Maybe I’m still tired. Well, come to think of it, I was really too tired two weeks back, I stretched my limits too much, pushed myself too hard, so hard that I actually came down with the flu. I came down with really bad cold first, a treacherous sore throat next, and my limbs hurt with every little movement. I haven’t had the flu in so long I almost forgot just how dreadful and utterly horrible it could get.
As a matter of course, I stayed home for three days straight, living in thick pajamas and socks from morning till night. I had not slept that much in so long, and guiltlessly at that — 10 to 12 hours of shuteye, three days straight, with little siestas in between to boot; until then I had relegated sleep to the far-gone past, belonging to a time when I was not yet a wife, a mother, living in Manila. What bliss… I would actually wake up with cheeks so pink and no eye bags at all.
It was nice to feel so rested, and yes, so pampered. My seven-year-old daughter would bundle me up in her pink and yellow princess blankets, my husband would make me chicken soup from scratch. They would kiss me goodbye and hello, as they left and came back from their daily grind, Juliana to and from school, Richard to and from work and his baseball games. He would make Melba toast for me, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices. And chicken sandwiches: he made me a batch of very good chicken spread. On day three I felt much better and because I could not get ice cream off my mind we asked the driver to get some halo-halo from Razon’s. I finished every single bit in my big plastic cup.
It’s been a week but I still feel tired. And a bit lost. What is happening? I find myself worrying about little things again, getting frustrated that, with so much to do, there just aren’t enough hours in one day. My closet is in disarray (although that is the least of my worries), I have photo frames waiting to be hung on the now-bare dining room wall (we took down the painting that was there and transferred it), the upholstery of our sofa set is falling apart at the seams. I look at the garden and there are bald spots where the big dogs have peed. We had four lovebirds, in two cages, but a pair escaped. Sigh… The helpers and the gardener see them sometimes, just hopping from one bamboo tree to the next, but they do not seem to want to go back to their cage. I wouldn’t, either, if I were them.
Juliana brings out her scrap-booking materials and I worry that she just has too much. I compare it to when I was her age, doing the very same thing, and there were no shortcuts. I had to carefully scour old magazines, eventually training my eye to know a treasure when I saw one, clipping images that would make interesting backgrounds, cutting out quotes and fancy letters that I would then carefully glue alongside photos and movie tickets, handwritten letters, little pieces of life’s memories. Now, everything is instant. Images and designs on paper that will make nice backgrounds come in kits and sheets; there is an abundance of fancy stickers and buttons and ribbons. Nothing wrong with that, they are quite inexpensive, but I worry about how she will appreciate things. Does it come too easy for her now? She has pencils and erasers and coloring sets but she has boxes of them, a few bought, a lot given. I remember when I was a little girl myself and my sister and I shared a big set of Pentel pens, a nice big box of colored pencils. And that was it. We did not have too much but we took very good care of those two that we had: not one pen was lost. It lasted us through elementary school, the whole of high school and college. When I went to Ormoc last year for a visit I saw the pens and brought them back to Manila for Juliana, together with my collection of stickers. Some of them still had dates at the back — “January 1986,” “June 1984” — my penmanship was still fat and round then. Our pencil sharpeners are still alive to this day, our transparent rulers from elementary with a personalized Robee sticker in a rainbow design (remember them?) had our home address in Bonifacio Street and our three-digit phone number.
Mommy always had dresses made for us but we did not have so many pairs of shoes. We had a couple of rubber shoes, dress shoes in black and another in white, school shoes, slip-ons. Just what we needed. Nothing in excess. Even if we knew Daddy and Mommy could afford it they never made us get used to having too much. I look at Juliana’s shoe cabinet and she has a lot for someone so tiny. Again, nothing wrong with that, but I worry that she might think it is normal to have that much. She has too many bags, also — way too many. We don’t indulge her every whim but she gets a lot of them as gifts. I am happy, though, that she knows how to take care of her things, and she also shares a lot. But still…
Why do I worry so much now? I do not know. Maybe I am still tired and I feel disoriented — perhaps “frustrated” is a better word, because there is a gap between what I want to do and what I can realistically do. I want to put the house in order (is that not the story of my life?), I want to prune the magazines piling up, I have to put into boxes the stuff that I promised to pass on to an aunt of mine who moved houses very recently. I have over 400 e-mail messages I have yet to read, I have books on my bedside table I want to enjoy but can’t because I just don’t have the time. Maybe my worrying is a misplaced form of escape.
