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.
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.
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 someone worth the time and energy 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can read my post on it here. One word – EPIC.
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:
Tell about it.
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.
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.
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 wise
R 39 year old and didn’t waste any more time than I needed to.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 NOURISH, which 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
“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
|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.
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.
|Part of the story now|
Check out the original post here.
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.
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…
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
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.
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
I am from a bigger backyard, a bigger house
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
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
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
the other wing setting me free…
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.
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
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
I am from wondering what it all means to
all of it making sense
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
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
from being in remission
and from being spared
for a reason
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
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.”
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
I am from my Kuya I was born to adore and
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
the conversations that wow me on
a daily basis
to collaboration, asking important questions
and reclaiming the power of storytellers
I am from always challenging myself as a teacher
and learner and from saying
I can still do so much more
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
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
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
Again, thanks for passing by. Appreciate it.
grateful slice: summer break, time, poetry and honouring where we are from
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!
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.
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.
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…
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
“…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.
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
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?
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]
It’s really interesting to watch a conversation grow. Especially when you take part in it midway; not at the very beginning or the tail end but right smack in the middle of the complicated, swirly marinade of people’s differing perspectives, questions, assertions, speculation, preconceived notions, hopes and dreams. It has been on the table for a while, the discourse on student blogging. From its value, relevance, usefulness and purpose, the idea of using blogging to learn has received varying responses, both encouraging and dismissive. Out there, die hard believers and skeptics alike roam the same pedagogical hallways, crossing paths as they agree to disagree.
Last Sept 11, UWCSEA had the opportunity to create a space for more people to engage in this exciting conversation mano a mano. With a panel of three made up of UWCSEA East’s Jabiz Raisdana, the renowned Clay Burell from Singapore American School and one of his History students, Hayden, a group of teachers, administrators, students and parents sat together in the Kishore Mahbubani Library at the UWCSEA East Campus and continued the conversation I feel lucky enough to have been part of.
The hour and a half long discussion was peppered with personal stories, insights, testimonies, admiration for the great work people are doing to push blogging to learn forward and profound responses to thought provoking, and challenging questions from the audience and #blog2learn tweets. Questions about privacy, purpose, value, authenticity, audience, safety, how and where to begin, assessment and systems were some of the few plaguing people’s minds.
In the end, here’s what most of us took away:
1. People’s blogging journeys usually begin with the pursuit of a “white rabbit.” It’s a kind of indirect mentoring that takes place organically. A younger Jabiz followed Clay for years before Jabiz learned to trust his own online voice. Clay acknowledged Jeff Utecht, who was also in the room that day, as his white rabbit. Many people there looked toward Jabiz and thought or tweeted that he was theirs. Well, you get the picture. A lot of people I follow now followed someone else through the rabbit hole and have felt the same admiration, vulnerability, motivation and inspiration. And yes, the ripples are multiplying. It’s an exciting leap of faith that has lead to amazing things happening.
2. Blogging is writing. And that means differently to different people. To Clay, it’s about rigor and preparing his students for university and the future. For Jabiz, it’s about giving his 15 year old self and other young people the space to feel safe to share what means a lot to them. Either way, it has been about a cultivation of voice, a discovering of self, and expression of ideas and creativity to an audience that’s out there. Victoria, a Gr 8 student from UWCSEA-East couldn’t have said it better in her student blog, “Recently I went to conference called “Blog to Learn”, where experienced bloggers would talk to people about how blogging could make education that much better. The conference was immensely interesting, and I felt that I gained a lot of knowledge about blogging. The most important message that I’ve gotten out of it was that to become a better blogger, you actually have to blog. This means, that you shouldn’t keep stalling or getting paranoid that somebody is a tremendously better blogger than you. Instead, you should be working to your upmost potential and possibly use that as motivation.”
3. Finally, the most amazing thing about blogging is the community building it enables. It doesn’t matter if it’s a class of 22 Grade 7 students reading a post on Sharks, a Middle School teacher in Singapore interested in the students’ blogs of a Robotics class in Bangkok, or a young blogger getting 27 comments from all over after posting this, the idea that people can authentically share, get immediate feedback, build relationships and cultivate conviction will keep that authentic conversation going. Discussions in the classroom will never be the same again. I believe when students find a way to carve a home in the online sphere, they expand and break down the four walls of any classroom.
