Chasing Calm

There are a lot of things that would normally throw my day into a tailspin, but I’ve been lucky in that the previous years have helped me hone my ability  to take control and not let my circumstances take me over.  We often feel like we are (about to, or are ) losing control.  And in that moment when the reality of it hits us is when we are at our most vulnerable, because the realization often paralyzes us instead of pushing us forward to move in the right direction.

Anger, confusion, anxiety all cause us to exert so much energy either because we choose to wallow in it or fight it.  Neither helps.  I’ve been there too many times to know that fighting it or drowning in it will not bring me a solution.  If anything, it only serves to delay the whole process and just makes the dark more terrifying, or the storm more menacing.  We all cope in different ways, but I have learned to find calm in the midst of chaos to help me steady my footing.

I used to make the mistake of trying to do something grand to equal the scale of whatever problem or challenge I was facing.  Sometimes you just need to go “simple” and the effect will be more profound.

So here are some suggestions that work for me when I try to find my balance in the midst of the chaos… hope it helps you find your calm, too.

Take a walk.  I used to have the luxury of walking outside and just literally circling around the block to take in the ordinary and breathe some fresh air.  I am fortunate to be across from one of the quieter and smaller sanctuaries in Manhattan, and I don’t even have to go far — just walk across the street and I’m in my own little paradise.

The seasons tend to make this a bit of a challenge at times but I’ve been at the park in the heat of summer, during the chilly days of spring and fall, and the barren cold days of winter.  I have found a spiritual anchor in this four-cornered space of green in the metropolis, and it’s a place that holds many fond memories for me.

Do something that you like.  This may sound like something you wouldn’t think of when your mind and/or heart is troubled, but you’d be surprised how many things you like to do that you don’t actually indulge yourself time to do on a regular day.  People always say they love to bake or cook, or read, or just go browse the make up counters in the department stores or for us lucky make up addicts here, walk over to Sephora and sample the wares.. so do it on the day when you feel like you’re suffocating or can’t think straight and you might actually find yourself free from the tethers of anxiety — even for a moment.

It might actually help for you to list 3 things that you like to do from the top of your mind and keep this on a post it note on your wall or your desk, or even the fridge.  One day you might need to remind yourself you just need to do one of these — simple and mundane, though, the task may be — and it might save you from falling deeper into chaos.

Try aromatherapy.  I won’t go into recommending scents — I have come to learn that our olfactory senses have a mind of their own and is unique from one person to the next.  We all have our own preferences.. from musky to fruity, to floral to sharp.  Certain scents tend to bring us home — fresh baked bread?  bread toasting in the oven?  Vanilla?  Handwash?  I remember I used to love the scent of Dial soap back home until they started changing up the scents for variety.  Just a whiff or a pop of flavor in the air can break you out of the doldrums so to speak and give you a second wind or whiff of the wind, literally.

List down 5 things you are grateful for.  Be it people, things, or non-tangible items that make you feel grateful.  List it down and keep going back to that list to remind you you are blessed.  It might help you focus on what is important and relevant, because you will only be grateful for that which really matters.  No matter what lands on your lap, if it is inconsequential to you, you won’t give a care whether you have it or not.

Eat or imbibe a favorite food.  People tend to think comfort food is anything but good — anything gooey and sinfully delicious that makes your tummy happy.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves about the saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  Perhaps the way to finding calm is to make our own stomachs happy — even if but only for a moment.

Pray in silence.  While I know that many people have taken to being unbelievers, I personally have found solace in prayer.  That kind of prayer that just lets you be.  Praying without words, without chanting anything formulaic or spontaneous.  You just put yourself in that state where you are with whoever you deem to be the higher power in your universe and just fall silent.  No asking, no whining.  Just silence.  You might yet get the answer to the questions bugging your heart.

