Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas_Bella Expatria

My Christmases are always spent in Manila. I will not have it any other way or anywhere else. It’s just different when it’s spent here.

For Filipinos, Christmas is a big deal. It’s well-celebrated and there’s just really this Christmas spirit that you feel everywhere. You literally feel it in the air. People are nicer, more generous, kinder. This is what I always want to feel every Christmas season.

I’m a Christmas late-bloomer. I really didn’t get to appreciate Christmas since a few years ago, not because I’m a Grinch, but because I always get into weird and sad predicaments during Christmas season when I was younger.

Barely 10 years old, I spent Christmas with my then neighbor-childhood best friend and it was just the two of us. I remember vividly that we were sad because both our families were too tired to wait for midnight to strike and celebrate. This is also one of the reasons why no matter how sleepy and tired I get, I wait for twelve midnight for Noche Buena because I didn’t want my daughter to feel what I felt (yes, it’s a personal baggage).

In my teens and my early twenties, I found myself either breaking up or being broken up with by a partner. There was even a time that I found out a boyfriend was cheating on me three-friggin-days before Christmas!

In my late twenties, there was a time that I didn’t come home and decided to stay in my Makati apartment to spend Christmas quietly…alone.

A recent ex-beau also walked out on me and packed his bags before New Year’s, leaving our plans and me – high and dry.

In no way am I implying that I have zero faults in the situation, but these are just illustrations of how my Christmases of years’ past sucked. That is, until things turned around 5 years ago.

Since then, I always made it a point to celebrate. I come home to Manila for a weekend on the first week of December to put the Christmas tree up and hang our Christmas lantern outside the house. By 21st of December, I make sure I come home for the holidays and celebrate with family and friends.

This Christmas is no different, and I’m sure glad I broke the pattern of having a sucky Christmas, when everyone else is into the holiday season and I’m just feeling depressed.

This Christmas season, I hope you’re having a wonderful celebration. May the holidays treat you well, may you treat others kindly and may you open yourselves and your homes to others to bring them joy, hope and possibly love.

Merry Christmas, everyone! 

Of birthdays and surviving October

birthday1

Celebrating my birthday in Basque with my favorite tres leches cake

A few days ago, I had lunch with a partner, supposedly to talk about our project. After closing all the nitty-gritty details of our project plan, we ended up talking about life in general.

He told me: “Sometimes, we live life as if it’s an infinity. We assume that we will wake up the next morning.”

It’s not as if I don’t know this nugget of wisdom, as I myself espouse seizing the day and grabbing joy, experiences and opportunities like there’s no tomorrow.

Carpe diem. Always.

But sometimes, life itself gets in the way of living.

October was tough for me. I had to finally admit that I suffered depression, to think that my archetype was not predisposed to that.

Admission was my catharsis. Things got better when I acknowledged it and wrote about it. It helped that I traveled and spent time with friends in Bali. I always knew though that travel and good company, albeit an expensive combination, were perfect antidotes to what I was going through.

It was great to see my friends and celebrate my birthday milestone.

birthday3

My friends and I on the streets of Seminyak in Bali

I also realized that despite what I went through, I have no regrets that I experienced it. Like what I said in a previous blog post, I didn’t even ask for it to be taken away.  I asked the Universe for wisdom and grace, that I may strengthen and build my character because of what I was going through.

At the same time, I held on to the virtue of gratitude. In the same breath that I was cursing my situation, I counted the little things – big and small – that make life worth the fight. It becomes pretty impossible to remain depressed, angry or resentful when you have a grateful heart.

I had an amazing team in the office who knew or sensed what I was going through. Despite them not asking questions, I knew they were looking out for me. Love flowed through. Generous love flowed through.

 

birthday4

My office: decorated by my team for my birthday

birthday5

Some of my CS team members on my birthday

I’m almost out of the woods. My mornings are better. The spring on my steps are back.

In the end, life is always good. It may not be fair, but it will always be good.

