Catching up

I have been trying to write some letters and e-mails the past couple of weeks with no success.   Today has been most challenging, primarily because my allergies have gotten the better of me.  I took a nap in the afternoon, woke up and felt like my sinews were ready to fall apart.

Ten days ago, a friend had caught up with me and had three questions which seem simple enough on its face but which are not that easy to answer succinctly.  Sometimes there are answers easier to give in a phone conversation rather than on email, and sometimes it’s easier to write things long hand and send them via snailmail.  If you say too much, too many words.  If you don’t give the truth, you’re not being truthful.  You’d think I’d have no problem choosing the right words.. but it’s not as simple as that.

I’m writing again.  Not that I ever stopped writing —  I just thought it was better to stay silent for a bit.  So I kept writing without publishing — hence the slew of posts today.  (I guess I’m staying, Shay.  =)  I’ve also been reading more.  I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which has me on a different crusade to get my friends to read it.  “Chick lit” (short for literature) definitely, but well worth the read, whether you are a man or a woman.  Finally closed that book and went back to A Storm of Swords, book three of R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series.

Be back later..

Dear Mama, Happy Mother's Day!

I had my Mother’s Day conversation with my mom last Friday.  I’m just finishing my Mother’s Day weekend with my boy here.  It has been meaningful because of him.  Eight Mother’s Day have passed where I was finally one of those being celebrated, and I look forward to more years with Angelo.

Motherhood is one of the most challenging roles for me, but which I play to the hilt because of the inspiration his love gives me every day.

But today, I want it to be about my Mom, the woman responsible for making me the mother that I am today.  I have always said that you can only give what you already have — and to my Mom, thanks for giving me all that I needed to be a good mother to my son.

Dear Mama —

Happy Mother’s Day.  You know that though I am 10,000 miles away, I am there with you.  Thanks for the call last Friday.  I know you miss me dearly because you said you dreamt of me.

I’m doing okay, don’t worry.  Sometimes the one we miss the most visits us in our dreams.  Sometimes the one who misses us the most gets to cross time and space and be with us in our dreams at least.  Like I tell Angelo that I will always be in his heart come what may, so are you.

I know that we’re both getting older.  You just turned 72.  Every time I go home, I see you shrink just a little, and I see more lines in your face.  I notice a difference in your demeanor.  I think that I am most fortunate to be seeing this and appreciating the changes that ageing has thrown your way, because I don’t think my siblings who are with you everyday see it and appreciate it for what it is.  I keep telling them, “Mama is getting older.”

I wish I wasn’t so far away.  Then we’d have more dinners together.  We’d go to Manaoag more often, and on Wednesdays, I might even muster enough energy to wake up as early as you and brave Baclaran before the crowds descend upon it.  But life has put this distance between us as I started my own family.  I know you know that you are here in my heart.  In the meantime, I look forward to having you visit… hopefully soon?  I know.. you are busy taking care of many things there, but I am going to keep bugging you about it.

When I hug Angelo, I hug him for you.  You two have such a special bond that I find so precious, since I know it took a lot of effort to take care of him the first three years.  I have been so lucky that you were still young enough then to afford me that chance to have you take care of my son, and to show me the rudiments of motherhood firsthand.

I miss those days when I’d see you two playing with each other.  And I remember the last time you two said goodbye this previous December, how your grandson teared up as we neared the airport, as it dawned upon him he was leaving his favorite grandma.  Even I was surprised at that show of emotion from my then 7-year-old.  Precious.

I cannot ever thank you enough for making me who I am today, Mama.  I know that life hasn’t been kind to you, robbing you of the chance to have a proper education beyond elementary, but you made sure my siblings and I went to the best schools, and that we got as close to the fulfillment of our dreams if not the fulfillment of those dreams itself.

I know that these days, you often think we don’t understand you, or that we are ganging up against you.  That can never happen.  You are the precious bond that ties us all together — and will keep us tied together as a family long after you’re gone.  In our minds and hearts, you are the best mother we could have ever had.  So please forgive us when we hurt your feelings and make you feel like we are not being mindful of hurting you — we have your best interests at heart.  We just want you to let us take care of you this time around, as you’ve worked so hard to take care of all of us these years.

Time to let go, Mama.  Your children are no longer babies.  Let us take care of you now.

We love you deeply.

