The happiness list

It’s been over a month into the year of the dog and we are entering that period when the new year’s frenzy gradually subsides and we slip comfortably into our old patterns. The list of resolutions found the end of its fleeting life, more fleeting than that of the cherry blossom petals. At the tail of this transience comes the influx of sentiments anent to a drab life. The feeling of boredom would set in and when it does, slacking is most often the inevitable consequence.

I am beginning to succumb to the pull of my comfort zone, to stay where everything is all too familiar. But a part of me is determined to resist the old habits and remain on track towards making positive changes this year. To rekindle my spirit’s fire I decided to make a list of things that make me happy, the simple things that we often don’t take notice of because we are too fixated on those that are not within our grasp. So here’s my happiness list

* waking up to the sound of chirping birds
* waking up to or dozing off with the sweet lullaby of falling rain
* smell of soil when it starts to rain
* warm ginger, lemon and honey tea with the right sweetness
* reaching 10,000 steps in a day
* feel of my skin after a good scrub
* mild sweet scent
* smell of an infant
* smell of an infant’s breathing
* hubby’s caress on my back and scalp
* hubby’s head and body massage
* finishing a book
* finishing my reading list ahead of the timeline
* getting a high score in an exam when I expected to flunk
* receiving a book gift
* stargazing under a clear starry sky
* a magnificent sunset
* a delicious meal
* an upbeat song
* doing yoga and meditation against the temptation not to practice
* writing on my journal every night before going to sleep
* resisting the urge to drink soft drinks and alcoholic beverages beginning this year
* sound of a child’s laugh
* sight of a child’s sweet smile knowing it was because of me
* driving a car (it’s like sedative)
* icy-cold drinks, a bag of potato chips and a good movie
* reading on a hammock by the beach or with the sound of the rustling leaves
* flat tops chocolate
* long morning coffee time
* comfy white sheets
* Blueberry cheese Belgian waffle
* Jollibee’s cheese hotdog
* writing a blog
* a pretty photo composition
* finding an insightful article to read on Facebook
* my mom’s home-cooked food and snacks
* getting messages from friends
* waking up before sunrise
* taking a shower first thing in the morning
* climbing a hill and enjoying the scenery down below
* a walk by the beach at sunset
* the feeling after thoroughly cleaning the room and having taken a shower right after
* warm baths
* seeds beginning to sprout
* vegetable plants growing healthy
* seeing the first bloom of my flower plants
* smell of roots when weeding
* getting eight hours of sleep
* listening to Nicolas Jaar’s Mi Mujer on repeat mode

My heart is full after writing these and realizing there are so much that I am thankful for, so much to be content with. Indeed, just thinking about the simple things that make me happy gave me the needed boost to keep making the most of my time, to keep going and smelling the roses. Definitely, these roses aren’t found on the couch.

What about you? What are you most grateful for this year?

In memory of a friend

Photo credit: John Teo Abello

Some people come into our life like the fragrance of a flower carried by the breeze. The smell is fleeting but it can linger into our memory long after it is gone. That is how my friend Lee has been to me. We met in law school although I can no longer remember the first time we saw each other. What I remember to be our first interaction was after our class in criminal law, we just went through another round of recitation which can be a ‘traumatic’ experience commonly experienced in law school, he gave me a comforting smile as if to say we are all in this together or we are all on the same page. The next day he borrowed my book on Statutory Construction to have some pages photocopied.

We don’t belong to the same group of friends, me and Lee. In fact, I only see him during classes because he was always in a rush. He would come in late and leave right after class was over. I never had the opportunity to get to know him but I remember that each time I did see him, he was always smiling, always in a good mood. On rare occasions when he came early, our conversations were all about school, that he might miss our midterm exams for an official trip. He often sent me text messages asking for class updates and the things he missed when he was absent. It was from him I learned that there are several available reviewers online. Before our final exam in criminal law, he brought a reviewer that is not accessible online and allowed me to photocopy it. Despite not seeing him much, his constant text messages and those intermittent interactions full of encouragements and ideas gave me a feeling of closeness to him, something that I don’t have with some of my other classmates.

One uneventful day while still nursing my cough I learned that Lee has gone into a coma. Aneurysm, they said. Only miracle can save his life, they said. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I tried to recollect the last moment I saw him. It was after class, we just smiled at each other as we walked out of the classroom as I was talking to my other classmate. He sent me a few text messages in the days that ensued. I even felt guilty because at one point I thought why couldn’t he just come to class instead of asking me all the time how did it go. But I reminded myself that I don’t know what circumstances he was in at the moment so I should not make any judgment. Instead of waiting for him to ask, I then sent him a message that our grades in Statutory Construction and Legal Research were out but I didn’t get a reply… because in that instant he was already unconscious in the hospital bed.

