The Lessons of 2014

Before we look ahead, we must look back.  And like I look at previous posts written in the 11 year life of this blog, I think it’s but fitting that I take stock of the year just ended and bring those lessons forward to the year that’s beginning.  I find myself reflecting on a lot of things as this year ends, and sometimes I am taken aback by how so much has happened.  (Did I really live through all THAT?)

The moon up above New York tonight... Thinking about all the moons that have come and gone and dreaming of the next time the moon shines majestically above me again... #moon #moonandstars #dusk #night #newyork #reflectionsI have been blessed.  I am grateful.  I am humbled.  I am encouraged.

I am still standing on my feet and I am actually looking forward to the new beginning that 2015 offers.

I am where I am because I took the lessons of life that came my way in 2014 and leaned on them to keep me going through the year.  I did not let the challenges of the year that just ended sweep me away and drown me.  Instead, I made them my stepping stone to get to the end of the year.

And here I am.

This year, I learned..

… that I am stronger than I thought I was.  I learned to believe in myself again and trust my instincts.  I learned to listen to the silence in my heart instead of listening to the thousand and one voices all around me.  As one of my dearest friends told me, I am my best counsel.. I am my own best bestfriend.

… that even the message from above can change through time.  Nothing is cast in stone except the fact that He always hears and will let you know His will.. Nothing is absolute except His being there, and it may happen that He gives you a different message through time from the one you heard previously.  The thing is to never stop listening, and to never stop asking Him what His will is.

… that acceptance begins with the little things.  Like most things that are hard to do, acceptance takes a while to learn, and takes practice to actually do well.  It took me long enough.  But I think I’ve gotten better at it.  You learn to go with the flow, you learn to be more forgiving of your own shortcomings.  You accept yourself for who you are.

… that it is important to remember YOU are important, too.  For the longest time, I had put everyone else’s happiness and welfare ahead of mine.  Now I realize that I can put myself in front and still be important like everyone else I considered a priority without relegating my own welfare to the background.  I no longer say “my happiness comes last” because I realize it doesn’t have to be.  Putting someone else as priority, like my son in my case, doesn’t mean sacrificing my own happiness.

Happiness is not tied to a ranking of priorities.  Happiness is just that — being happy.

… that you must never forget WHO you are.  I had forgotten certain facets of myself to conform and be a certain way to be accepted.  And it was a long journey to pull out the old “me” that got buried deep inside, but I think I’m almost there if I haven’t gotten there already.

And I missed “me”.  Now I walk with the old confidence and spunk I used to be armed with, and smile with a self-assurance that even I believe in again.  I’m back…

… that surrender is not always synonymous to defeat.  There are battles that can be won even if you decide it’s time to lay down your arms and raise the white flag.  Sometimes surrender is a form of self-preservation.  You try to stave off further loss.  You try to stem the bleeding and keep what resources you have left healthy.  You try to keep the peace by letting the world go by without a whimper.

… that forgiveness is as much, if not more for YOUR benefit as the one giving it than the one you are giving it to.  I have written about this and how I have uttered the words “I forgive you” more for my own sake than the peace of mind of the one who has caused me harm or pain.  Saying it has helped me move forward and go from the point of “being the victim” to “just being” again.  It has helped me on my journey of recovery.

… that forgiveness means looking forward and not looking back at what had happened or what you lost.  It is never a guarantee that things will be better, or that what has been taken from you will be returned.  It does help you to go beyond whatever it is that has caused you pain, and moving on is better than staying in a state of hurt and anger, any way you look at it.

… that people come and go into our lives for a reason.  And when they are here, we must cherish each lesson, each laughter, each memory that we are given a chance to make with the people around us — no matter how inconsequential their presence may seem at first glance.  And when they leave we must learn to let go, and be thankful for whatever it is they shared with us while they were present in our lives.

Even those who hurt us have a lesson to teach us or a gift to leave us with.  It may not be apparent on the surface, but in time, and if we look and not make ourselves blind with anger or tears, we will find it.

Even those who break our hearts will teach us a lesson and pave the way for us to be happy again in some form or other, through other people or events that follow their misstep.

