Spring Cleaning

My voice echoes in our two-bedroom home. My husband and I are busy sorting through stuff we have accumulated over the years. Trash bags are piled on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up by garbage collectors who do show up sporadically. Our dogs stare at us, wondering if they’ll be thrown out next. It’s been three weeks since I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I have no plans of stopping my purge yet.

Kondo’s been popular since 2015 after she broke through the scene with her eclectic way of blending efficiency with shades of Shintoism. I have been a fan of the Japanese culture ever since I went to Tokyo for a two-week study program on Industrial Relations (incidentally, this was also in 2015). I loved how the Japanese people seemed always on the go but never forgot about their manners – even the simple act of wrapping an item bought at a convenience store was done with utmost respect. I was amazed at how much they got done in so short a time without compromising quality. And I was really fascinated at how content they were with their compact houses.

Flash forward to April of 2017. I was on the verge of a meltdown because I could not seem to keep anything in order. I didn’t know what was wrong. I wasn’t having an episode yet I felt empty working at the office and going home didn’t feel like, well, going home. Both my house and my mind felt cluttered. I’ve read articles about Marie Kondo before and her tips made sense to me, but it wasn’t until I read the book that I realized that this lady knows her sh*t.

Devouring the pages in a few hours, I immediately declared Kondo’s book as life-changing. I mean it. It’s right up there with The Stranger and The Bhagavad Gita. Some people find her pieces of advice kooky and obsessive-compulsive in nature, and I can’t blame them. She’s pretty ruthless about defining what stays but she also recommends saying “thank you” to what goes. It seems strange saying farewell to an inanimate object yet and this is where you see the magic of the Konmari method. So many of us hold on to things because of the memories they represent but that’s precisely the reason they’re called memories, they belong to the past. Expressing gratitude shows that you honor the part they played in your personal evolution and that you love them enough to be of use to others.

The funny thing is after I KonMari’d my stuff, my husband followed suit. This is a guy who’d hold on to receipts and would wear ratty shirts that look like they’d do a better job of wiping up dog pee so yes, seeing him put his crap away was nothing short of magic. Marie Kondo got my hoarder-of-a-husband part ways with his college f*ckboy wardrobe. He even said hugged some of the clothes. Yep, I am ready to worship at Kondo’s feet.

After we were done schlepping our stuff to junk shops, my mind was clearer. Answers to questions I’ve been ruminating on for days just came out of the woodwork. Decluttering has always had a calming effect on me but this time, it was more powerful. Decision-making got easier. It dawned on me that aside from my home, there were other areas of my life that needed decluttering: health, career, personal relationships. Perhaps they can all benefit from getting the Kondo treatment.

The best thing about getting rid of things that no longer “spark joy” is that it gives you space for things that actually do. So the idea of moving residences, quitting work, or cutting off people no longer fills me with dread but with a sense of excitement and gratitude.

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them, then that is neither wasteful nor shameful.” – Marie Kondo

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Mind Games

“It’s all in your head.”

How many times have I heard that before?

Just because it’s all in my head doesn’t mean it doesn’t infiltrate every fiber of my being. Many poignant pieces have been written by people who have gone down this route and each essay, poem, blog post, or whathaveyou has been praised as brave and authentic and hauntingly beautiful… but there is nothing beautiful when you are the one battling demons.

On paper, your life is good, you have a job, family and friends who love you back, and hobbies that should be keeping you entertained, yet there are days when you don’t want to get out of bed and nights when you think it won’t be much of an issue if you don’t wake up tomorrow. You are afraid to tell others because they may not understand and you just want to convince yourself that nothing is wrong with you. That this, too, shall pass. You get mad at yourself for feeling this way because other people are financially worse off but seem to manage better. Or maybe they are just as good as hiding it as you are. You go to Church, hoping for a miracle but you feel stupid and a failure as a Christian because you cannot seem to appreciate the life that has been given to you. So you keep it all to yourself until it becomes too much and it boils over to the surface. One minute you are okay, the next you are raving mad at someone for failing to get your order right. Sometimes you cry just because the crumpled paper you meant to shoot in the trash bin misses its mark. Every emotion is magnified and you are desperate for a way to release this pain from your body. You finally decide to tell others. Most of them are sympathetic, others not so much.

“It’s all in your head.”

Yes, it’s all in my head and that’s what makes it more frightening. The fact that it’s inside me and I cannot challenge it to a duel or a wrestling match or a flip-top battle.

Depression is real and ugly. I wish I didn’t know this from first-hand experience but I do. I’ve been there and hated every minute of it. I hated feeling powerless over my thoughts despite the number of self-help books I’d devour to make myself feel better. I hated dealing with people who told me I should quit being so dramatic. I hated not being able to tell anyone at the risk of being judged. I hated myself for being weak and ashamed of my condition. I was known as a strong, independent woman and while the rest of the world saw that, my mind only saw myself as a helpless soul chained by depression.

