New year, new me

It would be nice to say that 2023 began in a healthy, relaxing and peaceful way. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. My husband and I were affected by the nationwide airline flight cancellations, so we were “stuck” in the bay area for a week longer than we had planned. When we finally arrived home, it was New Year’s Eve and I ended up getting sick, so we had to cancel plans with our friends. Then just this past week, I experienced a hives episode where the welts were so itchy and enflamed that I had to take over the counter allergy medicine. Even with the medication, they didn’t subside till two days later. This is not how I imagined the new year would begin.

However….

There is good news to embrace! One of my main goals for this year was to start a completely different professional journey. While I enjoyed the last 15 years of my life teaching middle and high school students, I wanted to focus more on writing and teaching ESL for adults. I started applying for jobs earlier this month, and yesterday I accepted an ESL instructor role to teach online. While I am nervous about this new job, I know that this is a new chapter that will help me with my professional goals of teaching community college or post secondary education. As far as writing, I am back to posting blogs and I submitted an application to Kundiman. This will be my 3rd time applying, and I am expecting that it will be a no, but that doesn’t mean that I will give up. It’s no news that I’ve been having a hard time finding the joy in life. I spoke and wrote about this feeling of “emptiness” during the pandemic, which was the main reason why I started to blog regularly. The things I once found comfort in such as reading, writing, hiking, traveling, spending time with friends, didn’t have the same effect on me. But I haven’t given. It’s important to search for the joy- not search for the forlorn or sorrow.

Productive nights in the new year

My alarm went off at 7:30 AM, and with only 4 hours of sleep, it’s safe to say that I swiped to the snooze feature more than once. By the time I realized it was “really” time to get up, I only had 15 minutes before my 9:00 AM meeting. It was a quick shower. Thank goodness I practice intermittent fasting, so I’m already accustomed to not eating breakfast.

I share this with you because everything I had intended on doing to start the day never happened. I planned to meditate, clean an area of the house, pray and journal and exercise. As lofty and ambitious as all this sounds, there was a time in my life when I actually accomplished all of this, even when I had to commute to work.

I thought I’d be more successful before the start of the work day; I imagined a relaxed, productive version of myself walking into my home office with a cup of warm tea, opening the blinds to let in the sun, burning sage and setting in a positive intension and clicking into the zoom link for my first meeting. Today’s realistic version included a groggy me stumbling to the shower, then pouring myself a glass of cold water, opening the blinds to see the rain and grey sky and clicking on my zoom link a minute past the meeting. I greeted everyone with wet hair and bags under my eyes! This was not the appearance or energy I wanted to bring for the start of the school year.

Yet, when I reflect on what happened after work, I’m surprised how pleasant the day ended. I was able to jog two miles, beating my previous time, my good friend Krystal stopped by to visit me outside, I drank a gallon of water throughout the day, made time to read, post a blog, and now I’m getting ready to “draw/paint” on my ipad.

Although I hadn’t checked off all the tasks I meant to accomplish this morning, I was able to achieve other under takings that afforded a calm and peaceful night. So, maybe I’m not a morning person, maybe it was the rain, maybe it was manic Monday, what ever the reason, I’m content with letting go of expectations and instead embracing the surprising wins and sense of accomplishments anytime of the day.

Photo by Sanaan Mazhar on Pexels.com

Your top 3 in an emergency?

For the past few days, my hometown Fairfield, CA has been burning, literally. The LNU Lightning Complex Fire was caused by the thunder and lightning storm that occurred over the weekend. Many structures and homes were burned; I even heard a National Park in Santa Cruz was severely damaged. My parents’ neighborhood was evacuated and schools were closed for the rest of the week. My in-laws, although their neighborhood was not evacuated, but for safety precautions, stayed with me and my hubby for the last two nights. As I was helping my mother-in-law unload her car, I noticed the personal items and essentials she packed in a hurry. In one bag, she had her heirloom jewelry, another bag held a small statue of Mother Mary and another bag held medication and food. It dawned on me, if I were put in a similar situation, what would I bring? Here are my top three:

  1. My computer or journal because I need to write. Since I’ve revived this blog, I’ve had the urge to write more than I have ever felt compelled to. It doesn’t matter to me if people read, like or respond to my post. I like the idea that I can read my thoughts at any particular time in my life. It’s been great to share this public journal with y’all! 
  2. A book because besides writing, I enjoy reading. It’s my escape. Especially when I’m feeling a mood, and I need to be lifted by words, there’s nothing like sinking into a good book and circumventing reality. 
  3. Running shoes because no matter where I’m at, I need to physically escape. Sometimes we take for granted what a brisk walk or jog can do for the mind, body and soul. This is  something I’ve learned while sheltering in place. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and writing and reading won’t suffice, I’ll put on my shoes and hop on the treadmill or head outside. Getting the body to move, even for a little bit restores and revives the dormant energy in our bodies. 

