In my prayers

I had started writing a post over the weekend on a totally different topic when, after three paragraphs or blocks, I decided to hit delete and start again from scratch. I’m listening to Himig Heswita as I’m drafting this — and I guess that’s what sort of brought me to a more spiritual slant. (Eternally grateful to the Jesuits for their gift of knowledge in law school and music.)

Sometimes I think about writing and as much as I am dying to put the words to paper, I resist and postpone it for when I can sit and focus on it. That usually means it never gets written — because time has been precious and hard to find. Even blogging has been quite the struggle for me. I have always said how I wish I could write (and read) more. There just isn’t enough time to write all that I want to say.

Just like today. I wanted to write about a conversation over sushi and sashimi last Friday, and how I left that luncheon not just with a happy tummy. I walked back to my perch with a heart that was full. I am struggling with the words to put that together in a coherent post for now— so it’ll have to wait another day.

Then I remembered the husband and wife T and T and prayers. (Reminder to self: letter to T and T. Or even just T. )

Today I write about prayer. I start praying when I walk out the door, as I make my way to the bus stop (which is approximately 6 minutes away) at a leisurely pace. What do I pray for? I reaffirm my faith with The Creed, and then I follow a simple combination of prayers. I used to pray the rosary as I walked and ended it on the bus, but my prayer life has not been as devoted as that in years. Walking out the door with the son has also meant postponing the prayer for when I walk into the church on 43rd, because I end up talking him through what the day will be like. There are times when I put the earphones on and I start listening to the God Minute and I tell him I’m praying, in which case we walk in silence to the bus stop.

Still, I feel like I could pray more and do it with more heart.

Praying

I walk into Church and I stand at the back, mass or no mass. Like I wrote in a post not too long ago, I have a list of friends and relatives with health or emotional challenges I pray for by name. The cousin afflicted with cancer.. my bus driver friend with the tumors that they can’t operate on but which he gets treatment for each month. My siblings, and of course my mom. The mom of a friend who is also undergoing treatment. The grieving bestie at work who recently lost her Dad and has her medical issues. A friend back home who lost his grown son last year. My grade school friend who is trying to overcome cancer. A friend I never met and who found me through this space, fighting cancer for years now. A fellow postcard collector who is battling cancer in a land so far away from home. (I have postcards to write and send!) The friend of a brother trying to live through being HIV positive back home..

So no, I don’t pray to win the lotto — I am too busy trying to remember the ones that need to be on my list. I do pray that I be a good person each day — even if I know I don’t always succeed. I pray for a good day at work.. and then I have a very short list of two people I ask Him to keep safe here on this side of the world, besides my number one guy, the son. I pray that He bring the right people into my world— and to keep those who are not meant to stay, away from me. I pray for those praying in Church with me that very moment..

Sometimes, I do an express version of the list when I’m running really late. I start walking out before I get to the end of my petitions. I figure He would understand. I make the sign of the cross and walk out to start my day. And there are times when I just stand there in silence, not saying anything at all. I am just there — present.

I always remember to be grateful. One of the many retreats I attended in my younger years at St. Paul told us that praying is not just all about asking. It is also about thanking Him. And I thank Him for each and every day.

Last night, as I slept, I spoke in prayer to my older brother who died at birth. My life would be so much different had he lived to be the head of the family now. Four years my senior, he would’ve taken on the cudgels of making the decisions and of moving our brood this way or that. I never knew him growing up, but he would visit me in my dreams where he manifested as this person or other, but I was always aware he was not in the land of the living and he was who he was. And I always cried each time, more so when he hugged me. I was tossing and turning and doing my usual evening prayers. I called out to my “Kuya” (older brother or male relative), I whispered I was good and could handle my troubles for now, and I told him I wanted him to help my sister first. She needed him more than I did. I asked that he let her feel his embrace. Finally, I asked him not to visit me in my dreams because I would end up crying again like I always do. I know he heard me.

Prayer, really, is a matter of faith. And I have always been grateful that I was able to discover it early on in life. It has kept my footing steady when I would have otherwise stumbled and fell. It has helped me get up those moments when I lost my balance. It has kept me going through the good and the bad times.

So today I pray that He keep my heart steady.. and that He doesn’t let go of my hand. Amen.

Two years and counting

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I’ve basically stopped writing about Covid the last couple of months because I guess I was hoping that not mentioning it would make it go away. Well, that didn’t quite work. While most everyone is under the mistaken notion that things are returning to “normal,’ the truth is that “normal” has changed by definition. Everything we knew as “normal” pre pandemic is non-existent now.

