Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Of Transformations and The Search for Happiness

"Garret are you happy?"

"A-pee." He replies, smiling at me as I take his picture.

We finally decided to bring the boys to Visayas State University after several months of talking about it and not really having the time to actually do it. To say it was a worthwhile experience one that we plan to revisit time and again is an understatement.

The university atmosphere is endearing. The mountainous landscape filled with various kinds of foliage and flora are soothing to the senses, calming to the soul. And those majestic, giant trees that beautifully splay the rays of sunlight are a sight to see! A blatant contrast to my college years in the heart of OsmeƱa Boulevard. I wonder, if I had known there was a place like this 17 years ago, would I have chosen to study in this university? With my brazen, city-girl, must-be-close-to-home- like tendencies back then? Probably not. But now, as my eyes devoured everything in sight from the college students contentedly hanging around with books filled with highlighted marks, pen doodles and whatnot, laptops, having pre-finals reviews and club meetings, to the giant trees that looked like fern gully surrounding these "kolehiyalas", from the dirty ice cream and tempura vendor where students lined up for, to the lamplight and fallen leaves lining up walkways, a thought emerged, " I could study here. If there ever were post graduate programs that interest me in this university, I would enroll in a heartbeat. God, I could live here."

Amazing how with a 45-minute exploration of a place such as VSU I can affirm to myself how much I have changed and how much I have remained the same over the span of more than ten years. I find myself looking for comfort in the most unadulterated, unsophisticated ways, well not that I was much of a high-maintenance kind of person. But somehow, I am discovering there is more pleasure to be found in the understated, underrated, in the down-to-earth, in the uncomplicated. The hubris of youth excludes no one after all. The want for attention and blitz somehow are slowly stripped away down to its very core. And what is left is what is essential. Not to be misunderstood, I am discontented with mere complacency and I still yearn for that which moves me-- stimulating conversations, intelligent ones, the ones that speak to your soul, a display of artistry and craftsmanship whether in theater performances, poetry readings, book readings, writing, advocacy that represent the life you are living or fighting for. Above, beyond and beneath it all, I am finding that at the beginning of every endeavor I choose to take, I ask myself the question, "For what purpose?" And if for no other reason other than it feeds my soul, for no other reason than to find happiness, then the journey is on its way.

The transformation of oneself is astonishing as it is necessary. A change in beliefs, some values maybe, behavior and to an extent personality even, can occur as one ages. Perhaps it's the getting older that allows for almost an immediate preference and a deeper appreciation of the subtler, simpler and quieter things in life. The less clutter and noise, the better, kind of attitude. But then again age is just a biological occurrence, perhaps it is what we bring to aging, the life changes we go through, crises or milestones of triumphs that constitute the so-called "aging gracefully" and perhaps create a certain profoundness in perspective, a transformation of the self.

As for me, I am grateful to have been given the wonderful blessing and opportunity that some do not have, to bear and bring two beautiful human beings into this life. I may not be in the least bit graceful nor close to being profound but I find myself to be ever-changing, constantly transforming into a different, maybe a better or a more resilient version of myself. And I have my two boys to thank for every time this happens. Becoming a mother and parenting them is truly one of the most beautiful milestones I could ever have reached.

Anais Nin could never have said it any better when she said, "I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent but few know how many women there are in me."

Garret and Morgan teach me everyday to find beauty in the ordinary, contentment in the absence of frivolities and joy in the daily miracles of life. And as I look at their faces taking in everything about this place, the peace and quiet of Visayas State University in the city of Baybay, Leyte, I am reminded once more how indeed, very little is needed to be truly happy.

Perhaps a significant part of the "very little" which is needed to be happy, is the willingness to change and transform in ways that are sometimes incomprehensible. Transformation is necessary, if we are to find our joy, I believe. Because even our definition of happiness changes as time does too.

In the next decade or so, who knows how much of myself will have transformed again? All I know is that I look forward to it. My boys make sure that I look forward to it and teach me time and again to take pleasure in it-- transformations and miracles, every single day.

On the ride home, Garret and Morgan are laughing to their hearts content, looking at me with meaningful eyes as if to say they had the best afternoon. If one or both of them would have asked me if I was happy too, without missing a beat, I would reply, "A-pee, my boys very a-pee."

Post script: More photos to come especially of the majestic trees I am raving about and yes, of Morgan too. Oh and yeah, talking about aging and stuff will probably make you ask how old I am. I always have one answer to anyone, in their right mind, who asks about my age-- 25. Forever 25. ;-)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

For My Morgan

There are days when my mind and my heart gets too...tired (too exhausted to look for stronger term). So I do what I do best. As all autism parents or special needs parents do best, we cope and we become adept at coping. We get used to breaking and we become strong in the broken places. We learn that to be strong is not to carry it all. But to let some things go. So, on days when Morgan goes into one of those seemingly unexplainable tantrums, I just let him be, let him cry it out, and if he allows me to, carry him and cradle him like a newborn child and he cries some more. After 15 minutes, half an hour or almost an hour, he quiets down. And all is well with our world again.

This is for you my Morgan. Mama loves you come peaceful or stormy seas.

There, there now my feisty king,
Mama is here...
I'll hold you tight till the bed bugs won't bite.
I'll hold you close till the thunder in your heart stops.
I'll hold you singing till the clouds of chaos in your mind clears.
I'll hold you, just hold you till the rain in your eyes dries.
I'll hold you till the skies of your thoughts turn from gray to blue.
I'll hold you till the sun in your smile breaks through.
It's okay now, my feisty king,
Mama is here
I'll keep you here in my arms
Until you need me to
You are feisty, brave and strong
You are stronger than all the storms.
You are infinite, unconquerable.
Be sad if you need to
Be scared if you have to
Be angry if you are
Spill those tears to
soothe your heart
And I'll catch them
with my own beating heart
It's alright my feisty king
There, there now,
Peace will come
Soon you will find your calm...

Perhaps, during the most unlikeable moments that we have living with autism or with life, all we really need to do is to go through it, acknowledge it, feel every sting of it, weep if we have to, lash out, let it go, stop trying to control what is uncontrollable, sing a little song, hum a little tune and yes, expand our hearts and love a little more.