve to be in that group. These are the ones who really excel in math and deserve to be in advanced classes. They're brilliant kids who, no doubt, are genetically wired to be intellectually exceptional.

My son does not fall into that category. He is average, or above-average at best; has gotten good grades and awards, but no, he is not gifted by any means and he knows this. More importantly, he's okay with this. He noticed how all the gifted kids are now in the same homeroom and since he's not with them, he arrived at the conclusion that he is probably a step or two down from 'giftedness'. 

This put me in a bad mood. Actually, I'm closer to the vicinity of 'insecure' and 'miserable', than just plain 'bad'. But the question is why? I've had to confront that painful question especially after seeing that my son is perfectly fine with his self-assigned status and identity as a non-gifted, average, normal student. Why does it bother me when it doesn't even bother him?

The answer obviously lies in the fact that I've become overly-invested as a parent. When you find that you're more affected than the person who's truly involved in the situation then that means you've put yourself in a place where you need not be. You've overstepped. You've crossed some boundaries. 

Upon realizing this, I did what any modern day person does when faced with something you are initially in denial about: I Googled it to seek clarification.

And you know what happens when you Google the terms 'over-invested parents'? You'll find that the first article that appears is entitled "How To Land Your Kid in Therapy". (A must-read, by the way!)

If that doesn't scare you enough, then clearly you need serious help. 

It needs to be acknowledged that a big part of the reason why most of us parents have become so overly-invested in our children's lives, especially in academics, is because we've projected so much of our selves on to them. We've convinced ourselves that their success or failure is a reflection of our own gifts, dedication, as well as our follies. We burden them with our own aspirations and angst, while in the process damaging their confidence and sense of autonomy and accountability by over-protecting them from failure, disappointment and painthe very things human beings need in order to build wisdom and strength of character. But we forget that. Even if we ourselves were lucky enough to have been allowed by our own parents to thrive in adversity, we forget all that mainly because we have become so focused on the competition, on how 'others' must be doing it too, so we can't be left behind or left out. We forget that finishing first isn't always good. We forget that there are different paths to success. We forget that 'success' has different meanings for everyone. We forget that our children's happiness lies in them finding themselves, their own passions and learning self-love. Hovering, pressuring, focusing on perfection and protection from failure extinguish that path to happiness. 

I'm unquestionably a guilty parent. I have not only treated my son as an appendage, but worse, I've considered him as my do-over which is why I tend to take things very personally. 'Average' hits me hard because that has always been a demon I've battled with through the years. It's my own issue of wanting to be special, to stand out, to overachieve. I've made it about me, instead of about my son. In so doing, I may have placed unfair standards for him; standards that I did not even meet myself when I was a student. I was never in the gifted group. I did not graduate at the top of my class. I'd even say I wasn't in the top 10. Top 20? 25? Perhaps, but I honestly don't know. I was a good student and had good grades, loved the academe but I would never call myself 'brilliant'. 

And those classmates in elementary and high school who had lower grades than I did?...They still went on to good universities and are even far more successful than I am now in terms of their job titles, salaries and professional connections. No one remembers grades and GPA's. What we remember most is whether someone was a good person, someone you can respect, or if they were pretty much an a**hole, a conceited one-upper, a cry-baby or a spoiled brat. 

Conscious parenting is key. You have to know why you're doing what you're doing. You have to be clear about what kind of people your children are, what works for them, what their strengths and weaknesses are. You have to be clear about what values you have and want to reinforce in your parenting style. If you're unclear about your desired destination, how can you successfully build a road map?

I don't want my son to aim for perfection. That's an unrealistic goal. 

What my husband and I truly desire for Noah is to reach the best version of himself, and therefore find happiness. And he can only reach that if he lives with integrity and compassion. 

We want him to learn resilience and self-confidenceto make mistakes, fail, and then learn to get up on his own, dust himself off and then do better. 

We want him to have gritto persevere and experience the truth that it takes effort, time and commitment if you want to achieve your goals. 

