Sliding back to normal

Manhattan SunsetFor the first time in a while, I woke up at past 6am Tuesday morning instead of the usual four-ish no alarm clock wake up call. Although it meant losing out on a headstart to the day, it felt good. I’m keeping my fingers crossed my body clock is easing back to a more reasonable morning schedule, because I don’t know how long I can last the 4-4:30am rise-and-shine-silent-alarm it’s been forcing upon me.

Or maybe I’m just getting older.

It could also be that it’s my body’s way of rebelling against all the stress I’ve been deluged with the last year or so.  Maybe.

But Monday night was rather pleasant, and I did stay up late.  So Tuesday saw me sliding back to normal.

These days, I am careful to label things as “normal” because I feel like I have somehow lost sight of it.  In a sense, I feel as if everything has just changed so dramatically.  From white to red, from blank to a full slate.  When you go through a life-changing experience, your perspective of how things are and your sense of reality are altered by the sum total of the  jolt or series of jolts you are subjected to.

I was reflecting on how different the sun seems to be shining these days compared to the very dark days of a year ago.  That was the time I was so full of anger and pain that if I were a color, I’d simply be black.  A dark, dark and endless black.  There were times when I would be simply walking and I would find myself suddenly enveloped in a deep rage.  I got reacquainted with chest pains that made me cough.  The anger and the pain were just too great that they manifested themselves in a very physical sense.

I still see hints of the darkness but I think I have a better grasp of how things have gone and are going in my life.  I have adjusted focus and now try to dwell on moving on and discarding the negative energy, and building on the positive.  I look for little bits of “happy” instead of trying to chase after the big dream that might not be my reality (or future) after all.  As BFF Fe would say, I’m kinder to myself these days.

I’m not as quick to react now.  And of course, that can be both good and bad — but I take a moment to evaluate things and think before I speak.  One disadvantage of having the gift for gab is that on the negative end of the spectrum, one is often caught saying hurtful or damaging things that can no longer be taken back once spoken or published.  (Don’t you hate how the internet has no “delete forever” function?)

My “normal” has since changed definitions — but it’s a state I’m trying to aim for.  Eventually.

So I go on with my personal art, chronicling my life in my altered book via art journaling, writing here, taking my online classes and making plans for the near future.  (Next week is near enough.)  My “normal” now is to be more outgoing and not be so quick to turn down invitations from friends to have a life between work and home.  It’s about putting myself first where I used to put everyone ahead of me.

It’s about finding a new perspective with which to see how sidewalks can lead to alleys of adventure if you let go and not try too hard to always walk in a straight line.  Sometimes you have to take an unfamiliar turn and just follow your instincts, and maybe you might discover something new, something to smile about.

All that on the way to normal.





And Yolanda has passed..

First, thanks to all who reached out asking if the family back home is okay.  I am thankful to God that they are.  The storm has passed.. Yolanda is off to some other parts.  My brother was in Cebu and my mother was in Sorsogon (in Bicol) at the time the storm hit.  Everyone else was in Manila.  My brother and mother got hit tangentially but did not suffer the indescribable damage that the province of Tacloban had to deal with.  We are blessed.

Secondly, I’m back.

Thanks to JJ for his comment asking me how I have been.  I have been “around”, but the urge to write wasn’t there.  Suffice it to say that I went back to longhand writing in a journal when I could find reason or the inspiration to write.  When I needed to write, I wrote elsewhere.  We all have our secret place — I have mine.  There, I write not as the Pinay New Yorker.. I write as someone who doesn’t have a ‘real’ identity you can walk up to on the street.  There I can be angry or sad without fear of unburdening my heart.  Yes, that’s my secret place.

Third, I can’t believe that autumn is here in it’s full glory.  It’s the season that I find both hopeful and sad.  Hopeful because the leaves change colors into beautiful shades of fire, as if taking a final bow at the end of a fashion show to the applause of a totally captivated audience.  Sad because it’s nature making way for the cold and dark of winter.
Autumn 2013: Central Park

I sought solace in “silence”.  I didn’t think I’d be able to bear writing and editing myself so heavily so I said, why write at all.  Hence, the one month haitus from this space.

But life goes on.  I’m trying to go on.  I have gone through the last month in stops and starts.  I am trying to define my direction, and while I have been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve and writing about everything and anything happening in my life in this blog, I will not be denied my voice in this space where I reign as Queen.

Yes, that’s me — the Queen.  (That thought made me smile…)  And the Queen has her private space where I need not fear censure.  So here, I can write about what the Pinay New Yorker is all about.  Here, I can try to aim for a sense of normalcy in my now highly abnormal life.  It makes me hopeful that there will be a “normal” again.  It makes me think this, like everything, will pass.

Blogging has always been a means of coping for me.  No matter how I try to edit myself and how I try not be too honest here, I know it comes out.  And I like being able to go back to those times when life was teaching me a lesson so I can reteach myself that lesson.. that is one major function of blogging to me — the account of how my life has gone from day to day eight years ago or yesterday helps me to go forward from today.  When I am in need of courage, I go back to those times when courage was aplenty.  When I need to be cheered up, I go back to the fun times and the good memories I wrote about.  Even this post will one day be a source of  “learning” and reflection for me.

