groundhog day

Wake up. Skim emails. Get out of bed. Greet cat. Feed cat. Brush teeth. Wash face. Start the kettle. Scoop the litter box. Sweep the floor. Pour the coffee. Turn on the computer. Respond to emails. Take a yoga break. Attend meetings. Catch up on news. Respond to emails. Make lunch. Attend meetings. Respond to emails. Respond to emails. Respond to emails. Make dinner. Respond to emails. Play with cat. Feed cat. Shower. Brush teeth. Skim emails. Go to bed.

the cycling of the sun and moon

As I’ve gotten older and built my own life independent of my parents (by parents, I’m referring to my mom and stepdad—who, for all intents and purposes, is my dad), my relationship with them has changed. The way I see them has changed. And it keeps changing.

It’s funny how we often forget that our parents are whole people whose lives don’t completely revolve around us, their children, even though that’s often the case for a really long time. No matter the relationship we have with them, we’d often idolize them and see their word as infallible, them—indestructible. Over the years, we’ve all gotten older, wiser, gentler, but they have also become more frail, and the reality of their mortality suddenly feels daunting and sometimes, frightening. Sometimes, maddening.

I find myself having to develop a newfound patience for when my parents fall short of my expectations. Admittedly, I feel guilty about this. Just tonight, my parents failed to make it to a Jo Koy show my younger brothers and I had treated them to. They didn’t check their email to verify the address. They didn’t use Google Maps to see the time to leave. They didn’t understand that parking was a separate charge or that they would have to park far in case they arrived late. They didn’t understand that all bags must be left in the car.

Well, they arrived late. Sure enough, they’d have to park so far and were spooked by the large crowd, on top of having to pay for a locker to store my mom’s purse, that they decided to leave the arena altogether without ever stepping out of the car. “I’ll Venmo you for parking and the locker fees!” I insisted. But they were tired. They’d driven for over two hours in traffic. And most of all, my parents are older. I forget about this all the time. What do my parents know about Google Maps and checking the traffic ahead of time? My dad was just asking me about the Yellow Pages not too long ago. My mom has plantar fasciitis and cannot take prolonged walks.

I found my frustration easing. It is a strange feeling, eclipsing your parents. Thinking about it leaves me feeling uneasy and emotionally and mentally unprepared. There is still so much to say. So much to do. Things to repair.

“Are you driving home? Or will you find a hotel to stay at overnight? Did you eat? Can I order takeout for you?” I texted.

“No, it’s ok,” my mom replied. “We’ll have a good time. As long as we’re together. No worries. Sleep and rest. Ok, low batt.”

lessons in love

I came home to visit my family for the holiday weekend and attended my first indoor, extended family party in a long while. I saw family who I haven’t seen in a number of months, others two years, some in ten, and some in twenty. I’d held a newborn nephew who I hadn’t yet met. I cried with an older cousin whose husband just recently passed from COVID in August.

My younger cousin had digitized my aunt’s home videos and uploaded them to YouTube. They were playing in the background, and by the time I’d sat down to watch, they were on a recording from March 1991. You could hear my aunt asking what the red light meant. “It means you’re recording!” my uncle responded in Tagalog.

1991 was the year my grandma, mom, and I came to visit the US, which ended up being a permanent migration for my mom and myself. My mom was just a year younger than I am now when she made the choice to stay. I had just turned five. The home footage caught so many things I’d either forgotten or had no way to make sense of at the time—my grandma’s testing of the waters, my mom trying to put her best foot forward, and me—clueless and still unable to speak more English than what I could mimic from my mom’s Whitney Houston cassette (I was obsessed with “Greatest Love of All” and credit all of my early English learning, pre-migration, to the late and very great Whitney).

I didn’t know if my mom knew we would be staying here at the time of that home video. I suspect now that she did, or at least was considering it heavily. I wonder if I could’ve made such a brave decision at her age, essentially my age now—to leave behind my entire life and take my child to this foreign place and start brand new.

My relationship with my mom changed after we stayed. Once carefree, an emotion and lifestyle of privilege, my mom took on a different demeanor—one of struggle, disappointment, exhaustion. And I changed alongside her.

I think about this video and laugh. I’m wearing my Mickey Mouse cap for most of the video, speaking in Tagalog and playing some game that involved sweeping the back patio and tumbling like a roly-poly. However, my favorite parts are much more obscure. In the video taken at night of my now-aunts and uncles having conversation on the sofa, you could see my mom sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa with me sitting on her lap. We’re playing some kind of game, and it doesn’t matter what, but it ends with me giggling with a huge smile on my face and wrapping my arms around her with the biggest hug I could give.

This post is dedicated to Ne, Romy, Dan, Ong, and Fely.

Do you need a bigger pot?

These days, I feel like I’m constantly talking or thinking about space. Holding space. Making space. Physical space. Figurative space. Mental space. Emotional space.

About four months ago, I hung one of my pothos plants on a ladder by the window:

Taken July 27th.

Because I’m a klutz, I inevitably walked into it and knocked the whole thing down. I lost a precious vine in the process, some of which I plopped into a jar of water to propagate. After sweeping away the spills of my accident, I re-erected the ladder, secured the pothos onto the rung, tidied up the soil, and wiped down the leaves.

A couple months after hanging, I noticed that the soil was no longer holding onto water. The leaves continued to remain sad and wilty even after a hearty watering, and I suspected that the roots needed to be shaken loose and have more room to grow.

I finally repotted and re-hung Sylvia (that’s what we’ll call her now) last week. Here she is immediately after repotting, still getting used to her bigger pot:

Taken a week ago.

