Moods

There is a sponge in my head

Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfa Optima 200 Faded'

Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Agfa Optima 200 Faded’

Day 1 of taking antidepressants.

Suddenly there is a filter. As I’m writing this I hear only the words themselves as I write them and they don’t go bouncing off in every direction like they ‘normally’ would in my head.
When I start thinking whatever is not so necessary, the thought gets absorbed by something. Like a sponge, I would say.

For the first time in forever, things are 80% quiet in my mind. 20% are the thoughts that are more valid, those that I really need to urgently decide on.

For example, I’ve been to the groceries, and where a billion parallel universes could already have emerged somewhere just from my thinking of them aloud while waiting for the queue to move on, today there were only 10 or less of those imagined possibilities.

This is all so damn strange. The only other time this sort of happens is when I push a sweet chaturanga during yoga. But even then, as soon as I shift to a comfortable pose like the downward dog, the thoughts would come back to me crying like starved baby birds. Ugh.

To cut the drama short, I finally went to the psychiatrist. I was shaking basically as we talked. It’s a miracle at all that some words came out of me, enough for him to see the depths of the problems.

The good boi of a doctor said I’m too guarded. He said my smile is fake? Which was not untrue but it caught me off guard to hear it. Are these people really so straightforward? Anyway, after much ado, we talked about meds. He put me on the lowest dose of antidepressants. And I have to go back soon with the results of so many lab tests. And then we talk again. God, talking.

I’m kind of, really, really kind of, petrified by all this. I came out of the clinic quite upset and I had to be reminded that I should be proud of myself.

My trip to that clinic has been long overdue by years and years.

I think of the last time my mind has ever been as laid-back as waking up in this morning after taking my first pill. This 80% quiet and 20% thoughts. I remember life was good and far ahead of me, while doing nothing but eating cassava cakes sitting by the back door of the house I grew up in. I would eat and feel so tiny and watch our ducks. I was 3 years old. That’s 20 years ago.

10 years ago I had a traumatic summer. And that’s the hardcore force behind all this fine fuckery that I must brave. Last year, I was full-blown depressed from summer through midyear, and it was really dark. It’s not the first time I was that down in the dumps. But it’s probably the first time I actually feared for my life. And it seemed not a soul cared. Or at least, it seemed nobody could get a damn clue. Certain things slowly lifted me out of that funk. When I say slow, I mean that carbon dioxide saturates the atmosphere far more quickly by the minute, and it’s not going to slow down, and that’s the way I feel at times, that the whole world gangs up on me. That it’s getting poisonous by the day. That I just need it to pause for a minute. Find some fresh, unpolluted air.

I have this blog. And it’s among the few precious things that came out of last year. I said I’m not a talker so I will write as fierce as I can here, instead.

Talk of good friends. Friends are jewels, dear reader (whoever you are). My old friend helped me to go to that clinic and come out of it in one piece. I believe he would have dragged me, if he had to, for my own good. This friend has known me for a long time. We used to win math quizzes and spent most years having that competitive streak. So he’s seen me at my sharpest and also my most vulnerable. Sometimes because of my really downtrodden mood, I cannot even reply to his texts. But a friend is a friend is a friend.

A good friend is there for whatever, even if it’s to go to the pharmacy together to get your first antidepressant medications.

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My year in reading and mood swings

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Books were like my moods this year. I got on with them erratically.

Not entirely sure whether this is a newfound talent, inhaling pages and pages when I’m upset or can’t sleep. What I know is now I found out a few things about my taste.

I really like coming-of-age themes. Especially if it involves protagonists who are scholars, fairly awkward, and are secretly in love with that one other character that’s just as awkward as them but everybody is in denial about it. Cases in point: The Idiot¬†by¬†Elif¬†Batuman, The Marriage Plot¬†by Jeffrey¬†Eugenides, The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.¬†by¬†Adelle¬†Waldman, Call Me By Your Name¬†by Andr√© Aciman.

Several feminist books got my attention. I will devour more of them. This year I was hard in sisterhood with Bell Hooks, Rebecca Solnit, and Zadie Smith who wrote an essay about Beyoncé in another impressive, fat collection Feel Free.

