I feel it’s been quite a while although it hasn’t been that long, really, just two Sundays that I skipped, but it feels long because of the many activities that all those days in between packed. If translated into pancakes, it would be a high stack, all squished together, mine to plow through.
They were always busy, sometimes thankfully easy, and going from moment to moment I learned to grab little pockets of pleasure when I could. It’s a coping mechanism I’ve thus far learned to build into my system, when long, uninterrupted stretches are not quite available then quick ones will just have to do.
Here I share my five favorite escapes:
1. Acupuncture. The clinic I go to really is one the many happy places I have. It is a respite, a haven, the calm I seek before or after a storm. There really is nothing fancy about the place but it is orderly and neat and clean, peppered with hushed footsteps, and with music that reminds me of Catholic schools and convents. Each quick visit is rewarded with a great measure of peace and restfulness in ways that are so much more than the 30 minutes that it actually just is.
I step into a clean cubicle furnished with just the basics and Sr. Liu, the kind and gentle acupuncturist comes in to check the color of my tongue, feel my pulse, and ask how I’ve been. I tell her honestly if I have been stressed or too indulgent with my food intake, if I have been sleeping too late and exercising too little, and she for the nth time asks me to please sleep early because the body rejuvenates between 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Apparently, this is the magic window that we must all catch for optimum health. I’m trying to reboot my system to adjust to those hours, but I’m honestly not quite there yet. The only time I ever became a morning person was when I had just given birth to Juliana and I would wake up to breastfeed her and together we would go to the garden to catch the early morning sun. I miss those days. Juliana was just a bit longer than a shoebox then and here we are now, borrowing each other’s T-shirts. I should get pregnant again soon, so that my acupuncturist will love how my being a renewed morning person will complement the traditional Chinese medicine I subscribe to.
2. My Great Big Book of Fashion. There is something about colored pens and paper that soothe a weary mind. The mindlessness of it all feels like such a gift, when for that given moment and within that one big page nothing is more important than coloring the happy images, making them look lovely with pinks and reds and yellows and blues. My Great Big Book of Fashion is every little girl’s dream coloring book, a big and thick volume chockfull of half-finished and full black-and-white illustrations of different fashion items.
When I want to be still so I can think better and be all the wiser for it, I turn to a random page and just color away. Juliana joins me sometimes, but more often it is the other way around, and for a few minutes I allow myself the luxury of getting completely sucked into something so innocent and simple. And always it isn’t long before the day feels bright and fresh again, and I am ready to seize whatever is left of it.
3. Milk tea, neck pillow, pillow under the knees, preferably all three together. I have this pretty little pillow that looks like a lumpia, filled with buckwheat seeds. I like leaning against the headboard of our bed, with that neck pillow right under the back of my head, my legs stretched out and with another pillow right under my knees. The latter is something I learned from Dr. Vicki Belo, and it does help avoid the back pain that comes from having both legs stretched out so straight on a soft surface like the bed mattress. Now a bonus would be if I could have great milk tea to sip while I am in that position, and if Nigella Lawson or Laura Calder suddenly popped on the TV screen, parading one glorious recipe after the other.
4. Laughter. I love to laugh…who doesn’t? That is why I am thankful for the crazy people I know. They belong to that happy bunch that finds humor in everything. I know this is essentially a Filipino trait, that happy resiliency that I think is largely due also to our faith as a people. It is a blessing to be with people like them.
Then there’s Twitter. Like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you get when you scroll down the page. It is like eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation, or peeking into the pages of someone’s diary. Based on what I read, I flit between pondering and wondering, and all else in between. It is like getting a telegram, many times in one day.
5. Do something nice for someone. This has to be the first resort especially when my day is not going too well. I immediately make my world bigger by thinking beyond myself, past what I want and what I feel. There are other people with needs and concerns more pressing than my own. Joel Osteen says if you want to have a beautiful day, make someone else’s day beautiful first. This is so true, in ways both big and small. They say we should never underestimate what a random act of kindness can do to impact someone’s life. And whether you are acknowledged for it or not is immaterial. The fact is, you become instantly happier when you do something nice for someone else. The heart expands with a quiet joy that gets you smiling from the inside, and your day just gets better almost magically.
And then there is the gift of silence. Drowning out all the noise allows for a calm that brings forth clarity and peace. It is almost like a prayer; being so quiet in the head and heart, and being all the more aware that I do not walk through life alone. God holds my hand. Is that not so simple and beautiful?
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