I’ve been back to the office since April of last year, and the rest of the enterprise that was meant to return came back at the end of March 2022. I was profuse with my expression of joy at seeing more people in the office for a change, but we are nowhere near pre pandemic levels. Certain jobs were designated as fully remote, and those who returned mostly got designated hybrid, meaning they did not come back all 5 days of the week. There are still certain jobs that were denominated as “in Office,” meaning they were required to be in all 5 days. I’m hybrid.

UntitledWe dropped the mandatory masking on the premises a few weeks back, but the increase in the incidence of infections and hospitalizations in New York have caused me to wear the mask in most public spaces, even if masking is optional. Fortunately, most New Yorkers tend to prefer to err on the side of caution, as the memories of the start of Covid in 2020 and the ravages we suffered have caused us to be vigilant against the virus. Sure, more people are walking the streets unmasked, but there are also a significant number who keep their face coverings on.

I had set aside some masks I had cut up and marked to sew — which, I guess, I should get going on assembling in the next couple of weeks. The prediction is that the incidence of infection will continue to rise, and I have been fortunate not to have ever contracted it ever this whole time. (Knock on wood!) I only played hermit the first four months, and had braved venturing into the city soon as the lockdown was called off in July 2020. Like I said, by April 2021, I was back in the office 2-3x a week. I have religiously put on my mask, sanitized and washed my hands as required and more, and I’ve gotten vaccinated and once boosted.

Speaking of, I think I’m sticking with one booster for now. I don’t think my preexisting conditions merit a second booster jab at this point.

I take off my mask the minute I’m in my building where the high ceilings and air quality is much better than what I walk through as I cross the Grand concourse of Grand Central. Once in my space, I immediately either grab some hand sanitizer or wash my hands directly before I get there. I still carry my mask in my hand or in my pocket when I step out. And again, although I am met by a sea of people half of whom are unmasked, I am grateful for those who, like myself, are being careful and wearing one. When I enter an establishment that recommends but does not require masks, I put my mask on for as long as I can bear wearing it.

There are still one or two who wear gloves, afraid of touching something infected. Personally, I’m more afraid of actually inhaling infectious particles that might cause the virus to enter my body. So masking and generally avoiding prolonged exposure to air in enclosed spaces has been my rule of thumb. Will the rising incidence of infections and hospitalizations stop me from enjoying a concert or a play in the coming weeks? No. I’ve learned to take precautions and be cognizant of the symptoms. More importantly, I’ve learned not to let the threat of COVID stop me from doing what I want to do even if it means taking my chances swimming through a crowd.

More than the exposure, I think what counts is how we protect ourselves and practice personal precautions. There is a way to get ahead of the threat if we are careful.

So yes, I go out to restaurants and unmask at my table. I will watch that play and that concert. I ride the bus wearing my mask even if there are some passengers who actually board the bus without one, even if every bus flashes “MASK REQUIRED”. And while I do take it off occasionally to get a whiff of cool air during the ride, more so in the mornings when it can get warmer, I try to keep it on as long as I could.

I get all sorts of compliments for my “fashion-forward” masks — so I guess it’s time to make more. I usually try to match my outfit for the day, because masking is now part of my daily wear. I do a three layer mask of tightly woven cotton, usually cotton sateen to boot, and use a pattern that lets it land smug on my not so high of a bridge on my nose — but not too snug that I cannot breathe.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping the surge doesn’t get any worse. At least for the most part, it seems the vaccines and boosters and precautions are working, as people who have gotten afflicted have had much milder bouts of COVID. You hardly hear anyone getting intubated although there are instances when it is still necessary, so unlike the start when we were afraid we would run out of ventilators. We hope we will never go back to that kind of a desperate situation. We are, after all, continuing to learn to live with it and hopefully overtake it one day soon.

So I guess my Covid diary isn’t quite done yet.

Monday Musings: Unexpected Hellos, the Glass Half Full, Cheesecake Babka and I Pray..

Untitled Is it Monday already? Last night, I was transfixed watching these men on skates fight for their lives. And when they won, I felt triumphant and proud even if I am just beginning to understand this game. (And yes, I now know what a power play is.). I don’t know if it was all that excitement which caused me to stay awake for most of the evening, drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. There were just too many thoughts racing through my head preventing me from drifting off to dreamland. I think I even said my evening prayers thrice hoping the angels would listen and lull me to blissful rest. It was almost exhausting trying..