Or generally, I was into witty essays. Durga Chew-Bose, Lorrie Moore, Cheryl Strayed, Anne Lamott, Anne Carson.

My heart swelled reading poetry by women. Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward, The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward, No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay, Red Bird by Mary Oliver, and Our Men Do Not Belong to Us by Warsan Shire.

Li Young-Lee’s The Undressing is as sexy as the title suggests. Michael Odaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler is real captivating. Leonard Cohen was the soundtrack to my summer sadness so I consulted Google about him and learned that he wrote poetry too. I read the compilation of poems called¬†Book of Longing.

To pay respect to my fairy godmothers, I read rare curated writings of Sylvia Plath. Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams¬†captures a different, subdued but still sharp style compared to her intense confessional poems. It’s edited by that bastard Ted Hughes though, so take my three cents and skip his introduction. It made me fume. I also read a biography of Plath, beautifully reimagined by Elizabeth Winder in Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953.¬†We already know my intimate obsession with Plath so every year I read something of her. I started The¬†Letters¬†of¬†Sylvia¬†Plath¬†Vol.¬†1 and have yet to go through it slowly to savor it. I’m reading it along with¬†The¬†Letters¬†of¬†Frida¬†Kahlo.

I couldn’t decide which Joan Didion to read again or to explore from ones I have yet to read. I ended up taking up Slouching Towards Bethlehem again, which I do so often. It’s really close to my heart and grounds me. I read South¬†and¬†West which compiles Didion’s travel and political observations.

And the ghost of Nora Ephron blessed my memories another time. I read her essay collections again to remember what it felt like when I read them for the first time.

Remember what I sad about inhaling pages? I did that with cookbooks, too. And I’ve read in a night’s notice more than I’m willing to admit. But my favorites related to food this year are Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Do Without by Mollie Katzen, Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton, Food Rules by Michael Pollan, Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, and The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano.

 

Craig Thompson’s Habibi is so special.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is a slim but poignant read.

Clarice Lispector is a pleasant mindfuck.

The Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes is the book I took to bed most for many slow nights.

A book I didn’t finish: The Odyssey because I was reading this with a friend. We’d read it aloud to each other. At some point, I was super annoyed with the friend. We stopped reading. Should I finish it alone?

 

In the beginning of 2018, I realized I barely read literature anymore. I was still reading all the time but I’m reading politics, magazines, current events, short fiction, and quick nonfiction. And it made me quite mad, so I decided to avoid that for a while and go back to the racks. I set a goal to read a little more than 3 books a month, so that’s 40 books. I ended up reading more than 100, sometimes one a day. So I’m happy about this but there are still adjustments I’d like to do.

When life is roses and dreamy and I’m quite in love, I tend to abandon the books and my head remains in the clouds. It’s quite a terrible excuse when I say to myself that I must not indulge in fantasy and make-believe and fiction because my reality is as sweet and as rare as it can be. But like all excuses, it must come to an end. I would actually want to have memories of calm readings as opposed to the frantic ones that resulted to this year.

I want to read 100 books again. My boyfriend suggested some 30 for my to-be-read. The man is a real hero. I asked him for recommendations and he put it on the table the next day. So I’m going to have to read from his list which is going to be a stretch for me since they are mostly history and anthropology books. But hell, I love a good challenge.

My 2019 main reading resolution: to read despite my mood.

 

I also have the evil plan to reread the YA books I liked as a teenager but in French translation since I’m learning the language. So far I sound like either a child or a grandmother with my sentence constructions. Sounding like a teenager might be a nice compromise. Actually, if you guys read in French, I would love to know what’s fun. Don’t give me Balzac and the likes, I can’t handle that yet.¬†

I wish could have read more philosophy. I’ll really battle with Nietzsche this year. And other stoic gods.

I’ll read those Russian authors. Take Anna Karenina to a lake and read by a campfire? We’ll see.¬†And I’ll also strive to keep up with literature at home and people of color, even though surprisingly they’re so fucking hard to find.

These are ideas that I have yet to refine. I still haven’t fully decided what to read. I’ll come back to those monthly.

