Life isn't about how to survive the storm…

… but how to dance in the rain.

I walked around this lunch time precisely to find some nice cards in the local Papyrus across Bryant Park on 42nd street.  I picked up this very simple card by Niquead which had such a profound message I actually did a double take.

How very apt at a time I am trying to survive the storm, and forgetting about dancing in the rain.

The thought actually made me smile, and there aren’t that many thoughts that make me smile these days.  Have you ever had those moments when you look up at the sky and all you see is grey, and no matter how you try to shake it, you feel a sense of gloom around you?  I walked across Bryant Park today for a change of scenery instead of staring at the pavement as I walked to the card store, and it felt like everything was just staid and gray.  The bare branches of the trees lining the inner perimeter of the park seemed to be tired and weak and folded in surrender.

There were small puddles of water that framed reflections of the trees above and the buildings around.  All in black and white.  The chairs and tables were empty probably because rain was threatening in the horizon.  It wasn’t quite the park that burst into life during the lunchbreak.

I walked slowly and deliberately, trying to carry my heart across the wallk.  I could hear it beating loudly in my head — the usual songs I listened to were silent.  I couldn’t bear to listen to them today.   Too many things associated with each one.  So I listened to the hustle and bustle of the vehicles criss crossing through 42nd street instead.

I got an answer to an e-mail which left much to be desired about being nice.  While on its face it seemed cordial enough, the words were veiled with a sarcasm that seemed to show the writer had bared her fangs.  I was just genuinely worried about a friend but parts of the response I got sort of threw me back.  Then again, I guess I asked for it when I sent my message first.  What was it that our moms used to say to “make nice”?

And would it hurt so much to answer the phone?  You never know if the person calling is ready to jump in front of a speeding bus or jump out the top floor of some skyscraper.  You’ll never know if hearing that voice of the one calling on the other line might actually be just what you need to take your pains and cares away —  the voice of reason you need to hear to help you through your struggle.  Each unanswered call was like a hammer down the heart, but each attempt was a ray of hope.  And you cannot help but cling to hope in the midst of the doom and gloom of the grey skies.

You cling to promises made.  You hang on to what you feel.  Closing your eyes in prayer, you whisper “Please..”.  Somewhere, it will be heard.  Maybe not now, but hopefully soon.

Why can’t we learn how to dance in the rain?

It might actually make our lives more tolerable  — our sins from the past easier to live with.  If we learn to let go and move forward with a sense of renewed purpose, those we had wronged or taken happiness away from might actually look down upon us from the heavens and say it’s alright to find our own bliss wherever that may be.  The rain might actually remind us that it has washed away the past so we can move along and get on with our lives.   And maybe we won’t make the mistake of fearing that we would commit the same wrongs with the new people in our lives again.  Then we can dance in the rain.

I have my own dreams about the rain — dreams that would make me smile when I think of them.  I like the pitter-patter of the water on the window pane as I watch from the inside, all warm and cozy with a blanket on my lap.  I like watching rain pound the leaves as it falls to quench the summer thirst of flora and fauna back home in Manila.

But to dance in the rain would be divine.  It would be liberating.  It would be just the little girl in me performing for an audience of none.

And even if I don’t feel like dancing these days, I dream of days when I would think of dancing in the rain again.  Maybe when my heart can smile again, instead of fighting off the loud thumping pulling at it from all directions.  I need to find that sense of calm so that I can bring the same to those whose hearts I hold in mine like my little one.

We often focus on the storm we are struggling to survive but survival is part of human nature.  It’s the lightness of feet that finds us — that dancing feeling once the storm has settled — that point where after we pick up the pieces again we look at what we have and say a genuine thank you  that we have something left and we make something out of it all.  That’s the “dancing in the rain” bit that sets us apart when the sun shines anew.