But then the time came when I couldn’t take it anymore and had to choose between my desire to live and the thing that was eating me alive. And so early this year I sought therapy. Some friends thought it was ludicrous, the idea of paying someone to hear you talk. A few even volunteered to be my sounding board if I just pay them instead but there is no substitute for a real professional. The money I spent in therapy was the best money I ever spent in my entire life. I hated the first two sessions because they brought to light the deepest pains and angst I thought were safely buried in a long-forgotten place but there can never be true healing without probing. With each session, I felt better and more in control of my thoughts and my reactions towards the rest of the world. My mind became a friendlier place to live in and I became more at peace with the thoughts that take place in it every second.

But it is never over. One simply isn’t just “done” with therapy because even though my therapist said that I was good to go, my work to choose more positive thoughts is to be done daily.

Why am I sharing this story? Because I found out that a former classmate has succumbed to her battle with depression and it breaks my heart knowing that someone so beautiful and smart and vivacious has had to fight with demons. We never went beyond hi, hello, and good morning in class yet I could relate to her because of her pain. If this post can encourage at least one person to seek help, then it has served its purpose.

People who are battling cancer and other illnesses are praised for being courageous but the world isn’t as supportive to those who struggle with mental illness. If you feel that your most of your days are bleaker than usual, I beseech you to seek help. You are a beautiful creature worthy of a happy life and no matter how you may be feeling right this minute, YOU ARE LOVED. I am just a text, tweet, message, or e-mail away.

The Hesitant Mother

The world just celebrated Mother’s Day last Sunday and I enjoyed every bit of pampering I got from my husband and took pleasure in responding to every greeting that was sent to me via Facebook and text messaging. But let me confess one thing: I have not always enjoyed motherhood.

I was not ready when I had Josh. I was angry, depressed, hurt, scared – I was a lot of things but happy when I found out I was having a kid. Motherhood was something I had never envisioned for myself. My goals were to graduate with honors, get a masters degree, get a law degree, be a polyglot, and travel the world. I did not see myself saddled with domestic responsibilities. One moment. It only took a moment for my life to take a 180-degree turn. As I saw the two strips turn bright pink, I cried knowing that things will never be the same again. The entire nine months went by in a haze of crying fits and bouts of morning sickness. I was miserable. Even more so when I gave birth to my son after 10 hours of labor. The minute Joshua was placed on my stomach, I tried hard to look for that spark of maternal instinct but there was none. I felt alienated from my own child. I did the things that were expected of a mother – staying up late, anticipating bottle feedings and diaper changes, working while studying to make sure he has milk and nappies – but I did them out of a sense of obligation, not love. I thought I was a horrible monster to not be as attached to my son as other mothers are to their own children. Looking back, wish I had been easier on myself. Truth is, the bond between children and mothers doesn’t come immediately for everyone. I blame Johnson & Johnson’s commercials for feeding us with the idea that mothers automatically turn into Donna Reed the minute their child grabs their pinkies – that carrying them in your womb for three trimesters automatically ascertains your falling in love with them. In my case, it took about six months for me to appreciate the little creature who inherited my eyes and my temper, and another year to realize that I love him. The bond doesn’t always come instantaneously and I’m sending a big digital hug to mothers who are in the same place as I was back then. Forgive yourselves for not being the perfect mother that society expects you to be. It’s okay to feel sad, to feel different, to feel tired.

Motherhood is exhausting and scary, yes, but it also opens you up to the idea that no matter how long it took or will take you to get there, you are capable of loving someone other than yourself and your shoe collection. Prepare yourself for the toll that it will take on your physical and emotional well-being but also be ready for those times that your kid will you with gestures that make rethink their age. I was fortunate to have such moment this morning when my son sidled up next to me, intertwined his fingers with mine, and whispered, “Nanay, I love you.”

It may have been six days late but it was the best Mother’s day greeting I’ve had so far. Some things may take longer than usual but it doesn’t make the result any less beautiful.

MLM Mayhem

The message came from a high school classmate I have not talked to in years. “Free ka ba ng Monday?” she typed. Thinking it was a message meant for another person I replied, “Wrong send ka yata?” She said she wasn’t mistaken, that the message was meant for me and that she wanted us to meet for coffee. Being burned one too many times by invitations such as this, I bluntly asked her “What for?” to which she answered, “May ipe-present kasi ako sa iyo baka magustuhan mo.

Just as I thought, another Multi-level marketing (MLM) pitch. I graciously turned down her invitation and resumed my office duties.

