Category Archives: Obstacles

Quicksand


It seems easy enough to escape Quicksand. You just need to keep your cool, stay in the present, make room for yourself, float, and stand when you are able to do it on your own. You can’t expect people to pull you out of it because they can’t and they shouldn’t. It’s something that you have to do and figure out on your own.

I have never seen quicksand and, being a hermit that I am, I don’t know if I ever will. But it’s good to know; there is a life lesson here. I feel like I have been roosting in some form of bog of my own for a long time now. I have been living in a void that I have kneaded and fed, helped expand, and have allowed to swallow me whole. And, much like what they said about trying to escape quicksand, the more I struggle, the more viscous and constricting it gets.

I’ve been getting it all wrong, I think. I haven’t been making time to do things that spark delight in me. I have been too focused on struggling to survive, to make a living, that I have let my eyes wander off away from the prize. I have been settling for things when I should have settled within myself and listened to Steph. Is this really how I want to be for the rest of my existence? I need to find time again to do things that give me true joy; things that would give me room to expand and help me rise again. And, yes, I shouldn’t be afraid to lose my shoes or any other thing along the way. They are just objects, nothing of consequence. Life should not be about survival, but more about being alive.

I have lost my way and getting stuck in this quagmire was probably the best thing that could have happen to me. If you walk around without looking or without purpose or without being present, you are never going to get anywhere and, perhaps, you’ll never even know that you have been going around in circles, in a daze. Running on empty and on autopilot can only sustain you for some time. I should be grateful be in this sticky situation instead of wandering around aimlessly.

It will take some time to get out of this murky sinkhole, I know. Patience is crucial. It is quite daunting, to be honest, to try to get away from this. But maybe it would not be as overwhelming if I think less of it as a “escaping” and more of break, an opportunity to rest and just be. I’ve alway asked the world to stop from spinning so I could get off. Well, here it is. The goal is to trust enough so that I could float and stand on my feet again. I hope I don’t have to break my back like that cartoon guy did, but I am willing to roll on the ground and crawl if I have to. Then maybe if I let go–maybe, just maybe–I won’t just find solid ground to walk on, but be it would be strong enough for me to run on, lift off, and fly again.

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Little Monster

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I screamed at my cats today. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I lost it earlier. I had a lot of things to do, but was not getting anything done. My internet connection was unstable and it took a minute to send text messages. To top it all off, I was still suffering from migraine postdrome (like a mental hangover after a migraine attack) and was just not present. I was trapped in a cloudy state in the bowels of my head and I was starting to fray at the edges.

Cats are very sensitive creatures so they picked up on my mood. They we’re all nervous and antsy, so that made them irritable. One wrong move and a feline rumble started. They rolled over the kitchen counter and broke a feeding bowl, a drinking glass, and my incense burner in the process. Then I lost it. I threw my wallet, my keys, a cushion at nothing in particular. I bellowed with rage and picked up the cats’ scratching lounges and threw them against the wall. One broke in half. I got all my rugs and started hitting them against the wall, scattering dust and fur in the air.  Then I lost steam and just sat on the floor. Then I stood up and started cleaning up.

Sometimes I feel the need to let the monster out and go on a rampage. Being a teacher and a fur mom to 5 FeLV+ cats, I don’t give in to this urge easily. I’ve trained myself to count back from 10 and breathe and exhale my anger. But I have limits and my monster needs to come outside once in a while otherwise it will fester and grow and would take over during some inopportune moment.

Sigh.

So I breathe in and out. In and out while I mop up my mess. Goodbye, Little Monster. Maybe I’ll see you in a year.

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August Redux

I just had the worst August in my entire life. I can’t wait for September to begin so I can reboot and start anew. Funny how I keep going back to my post from ages ago. It still holds true after all these years. I’m praying that things will get better after today. Come on, September! Be nice.

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http://stephdisturbstheuniverse.blogspot.com/2006/08/august.html

I always have mixed feelings about August. It’s the time of year when the sun mercilessly blazes the whole day without relief, while the nights grow balmy and indigo dark. It is accompanied by volatile and indecisive weather; monsoon rains and tropical depressions form in the east and heat waves reign in the west. It’s as if the earth is heaving with anticipation for the coming birth pains—its nine months is almost up. It’s time to give it up.

It doesn’t matter where I am; August still feels the same way. It’s melancholy and silent, like someone tethering on a wire over a precipice. You are all alone and you could fall and no one would hear you or you could fly and your wings would bring you closer to the sun.

I can’t say that I am crazy about August, but I can definitely say that I can’t live without it. I was born on this month some odd years ago. Which is probably the reason why I have so much affinity and dislike for it; sometimes I can burst into flames with so much passion and intensity for everyone to see or I could disappear into a cesspool of murky, uneven shadows where no one dares to follow.

This month has always brought me changes. For one thing, I turn a year older every year. What have I got show for, I ask myself sometimes, when that day comes. And on some years, like this one, I couldn’t care less that it happened once again. We all have to grow old anyways.

