Step Back

I spent my day today thinking about the things that my pregnancy journey has been teaching me. If I could roll it up in one word, I’d say it would be “acceptance”. It was last year when I first got a positive result from my home pregnancy kit. I was so happy and excited, only to find out a week later that it was an ectopic pregnancy. There is no other way but to remove it as it will surely kill me if not. Friends and family called over to share their love and support by telling me that all we have to do is try again. I accepted that fate and rebuilt myself with dance.

Nature

As soon as I got a positive pregnancy result back in November, my husband and I wished that this time, it will be in the right place. After a few ultrasounds, the doctor was able to find it though I was diagnosed to have a threatened miscarriage as the size of the pregnancy was smaller than expected. I had to undergo a number to blood tests, injections and doctor visits to see how the pregnancy was progressing. Some people told me to eat more as that may be the cause why the pregnancy was small — but in fact, it was the HCG hormone that would help our little bun grow. All I can do is pray, hope for the best, and let God.

Soon enough, the doctors found that the baby was growing, and soon enough we were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. This truly warmed our hearts. For the first time in weeks, we were relieved. Going through that journey, I just said that maybe my baby is teaching me motherhood lesson #1 — letting nature take its course. One would expect that such a simple task is actually very difficult for a control freak like me. Learning to accept fate and destiny, to me, is about humility. It is accepting within one’s self that there are some things that we cannot control. In my first trimester, I couldn’t eat anything to boost my HCG levels. It was just wait-and-see along with prayers.

When everything was stable, I went back to work, put in an effort to walk more, and try to enjoy my second trimester like it was just a bigger me enjoying the usual life. I found myself in several stressful situations though — but it is only now that I am able to step outside of myself and spot the underlying problem.

Demons

Even before, my biggest demon has always been the belief system that I am not good enough. I pushed myself harder than usual in order to be able to tell myself that I am. I did enjoy the journey though in some aspects such as my work. This time I have been grateful to be given the opportunity to work with the best minds in the team and learn from them. There is a lot of hard work, but I saw the value in what I did rather than the effort I had to put in.

There, too, were low days. There was a time I got a number of nasty emails from a top executive from work. I remember being terribly stressed over the matter for a few weeks and instead of finding a proper solution to the problem, I thought he was treating me that way because (1) I was just a manager and that (2) the manner by which I did found him was not the best way hence I deserved being treated like shit. I was under a lot of pressure that I was torn between asking for help or pushing myself even further to prove myself.

Then came the the last week of April when my mother-in-law came to live with us for a few weeks. I could not pinpoint what was it exactly that bothered me with her coming in. I don’t like being in the same place as her because I know that having her around means changing the way our house is ran. I, too, have a very stubborn mind and little things bother me, even when they are actually helpful. Every time she and my father-in-law are here, they clean our house, wiping every inch of it like it was so filthy. This to me was very insulting. My husband explained to me that it is not an insult but rather it was pure help. Whenever I’m with my mother-in-law, I dare not go to the kitchen (and this is both either in our own home or the house in the hometown). She does not let me wash the dishes and I took it as another judgement that she does not trust my quality and manner of doing things. My husband again explained that this roots from the Chinese way of thinking of their generation where you have to keep on insisting to do something for somebody else as it is a reflection of Chinese values that translate to a selfless act. Now I find myself noticing every single thing that I do not like about her and this is the reason why I did not welcome any of her help –I wanted to point out that I do not need any of it.

In a similar way, I have arguments with my own mom that can fire my blood pressure to peak in just a few seconds. My mom never believed in me, or maybe she did but somehow she always ends up telling me that I cannot do things on my own or that my reasoning is faulty. I do not know why she does this though — I can only guess. I argued with her every single time she made me feel that I am not good enough. I got tired of trying to show her that I am. After all, it is how I feel about myself rather than how other people feel about me.

We are now at 29 weeks gestation and I am stuck at home on bed rest due to high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. (Imagine that, only a part of the blood pressure outcome is within my control.) I try very hard to keep calm and relax, yet I find it so hard to let go because I keep on wanting to prove something and come out victorious. This time at home doing nothing encouraged me to reflect and it has reminded me to look at what is important. Our little daughter is my top priority yet I failed to realise that my demons have taken so much of my time for unnecessary things. I know that I am good enough and yet I wasted my time on resisting so many things just to smother this statement to those who made me feel otherwise. I need to let go of the need to be right in order to have peace in my heart. At the end of the day, being right does not solve anything. I am reminded to stop being a backseat driver and trust God’s hands.

