Portrait of Depression 2015

I’m having a Marilyn Monroe moment.

My phone is in my hand and I am itching for human contact. But I can’t do it. I can’t reach out, can’t dial, can’t talk. At the same time all I want to be is alone, preferably in the dark silence.

Tears form in my eyes and I stare at the screen, paralyzed.

It hurts. Everything hurts.

I am the child of summer. I was raised in the sun. So why now do I fear the season of light and warmth? I’ve ceased trying to understand. It is some chemical imbalance after all, out of my control.

Or seemingly so.

Even after:
Eating well
Exercise and activity
Deep breaths
A support network
Water

I have failed again to control my own brain.

It’s not coincidence that it was worst in 3 summers: when my child was born, when I separated from her father and the summer everything was now okay and I spent nights crying in the psych ward. The past years have been not as bad in comparison. They’ve made me soft, made me let down my guard. I was unprepared this time.

And how can this be any more difficult than what I’ve already survived? I’ve been through worse and come out shining. Life has never been better. This should be a piece of cake. But it’s not.

I say I’m okay but I’m not.
I want help but don’t know how to ask.
I’m desperate to talk, to hang out, but I’m afraid you won’t understand that you will think me weak, or a drama queen, or otherwise not worthy of your time.

I am tired of being sad.

Lady Mary and Healthy Sex Talk

I grew up in a predominantly Catholic country, in a devoutly Catholic household and received formative early education for 10 years at a Catholic institution. Given this, I think it is safe to say that when it comes to sex and sex education, Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey and I have a lot in common.

I learned about the egg and the sperm pretty early. As a precocious child, I received a picture book entitled “Where Babies Come From” that explained among other things, why kittens looked like cats and how the egg and sperm are single cells that fuse to form a blastocyst and eventually an embryo that grows in the mother’s tummy. I was 3. It would be 7 years later, in 5th grade, when I would discover the mechanics that would make the meeting of said egg and sperm possible. Incidentally, a year later, SPOILER ALERT! my world would be forever shattered when I find out that Santa was actually my mom and dad.

In last week’s episode (S5 E2), Lady Mary checks into a hotel room adjacent to her prospective husband and lover Tony Gillingham. They plan to dine, return to their respective rooms and make love until they run out of stamina. Lady Mary feels this trip is a dry run (pardon the pun), a preparation for married life should she accept Lord Gillingham’s proposal. The trip is secret, of course, as is the contraceptive device she had her lady’s maid purchase.

My mother will disown me but I think Lady Mary is being smart. It’s the 1920s, less people have maids and butlers and she and her husband will be under less scrutiny. Her reasoning, is that it is therefore imperative that they get along especially in that private area. Plus, she thought about contraception– what a forward thinker!

While it is noble and admirable to wait until marriage to have sex, I believe it can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment (sorry, Mommy). Sexual compatibility should be right up there with the ability to leave the toilet seat down and squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom. Seriously, being a good lover should be just as important a consideration as eye color and the ability to manage money. It’s so important that it can’t be just left to chance on your wedding night. Besides, something that’s good could only get better if you work on it.

But sex is so complicated and sticky (hahaha another pun). It’s a physical act that is usually accompanied by a huge wave of conflicted emotions and may leave in its wake even more conflicted emotions. I’m not saying go out and whore yourself. (Although if that is your choice, yay you. I’m not judging.)

What I’m saying is that I wish my parents (and my culture) had been more supportive rather than prohibitive when it comes to sex and
relationships. That they let me make mistakes early. That they allowed me to try and nurse a broken heart instead of compelling me to wait until after college to have a boyfriend. I wish they talked more about their relationship, were more open to answering stupid and awkward questions, more forgiving, more human towards sex. I mean, “Go forth and multiply” notwithstanding, I really do think God would not have made sex enjoyable if it were not meant to be enjoyed!

I am nowhere near ready for when K starts asking questions but I do know that I want to be open, not just about sex and relationships but everything else. Maybe then she wouldn’t have to ask someone else to buy condoms or inform her about consent, contraception and all that important stuff. I want to be there for her, as hard as it will be to imagine that anyone will be worthy of her, when she thinks she’s ready for the ride (oops pun again, sorry!). Maybe she can talk to me instead of feeling like she has to burn down her bedroom (tsk tsk Lady Edith. Shame on you!)

In the meantime, S5 E3 airs tonight. K will be mad because I won’t let her watch with me as it is aired because she can’t handle late bedtimes. But I imagine we will watch the Lady Mary train wreck someday, and talk about making good choices.

I am really looking forward to it.

2014 in review

hmmm… this blog got a little neglected this year. no promises but hoping 2015 will be a better blogging year 🙂

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 680 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Review: Yume Wo Katare

Yume Wo Katare, the ramen place in Porter Square, had a lot of hype for something that served only 1 dish: pork ramen. I had wanted to check it out long ago but long lines and the hours that they were open (5pm-11pm Tue-Sat) made it highly inconvenient.

