New Year 2018: Of Living and Loving Well

Happy New Year! Live well, love well, love life.

It has become a tradition: I welcomed the New Year in KL in the company of our extended family. We prepared our dinner feast and Media Noche of salad, seafood and steak (for the boys), played games until we toasted champagne to welcome 2018 and hugged each other good night.

I opened 2018 in a simple way: with my partner, our family and friends and good sleep. It’s a simple but perfect way to usher in the New Year. 

The night before New Year’s Eve, I was with Arshad in Private Room, a wine and whiskey bar that has become our default place here in KL. We had a long day of traveling and running errands and we wanted to just hang back a little bit and chill.

As we sat at the bar, we bantered the night away by looking back and reflecting on what we learned in the year that just passed.

2017 was not a smooth year for me, but it wasn’t terrible either. It had its share of rough and tumble, but I would still count it as a milestone year wherein I achieved a lot of things and scored high in terms of accomplishing goals.

But that’s the thing that 2017 taught me: Life is not just about scoring high. Living life to the fullest doesn’t just mean ticking off checkboxes of things to do, milestones to meet, successes to accomplish. 

I ticked off a generous amount of targets in 2017 when I went through my list, but I also realized that although this made me successful in the way that I defined success in 2017, the whole journey also weighed me down.

I went through depression in the latter part of the year. I went through this despite my accomplishments and the good life that I have been living. Looking back now, I realized that I went through it because I pushed myself too hard, much to my own detriment.

Year in, year out, I always set the bar higher. I did well in 2015, I should do better in 2016, 2017…and on and on and on.

But until how much can I take? A new year will not add more hours in a day. It will not extend my energy, my time and my attention.

I became more cognizant of my finite resources, so to speak, and I learned that it’s not a bad thing.

Adding to my bucket list will make the bucket full to the brim, until it just couldn’t take anymore. The bucket needs to be emptied out again at some point.

Achieving, making goals, listing down targets: they’re not a bad thing. However, there are also certain things that need to be done:

Spend some time to rest and recharge. Slow down. Reflect. Sleep. Breathe. Find the little joys of everyday living. 

With all the goals we list down, it helps to ask ourselves: in the end, after checking all the boxes, are we a better person? Are we a better person to ourselves and to others?

This 2018, I still have my bucket list and my goals, but it’s no longer about exceeding and over-achieving. It’s about valuing what’s important and nurturing them. It’s about being a better person by being kinder to myself and to others.

To all of us,  may we usher the New Year with renewed hope and with fire in our hearts. May we be kinder to each other. May we be more generous. May we live more by loving more and judging less. 

Less hatred, more love. I fervently hope we see this happen this 2018.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Live well, love well, love life.

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! =)