The sun has set over Manhattan and I’m getting ready to go home.  There’s a congestion in my chest — allergies maybe.  The thumping in my head is still there.  I feel defeated by my ailments today, but I am trying to cling to thoughts of dancing in the rain again.  I whisper my plaintive cries to the heavens and hope it lands up in the mountains where the Gods are — and may they pay heed.  I close my eyes and whisper again “Please…”

Up at 3AM

There are times when no matter how late I turn in, sleep seems to be elusive, catching me only for a minute and then I’m up again.  It’s one of those nights.  So I’m wondering if I should have bugged Fe again yesterday (she’s somewhere in the South for over a week now) like I did the other evening.  We laughed and we cried together as we remembered our Dads.  The tears felt good and helped to clear the air passages literally and figuratively.  I just wanted to give the tear ducts a rest tonight, though.  I knew it would come down to that again if I dialed her number.  (I might yet give in later, since it’s just mid-afternoon there right now.)

I’ve been walking around with a pain radiating from my chest to my back for two days now.  (Another nagging indicator I do need to exercise.  Unheeded.)  Yesterday, I wandered down to 39th street between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue in search of knitting needles — and while I found them and got some nice pink yarn to work with, my friend Lisa lectured me when I realized I had gotten the wrong length of circular knitting needles.  (Part of the learning process.  How was I supposed to know that the length of the tube connecting the two needles mattered if I was going to try and knit a cap?)  So now I have a size 9 and size 15 circular knitting needle 29″ in length that’s going to join my knitting needle collection.

The yarns I saw were nothing like those found in real knitting stores but it helps to know the suppliers are just blocks away from work.  I trudged back to the office feeling this knot in my chest telling me I wasn’t hungry.  Or so I thought.  An hour later (after hanging the coat and getting warm and cozy again up in my little corner in Midtown Manhattan), my stomach started grumbling.  At 10 minutes before the cafeteria closed, I was going to need extreme luck to find anything close to edible, so again — and I NEVER do this on a regular day — I put on the fuschia pink puff jacket and walked to Kwik Meals, my favorite street vendor of chicken on pita, around 4 blocks uptown.  It was cold but hunger carried me out the building a second time.

Lunch was done by 3pm.

I stared at my monitor (which I had been doing most of the morning), checked e-mails I was expecting which, by the way, didn’t come — then I stared at the monitor again.

Grief has  a funny way of taking hold of us.  Fe has been telling me that the emotional upheaval happening to a mutual friend of ours is probably deeply rooted in his personal grief over the loss of his daughter.  Trust Fe to make the connection.  I know I didn’t.  I just sank into the pillows in bed, remembered Dad and the tears just came again.  Sometimes grief has a way of making us feel alone in our sorrow.  Other times, it makes us displace the sorrow, Fe said.  I don’t know which is which.

I like talking to Fe when I feel I am at my lowest because she shares the same pain I feel, having lost our fathers months apart.  And even if she didn’t and I did, no one knows me better than she does.

I was cursing through my tears and laughing through it — much like Sisa probably was doing as she cried out for Crispin and Basilio, Fe and I kidded each other.  The laughter helped stop the tears eventually.  But the knot in my chest remains.

So I walked with that knot in my chest through most of today.  I slept with it earlier than usual and woke up with it just minutes back.  I wish I could just let it go.  Or since it doesn’t want to let me go, I wish I could just ignore it.  But like I told Fe, I was surprised to find out I could actually live with it.  Now I know how a hunchback feels.  It’s just that my hump is invisible and it’s there in the cavity of my chest, crowding my heart.  Maybe that’s why I hear my heart beaingt a little stronger and faster today — or maybe I’m just too fat. LOL

I tried to leave the office earlier but ended up going the usual time anyway, waiting for my driver to pick up the materials for the boss.  It was a blessing that the boss was out yesterday when the knot was just ever present, or else I wouldn’t have had the luxury of just slumping down onto one of the cozy sofa chairs in his office, staring at the Chrysler Building standing majestically in front of me.  I sat at my desk for period of time just staring at the wall behind me, or the piles of paper I need to attack and sort to file.  They can wait until tomorrow.  (Oh, that’s today.)

I hear Fe telling me to just leave it be.  People need time and space.  I guess, that’s right for me, too.  We all need our time to grieve.  Some people deal with it better than others.  I don’t know if I fall under the category of “better” or “others”, though.  I just know I woke up just before 3am and from the looks of it, I’m not hitting the sack again anytime soon.

