Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Hindsight

 Facebook Memories today reminded me of something I probably shouldn't be reminded of:


Grabe, I sound so positive here. This is January 2017 and 2018. So my kids were 6, 4, and 2, and then 7, 5, and 3 respectively. Cutest years! 

But I was really drowning and overwhelmed those years. 

I have tons of these Facebook updates and blog posts from 2014 to 2019 saying, "I'm not sleeping anymore. I don't know what to do. I can't juggle. I'm sick again. Help me help me I can't do this!" But all I got was, "You're such a great mom! Such a natural! You can do it!" And I did do it. By God's grace, my husband's tenacity to hold on to our marriage, and my own love for my boys, I did it. 

I wonder sometimes if my joke-y manner (my way of surviving) backfired on me. No one believes me when I say I was struggling. Or was it just everyone's refusal to see, to acknowledge, to believe that a woman so blessed can have such a hard time with her blessings? 

No one believes me when I say I'm so glad my kids are bigger now. "But your babies and toddlers were so cute! You don't mean that." Oh, but I do. I do prefer them now, older, independent, helping with the chores. While the baby years were incredibly happy years, I also nearly lost my damn mind and marriage*. 

I still can't understand how such duality can exist. How can I be so happy and miserable at the same time? How can I be so sure that loving my babies is the best thing I'll ever do in my life and also be so terrified and doubtful every day? But even when I look back, I still don't understand how such conflicting emotions existed in me for years and years. 

I don't even have the benefit of hindsight to tell me that if I did so and so and if I tried this and that, then it would have turned out better. Yes, even now, I still haven't gained any wisdom that would see me sagely giving advice to other terrified mommies now. All I can tell them is, "One day at a time. Breathe. Pray." The words are true, but I doubt if those words can help any mommy who is drowning. 

Back then: Overwhelmed mom of the cutest little boys

Well, those years are over now. I'm settled now, more peaceful. Maybe because I can sleep more than 4 hours a night now. And I can sit down and eat now. I can take a real bath now, stay longer than 5 minutes in the bathroom now. I'm relaxed now. I can breathe better now. The pandemic helped. A world that slowed down was kinder to a mother who could barely cope. 

But my kids will get their COVID-19 vaccine this year. Hooray! The pandemic will soon end. And I'll have to start running again. As all parents do. And not one of us is allowed to admit it's so damn hard or to ask for help because that's blowing the lid off the fact that parents may be the most blessed people in the entire world, but we are not okay. The constant pressure to be on our best behavior, the relentless workload to provide the best life possible for our kids, the looming threat of failure every day... Argh. A perpetual Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

When I was single, everyone told me, "Get married! Have kids! Best life ever!" The minute I got pregnant, everyone said, "Sleep now because you'll never sleep well again. Eat now, buy that now, go on that trip now because once the baby comes, you'll never eat/shop/travel the same way again." And pregnant me was like, "Great. Thanks a lot for telling me now when I can't do anything about that anymore."  

Well... It is the best life ever. For me, it is. I may be drowning sometimes but yeah, there's also that undeniable feeling of floating on joy. How does one drown and float at the same time? Will I forever wonder about this? Will motherhood be ever just one state - joy - with no worry, fear, anger, guilt, shame mixed in? 

I'll update you when I'm 60. Or 70. Till then, God bless us, mamas and papas!

*Whenever I say this, my husband always says, "We were never in trouble. You think we were, but I knew we were going to be okay." 


Monday, January 24, 2022

Breaking news: I'm alive and well and ready for 2022!

Hello hello! Happy New Year, my dearest Loyal Readers!

Omigosh I have been gone from this blog for quite a while! I had been so excited for 2022 (and I still am) but it looked like 2022 was excited for me, too. It ushered me into a new year with COVID-19 finally finding my family. Yes, despite our precautions and protective measures, COVID decided that if we're not going to go out of our house, it will go in instead!

So the last couple of weeks were a bit... busy. I don't want to say I was stressed out or scared because I wasn't. Well-meaning people told me not to be scared. To be very honest, I wasn't scared at all. I may be a worrier, and I worried a lot about COVID, but I use that worry to prepare for many of the things I worry about. It's how I manage the anxiety. Then when what I worry about finally happens, well, I already have peace of mind. I prepared for it, I was ready for it, I imagined all sorts of scenarios in the dead of sleepless nights. In the face of the reality of my imagined horrors, I know no fear. Because I know what to do. It already played out in my head. And so I just tightened my ponytail and got to work. 