To my dearest Cara, mommy is far from perfect. But I want you to know that I love you and that I will continually strive to be a better person and mommy to you.

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Step Back

I am currently going through another test in life in which a passing mark should mean that I’ve grown and matured. I am currently 6 months pregnant and realised that apart from the physical and emotional changes happening, there are several other factors that, I guess, are not that unique to individuals. There are plenty of books that will tell you what to expect with your body and emotional state, but nobody actually tells you what changes happen to the external-but-involved-members of your pregnancy.

My colleagues say that I seem to be very different comparing to most pregnant women. Many people at the same stage as me will not have the mood to work and always feel so tired. I, on the other hand, seems to have gone overdrive — like my baby was giving me additional power to get things done. I’m thinking if this has something to do with nesting. I wake up earlier than usual, prepare breakfast, clean the house, and throw out junk. Spring cleaning, as I would call it. My colleagues believe that homes with pregnant women inside should not move things around as these may cause stress. Yet, for me, I wanted to move things around, make changes to our home and have it look almost like an IKEA showroom. I had planned when I will start buying our new baby’s clothes and crib and was at the stage of making space for them.

I just had everything under control. Yet, I wasn’t ready for factors that would change my “project plan” — Stress scenarios as some would call it. I wasn’t ready for my mother-in-law to come over and help us run the household. She’s cleans our home, cooks us meals, does all the laundry, cleans every square inch of our little home, and yet, I get stressed about it. Now, where will I put my river of energy? I usually spend a lot of energy on weekends to do the household chores that I cannot accomplish when I’m in the office. Now, the balance of my routine is changed, and I am trying to deal with it. Should I just put all my energy to work instead, so that at least I get something done that is expected of me.

I was chatting with my sister today and realised that maybe, another lesson that this pregnancy journey is teaching me is to actually surrender and let go of control. It is so much easier said than done, but I guess it is the only way I can actually cope with this change. At the start of my pregnancy, the doctors were saying that we had to wait and see as the baby seems a bit small for its age. I learned to accept that this is something beyond my control, and just let nature take its course. I prayed fervently that if God will allow, that He will keep our little one strong and healthy. No matter what I eat or do, there is nothing I can do about it but to let go. This time, more than letting go, it is about sacrifice. This year’s Lenten season just finished but I’d always remember what the priest said in one of his homilies. Lent reminds us of where we come from, as well as Jesus’ sacrifice for us, who, do not really deserve it. Many people think that sacrifice is about making one’s self suffer, but actually, we should learn to see sacrifice as the act that brings about good things. It is about the good that it brings rather than the suffering it came along with.

Sacrifice for me, was more than skipping my love for coffee, the most scrumptious desserts, going to parlors or having my regular foot spa. It is tough, but my love for our little donut outweighs all them. I’d rather skip these and have a healthy baby rather than the reverse. I guess, the most challenging part I’ve faced by far is the letting go of my planned ideal scenarios. My sister said that, we married women, would face that and it is never easy. Yet, we are built to be tough to get through it. So, a change in mindset will be all that I need to pass this.

Nowadays, we find a lot of interracial marriages in many many places in the world. It is interesting how the world seems to be more connected now. People travel more, and this allows them to get introduced to a new variety of taste and culture. Even learning new languages nowadays have become so much easier than how it was when our parents were young.

Travel is one thing; moving to a new place is a another; and getting married to another culture is another. Obviously, travel just entails a very temporary period where one can choose when and where to go, and whether or not they want to come back. This is why travelling is often considered the best of all. It is so short that it often does not present its not so appealing side. On the other hand, there is migration. Moving to another city, country, continent — it is a shot of reality towards what the place really has to offer. The actual pros and cons will come out, and more often than not, being a foreigner to a place is a bit challenging. Obviously, somebody who did not grow up there will think, act and may even look differently. Language is always a big hurdle for many, and unless one would really put in the effort to blend in as much as they can, living in a foreign place can be hell. One would be lucky if there is a community of friends or people of the same origin in this new place to make them feel less estranged.

Then, there is intercultural marriage. That one that is tattooed to one’s life no matter where he/she might go. And it is not just about the couple who say their wedding vows — but the entire family and culture that comes along. My father warned me about intercultural marriage when he found out I was dating somebody from another country. He always said that I have to read and understand it properly because it is no joke. After nearly 3 years of being married, I guess it is about time that I write about this.

