Spring Cleaning

My voice echoes in the two-bedroom house I share with my family. My husband and I are busy sorting through the stuff that we have accumulated over the years. Trash bags are piled on the sidewalk, waiting to be picked up by garbage collectors. 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, and I can’t blame them. She’s ruthless about defining what stays and recommends saying “thank you” to what goes but this is where the author’s charm lies. 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. I am ready to erect a monument for her.

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

Sacred Space

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” – Kahlil Gibran

This week had my social media newsfeed teeming with posts of love and togetherness. I don’t mind. I like seeing happy couples, especially those who have been together for many years because Lord knows relationships take a huge amount of patience for it to work. I myself have contributed to the mushy posts when I uploaded a photo of the breakfast my husband made for me on Valentine’s Day (just like last year, he had forgotte that we don’t celebrate it) and when I uploaded a photo of us having lunch together (though truthfully, it was more of a I-need-to-get-out-and-get-sunshine-because-this-weather-is-screwing-up-my-head kind of date than anything else). Anyway, I am not anti-relationship or anti-love for that matter. Are you kidding me? I actually believe that love is the only thing that satisfies the philosophical transcendentals Being in that it is true, good, and beautiful. Love is my religion and as Cher puts it, it is the groove in which we move.

That’s why it’s important that we go beyond romantic affiliations when we think of love. I like that Valentine’s Day gives me a chance to pig out on chocolates but I don’t like how commercialism has made it all about couples. If you grew up in the Christian faith, chances are you grew up thinking God is Love. Am not here to affirm or negate that, but I see the parallelism. If God is an omniscient, omnipresent Being then that is also how I perceive love. It is all-encompassing and understanding. It’s not limited to romantic relationships as we know great love can exist between family, friends, or even acquaintances who share the same wounds. It is not confined within the four mirrored walls of jungle-themed motels. It is neither self-serving nor is it self-annihilating. Love is space.

Sacred space. I believe in love as existing from a sacred space that can flow from within or in between relationships (romantic, filial, or platonic). It’s a tragedy that the line from that Tom Cruise movie has often been quoted without analyzing its negative repercussion on our psyche. “You complete me.” Really? Really?! So up until that moment you met that person, you have been walking around with a gaping hole oozing with God knows what? Have we really been conditioned to think that life is not worth living until other people decide to spend time with you? Mind you, this erroneous perspective is not exclusive to couples. We are also guilty of giving way too much of ourselves for our friends, not understanding that a give-and-take relationship does not mean you give and they take.

It all comes back to honoring your sacred space. Take the time to find out what makes you feel loved and try giving it back to yourself. (Geez, I can already imagine the masturbation jokes that will probably come out of that sentence… Whatever makes you happy, though.) Honor the space that exists between you and your partner. (My husband and I have long agreed that we aren’t each other’s soulmates or best friend and we are soooo okay with that). Honor the space between you and the members of your community/workplace/Tinder network. From that space, let love grow. Come to terms with your own understanding of it vis-a-vis relationships and just marvel at its presence. Celebrate it not only through an overpriced dinner every February 14th but through small, yet still significant ways, daily.

 

Forever, For Now

 

There seems to be a mania sweeping the nation. Day in and day out, I see my Facebook contacts mulling over the concept of forever. The source of this conundrum remains a mystery to me. Was it brought about by a movie or by hours of sitting in the Manila traffic during rush hour? Either way, it is a concept that divides people into Team #mayforever and Team #walangforever. I myself have joined the bandwagon at one point, cracking a joke that my son believes “may forever” as he told his grandmother “Bebe hindi tayo maghihiwalay. Forever mo akong apo”. (It sounded like a threat to Mama, and she is still recovering.)

What is forever and why do we obsess over it?

A salvo of words immediately comes to mind when we are asked to provide synonyms for forever: eternal, endless, for always are just a few. But are these the really the things we pertain to when we sound off our thoughts on forever? Forever means exactly that: forever. It transcends time, death, mood swings, and diarrhea. It does not cease the minute your cellphone battery dies. Forever has existed way before you did and will continue to do so after you die – which makes the the idea of mortals going after forever a little absurd. We yearn for forever yet our existence remains finite.

Crushes, flings, friendships, even marriage, all these connections are temporary because we ourselves are temporal beings. The finite nature of relationships is what makes it more special. We plunge into a relationship and embrace the ecstasy and pain that come with it because we know it has an ending. This does not mean that we are masochists or idiots, this only means that we are human and that our mortality makes us long for that which is eternal. We must remember though, that the infinite is in the finite of every moment. We don’t have to kill ourselves in our search for “forever” because “for now” can be just as wonderful.

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.

Of Coffee Cups and Pyramids

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.