… that the music never ends — we just choose to stop listening to it when the tune playing is not the one we requested.  I lost my optimism for a part of the year and then found it again.  And when I did, I clung to it for dear life.  Sadness and heartache are all part and parcel of living — it is whether or not we cling to it or let it go, whether or not we learn to live with it or deny it that will decide whether we overcome or let it get the better of us.

… that just as you will keep falling, you just have to pick yourself up and keep going.  I never gave up.

I didn’t really have a choice because I had my son to think of.  During my lowest of lows, I had no time to sink into depression.  I had to pull my wits about me and get back up each time.  And I know I will have to keep doing that as I push forward.  The fact that I’m still on my feet is not a guarantee I will not fall again.  In fact, I feel like I fall each time I think I’ve regained my footing, but that will never stop me from getting up again and continuing the journey.

… that there will always be another day.  So no matter how difficult a day has been, no matter how heavy the burden I have been given may be — I know there will be tomorrow and it might get better.  And if doesn’t, there will be the day after to look  forward to, and the day after that.  Hope springs eternal.  Indeed.

That the year is over is a done deal.  There’s no bringing back time lost that has passed us all by.  Time is not one to give us do-overs, but 2015 is here with a new promise of hope — the certainty of yet another beginning.

Here’s to 2015.

 

 

 

Christmas in New York

Sung by Shilelagh Law

Sometimes there are songs which touch us in a different way.  Thanks to HJ for sharing this with me over the holidays.  It reminds me of why I call New York City my home.  It shows us that we have to take a moment to remember what the men in uniform — wherever they may be — do for all of us.

Merry Christmas, everyone.. hope the holidays are meaningful and happy for all of you.  May the anger stoked by the fires of hate be reduced to but an ember and eventually be extinguished by hope in the promise of renewal of the coming year.

Drawing a blank

Sometimes I find myself staring at an empty box forever.  I feel the need to write something, and maybe I have a dozen different things I want to write about, but somehow it just won’t come and flow.

So I write about that very fact that I can’t seem to write.  (And that got me three sentences.)

It’s almost midnight and I’m wide awake.. I’m trying to think back to how my day has been — and it has been long and productive.  Another visit to the doctor this morning, and I got probed and poked in all sorts of ways, and after all was said and done I was told I was good to go.  (They were measuring something but I suppose my actual attending physician will be the one to tell me what it was that they saw.)  I was at the NYU Langone Medical Center which was where I gave birth 10 years ago.  I like that place — because it was full of happy memories about the biggest new beginning in my life — the birth of my dear boy.

Walking down First Avenue.. Seeing lines and directions pointing forward.  Walked from 42nd to 42nd today after having some tests done at NYU.  It was a beautiful day... #beautifulday #FirstAvenue #eastside #manhattan #mynyc #nyc #mynewyork #walk #movingfI decided to walk back.  I was thinking of my friend in our “other” building which was 10 blocks down 1st Avenue, and around 4 Avenues up.  I wanted to walk because it was pleasantly cool, and I just wanted to get some air.  So I walked.  And I’m glad I did.  It wasn’t that far, and I was on 42nd before I knew it.  I called my friend but she wasn’t picking up.  Still, I decided to take the bus down to the other building, tried her again, and realized she must really be out.

From there I walked to my building eventually, grabbed lunch and sat down to do a bit of work.  Just a bit.

So much walking today — but it felt good.  Walking makes me think in a linear fashion.  I often get bombarded by ideas and thoughts from all directions when I sit down (like right now).  When I walk, my mind seems to go in the same direction my feet are taking me — forward.

I know I should really be doing more of that… for health reasons more than anything else.   Another thing to put down on my “Wish I could do more of that” list.  (Reading, exploring NYC, trying out new places, taking more pictures, writing, etc.)

And I’m about to turn into a pumpkin now, so let me bid you all goodnight.  It was a good day, all things considered.  They could have poked and poked and found something that would have merited something other than a perfunctory “You’re good, Mrs. Gonzalez!”.. It could’ve been raining in which case I would have had to worry about getting back to my part of Midtown.  It could’ve been worse — but I got an okay day.  And that’s good enough for me, even if the posts won’t come.  I did manage one.