Not good.  But at least that might mean I will be able to start my day real early and get to the office way before the 9am video conference interview the boss is doing with someone in Europe.  And hopefully, the craziness of the day will help me go through it, lump in my chest or not.  I might yet be able to will it away.

That thought gave me pause.  (A lot of thoughts give me pause these days.)

“Will it away.”  I have always thought of “willing people away” and just trying to “shoo” them off my mind and consciousness — and now I wonder how many have tried to will me away..  Might be quite a list.  It’s just something we never think about.  It’s like “unfriending” someone, or “blocking” someone from our contact list.  It CAN be done.  And painful as it may be to think someone would will you away, perhaps that’s how it is.  I have come to discover through the years that there are people who seem to be scared by me — although that is still something I can’t quite get a grip on.  What is heartening is that some friends see me as a “just another little girl at heart.”  Well, this little girl is crying like a baby and wandering aimlessly… and is wide awake and rambling away at 4am.. I’m trying to decide if I’ll brew some coffee for a change, make some hot chocolate or just go with the usual double shot of espresso.

I didn’t get any chocolates yesterday but I bet those heart shaped chocolate boxes are now on sale.  Hmmmmm… (Siblings in Manila getting excited over that.. )

Another day in paradise…

Happy birthday, Gina

The time difference with Manila makes it difficult for me to find the right timing to surprise friends with a greeting, but for once, I did good with my bestfriend Gina.  Thanks to my OFW sim phone which is on Manila time, I realized 12 hours ahead here in New York that it was already the 12th in Manila.  So I dialed her number and surprised her with a prompt greeting this time.  Quite apt for two friends who used to pop into each others lives for birthdays and Christmas only.  It had gotten quite routine that Mom was no longer surprised when Gina rang our doorbell and saw Gina dropping something off for me.  These days, we make it a point to see each other at least once during my trips home.  (And we did see each other twice last Christmas..)  We see each other on G-mail chat but I hate bugging her because I know she’s at work when she’s logged on, and she is always neck deep with official business whenever she’s online.  So we e-mail, and I still write longhand.

She and I are one of the few who keep the post offices of the world busy despite the convenience of e-mail and texting these days.  I am a little slow on the snail mail front this time around, but my greeting made it on time via telephone.  One of the sweetest short calls I’ve made recently — it is always a blessing to hear Gina’s perpetually mild mannered voice.  (Mild mannered even those few times she wanted to bop me in the head! LOL)   She is probably one of the few friends I would ever take a tongue-lashing from — or a firm “No, you are wrong!” to the face.

Some of the best letters I’ve received have also come from Gina — those times an occasion pops up and we exchange cards.  And the funniest thing is that I had always thought that we went as far back as elementary — and Gina has such a laugh reminding me (and some other batchmates of ours) ” no, we met in high school.”  (Way back when her significant other used to get all jealous of me — for what, I cannot quite figure out.)

Thank you for blessing my life with your friendship, Gina, for the thirty-three or so years we’ve been in each other’s lives.  For being the voice of reason when I don’t see it right in front of me.  I’ve trusted you with my life’s secrets and have bared my heart and soul to you — and yet you continue to be my friend, loving me for everything and all that I am.  I may say I didn’t follow your advice, and I know you’re raising your eyebrow in disapproval — probably cursing in Spanish again (LOL) — but I know you will say I love you, too, at the end of the conversation anyway.

Here’s to another thirty-something years together, my friend.  (So promise me you’ll do the health checks I’ve requested and please TRY to stop smoking..)

Happy birthday, Gin!  I love you, too — always.

Rest your mind.. calm your heart

‘Sometimes we don’t get to appreciate the healing power of words and how a simple gesture as trying to reassure a friend can do wonders for the heart.  I rendered this word art in a bigger size then photocopied it onto a card before using water color pencils to add a little color to the piece, folded the sides over and wrote my dedication inside for P.  Off to Manila it went.  I’m doing a bigger version (its original size) to use for my Art Journal.

I keep hearing a friend telling me this over and over again.  Such words of reassurance one needs during those times when things are moving too fast in one’s head, or when there is so much excitement the beating of one’s heart overpowers your mind.