Matter of perspective and gratitude.

Of fainting spells & epiphanies

I fainted at my dermatologist’s clinic yesterday afternoon. I was about to undergo my usual Saturday facial routine when I felt light-headed. As my vision blurred and things went dark, I held on to the table in front of me and I managed to say, “Hang on, wait. I’m dizzy.”

I passed out.

Before I knew it, my doctor and my attendant were fanning me, I was on the floor and they were asking me to open my mouth and if I can breathe.

My doctor was repeatedly saying: “Miss, miss…are you okay? Can you open your mouth? Miss…miss…”

My first sentence when I got my senses back: “I’m sleepy, I just want to sleep. But I still want to do my facial. Can I still do my facial?”

I’m laughing at myself silly now that I’ve recovered and I recalled the first thing I said when I woke up. I swear. Why do I say these things!

I sent the clinic on a frenzy on what’s supposed to be a relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Not my best moment. Certainly not my most elegant.

In fairness to the clinic, they took care of me so well. I was very impressed with how they handled the situation and how very attentive they were. To my friends in Jakarta, hit me up and I will send you their details. They’re awesome!

But I digress.

While my attendant was lovingly scrubbing my face, massaging my neck and trying to do the best she can to relax me, a flurry of thoughts were running through my head.

“I’ve never fainted in my entire life. What the hell just happened there?” 

It was the combination of long hours, lack of sleep and my sugar levels dropping. In short: exhaustion. I tired myself out.

A day before that, I was in an amusement park in Ancol and the sun was scorching hot. The past 3 months were also crazy in terms of my work hours and trips. In all the weekends of September, I was in and out of several cities and I became a standard fixture in the airport.

Admittedly,  I had longer days because sleep became elusive. There were so many thoughts in my head, so many projects to finish and an eternally long list of to-dos that kept me up because my mind was just racing and I couldn’t shut it off.

I know. I brought this upon myself. Whilst I’m slapping me silly of this ruckus, I also caught myself. See! This is why I’m in this situation to begin with!

I’m too hard on me. 

I want to accomplish a lot of things. If I don’t, I feel like a failure. I feel guilty when I stop and breathe. 

I want to do everything. I want to be everything. 

Because I don’t want to disappoint people. And I don’t want to disappoint me. 

Everything has a price. This has a price and it took its toll on me.

Closing September this way, I realized it was a mild and gentle reminder of what other worse things can happen if I don’t slow down.

At the same time, as much as I am in denial and as much as I feel invincible, the reality is: I’m not.

No matter what age you are, wearing yourself down will have consequences. It’s a good thing mine was just 30-seconds worth of passing out and a day’s worth of embarrassment. It could have been worse.

Today is a Sunday and I’m writing this at 7am. After my usual gym routine, I’m supposed to have champagne brunch in celebration of my second year in Jakarta. I’m supposed to run errands, work on some pending personal projects, answer e-mails and fix my calendar for the entire week.

I’m scrapping my to-do list. Just for today.

Today, I will be on pause.

RnR

I’m gonna take my time, sip my coffee, stare in space, catch up on my reading, go to the spa, sleep.

Me, my sanity, my health and my well-being first.

Buying the eggs and ketchup can wait.

Do what you love. Do it often.

Holstee-Manifesto- coloured.jpg

Five years ago (more or less), someone gave me a printout of The Holstee Manifesto.  I’ve lived by this manifesto even before it became popularized and commoditized, but it did eloquently express how I think passion should be brought to life and how life should be well-lived.

I’ve always been a believer of following one’s dreams. I wear my passion on my sleeves and I wear it proudly.

So despite my work frenzy, I painstakingly allot time and effort to do things I’m passionate about, no matter how inundated I get, courtesy of my 9-9 job.

Passion and purpose are things that we should all live for. I don’t think I will ever stop pursuing mine.