Holiday reboot

I’ve been using the word “reboot” quite a lot lately.  Literally to refer to restarting things, do-overs, waking up.  Not too sure the latter works, but then it’s close enough.

Can you believe it’s 9 days to Christmas?  I haven’t quite finished my holiday shopping but the good thing is that I know what I want. Plus, there’s Amazon.  Can’t go wrong with that, more so if you have a 10-year-old who knows what a wishlist on the site is and how to browse for the toys he wants.  Who am I to refuse the little tyke who knows which buttons to push when he needs something from (gullible) Mama, more so when it’s an app upgrade — he calls me and asks me in the sweetest voice, “How’s my deeeeelight?”

To which I reply, “Which app is it this time and how much?”  And he would break into naughty laughter.  That laughter and voice which are music to my ears.  And I melt and relent.. always.  No matter how I try to hold out, I end up giving in.  I’m trying to practice saying no, though.

I’ve always believed that Christmas is about children, and being that I only have one, it’s all about him.  I try to be reasonable about how much I give him, though.  Fortunately, he has a sense of moderation which helps keep us both from going over the edge with these purchases.  Where other children would grab all four choices when you ask them to pick, he would thoughtfully decide and choose only one.  Picking more than that would need a lot of convincing and will again be met with much deliberation, making sure he makes the better choice.

I’m lucky in that regard.

I’m pulling a few surprises for him this Christmas, and I’m hoping I can get those presents he didn’t ask for but which I know will make his eyes light up when he unwraps it come Christmas eve.

Thinking of his excitement about the holiday keeps me on my toes and inspires me all the more to make this holiday special for him.  And making it special for him is not all that difficult, because he is so easy to please.

Last year’s holidays were saved by his cheer and his innocent joy.  I looked at him and everything was okay again, at least in that moment when I held him in my gaze, and I was reminded about how he means the world to me.  No one could ever touch me more, as the song goes.

This year, I’m doing a holiday reboot.  I didn’t come around as quickly as I had hoped to — part of me is still hung over from the darkness of 2013.  Part of me is wary to put too much effort on our celebration this year.  But it’s hard not to be affected by his cheer and enthusiasm.

I’m trying to look at the holidays with happier eyes — his eyes.  I’m trying to bring the cheer back, finding things to be merry about this holiday season.  I put up the artificial tree we’ve had from around the time he was born, and he gamely decorated it with his Dad.  He wants to put up the Christmas cards we receive on our top stairwell as we had done in previous years.  I’m trying to make it special again so I can help him make happy memories.  I want him to open his presents, and look at me with eyes beaming, and I would know I have done right by him as his “delight”, his one true love, forever his “light” and never his “dark”. I should be so lucky — but no, it isn’t luck.. the truth of it is, I have been truly blessed.

Blog graphics - my little guy and I for "Holiday Reboot"
 

A Better Christmas

UntitledOne of the lessons of 2014 I had learned has been to look forward and see the positive, instead of dwelling on the pains of the past, no matter how you just can’t seem to shake it off.  I am trying.  So instead of dwelling on how last year’s Christmas was probably one of the worst if not the worst in my life, I’d like to think of the reasons why this Christmas is going to be a better Christmas for me.

I had spent the last three Christmases in Manila with my dear family, and for the first time after those three years, Angelo and I are spending Christmas here in New York again.  New York — after all — is home.  I had long ago accepted that and have embraced it — so much so that when I thought I was ready to leave some three years ago, it was a quiet but difficult long goodbye..  And then it dawned on me that there was no other place to go — that I would and did choose to stay, here at home.

I normally don’t do enumerations but I can’t think of any other way to do this.  In no particular order, as random as the thoughts come, here are the reasons why this is a better Christmas for me — and it is my hope that sharing this list here will help you see that there is much to be hopeful and thankful for, and that it is a better Christmas for you as well.