Thinking of Kuya

I lay down to rest for the evening two hours ago because my head was throbbing and my chest was heavy with a pain radiating to my back.  I held Angelo in one arm, kissed him softly and whispered to him “Mama loves you, anak.”  The one guy I know who will love me unconditionally, come what may.

For some reason I woke up about two hours later because my blackberry was buzzing.  I missed a call from my siblings back home.  “MagicJack” the ID said.  An unannounced call at this hour is never just to say hello.  I wasn’t expecting the call until tomorrow.  I called back.  My brother and I spoke between a bathroom break and a wake up splash to my face.  As the eldest child in the family, major decisions are still thrown my way.  Distance, after all, did not demote me.  Only half listening at the start, I put on my “Ate” (“elder sister”) hat and listen in earnest.  I know that I am not only expected to listen, I am supposed to give instructions which I do.  My brother listens in turn.  Then I hang up.

I wish I could just go back to sleep and be numb again.  But I have an e-mail to write.  I close my eyes and try to find the words to say.  Where do I begin?  I have to write a former classmate who has so deftly handled a case related to our family the past couple of years.  We’re at a crossroads and need some legal intervention/advice.  I was torn between writing now and postponing it for tomorrow when I might have better clarity about what I need and want to say — so instead, I ended up here.

The pain returns.  I am almost tempted to call my brother back. I’m the eldest, he’s technically the youngest but he’s the man of the house right now.  Maybe I can shirk away from the responsibility and have him handle it, but I think he’s handled enough.  Between balancing his role as son and father of the house, I must say he’s handled the challenge pretty well.

Then I see a message alert on Facebook.  I thought it was Fe.  It never ceases to amaze me why I keep getting game requests when I don’t play any Facebook games.  My only indulgence is the infamous Angry Birds, and that’s on the Ipad. (!)

All my siblings are back in Manila, dealing with these challenges head on.  I am insulated by the distance separating me from the fray, but they have never made me feel I am no longer part of the picture by relegating me to the background.  In fact, they seek my counsel and they listen.  When the tempers flare up, they look to New York and call — I am the voice of reason.  It’s probably easier to listen to me because I am not there in the middle of it all when emotions shoot up.  And of course, as I kept telling Angelo the last time we were there, they will listen because I am the eldest — I am their “Ate”.  What I say is law.

There are moments, though, when I wish I were the youngest, or the second or anywhere in the pecking order except first.  This is one of those times when I so miss my elder brother who passed away at birth, four years before I was born.  He’d be pushing 50 by now if he were alive.  He’d have occupied the slot for “eldest” instead of me.   He’d be the one muscling those who are trying to muscle us.  I am almost sure, the problems we are trying to solve would have been solved already, if Kuya was around.  After hitting the punctuation on that last sentence, I grab my temples, close my eyes and wonder:  “What would Kuya Silvano do if he were here?”  I know he wouldn’t be here blogging.  Ha!

I miss you, Kuya.  Even if we never got to know one another, those times you visited me in my dreams, I cried  because I missed you so.  Today, I miss you more than ever.  I would’ve loved to tell you what was in my heart — and cry my heart out to you and ask for your sage advice.  I know you would have held me in a warm embrace and that would have spoken a million words to give me the answers I seek.  I know you would’ve assured me I’ll be alright.. everything will be just fine.  I know you’re watching me wherever you are.  I can almost feel your arm on my shoulders, telling me I can do this.

I wish I could teleport myself to San Juan this very minute and my siblings and I would have our family caucus.  No matter how serious the problem was or how grave the situation, we always found something to laugh and joke about.  I so wish I could hear their laughter and be with them as I write here — then maybe the laughter will drown the pain I feel in my chest.  I’ve sighed a dozen dozen sighs all night — it’s not working.

But we have indeed been blessed.  Blessed to be the family that we are — who, despite our differences and our individual pride — have never forgotten that we are all of one blood.  So faced with the daunting challenge before us right now, we’re trying to move forward as one.  Even if they’re all back home in San Juan, and I am typing away here in the dark in the big apple, we work together to find the solution and the answers we seek.  Yes, even Kuya Silvano is here with us — that much I know and feel in my heart.