Sleep eventually found me. Then I just found myself being roused by my alarm screaming yes, Monday IS here. I don’t know if it’s age, but I managed to go through the day without skipping a beat. I know — or at least, I’m hoping — that tonight will be simpler when I lay my head down to sleep.

An unexpected hello greeted me from out of the blue just as I was getting ready for bed before midnight last night. It was one of those friends who pops in and out in the most unexpected times and just sends well wishes to let you know they are thinking of you. I figured he was up watching the game knowing he was a fan and I congratulated him on the win. A simple message, a warm hug to the heart. As if the universe paused a moment to remind me I have a sea of friends out there, who continue to bless my life with their presence and friendship. (I wanted to congratulate another diehard fan of the winning team, but was unable to. So I stopped myself before I could text. All the same, I’m sure he was ecstatic with the win.). This friend said we should chat soon. I don’t know that I want to unburden my heart, but reconnecting is always a good thing, be it over drinks or coffee and donuts.

Glass half full, it is. Part of what kept me up was the dilemma of a plan about to fall flat on its face. I was so looking forward to something this Tuesday which, unfortunately, just isn’t going to happen anymore. I used to have such a hard time dealing with disappointment, more so when it was something I’ve been planning on for days. When it became obvious that things just weren’t coming together to make it happen, I myself declared the postponement to next week. Disappointed, though I was— I thought to myself how fortunate it was that I have something to look forward to. There is the following week.. and we can plan again. There is some comfort in not being the only one who is disappointed with the turn of events, but what can we do— life happens. I try to appreciate the small things— like the effort and the thought. So lunch of cheese, Marcona almonds, quince paste or jam and grapes with a bottle of cab or Pinot noir will have to wait .. it wasn’t cancelled— just postponed.

Struggling to create again. Over the weekend, my illustrator-Fashion-creative inspiration/friend, Elaine, told me I should start creating pieces again. She wanted me to make productive use of my energy and time. I did get the stones and a necklace I wanted to alter out of storage and on to the table, but I got stuck with positioning the stone but not really getting to work on it at all. I think I will try to create earrings through the week to start with, and hopefully get the creative juices flowing.

Cheesecake BabkaThat elusive Cheesecake Babka from Breads Bakery— Finally snagged one. I am “partially Jewish” thanks to some friendly influence — more by way of practice and cuisine. My first Chief something boss and the next Chief of something who both observed the holidays introduced me to the important dates. Friends have since exposed me to actual observances and food. I wear a red string bracelet on my left wrist as a token of luck, a present from the so called Wailing wall. So one of my favorite Jewish oriented bakeries is Breads Bakery which I first got introduced to via their kiosk in Bryant Park. My niece, Julia, is a chocolate babka fanatic, so much so that I handcarry the babka home to Manila every time I head that way. When I heard May would see a cheesecake babka on their shelves, I was stoked. The only problem is that they always sold out by the time I came upon their store— until Sunday. Finally!

I grabbed my loaf and couldn’t believe my luck. Definitely well worth the wait! It’s their usual babka with swirls of light cheesecake that are hardly noticeable except for the flavor. This one’s a limited offering so try and get it while you can.

These days, I’ve been praying more. While I start my day by stopping by St. Agnes Church on 43rd when I can and end it with a simple prayer before I turn in, I’ve been stopping to whisper a few words more often these days. I’m not your cookie cutter Catholic who goes to Church religiously, but I do take my faith to heart. To me, it’s an ongoing conversation between me and my God.

So I pray for my ever changing list of friends and family battling health issues, special intentions for those grieving the loss of a loved one.. that He keep my son happy, safe, healthy and whole.. and that He keep a friend who runs into danger more often than most, safe, even if he’s no longer around. I call on Jesus to keep a Jewish friend in his care, even if he believes Jesus is just one of them.

There are things that I cannot pray for, so instead I ask that I be given the discernment and the wisdom of acceptance. To let go, and to accept the cards I’m dealt. When the words escape me, I have my prayer playlist to help me be quiet in my own space and I listen. I have always lifted up my troubles and while I do not ask for a specific outcome, I ask for guidance, and as much as I can, I pay heed when I am not otherwise distracted.

Sometimes it can be a struggle, but I try. There are times I pray to my Dad who passed some 10 years ago, and to my Aunt who was a second mom to me. I ask them to hold me in their embrace and help bring my prayers up to the heavens. I offer them these people I pray for and I know they hear. And so I pray… In Church, I lift the prayers of the smattering of the faithful dotting the almost empty pews. I say, I lift to You whatever it is they are praying for.