Most of my plans come into fruition or end in August—I moved back to the Philippines twice, moved out of 3 apartments (or is it 4?), received acceptance and rejection letters from schools, awarded two scholarships, etc, etc. Dreams are born at the same time hope is discarded. I go along with the year. I always feel the need to purge and reap the fruits of my labor and to face the repercussions of my actions. Time’s up. Now I have to move on.

The month is almost over and I am still undecided if I want it to end. September brings a different set of feelings and responsibilities. Am I ready for my new life? Am I ready for the end of the year? Am I ready for the birth pains? I don’t really know, but I have 12 days to find out.

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My Astroboy

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Astroboy tested positive for FeLV or Feline leukemia virus, a retrovirus that supressess the immune system, much like HIV/AIDS in humans. There is no cure, but I am hoping that with a lot of love and care, Astro can beat the odds and live a long, full, and happy life. If there’s one cat who can do it, it will be him. I named him after a cool super hero for a reason, right?

That being said, we still both need a lot of healing light and hugs. Please send some our way.

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Typhoon Glenda Ramassun

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It was eerily silent earlier. They said Typhoon Glenda Ramassun was going to hit Metro Manila early evening. Signal number 3 was hoisted over the metropolis at around midnight. The wind started to pick up around that time then it started to pour at 12:30.

Three of my four fur kids are fast asleep. Ella is keeping my tummy warm. The only one wide awake (aside from me) is my “first born”, Twister, who is standing guard by the fridge. I don’t think the wind will blow that away, sweetie! 😉

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I decided to house the two stray cats my neighbors and I have been feeding. They said this storm will be a big one, so I didn’t want to risk them getting maimed by flying debris or getting sick out there in the rain. Gato (a.k.a. Siopao) and Rorschach (a.k.a. Hitler) don’t like lodgings I’ve provided for them (my downstairs bathroom); I can hear them complain once in a while. I guess it’s too cramped compared to our driveway, but better to have them in a controlled environment than out there. They will get over it. Hope other stray kitties have found shelter as well.

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And I hope the storm passes soon. This is going to be a long night.

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From behind the veil

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It’s hard to think back; so much has happened since my last entry.
February seems like a lifetime ago. I wish I could say that it has all
been good that’s why I haven’t had time to post. It has been quite the
contrary, actually. I’ve been spending the past four months in a haze,
a sinkhole that is chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis. I had been
forced into silence, too self absorbed and too embattled to function.
I still tried to keep up a happy front—I only post about the
travails of my cats. But even that has not been spared from misery.
Astroboy and Wednesday were diagnosed with FLUTD and were confined for
days at the vet.

Work has been… has been what? I don’t really know. I turned on the
autopilot and had forgotten to turn it off. I feel nothing.

After a scattered and unsteady and jagged start of the year, I must
salvage the next six months, find my own center again and get back to
habit of creating.

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Decompressing

Last weekend was tough and today was such a doozy! It started on a very sour note and it just snowballed from there. I even dropped my phone at one point and it stopped working properly after! Lovely!

To sweeten my night (or should I say, fatten it!), I dined on Special Ilocos empanada (deep fried with veggies, longganisa, egg, and cheese! Yeah!) from Farinas. Yummy, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again soon!

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After drowning my sorrows in cholesterol, I’m now numbing my senses by answering online quizzes and watching cute cat videos. White noise can be addicting. Astroboy is bored by all my drama and has fallen asleep. Guess it’s time for me to log off, too! I get a clean slate tomorrow! Whoohoo!

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Fatigued Friday

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Purr machine extraordinaire 🙂

Blah. Still struggling. 😦 Another fatigued Friday 😔 I’m trying to get some relief from this murky state by giving my dear Twister a cat massage. It’s the best! That way Twister feels more secure and confident that he is Top Cat in this household, we strengthen our bond, and I get purrs in return to help counter fatigue.

Happy Friday, one and all! 🙂

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Open

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my many years studying and practicing creativity it’s that you need a routine and a schedule to create. I know this makes it sound less romantic, more like a chore than magic, but that’s reality. One needs to have a solid structure to feel free to churn out drawings, paintings, poetry, or music. This business of creation takes a lot of time, patience, and, most of all, practice.

Routines are not set in stone, though. At least not for me. When I was studying in Barcelona, I woke up at 5:00AM, ate breakfast, showered, left the house at 6:00, and then started working at a mom and pop printmaking place at 6:30AM. I would stay there until 8:30 then head off to my first class at 9AM. We usually had a “warm-up” session on the first hour—sketching—then we proceeded to painting class or sculpture or photography, depending on what you were focusing on that term. We ended at 2PM and my classmates and I would have lunch nearby. After an hour I returned to school and would log in some time at my studio. From 6 to 9PM, I worked at the school’s office as the secretary of the Masters in Art Therapy Program. I would usually go home after that, but I would meet up with friends first for dinner and drinks near the apartment. Bedtime was about 11PM or 12MN and then the cycle would begin again the next day.