Whatever yours is, it’s never too late to run after it. If you don’t know just yet, perhaps it’s time to figure it out. 🙂

Welcoming 2017 with mindfulness

mindful-living_la-bella-vida

“The days are long but the years are short.”

I have to quote Gretchen Rubin in her book “The Happiness Project,” as it perfectly encapsulated my exact thoughts.

Over the Christmas holidays, I was driving through the streets of Manila feeling nostalgic about its nooks and crannies that I so dearly miss, when I found myself asking: “Where did time go?” It felt like it was only yesterday that I was driving through Manila’s traffic gridlock, grocery shopping in S&R, or sipping coffee in one of my hidden happy corners.

Now, it’s been fifteen months since my re-expatriation back to Jakarta, although it was as if I left just very recently.

I had a major epiphany a few years ago that remains to be a perfect reminder today:

Time can just slip by if you are not mindful and deliberate.  That being said, grab life by the horns, live in the moment, live out your purpose. Fulfilling your life purpose is the only obligation you have to yourself.

That Biblical advice and prayer, to teach us how to number our days (Psalm 90:12), takes a richer meaning in this context, as we acknowledge the frailty of human existence.

We have this tendency to wait for the New Year to craft resolutions. Perhaps, we need that psychological stop-and-start, because nothing really prevents us from doing this anytime of the year. Somehow, the pressure to restart is always ON when a new year begins, so much so that within my circle of friends, it became a running joke every year when we see these hash tags on Facebook: #NewYearNewMe and #balikalindog (return of the allure). Every. Single. Year.

This coming year, amidst the writing and re-writing of resolutions, I think the most important decision that we can make is to live our lives with deliberate awareness that we don’t have unlimited time, and that every morning that we wake up is another chance to do that one thing that we’ve been aching to do but we keep on putting on hold.

Ask yourself. What’s the best thing to do today?

Wear your expensive perfume. Wear that special dress. There is no special occasion than today. Take out the china from the cupboard and use it. Call your parents. Call a long-time friend. Write that book. Take up a cause. Volunteer. Paint. Eat well. Go take that pilates class. Run the marathon. Cook. Ask someone out. Hug a friend. Say I love you. Pack your bags. Travel. Wander with wonder in your mind and heart.

Pursue your passion.

Peel yourself off the couch and just do. Netflix will still be there tomorrow, but don’t live your life vicariously through others. Or worse, through a TV series.

My wake up call (or calls, for that matter) for me to realize these things came through close friends who were cancer survivors, or who are still trying to survive it.

See, that’s the thing. Why do we need drastic wake up calls to get on our asses to do what we’ve always wanted to do?

This happened 3 or 4 years ago, but I still vividly and fondly remember it today: A friend of mine who courageously survived the big C was in my apartment for a small dinner get-together. One of my incense candles exploded and the oil stains reached my white ceiling. While I was fussing over it, she just gently reminded me:

“April. Live.”

From that day on, whenever I fuss over the tiniest, most mundane things or when I procrastinate and tell myself I will do what I need to do tomorrow, or the next day or the day after that, it’s as if there’s this subconscious alarm that clicks in my head and I hear my girlfriend tell me, once again, one more time, with feelings:

“April. Live.”

Everyday, I remember. And everyday, I became mindful because of her and what she said.

So this year, in the here and the now, how ’bout we all give mindful living a run?

“The days are long but the years are short.”

2017: Do what you love. Do it often.

First, thank you, 2016. There were a lot of challenging moments, but there were also enormous moments of triumphs worth toasting to.

Let me open 2017 with renewed hope and refreshed energy, and let me share with you my favorite Life Manifesto:

Holstee-Manifesto.jpg

Whenever I need a push and burst of inspiration, I read the Holstee Manifesto over and over again. This has been my life’s mantra for years now and it has guided me back to my true north in moments that I go astray.

This has been my constant reminder that I want to share as we all welcome 2017.

“Wear your passion.” Indeed. Everyday.

I wish everyone pure joy and wonder this New Year. Let’s have an amazing 2017, people! =)