With all that we dream for our son, it's clear that it just doesn't matter whether he's the smartest in his class or not. As long as I keep it about him and not me,  as long as I stop making this about my past and present insecurities but instead focus on his life and his future, then it becomes easier to relax. It becomes easier to see that he has a million other gifts that we should be truly proud of. I'm certain this is true of every child.

I'll always be here for my son to guide him, and still let him know that our expectations of him are high, yet realistic. We're here to teach him as much as we can, not to make him crippled but to make him equipped for adulthood. As parents, we can do all this without hovering and having our shadows cast a darkness over our child's path. Children need as much light and space to thrive. Let them be children. Meet them where they are. 

Never forget that every child, average or not, deserves nothing less than exceptional love from us parents...the kind of love that brings out the best in both the lover and the beloved. If we truly say we love our children, then let's not burden them with our restless frustrations and psychoses. Love them with hope, not expectations; love not from a place of lack and fear, but of fullness. Our children deserve no less. 




Thursday, July 26, 2018

I Went on My First Cruise and Made These Mistakes.

This space has been very quiet for several weeks now. There's a lot of reasons involved but mainly, I became extremely busy preparing for our big summer vacation. 

Last week, we went on a 6-day, 5-night cruise to the Western Carribean with my mother-in-law, two aunts, and my husband's siblings and their families. Prior to our cruise, we also spent the weekend exploring New Orleans.


I'm a first-time cruiser. I did extensive research for a little over a month prior to our sail date just to minimize my unknown variables. (I function best that way). However, as expected in life, you can't control everything and the best you can do is plow through the negatives and learn from them. Perhaps the next time will be closer to perfection, IF there is a next time.

Cruise vacations are fun. That's what I kept hearing prior to actually being on one. I tried to focus on that thought because being the anxious person that I am, I knew I needed as many loud positive voices as I could gather in order to drown out my worrier, kill-joy side; the side that only believes that nothing pleasant could come out of putting together thousands of people in a confined space over an ocean, for close to a week. And did I mention that I can't swim, am a germaphobe, and have increasingly become claustrophobic in the past few years? Oh by the way, I'm introverted too and can get quite moody when feeling overwhelmed by crowds and noise. 

Given that I am not the easiest to please and assume that a number of you reading this are fellow introverts, I'd like to share a few lessons learned from my cruise last week. We were on a Carnival Triumph ship, in case you were wondering. 


Stateroom Choice

Experts say that you should book a room midship and farther from the engines so that you won't hear the engine noise and feel less of the ship's movement. This is especially important if you are prone to seasickness. (Thankfully, none of us got seasick). Other tips I read said not to book close to the Lido deck or below dance floors so that you won't have much of the noise either. The other thing was to avoid being close to elevators. 

I'm not sure what happened with our booking but for some reason, the room we ended up with (cabin 8263) was really close to elevators, and worse, was located near the balconies opening up to the Atrium where there's a bar and where various games are played and singers perform. 

I'm not a party-goer. I like retreating to my room fairly early either to read, watch t.v. or try to sleep. I couldn't do any of that prior to midnight as I could hear every song and scream around the damn ship. It was horrible! 

The lesson here is book really early and be very specific with your travel agent about your requirements. I think our group booked quite late and it was probably difficult to accommodate all our requests given that there were 22 of us and needed to book 8 different rooms. 


Self-Serve Laundry

If you're on a short cruise, or if you are a really efficient packer, you'd probably not need to do your laundry. However, you may find that ironing certain outfits might be necessary, especially for formal nights. Make sure you iron your wrinkly clothes prior to the day when formal night is set, or go VERY early during that day. For our cruise, Tuesday was our formal night and by around 4:30 p.m. that day, there were seven people waiting in line for that one sad iron on our deck. All the three washers and dryers were also taken / occupied. 


Shower Essentials

I believe most, if not all, cruise ships have the shampoo/shower gel combo dispensers in their shower stalls. They're okay. It's nothing fancy although I don't think they're the most efficient cleaners either. So if you're picky about such things, make sure you bring your own shampoo, soap or body wash, AND don't forget your conditioner if you need that silky, soft feeling for your strands. You won't find them in your cabin.




