I’d been in a funk for several weeks. I was grateful for the success I’ve experienced with work, yet on the other side, overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility paired with a profound unknowingness. I felt paralyzed, both emotionally and physically, often straining to get out of bed. I woke up with the news today that there may be another Zika outbreak, which was followed by the impending doom to follow if we don’t figure out the climate crisis, which was then followed by economists weighing in on why my generation is financially screwed. I clicked off and decided I’d spend my energy on only one crisis today.
I’d forced myself back into a routine the last couple of weeks. I cut out junk and forced my body to move. I told friends I wouldn’t be available, as I needed space to process what I was feeling. They understood, of course. They are full of love in that way.
I went back into my garden, tending to my rose bush that bloomed with an even greater abundance after I’d pruned it liberally in an attempt to rid it of aphids. My dwarf banana tree sprouted a pup, which I repotted. My baby avocado tree stood up proudly. My sampaguita are taking to their ladder, two vines climbing up in parallel in a double helix. The heirloom tomato seeds I planted months ago have grown tall and are in need of a new trellis.
As I worked in my garden, the neighborhood toddlers would pay me a visit. They would come to see George, my cat, who they’d grown fond of. Months ago, it was just one. Now I have three toddlers playing in my yard. They came every day, and soon, my afternoons and early evenings at home were spent laughing with them, playing pretend, about Everything and Everywhere All At Once.
I saw that film this evening. I walked out after the credits, tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was exactly what I needed. “Don’t look at me!” I scowled at my friend as we left the theater. “I look ugly.” We laughed and parted with a hearty embrace.
I’ve been drinking coffee longer than I can remember. I don’t say that to brag—I really can’t remember exactly when I started drinking coffee. If I had to guess, I was probably three years old.
Back then, I lived in the Philippines with my mom and extended family. My grandparents lived there too, and I spent every morning with my grandma. We all called her Mama.
Every morning, Mama would stir a few spoons of freeze-dried Folgers into her cup of hot water, topped with powdered creamer and a few spoons of sugar. She’d bring out a roll of pan de sal and lay it on a platito, periodically dipping the roll into her coffee before taking a bite and washing it down with a slow sip.
I adored Mama and loved to spend mornings with her, after my mom had already left for work and before I went to nursery. I wanted to be a part of her morning as she was mine, and I started sneaking sips of this glorious kape that she drank every morning without fail. Eventually, she caught on, scolding me for drinking something for grown-ups, while stirring me a cup of my own. This was our special routine every morning until my mom and I moved to the US.
I think of my Mama every morning as I make my own brew; she continues to be a part of my morning to this day. Except these days, I make the coffee for both us.
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:
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:
I let her get used to her new space—let her stretch out and expand. Here she is 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?
Today after work, I decided to combine two of my favorite hobbies—gardening and painting. I’d been growing a pineapple top since late last year, and it’s sprouted more than double the leaves it started with. To celebrate, I gave its planter a new look.
I present… meta piña:
This was a fun, low stress project and a perfect way to close out a number of stressful weeks.
It’s the end of the first week of 2021, and it’s more chaotic than I could have ever expected. I’m working 60+ hours during the week for a month, on top of side projects and series I’d forgotten I’d signed up for.
I’m working on re-establishing balance. On my way back from my favorite grocery store in Koreatown, I passed by a plant shop and brought home some little friends.
My new little green friends are in good company with their neighbors.
I spent the week giving some love to my plants, pruning dead ends to tidy up and make room for new life. I’m in no way a plant whisperer, but investments in time, dedicated care, and patience have led to some stunning greens and blooms. Other times, some dead ends or a total burial of the life that was.
One of my ficus trees has been struggling for the last several months. I’d considered giving up on it entirely, with many of its leaves and branches withered and a far cry from its once luscious, deep green fullness. Within nine months, it’s suffered through two major moves, animal attacks, and being left out and scorched by the sun, but despite that, it continues to shoot new buds and leaves. I’m in awe of its will to live. Maybe it’s just as stubborn as I am. Though the days are shorter and winter is ahead, the spring awaits, and I’m optimistic.