What about you? What questions are you asking about blogging to learn? Where are you finding your answers? Please, feel free to join the conversation.
Blogging is like a giant piece of paper. Imagine. The paper goes on for as far as you can see in all directions, just a plain white sheet of paper. There is only tiny mark on it, right where you are standing. Your name.
In your hand, you realize that you’re holding a paint palette containing paints of every colour of the rainbow, thick and thin brushes, pens and crayons.Then you realize that this paper is yours. All yours. You can draw, paint, write, scribble, colour, decorate and splatter on your paper. You can rip it, stamp on it, stick it, flip it, tear it, poke it, cut it, and scrunch it up. You can get others to judge your paper, support you as you draw, and give you ideas. And the best part is that the paper will never ever run out.
When you look back after years of work on your paper, you realize how you drew what you loved, what you hated, what you wanted, what you felt, what you needed, what you had, where you were, what you were, when you were. You have made one beautiful piece of art that is unique and will always be unique. You have made yourself into art. Hazel, Gr 8I really enjoy the blogging part of english as I find it my best and most fun way for me to expresses how I feel and what’s going on in my life. I think that all English classes should set up blogs because its just a site. A site that turns in to something immensely amazing and beautiful. But the most important thing about thing about blogs is that it come in an empty space I think. It’s like a sand box. You can build, houses, castle, dungeons, pyramids. You build from your background knowledge, you build from your experiences and you build about yourself that’s why I love blogging. It’s your sand box, let the building begin and so will I! – Kaymin, Gr 7 I love blogging now. I am not even sure if it is related to english. But I am loving it. It is like a journal, where you can share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. It is a whole new world for me. I think that blogging is going to have a good future for me because later in my life, my teachers, my employers, my kids, will see this. – Dhruv, Gr 7 When I first found out that we were setting up blogs I cringed, I have had really bad experiences with blogging in the past but I realized that if you do it properly blogging isn’t all that bad. I have realized that you can share so many ideas whilst blogging. I have really found that it has helped with my writing, but really we have only scraped the surface of writing and the full extents of blogging. – George, Gr 8 With the introduction of blogs you’re allowed to go to the max and well show off your skills in English but still with some guidelines. With the ability to look at one another’s work you can inspire and share ideas of which could eventually finish the puzzle your work can be. From a good paragraph opener to a good finishing of a story or poem or any sort of English related work we do. As well as the ability of others to look at your work and you to look at others. I am not now just creating work of what seems useless to me besides gaining me a grade level at the end of the year and entertaining my teacher, instead I am creating something of which people around the world can view, family can view, teachers can view and class mates can view. – Blair, Gr 8
Keeping Things Whole
By Mark Strand
Mark Strand, “Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House, Inc. Source: Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)
Psssst. So, how have you been? Alls well, I hope.
Erm, I’ve been busy, I guess. Moving. Here are some snaps of what I’ve been up to.
Anyway, it’s a peaceful Saturday afternoon out here in muggy Singapore and life is pretty good. My new spaces are happy places and work is extremely fulfilling and inspiring. I have new friends who feel like old friends. And old friends I am seeing in a fresh light. I am at peace. My heart is intact and I have my students on my mind.
I know I have managed to neglect this space for awhile now and that’s fine. It happens. These seasons of silence. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been living a life of gratitude. It also doesn’t mean I haven’t been traversing the grid. If you’d like to see where I have been spending most of my time online, you can check it out here (Meta). It’s currently where I hang out these days. Especially since, a huge part of my classroom involves all of my students blogging themselves. Make sure you click on some of their sites in my classes’ bundles. A lot of great ideas are coming out of these young minds. I am extremely thrilled to be part of their writing journeys as they build communities, develop their voices, and hone their convictions.
Like I said, it’s been a great first few months away from home. I miss certain things about it but that’s a blog post for later. For now, I need to decide what to do with this old home of mine. I am thinking of revamping it, perhaps getting my own domain or something like that. I haven’t decided. It has served me well but just like my geographical move, I am seriously thinking of an online uprooting as well. Will you follow me to my new space if I move?
