When I have a load of paperwork to do, and the task at hand is not especially pleasant, I try to make the chore more appealing by finding pleasure in the littlest of things. If it is daytime I pull up the shades so the room is bright and I put on Rod Stewart’s “Great American Songbook” because it has all the songs I love. They are old songs that make me feel good, with lyrics that belie the poverty of thoughts (something a lot of new songs now have) and they make me think of my favorite things in the world — love, skylines, conversation, life. When it is evening my ritual is a bit different. I put on music that transports me to a French café and light scented candles. I drink coffee or milk tea from a nice cup and I choose pens that make my penmanship look nice. As I file and sort through paperwork, I can actually be more than just a little bit happy. And when I need a quick break I lean back on my chair, close my eyes, and think of… nothing. I do that guiltlessly for about 10-15 minutes, and by the time I sit up straight again I feel ready for a second wind.
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A good friend of mine, Rey, lives in one of the top floors in a condominium unit in Mandaluyong. His interior space was so excellently designed by another good friend of ours, Miguel, that the whole unit is completely functional as it is tasteful, with extremely efficient use of space. Of course it helps that the owner is a very neat person himself, a disciple of organized living. His bedroom looks out into the Pasig river, the side where Rockwell is, and while we were there one evening, he showed us something that was instantly magical. He put on some beautiful music (I forget now who the artist was), turned off the lights, pulled up the blinds, and the Makati skyline glittered like a thousand little fireflies. He said when he was alone he would just stay in bed and watch TV, or turn up the music and dance by himself in front of his huge windows, all the while pretending he was in a New York loft. It was an instant escape, and I totally get that, especially because we were all there to experience it ourselves, too. I liked how he went beyond just creating a beautiful space; he found a big but simple way to enjoy it outside of the ordinary.
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Last Christmas I got Juliana one of Daphne’s pretty pastel-colored chairs. I got her the color pink, and after her “oooh”s and “aaah”s (she wanted it the first time she laid eyes on it in a magazine feature) she immediately stationed it beside her desk, with half a dozen of her favorite art and coloring books on top. One lazy Sunday afternoon, she pulled down the heavy shades in our room and re-positioned the chair against the wall by her side of the bed. On it, in lieu of her stack of hardbound books, she placed her little white night lamp, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul for Kids (she loves reading a few stories every night), and her “Where’s Wally” pamphlet (which is like the imported version of Larry Alcala’s “Slice of Life” artwork that I loved so much as a child). Norah Jones was playing on the CD player and after Juliana fluffed up all her pillows, she turned on the night lamp to softly brighten up the almost dark room (it was raining and the sun was already setting). Snuggling under the sheets she said, “Mama, we are in Paris.”
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During typhoon Pedring, we all converged in the living room, all six or seven of us who were home then, and through the glow of selenite hurricane candles, a fresh wind blowing (a few notches short of howling) Juliana and I drew while the others either talked or napped. We helped a good friend of ours process a broken heart while my future sister-in-law and I talked about her upcoming wedding with my youngest brother, Jules. Beginnings and endings. Like a wheel, life just goes on for all of us. It just finds us at different stages. Typhoon Pedring showed me that day how little we really need when we have people in our lives to begin with.
Little escapes that can be had almost instantly have an appeal all their own. Whether it is as simple as the greatness of doing nothing, or the calm of doing something relaxing, they never fail to remind me that for the most part, life is beautiful as it is good. They are like charm bracelets — you create your own story and wearing it is a pleasure all its own. If someone else enjoys it along with you then that just doubles the joy that can be had. What is your own little escape?
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