On the Travails of Parenting

Tomorrow, White Space turns three months old.

I remember the first day we opened: June 1. Abbey and I didn’t actually tell people we were opening on the 1st. We wanted, even if for just one day, some time to have our creation to ourselves. The blessing—done by a Jesuit brother who was a dear friend of mine—was a no-frills, three-person affair, conducted against the backdrop of last minute construction.

We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

That was just three months ago, but it feels like a lifetime. The funny thing about children—biological or otherwise—is how they expose how much we remain children ourselves. I’ve had to grow up, repeatedly and wearisomely, these last several weeks, spurred by a parent’s simple yet absolute imperative: ensure your child thrives.

I can’t say I did any of the growing up with grace. My characteristic response to duress is to get angry, and I was angry these last several weeks many, many times, the bearer of an inchoate rage that startled even me with its vehemence. If there was one thing that kept me sane, it was the fact that I anticipated (to a certain extent) that I would react in precisely this way.

(Honestly, the universe couldn’t have engineered a better scenario with which to push all my buttons. How do you make a control-freak grow up? Throw her headfirst into a situation with initially unknown and subsequently ever-changing variables. Add long hours and frequent interruptions and subtract familiar environs and life-long routines.)

Somehow, in spite of everything, in spite of myself particularly, the studio has thrived. It’s been growing quietly and serenely, much like the plants that line its perimeters, a testament to the truth that infants are designed to survive first-time parents.

Here’s hoping for an unprecedentedly delightful next three months for child and parents alike.


On the Strangeness of Epiphanies

An unsettling revelation born from the dust settling more and more with each passing week (the “dust” here a mild reference to the massive upheavals caused by opening a mind and body wellness studio): I’m not exactly sure how much of my previous life I want back.

The notion is unsettling because for the last three months, my one, fervent wish was for life to go back to normal. But after having been estranged from formerly “normal” conditions for a significant amount of time, enough distance has been gained for me to pose the question: do I really want my old life back because it’s the life I truly want, or, do I want it back simply because it’s what’s comfortable and fits my notion of an ideal life?

(What is this supposedly ideal life? Very simply: a life crammed to the brim. With what? With, er, anything. As long as it’s crammed to the brim. In my [former] case, this included teaching two to three different subjects at university, finishing a masters degree, learning two foreign languages, maintaining a daily ashtanga yoga practice, writing daily, traveling extensively, maintaining a home and doing volunteer work regularly. If any of the above disappeared, I’d simply replace it with something else. One of the things that dismayed me so much when I opened the studio was the necessity of dropping most of the aforementioned activities.)

But now, with more and more personal time being regained from a combination of accumulated experience, momentum and just b—-y hard work, there’s room to start picking up from where I left off. The question, as I’ve already mentioned, is: do I really want all of it back?

Because the thing that I’ve learned (and have had to learn repeatedly) these last three months is the beauty of simplicity. Yes, I resisted it much of the time, resented the dwindling of the horizon of my concerns to a single point, reminisced about the good old days when I did a million and one things and actually did them well. So yes, I did not intentionally choose to simplify my life—I simply chose a path that brought me to a head-on collision with enforced simplicity.

What surprised me (surprises me still), is that it’s…okay. So much of my self-esteem was built on a diversified portfolio of pursuits—the larger the diversity, the more valuable the pool of assets. For the last three months, for better or for worse, everything’s been about the studio. What I didn’t expect was the gradual realization that I don’t really want the old variegated busyness back. After having lived without facets of my identity I’d previously thought inseparable from who I am, the question that presents itself now is: how do I really want to live my life?

The most unsettling thing of all is that I think I actually know the answer.


On the Revelations of Blindspots

These last few days, I’ve been reading Shakta Kaur Khalsa’s Yoga for Women as part of a self-imposed regimen of study accompanying an intention to possibly triple the number of classes I teach. As far as the technical deconstruction of yoga asanas (or poses) is concerned, the volume is easily outclassed by such manuals as Gregor Maehle’s Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. But, and this is a surprising “but,” the book has proven surprisingly thought-provoking.

