I used to have all these little rules I impose on myself. I like things done a certain way, I like order and routines. I find some semblance of comfort in them. Maybe that is why I like baking as opposed to cooking (which you can do ouido style) because I know that when I follow a glorious recipe down to the last detail my reward is the perfect cake or cookie. There is a science to it, no threat of senselessness breathing down my neck. In hindsight, the home I grew up in probably built and nurtured that structure. We always had our meals together, at the same time each day. We always prayed together in the evenings, and my sister and I had to take afternoon siesta before we could go out and play under the sun.
But then one day I woke up and found myself away from home. I was an adult already, in college and living with my maternal grandmother in a home filled with cousins and aunts and uncles. Lola Carmen had major rules only in two departments — dating and praying. She did not like the former but wanted us to immerse ourselves very much in the latter. Will tell you more about it some other time because we my cousins and I had many funny adventures. That is another story altogether. And then I fell in love and got married, had a child, with my own home to run. All of a sudden life had all these hazy edges, with many offshoots here and there. Nothing is ever just black or white anymore; finding balance as you juggle two or five or seven things all at once is the norm.
Take where I am now, for example. I am writing this as I sit behind a big wooden desk — it was once upon a time one of the dining tables in Richard’s townhouse when he was a bachelor and is now my work desk. Right before that, this slab of wood with carved legs was in the lanai of our Greenhills home where we would sometimes gather for al fresco meals. We are in between houses at the moment, as we wait for renovations to be completed, and it has been fun (for the most part) trying to match our ways with how the furniture is arranged and how the kitchen and bedrooms are set up so that we can make all the living spaces truly our own.
Meanwhile here I am in this lovely spot. Right now behind this desk, I can look out the glass door to the pool, right by where Moritz (Richard’s new dog, a German short-haired pointer who is so handsome he actually looks human already) looks at me from afar with his lovelorn eyes. He is just a baby and smells good because he is wiped with a bimpo that has been soaked in a water and baby shampoo mixture in between bath days. I realize I actually like Moritz, probably as much as I do Gaston (my brother Matt’s French bulldog who has since become so pudgy). I also realize that I love this temporary home we are staying in right now, and that I am going to miss this place very much when we finally leave. In more ways than one, it has been a respite, a safe haven that welcomed us at a time when life became much too busy for comfort. With this deep sense of missing that I anticipate comes a feeling of gratefulness and blessedness that we were able to live here at all. Not all beautiful places will feel like home but this one is magical that way. And like a vacation you take to a beautiful spot under the sun offshore, you make the most of the days you are there and when you leave it is with a thankfulness that you were even given that chance to begin with.
All through those thoughts that I am also thinking of the tiles I still have to choose for the bathrooms in the other house, two big letters I have to write and send out to the universe, and Grace Park’s squash flowers stuffed with something (ricotta cheese if I’m not mistaken) and fried in a most beautiful way. Every bite makes me want to close my eyes, I love how I get past the crisp to the mush all in one moment. Truly lovely. I can eat that every day. I especially like how the place has evolved in such a short time. Charm abounds in every corner — the weathered tables, the mismatched chairs, the chipped plates, and unpainted walls, the nice silver, the menu printed on simple paper with the lowly karton as its anchor, the always good food. Grace Park does not disappoint. I try to sit at a different table each time, I look around and wonder to myself why, even as nothing really matches, it all comes together so well somehow.
Maybe that is how life also finds me now. Like the boxes still in storage, not everything is quite in place yet. But it’s getting there; I’m getting there. The first half of the year was punishing schedule-wise and there were breathless moments (I do not mean that in a romantic way, by the way); I am literally talking about trying to catch your breath because life was just spinning itself bigger and faster. Many times I did feel like I got dislodged from my center.
In this temporary space I’ve learned to rethink my ways. There were rituals I would cling to simply because that was what I was accustomed to, but I have had to temporarily do away with them and now so many new spaces opened up, spaces I would not have dared tread. They’ve enriched the experiences of my daily grind here, just by simply being different. A lot of my self-imposed rules have been broken and, in the process, I’ve learned many little lessons in detachment and celebrating the everyday. Foremost now is going moment by moment, making each as beautiful as can be. Being very aware of most everything, finding the blessing in the mundane (oh, there are so many), and taking nothing for granted.
I think of how my life has changed in the last three years since I became a congresswoman. It’s been quite the journey. I look inside myself and even if my inner shape is the same I know I have also changed. How? For starters, I overanalyze less. I have also learned to let more things roll off my back, which is not to say I never get hurt anymore. On the contrary, in this job there are many, many opportunities to get hurt. But maybe at best I’ve just learned to live with it and see it objectively as part of the territory. No one said it would be easy. The politics that comes with public service is dirty and can be painful. Traitors are as real as friends, the truth can come laced with lies, double standards abound, and it can be quite the difficult place. Many times, you get by with help from real friends but, maybe just as many times also, you really are on your own.
Well. We all know that. Life does have a way of challenging you brazenly as it takes you by the shoulders, pushing you here and there, forcing you into places you do not even want to visit. I’ve learned to go with the flow, roll with the tide. But in anything and everything, I also know I can always choose how to respond and oftentimes, that alone makes a world of difference.
There has been many a lesson in letting go and moving forward, worrying less and less especially over things you have no control over. Done constantly, there is a weightlessness about it that is so liberating. And very closely attached to it is a challenge for spontaneity. That could simply mean changing out of your pajamas to meet up with good friends for coffee and popcorn, way past midnight, just because. Saying yes to an impromptu trip because you know in your gut that the memories you make are what will matter more in the long run. Building and nurturing relationships. In a heartbeat, I would choose that over the hollow reward of recognition that they say giving all of yourself to work brings.
No day is ever perfect. Well, as it is, no life is. But even in places and spaces of transition, all this moving whether backward or forward, the lessons that start out painfully but end in beautiful awakenings anyway — they all happen for a reason. And whether life holds you by the hand gently as it leads you along or shakes you by the shoulders vigorously to challenge all that seems right about it, your center is that place in yourself that breathes and says “Hey, this is all good.”
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