Saturday, May 31, 2014

To New Adventures. To Second Chances. To Life.

November 11, 2013. Three days after Yolanda, we evacuated to Cebu as our house was ripped apart and the living conditions in our city proved to be impossible for our two boys. In the days that followed, our lives changed dramatically, abruptly, tremendously.

The overwhelming weight of the reality of it all was too much to bear. But we bore it. With the love and kindness of family and friends, with the humanity of strangers from foreign lands, we were able to bear it. One day at a time. We began to rebuild our lives, our house, everything that nature took its wrath upon.

Rebuild. To build again. To pick up the pieces and put them back together. To discard useless shards of whatever. To carry only what matters.

How does one start rebuilding? How does one begin the mending? The healing? I have no answers. All I know is that six months have passed and we are here now.

And all I know is that we survived Yolanda, Haiyan, a rose by any other name. And the days that followed.

If there is one singular lesson I have learned from everything we have been through, it is this: To remember what is important.

What is important? What is my greatest truth? My boys. Garret and Morgan.

To survive the typhoon is to realize that I have been given a second chance at being the mother my boys deserve. To know I have been given the opportunity to do what I have been procrastinating to do for so long-- to make life an adventure, to make life a work of art, to live my life as a work of art. To be art. To be alive.

So yes, I've been attempting to work on my physical strength and stamina. Call it staying fit. Building strength. Recreating, reinventing my body. Crossfit. Something that is way out of my league, out of my comfort zone. I am not athletic by any means. But I have an able body. And muscles. Somewhere. (Haha.) And I have two boys who depend on me. Who will grow up to be bigger than me. Who will need me to be very much alive and, forgive the cliche, kicking. So I'll take any pain thrown at me to be the mama my boys deserve. And when the pain gets too be too much that it'll make me want to give up, I'll remind myself that today I am stronger than yesterday. And today was the yesterday I was afraid of, I was uncertain of. But today I am alive. And the kicking will come real soon.

So to the pathetic 22-pound kettle bell, to the sore muscles I did not know existed, to the joints and ligaments lying dormant for so long now awakened and stretched like hell, I will see you again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the next and the next. And I will work my butt off to do another 3 reps of ten lifts of you, darn you, with 3 reps of ten air squats and lunges, pull-ups and box jumps, even if it takes three shirts soaking wet and my breath going in and out hard and fast like I have never breathed before.

How does the rebuilding begin? How does one start the mending? The healing?

Could it be in the sweet delicious ache in every part of my body? That pain and that moment where my body is screaming "no more, no more!" Perhaps, this is where the healing begins.

So here's to new adventures. To second chances.

Here's to life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Que Sera Sera

"What are we doing, Garret?" I asked him. He was quiet. I cued him, "We are wa--", to which he replied, "Wau-king" (walking).

It was time for our daily afternoon walking exercise around the neighborhood. The sudden downpour an hour before cooled the air, a comfort to our senses. We were quiet while we walked. Garret, taking in the surroundings, the bluest sky, the birds flying all over, the sight of a mound of sand gathered on the corner of a house, and scrunching sound under his shoes as he intentionally walked on it, an occasional swinging of a neighbor's gate, the sound of a gardener's cellphone braying out a song from the radio, several kids playing basketball, the sound of our own footsteps and everything else. I was taking it all in too. The ambient noise, the afternoon light, the quiet. My own breath going in and out of my body relishing every movement of my muscles, clearing out cluttered thoughts and worries for the future.

The future. It used to terrify me. It still does sometimes. The uncertainty overwhelms my heart. But I try not to think about it too much. No use dwelling on what hasn't arrived yet. If there's one thing my boys have taught me, it is to be fully present in the moment. To capture and relish each day. To appreciate today. Every thing good and bad. To be grateful to the Universe for what my boys achieve. To take pride in what I have achieved today, what I have become as a woman, a mother, a life partner, a friend, a human being as of this very moment.

I look at my dear boy walking happily beside me. An airplane looms overhead. I tell him, "Look, Garret, airplane!" It takes two or three seconds for him to look up and say, "eh-plane!" Oh how my heart expanded! Walking, airplane. Two words. Two purposeful words.