As K was with her dad for Halloween night I finally had my ramen opportunity. It was cold-ish (40s) so the 30 or so minutes or so I spent in line only made me anticipate the hot savory soup even more.

IMG_4381.JPGthe goal was to get inside

The fact that I was sandwiched between 2 youngish so in love couples (not pictured) almost made me a little sad until my single patron status rushed me to the head of the line. Score. At the top I was given a choice of regular ($12) with 2 slices of pork or buta ramen ($15) which had 5. The small room had 3 bench style tables. The servers instructed you where to sit and sometimes they broke up the bigger groups. The place could probably fit 30 at a time comfortably.

Ramen was prepared by a chef wearing a baseball cap. The noodles looked substantial and the air warm and fragrant with broth. I was directed to wait with others whose orders were taken. Periodically, we were told to please pay attention to someone who had finished their meal and would say something like:

“Hi my name is Sean and I got a GOOD JOB. My dream is to finish my undergrad.”

Or

“I’m Shelby and my dream is to experience all that life has to offer. And I got a NEXT TIME.”

The room would then cheer and politely clap and the eater would excuse themselves and go.

The cashier helpfully explained that Yume Wo Katare means “talk about your dream” so patrons were encouraged to share theirs with all the others in the room. Striving to finish your entire bowl (PERFECT!) is like striving to accomplish your dream. After that, it was second nature to me to clap and awww over the shared dreams as well add an enthusiastic “GOOD JOB!”

My bowl arrived shortly with the extra garlic option. The first bite was savory and rich and did taste like a dream. The fatty pork was the highlight of the bowl- creamy and melt in your mouth. I burned my tongue slurping hot al dente noodles mixed with the soft crunch of lettuce and bean sprout.

IMG_4382.JPGof course get the extra yakiniku (garlic)

By time I got to about half my bowl it was clear that achieving perfection would take work. I ended up with a GOOD JOB (only a little broth remaining) and proudly shared my dream of raising my daughter to be a strong and confident woman. Was it the best ramen I ever had? Not really. But the experience was definitely unique.

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Yume Wo Katare is located at 1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (Porter Square).

Retrospective is everything

“Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh” – Indigo Girls, Watershed

“Perspective is everything” – Aimee Mann, Invisible Ink

My friend Foxglove surprised me with a phone call one day. She’s a special ed teacher who deals with challenging kids all day and while going home she was thinking about how the parents of her students were going to manage over the weekend. This led to thinking about parents and parenting and how difficult it was to be “on call” 24/7, and her various friends who were now parents.

Gusto ko lang sabihing ang galing mo!” (I just wanted to let you know that you are awesome!), she had said, and when I asked where this was coming from she went into a discussion of Katie and me and all we’ve been through and just that she was happy about where we are and what we’ve become. “Biruin mo, a few years ago kung san san lang kayo nakikitira tapos ngayon.. basta ang galing mo!” (A few years ago, you lived from friend to friend and now…you’re just great!). Thanks Foxglove!

My friends have always been encouraging, and are the type to freely give a kind word. But lately, these affirmations have been resonating. It’s always pleasant to hear and gives me a certain high to be told I’m a good friend/listener/mother, and that someone believes in me especially from people who know our story. But for some reason, I feel I am really only hearing and believing this now that the shitstorm we went through is over.

The thing about difficult situations is that it is hard to find their value while you are in it. Five years ago, I didn’t think I was a good person– I was dragging my almost 2 year old from couch to couch, scrounging for food money, wallowing in debt and self pity and all I could think about was how to get to the next day and that I would have to do it all over again. I felt I was being unjustly punished. I felt bitter and that life would never be the same. I felt hopeless and that I would never be happy again. More days than not I contemplated “the end” and the relief that ceasing to exist would bring. I prayed I wouldn’t wake up. I prayed my ex would be struck by lightning. I prayed one day that God would stop hating me.

Dark days indeed.

During these days my therapist would tell me to focus on what I was doing as accomplishments. I was navigating a system foreign to me, as best as I could. That I was in an temporarily unpleasant situation but was doing extraordinary things. That I was doing the right things: getting help for depression and trying to get our life on track. That time would bring healing and that someday I would look back at all of this in awe.

Just as the newborn days are a haze of sleep deprived never ending hours where much happened and little is remembered, so are my dark days. We survived with the help of many, but also (as bestie Maya often reminds me) through my sheer determination and stubbornness. Now, 5 years later, I feel vindicated, validated and strong. Above all, I feel more human: more able to accept my mistakes and more likely to reach out to someone else who might be in the middle of their own dark days.

This is not the last shitstorm. Things won’t be smooth sailing forever. But retrospective is teaching me that life isn’t crummy all the time. And that somehow you become a better person because of what you’ve endured.