Seriously, that's the dryer???

Yes, that was my initial reaction. I thought for a moment it was a vacuum cleaner but then it didn't make sense as it was hung on the bathroom wall. Duh! Anyway, the point is that this thing did not work for me. It hardly blew any air until eventually my husband discovered that the one we had in our bathroom had a whole or slit on the tubing, hence the crappy performance. It's a good thing I brought my own hair dryer and didn't have to deal with this contraption.



Don't Wait Until the End for Room Service

Everyone who's gone on a cruise before kept telling us that we should absolutely take advantage of room service as it was included in our fees. Frankly, the other hot food options on board were far more attractive than the free items on the room service menu so we didn't really find much need to pick up the phone. However, after our Thursday excursion to Progreso, Mexico, we found ourselves too exhausted that we just wanted to chill in our room before our time in the dining room. We then decided to call Room Service and order a couple of sandwiches and desserts. It was quick and easy. Wow! 

The following night, Friday, and the last day of the cruise, I was feeling a bit under the weather and decided to just stay in the room and skip dinner with our group. I figured this would be the perfect time to take advantage of room service again. 

Wrong!

For more than 5 minutes, I kept getting a busy tone. After I waited and let 15 minutes pass, I dialed again and was happy the phone rang on the other end. Yesss! Or not really. No one picked up. I gave up and decided to message my husband to ask him to just bring me whatever food he could grab. 

I think a lot of people decided to stay in that evening since it was time to pack and prepare for disembarkation the next morning. Room Service most likely got slammed. How naive of me to think that Room Service meant guaranteed timely service. *sigh*


Be a Slacker For Disembarkation

The most important tip here is that you absolutely need to read your ship's disembarkation/debarkation instructions. On our ship, passengers were told we could leave suitcases that we wish to be taken out by crew between 9 and 11 p.m. the night prior to debarkation. Our family also chose a later debarkation time since we only drove to port and didn't need to catch any flights out to get back home.

You can still eat breakfast on the ship the morning of debarkation and we were given two options: Lido Deck for the buffet breakfast, or one of the dining rooms. We chose the dining room and it was the best decision! There were hardly any passengers there, compared to the crazy lines we would have endured at the Lido Deck. We had our last meal on the ship and it was a relaxed, stress-free experience.

We had until 10:30 to exit the ship. We took our time during breakfast at the dining room and by the time we left the ship, it was as close to 10:30 as we could get without panicking. Again, there were no lines as we were probably one of the very last ones to exit. By the time we got to the baggage area, it was easy breezy. We spotted our suitcases quickly and there were no mobs rushing and pushing around us. It was GREAT!

**********

There are a lot of Do's and Don'ts when it comes to cruising and I'm sure you can find an abundance of resources, whether articles or videos, that give valuable tips. As for my part, I simply wanted to share how you could learn from my mistakes that might help you on your next (or first) cruise.

Some people are serial cruisers. Some people are simply not interested or perhaps got traumatized and would never do it again. I think it's worth experiencing at least once. The price was good. The food was good. Service was amazing and friendly. 

Would I do it again? Maybe. I'm not sure. I'm definitely not dying to do it again anytime soon, and if I did decide to go on another one, I definitely want to try a different cruise ship or line altogether. I think Carnival is suited for party-goers and people who love people and don't mind the noise. I'm just not built that way. And no matter how beautiful and serene the views can get, I still think my feet are meant for land.




Friday, June 22, 2018

Ephemeral




"Life is too short".

I was watching something on television when one of the characters blurted those words.

A friend of mine recently died. Though I feel like I need to write about him to fully confront what happened, I don't think I'm quite ready. All I can think about right now are exactly those words: Life is too short. It was definitely too short for him.

We often say those words to preface things we waste time on. Life is too short to waste on anger; to waste on negative people; to waste on a job we hate; to worry about things we can't control, and so on and so forth. The subtext of course is that we don't want to be reckless with the limited time we have and more importantly, that we feel we don't have enough of it. 

