Decluttering

I am reorganizing my life by starting to reorganize my closet.  The last two weekends saw me going through my things, sorting by size, and getting rid of the bigger items.  I ended up with a huge pile of slacks– in the bigger size I kissed goodbye a few months ago —  some barely used, and some still with tags.  I set them aside to give away.  Even now as I think about it, there’s a little voice saying maybe I can just have them repaired.  I am almost sure I wouldn’t want to solve the problem by simply wearing a belt, because I’ve moved away from looking “frumpy”.  While that would make the pants wearable, I wouldn’t be too happy with the look.  Decision made — off they will go to my “to give away” bin — in the balikbayan box heading home to Manila sometime in the next couple of weeks.

I already gave away a quarter of my closet during my last trip home.  I even managed to hand out some pocketbooks I had sworn never to part with.  Yet in simplifying my life the last few months, I have learned to detach my emotions from things that I know I will never use again.  Instead of throwing them away, though, I think of others who might find a good use for them.

I bought new sweater hangers to take care of my fall and winter wear during these sweater-weather months.  I am getting rid of the suits that may fit me now in my new size but which are definitely no longer fashionable to wear.  I have a few old reliables which were tailored in the classic cut, so those, I will keep.  My cardigans are now folded neatly to make the design visible and easier to pick through when pairing with my outfit of the day.

I have some memorabilia stashed away in the higher shelves of my closet which will need some thinking about.  I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but reminiscing these days does not always bring me down the giddy happy moments of the past.  Some of those moments are now wrapped in not-so-happy and even heart-rending discoveries and realizations better left untouched.  And I need space for other things that I need to make room for.

We always think of decluttering in the physical sense, but decluttering our mind and our heart are just as important.  How often do we find ourselves clinging to old memories or emotions which contradict what we have or not have now in the present?  I used to be guilty of that.   But when you go through an emotional upheaval that turns your world upside down, you find yourself picking up the pieces again.  It is then that you get the chance to sort through the things that haunt you unnecessarily.  In sorting through all that emotional rubble, you find yourself defining the things worth hanging on to for the lessons they have taught you.  There are memories and feelings that you anchor yourself on to stay focused on the positive.  You see the world in a different light once the dust settles.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t overnight.  But it can be done.

I was once at that point that I clung for dear life to what I thought I had– churning out evil plans and being constantly deluged with angry and hateful thoughts.  And then the realization hit me that I didn’t have what I thought was mine.  That no matter how I clung to what I thought could be mine again, it just wasn’t happening.  So I let go.  First, loosening the grip, then before I knew it, my hand had let go.  Had I known that doing that would also find me letting go of the anger and the pain — or releasing most if not all of it — I would have done it sooner.  But it wasn’t easy, and it still takes some effort to stay on track, but I’m in a better place.

So I’ve started getting rid of the useless pieces that hold some form of once happy memory, but which no longer give me that warm and fuzzy feeling when I look at it now.  Just as I look at a piece of clothing and ask myself if it is part of the “happier me look”, I look at the thoughts and worries that keep bumping around the walls of my mind and heart,  and ask myself if this is really something I can actually work on or am I worrying myself to oblivion without even any power over how that thing goes.

It’s all about letting go.  Whether it’s that favorite t-shirt you wore when your bra size was two cups smaller — and which won’t accommodate your voluptuous beauty now.. Or just trying to shut out the negative even when the temptation to let anger and hate in again is so strong.  You make room in your closet for the things that matter and are relevant and make you look good — those are the pieces you keep.    The same should hold true for your mind and heart and your life in general.  I know, easier said than done.  But like most things, it gets better with some practice and focus.  You just need to want to let go.  You need to tell yourself that shirt has to go because it’s occupying precious space in your closet.

Let go of the people who bring you down.  Stop going back to what used to be and focus on the now and tomorrow.

These days, I focus on the “happy”.  I look at my little guy and I know I’m set.  I think of dessert and that’s a happy thought I can smile about all day.  I think of a happy song and smile.  I am getting there a day at a time.
 

And the sun will shine again

#Sunset over #Manhattan -- sometimes I get lucky.. I've fallen in and out of love with this city and have fallen back in love with it again.  I'm here to stay.  This is where my #JourneyToHappy is taking place.. Getting there, holding my little guy's hand

Sundays usually find me thinking back to a weekend I wish wouldn’t end.  But this time, I’m actually looking forward to Monday.  I had started this post while sitting over my ribeye steak dinner and then had to stop after one paragraph to tend to my number one customer at home who was busy doing his homework.

