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!