My Covid Care Kit was ready. I had all the equipment and medications we needed. I had the doctors' names and phone numbers. I had the charts and lists. There was nothing to panic about. I just had to follow the steps I laid out months and months ago. I had prayed so many times about this that when it finally happened, my heart and mind were just calm. All the months of preparation and prayer made me peaceful. "This is it! I'm ready to fight!" 

And thankfully, my husband and eldest boy came out all right. God is good!


We were all okay. The first one who got it was Vito so we quarantined him in the boys' room. My two littlest boys camped out on the living room rug. We took out their plushies and blankies and pillows and made a really comfy bed right in front of the TV. They had lots of fun watching shows and playing video games while being super comfy in their makeshift bed!

Six days later, Vince got it, too. We had been taking turns caring for Vito and Vince thinks he forgot to put on a mask when he gave Vito a sponge bath so anyway he got it and he quarantined in our bedroom next.

And this was the scenario I didn't see - bathroom use! I had always assumed we would have one bathroom for the sick and one bathroom for the well. But both bathrooms now were used by the 2 patients and so us well ones had to disinfect the common bathroom after every time Vito used it and then we counted 30 minutes before we entered the bathroom. This has resulted in hilarious situations when nature was suddenly calling. Honestly, while the last few weeks have been a serious matter, there have also been many cases when we laughed and prayed and truly thought about how wonderful our life is. Look at our bunso missing his Papa:
 

Anyway, life didn't stop! While I cared for my two patients, I also had to care for the two little boys, do homeschool, do work, clean the house, prepare the meals... Yep, it never ceases to amaze me how the world can be falling around your ears and you still have to get up and keep going. 

I've gone through a few life disasters to now appreciate our ability to keep going. I especially know now, as a mama, how resilience matters when people are counting on you to keep the world a safe and happy place. Today, while we prayed, my kids said they never worried about COVID at all when it was here at our home. Not even Vito, who had a fever high enough to become delirious. "It was actually fun, Mama! You made it fun."

Goodness me. Now that, I wasn't prepared for that! Thank You, God, for helping me through it all.


So I'm finally not too busy anymore! I can blog again! I was planning to blog every Monday this January. I was also planning a New Year Giveaway! Next week, I'll finally get to it. We are going to have a great 2022, everyone! Come what may, we will count our blessings and be grateful. 

See you here again soon!


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The ordinary instant

I've thought sometimes that if life were maybe like the movies, maybe it would be useful to know if something bad was about to happen. Omens. Premonitions. They would maybe help us make better decisions or at least prepare us for the consequences of bad ones.

When I was 11, maybe 12, I read about a Trojan priestess of Apollo's temple. Her name was Cassandra and because she rejected Apollo's sexual advances, he cursed her to see the future but no one will ever believe her. She warned the Trojans not to trust the gift of the Greeks because it will bring destruction to Troy. Of course, they didn't believe her and Troy fell, as she predicted.

Even as a child, I knew the moral of that story is foresight and prophesy were not gifts. I don't want to know the future. I guess that's why I choose to believe in God even though my prayers are, many times, a battle with Him and my doubts of His existence. In the end, weary of my fears of the pandemic present and eaten away by anxiety at what dangers life can bring (choking, slipping, falling) to me and my boys, I give it all up to God so I can sleep and face another day. 
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
Anyway, I just started reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. She died last week so I figured I should read up on this famous essayist, considering I'm female, a feminist, and an essayist. I've never read her work, which is a shame and a surprise. It had to take her death for me to read her.

But a few paragraphs in and I had to put the book down. I think I'll read it another day. She was talking about the "ordinary instant."
"It was in fact the ordinary nature of everything preceding the event that prevented me from truly believing it had happened... I recognize now that there was nothing unusual in this: confronted with sudden disaster we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred."
Didion's book is about the death of her husband and then the grave illness of their only daughter. And when she wrote about the ordinary instant, I knew exactly what she meant. I wrote in my blog post Of boys and school buses and my breaking heart, "How many of us have the painful privilege of seeing a chapter closing?" Not all of us so maybe when we do feel something is about to end, that can be a good thing.

Mama and Papa in happier times. If they had known how unhappy their marriage will be, would they have married still?