Weekends should be three days, I always say — and the week, 6.  Ha!  =)  I can’t wait for Monday.. and yet I know I’ll be hitting the ground running at work, and there will be a thousand and one things to juggle.  I’ll live — and I’ll do it all with the Monday optimism that I try to infuse the day to help me get going.  (I have to have something beyond the caffeine!)  But I’m getting ahead of myself..

The weekend was productive, indeed.  Didn’t quite get the gown but got to fit a bunch (6 in all!) and found one but they didn’t have the right size.  The good news is that yes, I lost a size (Confirmed!) and maybe I might make it to the lower size yet.  (Ha!  Optimism…)

Everything went well including another Saturday trip to the city beyond the gown search.  I ate at the counter and sat next to these nice young men who ooohed and aahhhed my burger and shakes — and then I finally went back to Envelopper NYC in Chelsea to get some invitation supplies.  (Work in progress.)

All this, though, didn’t eclipse the sad news I got our Friday evening, that a high school batchmate and fellow Paulinian, Liezl Martine had passed away after losing her battle with cancer after 7 years.  That was a battle well fought by one of the sweetest persons I know.  And I’m not saying that just because she is a celebrity — she’s one who was but never acted like one, even back then when everyone looked at her with such awe and adulation because of her famous parents and her career as a child actress.  We weren’t close — but I know she’s one person who, if I saw her walking a distance away, would not pretend she doesn’t remember who I am.

I am actually closer to Arlene, her cousin, who was a Paulinian from her grade school days.  I remember a few trips home ago, I had actually asked for Liezl’s home address to send her something, but I wasn’t able to — Arlene’s message back was that I should go and see her.  I never did.  I did revel in the positive updates via Facebook.  She shared her cheery countenance every moment she could, savoring life and doing everything she could to live it to the fullest.

That was a tall order considering she had traveled the world over so many times — for the most part, it was going back to places she liked.  This was one person who could truly speak with authority if and when you asked her a question about some famous exotic travel destination because she’s the one who’s been there, done that.  But that isn’t what I envied her the most for — it was the undying love and devotion of her husband, Albert, the more famous one of the pair and yet the luckier one by all indications, having had Liezl as his better half.  And yet he returned that love with equal if not more dedication.

It brought us yet to another “life is short” moment.  Liezl was a year younger than me and she lived and cherished every day she was given, so that was yet another stark reminder that we have to live life to the fullest.. just like Liezl showed us how to.

To the Muhlach and Martinez families, my condolences.  Liezl is in a better place now.  It may seem like an endless night — but the sun will shine again.  Monday is here, it’s a fresh start.

Rest in Peace, @liezlmartinez -- to those she left behind, find comfort in these words from #colleencorahhitchcock's poem #ascension.  Liezl lives on in our hearts..

 

Falling in love with new beginnings all over again

The skies as they looked before all this snow came.. Falling in love with new beginnings all over again.  No matter how difficult a challenge lands on my lap, I know that I can always pick up the pieces again and start over if I fall or don't meet my goal

The storm has passed.  Posted on Instagram today:  The skies as they looked before all the snow came.  Falling in love with new beginnings all over again.  No matter how difficult a challenge lands on my lap, I know that I can always pick up the pieces again and start over if I fall or don’t meet my goals.  Even the night which comes upon us is tomorrow’s promise of another day.  #startoftheweek #startingover #newbeginnings #challenges #wordsofencouragement #positivity #optimism

It’s a difficult time — and I am deathly terrified but I know I can make it.  I have to make it.  I always said it’s important to take baby steps and in time, I will get to where I want to go.  I will be what I want to become.  I will achieve the goal I have set out for myself.

Midweek that feels like the start of the week — can’t wait and see the sun tomorrow.

 

 

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.

The little things that surprise you

I should be in bed.  I should be asleep.  Instead, I’m listening to jazz music and writing here.  (Oh, and i have a receipt to print out for tomorrow… but again, I’m here.)

I tried to look at my blog dashboard Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday.  I just looked, I didn’t type anything up.  And yet there were  a ton of things to write about.  I just didn’t have the energy nor the time.  Blame it on work.  (I know, right? Such a distraction!)

