nour·ish: (nûrsh, nr-)

I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything – other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion – that standing within this otherness – the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books – can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

~Mary Oliver

Hhhmm, I see a pattern here.  I really need to stop overanalyzing these posts before I even write them.  Ah, there you go. First goal for 2014. Don’t think, just write.

Because …

I have been thinking about this post for weeks. I’m not kidding. Weeks.  The different parts have been swirling in my head for some time now but I guess there were too many books to read, feelings to deal with, a mind to put to rest, people to see, gifts to buy, stories to hear, and an emotional corner to reach and turn before I could sit down and write.  I also think it has something to do with wanting to do things differently at the tail end of this year.  Because 2012’s last two ber months were a blur.  By the end of 2012, I could no longer remember where I ended and began and I felt like I didn’t have the time and/or had lost all inclination to reflect, to take stock of the year that went, to think about where I was, what I was grateful for, who I was quickly falling in love with. You know, things normal people do.  I mean I was really happy for so many reasons but I had also reached the dip of the expat cycle. The honeymoon stage was over and I didn’t know it.   When January 1, 2013  hit, I was unhinged, disorientated and wordless. I remember writing to my close friends in Singapore that first day of last year looking for a way to feel the ground underneath my feet.

I swore I would never do that to myself again.

I also remember, spending  the last hours of December 31, 2012 in the middle of Romanceville, polishing a piece I had been working on with my Grade 7 kids, desperately scribbling, typing, revising and editing this poem.   Anything to avoid the profound loneliness I felt just a few weeks into my new relationship.  As usual, my spirit was filled with impatience, restlessness and contradictions.  I thought I was in love. But I had doubts.  I thought I met a soulmate but some things didn’t add up.  I told myself over and over, I could make what we had right/work/last if I tried hard enough and ended with the thought, What?  Not here again? Damn it, Pau!  I thought I recognized him &  didn’t know until later that I had recognized someone else.  I swore I would never move or fall that fast again.  Even if my heart  healed a long time ago.  Even if he made me really happy for awhile.

Anyway, as much as I have been thinking, I have also been writing bits and pieces of this post for days. In different coffeehouses, park benches, airports and living rooms.  Wrote drafts and parts in a new Moleskine notebook I bought to serve as my writing journal for the coming year.  I really wanted to pay attention. Choose the right words.  And not share them until they were ready. Until my heart was ready.  Until I had my word for 2014.  Until I knew exactly what I thought of the year that came and went. I didn’t want to feel lost again when the new year arrived.   I watched the days of winter break pass me by as I read and rested, hung out with my family, and observed and took pictures instead of blogged.  Four books, pages and pages of redundant notes and drawings in my new notebook,  a sleepless week, decisions and a brain crammed with emotional stuff later, what I intended to be my last post of 2013, has turned into my first one for 2014.    I thought I was too late and then way too early, now I know this post arrived just in time. Here goes …

Before I officially welcome 2014, let me say a proper farewell to a year that wiggled its way into my heart.  Thank you, 2013 (and Haikudeck).  Here’s to you and the 13* things that have made you some kind of wonderful

(* implicitly includes God and my immediate family, of course #justsayin).  

Grateful heart

Grateful heart

13 things in 2013

13 things in 2013

It is about the bike

It is about the bike

I started biking to and from work for many reasons.  One was to make sure I was moving more and incorporating some kind of workout into my day without needing to carve extra time or creating more obstacles to not be more active. Another was I needed to change my morning routine. It reminded me too much of a time when I was really happy and because I didn’t have that routine anymore, it made me sad to carry on status quo.  So a girlfriend and I bought ourselves hybrids, practiced and figured out our routes to and from school, lugged a set of clothes, toiletries and groceries the Monday we were ready and started a new habit that we are still committed to today.  Biking has forced me to sleep earlier, travel lighter, eat and feel better, find more quiet time and leave school earlier.  It’s one decision we made in 2013 that has made a huge difference in my health, well-being and peace of mind.

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel

I love music but I am not like a crazy fan of anyone or any genre really. So many of my closest friends, including my brother, are like music aficionados, complete with blog post series on bands, concert tickets,  old CDs or albums and different playlists they searched for and listened to over and over again.  It defines milestones for them, says something about who they are and what they are going/been through and I love that and admire them for it.  But I don’t think I have that gene.  It’s like a relationship I only understand when I think of my love for books or photography or poetry. Or when I think of films and possible songs that will make up a soundtrack filling the air as the establishing shot begins.  Anyway, for many reasons, finding Spotify this year has been life giving. Playing music  all the time has changed my spaces.  My classroom, my home, my commutes and plane rides have all been  different.  I hardly listen to the old tunes in my iTunes library anymore (which I ripped from my brother, pretty much)  and am slowly developing my own muscle for music.  I love having access to different types of sounds and discovering what I actually like, what defines me and the best part, sharing playlists with favorite people.  I am still no music expert on any single band but I do love walking around with my headphones on curating different soundtracks for different scenes that actually happen to sh*t that’s just playing in my head.