My husband was raised by a Chinese family who lived in a farm at a time when the one-child policy was implemented. I, on the other hand, was raised by a Chinese-Filipino family who lived in a city. My parents worked in offices and I grew up with six helpers doing all sorts of household work. I am so used to coming home to a freshly made bed, clean floors and wide spaces. My husband and I met through a training course that happened in Hong Kong. When we started dating, he would fly to the Philippines to visit me or sometimes, I’d fly over to see him. When things became more and more serious, he started bringing me home to his hometown, and that was where I got my first shock of the culture I was getting into.

Prior to my departure date, I set out my expectations in my head: (1) I expected the language barrier as nobody knew how to speak English; (2) I expected challenges in the toilet business as toilet bowls are not really popular and widely accepted there; and (3) I expected the absence of spoon and fork as Chinese societies really do use chopsticks when eating. I managed my expectations according to these three but instead, I realised that I focused on the most unimportant factors.

I, for one, grew up in a “westernized” society and meeting it with traditional Chinese culture was really shocking for me.  In many many aspects, my view of things turned out to be overly differently from how the my husband’s family saw it (and take note, I grew up with Chinese traditions as well). Take for example, the concept of lodging — when I first visited their hometown, my then-boyfriend-now-husband’s family did not have their own place as of yet as they were living somewhere else. People like me would think of finding a hotel or an independent apartment to stay would be the go-to option; but it turns out, that for their culture, if we choose to get a hotel to stay in, it gives a rude message because it is like telling the relatives that their houses are not good enough for us to stay in. We ended up staying in different houses of relatives and when doing so, it is expected that you do not lock the doors as well when you are sleeping. It was then that I realised that privacy was not valued as much there as to what I was/am used to. I felt naked in front of a group of people I just met because everybody was watching me and how I did things so differently. They love it when they cook their chicken in such a way that the meat was hard, but all my life I’m used to eating very tender chicken that just easily tears off away from the bone. Everybody thought that they’d give me the best part so they kept on putting food on my bowl and I, on the other hand, felt that I have to finish all of them so as to not be rude. Every night when I clean my teeth, my gums would bleed and I’d attribute it to my very weak teeth. Every single day there was a gathering with the same group of people who played mahjong after every meal and smoked. My parents would insist that I bring some wine and snacks to them from the Philippines as a courtesy, and my mother-in-law would tell me that there is no need to bring these things next time. Soon enough I’ll find her giving the snacks and wine away to their relatives. That time, when my husband decided to take me out for coffee, and I found that the restaurant we went to had a fork, I nearly cried because I wanted to go home so badly. Everyone was very nice and welcoming but I really knew that I did not belong there. They all had the best intentions but at the same time, it was too shocking for me. I cried in the shower because even to me, it did not make sense that I was feeling uncomfortable.

After that trip, it got me thinking if I would still want to continue my relationship with my husband or not. Getting married to him would mean having this permanently in my life. I was terribly stressed and decided to tell him how I felt. I expected my husband to get angry as his family has been just good to me. Instead, he told me that he understood. That was enough for me to know that I wanted him in my life.

Dearest readers, do know that the cultural difference never goes away. We’ve been married nearly three years now and I still can’t seem to adapt to it so well. Now that I’m pregnant, my mother-in-law is here staying with us for an indefinite time. She came here to see us and offer help. She cooks for us and does all the household work. Now our laundry does not stay in the basket for over 2 days. The first morning she was here, she went out to buy some bread from the bakery. When she got back, she found me preparing some oatmeal and hard-boiled egg. She immediately went over to tell me to sit down and she’ll handle it. I couldn’t even express that I liked preparing this breakfast and now I don’t even go to our kitchen anymore. My sister said that probably she thinks I do not know how to do household chores. Yet, for somebody who has been running all the chores in our own home when it is just me and my husband, everything works out okay.  Now I feel I have become a visitor in my own home and all I want to do is just get out, run away and find my own place. My husband had planned a few football games during the weekends and I badgered him into not leaving me alone with his mom. He then asked me why it bothered me so much, even if she’s not doing anything. That was when I realised that it is always like the first time to me. It is a change that I never adapt to and that is why it is so difficult. Between me and them, my mind should have the flexibility to adapt to this change. I guess I just need to find somebody who is a living inspiration of making a situation like this work out well.

Einstein

Cocktails are ladies’ drinks

The other day, I was having drinks with some colleagues and the topic of the night, as usual with women, is about dating/relationships.

“How do you choose/decide who to spend the rest of your life with?”

I did not have much to say that night, given that I am married and therefore, makes my opinion null and void for single people. Nevertheless, I still have my two cents.