1. Christmas in New York is Christmas “at home”.  As I had said earlier, being where I consider myself at home cannot be anything better than spending Christmas elsewhere.  Yes, even in my beloved second most favorite city ever – Paris.  And yes, even better than the country where I grew up and spent the majority of my young life: Manila.  When you find yourself trying to find your footing again, the best thing is to find your anchor where you are strongest.  And while all the love I’m showered with in Manila is unique to that former “home” of mine, the truth of the matter is the one love that keeps me going will always find his home here in the land where he was born in.  So this is home because it is my son’s home.

2. This Christmas, I welcome a better “ME”.  I had a rough ride the latter half of 2013 and well into the first half of the year, and then I made up my mind to rise above what had held me back and move forward.  It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t.  But because I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and keep going, I have managed to become a better person than I was 14 months ago.  I focused on taking care of me, losing weight to keep myself healthy, fixing myself up and believing in me again.  I smiled and radiated a self confidence I had long ago forgotten — and people noticed.  The hair went several shades lighter, and I even finally said goodbye to my “bigote”.  (Sorry, Toks — I know you thought that was part of my appeal, but I’ve learned to let that go.)

3.  I appreciate family and friends in a different sense this holiday season, because they never let go of my hand during the worst of times — holding mine as tightly if not tighter than they held me during the best of times.  I would never trade my family and friends for anything in this world — more so the select few who laughed and cried with me — and who told me that I can always go home when I feel I need some loving.. those friends who saw me at my worst and most evil, at my angriest and most vulnerable, and who never judged me for the feelings that drove me to be so scheming and full of hatred.  They never gave up on me when others left me to deal with things on my own, telling me they couldn’t take sides.  Because in truth, there was no taking sides — there was only being a friend or a brother or a sister — and being there without fear of recrimination from others.  There was only right and wrong, not right or left.

4.  This Christmas, I can say I have finally allowed forgiveness into my heart.  While I cannot say I have forgiven everyone, I think I have forgiven the people who matter most in my world.  There are things that I just cannot let go of, and there will always be people who will be on my “hate” list (and yes, I do have one), but this year, I have come to terms with actually saying “I forgive you” to the people who I needed to say it to most.  And like I said, I was telling them I forgive them not so much for their benefit, but for my own.  There was a certain release to that declaration every time I said it to the handful of people who heard it.  The conversations didn’t all resume — but I didn’t need to start a conversation again.  I only needed to say I forgive them.

5,  I’ve learned to laugh at myself and laugh harder this time around.  BFF Fe says it’s refreshing to hear me laughing again — even if that’s via text on viber — and to see me able to laugh at myself again.  There were days when even smiling was a struggle.  But now, I walk off the bus and make it a point to smile, rain or shine.  The thoughts that make me smile or break out into a grin can range from an elevator ride, rain and umbrellas, a yelled joke, a shared song, from friends old and new.  There are times when we don’t realize what a smile or a joke or the gift of laughter can mean to someone, and though they may not know how their humor had helped lift my spirits up, this Christmas I wish them the gift of laughter and warmth in return.  It is because of the jokes — screamed or whispered — and the laughter that I heartily let out, that I can look back to last Christmas as a nightmare I’ve woken up from finally.

6.  I’ve been blessed with new friends walking into my life and making things better just by being part of my “now”.  There are many people we tend to ignore and whose interaction with us we take as part and parcel of our everyday routine.  We fail to see the little contributions they make to help us become a better person.  One friend egged me to take the online History courses on Columbia edX which I have enjoyed immensely.  I’m taking notes again, reading textbooks and learning.  (Yes, I’ve missed school!)  Another has introduced me to the music of Pink Floyd (talking about “US AND THEM”) — I knew “OF” them but never quite listened to any of their music — and I was surprised to find that I actually liked it!  Another friend’s passions for photography has helped me to find even more inspiration to take more pictures with my limited resources and be proud of the photos I have snapped up.