Your children

Dear Angelo

Dearest Angelo,

Thank you for all the joy, the love, and for having come into my life eight years ago.  Mama loves you dearly and will love you forever, even when Mama has gone to heaven.  Like I’ve started telling you, I will always be with you in your heart.  And I know that for the many hugs and kisses that I have given you, you will have enough in your memory to keep you company even when you start forgetting things as an old man.

Thank you for the warm hugs, and the big, wet, sloppy kisses — for the calls that come one after another — sometimes just to tell me you love me.  I will never tire of hearing you say it, nor to have you request to sit on my lap.

You have made Mama very, very, very happy.  Happy birthday, anak.  My wish is that you grow up to be a good person, to always be mindful of others, and to grown up to be a fun-loving and happy man like the child that you are now.

Mahal na mahal na mahal ka ni Mama… (And I can hear you answering, “Mahal na mahal din kita, Nanay.”)

Love you more..

Mama

What? No one told me I could take a real lunch hour..!

I’m an Executive Assistant to a C-something here in one of the so-called Fortune 100 companies whose headquarters is located in Midtown Manhattan.  Even when I had a second assistant helping me out, “lunch” was usually taken in front of my computer screen, catching up on news from back home online.  I couldn’t quite fathom why some of the older assistants on the floor would actually grab their purse, eat and sit alone in the cafeteria or with each other, maybe watch the common TVs spread around the eating area, and actually stay away from their desks a full hour.

Not me.  I’d take out my lunch, clear the immediate area in front of my keyboard and choose the newspaper article I would read.  There was the occasional lunch with a colleague or two, but very rare.  When I ventured out, I would usually drift into any one of my favorite beads or notions store lining the streets around Avenue of the Americas for my crafting needs.  Time for something new.

Up until two days ago, I never really exercised my right to a “Lunch hour”, opting instead to go and grab a bite when I grabbed something for the boss or occasionally doing a personal errand around Midtown where I work.  I am finally with a boss who actually eats and minds short lunches, but that means I have to be at my desk as he munches away in case someone calls.  My next door neighbor on the Executive Floor, though, has been egging me to go out and take a walk even for just a few minutes — and there was the voice of experience talking to me.  She’s been at this job the last three decades or so, and I’m just about to round up my first.  And she was persistent… so I said, not a bad idea.. let me try it.  Forget that it was cold — I have my coat and my light scarf.  I’ll live.

So two days ago, after days and days of telling myself I WILL SIT IN THE PARK AND TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE in the middle of the day, I finally found a late lunch hour to squeeze in maybe a modest thirty minutes of “me” time.  I grabbed my iPad, breezed down the two elevators taking me to my piece of midday heaven, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and surveyed my new lunch spot.  It was chilly, but I was giddy with the thought this was just me and my book (currently reading EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert alternating with A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin).  I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I had enough time after allotting myself a half hour for this “experiment” of sorts.

I glanced around and looked at the other people sitting at their tables.  Suits on the cell..  Backpacking tourists enjoying a “New York” lunch.. Stay-at-home moms pushing strollers… what struck me was there were a lot of individuals who were obviously dressed to go to work just enjoying the park as they had lunch or staring off to nowhere, or as they tapped away on their handhelds.  Kindred spirits trying to take a break like me.  (So this what be what most normal working people do.)

As rain was threatening in the skies, I picked a spot under one of the garden umbrellas (just in case) by the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain.   There’s something about the sound of the water spraying onto the pond surrounding the fountain that I find most soothing.  I wish that it weren’t so cold but I was bundled up.  Spring seems to be constantly teasing us here in New York, disappearing behind the chill that has fallen upon the city the last couple of days

I’m finally taking a lunch break.  I like it.  No rushing from the office to some store or the bank.  Just letting it all hang loose as I had my little piece of heaven there for half an hour.  I ate my sandwich and read.  I glanced at my watch and was surprised that I had all but taken half of my allotted time.  I read on and took a few pictures.  Bliss.

The next day, I returned — again with my iPad– ordering my grilled cheese and I inched closer to the lawn.  (Getting braver.)  I stayed close to the fountain.  I spied some pigeons.. children playing in the grass (finally open to the public), and I just took it all in.  I tried drafting a post right there and then, but I changed my mind after realizing writing was “taking me away” from enjoying the moment.  So I just sat there, read some more, and looked around… I breathed it all in.