Maybe I’ll celebrate a 10-year anniversary with Austen and Bront√ę. Get myself cute leather editions. I was 13 when I first read them, and they shaped me up for life.¬†

 

Anyway I’ll keep you posted. There’s Goodreads for that.

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She tells it like it is

18 favorite moments in 2018

There was a lot of picnics.

I adored making ice cream with my little sister early in the year.

A good friend made personalized Spotify playlists for me. They were like lullabies.
The pink summer skies during one long weekend road trip.
Skies, in general.

And birds.

Early morning runs.
That one time I threw brunch.

Somebody sent me flowers at home.

I ditched cafés for most of the year and came up with amazing recipes for hot and cold drinks on my own.
That time I spent a few days at my mother’s hometown and got to know the women in my family and their stories. My nieces and cousins and aunts, who somehow feel closer to my age now that I’m in my 20s.

Cracking chestnuts open.

Going bowling for the first time on my birthday. Even though I sprained an ankle and tripped flat on my knees.
Spending time with my notebooks. This felt so intimate.


Starting this blog. It’s¬†been¬†magic¬†and¬†redemption.¬†
Going on artist dates.
Wine nights. Alone or with my best gals.

Meeting the love of my life.

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My year in picnics

A really nice part of this year were the weekends when my mother and I would drive unplanned to the countryside, after our 4-6 am run, and haul for whatever fresh fruits and vegetables the locals are harvesting that day. Sometimes they would hand them for free.

I loved these trips to my mother’s hometown. Picking edible blossoms, carrying an entire watermelon, using the hem of my dress to gather some green chillies. It feels so close to the earth.

When produce is abundant, and the kids start to get wild out of boredom, one of the adults announces that we’re going out for a picnic. To the dam. Or to the waterfalls. Or to the river. Or just about anywhere with the ideal play of shadows and sun.

We have Tupperwares that are as old as me, and pack them with slices of melons, pineapples, watermelons. A jug of iced tea would sit in the big woven basket. Maybe some chips for the crunch and happiness. We pick up other edibles from vendors stalled along the highway like rice cakes still hot in their banana leaves wrap. Or grilled white corn. Or fried plantains and sweet potato. There is always something appropriate, homemade, starchy, that fills up a bulk in the stomach.

Once we went to the dam, it’s the kids’ first time to be there. The mountains were near, you could see them tower over green and brown. And the dam is so immense, you could mistake it for a natural body of water. You could even take a boat to cross to the other side. The children were hyped.

My little brother examined big rocks and said, “Wow, I think I love nature.”

And you could see just how much he meant from the bewilderment in his face. And he’d spend the stay-in weekends watching Nat Geo after doing his homework. And he’d pass entire half hour reciting facts about giant fishes or hippos or gorillas. As far as nature goes.

Some of the drives back home, although often were riddled by family feuds that just can’t be helped when you put two children, two adults, and two semi-adults in the same space for longer than the blink of an eye, took detours and surprises and spontaneous visits to relatives not seen for a long time. This invited free dinners. And for the first time, I could join in the table with the adults, because I’m already almost one. And the children, they would swing by the hammocks, quarreling about whose next turn it is.

When I moved back to the city later in the year, I was worried that the picnics would not be feasible to do. I managed to avoid it for a few weeks, coming up with excuses. But one fine Sunday, I packed sandwiches and various nibbles and just went. It turned out to be a refreshing day I most needed. It also inspired in me a creative flow.

So as a takeaway to the end of the year, I definitely recommend taking picnics. As often as possible.
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That one time I threw brunch

Or the best brunch of the year. Or the only time I hosted a brunch in 2018.

It was July, and except for weekly grocery shopping, I barely went out. Eventually, I missed my friends. So I asked some of them to come over; two of them were free. I invited the two to have brunch the next day. They only had to bring themselves. I handled everything.

They arrived around 10 am. Filipino songs boisterously played on speakers, as if to mark a territory. And we talked loud over the music. Telling jokes. Screaming to say most things because one of us got something funny going on in their ears, and one of us just naturally has a giant’s vocal chords. Most of us were broke. Obsessing tirelessly about our descent to early adulthood. One of us was starting a new job. One of us failed in a first business undertaking. And all of us were making do with what we had at the moment. All of us missed each other in our own funny ways. And all of us were in the mood to eat while blabbering about what we’ve been up to.