7. This Christmas, I actually gave two anonymous gifts to children in need in the community — and that really felt good.  And Mom got enough funds to get her little Christmas party for the poor kids in her community back in Bulan.  I felt like I had a million things to be thankful for despite the challenges of the last 14 months.  After all, I am still standing on my two feet, my son is healthy and happy, and life has become markedly better even if it is a continuing journey.  I managed to pick up the pieces and start on the journey to healing and be more forgiving of myself.  I have learned to count my blessings and acknowledge the people who continue to bless me with their presence in my life — and what better way to give thanks than to share with those who aren’t as lucky?

8.  I have immersed myself in the serenity that has allowed me to accept the things I cannot change. I am no longer fighting reality but instead, have learned and continue to learn to accept how things are in my life today.  It doesn’t mean I have given up — but I have stopped fighting the things I have no control over. I have learned to accept those things I cannot do anything about.  I think the last 6 months have seen me finally living the Serenity Prayer which I had prayed religiously the first 8 months of my struggle.  Every day, first thing, I clicked on that note in my phone and read and recited it with feeling.  And yet I didn’t see myself living it until the last 6 months when I let go and said, I’m fine with the choice I have made.  I will stop expecting a turnaround, or for things to change.  There are immovable objects that will never budge.  I thought I could pray for a miracle, but I think I finally got the message I was asking for the wrong thing from the boss upstairs.  So I stopped asking.  I said, okay.  And this Christmas, I think I’m okay — I’m even better — because I stopped insisting and instead, let myself embrace acceptance.

9.  I have more hope in my heart now than I had this time around last year.  The optimism in my heart has risen from its deep slumber.  I have stopped nurturing vengeful thoughts and schemes in my mind.  The universe has a way of taking care of things, and I leave the fate of those who thought they could take my happiness and my son’s happiness away to chance.  Life is one big gamble.  I lost a hand or two.  But the game continues, and I have won my share of hands.  And while the plan may have been different in their minds, this year, I think I have much to be thankful for knowing that I managed to hold on to what others thought they could take away from me.

10. This Christmas, I actually am celebrating “ME” and giving myself a gift that will make it a merry Christmas, indeed.  I haven’t quite made up my mind yet what it might be.. I just know I’m getting myself something.  Year in and year out, I would get gifts for everyone but myself.  To me, the gift was actually handing them my present and seeing them light up and that was good enough.  I cherished the hugs and the thank you more..  This year, though, I’ve been hard pressed thinking about what I can get myself that will actually make me smile and be happy about getting for ME, myself and I.  Something I deserve, not pegged into an amount others think would be good enough.  Not anchored to what someone else got as a no-occasion present.  I’ve let that go.  I’m being selfish and thinking about myself first, this time around.  And if only for that present to “ME”, I know it will be a better Christmas this year, indeed.

Christmas in Bryant Park

I was going to do another Friday Five  when I started writing this Friday night, but I changed my mind after I went through the pictures I shot at noon around Bryant Park earlier that day. The sun finally came out despite the low temps and it seemed to be almost perfect lighting at high noon, so I had decided to take a detour around the christmas tree by the New York Public Library, closer to Fifth Avenue.  I bundled up, put on my shades, walked the longer route, and I snapped away…

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014The park comes alive with the holiday shops every year, along with the skating rink that draws both local patrons and tourists.  It’s one place where the Christmas spirit is felt very strongly in this melting pot of different holiday practices and sentiments.  I always complain that it’s not as “christmassy” as back home (in Manila) because there’s a divide between Christian and Jewish holidays.  So we are awash with red and green and a sea of blue.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

But here in Bryant Park, you just get enthralled by the overpowering holiday cheer, whether you believe or not in Christmas.  Its Christmas songs and decorations all around.  It brings the park to life in a different way — making it my favorite season in this favorite park of mine.  It reminds me of home where Christmas begins in September and ends with the Feast of the Three Kings the first Sunday of January.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year but it is celebrated very differently here.  It’s not quite the same as we know it back home.. still, it’s “home” to me now and has been for the last 15 years.  I revel in my little boy’s lighting up when he thinks of presents and all that.  And while like me, it’s our first Christmas here again after three years of christmases spent in Manila — christmas is christmas wherever it finds us.