Find a task that calms you down and do it without hesitation when you feel like your mind and heart are all over the place.  I know of people who will clean their house top to bottom even if their natural state is spotless clean.  Others who will start working on focus-intensive hobbies like building things with their hands.  I draw my paper garden.  I start conditioning polymer clay — which is simply kneading a small block of clay to soften it before molding and baking.  When I feel like I’m starting to get out of the zone, I grab a pen, or I grab whatever it is I can to stop the onslaught before it comes.  Or when I am restless, I get busy and find my calm.

The thing is to find what works for you.  I can go on and on with my list and what might work for me might not do you any good. In our infancy, we were imbued by nature a gift for self-soothing.  We would suck our thumb or find ourselves swaying with a repetitive pattern or music that we hear and lose ourselves in that.  We somehow lost that gift when we found discernment as our brains started to develop.  But that ability to find comfort is there.  It is a matter of finding it and sticking to it to help us steer our moods when the storms come.

Find what works and you will be able to get up faster when you fall, or jumpstart the engine when it stalls.


In My Mailbox: Beda Law Entrance Exam on Friday — what now?

I love getting mail from those who stray into this corner, and today, one greeted me from a “Lawyer Wannabe”.   (You can email me at pinaynewyorker at gmail dot com). I didn’t get a name exactly so I am going genderless on this, and just reprint the note I got.

“Good afternoon po, Atty. I’ve read your blog po and naisipan ko mag-email. Sana di po ako nakadisturb.. Can you give me some tips on what to study for my entrance exam in SBC? This coming friday na po kasi. Ano po coverage ng exam? ūüôā Thank you!! “

I wanted to be able to sit down and write a full response but was presssed for time as it would be Thursday already by the time my reply was read.  So I sat on the bus and postponed painting my face for until after I had written a reply.  Time being of the essence, I tried to write a comprehensive response anyway.

Here goes:

Thanks for writing and no, I don’t consider emails from the blog readers a bother.
First of all, good luck!

Secondly, I hope that you were able to read the post on preparing for the exams..

Third– you have to keep in mind this is an aptitude test so there is really no general scope. They are trying to determine if you have the smarts for a legal education. There are no set parameters for review because they are probing what’s already in that coconut of yours. ( just a little humor.. I know you’re nervous.)
Fourth- with that said, what tips can I give you?

– Relax and calm your mind. Repeat over and over to yourself you want this — and yes, you can do it. Doubt will slow you down and the test is mostly under time pressure. Say 120 vocabulary terms in 30 minutes which means you need to answer 4 in a minute. They’re not trying to find the speed readers amongst you but it’s simply because if you had the word in your vocabulary, you wouldn’t even have to think about it.

– Pick the first answer that lights up and don’t second guess yourself. Again, they are looking at what’s already in there so even if it’s a guess, your brain is actually wired to pick that which it knows is true or correct. In the same way, your brain will guess wrong if you’re playing darts not really knowing anything. The tests are designed to see those guesses.

– I don’t remember the San Beda exam but if there is an essay question like Ateneo , answer the question and then explain. They are looking at your writing skills here. Can you form a coherent thought? Can you explain yourself clearly?

If the question is why do you want to be a lawyer, be honest. There is no right or wrong answer as they are looking at how you write. If it’s an opinion question, say, on the death penalty, your first sentence should declare your stand, (for or against). Write a complete sentence, do not say just Yes or no. (Yes, I believe in the death penalty.). Repeat the question if you must within the answer. Then explain.

Never start with “because. ”

Do not use “I think…”. Instead, use “I believe..”

Your last sentence should reinforce or reiterate your stand or first statement, even if it’s a repetition of your first sentence.

Lastly, pray.

Trust that whatever the results are, wherever you land, there is a reason for it. UP said no to me, but I am grateful and happy I landed with the Jesuits. Whatever your faith is, whether you believe in God or not, know that the universe has a grand design. Don’t fight it, just go with the flow.