But tonight I vowed I would write, before all the inspiration and thoughts disappear into the ethernet and I am rendered stumped for a blog post again.
All bundled up and ready to brave the cold tonight, and looking out the window at a stunning view of Midtown Manhattan.  #coldautumn #nyc #midtown #midtowneast #midtowncityscape  #midtownmanhattan  #bundledup

It was another long day Thursday, and I was looking forward to a break at the end of the day but everything went awry at the last minute.  So all thoughts of leaving early and taking a leisurely stroll through the line of shops in Bryant Park had to be set aside to take care of some last minute tech glitches.  Problem was solved soon enough, but it was too late to do anything more beyond wait for the bus and get on it.

All bundled up with extra layers of clothing, I was ready to brave the cold.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Everybody seems to think the snow was here in Manhattan, but it was way upstate.  Still, we’re all grateful for the concern.  (My brother, Abril, actually sent me a message asking how we were doing against the cold front.  Cold, I told him.. then I saw the snow up in Buffalo and figured that’s what the rest of the world is seeing.  That’s practically like Bicol and Manila, so no, we’re cold but we’re not covered with snow.)

All week long, I’ve been hit by little surprises that made me smile.  From a note from BFF Donna in Australia, to a very cheerful greeting from my “half boss”, the President of our Asian operations  (a Brit who is based in Oz) telling me something looks different when he saw me — and although he couldn’t place it, he said it looked good.  Two things, I told him — I’ve lost weight, and the hair is a lighter color.    (He’s not quite my boss because I only help him when he’s here in New York — the real boss in my world is actually a Chief something something as I describe him.)  BFF Fe showered me with her wisdom all week long — the universe has spoken.

A friend who I hadn’t heard from for two weeks suddenly called just to say hi.  We were hoping to catch up but missed each other due to meetings.  Another who usually wouldn’t e-mail has e-mailed twice.  (Mental telepathy?)  And it turns out my courtyard neighbor is close cousins with a friend from my college days — and he has visited twice and I have never even seen him.  I pinged him on Messenger this morning while his cousin-in-law was seated next to me on the bus, and he was also so blown away by the fact that I actually know one of his closest relatives.

Little things that made me smile, and now as I look back on it, I find myself smiling an even bigger smile remembering.  That’s what happy thoughts do to us — they provide us the wall to lean on when we feel spent, defeated or on the verge of breaking down.  Or what give us a dose of optimism when we are buried in work or other worries.  Those little surprises that we would otherwise ignore individually, when summed up together gives us a better picture of how things aren’t all that bad, even when we feel like the cold is sapping us of much needed energy and optimism.

Take them for what they are instead of over thinking them — and you might yet be pleasantly surprised to see the week hasn’t been that bad at all.

 

 

 

Thankful

Sometimes colors just come together in an unexpected way at the moment you least expect it in the most unusual place.  #mynyc #mynewyork @onmywaytowork #manhattanskyline #ontheLIEWhen we were children, our parents always admonished us to say “Thank You” and “Please”.  Even now, I do the same to my 10-year-old.  And yet when you look at how we go about our day, there are many things that we don’t say “Thank you” for.  There are a lot of people we don’t get to say “Thank you” to. Sometimes, we crave to hear a simple word of appreciation and we get nary a thanks, when that would have made a world of difference.

This got me thinking the last couple of days and I’m deep into a “Thank You” project.  It’s still in the works so let me leave it at that.  I just find it to be one of those little acts of kindness that can literally mean so much and change the world.

Call it a means of paying forward the blessings I have and continue to be blessed with.  When the challenges seem to be piling up, the best remedy I have come to discover, is actually LITERALLY counting your blessings.  There is so much that we should be thankful for.  And yet as we go about our day, there is so much — and there are so many people — who go unappreciated.  More often than not, we do acknowledge the significance of whatever it is we ought to be thankful for, but we don’t always say it or express our appreciation outright.  How great would it be for someone to send us an unexpected “Thank you”!

I’m pulling together such a project, and I’ll write more about it when I have it in place.

My Thursday feels more like a Friday because of the Fourth of July weekend.  I am actually looking forward to recharging and getting things done — even if we’re not really going anywhere special.  I am also trying to do my Fourth of July weekend differently this year, because the past years have been non-events or days I would rather forget.  So between trying to make ‘new memories’ and trying to forget the bad, I’m trying to focus on other things.  (Like my “Thank You” project.)  Plus, Mother Nature has been pounding us with rain and pummelling us with nasty winds.