There’s something about death or the possibility of dying that promptly brings us to the present moment, that enables us to reflect how well or badly we are spending the precious time we are given. I wondered how Lee spent the remaining hours of his conscious life. Did he enjoy the beautiful sunset the day before? Did he wake up to savor the warmth of sunrise, the cool morning breeze or that peculiar sound only heard in mornings? Did he take a few moments to relish his last meal, to savor every taste? Did he give his wife and six children warm hugs and sweet kisses? Did he tell them how much he loves them? It’s so sad to imagine that he spent his last day lazily, feeling sad about the past that he cannot undo or worrying about the future not knowing that such future isn’t ever going to come to him.

Thinking about it does change my perspective about tomorrows, as it always does with every death of a loved one. Unfortunately, such feeling of being in the present moment is so momentary it fades sooner than the mourning period is over. How easy it is for us to drift into our usual habits and forget to appreciate the mundane yet priceless moments before us.

Whatever you are doing right now, take a pause and allow yourself a few deep breathes, inhaling contentment and exhaling whatever negative feeling you are carrying at the moment. Whisper some words of gratitude to the universe, whatever it is that you are most thankful for. Give your sweetest smile to the first person you’ll bump into. And remember, we don’t know what tomorrow brings but we can change how we live today.

To my dear friend Lee, I may have missed my chances of telling you what an awesome person you are, I hope I made you feel that you matter somehow. When I visited you at the hospital, I learned from your siblings that aside from working as a full-time Literature teacher, you also teach during weekends at the Licensure Examination for Teachers Review Center. All these you did while attending a demanding law school. On top of these, I learned you were in the process of opening a restaurant and was looking for a chef. Oh, how I admire your hard work. You are someone who truly appreciates the time you were given and made the most of it. But most importantly, you brought up your kids so well, I’m sure someday you will be proud of them. Rest in peace, my friend. You are remembered fondly.

Exercise everyday with these easy hacks

I previously wrote about the most important new year’s resolution that we most often take for granted, our health. My attention was brought to this realization one day by a sickness which sabotaged all my activities laid for the several days that ensued. Then and there, I made the commitment to prioritise my health.

What seemed like an easy goal though is – in reality – an overwhelming task. I found it challenging to identify time to exercise. Whenever I’m immersed in a certain work, it was all too easy to make excuses not to exercise. In addition, I haven’t been fully well since the day I vowed to make health a priority. I have been nursing a cough which never went away, probably because I was reluctant to take medicines. I took vitamin C, ensured I am well hydrated, took ginger and lemon tea, and ate more fruits and vegetables so I’m gradually feeling better but still not fully recovered. My illness made my body feel heavier; so I got lazier.

Inclined to overcome my repugnance with exercise, I ascertained what made it feel overwhelming. I realised it was because I had this notion of an ‘ideal workout’. I think about long yoga sessions, kilometers stretch of jogging route, a treadmill and the likes. This tendency to set an unnecessary high standard holds true with other plans. Setting a high standard is not wrong, in fact we should aspire to achieve this in everything we do because the world deserves our best. What makes it wrong is when it hampers our growth; when it becomes a cause of our paralysis.

Some things take time to develop. Excellence is not achieved in one attempt but rather after a long process of trial and error. It’s the same with exercise or of being healthy in general; small everyday efforts can lead to notable results. Instead of aiming to do my ‘ideal workout’, I began to think about small ways that I can exercise. These ways aren’t like those exercise hacks suggested online which still involve ambitious, abrupt change of attitude that can get overwhelming and paralysing. Mindfulness helped me identify these pockets of opportunity which include the following:

* Walking instead of driving or taking a cab
* Doing some yoga poses while watching television
* Doing some lying yoga poses during days when I don’t feel like getting out of bed
* Doing some dance moves or belly dancing while cooking!
* Doing some stretching anytime, anywhere during the day
* When stuck in traffic, doing some breathing exercises or stretching poses such as eagle arm, ear to shoulder/neck rolls and shoulder rolls

These are just some ideas but when we continue to go on our day mindfully, I’m sure we will find more ways to move our bodies. Doing these simple steps will eventually lead to a positive change to our health. When we feel healthier and more energised, doing the ‘ideal workout’ will no longer feel overwhelming but a source of joy.