Cities are not people but they have personalities - Neil Gaiman

Cities are not people but they have personalities – Neil Gaiman

It’s been a rich year for traveling, 2013  So I am grateful for that too.  I went home to Manila four times.  Went to Thailand  thrice, then Perth, Sibu and Cambodia for different student trips.  I also got to visit Kuala Lumpur and HongKong to be with close friends and  New York twice to spend time with my sister.  What I rediscovered this year is my love cities.  Everything about them makes me  swoon.  From the diversity, the lights, the culture, the pace and its pulse – I miss the ocean and the mountains but this year was a year for city love.

I heart Cities

I heart Cities

Word

Word

This little boy healed my heart

This little boy healed my heart

This actually deserves its own blog entry but in a nutshell, one of ultimate highlights of 2013 for me was anticipating the arrival of my sister’s first son, Caleb.  It was a treat to have been able to spend time with her during her third trimester in my favorite city on the planet, New York and  to be able to go  back and MEET and spend time with Caleb AND turn 40 in New York City was like the best birthday gift ever…because of this I will never forget you, 2013.

Life begins at 40

Life begins at 40

Which brings me here. This also deserves its own blog entry but right now this is what I have to say about leaving my thirties behind.

Yup.  This is what it looks like.  Me at 40.  Right here. Right now.  And guess what, it’s pretty darn awesome.  I know a little more…more of what really matters anyway.  I also understand that I still don’t really know much and yup, that’s totally okay. I am independent, fulfilled, free and hopeful. I love what I do everyday and am surrounded by amazing people. I live in a beautiful country not too far from my family and can rush to my sister in NYC if she ever needed me.  I do wonder what’s next but most days, I take it all in,  humbled by the open doors and enjoying the freedom that’s in front of me.   At 40, I’ve never felt more grown up but  I’ve also never felt so young and ready for anything. Does that make sense?  There’s so much out there to still learn and embrace and love;  and letting go?  That  becomes easier because I have also become wiser.

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories

Unprecedented Learning, unforgettable people, powerful stories

Slide11

You can read my post on it here.  One word – EPIC.

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

Thank you for being beautiful, Haikudeck

My love affair with images and words continues.  Music, art, photography, books and writing our own verses and entries- they always, always save the day.  Again, let me  use Mary Oliver’s words – because this is what photography and words help me do.

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

You are what you wear

You are what you wear

I wish Singapore had autumn

I wish Singapore had autumn

Don’t laugh. I know. I should have put something more profound um, but I didn’t and I won’t apologize for it today. Because I love that fashion is like art too in many ways.  I know it’s a problematic industry and looks like it shouldn’t be celebrated any more than it needs to be but it feels good sometimes to put something together and let it say something about design and style.

You know who you are

You know who you are

Anyway, I think 2013 would have been treacherous without the love and company of my girlfriends, both old and new.  They have become my family away from my family.

Seriously, you know who you are.

From saving me from myself to catching me when I fall to trusting me with your own secrets, joys and pain, I love you all. Thank you for always being there.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Seriously, I am grateful for this too.

Heartbreak is only hard while it’s happening, I guess.  In the end, because you survive it and come out stronger, it’s all good.  You learn from the crappy bits, remember the good stuff, feel grateful and forgive (and hopefully feel forgiven) and just want what’s healthiest for you and your old partner.  All the rest, you get to just throw away because it doesn’t serve you.  That’s what I did, anyway.

Best part is, I don’t regret, not even  for a minute, putting myself out there with my hopeful heart on my tattooed sleeve. I don’t regret loving fiercely and trusting completely. Can I protect my heart better, sure. But I also know that  I have learned to leave  when I know it  no longer feels right for me.  I didn’t settle or  hang around like I was 23 or 28 or 35.  I left like a wiseR 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.

Note to Self

Note to Self

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are.  Thank you.

I heart my tribe/s. You know who you are. Thank you.

Ah, I guess, I already have three other posts on the back burner because this too deserves its own entry.  Ideologically and literally, embracing the sadness is really so much better when you have a tribe to do it with.  Sadness comes in different ways, at different times and to carve time today to talk about it and say, ‘I love and accept you whether I get it or not’, has been priceless. Who says you can’t make new real friends as you grow older? It’s just not true.  So to my old Twitter/now new IRL friends who I love, respect and admire to pieces, thank you for making 2013 special.  You know who you are.

I didn't deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

I didn’t deserve it but you gave it to me. Thank you.

Did I say three extra blog posts?  I actually meant four. I wish I could say more about this but I think I will be composing this particular post for awhile. Let’s just say that in the end, 2013’s finish line has been  all  about this. Receiving and accepting it actually more than my extending it.  I take none of it for granted.  I am still humbled by it today.  Thank you.