My routine was completely obliterated when I returned to Manila. I obviously did not have school anymore, no more studio to work at, and no more part time jobs to attend to. I must admit I floundered for a while and let darkness take over. I spent days without changing out of my pajamas and just dragged my feet around my parents’ house (yes, I had to move back with them since I had no job). After some time, I got in touch with old business contacts and started working again. I had a routine again alright, but it sucked my spirit dry and could not return to art making. I did manage to sporadically create again after a year or two.

Flash forward to the present. As a freelance graphic designer and a Spanish and art tutor, my schedule is pretty… malleable. My classes are rather regular so at least that part of my schedule is constant. Sometimes I’ll be working on 5 graphic design projects at the same time so I’ll have to juggle my time between those things plus my T-shirt business. On top of my classes. I am no spring chicken anymore, plus my chronic illness leaves me depleted at the end of the day so I have no time for making my own art.

There is something terribly wrong with this picture: no time for creating means I am not a happy camper most of the time. I am crabby and a horrible monster to the people around me and myself.

I think I cracked a couple of months back and have only started paying attention to myself again the past couple of weeks. The crack wasn’t enough to clear my head; I needed to be shattered to realize things were not working out no matter how good things were in terms of my projects and tutorial classes. I wasn’t making ART, damn it!!! Where are my sculptures? Where are my paintings? And where is that damn book I was supposed to write and illustrate? They were buried underneath my Spanish classes, books I had to design, and documents I had to translate. My soul was not malnourished; it flat-lined a while back and all I am now is a shell of the me that I wanted to be.

So I want to add to what I said earlier: sure, you need a schedule and structure to create, but you also need prioritize and say no to things that would not get you closer to your goal. What is my goal anyway? A one man show at an art gallery? So why do I spend so much time “Photoshopping” (no, it’s not a real verb!) images for brochures and magazines instead of painting? Why have I not cleared a spot in my schedule to just create art for myself?

I always share with my students this imagery of creativity that Psychologist Teresa Amabile created: that creativity is like a stew. First, your domain skills are your meat and vegetables; you cannot paint if you don’t know how to mix colors, you can’t create a song if you don’t understand how musical notes work. Albert Einstein would not have come up with his Theory of Relativity if he had zero knowledge of physics. Second, your “creative thinking skills” or your approach to solving problems and having the courage to experiment are your spices. Finally, you need passion. It is the fire that cooks the stew. It is your intrinsic motivation that keeps you on track. You do something because it makes you happy and not because of the extrinsic things that you get, such as money, accolades, and awards. These things are hunky-dory, but you need to do things because they are pleasurable and not because you have to do them to earn a living.

I have given up so much, been through a lot just to BE an artist, and yet I still find myself in this trap of losing my focus and working for extrinsic things. I don’t want to be a cliche and be a starving artist, so I work my ass off… and to what end? My fire has been extinguished for a long, long time, and I have not lifted a finger to revive it. Sure, I keep a journal and draw every single day, but that’s not enough. I have used that as an excuse to not do anything more because I’ve already done something. It’s still creative and I am honing my skills and gathering my thoughts, that’s what I say. But how long have I been doing that? When will I just jump and trust that I can create again?

Wow, when I started this entry I had no idea that this was how I was going to conclude the piece. Seems like a Eureka moment, no? But it hasn’t been all that bad, right? I have made some changes in the last month—cutting down on TV time, more reading, less “Facebooking” (another non-verb), and such, but I am still having a hard time buckling down and getting my hands dirty again. I think there’s another “issue” at the bottom of all of this, but I shall leave that for another entry. I think I’ve eviscerated myself enough for today. So until then, let’s see if I could stick to my plan and get myself back on track.

 

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Eyesight

Now that I am drawing and painting again, I am slowly tuning in to the present and focusing more. It seems easier for me, too, to resist the gravitational pull of the television and have cut down (a bit) on my social media time. I’m still exhausted and fatigued, but I never really expected art to be the magic cure for that! 🙂 I’m working around it, though, listening more to what my body needs at the moment.

Right now my eyes are telling me to rest. Now that I’m back on the art saddle, I’ve been abusing my eyes a bit. I look at my cats and I see them in colors. I look closely at Wednesday and she’s not just a black cat: she’s rust, gray, and streaks of white. I try to drink in all the details at once, and with my chronically fatigued eyes, it can be overwhelming at times. Maybe writing an entry in my blog was not what my eyes were clamoring for, but it’s soothing in a way. I am only staring at a white screen (with shades of yellow and blue here and there) and focusing on a non-moving and bland object seems to help. Besides, I can’t let another day pass by without logging in another entry! 🙂 I made a promise to myself, remember?

I will probably call it a night soon. There was a time in my life when I thought I was going to lose my eyesight, so I am extremely grateful that I can do this now, BUT I have to be careful, though, and should not overdo things. 🙂

So, good night, world! I’ll see you again tomorrow. 🙂

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