I imagine that I’d pack more in my emergency bag. But if I had to choose three items, these would be my priority. Unlike my mother in law who packed crucial things like food and Mother Mary, my bag probably wouldn’t be as practical. I don’t know how long I’d last in an emergency situation with shoes, my blog and hella books in my backpack, but at least I’ll have all the things I love around me. 

What about you? What are your three essentials?

 

Jump roping in the living room!

Since sheltering in place, my husband and I have used the rooms and furniture in our house to serve multiple purposes. We learned that since we are staying home more and more, we’d have to make adjustments to how we live. Now, rather than fighting the sheltering in place and sulking, which we did for a few weeks, we realized that life couldn’t stop just because we can’t go outside.
One of the ways we have adjusted is utilizing our dining room table. For the first few months of sheltering in place it was no longer where we ate our meals, but it was used as our puzzle table and my sewing station. But now, for five days out of the week, my husband uses it to set up his dj equipment for his daily live stream. He hops on Twitch or Instagram and hosts a thirty minute mix to an average of 20- 40 viewers, Monday- Friday, with an occasional live stream over the weekend. Part of the table is reserved for his laptop, mic stand and speaker, which we still eat next to. At our feet, under our table, and on top of our area rug is where he stores his controller, cables and plugs that I’m careful not to kick or step on while eating our meals.
My office also serves multiple purposes. I have a meditation pillow, my sewing desk and now my stand up desk that I use for work. This room was once my writing room, but now that I’ve been working from home, it’s difficult for me to separate work like from my personal life. I can’t seem to write at my desk because now it’s where I have a set up for zoom calls and my work laptop where I am constantly preparing documents for work. Now, I’m learning to enjoy writing my stories and blogs in other places in the house like on the couch, in bed and at the dining table.
We have also found ways to work out at home. Behind our couch is a treadmill that I use a couple times a week. I still enjoy jogging outdoors, but when sheltering began in March and facts were still unknown about COVID, my husband and I found ways to work out in doors. I did workouts via zoom in the bedroom and a few times my husband used the living room to jump rope! Thankfully we have very patient neighbors below us, so we haven’t had a complaint.
Carrying on with our hobbies and finding ways to still do them indoors hasn’t been easy. Our house is cluttered, space is limited and it feels like my husband and I are living on top of each other. And even though we clean our house regularly, no matter how much we sweep and vacuum it doesn’t take away the agglomeration and clutter of DJ equipment, jump ropes, exercise equipment, books that occupy our space. Yet there’s something very comforting and satisfying knowing that in a two bedroom condo, within 800 square feet, between two people with unique personalities, there’s a dedicated place, within steps of each other to sew, to jump rope, to play music, to meditate, to read, to write, to eat, and to sleep. We’ve definitely adapted and will continue to do so, but sometimes when I walk from room to room, it’s hard to imagine ever needing a reason to leave.

Follow my hubby’s jump rope journey here: Mel Got Jumped https://www.instagram.com/mel_got_jumped/

Follow his deejay account here: DJ Mel SF https://www.twitch.tv/djmelsf

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My hubby jumping in our living room

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My former writing desk that I now use for work

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Our dining table that my husband uses to DJ his live streams

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the treadmill and jump ropes we use to work out

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my sewing table in my office

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our home that serves multiple purposes

Romantic Comedies

The last ten years, I made a commitment to read mostly writers of color in literary fiction. I reveled in works by Lahiri, Morrison, Alvar, Coates, Ward, Murakami, Adiche, Cisneros and chose titles from lists such as the Pen Awards and The New York Times. As a Filipinx writer, there was something profound about reading work that carried representation of issues and struggles that pertained to my life. These novels are usually deep reads, addressing issues such as race, family, culture, assimilation and diaspora. As of late, I’ve taken a break, not only from reading but the types of books I’ve been reading. 

I have found a new genre:  contemporary romance. If you’re wondering what this is, think My Best Friend’s Wedding, Crazy Rich Asians, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.  Yes it’s true, and I’m into it. I have no shame or qualms about this new discovery. My fascination with romantic comedy novels started a few months ago when I made a promise to my husband that I would balance my book selection by adding 1 or 2 “lighthearted” books with my serious books. As we started sheltering in place, I needed to escape and my serious books thrust me in worlds that weren’t too far from the real world I was living. After each book I read, I felt no respite or inspiration. Not to say that the books weren’t well written. They are. I think I was mentally drained and needed to laugh. 

In contemporary romantic comedy novels, I’ve found glee in reading through humorous plot lines and young, often naive, characters who are hopelessly in love in clubs, hotels and bars in New York and Los Angeles. I’m in delight with the idea of kissing strangers in the dark or drinking martinis after work while laughing through unconventional follies and complicated jovial circumstances. It’s a breath of fresh air for me. And I thank my husband for introducing me to this genre. 

Thanks to his suggestion, I’ve enjoyed reading again. I know I will eventually make my way back to literary fiction. For now, I’m laughing and finding fulfillment in these new pages where love is the only able force to surmount obstacles.