Hope keeps us alive

Hope keeps us alive

Lastly, my second year at UWCSEA-East is coming to a close and my gosh all the learning can’t measure up against  a trip around the world and back. Twice!  Everyday, I continue to learn something new, consolidating ideas and collaborating with some of the most inspiring, open minded educators on the planet.   I am happy to say that I have signed on for two more years and feel like there is no place I’d rather be except where I am right now in my career.  My heart is full of love for my place of work, this UWCSEA and Singapore family and I am grateful everyday for all the open doors.

And for all the second chances, 2013…thank you.

Welcome 2014

Welcome 2014

Here’s  a little something from Google Zeitgeist, 2013 to end this farewell…

And to the new year, a poem, ‘To the New  Year’ by WS Merwin.  Nice to meet you, 2014. I love you already.

Welcome, 2014!

Welcome, 2014!

To the New Year

With what stillness at last

you appear in the valley

your first sunlight reaching down

to touch the tips of a few

high leaves that do not stir

as though they had not noticed

and did not know you at all

then the voice of a dove calls

from far away in itself

to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible

Anyway, my word for 2013 was love but now that I think  (and have written) about it, should have been rediscovery which would have been a nice segue from my 2012 word  for that year … which was discovery.   Not that it wasn’t at all about love because it always is, right?

My word for this year is NOURISHwhich includes rest, save, balance,  read, write and paying attention to what needs replenishment and love.  I want to sustain what’s already positive and life-giving while allowing other parts of this amazing life to grow.  I also want to be more giving and be more generous to others so my relationships and people around me are nourished too.  Because I’m convinced that nourishing others will most definitely nourish my soul.

I have been working on a  a set of goals/plans  and projects that I have outlined in my Moleskine journal and  when it’s ready, I will share it.   Just needs to percolate a little bit more.  But this recent article on HuffPost Books is the basic framework for most of my plans this 2014 with a special mention of my friend’s New York Times article, Chris H, which inspired me to no end.  I hope to someday write with the same heart and conviction but with my voice.  Thank you, Chris.

One thing  I did start the year with is a Facebook/Instagram fast. People who know me well will know exactly why (and think it’s silly because they completely understand and accept my documenter gene).  If not, my #embracethesadness tribe and I will surely have a lengthy conversation about it.   I love Instagram but I need some time away from it to discern what’s next with that space. It might change after this fast or it might stay the same but I want to take a step back and reflect on what it has become and what it can be more of.  As for fasting from Facebook – it’s just detox from an addiction that needs to be curbed.  I am a social media cliche, I know.  A  post on how it’s going or how it went coming soon.  In the meantime, I hope to breathe life into this space and this one too.

So, what’s your word for the year?  How do you plan to live 2014 by it? and what was the first thing you did today to mark a new beginning? Drop me a line below to let me know.

And with that, thanks so much for passing by and reaching  the end of my massive post.  I really appreciate it.  Happy New Year!  :)

grateful slice:  Yearly roundups, reflections and new beginnings

Learning 2.013 State of Mind: A CrossPost

“The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.” 

- Steve Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From:  The Natural History of Innovation

How to begin…and where? Um, I’ve been trying to write this post for days now and I can’t seem to get it off the ground. It keeps on wanting to turn into something else. From something straightforward like a list of things I don’t want to forget to something existential or ideological to a How to or like a Ten Things I learned piece to OMG, here’s evidence of my acute conference-worship. (Hi, I’m Paula and I believe in stories.)  Granted, I am jet lagged. Oh and distracted by New York City, my new nephew and just having free time with no agenda, no mini-lessons to plan or L2Talk to think of.   It does feel very weird not to be so busy. Did I mention I am in New York City in the fall?   Hanging out on Twitter has been great though. It’s been neat watching my colleagues eloquently articulate what they have learned through/by ‘Making Change’.  Sigh. Mired in my writer’s block, I admired them from afar and have been retweeting their musings all by the bleachers.
Bullet points
MoonShot Thinking 
Learning Spaces 
A Friday Moonshot

Giving it another shot now four days in, I realise that I just needed to rest, spend time with my nephew and gain some distance from this recent peak experience that has been Learning 2.013 held at our school in Singapore. I needed to let the gushing subside so I can be sober in writing about the things I’d learned sans the melodrama.  I mean, when something catches you off guard, touches your life in a very deep way, leaves you different and overwhelmed with gratitude (there must be a word for that, if not I need to invent one) – that deserves some space and time. To let things sink in, right?   So, yeah.  