But what if for some, life is just not short enough? With all the recent celebrity suicides and even for my friend who died suffering from cancer, death just could not come sooner. For some, they've had enough and couldn't take any more of life and everything it had to offer them. Maybe life offered them too much of what they didn't want and too little of what could have saved them and made them want to breathe longer. 

None of us are immune to complaints and darker shades of thought. On our more enlightened, grateful days, it's easier to see that life is too short and we're able to focus on what enriches us. But I'm certain there are days when everything just feels too exhausting and a faint voice awakens, saying that the only respite lies in a final surrender. It's a push and pull, seesaw struggle, and it's not always so easy to push against the ground to hoist ourselves toward happiness and contentment. But what might help, and what helps me, is precisely the idea that everything is ephemeral. Not one moment, whether of joy or sorrow, defines our lives. Make friends with 'This too, shall pass', and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Believe that everyone else is still just figuring things out no matter how put together they may seem. 

Everyone is on that seesaw ride and you just need to remind yourself of what the child in you has always known...that the most fun part of that ride is the push you can muster every time you hit rock bottom.















Saturday, June 9, 2018

Beauty in Flow


We recently just got back from our Pacific Northwest vacation, hitting up Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Vancouver, Canada. One week was definitely not enough to explore this beautiful region. There were just far too many sights to visit and way too many good eats to reasonably cram in a week without going broke and suffering from indigestion. 

One of the most memorable sites we managed to visit was the Portland Japanese Garden. I love trees and bonsai, so I knew I would enjoy this place. We also had the most perfectly sunny yet cool weather the day we visited which made the whole experience even more delightful. The place wasn't crowded, it wasn't hot, there were no bugs flying around, and all this contributed to such a serene experience for me. 



My son was shocked to hear me say that I felt calm while we were at this garden. Yes, that's truly rare for me. To feel calm in a public place, while simultaneously feeling in awe of all the wonders that surrounded us. 

As I was walking around the garden, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful landscaping; how every greenery was intentionally planted yet still respecting the possibility of chaos that defines nature. I truly believe the internal calm I felt was a result of the palpable harmony that was everywhere in this paradise. 

Everywhere I looked, I did not find or feel 'resistance'. If there was an awkward slope, they worked with it and made it beautiful instead of flattening them or making them convenient. Trees stood where they stood not as an afterthought or to decorate bridges and pathways. These old creatures remained tall and magnificent while such bridges or pathways humbly weave in between wherever they were allowed. Where two trees had intertwined branches, a trellis was created to showcase the marriage of these graceful limbs. It was harmony everywhere and I knew my soul felt it. 

I felt refreshed, invigorated yet profoundly serene and I wanted to keep that state for as long as I could. Deep down, however, I knew that soon after stepping out of the garden, I would lose that feeling and would be left craving it. 







This desire to hold on to that inner space of peace led me to go back to my favorite definition of Peace, and how much the garden's landscape captured it so well:

"Whenever you deeply accept this moment as it is — no matter what form it takes — you are still, you are at peace." 

 Eckhart Tolle

I spend so much time of my daily life keeping things as neat as possible; expending countless amounts of energy trying to create order around me and within me, analyzing things, making sense of events, motives, the past, the present and making the future as predictable as possible. 

I resist. A LOT...though I have certainly improved in the area of acceptance as I've gotten older. 

There is much work to be done. But I thank Life for showing me that in those times when I did not resist, in those times when I accepted what was and just flowed with things beyond my control or sense of agency, I found harmony and order in the end. Putting aside hurt egos, broken aspirations, or unanswered questions, I'm still able to acknowledge that my life has been blessed and that I had been spared from even greater pain or a burden I would not have been able to survive. 

The path may be encumbered with stubborn roots, rocks and the path may be uneven at times. But if we keep on the journey with grace and flow with where life directs us (and it always does if we listen hard enough!), there is always peace. Beauty will be undeniable.