Life is short: Eat snow

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I remember the first time I saw snow. It was 8:30 am and I was at the 6th floor of 700 Albany Street watching it fall in tiny flakes, coating the rooftops. It mesmerized me so much that when my boss came in to see me staring out the window instead of starting my experiment for the day (probably PCR or DNA extractions) all I could blurt out was “Look! Snow! Pretty!” He laughed at my naïveté.

Because I grew up in a tropical country, my knowledge of snow (winter, really) was full of misconceptions:

I thought it tasted like sugar.

I didn’t know it came in various types ranging from coat the power lines wet to snowball perfect to powdery.

I didn’t know that wearing an ugly puffy jacket was better than 4 layers under a stylish wool coat.

I didn’t know it turned slushy dirty a few days after it coated the world white.

I didn’t know that it could persist in pile form until March.

I didn’t know that shoveling it was a pain, literally.

My Swedish friend R has warned me about my penchant for eating snow. You don’t know what’s in there, she says. Don’t be fooled by how nice and white and clean it seems. She begged me to melt a bowl of it and see how dirty it was. 20140205-205530.jpg

But snow is among the (weird) things that Katie and I love to eat. It is on the level of marshmallow Peeps, Cadbury mini eggs and edamame as our favorite treat foods. We now have a standard for eatable snow (if possible, freshly fallen, take the top layer from at least Katie height on plants..) which makes me feel a teeny bit better about the minuscule dirt particles we are ingesting.

It’s foolish but I think the joy outweighs the consequences. Someday I know Katie will find everything I do or say to be annoying and uncool and I’m kind of okay with that. In the meantime, we shall eat snow. Together.

We usually eat it plain but today was a snow day so we had access to flavored syrup 🙂
20140205-153353.jpgfresh from the backyard20140205-153401.jpgshe wants hers to have 3 flavors: grape, blue raspberry and cherry20140205-153410.jpgnoms!

San Francisco is <3 (a very late post)

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Because of my blogging hiatus I was unable to share our most awesome vacation to San Francisco. This chilly winter day seems appropriate enough to look back (in Filipino: balik-tanaw) at our happy time there.

We didn’t really take a vacation last summer so when C&C invited me to their fall wedding, and friend MM offered for us to stay in her apartment, I decided the stars were right for a Nanay and Katie adventure!

I used Delta miles for my ticket and paid for Katie’s which cut down on a lot of the airfare. I bought each of us a San Francisco City Pass ($84/adult, $59/child) which gave entrance tickets to 4 attractions and unlimited rides on public transport including the famed cable cars. I also borrowed a Frommer’s San Francisco guidebook from the library and downloaded a Lonely Planet app. Once there, our host told me to also download a Muni tracker app. I relied on both apps extensively on my phone to get around as I have very poor navigational skills.

It’s a good thing we had those passes because Katie’s absolute favorite part of the trip was riding public transport particularly the cable cars. We must have ridden them at least 6 times! Without the pass it would have cost $6 per ride or $72 for both of us– eep!

Aside from the fact that they are a technological marvel, I liked using the cable cars because they were slow enough so i could almost always tell where we were or at least find where we were on he map or phone . We also learned to skip the turnaround and ride 3 stops ahead so we didn’t have to get into the loooooong lines to board.
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At the Powell Street turnaround with Fakecheese the turtle and Slither the snake

Out Citypass allowed us to visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park (5 stars! so much to see and do inside and within the park), take a scenic tour via boat (Blue and Gold Fleet– 5 stars and Katie’s favorite), and see the sharks at the Aquarium by the Bay (meh: 2 stars, go to Monterey Bay instead). We were unable to visit the Exploratorium, a hands on science museum for kids, because it was closed on Mondays (darn!).

We were able to do quite a lot of sightseeing in 4 days. Katie was able to ride 2 of the 3 carousels in the city. San Francisco was very accessible by public transport (bus, train, streetcar and cable car) and the weather in late September/early October was gorgeously sunny and cool. No fog until our last day there although it was scarf and hoodie weather off and on. The city had a nice laid back, chill and feel good atmosphere. We definitely would like to make a trip back someday.

Katie’s picks: the playground and carousel at Golden Gate Park, eating Doritos with hot chocolate at Ghirardelli Square (and getting free samples at their 3 stores), cable car rides and the Cable Car museum, carousel at Pier39, riding the F street car, boat tour via Blue and Gold.

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Nanay’s highlights: meet ups with former classmates and online friends, Union Square particularly the Dewey Memorial (Philippines reprezent!), fortune cookies made by hand in Chinatown, fun wedding (with childcare) at the Fairmont Hotel, riding down the crooked Lombard Street and quality time with Katie of course.
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We both liked: eating! Particularly these jumbo shrimp.

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We both did not like: the noisy sea lions

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