 Anyway, maybe, I should start here – Oct, 2012 in Beijing.  Because that’s really where this journey began.
Learning 2.0 2012, WAB, Beijing China
A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to attend my very first Learning 2 Conference AND present a workshop AND see Beijing for the first time.  It was pretty epic. From very special reunions, intense learning, the luge at the Great Wall with good friends, an opportunity to meet new people and present my passion for discussion-based learning, it was definitely one  of the highlights of my first year at UWCSEA.  I learned a lot presenting for 45 minutes to 27 people. I realised that giving a workshop at Learning 2.0 is very different from doing a regional or in-school workshop for the IB. As much as I love giving MYP workshops, there was something about having complete freedom over content and delivery.  Even if I owe a lot of what I value as an educator to the IB MYP’s tenets , I felt challenged and fulfilled sharing pedagogy that aligned with best practice (which also includes the MYP), in general. Absolute autonomy over a workshop’s structure and flow taught me a great deal even if it freaked me out a little bit.  
Which brings me to today and this year’s Learning 2.0.  
Learning 2.013 Love
All these realisations became more important after needing to prepare two 3-hour extended sessions and a 5-minute keynote. I thought about what I wanted to do for months and took two weeks, a weekend with Nicki H and an hour with other amazing L2 Leaders to tighten the nuts and bolts (this is where you can find some of the resources I used to prepare). I applied what I learned from last year, like not talking too much and making sure I covered both learning spaces (physical and virtual) so that it could address as many of my participants’ queries as possible with the time allotted.  I knew there were going to be participants this year who’d ask about conversations in the classroom full stop or conversations online full stop and of course, those who might ask about the blend of both.   In the end, the sessions went well and from there we were able to produce this, our session’s own blog –  Learning 2.013 Conversations  and these …
Pretty cool, right?  I am pretty pleased with how it all turned out. Everyone had a chance to traverse a virtual space with ease and engage in an authentic conversation in the classroom whether they were observing/assessing the discussion or active at the table.   Hopefully, we were able to experience how both spaces collide because 
Okay, so let me end this mammoth blog post with my five Learning 2.013 take aways:  First, I need to trust myself and be fearless.  I will never forget what Jeff P told me as I walked off the stage during one of the last practice sessions of our Learning2 Talks. He said something along these lines…”That was great but why did you look so scared? Why were you hesitant/tentative?  You need to be fearless, Paula. You need to believe you belong here.” I was a little weepy after that and wasn’t sure what I was feeling but it struck a chord in my soul. That night, as I stood in front of a main hall full of impassioned educators,  I still felt scared of screwing up as I got up there.  But there was this calm and conviction in my voice.  I will never forget the silence and the faces of people the light bounced off of as I took my time saying what was in my heart.   Second, the L2Talk  ruled my life for awhile and that’s okay because it meant so much.  Corollary to that:  If you are lucky enough to be given an opportunity to push yourself to do a keynote in front of 450 people, make sure you get Jabiz and Kim to help you make it the best it can be.  And not having my notes when I practiced helped a lot no matter how uncomfortable it was. Letting go of the crutch sooner helped me jump off the cliff, hit the ice cold water face first, which then forced me to thrash around, then dog paddle, then do the breast stroke instead of well, drown.  The playlist of all the talks lives here. None of them are the same but there are veins that intersect and merge when it comes to their core ideas. They were all inspiring to watch and interesting to follow in their evolution from practice to final iteration.  

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/YTyhi8zWMK/ink-on-celebrating-our-stories-30

Third, I am glad I paid attention. Said thank you as often as I could. Took it all in no matter how surreal.  Sitting with some of the best, most innovative, progressive minds in education has been a real treat.  I didn’t take a moment of it for granted.  I remember entering the Think Tank in the library the day before the pre-conference feeling giddy and excited but I had NO idea how amazing it would feel being in that room,  listening to everyone share, collaborate, create and critique.  I feel honoured to be part of this amazing community.  Really.  I must have done something right to have earned this privilege to commune with the Learning 2.0 family. 

Post Conference Meet Up

Fourth, trust begets trust.  More than the resources on a page on my blog, the questions my participants asked and  the wealth of knowledge, experience and insight they brought with them needed to have many opportunities to emerge.  I really believe that empowering teachers and letting them see what already exists within them to make something work is more powerful than just presenting pedagogy.     Also,  all hell broke loose with the internet connection during my first session yet everyone took it all in stride, was totally chill and rose to the occasion. After feeling a little panicked at the situation and looking at how I was the most frustrated person in the room, I made a quick decision to just let it go and trust that WE would make it work. I realised very quickly that I wasn’t in it, alone in that room.  I let the trust instead of the panic dictate how the session was going to go and that made all the difference.    Because man, the degree of commitment, passion and integrity was awe inspiring and again, I felt lucky to have had an opportunity to share something I am passionate about and to be in a room filled with people who wanted the same thing — to talk about how we can make our learning spaces more vibrant, engaging, dynamic and authentic for our students.  The conversations saved the day regardless of the technology and at the heart of the success of the workshops were the participants.    

 

Second Session FTW!

Finally,  freaked out by it all?  Share anyway.  You never know who will be moved by something you’ve shared.  Even if it sounds silly or useless or obvious to you, bite the bullet and just share because … watch this.  

Obvious to you. Amazing to others. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.