Last year was nice because my BFF Donna from Australia was in town.  And yet so many things happened, half of which I didn’t come to find out about until much later, which makes it one of the holidays I am not looking forward to.  So I try and count the positive — trying to keep my outlook bright and praying for the resolve not to give in to negativity.

If you ask me, I’d just like to be by some poolside or beach, sitting in the shade (I am not a sun lover), sipping a cocktail or two, and sleeping the day away.  It’s not even 11pm and I am already raring to hit the sack, so to speak.  Soon.

Still I wish you all a Happy Fourth of July — this great nation is celebrating it’s birthday and toasting the freedom we enjoy today.

Art Journal Every Day: I will overcome

Art journal Every day: I will overcome

I finally found an app that will help me blur the journaling around the actual layout after searching high and low in the app store. Thank you, Photo Blur!

Can you believe the layout above began with the pages below?
Art Journal Every Day: original layout before journaling

I’ve been trying to spend a little time each day working on multi-date layouts (where I put a sentence or two about a given topic featured on the page) or in completing actual journal entries.  I just finished working on a multi-page layout and will begin another one, and I can’t wait to see how that progresses and turns out after I am done.  It’s very refreshing to see something which I thought was already “done” get totally transformed into something different once I finish working on it.

I like the way I have made it a routine to pray, journal, pray, journal, pray, draw.  And then when I can, I try to get some reading done.  The downside is I haven’t had much time to write the cards and letters I have been making a mental list of, and neither have I been good with the e-mails.  I am trying to structure my time in such a way that I make a habit of beginning my day with my usual prayer/s and then I try to get some reading done if I wake up early enough.  (Today was a struggle, though, because I didn’t get up until almost 7am!  I know I should’ve straddled out of bed at 5:10am when I woke up..but I was summoned back to bed, and it was too tempting not to catch some more sleep before the day began.)

At lunch time, I try to catch up on my daily readings from KerygmaFamily if I haven’t already done it by then.  And if I still have time, I write on one of two journals that preoccupy me in real time writing.

It takes me time to finish a layout but I try to be good about it.  There are times when the journaling is done for the day but it takes me a day or two more to finish the actual page.  I like seeing the book taking shape… I find it so inspiring to even just glance at it on my desk without opening it, seeing its many colored pages.  I like that someone who can’t even draw a face without the help of tracing an outline can come up with this.  It’s something very personal that shows me what I am becoming and where I’ve been. 

My first layouts in 2012 were mostly symbolic without much journaling, but these days I find a greater need to write.  Sometimes in ways only I can understand.  I layer writing over writing and then just trust that I will understand it if I ever go back to it.  Otherwise, I am happy with the way it has come together.  It doesn’t need to be read, it only needs to be seen as a whole.
Instagram Buzz
I posted this on my Instagram with this caption:

Art journal every day: I will move on – I started doing #artjournaleveryday in 2012 when I first bumped into @balzerdesigns, Julie Fei-fan Balzer’s website . To this day, she is an inspiration to me as a non-artist trying to come up with personal art. She has generously shared her comments and techniques. I recently returned to #artjournaling using my #alteredbook which had lain dormant for most of 2013. This year, I promise to take better care of me and focus on myself while taking care of others.

I got the biggest surprise of my life when Julie left a comment and made my day. She truly inspires and makes a difference in so many people’s lives.

Five things I’m thankful for

I know this is something I should be doing more of: thinking of the things I should be grateful for, but life happens.  (Another list I would do well to write about: Things I should be doing more of!)

1.  Friday… (That is why I greet everyone in the office a happy Friday!)

2.  Power — and by this I mean electricity.  (I have “REVOLUTION“, the TV series to thank for that newfound appreciation of something so commonplace in our 21st century lives.)

3.  Pan de sal — it brings me back “home”.

4.  Another pound lost… self explanatory. (HA!)

5.  Seeing my niece, Andreanna, wearing a pretty, pretty dress (or dresses) from Ninang.  Priceless.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Art Journal Every Day: Tomorrow WILL be a better day

It’s one of those days.. but I’m going home feeling all better, and looking forward to tomorrow.  When things keep going wrong at every turn, the best frame of mind is to keep with optimism and know that there is a new beginning tomorrow when the sun rises again.


If you want to see more of my Art Journal, please click here, or you can always choose my Art Journal Every Day page from the list on the top left of the blog page.

I invite you to view the Flickr Group dedicated to this endeavor by clicking here, and be inspired to create your own art journal. (Artistic talent optional.)