There are times when a realization hits me and I look up and grudgingly say “I heard You,” even when I am not too happy with the message I received. And so the conversation continues. Sometimes I am the hard headed child whining against a clear message to go a certain direction, and at times I am the meek one, quietly embracing His bidding in surrender. Amen.

It’s a balance of busy and calm this week— I just go with the flow. Maybe I’ll hear that familiar text tone assigned to someone who got me into emoticons and tea. Or perhaps not. I’m still trying to make up my mind about whether or not getting those texts is a good thing or a bad thing.. I’m waiting for what the universe says. There’s next week’s do over — fingers crossed it doesn’t get postponed again.

These days I’m always bracing for life to surprise me like it did in recent weeks. Just as quickly as I was swept away, I landed back on the ground. Still, I smile when I close my eyes in anticipation of life’s next surprise.

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Pinay New Yorker says: If this is your first time reading “Monday Musings,” this is a collection of blurbs running through my mind on any given Monday, hoping to give vent to a full blogpost at some other future time. Or perhaps it’ll just be my own personal list of short anecdotes that marked recent days. Thanks for stopping by.

On Motherhood and all the love I never thought I could muster in my heart

My journey to motherhood wasn’t easy. I tried getting pregnant at age 35, after marrying at age 34. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to wait, but my then husband and I had agreed we would only try for a baby after (1) I was gainfully employed and (2), we had a place of our own.

It took us just under two years to get both done. Two miscarriages preceded my full pregnancy, so it was a roller coaster ride seeing it to fruition. When I finally made it past the first trimester, I did all I could to make sure this one made it through to delivery. I even refused an amniocentesis for fear that the pin prick puncture of the amniotic sac would lead to a miscarriage. And more importantly, we told our obstetrician even if we found out there was something wrong with our baby, we would still see it to full term.

Eighteen years ago today, I was induced to deliver and finally held my infant son in my arms after 15 minutes of active labor. After delivering a 9.5 lb., 21.5 inch baby, I became my obstetrician’s poster child for normal delivery. It wasn’t easy battling the gestational diabetes and all the other complications of a late pregnancy, but determination and prayers got me to the finish line with no issues.

The boy is now 18 years — a legal adult in some parts although New York pegs the age of majority as 21. He is a grown man now, almost a full head taller than me, with fingers longer by almost an inch when we hold our palms face to face.

He still calls out “I love you, Mum” from out of nowhere, and would sometimes knock at my door as I’m about to sleep and ask for a hug, bending down to rest his head on my chest. When I walk in the door at the end of the day, he calls out and asks if I need help, meeting me at the door of the stairs to carry my bags up the steps.

We’ve gotten into a somewhat funny dynamic of him calling me when he thinks I would be on the bus already, asking where I am at, and what time I will be home. I have kiddingly asked him if he’s my dad with the tone he takes..

There was one night I went out, and I found him dozing off in the living room when I came home at past 2am. I asked him why he didn’t go and sleep in his room, and he meekly said he was waiting for me.

While all is not perfect in our world— he is a teenager, after all — I’ve been lucky to have raised a caring and sensitive child who has respect for his elders. Sometimes I find him pushing the envelope, but when I push back, he knows better than to nudge again. More importantly, during those moments when he knows he was in the wrong or that he had offended me, he knows to say sorry and make things right.

Sometimes, I look at him when he’s deep into a game or as he strums his guitar, or as he eats the dinner I cooked with such gusto — and I can’t help but feel a sense of pride in seeing this human being in front of me. And the love I feel is just beyond words.

My world has always revolved around him — so much so that I chose to stay here in the US instead of going back home when my marriage fell apart. When we were finally uncoupled, the world I rebuilt had him at the center of it all. And he still is. It’s just that he is entering into a new phase of his life— stepping out into the real world and pursuing his dreams. And that impending departure has me reevaluating things and the way I see the future.

I’m trying not to hold on to him too tightly to pull him back— because I know I cannot do that. So as much as that is a day I fear, I know I love him enough to let him go and conquer the world on his own. And while I would give anything to be right there with him every step of the way, I know that the best I can really do is just be here, ready to help when he calls out for me.

I have always told him no matter what he chooses, I will find a way to get him there. And yes, even if that means he ventures farther out and further away from me, I will even hold his hand to show him the way.