I was humbled by the number of kind people who came up to me during the conference– to say thank you for something I said in a session or the L2Talk or mention something that resonated with them during a conversation.  It taught me to listen and it also taught me to continue to believe in my story – inside and outside the classroom.   So many teachers during my session expressed their reluctance to blog or share their ideas with their own teaching & learning communities (which is what our students go through as well) and my hope is that I was able to inspire or encourage some of them to take the first step. Because really, that’s all it takes.  :)  Well, here we are at the end. Appreciate your stopping by, staying and reaching this point.  I feel the seismic love, man.  So, to say thanks let me end with this.  A tribute to students’ autonomy, spring and poetry. 
THE HAND   by Mary Ruefle
The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom 
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that 
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie 
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.   
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers and spring is in the air.
Part of the story now

Check out the original post here.

Momentum

Right. It’s been awhile, I know. :p  Boo on so many levels.

But I’ve been busy.  Busy with my heart. Busy getting back on track. Busy forgiving. Busy paying attention. Busy planning, moving, settling in, teaching, learning, loving and learning some more.  Busy letting go.  Busy accepting.  Busy making up for lost time.  Busy resting. Busy recalibrating.  Bust traveling. Oh and busy with images.  

Yup.  Been busy living.  

There’s more to it too, of course.

The silence.  

Part choice, part involuntary mutism – there’s always more to it than just the silence of someone’s soul.  Um, because it’s never really quiet in there. The total opposite actually.  And until some of the wires untangle, and not until breathing resumes to normal,  attempting to write about whatever sometimes, especially when nothing is pouring out, becomes counter productive.  

Sure, I have been documenting what I’ve been grateful for these past months. Sharing snaps and slices with people I love in my other online spaces. Traveling has made that easy. There’s something about visiting old friends in a new place (Jower in KL) and visiting old places with fresh eyes (Manila and New York City) that allow for this combustion of inspiration. Everything I see right now, I want to shoot and share. So, yeah,  I thank G everyday for photography and communities who appreciate photography. 

But writing, boy do I miss you.  There’s nothing like you and the way you enable/force us to articulate what we are thinking, feeling, learning one word after the other. I have missed you, old friend. I have been cheating on you with my new love, photography and I’m really sorry for neglecting you.  Please forgive me because here I am. Mid year. Mid July. Mid summer break.  In my favorite city on the planet, doing many of my favorite things with a lot of great people sometimes;  alone most days.  Am overwhelmed with gratitude and joy right now and I’d like to honor where I am standing right now with this momentum post and an old poem.

A brief background and an extended explanation:

I wrote this poem for and with my students (and co teacher) last school year.  I write a version each year I teach poetry actually, so there are many versions swimming around on different pieces of scratch paper, several inboxes, maybe three to four Moleskine notebooks and Pages documents.  I’ve read older versions aloud to my class before but I’ve never blogged any of the pieces.  This is the first one I’ve shared beyond the classroom.  The original post written for my kids lives here.   There’s also this writing and photography course I am taking this summer with 89 other women all over the world, who are strangers right now but hopefully won’t be for long, and I wanted to share this post with them.  We are on our second week with already two sets of photo and writing exercises.  This where I’m from poem (inspired by George Ella Lyon’s version) reminded me of the first writing exercise we had to do – stepping stones to unravel where we have been, which may also reveal where we are headed.   Here goes…

Where I’m From

39

by Ms. Pau

I am from an old house on 21 Lilac St.

from rooms with stories, secrets

and slippers in my father’s hands

occasionally hitting the exposed

surfaces of my little body.

I am from extending stolen tearful

 glances at my mother who

didn’t know what to do.

Making that first note to self:

never cry where your young

angry father

could sense you.

I am from the stone balcony that looked out

at the dusty street

and our big black steel gate

where I watched my

Yaya Shirley leave unexpectedly

after she was almost stabbed

by our other evil helper.

The road ahead

I am from abandonment that I

got to know too intimately at a very young age,

from the expectation to be

strong, silent and sure, which

meant I was being a good girl because

I understood why,

because I didn’t cry.

I am from thinking that moving houses

was never supposed

to be traumatic.

Haunting images of my parents,

partners and friends

leaving me again and again and again

from Sunday tears erupting from my core

for no good reason except the thought

of another goodbye

even years later

as a grown woman

an older me

I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house

 a bigger gated subdivision that left

an even bigger gaping hole in my heart.

I am from this place where I learned to say the words

“I love you” second and not first;

“I am sorry” first and never second.

