My ‘I cannot do’ list

Photo by Mary Antonette Abello

Whilst many people have their ‘list of things to do before turning 30’ or ‘1000 things to do before I die’ or what have you, I on the contrary have a list of things I was sure I cannot do. One these things is knitting. Strangely, I already concluded that I can never knit even before I got my hands on it. Just by looking at a knitted sweaters or a scarf, I could not imagine the intricacies of making such a masterpiece. I thought, even if I could make one with the guidance of a teacher I could never do it the second time around on my own, so why bother? It was my colleague who made me realize how wrong my assumptions were.

We were in a taxi, stuck in traffic in Bangkok. Me and my colleague went to the Thai Immigration to process my visa renewal. Knowing that we will either have to wait for a long queue at the Immigration or get stuck in traffic, she brought her knitting materials. It was in that moment while waiting for the taxi to move an inch that I intently watched her knit, her hands skillfully moving along with the needle and yarn. It was then I realized it isn’t so difficult after all. In fact, it looked super easy! Surprisingly, I also felt so relaxed just watching her knit. It felt as if all the stress I was feeling suddenly disappeared, washed away by a wave of calmness.

Scientific benefits of knitting

I decided I will try to learn how to knit. Before I left the office that day I searched for knitting shops in Bangkok, determined to start right away. It was then that I stumbled upon articles about the scientific benefits of knitting. I learned that knitting is indeed therapeutic and is in fact included by psychiatrists as among the activities they give to clients battling with mental issues. A woman who suffered from depression also recovered with the help of knitting. It is the process of making something, of seeing it coming close to completion, of seeing progress each day that makes knitting a good outlet for those depressed or felt stuck in life. Also, the process of using both hands when knitting improves motor functions and cognitive health.

These new discoveries made me even more excited to learn how to knit. I already felt the calming benefits of knitting by merely watching someone else do it so there is no doubt I will enjoy doing it myself. Indeed, knitting became one of the best things I loved doing. It puts me into a meditative mode. Instead of scrolling on my phone when I am free, knitting provided me moments of online detox. Here is one of the scarves I knitted which I gave to my cousin as a Christmas gift. I was so thrilled to see her wear it in her trip to Paris.

It’s been over a year since I stopped knitting, when I moved to Australia for grad school. It was only now when I saw my cousin wear the scarf that I am reminded of my love for the craft. I shall find myself purchasing some good yarn anytime soon and knit again. Oh, and I shall review my ‘I cannot do’ list as well and see which ones I can start learning. I’ve already ticked knitting off and now I am in the process of learning how to drive a car. Life is full of possibilities and the way to start is to change our mindset that we cannot do things.

Before you quit your job, go travel

Few months ago I spoke to a friend who wanted to quit her job. Quitting is not difficult but what made her hesitate was that she hasn’t found a new job yet. Many people experience such quandary especially with our constant use of social media nowadays, it’s easy to compare our life with that of others and feel we need to be somewhere else or having something else or whatnot.

What I noticed though from our conversation was that whilst she was determined to quit her job, she didn’t know what she truly wants to do. She had several options in mind but she didn’t have clarity on how to make the transition. She wanted to pursue entrepreneurship but she didn’t know what products or services to offer. She wanted to pursue the arts but that would mean starting from scratch. These aren’t all bad things, after all a lot of people succeeded by taking risks. In her case though, she didn’t have enough savings to support her through several months which scared her from quitting.

Another thing I noticed in her is that her frustrations weren’t all coming from her job. We all experience some bad days at work and at times people –who may just be going through tough times – are rude. Sometimes routine jobs can get painfully boring. At times problems arise one after the other leaving us burned out. But there are several ways to deal with these circumstances and turn things around if you have the proper mindset and positive attitude. The challenge comes when the problem isn’t the job itself but us. That’s when I suggest you travel.

Traveling has its way of healing whatever negative feelings we carry. If we are so bored of a life of routine, traveling breaks this monotony and stimulates our senses. The experiences we will encounter while traveling can melt negativities away. Traveling can remind us that there is more to life than feeling bitter and unhappy; that there are things far greater than ourselves but that what we do – no matter how menial it seems sometimes – contributes to a bigger picture, to a larger cause.

For a lot of people though, money can be a hindrance to traveling. However, as the cliché says, “we work to live not live to work” so if you reach a point where you feel that life was sucked out of you then money should not be so much of an issue. You are not going to spend your hard earned money extravagantly anyway because going for a short trip should not be expensive. You can travel to a nearby place or a different country, it’s all up to you. There are a lot of information available online on how to reach your destination without breaking the bank.

Back in 2011, I was suffering from burnout. It seemed as though I could not feel any positive emotions. A delicious meal doesn’t taste good. I keep blaming work for my unhappiness. One weekend, I traveled to Chiang Mai up until the borders of Myanmar. I went on full online detox while traveling so I can fully savor the experience. It was only for two days but I felt significantly better. On my way back to Bangkok, I took the train because other than it was way cheaper than flying I just love long train rides; it gave me an opportunity to pause and just enjoy the countryside scenery.

If I didn’t go on that short trip up north and committed to undergo an online detox, I would have resigned from my job in no time. I was glad I did. I felt rejuvenated after. When I came back, I also removed my work email from my phone and noticed that I felt more relaxed and positive after.

When my friend confided to me about her urge to quit, I told her to travel. And so travel she did and now she is still working at the same job. When she is not working, she is out strolling at a nearby park or traveling to nearby provinces. With camera in hand, she captures the beauty around what seemed like a mundane place to those who only exist.

21 days self-love challenge

Tomorrow is the day when love is celebrated across the globe, Valentine’s Day. Regardless of its historical accounts, Valentine’s Day as we practice it in modern time is a day for couples or for people with someone to love; so much so that it has become the day when roses and chocolates get so expensive. Those who are single often joke that they’d join the firing squad because they don’t have someone to spend it with. For me, I want to celebrate Valentine’s day this year differently.

Few days ago, I collapsed after jogging for less than 15 minutes and a week after I was down with fever and body aches. I realized I’ve been living an extremely unhealthy lifestyle and needed to look after myself better. According to one of my favorite books, it takes 21 days to create neuro-pathways that develop a habit. So I shall call this exercise the 21 days self-love challenge where each day I would devote 2 hours for self-nourishment, which is 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening. If you’re up for the same challenge, join me! It will be fun sharing our experiences.

Once upon a time in #Biliran #Sambawan

A photo posted by Mary Antonette H. Abello (@mhabello) on

Here’s how I will schedule my day but of course you can start at a time of your choosing.

6:00AM – wake up time, drink ¼ cup pure calamansi juice (strictly no water or it becomes acidic)
6:15 AM – sit for 15-minutes meditation
6:30 AM – yoga for 30 minutes
7:00 AM – my normal day can begin (shower, coffee, breakfast, etc)

Throughout the day, I will also make sure to drink a lot of water, pause for a quick 5-minute meditation whenever I feel the need for a break and increase my vegetables and fruit intake.

My evening self-love routine will start at 9PM because I want to sleep by 10PM; that will give me 8 hours of sleep.

9:00PM – gadgets away, read a book with warm milk or chamomile tea
9:45PM – sit for 15-minutes meditation
10:00 – lights out, zzzzzzzz

It’s a pretty simple morning and evening routine, really, but it will surely take much discipline to follow. I know I will regret not doing it and my alter ego is not very kind. So fingers-crossed, tomorrow is a new beginning and if there will come a day that I’d fail, I’ll just start back again. Join me! Join me!