I guess it all begins with how every person sees or defines a relationship. To be more specific, it all roots from understanding one’s objective for being in one. To some, it is about companionship. Many people hate to admit it, but they are frightened of being alone. To others, it is about the experience — the excitement and love’s high! That was where I was in all those relationships I had prior to meeting my husband. If I would narrate how it was before, every time I got into a new relationship, I felt wanted. I felt that I was interesting enough to have somebody like me. Skies are bright and everything’s perfect! And then, give it some time, problems start to come up one by one like sprouting mushrooms. Guy becomes less and less interested, and I become defensive because I want to protect that little moment of happiness that I got at the beginning of everything. Things get messy and I cry my heart out. Cycle starts again and again. It all just changed things when I got into one relationship that made me wish so badly that I was out of it.

When I met my husband, I didn’t want a relationship. I even turned him down after he wrote me that email where he took the leap and poured his heart out. That time, I was just so happy to be single. I felt like I was in the best relationship ever! But then, my view on relationships has already shifted.This time I was the judge. It was about me filtering who was qualified to be in my life. It was about me choosing the person who won my respect, sees me as his equal, and whose love I will always know. Some ladies say that choosing the good guys means settling for the boring stuff. To me, it will only get boring if the two individuals do not complement each other’s personality.

That night, I went home a bit drunk and fell asleep in the sofa. My husband kept on repeating over and over again “shower laaa” and I just mumbled and continued to sleep. I clearly remember that night –he pulled out all the strength he had to carry me to the bedroom, though I was terribly heavy. He wiped my face and body and tried to change my clothes while I was half asleep. I laughed and got up, took a shower and went to sleep after that. My husband and I do not go out to parties late at night like many people do. But my life is far away from boring. Even though many of the things we do are predictable already, we always have something to laugh about, and to me, that is more than enough.

Cocktails are ladies’ drinks

Enough

While eating a cracker over pure silence here in the comfort of our home, it got me thinking about what makes people listen to another person. As children, we [usually] listen to our parents, as adults, perhaps, our friends or our lovers. But it got me thinking what makes us listen? What makes us open to hearing things out?

Growing up for me, it was quite simple. I do what I am told. My mom says I cannot do something and I follow. My dad was smarter in such a way that he used psychology — my dad brought me up to believe that I am a good person. So when they try to teach me some discipline, he will always say… “be a good girl…” or when I wasn’t able to attend mass, he’d tell me that Mother Mary was crying and was looking for me. And it did make me feel guilty! My sisters, I guess, used my mom’s strategy as well by scaring the hell out of me and just do what I am told.

Being an adult, of course I feared less, and there came out that filter of whom I would listen to. I hardly listen to my mom. I guess the only time I did was when we were on the same page (i.e. she agreed to my solo journey to travel to Italy alone at 25 — which is a very bold move from where I come from; or that time when she suggested that I buy my own property and I wanted to do the same thing.) But for many other things, I usually don’t listen to her because I found that my mom was too emotional about many (if not all) things. Well, she’s a woman after all. I listen to my dad more. Growing up, my dad was the one who explained to me his point of view of how things may turn out. It is like making a decision based on the best outcome.

I listen to my husband too (most of the time.) He does think that I am stubborn though, as there are several things he wants me to stop or start doing that I totally disregard. But in cases where I think he’s got it all figured out and makes sense more than me, I take his word for it. I guess for us, many things are based on difference of background. I’m a Catholic, while he does not have religion. All my life was about western medicine and he is more familiar with Chinese medicine. He’s scared of chemicals and unnatural things that’s why I was laughing at him last night when I recalled that time he refused to clean the cooking pan with sponge and dishwashing soap. Instead, he insisted on using this “all-natural” brush and just scrubbed that pan with that brush in running water. Guess what, the next day the kitchen was so smelly because of that pan!

It really got me wondering what exactly it is that makes us listen. Does it vary person-to-person? Or does it essentially root from the same thing? For me, I guess I’d describe it as insecurity. I don’t think I am the best decision-maker. I believe there are so many other people (who actually surround me) that are smarter and wiser and I always listen because I want to be able to know insights to get to the best decision for the scenario. They say people who know more tend to listen less. I guess I’m being haunted by the “not good enough” belief system and this became my coping mechanism.

The other day I met with my boss to discuss my job application. There has been an ongoing discussion with HR on how much my salary would be. That time my husband was against me accepting the offer since he thought I was worth much more than what I get paid for. It was either that amount or I walk away. My boss, on the other hand, called me up to tell me to get it for the reason that it can be my temporary settlement until I find a better-paying job. Above all the discussions that went on, he said something that day which caught my attention. “I can’t keep on making decisions for you.”