Kuya would be dictating that e-mail to me right now.. not that he has to.  It’s going to a former classmate, after all.  So maybe he’d be telling me instead to get writing.  But the pain keeps distracting me.  I know he’d make me laugh.. he’d crack a joke.. and he’ll say I’m worrying about things that aren’t worth worrying about.  He’ll remind me that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself — I’m human after all.  Like Fe, he would remind me to be kind to myself before I even think of being kind to others.  Amen.  (Kuya would’ve loved Fe.. he  would’ve loved and embraced everyone who meant something to me.)

Thank you, Kuya… for the warm embrace, for the words of advice, for the love, for keeping us all one family.  For reminding me once again that no matter what choice I make, they’ll back me up and accept my decision because we’re all in this together.  After all, I’m their “Ate” forever.

Art Journal Every Day: "As You are Mine, I am Yours"

With the first week of February ending, here’s my first post for 2012 for my Art Journal Every Day project.  Some 17 years ago, I watched Shakespeare’s  “Much Ado About Nothing” on the big screen where I came across one of my most favorite movie quotes of all time: “As you are mine, I am yours.”

The background for this particular journal entry had been painted some time in the third quarter of 2011, but I recently found it and started working on it again.  What to put in as journaling?  Dyaran!  The phrase suddenly came to mind as Fe reminded me about the quote, trying to figure out if it was “As I am yours, you are mine.. ” or if it was the other way around.  The solution, of course, was to google it.  I remember at the time, a dearfriend had gifted me with a native mat with this inscribed.  Funny how during this last trip to Manila, I actually found the mat as I was going through some old things in storage in my old home.  Someone would say things have come full circle — and I guess it’s my way of starting this year’s art journal where it all began.

A perfect way to start the year’s Art Journaling and keep in step with Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s inspirational posts on continuing to chronicle one’s feelings, or days in a journal of self expression.

More to come.

Shifting Gears and Friday

I’ve been trying to pick up with my “me” stuff again, from my art journaling, snail mail writing, reading, to my crafts.  (I can’t believe I haven’t touched my tools since I got back from Manila, and I need to seriously get moving with the hybrid scrapbooking to make more cards. )

So I’ve been busy working on my first Art Journal entry for the year — teaser provided to my left — and I think with this 50% done, I can proceed to my next pieces before the weekend is out.  This is actually a background piece I had done long ago  (sometime third quarter 2011) which got tucked away with two other spreads.  One, I had actually decided to totally discard (topic/subject matter was no longer relevant to me), and the other, I’ll work with one of these days.  I might scale back yet again to smaller pieces, or maybe work on sections.  The thing with sections is the flow of the work is not consistent.  Or maybe I’ll just see where it goes.  I’m thinking words. Or I might yet do something ambitious and attempt a scroll (!) one of these days.  (Ambitious!)

I was looking out the window 41 storeys above Bryant Park the other day and I vowed to myself I will make regular trips to Central Park this year to document the changing of the seasons.  I haven’t been there in ages!  Winter has been rather fickle-minded this year — with spring seeming to rear it’s head in for a peek one moment, and then winter coming back with a vengeance the next.

Why do I take on so many projects when there are only so many hours in a day?  I don’t pretend to do them all at the same time.  I find pockets of vacant periods in my day and do something I like for a change.  It helps me get back in touch with “me”, and in turn helps me to tune in to my world as I know it now with better clarity.  (Like it helps me decide what’s for dinner faster than when I find myself torn between this and that dish.)

I love weekends because I look forward to Friday nights.  It’s a special time for me to just be me and do things that mean something to me.  I don’t go anywhere special — I stay home.  I pick the things that I fancy at that particular Friday night and zoom in on that for the rest of the evening.  I am able to savor watching my favorite shows on TV without anyone hijacking the remote and then stay up to the wee hours of the morning just relaxing.  If I’m lucky, I even catch my bestfriend, Fe, online.  (Such a treat!)

My Friday started a little late today — midnight.  Here I am returning to this unfinished blogpost trying to pick up from where I left off.

