“…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
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” – Alice (from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll)
And just like that, July has arrived like a ninja, which means it’s also the middle of 2011 and the tail end of our not-really-summertime-summer-vacation. I’ve been working on wrapping my head around this fact for a week now and it seems to be working because it’s almost 3am and I am still tweaking something for work (read: for upcoming induction workshop in school. Very excited.).
Wow. Six months. Really?
It feels like just yesterday when I was deciding on my WFTY 2011. Focus. That’s my word for 2011. And so far, I think it has done me a lot of awesome; well, as much as a word can do someone good, in spite of her ADD anyway. I know I have some ways to go in the consistency department (hence, the need for the word) but I have managed to avoid all extreme anythingS since deciding that I would dodge drama at all costs. This is a good thing. Surrender though, has found a way to be a subword the last two months. Which brings me here, exactly where I need to be. Yup. I seem to have been focusing on surrendering to, well, whatever recently and it’s been great. Surrender traveling doesn’t allow for mediocrity and more recent experiences and a trip to a rainy Boracay, have been far from mundane.
Now, surrender here doesn’t mean giving up or quitting or throwing in the towel or raising some white flag, leaving you with a woebegone look and a deflated spirit. No. Surrender here means simple acceptance; a profound letting go of things that can’t be negotiated, manipulated, controlled or changed. It’s making the conscious decision to gladly take the path of least resistance because absolutely nothing cooler can come from resisting the inevitable. The inevitable unfolding of learning new things borne from living at the edge of the box I have been placed in; the one I have placed myself in. The slow walk away from what I thought I already knew has made surrender the riskiest thing I’ve done but also, the one of the best things I’ve done.
Experiencing India with a heart of surrender made my time there textured and gritty and unforgettable. It allowed me to enter a world different and the same from my own, with an open mind and a traveler’s heart hungry for more.
It allowed me to understand what S sees and loves about her maximum home. Why she looks at it with fondness, compassion and love.
Behind the lens, I was able to try and capture a city’s strength, vulnerability, part of its culture, a little of its history, some of its personality, quirks and dysfunction.
And really, what I did was I allowed myself to fall in love with a place I wasn’t sure I would have liked as a younger, more narrow-minded person. Smitten with everything I saw, ate, felt, heard, smelled and experienced every time I rode a rick (Haha. Like tricycle rides on crack), I felt grateful for an older, more grounded and more humbled version of me because otherwise, I might have missed it all — the people, the city’s pulse, the photographs, the point. Mumbai is not perfect, mind you, but what place is? And sure, I’ve allowed myself to romanticize a bit of it (read: like never mentioning that I forked over a lot of money for overweight charges (I had an extra suitcase with a lot of stuff) at the airport which made it seem like I shopped in NYC instead of Colaba but that’s just me being an amateur traveler. Fail.), but who cares. At the end of it all, after waiting for the “intricate maneuverings of the expert hand with a loom patiently stitching together a pattern for a silky Indian shawl” to be done, what I am left with is a work of art unique only to me; wrapped in my heart, unforgettable to my senses and lodged in my memory to be retrieved repeatedly, over and over again. Naku. Indian fever na ito.
Anyway, Rilke was right about not seeking the answers and just living everything instead. From embracing the questions to the unlearning and the melting away of the edges of the claustrophobic box I’ve carefully crafted to protect whatever I thought to be true, 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.“ Win. It was a month yesterday since coming home from my trip and the ‘distant day into the answer’ hit me while sitting in church, waiting for service to begin. I realized that surrender of this type has suited me well because at the core of it is gratitude. Gratitude towards the many opportunities to travel, learn, unlearn, to be wowed, to be moved, to be with friends in different parts of the world, to experience life in such a layered and lovely way. If the ultimate outcome of embracing the unknown promises more of this, well, I am determined to surrender as often as I can. 🙂
Which takes me from the beginning of my not-really-summertime-summer vacation to right now, near its end point. Sigh. Looking back, it seems I have a grabbed a number of other opportunities to just live by relinquishing all illusions of control. India apparently, does not have the monopoly of abandon. 🙂
Here are more random summer-of-surrender highlights.
From accepting that rainy Boracay is just as fun as its sunny version (read: the ironic arrival of the sun on our last day on the island), to crawling through EDSA traffic at the height of rush hour to make it in time for the Kylie Minogue Aphrodite Live in Manila concert (read: good friend, Y, got awesome tickets last minute, like literally he called me an hour before the show) to catching the Virgin Labfest 7 (six plays and a number of serendipitous snaps of the Harbor), it’s been a wonderful last few weeks because of surrender with a capital S. (Even if I, *sniff*, missed my parents’ 40th wedding vows renewal ceremony because it was so last minute and I was in India. Boo. Some snaps of our family lunch at Antonio’s Tagaytay post their ceremony are in the slideshow too.)
Speaking of productive alone time — Yay! I have increased my 50 book challenge 2011 list by a chunk. Also caught a slew of movies (including Tree of Life, Water for Elephants, and soon, Transformers), spent quality time with family and friends and worked bit by bit here and there to build up to a fresh start for the coming school year 2011-2012. I’d have to say it’s been a productive seven weeks especially since I’ve been able to mind map what’s next in terms of my career as well (I’m tenured! Woot!). Future posts on that, fo sho; on being tenured and the steps that need to be taken in the remaining months of 2011 towards the coming chapters of my life. 🙂
So, wow, thanks for everything, G. It’s been a great summer and first half of 2011. And you, thank you for passing by. 🙂 I do love your company. Make sure to come by again.
grateful slice: distant days, time, surrender and melting box edges