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014
I’ve decided not to make my holiday cards this year.. succumbing to the 50% off sale in Barnes and Noble the other weekend.  I just figured I’d save myself the trouble.  (Yes, I’m being cheap but this is THE BEST time to buy your cards.. and weeks after the holidays!)  I think I’ll actually be able to send out more being that I’m not pressured to produce them myself… and maybe it’s time I take a break and enjoy the holidays instead of stressing out about it.  (Note to self: start the cards in September next year!)

 

Christmas in Bryant Park- December 12, 2014

I’ve been thinking of actually sitting here one of these days, but the autumn has been a very cold and wet one — I almost shudder to think how our actual winter will be.   

I have always looked forward to Christmas — even when I don’t want to look back to holidays that may have not been festive enough or happy at all in the past.  I look to it as a time to make new memories and to close out a year ending — whether the year was good or bad.  I’m not quite in that mindset yet — writing about the year just passed.  It hasn’t quite gotten me there. 

I’m sticking to Christmas.  I know that no matter how simple or grand this year’s celebration will be, it definitely will be much better than the previous year’s.  And if only for that, there is much to look forward to.  I might even put up the Christmas stockings again — not so much for myself but for the little guy who is all this Christmas is all about.

I like Sundays because..

Sunday sunrise over Bayside - terribly cold but I love the feel of the sunshine on my face.  Welcoming another week, looking forward to a new beginning.  Can't waste time on endings or what has yet to come.  Embracing what's here and now.. #sunday #sunris…it’s another day to a short but sweet break from the workweek.  It makes me want to wish for a third day to the weekend, but helps me to savor the quiet and the break from the usual.  My Sundays are usually made up of church during the morning and maybe catching up with errands in the afternoon, or just taking it easy at home which I don’t mind at all.

…it means another week is beginning.  And I don’t know about you but I like the thought of starting over.  I relish going back to routine and doing what I do very well.  Life has been good enough that I actually look forward to the start of the workweek.  (Must sound sickening to others, but I like what I do.)  And beginnings mean life continues — and that’s something that I can hold on to when things get rough and it seems like the bad things never end.

I like thinking of being given the chance to have a do-over where necessary.  It makes me hopeful and helps me move on.

 

Hello, again…

Looking up at the Empire State Building with its cloud-covered too this rainy day from 34th Street.  Missing the sunshine!! #empirestate #empirestatebuilding  #lookingup #34thstreet #mynyc #mynewyork #manhattan #skyscraperI was planning a half dozen posts over the Thanksgiving Weekend just passed, but they never saw the light of day.  There were many posts started but those never went anywhere.  I didn’t want to push it.  I was busy trying to do other things, and blogging was a wish that just wasn’t going anywhere.

I have five minutes until the 6:55 wake up call the boy requested, so I thought, might as well.

We’re days to ending 2014, can you believe that?  I can but it blows me away each time I stop and ponder on the fact that the year is ending.  Where did it go?  You keep wishing that you didn’t have to and yet you are grateful you are ending another year.  To me, even without thinking about what I had done or accomplished in the year that’s ending, the fact that a new one is coming our way gives me a sense of accomplishment.  The eternal optimist in me, perhaps?

I have learned a hundred and one lessons the past year.. more about myself than anything.  The first half of the year was the more challenging part — but I made it, I tell myself.  And the latter half was all about picking myself up and moving on.

I’m going to try and look to the first few posts of 2014 and see the goals and wishes I had set out and measure where I’ve gone in that respect.  I have failed miserably with the reading goals, for one.  But it is always good to set goals and keep our fingers crossed we meet them.

I did lose a lot of weight which is a personal accomplishment I am very proud of.  I like having gone down a size at the very least, and I am on this continuing journey to a better and healthier me.  But that’s getting ahead of myself.

You can see that I have a lot of things brewing in my mind, and I will have a lot of things to write about.  Work, motherhood and life, in general, just gets in the way.  (Story of my life!)

Four days into December and less than 30 days to 2015, I’m going to try and catch up.  How about you?