And Yolanda is gone… that makes me hopeful.  I am heartbroken by the devastation she had wrought upon my home country.  I had visited Tacloban once — 20 years ago.  It wasn’t quite as urbanized as it is now, but I remember its people and its sights and sounds.  The people of Tacloban are a kind and happy people — life is a celebration to them.  They are always dancing — they love to party.. they are always full of hope.  It is my hope that even if there is not much cause to celebrate in the midst of their hardship and grief, they will find reason to dance again sometime soon through our help.

The world is watching… and the world is reaching out.  It brings us all back to the innate goodness of man.

Taken from The Huffington Post, here’s how you can help:

World Food Program.  WFP has allocated an immediate $2 million for Haiyan relief, with a greater appeal pending as needs become apparent. The UN organization is sending 40 metric tons of fortified biscuits in the immediate aftermath, as well as working with the government to restore emergency telecommunications in the area. Americans can text the word AID to 27722 to donate $10 or give online.

The Red Cross.   Emergency responders and volunteers throughout the Philippines are providing meals and relief items. Already, thousands of hot meals have been provided to survivors. Red Cross volunteers and staff also helped deliver preliminary emergency warnings and safety tips. Give by donating online or mailing a check to your local American Red Cross chapter.

The Philippine Red Cross has mobilized its 100 local outposts to help with relief efforts.

AmeriCares.  The relief organization is sending medical aid for 20,000 survivors, including antibiotics, wound care supplies and pain relievers. AmeriCares is also giving funds to local organizations to purchase supplies.

World Vision.  The organization is providing food, water and hygiene kits at the evacuation centers. World Vision was also still actively responding to last month’s earthquake in Bohol, which luckily was not struck by the eye of the storm.

Salvation Army.  100 percent of all disaster donations will be used for relief efforts and “to immediately meet the specific needs of disaster survivors.” Text TYPHOON to 80888 to Donate $10 or give online.

Daily Prompt: Normal

Daily Prompt: Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?

When we experience something that moves us or changes us in a profound way, or which unsettles us in a very pronounced manner, we sometimes equate things getting better to things going back to normal.

I like that the prompt leaves the meaning of normal open without confining it to a concept which might apply to all.

I had to let a sigh out as I started focusing on defining my “normal”.  To me, that would be “status quo” or the way that things are — or that state where things used to be before the life-changing event that shook my world.  That it is good or bad or was good or bad then is what will define if it’s a good or bad thing to be back to as a state of being.  (I know I’m probably only making sense to myself at this point. Please bear with me.)

We often tend to accept everything that goes on around us as “normal” — whether they help us grow or hold us back.  Although “normal” as a concept is usually thought of as something positive, it’s not always the case.  There are times when we just resign ourselves to a state of being because we somehow become convinced that whatever that state is, it is okay.

I remember a friend who chose to keep the peace instead of pursuing the one love he had always coveted.  It was a choice between keeping his family happy and keeping the peace as he called it but forfeiting his own happiness, or risking their wrath and ire to fight for what he thought was his one shot to be truly happy.  He chose “normal” against what would not be normal but would have meant “better”.  He chose to give up his own happiness to make others happy.  So where does that leave “normal” as being good or bad?  It is ironic that in sticking to “normal”, he ruined the life of the one person he declared to be his one true love.  In his “normal” state he thinks she’s fine.. and it easy to be blindsided by the thought that in thinking one is doing the right thing, any consequence of that action has to be good.  Normal then, is a state of denial that all is well when it is not. 

And there are those times when we try to break free from what is ‘normal’, seeking to find a better state but failing in our journey to find it.  Then we go back to what we had hoped to shake free from, and by some miracle, things go back to what they used to be — back to the ‘normal’ one had sought to be free of.  And things go back to being the same way they were — even if one has changed in the process.  So you learn to accept “normal” and just stop struggling against it, steeped in the realization that that is where you are meant to be.  That that is your “normal” — this is how you are supposed to be.  Acceptance comes as  a matter of course.  Normal becomes a fact of acceptance in which case it is neither bad or good.  It’s a safe place to be, to be there where you are — you are neither above or below the status quo.  It’s not a “good thing” or a “bad thing” — it just “IS”.

So when is “normal” good?  

When “normal” is an ideal and not just the common state, when we manage to go above what we are used to as the norm and achieve something better, then normal is good.  When we stick to the basics of one plus one equals two and stop convincing ourselves that one plus one equals one, then we can achieve a normal that has no ifs or buts.  It’s when we can be true to how we feel without reservations and when we can seek the forgiveness of those whose hearts we broke in the course of our pursuit of normal can we truly say we have found a state of “normal” that is good. 

Sometimes to be “normal” is to be “safe”.

To me, being “normal” is good.  It lets me go from day to day knowing I’m still able to look forward to the next day.  That although I try to live my life a day at a time, I know there’s going to be another one coming even as the sun sets.  I can disappear into the background and know that it won’t rock anyone’s world if I decide not to come out of the anonymity of fading into the crowd.  I don’t need to be anything but normal.  I tried to once before, and failed miserably at it.  For all the heartache and the battlescars I carry from trying, I think that I’ve learned my lesson and have found my place under the sun.  Embracing normal as this life I am living.