Though I don’t think he makes decisions for me other than work matters, that statement really hit me. It was a mixture of things, actually. It got me thinking about how I’ve been doing things in my life. I felt so incapable, ignorant and naive because I don’t usually fight for what I think. I don’t want to get into an arguments because I’m not good at debates. I can’t even move forward to getting at my point when I get interrupted. It’s sad really, I feel so immature. I honestly do not know how to turn this around and I can’t change in a snap of a finger. Yet for starters, I’d say I have to make peace with the problem — the insecurity. I guess I need to put in more investment into doing things that tell me that I am good and smart enough. How to do it, I’ll brainstorm.

Enough

Book of [my] life

3 days ago, I nearly died. I was okay the entire day until a sudden sharp pain came up my belly that nearly caused me to pass out in the office. It felt like I was being stabbed and I could not get off my chair anymore. I was rushed to the hospital and the doctor found that I was bleeding internally and had to be sent for immediate surgery. I had ectopic pregnancy and my tube ruptured already as the pregnancy was in the wrong place.

While waiting to be prepped, I was lying alone in the emergency room, and it got me thinking if those were the last few moments I had alive. I looked around to see if any soul was going to come and pick me up. Was I ready to go? Is this how my life concludes? Have I lived my life well enough? Do I have to call and start saying goodbye?

At that point, I really did not know if I was going to make it. I was thinking if I’d start feeling regretful for anything I have done. But all I felt that time was love and gratitude for the beautiful life I was given. If that was indeed the end of my life, then so be it. It doesn’t change the fact that my life has been beautiful. I complain about many things, but at that point, all I thought of were the very people I love. There is truth in saying that the people we love the most will always be the most important. My dad always taught me to pray the first thing in the morning, to thank God for another day alive. But to me, what I thank God for is the experience of life and the people that God has put in it with me. That alone, is a remarkable gift and I have been truly blessed.

To our little angel, you’re too perfect for this world. I think they really need you there in heaven. May your sunny smiles be warm kisses to me and your daddy. 🙂

Book of [my] life

Auditions

Judgement. There was this book I was reading, saying that we have the concept of judgement as a built-in feature of the human survival instinct. Experience makes us remember if something is good or harmful; and then there’s judgement that serves as that deciding factor if experience is not there to make a prediction based on historical outcome. Yet, it makes me wonder what factors contribute to that whole decision making that judgement makes. Intellect perhaps? Like maybe a scenario where in somebody needs to make a rather urgent, big decision. A person who may be involved in a situation like this will think of the possible outcomes among the available clear-cut choices. The brain writes down on that imaginary list of pros and cons and make the decision based on the more reasonable option. Simple.

We, people, also make judgements on personal anythings that pop out in our day-to-day lives. Yet that simple formula that the brain would usually undergo on a non-personal scenario is not exactly as simple when it comes to life and dealing with people. I guess that’s the part that makes us human. We do not just do things for the sake of basic survival.

We judge people from the way they look, to the way they talk, to the way they think, to the way they handle not-so-happy situations, to the way they do about… anything! It got me wondering why we do that though. What’s the purpose?  Is there a logical reason for it? The way I know myself, I judge people when I think I am better than them. I guess that’s the mutated way of survival instinct. We classify and label everything and everyone and identify the winners from the defeated. But see, times have changed. It is not just about who wins the fights; nowadays, these matters are totally subjective. Who am I to say I’m better than someone? Even the measuring stick is not the same among different people, and even the same thing appear differently to different people.

Take for example Vulnerability. Be it doing something you’re not good at, or speaking a new language or playing a sport you’re not trained to do, or perhaps even breaking down in front of strangers. Many people do not want to show this part of them because they see it as weakness. Many gets judged negatively for it. Why would you show the world something you are not good at? It is like being stripped naked for the whole world to see what is wrong with you. But to me, that is courage. Indeed, maybe a majority of “everyone” would judge you harshly, but who cares? It doesn’t matter because you have already accepted it. There is nothing to defend, there is nothing to say, there’s nothing to be anxious about because at the end of the day, it was never about looking good. Rather, it was about courage and honesty. It was never about other people’s opinions. That’s the way I see it.

Judgement towards other people is clearly something we shouldn’t be doing. Even the Pope says that! It creates biases against people who don’t think the same way we do. We think we are better than others because we have our opinion on a matter that we have already classified ourselves to be royalties. But to me (at least at this point in time), I see my judgemental self as a tool for me to identify who is supposed to be part of my life or not. I stopped caring about being accepted. Now, it is about who I think gets accepted.

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This is dedicated to the person I thought would be my friend. It appears you didn’t make the cut. Thank you for your application.

Auditions