So I got the cooking started. I’m vegetarian so I made the folks eat plants, plants, and plants.¬†Purple sweet potatoes, sliced in chips, then deep fried. Tofu strips, rolled on rice flour, also fried to crispy goodness, and luscious garlic yogurt to dip with.¬†We grilled some leftover bread and cheese. And I tossed together an Asian style salad with cucumbers, citrus, and nuts. Just tomatoes, chillis, and parmesan went to the pasta, plus wild basil for a bit of color.

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We carried a long wooden chair outside by the garden, just beneath the coconut trees. The weather participated well for our get-together, letting the sun come out with only enough shine and not an annoying direct heat. We set up the chair-turned-table and used tiny wooden chairs to sit on. I brewed some Thai iced tea but also took out two bottles of dessert wines that have been long waited for a moment like this.

Just in time for lunch, we gathered around the ridiculous feast. And each took their own flatlays for Instagram. Of course. Each was caught with a smile already reeking of satisfaction even before a first bite. I was happy, too. I’d been playing over a scene like this in my head. It’s sort of a little dream I have to be the kind of friend that cooks for the other friends. To be the one in charge of the kitchen while everybody chatted away, laughed, sang, farted, or whatever it took to feel at home in whomever’s place we found ourselves at. Or for this day, it happened outside in the garden.

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We ate for a long time. For three hours. Now and then I’d glance at the mismatched tableware and be proud of the whole thing anyway. It shows that we’ve not completely figured out this fuss that is life, but we’re on our way there. We’re young, still in our early 20s. And yes, eating like demi-gods while at it, no less.

And then I sneaked back into the kitchen to deep fry some Oreos in pancake batter and assembled in bowls with cheese tarts and vanilla ice cream. It’s early afternoon by then. The skies were turning gray. Rain would pour all out just before they head home, and then I’d make them some coffee. But for now, it’s shared, old-fashioned fun.

Both of them tell me, “Danica this is impressive. You should manage your own caf√© or something.”

Maybe I’ll do that one day, or something. It does not hurt to listen to old friends, after all.

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Christmas for two

We nearly gave up on Christmas Eve. I woke up with a cold and my brother wasn’t feeling that festive either. He’d have been content playing video games for another night. And I was all set up to rewatch¬†Casablanca¬†and¬†Gone With the Wind and stalk people’s Instagram stories. But somehow I managed to run a hot bath that momentarily cured and lighted up my senses. And I put on a long-sleeve dress and some makeup to feel like something is the matter. Life hack: nothing a hot bath and some red lipstick won’t cure.¬†So I cooked up a small meal for us with ingredients bought at the last minute. It is not the most ambitious feast I’ve prepared at all (many picnics this year have topped this table) just some pasta with mushroom and tomato sauce, homemade fries, spicy nuts, chilled melons with condensed milk, and a ref cake (which did not need any baking). But in the end, I achieved one of my long-running evil plans to spend a quiet Christmas. No loud relatives asking the perpetual questions: How is school, hija? Who’s courting you? Where are you working?¬†Best of all, no excessive eating (but drinking, I can forgive) which in all honesty has always intimidated me. Just a calm evening that slowly stretched. When things are simplified, you find the most important bits to cherish.

Processed with RNI Films. Preset 'Agfacolor 40's'

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Coffee thoughts

Airconditioned air bites onto my skin and persists like a damn muscle cramp. There are modern, millennial inconveniences to complain about.¬† For one, the mocha I ordered is not hot enough. Not even close to the remembrances I have as a child of adults around me pouring scalding hot water to ceramic mugs, filling up the room with that enlivening aroma. Mostly they had instant coffee, so it wasn’t the freshness or quality that was good, but the smoking warmth that nearly burned the tongue, that makes the women halt on their gossips and sip from their cups. No burnt tongue for me tonight, only the friction of grainy chocolate crumbs. What is life when not saturated with vapid sensory details?

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