I am from Alabang Golf and Country Club,

holding hands, bad poetry read to young crushes

who thought they had found their true love

Big words and alliterative phrases

clumsily strewn together for loved ones I vowed

I would never forget

never wanted to forget

to forget me

reflection

I am from betrayal, deep sadness

and harsh secrets learned too early;

from an awkwardness in my own skin

I clung to, not knowing how else to be

from fighting for a self that he, she, and

everyone I knew thought was perfect

except my-self

I am from everything they said I couldn’t be

I am from one day realizing I had wrapped

myself voluntarily in a cocoon, so difficult

to escape and wiggle out of

feeling like I deserved to hide there, and

to prove me right I had to

break my heart

over and over and over

But I am also from the paper thin wing that

made the first finest tear

the path to redemption and forgiveness

began with

the other wing setting me free…

butterfy bound

I am from books that adorn my walls

fortified from anyone who thought I was

illiterate and not critical enough

Yes, from a thousand books

I can’t live without today

A thousand friends who have

kept me company, have helped

me escape, who constantly remind me

all to well about my own humanity.

my books live here

I am from a hundred films, movies

and pirated DVDs; characters like

Tyler Durden, Mr. Keating, and

Lara Croft, I wish

I were instead of me sometimes.

Their happy endings, misadventures

and worlds combined

leave me envious and confined

As I gaze vacantly at the laundry

spinning round and round

I am from the quest for kindness

gratitude and turning the corner

 but still not having a clue

from women’s rights and claiming feminist

and not believing in God for awhile

because according to my Masters Degree

 that made me look weak

I am from all of it boiling down to that angry little girl

who wasn’t allowed to speak

or make an appearance

All she wanted was to be heard and be herself

I call her Olivia

Aaahhh. Don’t eat me.

 I am from writing and writing and writing

during nights desperate for answers

and from days like this, where I am writing

and writing still

I am from many complicated,

complex and convoluted corners

that don’t remember everything

like I thought I did

Yellow

I am from wondering what it all means to

all of it making sense

sometimes

I am from seeing the world behind a lens

and through my pen and lined journals

from finding solace

in the sound of the pounding of keys

I am from these eternal lines and shared images

from these two always, always saving the day

loves

I am from malignant tumors

that peppered my neck and upper chest

from cancer that came out of nowhere

but taught me the most important lessons

in life

from being in remission

and from being spared

for a reason

Survivor

I am from my body image, the final frontier

 that is the total contradiction of who I am now

fissures from an old script

of a self worth defined by a society screaming

I need to be stick thin to be beautiful

tiny cracks in my psyche that need

to be filled

healed and sealed

Self acceptance

I am from metamorphosis that only happened

when I stopped trying

from being transformed by

gratitude and a love that overflows

from the ultimate well spring of life

I am from my Creator

who reminds me that I am

wretched and yet

still the best thing that’s ever

happened to Him.

I am from a God who says

I made you for a reason and has

a son who helped me understand

the words, ‘I forgive you.”

Redemption

I am from the earth and the sea and my

sun kissed skin

from beneath the shallow surface

of the ocean, watching dugongs

swim away as I listen to my heavy breathing

and celebrating a heart that’s so full

it could burst at any moment

Ennui

Hope

Constant

I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and

 a mother and a younger sister I learned to love

and a father, now older, less angry, my biggest ally

These pieces make me who I am

the best bits that make the most sense

most of the time

the very basic

definition of where I belong begins

with Mon and Maqui, Eddie and Rae

Family Gold

Baby sister

I am from my classroom

the conversations that wow me on

a daily basis

to collaboration, asking important questions

and reclaiming the power of storytellers

and storytelling

I am from always challenging myself as a teacher

and learner and from saying

I can still do so much more

Special beginnings

My classroom today

I am from spaces that we create to build a new life

three hours away from where I was born

From missing the sound of the clipping carabiner

to finding peace on the mat

I am from the inked narratives on my skin

that remind me that the pain, it always ends.

I am from love lost, love found

love that I have recently discovered

who recognized me back

as his long lost friend,

match, partner and soulmate

a challenging handful he can’t quit

We are from the shark always being included

in this disastrous adventure 

we have begun

together

Here goes…

Here we go

The big move

I am from my mistakes and

my redemption and transformation

that has already begun.

I am from where I am headed,

where goodbyes become easier

and where everyday there are

warm hellos.

I am from today, still alive

more than okay

the best I’ve ever felt

in 39 years

I wouldn’t recognize ennui

if it sat in front of me to have tea

I am from

looking out my balcony

writing these verses for the most important

people in my life right now

finally coming home to a huge party

where everyone is invited

Happy

Again, thanks for passing by.  Appreciate it.

grateful slice: summer break, time, poetry and honouring where we are from

Day 1: Be the guardian of your own solitude

I tell you that I have a long way to go before I am—where one begins….

You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Resolve to be always beginning—to be a beginner!

-Rilke

Reusing Rilke.  His words always seem to resonate with me. Just can’t get enough of using his letters to a young poet.  The last time I used his words concerning being patient with things unsolved in my heart was when I was mind blown by India and being overstimulated in Mumbai.  A maximum city can do that.  Who knew a broken heart would send his words tumbling down the rabbit hole on to the plaster that would bandage the cracks of the organ I didn’t guard.

Eep

Eep

I know it will take time to mourn and heal, and today is Day 1 even if it really isn’t.  I bike to  and from school these days to change my morning routine.  Twenty more days to break an old habit and start a brand new one.  Recovery is expensive and is a pain in the butt.