I let her get used to her new space—let her stretch out and expand. Here she is today:

Sylvia today.

I’ve found gardening to be a haven for my thoughts and emotions, a reflection of ways in which I, myself, am trying to grow. It’s so easy to stick with the same because what’s familiar often feels comfortable. But is that familiarity constricting your roots? Do you need more room to grow? Do I?

office space

I’m in the middle of transitioning to my new role at another agency. For the first time in over a year-and-a-half, I attended an in-person staff meeting.

I didn’t realize how emotional I would feel finally working in proximity to colleagues (people!) again. An introvert at heart, I found comfort in living in an unusually solo state. Additionally, living in a dedicated isolation allowed me to finally center much-needed self-care and work through past traumas that I’ve been wanting and needing to address. Not that any of this has been easy, and the “comfort” of isolation can be its own coping mechanism.

My home office corner with my work-from-home colleague catching the warmth of the sun at the window.

A curse or a blessing? It doesn’t matter. I’ll ride this wave and see where it takes me.

puppy magic

There’s no need to sugar-coat things—I’ve been going through it. I’ve experienced so much loss in the last several weeks, on top of the ongoing existential crisis I’m navigating in response to the inescapable and seemingly endless horrors that have become the norm.

And just in case I wasn’t experiencing enough chaos in my life, I impulsively decided to foster a 6-month-old puppy. Here are the two of us when I picked her up:

Me and Lucy.

She didn’t have a name when I took her in, but she looked like a Lucy and she seemed to respond to it well. She was part of a litter that had been brought from Mexico, and she was the last pup left. Excitable, curious, and usually fearless, her tenacity and ability to pick up new skills brought a new sense of inspiration and brightness to me. Not leash-trained? No problem. Potty issues? We’ll work through it. Unsure of stairs? We’ll climb through them together. In the few days that I got to spend with her, I couldn’t believe how inspiring her sense of adventure was. I found myself walking her at all hours of the day and well into the dark night, unafraid just like her.

I had to give her up today, and it is easily one of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve ever felt. Though we only spent a few days together, she taught me things about myself that I never knew I could value so much or needed. How could this little, young creature teach me so much in such little time?

homesick

Twenty years ago, I took my first trip back to Philippines to bury my maternal grandmother, who we affectionately called Mama. Before then, the last time I was home in Manila was when I was five. My mom, Mama, and I left for Los Angeles right after my fifth birthday, without me knowing it would be the last time I’d be home to see her.

If I could’ve gone home sooner, I would have. Having overstayed my tourist visa, I was then undocumented and risked a 10-year ban from the US and an indefinite separation from my mother. Though I became a naturalized citizen and have lived in the US since, I experience a permanent feeling of in betweenness, struggling to place home between here and there.

Over the course of a week, elders in my family, who I also consider as grandparents because of the way my culture is structured, will now be pursuing end of life care. I’ve been part of difficult phone and video calls trying to provide medical feedback and explanation—context—as best as I can, along with my uncle who is also a doctor, albeit in Australia.

My grandpa, who now faces palliative care for liver cancer, has very little understanding of his disease process. Having trained briefly as a surgical resident physician to specialize in liver disease, I have seen countless times how it ends. Meanwhile my grandma, who has end stage kidney disease—my family have decided that she is too fragile for dialysis and we’ve chosen to seek palliative care for her as well. In and out of lucidity, she also is not fully aware of her disease process. Opting out of dialysis was a tough choice, but since Mama suddenly went into cardiac arrest during dialysis at a much younger age and healthier state, we’ve decided that making her as comfortable as possible to make her last moments as joyful as possible is our utmost priority. Maybe it’s better that they don’t know.

They have a few months left. A year if we are lucky. I don’t know when I’ll see them again, given the state of COVID in Philippines. I haven’t been back since I buried Papa, my maternal grandfather, who succumbed to lung cancer around 2005.

The pain of separation feels somewhat surreal. There is never enough time. Today, my grandma, or Lola, as we say in Tagalog, sweetly serenaded us from the hospital while on video chat as we called in from California, Melbourne, Sydney, and other parts of Philippines. It was a bittersweet testimony to her strength and her love of family.

The ache of now forced distance is another consequence of this ongoing pandemic. I sit under the glow of the full moon with a sobering clarity and a tender heart.

SATC

After a long wait at the vet, I was finally able to take George home. I circled my neighborhood and all the surrounding streets for almost half an hour, finding parking a way’s way from my apartment. It was almost midnight, and I always feel uneasy walking home alone late at night. This night, already standing at the edge of my physical and emotional limits, I surprisingly felt brave and emboldened. One last mile to go.

I secured George into his carrier, which I wear on my front like a front version of a backpack. He’s too heavy and overall too large to carry in hand or in cross-body carriers, so I carry him on my front like a kangaroo carries a Joey. He was surprisingly curious and kept his head out to watch the cars passing by. Usually he keeps his head tucked in, threatened by booming noises from the street. Maybe he was just happy to be out of the animal hospital.

We had a long walk home, but fortunately along well-lit streets. I ran into a row of electric scooters, which were a welcome solution to my long, final uphill walk. I scanned the QR code and struggled to find balance hopping on, with George on my front and my backpack on my back, hobbling on like an awkward upright turtle. The guys at the corner taco stand on the other side of the broad intersection cheered and applauded as I pushed with my right foot and got going. I didn’t know I needed it but I was grateful.

I rode up the hill to my apartment, George lulled to sleep by the ride and now snoozing soundly. I parked the scooter and passed through the garden walkway to my doorstep. We were both happy to be home.