My heart, though, is somewhere in mid-air.  I haven’t quite decided what I’m doing tonight, and my “night” is halfway through.

Do you ever have one of those conversations about a subject matter that drifts off to another totally unrelated topic which somehow gets injected into the flow of words — you say something — the person you’re talking to reacts, and while the reaction was innocent, you catch something that makes you stop and think, “hmmmm.”  There was a pause somewhere there, then a change of topics and it makes you wonder what caused the sudden shift in gears.  You try not to think about it because it was off topic — but the unease lingers.  “Hmmmmm…” you say again.

I’m just trying to intellectualize things too much like my friend, perhaps.  Then it occurs to me that my innocent remark, said half jokingly, might have awakened a panic reaction that I had not anticipated.  (“Hmmmmmm” again..and now I feel silly.)

Fridays are supposed to be simple.  Fridays are supposed to be fun.  I’ve had some fun tonight.  Time to get the weekend going.  Let me get back to zentangling and my “hmmmm” moment might disappear into the darkness.

My weekend has begun officially with the midnight hour tolling here in the big apple.  I’m listening to this rare rendition of “Can We Still Be Friends” by the great Todd Rundgren and Darryl Hall which I recently discovered where else — on YouTube.  Been listening to it over and over again for the last half hour.  Used to be my song for a long-time ago ex boyfriend who, I  believe, to this day, can’t quite seem to get this song’s message and why it was my song for him.  Alas, we’re no longer friends.

It’s worth a listen to, so let me leave you with this find:

A Shared Passion for Reading

One of the things I regretted leaving behind (and having to give away in the process) when I moved to New York in 2000 was my then rather modest library of books I had collected through the years.  I leftthe paperbacks back in San Juan but I selected friends to whom I gave away the hardcover books and CDs I had decided were too cumbersome to bring with me as I moved across the oceans.

I have always loved to read.  My dear Auntie Lydia had turned me on to reading fairy tales and nursery rhymes as soon as I could do my ABCs.  I still remember how she introduced me to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales by gifting me with a children’s version when I turned 7.  (And that book remains to be one of my most precious possessions, finally making it back to New York with me in 2010.)

She also introduced me to Reader’s Digest when I was in first grade.  Then I discovered Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys sometime in grade school.  I managed to read around 75% of the books on the list and to this day I regret not having completed all the Nancy Drew mysteries.  My encyclopedia set at home came with an accompanying set of children’s books which I loved to peruse and read.  In that series I was introduced not only to our beloved children’s fairy tales but fables and Greek mythology as well.

In high school, I read more purposefully and while reading homework took a lot of my time, I continued to try and read a wide range of books, spurned on primarily by our guidance counsellor’s advise to read and read when I asked about how I can increase my IQ.  (That’s another blogpost altogether.)  But who can forget Antoine de Saint- Exupery’s The Little Prince which I love to this day.

In college, I decided I would start my own collection.  I discovered my now favorite authors Richard Bach (more popularly known for “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” but whose “Illusions”  touched me more profoundly); friends from the service organization I joined in college, Opin and Carol (a.k.a. Beauty)  introduced me to Frederick Forsyth via the The Day of the Jackal and Robert Ludlum via The Bourne Identity.   My bestfriend from high school, Gina, introduced me to  Leo Buscaglia whose “Living Loving and Learning” remains to be one of my favorite gifts to friends.

In this day and age of e-readers, I continue to share my love of reading, giving one of two kindles I received two Christmases ago to my sister, Ofie.  And just recently, I shared the wonders of Kindle for PC with a dear friend who now has the books in my e-library to peruse and pore through.  It’s such joy to find someone who loves the written word as much as I do — sifting through the stories and plots and immersing one’s self in another’s point of view.

I feel like a “Book Santa” who has opened new doors for a friend to continue reading again.  As someone who loves reading and chalking up “books read” on my list, I know what getting to the end of the story feels like — and how it signals you can go to the next book on your list.

Enjoy the books, and when you read them, I hope you feel me right there beside you reading them, too.  I look forward to the conversations on the common books we read — and will read together — in the coming days.