Rehab. It's not about the bike

Rehab. It’s not about the bike

I am looking forward to my future self  thanking  me for doing this.  That’s the next step. Right now, my present self is really sorry. Sorry to my cracked and beaten heart.

Anyway, two things made me smile today though, Bishop’s villanelle and a song Yason sent me “Since I Left You” by The Avalanches.   Here they are and here goes…

One Art

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

 

 

Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” from The Complete Poems 1926-1979. Copyright © 1979, 1983 by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.
Source: The Complete Poems 1926-1979 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983)

grateful slice:  making a hard decision and sticking to it

12 things I am grateful for today

“…please, ask yourself whether these large sadnesses haven’t rather gone right through you. Perhaps many things inside you have been transformed; perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad. So you mustn’t be frightened if a sadness rises in front of you, larger than any you have ever seen; if an anxiety, like light and cloud-shadows, moves over your hands and over everything you do. You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Yup.  It’s official.  I have the blues.  And as much as I like blue, I do not like feeling it.  Sometimes, it is okay (read: Rilke’s lines to a young poet).  To ride the sadness and embrace the empty – it can be fodder for our art, teachers of empathy, allow us to honor what makes us vulnerable and lonely –  but misery is also overrated and once the spiraling begins, what started as a shallow hole  you can easily step out of, can deepen into a dark, abandoned well with stagnant water and fetid aromas.  Sitting there awhile allows you to remember never wanting to end up there unnecessarily again and after wondering how you got there in the first place, the clamor to get out claws at your soul.   How did I get here?  Well, I’ve been thinking too deeply. Feeling too much. Overanalyzing to a degree that no longer feels healthy to me. Taking myself, my thoughts, my emotions way too seriously.  Focusing too much on what is making me unhappy rather than gazing at what makes my life grand.  Because it is a grand life.  I seem to have lost my bearings about this and want my compass back.  So yeah. I need to get out of here. And quick. Because  I don’t want to get used to feeling wet, cold and in the dark any longer.  I don’t want to get comfortable in this despair.  I don’t want it to define me.   I want to stop asking why? for now and just emerge from this familiar sorrow and back into the light.  I have to pull myself out of this weird funk.  I’ve done it before. I can do it again. Today.  I’m feeling a little better already.

What usually works for someone like me  is to write and pray.  I don’t really see the two as separate anymore. Most of the time, when I am writing and pouring my heart out, I am also reaching out to G.  Surrendering what is inside me and asking for some assistance.  There’s the difference between scratching the walls until my nails bleed climbing and eventually crawling out of the well, to asking for and receiving help with the pulley. The former relying on my own feeble strength; the latter, a ticket to a less painful, more graceful exit.  On my own, I reach the light wet, angry and exhausted.  With G, I emerge with more peace, less struggle and a fluffy towel waiting for me.

So yes, today, I write and pray with my heart on my sleeve.  I don’t want to feel sad anymore.  I don’t want to feel bad anymore.  I don’t want to be in the well any longer.  I want to bask in the light that sits on my skin, warm and life giving.   To do that, I refuse to focus on what’s making my heart ill.  Instead, I want to remember and lean on what makes it full. So here goes…12 things I am extremely grateful for today, in no particular order.

Grateful girl

Grateful girl

1. God who is faithful, unchanging and a fulfiller of promises.

2. I am alive and healthy and have the ability to show love, choose my own perspectives, share ideas and live with freedom.

3.  My family is safe, intact, happy and complete.

4.  I have a dream job that I worked hard for and deserve.  I collaborate with inspired, interesting, intense, hard working people who believe in me and who teach me something everyday.  I am surrounded by kids who push me to teach, learn, do and be better.  I earn enough to be able to save, travel, enjoy life’s little pleasures without worrying about it too much.  I am financially independent, living on my own and fully capable of making a home that’s lovely to retreat to everyday.

5.  I am surrounded by amazing people who offer  consistent love and support.  Friends who accept me and who allow me to show love back.  Friends who tell the truth, who will defend, who will protect and share what makes them happy and what makes them scared.  Friends who listen, who will sit me when I am sad but also not enable destructive behavior.  Friends who show up. Friends who I can count on and who I trust can count on me too.

6. I have a fundamental trust in the world, people, the future and God.  I know things happen for a reason and that eventually, everything works out for the best.

7.   Even if it feels elusive right now, I know I have had joy in huge doses, in inexplicable levels and will have it again. I am grateful today for knowing and being intimate with joy and it’s just a matter of time and perspective that we will be one again.

8.  Words upon beautiful words stacked against each other to create and negotiate meaning, give comfort, keep us company, enlighten, humble  and leave us thinking, longing, wanting more.  I am grateful for books today.

9.  Images that speak to me and allow me to share my worldview in a simple but powerful way.   Photography always saves the day.  Thank you, nikon, iPhone5, instagram and Flickr.