I hope you do.
grateful slice: old and new spaces
I am a collector and I hardly throw anything away. Not things, vintage clothing, pieces of paper with scribbles on them, memories, letters, pictures, feelings, associations and connections. I am a big believer of documentation, of writing everything down and have been accused of compulsive capturing. This sentimental side, the one that also houses the pack-rat gene, has been there ever since I could speak and then became more pronounced when I learned to write. At some point, this compulsion to take everything down and remember every single detail of what I see and experience, I attributed to being a writer. I figured I needed to remember it all, so I could always fill in spaces and gaps in whatever story, character, poem or essay I come up with. I thought all these things will eventually make it to my future ‘book’ somehow (on what, I still don’t know) so remembering meant material. There was comfort in knowing I could retrieve something, anything, from wherever I stored ‘stuff’ because it was torture to forget.
But today, I am thinking that it’s okay, sometimes, to put the camera down. To let go of the pen or the sticky keyboard and turn the computer off. It’s okay, sometimes, to document experiences and epiphanies in the little cracks of our consciousness instead of hurriedly and clumsily on the page. It’s also okay at times to wait for inspiration, for the best moment, for the mind blowing muse, the worthy snap, before spilling our guts onto a place where people will see them. There IS beauty in silence and power in observation and withholding. I honor that today.
It’s all good anyway because the silence is temporary and from whatever writing and documentation hiatus, the compulsive capturer always emerges with a new way of seeing; one that’s not so attached, harassed or desperate.
These past few weeks have been a blur. I tried, many times, to sit down and write but felt overwhelmed instead. So many things were happening all at the same time. I never knew where to begin. I didn’t know how to back track. How to recall and record.
So,I let it go. Because I realized not writing something down does not always mean I will forget.
Anyway, amidst the blur of loving gestures, emotional goodbyes, surprise parties and special meals with loved ones, packing and sorting through stuff I never threw away, I found myself agreeing to facilitate a summer writing workshop after a good friend and parent requested I do. People thought I was crazy to agree with everything I still needed to fix and arrange prior to moving. But I didn’t care. It felt like a gift, actually. A nice chance to be surrounded by Beacon kids. I thought it would be a wonderful way to ween and manage the separation anxiety.
True enough, this is where I find refuge these days. Twelve brave souls decided it was worth their time to spend eight two hour sessions with me and if they only knew what a treat it has been. To share and teach something I am passionate about. Without rubrics or TSCs or report card narratives. With nothing but the intention to get them started on their own writing journey. One I hope they will keep alive and nurture even after the eight sessions are over.
We are right smack in the middle of the workshop and so far, things are going well. Kids are excited. They are writing and writing and reading each others’ work. They are attempting interesting writing activities and have been blogging! I couldn’t be happier.
In light of encouraging the twelve to start their own blogs and write and share as often as they can, here is a poem I have been meaning to post for months but never had the guts to. I wrote it awhile back and showed it to one person (Joey Tandem aka Mr. Lapid) who helped me refine part of my controlling metaphor and one transition. I felt pleased once we “fixed” it but quietly placed the piece on my desktop thinking there would be a better time to share it.
I guess, now is that time.
Tell me what you think.
by Ms. P
It crawled inside her head
and lodged itself
in the deepest cavities
of her cerebral cortex.
She thought she was,
at this juncture,
impervious to the leech;
didn’t think it would
there it sat
sucking the might
of her confidence
slowly eating away
at her lobes,
without her knowledge.
Nothing prepared her
for the pain
when it dug
its jagged teeth
on the soft tissue
surrounding her decisions
the grey matter of
her insights and
It drank the life out of
everything she believed was
real and important.
Worn out and weary
she wondered why
she could not hold her
heart in her hand,
the usual indicator
that she was in a safe place;
where there were no hidden agendas
or predators lurking
in her subconscious.
Until of course,
alerted the little demon
hiding in her brain
that she finally,
It uncurled and
the little bastard
of her ear
moved on to her shoulder
on to her forearm
passed the tiny tiara
and sun tattoo
on her wrist
only to find its
way on her palm
until she could
close her fist
the little fiend
that tried to eat
a part of who she was
die, douche bag!
from the gaps
of her tight fist
the color return to her cheeks
as she unclenched
her pale yellow
And you? What’s your recent source of inspiration?
grateful slice: my summer writing workshop and my 12 young writers