Dispossess your mind of the idea of being in a courtroom because lawyering is beyond litigation. I didn’t realize that until after law school, and I haven’t done any lawyering except for the periodic legal opinion request from friends who know I am one.

Do I feel like I wasted all that effort and time? No, I don’t. I had always dreamt of becoming a lawyer to be one– I didn’t want to be just a college graduate. I love studying the law and fought hard for it, even when it meant working while studying.

Am I ever going back to being one? I always say once a lawyer, always a lawyer– whether I am just being a mom or working up in my little perch in the corporate world where I am totally in a non-legal function.

Let me know how it goes and where you land. Very exciting times for you! I am fasting today and will say a little something to thenBig Boss upstairs soon as I hit send.

Best of luck!

Related posts on the pursuit of a legal education can be found in the blog section LLAWYER WANNABE in the navigation bar.

Of roadtrips, etc.

Vacations are things I look forward to and dread at the same time. ¬†It’s not so much the vacation per se but the getting there. ¬†Sometimes we fly, sometimes we drive. ¬†Last week’s vacation was a drive to Williamsburg, VA which was probably our fourth if not fifth trip there.

This year was different because the ten-year-old now chooses to travel comfy (translated: with a pillow and blankie) and he packs his own backpack now. ¬†(I still pack his clothes in the suitcase, though.) ¬†And while car sickness is still a problem despite his Sea-Band Acupressure Wrist Bands, it’s a little easier to manage.

I personally pack my go-to tote which contains my journals, art stuff to bring, magazines and other knickknacks.  The sanitizers and wipes go into either his backpack or my tote, but always INSIDE the car.

Things to remember before leaving the house:

1.  Pack your chargers and make sure all handhelds are fully charged.  (You only have so many plugs to charge into in the car.)

2. ¬†Bring drinking water and other beverages to save you from buying at every stop. ¬†If you travel with kids who drink from juice packs, freeze a few the night before and keep it in a cooler. ¬†You won’t need any ice to go with the drinks because the individual packs will cool the container.

4. ¬†Don’t forget snacks. ¬†Kids often get hungry between rest stops and you don’t want to have to stop just for food.

5.  Pack a plastic bag specifically for trash in the car and discard at the next stop or when full.

6. ¬†If your child tends to get car sick, fold and pack several good plastic shopping bags. ¬†Make sure they have no holes so that you don’t have to scramble with gooey drips if you happen to have the kid throw up into a bag with holes.

7.  Pack ample napkins or a roll of paper towels if you can.  You never know if you will have to clean up.

Things to remember when in the car:

1.  Make sure the seats are comfy and that your child stays buckled up.

2.  Keep the drinks in cupholders where they will be upright and will prevent spills.

3.  Use the compartments behind the seats wisely by putting items that you might need to grab in a huff like napkins or barf bags.  Keep the maps, information sheets or ticket printouts there as well.  Avoid storing bulky items that might impede movement of the passengers.

I enjoyed this particular road trip. ¬†It was relaxing even if I had to grab a bunch of motion sickness tablets an hour into the trip at a stop, and coax the boy to down the tablet. ¬†The good news is that it worked almost instantaneously as promised! ¬†We did our usual stops — finding one Cracker Barrel restaurant along the way for lunch. Browsing their country store is always a trip in itself and the food is reasonably priced and satisfying.

I had the seasonal Campfire Chicken Meal which came out wrapped like the left and unwrapped to a sumptuous feast on the right.
Cracker Barrel Campfire Chicken mealCracker Barrel Campfire Chicken meal

All for $9.99! ¬†It’s always an enjoyable experience going around their stores and eyeing the decor in their restaurants which are, uncanniliy, almost perfect repiicas of one another.

Needless to say, we did another Cracker Barrel stop on the way back. ¬†It’s now part of our road trip routine. ¬†Cracker Barrel branches are located off of most high way stops all throughout the United States. ¬†If you haven’t tried it yet, just going in is an experience that should make your trip worth it.