Letter #19: I was not really okay

January 5, 2020


Hello, Lia.

We promised each other we would always tell the truth, so I thought I’d share with you something I’ve kept for months from everyone but four people in the world: I was not really okay all this time.

I laughed and I was highly functional, but the bearings have been far from aligned for quite some time. My mind is fatigued, my heart gaping. I have this nasty, dull feeling that's been scraping away the joy and light inside me. It’s called “the ugly side effect of attempting to achieve long-lasting stability”.

Stability thrives on monotony and consistency. It’s boring, drab, and dominated by tedious work – at least at the onset. And for the longest time, I purposely refrained from taking on any endeavor that required such rigorous structure and restriction in freedom or movement. You see, I don't do well in that kind of environment.


I have not had the time to deal with and process this feeling properly. By the end of 2019, while everyone was cozy at home or elsewhere - reminiscing the year, curating their best trips, and gathering thoughts for a final year-end essay - I was in front of my laptop, madly working like I have every day for the past four months.

And last Christmas? Same. While you were at your lolo and lola’s, I worked until 4 am on the 26th. Between Christmas and New Year, I would wake up at ungodly hours to cater to urgent requests, sometimes finishing and going to bed at 7 am. Work ranged from 18 to 21 hours daily – weekends included. In my eagerness to prevent the prospect of losing all work again – as what happened in the first half of 2019 – and secure a more promising life for you, I accepted more work than I can handle. I never said no or set boundaries. 

I set a goal for December. I called it #RoadToSixFigures. And we did it, Lia. We made it happen. Yet often I found myself asking, “At what expense?”

It’s been so long since I've had straight days of sleeping a good five hours that each one was basically the same: a ghost. Days arrived and fleeted unnoticed. I wake up not knowing what day it is – or the point of waking up anymore. Deadlines occupy about 90 percent of my day. I haven’t done any form of creative writing for quite some time that our blog, our home online, may even be considered dead now. Travel, along with good rest and conversations with others, became few and far in between. 

Sleep became an unattainable obsession. I know it sounds silly to be this dramatic about sleep, but you gotta believe it: Happiness is also directly proportional to quality sleep.


Like clockwork, flu or cough and colds pester me every two weeks. I am often anxious and prone to self-doubt. Whenever I receive a Facebook message or an SMS, my chest would pound. My first thought would always be, “What did I f*ck up again? How many hours of sleep will I have to finish it?” There have been quite a number of times I was close to breaking down. The last time I was this constantly agitated and stressed was when I worked in a call center. That was in 2006.

I pictured stability to be quite different from what we have now. Now I am too occupied with work to feel and experience things. Worse, I am too occupied to have time for you. There have been a couple of times – and I am not proud of this – that I served you dinner at 10 pm, so I can appease clients. Once you told me, “Sana di ka na lang naging editor. Kasi dati naglalaro at nagwa-walk tayo ‘ pag hapon. Ngayon palagi ka na lang busy.” It left a f*cking gash because I do all this hustling for you and your future, and you end up being a casualty.

As it is, it seems what I do is not enough. I am not enough. I don’t mean just work. I mean all relationships and friendships that I tried to fit in my life, loving with all my best intentions, only to have the loving and my intentions backfire.

***

After months of being cooped up at home, you asked me to pinkie swear that we'll spend time off before school resumes. So, yesterday we hiked a couple of spots in DRT and San Miguel, then waited until sundown in your favorite river. As we watched the current create beautiful, tiny waves and the yellows dimmed to violets, the bearings were silently realigning themselves. My heart was still and at peace. To be in the water and in the mountains with you is to be alive once again.

A lot of times, mothers are given all the credit for their hard work. What is oft-unseen are the little people inspiring and pushing them to create the best work possible. If you’ve got a kid, you have an army. I am grateful to have an army like you, Lia. 


Being your usual appreciative self, on the bus home you said, “Mama, thank you for all that you do for me.”  

"Welcome," I replied. In retrospect, I should be the one thanking you. Despite all that I lack and all of my motherly inadequacies, you forgive and love me all the same. You inspire me to create and pursue everything with my breath, spirit, and thoughts.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible”. Although my ambition has taken me far from being the best version of myself, it led me to knowing the extent of what I can do for love. I don’t regret the sleeplessness nights, tears, anxiety, and excessive labor because I tread them in the service of dreams and motherhood. In the service of you.

Thank you for reminding me that it's a privilege to be responsible for another human being and that to do a better job at it, one has to take care of herself too. Thank you for being the ledge that stands between me and giving up. Thank you for being the machinery that keeps all bearings running and aligned.

I hope and will try to become a more balanced mother this year, so I can show you - as you’ve shown me - that the sun is not some lofty celestial body we reach for, but one that shines beside us in our darkest days.

With all my love this year and all years moving forward,
Mama

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