A half hour of me.  Maybe later I’ll write some letters or a note or two.   Or maybe I’ll just sit and watch.  I might even stretch my half hour to a full hour of just me.  Hey, I work hard– and for someone who doesn’t get overtime pay, I deserve an honest-to-goodness break.  (It makes my 9 to 10-hour stretch from 8:30-6 or sometimes even 6:30 more palatable.)  Before anyone goes crazy over the “no overtime”, the company seems to think I’m paid high enough to not be entitled to the additional pay.  Of course I don’t agree, and the only way to get the better deal is to take that full hour break.

I’m all excited by the coming summer when the park will be abuzz with a lot of lunch hour activities.  Maybe on super busy days, I’ll take a table on Broadway or something.. or I might stay indoors in one of the public areas — one of which is right across my building across from the park.

Again, bliss.

Life is short.. more so at age 46

Last April, I turned 46.

I don’t know if it’s all that’s been happening to me lately at work and in my personal life, or the number itself, or life in general — but I am suddenly struck by the number as an actual count of my years of existence on this earth.  For once, age is a relevant number to me.

I never really cared about age, even as I hit the so-called big four-oh six years ago and forty-five last year.   I have always considered myself totally at home with the fact that I am getting older.  Perhaps it helped that most people thought I was much younger than my actual age — and I’ve always attributed that to my Asian skin and eating habits.  Lately, I have brazenly declared that make up does help a lot!

So why the sudden relevance of the number?  These days I wonder if I’ll be so lucky to hit my mother’s current age of seventy-two (which, given the advances of science should not be too difficult), and I’ve become more concerned with “living in the now” by not being too smug about living forever.

Life is fast catching up with me, and seeing my eight-year-old son growing before my very eyes is, in itself, a wake up call.  Will I see him grow up to get into college?  Get married?  Will I see my grandchildren and take care of them?

Will I be able to do all the things I want to do between then and now?  Or will I be like my handful of friends who have been hit by one form of cancer or another, some successfully battling it, and some going through a recurrence of the big C in some other form?

Up until now, I had always thought that I could think of planning my life in stages of 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years.  Since I turned 46, though, I think of what I want to be doing and where I want to be in five years, and I am struck by the thought of my having no guarantees that I will still be around then.  Why wait?

Could the sudden awareness on my part also be because at this point in my life, I feel as though I can say I’ve done most of the things I had wanted to accomplish?  Went to college to get a law degree.  Got into my choice of law school.  Passed the Bar (back home).  Embarked on a corporate communications career.  Gave that all up and settled down halfway across the globe to live in the greatest city in the world.  Got married.  Had the best thing happen to me when my son was born.  Visited and fell in love with the City of Lights, Paris (not once, but twice!)…  And have been to Disneyworld four times.  (Not exactly a badge of honor..but a feat for a 46 year old adult who moved to New York only 12 years ago.)

At the present time, I’m crafting jewelry and accessories and doing crafts at leisure, writing about what I want the way I want and earning a decent paycheck at an unrelated day job.

Yet I feel as though I am at a crossroads, and vacillating about which road to take.  And the tolling of the years and the uncertainty of the years to come makes me want to jump but I cannot.

I’m stuck at “comfortable” — but the thought of time not being there like it always has been is creeping up on me.  So do I throw a pebble into the still waters and watch the ripples radiate from where it lands, or do I watch the calm from the shore?  I suddenly feel like “dreaming” is no longer a luxury I can afford.  “Doing” is what I should be hard at work at instead.

We always look at postponing things in our lives thinking that we can always do it another time.  Somehow I feel I’m at a juncture when I don’t have that option anymore.  I keep hearing it being said, you cannot postpone happiness — not very easy to do when it means giving up “comfortable” and causing upheavals in the lives of the people around me.

It would be so easy to up and go if it was only me I had to think about.  But it isn’t so.  And considering all that is causing me to wonder if I am not throwing away precious time keeping the peace and just sitting it out.

I think about “second chances” and I see one in front of me, but I want to wait a while longer.  The question is, can I afford to do that?  You’d think a 46-year-old would have the wisdom to speak authoritatively on questions about life — but I don’t feel so wise at all right now.  I’m coming to terms with my own mortality — and the thought that the things I dream of five years from now: people, places, hopes — might not be around as long as I would want them to be.  So what then?