A lot of it has to do with the spirit that pervades the work. Ms. Khalsa talks about yoga as a practice that’s provided her and countless others with steadiness, ease, compassion and joy. She talks about yoga as a tool that helps women survive hardships, soothe heartaches and, most importantly, nurture themselves and others.

Until I read Ms. Khalsa’s book, it had never remotely occurred to me to use yoga to nurture myself (let alone others). My context for the practice had always been one of discipline, diligence, perseverance and just b—-y hard work. It was about subjugating the mind and the body so both could recover their initial wholeness, about taming thought, about sharpening feeling, about following breath to achieve some semblance of perfection.

In other words—and it stuns me how oblivious I’ve been to it this entire time—yoga’s still about me getting somewhere someday, about being a better, wiser, lighter version of myself.

Amazing how we find all these insidious little ways of doing violence to ourselves, even using the very practices we love.

So to Ms. Khalsa: I owe you a debt of gratitude. My practice will never be the same.


On the Normalcy of Abnormalcy

In a blog post several days back, I mentioned how August marked the shift back towards a life of normalcy (normalcy defined as “Life Before the Studio”). For the first time in months, there was space (temporal and temperamental) to do such things as clean the house, buy the groceries, actually watch a movie.

Like most transitions (welcome or otherwise), this shift hasn’t happened smoothly. A lot of days were still spent fighting utterly novel fires—days broken up by brief stretches of almost surreal ordinariness.

Until finally, yesterday, while watching the clothes spinning in the wash (how many reflective thoughts are born while doing the laundry?) it occurred to me that perhaps the time had come to redefine what I meant by ordinary. These past three months, without my realizing it, I’d held on to a vision of tranquility characterized mostly by the utter absence of surprise. A day had to come, I’d tell myself wistfully, when my life could go back to its clockwork regularity. Regularity was normalcy; ordinariness meant the routine. And until I could have that stability back, whatever life I was living now was a makeshift one, a discomfiting Twilight Zone I had to endure “until things finally returned to normal.”

Until it hit me that, for better or for worse, my life now is what’s normal, that what used to pass for ordinary is now surreal, that novelty has become the singular feature of my days.

If there’s any consolation, it’s that the constant novelty is no longer as frustrating as it used to be—that the physical flexibility I developed gradually in yoga has its counterpart in an emotional capacity to adapt to change. Slowly, very slowly, I can feel my edges (or my edginess) getting smoother; on some days, I actually (surprisingly) feel the oddest sensation of peace.

Funny how the universe engineers the most elaborate schemes just to make one learn the simplest of things.


On the Glimpses of Normalcy

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, life seems to be going back to normal.

(Normal, in my world, means “Life Before the Studio.”)

Over the last two weeks, I managed to do things I hadn’t done for the last three to four months:

1. Do my grocery shopping.

2. Get the house cleaned.

3. Read before going to bed.

4. Go out and watch a movie.

These are significant victories: markers in a journey back towards a life devoted to a set of affairs rather than one, huge overwhelming concern.

Of course, having been destabilized (unsettled, thrown off course) by the universe so often in the last several weeks, I’m celebrating very cautiously, content to be smug for a brief respite before assuming the usual, exhausting vigilance.

The sign of real normalcy will be when I forget to mark the occasion.

I have a feeling it’ll be a long while yet.

On the Gratitude for Family

(WOODEN Spoon) Clockwise from top right: Fred (also known as “Bub,” “Tigs,” and “Kuya Alien”), Willie (“Daddy Alien”), Eleanor (“Mommy Alien”), Elaine (also “Tigs”) and yours truly (“Alien”). (Photo taken by Abigail Rivadelo.)

Until I have more time to write, this will have to do. For now.

Thank you to the craziest and wackiest family a working girl could ever ask for. Thank you, especially, to a mom and dad and little sister who’ll fly in all the way from Cebu to visit just because I can’t leave my studio even for just a day, and thank you to an older brother who’ll bring me lunch every Sunday because I can’t leave my studio even for just an hour. Thank you for making this year’s birthday the most memorable birthday ever.

You guys rock (Peripateia speak for: I love you!)