One of the moms whose reflections on Mother’s Day today resonated with me reminded us that a mother’s love knows no end— and time and again I have known that to be true. It may be the toughest job in the world, and for all the heartaches and obstacles that came my way, I would do it all over again to have this light in my life. Without skipping a heartbeat, I would say yes to going through it all, all over again.

This Mother’s Day was his birthday. And like I tell him, his coming into my life was the best Mother’s Day gift — ever.

Motherhood

On Facebook, I wrote:

“Happy birthday to my one and only forever love, who came into my world 18 years ago. I am blessed every single day with your love and presence in my life. I am always here for you and will just be here ready to support you every step of the way. Know that mama loves you always— even when you talk to me like you’re my Dad, asking me what time I’m going to be home(!).

And don’t forget our acceptance speech when the time comes for you to go up that stage— a reminder that at age 17, I told you never to underestimate your abilities and say you will probably not do anything great enough. You have already surprised us at this young age, what more when you go out there to conquer the world. Happy birthday, Anak. Love you more… always.. in all ways.”

On Pause

I’ve been busy working on my closet today.. sorting the scarves, putting away the winter wear, thinking of what to keep, donate, and throw away. I’m not quite at the “what sparks joy” question yet— that’ll be later for the more difficult decisions. I decided to take a break and write.

The last couple of days have been difficult as a mistake I made more than a week ago caught up with me. To put it mildly, I was caught with my foot in my mouth. While I’m tempted to write about it and pour my heart out here like always, I think I’ll do it differently this time. I’m drafting THAT post and leaving it in my draft folder, with a reminder to return to it six months from now, and write about it then.

Joy, grief, remorse and relief on pause.

It’s still very much a work in progress, and much as I’d like to get to the “end of the story” sooner than later, I feel a need to let this one write its own ending before I write about it. I’m still processing it and getting to that point where I can say I am back in a good place. There are happy thoughts associated with this whole business after all. I’ll wait for that time when I can write it on a more positive note.

On PauseIt hasn’t been all that difficult, truth be told. There have been realizations, sighs of relief, and a general sense of moving forward. Friends have been supportive and yet not short on calling me out where it was needed. The universe, the friends and even the Big Guy up there seemed to be saying the same thing: this wasn’t yours, so move on. I am trying.

Things that happened in the last 24 hours have served to remind me how lucky and blessed I am. In the midst of moping and whining about my loss, I realized others are going through so much more. I suddenly felt selfish for focusing on my heartache. Perhaps it was a way for the universe to course correct — or simply put, remind me that it just wasn’t meant to be. And at the same time, the universe showed me that I am still whole and continually blessed.

Let’s see where I am in six months when I unpause.

I do wish I could pause the memories from coming when I’ve found my footing. Thankfully, there aren’t that many to count as yet. That is a relief. Each day has brought me a step closer to “okay”. I’m using emoticons again, for a start. And keeping my heart in check, reminding myself, “Accept it.” In time..

When the tide changes

My body clock has been off lately. Last Wednesday, despite having slept closer to 2am, I was up just after 5. Thursday, after sleeping a few minutes after midnight, my body beat my alarm clock by around a half hour. Still, I didn’t want to get up. It was one of those days where I wanted to just curl up under the sheets and stay in bed. But I knew I had to get ready for another workday.

Deep sigh.

My heart was heavy instead of the slight giddiness I woke up with the last couple of weeks. Something I asked a friend has caused some trouble that I am afraid I cannot now undo.

So the tide has changed. I somehow found myself caught up in my own undoing, saying and doing something that has caused this huge shift in my world. (I literally had to pause and absorb that statement.)

Don’t you just hate it when you do or say something that you wish you could rewind to before it happened, and just edit it out of your day? I’ve been there many times. I wished so hard that the universe would straighten it out, but there’s no denying the shift has occurred.

I never thought the sudden absence of the emojis in the usual texts would change the color of the conversation in such broad strokes. From black to white… from warm to cold… and that was that.

So I just stand on the shore with my feet sunken in the sand. I watch the waves splash at me and pull the sand away from my feet as I sink deeper. But I stay put and fight it. I’m waiting for the tides to switch back — holding on for as long as I can and closing my eyes wishing for that to happen. But it doesn’t. The universe is unmoved.

Someday, I’ll walk away and not look back. And perhaps then, I’d be able to say I’m okay. For now, I’m not. That’s just me being honest about it. I am praying for the grace to accept what has come to pass and to be able to move on knowing it wasn’t meant to be.

Changing tides