What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

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On Autism and Feeling Left Out

Eli at Panglao, Bohol

Today I read an article written by a mom who says that as a parent of a child with autism, she feels isolated. And one parent commented that she feels the same, that nobody invites her son to anything, and so she never gets invited to anything either.

I used to feel hurt am that nobody invites Eli to birthday parties. But after a year, I DECIDED not to let it bother me. For one, I cannot stand the noise of kids for so long. Eli cannot stand the sound of screaming or crying children either. He is more comfortable around older children or adults. However I do throw a birthday party for him and for the last three years, I had McDonald’s in my city organize it, the first year at their store and the last two years at his special education school. His classmates had so much fun especially when the mascot came out. This year’s was the noisiest party so far , but Eli was fine with it because he already knows his classmates and teachers, and the mascot no longer scares him. I had a headache from all the noise, but seeing Eli so calm amid the raucous, and his classmates, most of whom are minimally verbal, participating in the games and so excited to see the mascot, was fulfilling.

For the last three years, I always gave a few party bags from Eli’s party to the kids with special needs at the public school special needs center, and they were always happy to get stuff from McD. Their smiles and thank-you’s were enough to make me happy.

I understand some parents’ feelings of isolation, but I guess what I want to say is, we don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to feel sorry for ourselves because we can do something about this. Instead of waiting for people to reach out to us, we can take the initiative. And we don’t have to reach out to those who cannot accept our children’s condition, we really do not need them in our lives. There are people out there who not only understand and accept our autistic children for who and what they are but also appreciate them for their specialness and our struggles at raising such children.

It is very difficult for Eli to have friends save for his two cousins and my cousins’ son and daughter. Neurotypical kids will always see him as strange, and I don’t blame them. They are children. I have witnessed several times how Eli tried to go near such children, and how they looked at him and moved away from him. It hurt me, but I’m almost sure it disappointed him more. But this is reality. In time he will learn what everyone of us should learn, not everyone can be a friend. Not everyone can be accepting of who we are, but there are those who do care, and they are the ones that matter. There is no need to be friends with people who are embarrassed by us. They are not worth our time or energy. Remember there ARE people who will be very grateful for our time and attention. We should give it to them instead.

Life is not all roses, even for neurotypical people. We can only try to live it the best we can for ourselves and more importantly, for our children on the spectrum.

Remembering Mother

It’s been two years since my mom passed on, yet a part of me still feels she’s just back home in the Philippines. But that feeling doesn’t last very long because I am conscious that I just can’t make a call and hear her voice again.

Life is so different without a mother, even for an adult daughter in her 40s.

I have so many fond memories of my mother as she was a funny woman who laughed loudly and was talented at story-telling. She could never tell a story sitting down — she gestured; her facial expressions changed as quickly as Chinese opera players changed masks, and her voice made it difficult not to imagine whoever she was portraying.

My mother was a very interesting character; I hope one day I can really write a story about her. She would love that. Since I started writing poetry in high school she had asked me to write about her, but I only started to write about her as she lay dying, two years ago.

One of the things I truly regret in my life was not being able to give a good eulogy for her. My mother loved drama, and she would’ve liked something dramatic at her funeral (and I say this with fondness for memories of her ), but unfortunately I failed.

Last week I bought flowers (photos above) to put next to her picture which I keep in my apartment. It was her death anniversary, and wherever she is, just in case she has a way of knowing, I wanted her to know I still think about her and wish she was just a phone call away.

What is your reality?

whatisyourreality

Reality is whatever means most to you. Some may see your reality as an illusion, but reality is perception. And what you perceive to be most important in your life is your reality.

I was reminded of this after  my 4-week stay at home in Mindanao with my son and my sisters and nephews, in a city 45-minutes from Marawi where war is raging. Every single day, we’d hear helicopters or planes on their way to Marawi. Every single day I was there, there’d be ambulance sirens. Soldiers with rifles walked around the city (this is a common sight though. We’ve always had soldiers or policemen patrolling the streets, even outside our cathedral.) By 9pm, the streets were quiet because of the curfew (our island is under Martial Law.)

I have never personally thanked any of the soldiers I saw in the mall (young men and women in their routine break from the war doing their shopping). I really wanted to, but I didn’t want them to think I was being weird or whatever. But I am truly grateful, as most of the residents in our city are, for these soldiers’ bravery and dedication. Because of them Iliganons are able to sleep well at night, secure in the thought that they would never let the enemies take our city the way Marawi was taken.

Now that I’m back in “safe” China, I am able to think again and look back at life in Mindanao.

In those 4 weeks, I was so busy “living” that I had little time for thinking and socializing — no Facebook, no Twitter, no WordPress, no texting. I had lunch with a couple of friends twice, and that was all the socializing I did. Every day I was busy being a mother to my son, and being a sister  to my sisters and an aunt to my nephews, and spoke with my husband for a few minutes on the phone. I didn’t have time nor the interest to read or watch the news. I was so out of the loop in what was going on outside of my family.

Yet I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything.

Home. Family. This is my reality; this is what is most important — that the ones I care about the most are safe, and that we are whole as a family.

This is my reality. What is yours?

Daily Prompt: Purple

One of my sisters is crazy about things purple. So far she hasn’t thought of dyeing her hair purple, or maybe she has but can’t bring herself to do it, which is good.

So whenever I buy her something, I make sure it’s purple. One good thing (for her, (but not so much for me) about her obsession is whenever I see something of this color I immediately think of her, and even if I’m not interested in the thing itself, part of me is tempted to buy it for her.  Grrrr.


When I saw these flowers on campus, of course I remembered my sister. Luckily for me, she’s not crazy about flowers.

Have a lovely a week!

T.

The Daily Prompt: Purple

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wish 

This week’s theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge is “Wish,” which is quite apt for my situation at this moment when I’m at the airport, again, to go home and see my son and be with my sisters as we remember our mom’s passing a year ago this month. I was informed a couple of hours ago that my connecting flight has been cancelled due to maintenance work on one of the air traffic radars. 

This is just a 5-day trip, and I have to be back at work on Wednesday, but now I might have to spend a day in Manila and waste time not being with my son. 

I’ve used this photograph before, but he is all I can think of right now. 

My wish is to see my son tomorrow. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wish 

Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s not this time of year without …

Christmas decorations start getting put up around September in the Philippines. For my family the excitement starts to build up after the feast day of St. Michael ( the patron saint of our city) on September 29th, and All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. And Christmas doesn’t end until after January 6th, the Feast of the Three Kings. 

Since living in China, I have not been  really excited about Christmas. When I first came here, there were hardly any Christmas decorations. Now, they are everywhere and young people “celebrate” almost every Western festival, including Thanksgiving. But it’s not the same. It does not feel the same.  Even at church, they see the whole thing as a performance , like a curious opera. It only makes me sad. 

This year Christmas will feel even stranger, especially for my sisters and nephew who will feel my mother’s absence more than I will or do. My husband and I will miss our son who will be celebrating Christmas in the Philippines for the first time, though I am excited for him. 

It’s not Christmas without family and church and happy people buying presents for loved ones and greeting strangers, “Merry Christmas” (and not the fake “Happy Holidays!”) 

It’s not Christmas without knowing the story of Jesus (hence the crèche in the photo) and that Santa is NOT Jesus. 
Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s not this time of year without …