Two things can be taken from the paragraph above: One – I should not be opening my Facebook account while in the office and two – MLM is a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing down. I am pretty sure that one in three of my Facebook friends have been propositioned for a coffee meeting and perhaps some of them might have even been gullible enough to take the bait. I can’t blame them, these people seem pretty sincere when they’re asking you how you are and telling you how they are excited to see you after all these years. You might even enjoy the conversation, but then comes the sales pitch and you find yourself doing all sorts of diva hands just to reinforce that you are not interested. “But it’s a pretty foolproof way to earn money!” they argue. “I have not even been doing this for two months but I’m earning thousands of pesos per week.” For chrissakes do not, under any circumstances, give in to the get-rich scheme. If that person really has been earning tons of cash per week, then he/she should be inviting you to a steak dinner and not to measly cup of coffee with no refills. I do not blame the Juan de la Cruz who gets sucked in to MLM scams. Every one of us dreams of being able to pull in millions without so much as a sneeze. But you have to draw the line between dreams and reality.

Weeks ago, I was talking to a co-worker who said she has joined a lot of networking businesses. I almost fell out of my seat laughing when she said that one of the products she had to sell were special sanitary pads. Now I’m a person who hoards sanitary pads and I use three types per cycle so you can say I have no problems doling out cash for breathable covers and wide wings, but the product she mentioned was ridiculous. It claimed to regulate hormones, prevent pimples, and all sorts of stuff. Maybe it even prevents cancer, I can’t be sure as I was too busy laughing. On a more serious note though, the extent in which some people stretch themselves for multi-level marketing has gone borderline cult-like. My co-worker was lucky to have snapped out of it early enough but others are not so lucky. Here are people who do not care if they burn connections as long as they tell anyone and everyone on Facebook that their brand is the holy grail of health/weight-loss/skin-whitening/vagina-tightening products. They’ll even cite celebrities to back up their claims. Though I do not doubt that these celebrities use, and at some point, endorse their products I don’t think they do it as zealously as some of our Facebook friends. To be fair, the products these people are selling are quite good (hence, the expensive tag price), but the manner in which they are distributed is kind of shady if you ask me. Instead of focusing on selling the products, the heads of MLM schemes prioritize the recruitment of people who need to cash out for membership and training. Then, when they’re on the inside, they are also tasked to recruit other people who, depending on the program, may or may not contribute to the upline’s (recruiter’s) income. This system really perturbs me, what happens when they hit market saturation?

Is this really the way to earn money now? By being “exclusive distributors” and by building pyramids where only the people on top get to enjoy the riches? Should we dedicate an entire business program in colleges to study this format? Is it just a fad that will run its course or is it something we will all catch, one coffee cup at a time?

First of Many

My son just confessed that he has a crush on someone. I don’t know how the topic came up. We were just watching episodes of 7th Heaven when I suddenly felt the urge to ask him if he liked someone in school. A sheepish smile broke across his face and my heart stopped a little. “What’s her name?” I asked. “Or his name”, I added for good measure. He replied that the girl’s name is Zayna… or maybe it’s spelled Xena as you know parents cannot be trusted with giving their kids uncomplicated names.

So kailan ko siya makikilala?” the nosy mother in me asked. “Punta ka ng school para makilala mo siya“, he answered. Poor boy, he doesn’t know what he is suggesting. He went on to say that we should keep it a secret and I agreed.

Some secret it was, he told Aaron and Mama five minutes after. I asked if he already shared his “secret” with any of his classmates and he nodded his head… there’s that coy smile again. Drat. He told Zayna/Xena herself. “Anak, wag ganun. Girls like it when you keep things cool.” I advised my son. Just then, my mother piped up, “Hindi, okay lang. If you like someone, you let that other person know.” I looked at Aaron to back me up but he was engrossed with his tuna carbonara that time.

Man, I wasn’t ready for this. I thought he’d start having crushes while he’s in grade school but the heart wants what it wants eh? Oh well, in a couple of years we’re going to have “the talk”, whether he’s ready for it or not.

Oh, and Zayna/Xena? We shall see each other soon.

Ten Signs You’re Getting Older

 

I just celebrated my 28th birthday and while everyone was reminding me that I am two years shy from hitting the big three-oh, I kept a demure smile and told them that I still feel 23.

At times though, certain things remind me that I’m not as youthful as I would like my cells to believe. In my opinion, the following items are experiences familiar to people inching towards their 30th year:

1. You can no longer pull all-nighters.

Remember when you crammed a semester’s worth of lessons into three hours of rapid studying and memorizing? Yeah, so do I. You probably had time to party after the exams. Try duplicating that while you’re making a presentation for your boss and see if you’re not asleep after the first hour of cramming.

2. You get exasperated at kids who don’t dress their age.

My eyeballs immediately roll at tweenies dressed like twenty-somethings, forgetting that at one point, I also tried to pull off the party girl look while waiting for puberty to hit.

