Exhaustion and a jar of mayonnaise

Without taking away from how much and how well I have already transitioned into now-very-busy workweeks, I just cannot deny the fact that I am physically exhausted. Sleep is now a luxury I do not get to enjoy in copious amounts, even when I need it, much less when I want it.

When I am in the District I, am at least able to pack so many work-related schedules in one day and still have the night to look forward to, stretching out before me with open arms. But Manila is a different animal altogether. As we all know too well, the hours go by so fast and the time you appropriate for travel and traffic is already equivalent to two meetings. By the time I get home, it all boils down to a choice of either squeezing in more work or just choosing to sleep so that I would be able to keep up with the activities lined up for the next day.

Whichever I choose, there still will most likely be a backlog. But thank God for small mercies. A sense of urgency always helps, too, because it compels you to just up and go, giving you a second wind. Catnaps, usually in the car and between schedules, have kept me thriving and in one piece. But still. Suffice it to say that I have just kept going and going and going and, a few weeks back, I realized just how absolutely exhausted I was.

I got home in time for an early dinner with Juliana, I was all set to eat something light. Juliana settled into her meal of fish and rice while I raided the ref for leftovers. It’s a lot like cleaning out my desk and shredding paper — I get this quirky satisfaction when I am able to do the refrigerator version of that, with the added challenge of course of not making anything go to waste. Bingo. I saw in a covered container homemade Hainanese chicken from lunch the day before, and some rye bread Richard had bought earlier from Santi’s. All I needed was mayonnaise and my meal would be healthy and truly happy.

And there lay the kink. There was mayonnaise. I searched the full shelves high and low, I checked the pantry and the basement where we keep all our extras. There was none to be found. And to think the day before the helpers had already gone to the grocery to replenish supplies, armed with a list longer than my daughter’s hair. I looked and prayed for sandwich spread that I suspected would not be there either, because we do not use much of it to begin with. There was none, expectedly. There was only butter and much as I love butter, I have never had chicken sandwich with butter and I was in no mood to experiment.

Before I could catch myself, it dawned on me that the whole scenario was getting really and truly frustrating. And maybe because I was hungry and I had my mind set on that simple chicken sandwich, believe it or not, a fat tear actually inched its way down one cheek. Why, oh why, I asked no one in particular, must a humble chicken sandwich elude me at a time when I wanted it most? I have never cried over food before, not counting when I was an infant, of course, and usually I just move on to the next thing immediately available — no big deal. But that night, in the kitchen, with my chubby nine-year-old daughter (who by the way just turned 10 on Sept. 8) eating her fish and rice, I actually wasted a tear that should be reserved for such books as Eat, Pray, Love or songs like Come Back To Me.

I went to sleep that night, puzzled at how the lack of mayonnaise could actually merit a degree of melancholy from someone who never got affected by commercials and other little things even when she was pregnant. It was exactly after that thought passed when I knew for sure what it was all about. I. Was. Just. Tired. Major, major tired.

I also knew then that the practical thing to do was sleep. But not without a thought and a little prayer that upon waking up I must take sure, if little, steps to recharge.

I made a conscious effort to appreciate and enjoy my many blessings, embracing them all in the same measure. A good massage almost nightly. Wilma making me laugh in the Party On 5 dressing room. My daughter reading a book while we snuggled in bed.  A mother’s warm text message from many million miles away. Laughter and wild dreams over dinner. A nice shade of blue. An unexpected moment of solitude. Surprise work that feels like such a reward. Dance lessons that actually happened on a whim. Having dinner with Daddy. A sense of God’s presence always. My husband’s nurturing love. Beautiful shoes with very high heels that do not hurt. The smell of rain. Listening to our wedding song in youtube and remembering such beautiful moments.

Sharing a bubble bath with my daughter in a beautiful hotel room and at night, watching her sleep beside me looking very much like a pretty fruit, plump and rosy-cheeked. Using good soap. Old friends. New, wonderful ones. Kindness from strangers. Finding Timtam in the grocery aisle in Hong Kong. Eating fruit jelly candies while taking off my makeup. Reading Henri Nouwen. Eating honey bran muffins that taste like delicious brown paper bags. Being with some of my favorite people in the world in my favorite city in the world. Birthdays and holidays. Nice dinners. Smiles for no reason at all.

Life really is all about enjoying the gift that it never ceases to be, and getting better at doing just that one day at a time. You invest in relationships and activities that feed and sustain your joy. You find fresh ways to be nourished and are all the better for it. The wisdom of doing that is just like walking away from an argument. You come back refreshed and with a clearer perspective on things.

May I never forget that being productive is sustained with care. Care for what I have and what I am. Because that will dictate what and how much of myself I can give. The nourishing sources (and there are many!) must be constantly visited and revisited, so that I am never caught in a position again where much is needed but I have very little to give, even if and when that just masquerades itself as frustration over the fact that there is no more mayonnaise left in the fridge.


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