When Papa died, it was such a beautiful day. We were surprised because he had started feeling better, well enough to leave the hospital. But I wasn't really surprised, in hindsight. On the day he went home, we waited for the elevator to bring us down to the basement parking. Papa's nurse was pushing the wheelchair, and he was quiet. Papa told him thanks but he joked, "I hope I never see you again!" And the nurse should've laughed haha. Instead, he gripped Papa's shoulder and just bowed his head, and I knew I knew I knew then and there that Papa was going to die.

But I brushed it away. And a few days later, back in the hospital again, this time with no brain activity, Papa lay in his bed, surrounded by family and friends who laughed, cried, and sang his favorite songs. And I looked out the window at the brilliant blue sky with the dazzling white clouds and thought, "Such a beautiful day to die. You'd never think someone was dying today."

Mama's death came as a surprise, too. Her death came on a rainy day, the type of day movies say is the day when people die. But it was September, the rainy season, and rain is an ordinary event. My husband and I were in our new home putting up a large print of a woman looking at a cherry blossom tree when my younger brother called, which was not ordinary. Mama was in the hospital, hurry. And I hurried to my closet and thought, "I'll wear the orange dress that she likes so she'll cheer up when she sees me." Choosing what to wear. What an ordinary thing to do on such a horrific day of the most terrible of surprises. 

But I wasn't really surprised, in hindsight. That week, at the office, two of my co-workers' mothers died. As my staff and I were having merienda, I said, "They say it comes in threes. Who do you think is next?" And we all shuddered then nervously laughed. 

As I went back to my desk, I got this overwhelming feeling of dread and I heard a voice in my head say, "Call your Mama." I wish I made this up because then I wouldn't feel bad (to this day) about shaking off that awful heavy feeling and thinking, "Woah, weird. I'll call her tomorrow after lunch." The next day, after lunch, Mama was dead.

Omens. Premonition. Foresight. A gift or a curse? Maybe both. If only I had listened to that strange voice, I'd have talked to Mama one last time. But there's no use crying over spilled milk. It's done. What matters is learning from the experience.

In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien wrote, "A divine 'punishment’ is also a divine 'gift’, if accepted, since its object is ultimate blessing, and the supreme inventiveness of the Creator will make 'punishments’ (that is changes of design) produce a good not otherwise to be attained."

In the Christian view, death is the divine punishment for sin. As we are all sinners, we all have to die. So in that sense, no death is ever a surprise. We all know that's where we're all headed. If only life would also grieve with us when the not-actually-unthinkable happens. As that song goes, "Why does the sun go on shining? Why does the sea rush to shore? I wake up in the morning, and I wonder why everything's the same as it was. I can't understand, no, I can't understand how life goes on the way it does." If only the world acted like death was a punishment, right? But if it did, then we would never see a blue sky with dazzling white clouds again. So perhaps the world knows that death isn't actually completely a bad thing.

In the spirit of Christmas, we know that while we celebrate Jesus's birth, we also know that His ultimate mission was to die on the cross for our sins. I don't know how the wise men knew that because they gave him myrrh, an embalming oil, as a gift. A very alarming gift to give to a baby, right? And of course, Jesus knew His earthly end and so the Bible describes Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). And yet because He also knew that His death will bring all who love Him eternal life, Jesus was also happy. And He wanted to share His joy! "I have told you this that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11). It's one of my most favorite verses and reminds me all the time to have joy despite all of life's tragedies.

Jesus the man knew His terrible future and yet He treated it as a gift because He devoted His numbered days to serving God and His will. He made His life count.

Our inevitable death is a divine punishment. But if there's anything the deaths of my loved ones have taught me, it is this: Death is also a divine gift. We have to choose to see it that way, however, for it to "produce a good not otherwise to be attained" by a happy, carefree life.

And this is something I don't say aloud because it sounds terrible but if my mother had still been alive today, my life would not be this amazing at all. Her death made me softer, kinder, more compassionate, and humble. It was the one thing that made me hold on to God with all my might. Before she died, I relied on myself and myself alone. I was fine on my own and I didn't need God for anything. But there's nothing like your mother's death to shatter your heart and your bones. So if Mama hadn't died, I truly believe I'd not have been a good mother. I don't even think I'd be a good person. So the best thing that happened to me and my children, possibly, is Mama's death, which is also the very worst thing that happened to me.

A divine punishment, a divine gift. 

That said, I still don't want to die. I still don't want anyone I love to die, especially not my babies. I want my ordinary life to stay as uneventful as possible. But knowing that all our futures end in one guaranteed event should teach us to love now, forgive now, laugh now. Especially now.