10. Even if it hurts sometimes, I am grateful for truth and honesty and facing everything that makes our world great and broken.

11. From art, to music, to nature, to material things that make us stop for a minute and appreciate details, design and composition, to the mundane and everyday, beauty is everywhere. I honor and celebrate  it today.

12. Finally, I am grateful for love, the shark included. That it has found me. That I have found it.  That I am learning. That it pushes me to want to be better. To always be the best version of myself.

I know this is just the beginning.  That the funk I allowed to fester will take awhile to slink away , shrink and disappear but this is a good start.  I want my heart of gratitude and love back.  I miss it.

I miss me.

 

 “Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

grateful slice:  deciding to be happy

I remember you

Ah, there you are.

I remember you.

I see you.  Past your swollen, bloodshot eyes and your despair, I see you.  Where have you been hiding?  Wait. Let me guess. Under a pile of papers well, in this case, google documents, am I right?  I knew it.  Come, sit and write with me for awhile.  It’s been a long time coming, this post. I agree the rain is not helping.  But welcome back. You look like hell but I know you are glad to feel your limbs, your face, your fingers typing again.  It’s been too long.  So tell me, what’s up? How have you been?

Displaced

Displaced

I see.

You feel displaced, misplaced, and out of sorts, like a bathtub in the middle of an arabica farm. Hhhmm…how in the world did you end up here, like this?  Spent. Barely breathing. Lost. Repentant.

I have an idea…

This happens when you’re not paying attention. When you work too much. When you tunnel vision and ignore the best parts of you, the people you love, the people who love you, those who matter most, things that make you happy and whole.  When you don’t listen to the throbbing on your right temple, which makes you unkind. The exact same one you now have from weeping all day.  The throbbing that tells you stop. Tells you take a break.  Look around. To see who you are loving? Hurting? Neglecting? Nurturing? Whose hand do you have to/need to hold right then and there?  Even in the dark, it’s good to reach for it. To let him know, you are still there. And there for him.  Completely.  Even if it’s lifeless from the waiting and the frustration. Hold it. Hold it tight and don’t let go.  Because it’s the most important thing to you.  It’s the hand you were born to hold. It’s his hand that you were built for. Have been waiting patiently, expectantly for.  Don’t let go. If you’re lucky enough that it ever reaches for you again, don’t ever let it go.

It also happens when you don’t take pictures with your big camera, or pick up a pen or write a post about what you’re grateful for.  When you stay in the city too long. When you don’t commune with the ocean.  When you are not creating.  When  you don’t talk to family. The worst of it is when you can hear what he is saying but you don’t listen to the aching of his heart.  When all he wanted was love and all you could see was the hazy mist of your fatigue. The same fatigue that has put your relationship in the ringer.  The same one that beat the life out of  you and the most important thing to you. The exhaustion that’s been recently lifted leaving you with a desperate prayer and a remorseful heart.  Hurtful words  have escaped the darkest recesses of everything that makes you  broken and flawed, spoiled and selfish. And now you’re sorry. You yell this to the air in the silence of your apartment.  And the universe and  your neighbors now know just how sorry you are. You weep. Loudly. You did this to yourself, you know that right?  And now you are a bathtub in the middle of a coffee farm. Alone.

Then there are the old scripts.   It’s when you fall into old scripts that don’t serve you. That don’t belong to you anymore. That don’t define you. But you default into those spaces because they are familiar, which  in the end act as some sort of defibrillator that wakes you back up into this new reality.

CLEAR. thathumpthathump  your heart is beating again. Thumping evenly to the beat of this remembering.  Of a now that you can embrace because you are still alive.

This authentic now that you honor with instagram shots everyday because your heart is bursting with gratitude and joy.  This real life that tells  you every single moment that you don’t fit into that old mold anymore. That you’re new. That the you that you have fought hard for, prayed for, the part of you where you can offer something good, life giving, loving to everything and everyone, exists. The you you have to stop abandoning. Forgetting. The best you that can only come from a space of love and honesty and acceptance. The you that’s anchored by something bigger and greater than yourself.  Which has brought us here. Already a special space that you momentarily forgot you already had. Still have.  The one he recognized. The one He made.  The one you deserve. The one you and I remember today.

So yeah, I remember you.

Glad to have you back.  Even if you look like shit and feel like hell.

So what are you waiting for?  Go get your ice pack.  Place it on your tired eyes. The swelling will subside.  Your heart will heal as you learn from this. As you suck it up. As you grow up. You’ll learn to forgive yourself.  You’ll learn to be better.  You’ll  know how to love stronger, fiercer. You’ll keep praying because you know you can’t do this alone.  And we both know that, love and writing always save the day.

And your kids.  Don’t forget the 128 kids who need you to be solid and strong.

And his heart…listen to his heart as you place it next to yours.  Don’t ever lose sight of its beating again.

grateful slice:  remembering

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)