Tagged: Gratitude

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 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).  

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



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


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

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

Embracing your demons is knowing they don’t define you

Overanalysis Paralysis : It is hard to be me sometimes.

There were times, without knowing how she got there, she would find herself back in the damp and dangerous darkness, alone.  It was a familiar place, filled with dread and despair and the moment she took a whiff of the stench she used to know well, it hit her. No wonder nothing brought her joy, she thought. No wonder her smile felt heavy and fake. No wonder she felt like each step she took was like slogging through miles of thigh-high mud.  She realized that her heart was cloaked by the very same things that once made the tumors in her body grow malignant. How long has it been?  There was no more time to waste.  She knew she had to run back to where there was light.

The old script didn't work

She used to handle it differently, of course.  Before, when she understood less and was confronted with the inevitable and unbearable, she would deny, resist, fight what made her sad, scared and insecure, what made her hate herself, thinking it was the way to smother her demons. In the end, the dreaded beasts would multiply and torch what was left of her with their fiery breath.  It took years to painstakingly pick out from the embers, the little that was left of her flesh and bones; part of the slow process of putting back the pieces to arrive at a recognizable self.

This time though, the moment she was aware she was spiraling down the darker chambers of her heart, she knew better.  She understood that avoidance and escape would only bring searing pain.  And projection and denial would bring her sure death. So, she put her trust in what she now believed in and just embraced it. All.  She embraced the things that made her wrong.  The things that made her angry, scared, envious, selfish and greedy.  The things that made her what she used to be.  She also embraced forgiveness. All the forgiveness in the world.  And just like that, the demons retreated into their creepy caves, deep caverns and damp dungeons, whimpering with their jagged tails tucked between their legs. Some monsters melted into the earth. Others shrank, slithered into the fissures they emerged from and the weakest of them, disappeared into thin air.  Soon, the light peaked past every crack and crevice, then broke through with wild rays, which allowed her pale face to bask with relief in its recognition. She knew she was back home where she belonged. The scales on her heart were no longer there.


It made her feel good to know that even if she may never understand why she sometimes ends up in the dark, she was confident in the fact that she would always find her way back to the light.

No matter what.

The bearable lightness

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
— Mary Oliver

grateful slice: trusting and knowing better