Today was my future a few years ago when I did not even think my son would ever speak. Today was the future I was terrified of before. I'll keep reminding myself of this fact especially on days when uncertainty grips me. Today was beautiful. Fear of the future, my boys' future should have no room in my heart any longer.

We finished our walking and sat on the front steps of our house watching the sun go down and the skies transforming into night. And I remembered a song my mom used to sing to me as a kid and sang it to my little boy, "Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be, the future's not ours to see, que sera, sera."

Sunday, May 18, 2014


The skies were majestic as we drove to OSPA-Farmers' Medical Center grounds, the hospital overlooking our city to do an afternoon walk with the boys . I held Garret's hand lightly as we walked the third of our six rounds of walking around the grounds. Morgan just right behind us with his caregiver. As we approached the cemented rectangular steps, Garret dutifully stepped on each one until he stepped on one particular step that lay dislodged from the root of a tree that burst forth from the ground, catching him off-guard. Instinctively I tightened my grip on his hand so he would recover his balance easily. What happened next astonished me. He turned to look at the unstable step and right there I saw in his face an unasked question "What happened right there?" A recognition of the cause of his misstep. After that brief moment, he proceeded to walk on.

It was just a few seconds. A simple turning of the head to look at the cemented step. But it was a milestone achieved.

A few years ago Garret wouldn't even respond to his own name, engrossed in his own little world. And now this-- Paying attention to his environment, being aware of his own actions, recognizing the simple facets of cause and effect. Miracles by the day, I always say. As always I am grateful for these blessings that come wrapped in the most mundane of packages because not only are these extraordinary gifts to my two boys as they discover and appreciate the world in their own way and pace, but also, I learn numerous insights with every milestone they achieve. As if I am also achieving my own personal milestone.

To encounter various missteps is only natural. We are all human after all. But to pause, acknowledge mistakes, the wrong choices we have made and ask the question, "Wait, what happened right there?" , takes a certain amount of grace, humility and courage. To be able to ask this question is necessary. Because only then can we face the skeletons in our closet,  acknowledge the shallowness of our bravado. Only then can we truly face who we are and in the process discover that we can be better than who we already are.

As we finished off the last rounds of our walking, approaching the culprit of a step, I guided my son around it. He followed my cue and walked around it. The last two rounds, however, he chose to still step on it. Of course he almost fell again. And I thought, that's alright, sometimes he has to learn on his own many many times before he can get the lesson right.

So it is with me. As bull-headed and stubborn as I am, I repeat missteps, mistakes, wrong decisions time and again, choosing to wear the cape instead of taking it off and donning on regular person clothes. And that's okay. Because now I am learning. I am choosing grace. I am praying for humility and I am constantly working on my courage to ask the necessary question, "Wait, what happened right there?" I am recognizing and accepting the fact that I am human. Most importantly, that I can be better. Because my boys deserve more than who and what I already am to them right now.

”The world improves when we admit that we are all fundamentally human." - Lisbeth Darsh

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day

An acquaintance greeted me Sunday, "Happy Mother's Day to one of the greatest mothers."

"Wow" was my silent reaction. I was clearly taken aback. Because not only did this person not know me on a personal level, but the word "great" was too shocking for my sensibilities.

I am far from great. I am flawed, imperfect and a whole lot of other things. Except great.

And I don't mean this in a self-deprecating manner to fish for more validation. I say this to affirm and remind myself that I am still too far from my goal of being the mother my two boys deserve.

What my two boys face everyday with courage and grace is unimaginable. Their courage and grace is unimaginable. What their body and mind struggle to absorb, process and translate into responses is challenging to say the least.

And me? I am a mere "strive(r)" compared to what they achieve every single day. Cebuanos have a more apt term-- "Naningkamot". To strive. To do one's best. To struggle.

So never mind "great". Eventually, I'll get there. That place where I can humbly accept the "great" part. But for now, "striving" suits me better.

But to the acquaintance who greeted me, I still thank you for considering me to be a "great mother". Your short albeit crisp message just propelled me to get back on the keyboard after who knows how long and get back to doing what I love best.