To add to all that, I have butterflies in my stomach when I think of a dance I have to perform live in the next few weeks, plus an event I have to attend that requires me to speak in front of a crowd. I am frightened of performing, I am frightened of crowds, put both together and I get so nervous I just want to sleep for 12 hours straight again. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I always say yes even when it scares me out of my wits? I do not know. I am crazy. But maybe when I wake up I will have a change of heart and not feel as frightened. A good night’s sleep has that kind of magic. Besides, when will I do all that? When I am old? When my knees are so wrinkled I cannot wear a dress that will flutter and spin around me as I move?
I pray and it soothes me. Thank God for prayer. How will I manage my fretting and my worrying if I do not have a prayer time that I can retreat to for refreshment? I read an article on the “Centering Prayer” recently that started with the words “Be careful what you pray for…” The closer you get to God, the deeper your relationship with Him, the more you discover things about yourself that are not always pleasantly surprising. For instance, all my life I thought I was the most patient person I knew. It took a whole lot to upset me, for anything to get to me. I was patience personified. Or so I thought. Maybe the reason I was so patient was because I was so well-rested, sleeping was leisurely and long, I had the energy to be patient! Shame on me if, given all that, I would still find it in me to be impatient. But now that I work on TV and am gone for long hours, with very little sleep as the norm, I find that I am not so patient. And that it is far from fun when you get hungry but can’t eat. By the time you do get to eat you are just plain tired you’d really just much rather sleep. I used to get guilty feeling the way I felt, knowing especially that everybody else in the workplace is just as tired as me, but I have learned not to question feelings. I just accept it and deal with it, as it comes. I am human. I get tired. Nothing wrong with that. I should respect myself enough to stop when it gets too much, to sneak in bites of a granola bar when I’m hungry but can’t eat just yet, to take catnaps every chance I get. I have learned to cope by finding inventive ways to quickly recharge. And then I can give something of myself again. When I pray for a good day and start out all positive and upbeat, I have to be prepared for the possibility that life can and will sometimes taunt and try you when you least want or expect it to. As Joel Osteen says, fulfillment comes in not allowing anything or anyone to steal your joy. I have learned to let go, to not take things personally all the time, and it has been liberating.
Today Richard, Juliana and I rode our bikes around the village. It was late in the afternoon and the sun was bright but no longer biting and hot. We did a total of 5.3 kilometers, non-stop, with just a quick water break once in between. Somehow, the activity cleared my mind. I just have to take on my worries and fears, no matter how unfounded, one at a time. Sometimes you believe that if you do not acknowledge something out loud it does not exist. There are many things I want to keep beneath the surface, fears and worries that clutter the mind and disturb the peace. I confront it and it can get annoying but eventually the dust has to/will settle. It will pass. Besides, as the title of a book I read a long time ago goes, You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. So true. It just is not worth it.
Over worry and fear, I guess it’s okay to feel tired. At least I can just sleep that off.
I remember once I was trying to explain to Juliana about how God sees everything. How he watches over us all when we sleep. “You mean He doesn’t sleep, Mom?” Not a wink, I had said. “Does God have eyebags?” she asked. Maybe, baby. Maybe He does.
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There will be a Centering Prayer Introductory Retreat on July 18 to 20 at St. Joseph Marello Retreat House, Tagaytay City. For more info, please contact Anna Marie Llanos. Call 842-4030 or 842-0201.