3. Sunday is becoming your favorite day of the week

I used to hate Sundays because they herald the coming of busy Mondays yet now I appreciate the sense of laziness that comes with this day.

4. Fast food is something you avoid as you can immediately see its effects.

Don’t you just hate that you can no longer eat a burger without it showing on your gut?

5. You forego the hip and trendy club for something more relaxed.

Who cares if they are offering beer at 50% less? Well, I don’t drink so this never mattered to me… but yeah, I want to be in a place where I can actually hear the other person talk!

6. You take more chances…

…because you’ve seen people your age die and you realize you’re lucky to be alive, you should be making the most out of life.

7. You begin to realize that your parents have their own life stories.

I went through the whole “My-mother-does-not-understand-me-at-all” phase too but now I am beginning to see that my mother has her own history – her own reasons for being who she is, for thinking what she thinks, for saying what she says. I used to respect her (grudgingly) for being my mother but now I respect her as an individual.

8. Your role during the holidays has changed.

The feeling of  getting excited over Christmas Eve dinner and opening the presents are now distant memories of your childhood. You don’t know exactly when or how it happened but you suddenly became in charge of cooking dinner and shopping for presents.

9. You don’t feel the need to read every book that is trending on social media.

Who cares if the author is being touted as this decade’s Dan Brown. If it isn’t your genre, you pass up on buying it and letting it collect dust bunnies on your bookshelf.

10. There’s a particular thing you spend a lot of money on.

For others it’s shoes, for me it’s perfume. It’s not about being pasosyal, it’s merely realizing there is one thing in your life that you won’t make compromises with, even if it means shelling extra dough .

A Letter of Apology to People Who Have Seen My Selfies

Dear Selfie-Loather,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am sorry for any spelling mistakes I may commit as I am typing in a dark room, with only the monitor of my laptop to serve as my light. I fight the urge to turn on the camera and take a photo of myself as it would defeat the purpose of this note. Let me begin by saying I am sorry. I am sorry for flooding your timeline with self portraits that not even my mother likes to view on a regular basis.

It started out innocently, as a way to have a profile photo on the now-defunct Friendster. What started out as a need to be identified among the bazillion site users turned into an obsession on finding out which angle is more flattering. The advent of camphones and faster internet access only exacerbated the situation. I was just one of the many college students who updated her social media profile more than she was poring over her readings of Habermas and Marcuse. Around the same time that I registered for my sophomore classes, I also registered for Multiply and quickly filled my profile with albums of about twenty photos each dedicated to me, myself, and I. Other friends labeled their albums “Vanity” while I stuck to the more chic-sounding “C’est Moi”. As sophisticated as the album was named, there was nothing cosmopolitan about the so-called random shots taken in the bathroom, on the soccer field, and in front of the clothesline. Yet I did not think I was offending anybody since nearly everyone I knew (or at least everyone on my friends list) was doing it too. It is with this mindset that our selfie obsession survived the shutting down of both Friendster and Multiply (may the rest in peace) and trickled to Facebook and Instagram. Then again, trickle is too mild a term to describe the onslaught of photos on social networking sites. Suddenly, everyone’s face is online and there is no shortage of captions/excuses that accompany it. Breakfast? Flight out of town? Manic Monday at the office? If it happened, then there’s a selfie to document it. I am guilty of doing all these, I just draw the line at posting photos of my new haircut. Does that mean I’m better than anyone else? Not at all.

See, selfie-hater, the tendency to take photos of ourselves is a habit that we have inculcated in the past seven years or so. Oxford Dictionaries crowned selfie as word of the year and it’s only a matter of time before the National Mental Health Association classifies it as a compulsion. We have angled our heads just so and pursed our lips ever so slightly many times already that we can do it with our eyes closed and without a front-facing camera. This does not mean that we do not understand your angst against cam-whoring. Believe me, I have hovered the mouse pointer over the unfriend button as many times as you have scoffed at my duck face poses (and while we’re at it, I’m calling out guys on their scrunch face or “sungit looks”. Ikinagwapo niyo yan?). I just did not know how irritating selfies were until I signed up for Instagram. I guess seeing it in a different platform just made me realize that everyone has a saturation point, even when it comes to pictures of pretty people. I promptly deleted the lone selfie on my IG after that.

So please, accept my sincerest apologies for all the times you were treated to an unfiltered photo of my BB-creamed face. I know how you feel and if I can only turn back time to shield you from my self-promoting photos, I would.

Sincerely,

Pamby

P.S.

This does not mean I will never ever post a selfie again, though. The minute I get rock-hard abs, you can be certain that it’s going on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and my mother’s planner so please consider yourself warned.