So you know that in June, Mum and I went away for a break. Over three weeks, we visited family in two cities and holidayed with friends in two mountain towns.
We travelled over hills
And rolled across dales.
We watched Liam work his magic with homeless boys
And gaped at Godbaby twist and not shout during her Capoeira workouts.
Mum hung out with her girls
And we huddled around two ageing relatives whose photographs I have chosen not to share in a public space in an effort to afford them dignity that has fallen victim to the ravages of ageing.
I am aware that this is the fate of some of us when we approach certain chronological milestones, and it makes me incredibly sad to see how helpless some unfortunate people are against physical decline that technology has not conquered yet.
This trip was no holiday per se, for me. As I wrote to a friend on return:
Our trip was a good diversion from routine, although not entirely a relaxed break for me. Mum, 82, is very independent, but since we were in new-to-her-at-this-age places and she does not voice her preferences/displeasures as loudly as I do, I had to constantly think of where she’d need physical assistance and I had to ensure her meals/snacks were on time. Like me, Mother eats every two to three hours. Like me, too, she begins to wilt when she gets hungry. Unlike me, she doesn’t turn cranky. You know what I’m talking about. Yup, I’m still the same. ;-)
Before we left, I didn’t think of this trip as a break for me, so I wasn’t disappointed to not get to do what I wanted to at all times. I’m just very happy for Mum because the change of scene was a good boost for her already active life. .
But I was away from routine and that made a few things come to light, especially when we were ensconced at Liam’s in the mountains. I’ll list three of them below.
I. I realised I did not need that break. Because I wasn’t tired.
Before we left, I had looked forward to getting away because I had not been on a holiday in 14 months. (Extra long weekends to neighbouring states do not count.) I wasn’t exactly tired before I went on the trip, but I did not realise how tired I was not until the third leg of the trip.
Before we left, I was looking forward to ‘unwinding’ and feeling ‘refreshed’ on the trip.
And nothing happened.
I then realised that it was because I wasn’t tired.
And I wasn’t tired because I plan, prioritise and pace all the activities I can when I’m at home.
I literally pencil in simple chats over coffee (for her) and green tea (for me) with BFF Two at my place or hers even though we meet at least once a week.
I feel nothing when I have to cancel plans to catch a movie or a play with friends when another friend calls and desperately needs a pair of ears for her woes.
I am strict about when my personal contacts can call me for non-urgent matters. Before 8 a.m. and not after 8 p.m. Emergencies excepted. (It’s lights out at my casa at 9.30 p.m. and I wake up at 5.30 a.m.)
I am very strict with myself and the time I spend on line.
Writing personal mails tops my list of priorities. If I find myself interested in a new article or site, I squelch the slight twinge of disappointment that I could not ‘flip through’ some of my daily reads, which are primarily online newspapers.
I’ve RSSed a little over a dozen* blogs. At first, it was awfully hard for me to refrain from commenting on new blogs or even the ones I read regularly. I know how much I like receiving a ‘Like’ or a ‘Comment’ on my blog, but that’s not good enough to spur me to do the same on everyone else’s I read when I’m crunched for time.
I am just as strict with my time for myself as I am with others, be it in person or cyberspace.
“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” ~ M.K. Gandhi
*You want to scoff at the miniscule number of blogs I’ve RSSed? I’ll give you more fodder, friends! I do not have an account with any networking site**. Oh, dear. I’ll give you a few minutes to recover from that anticlimactic truth.
**I have access to Big Sis and BFF One’s Facebook accounts. The only time I stroll around there is with Mum by my side so that she can catch up with our relatives/family friends and my school era friends, respectively, around the world. (BFF Two lives in China and therefore, does not have access to Facebook. In any case, she’s like me; prefers deeper interaction with a small group of personal contacts.)
Five years ago, when I returned to live with Mum, people around me here slowly became acquainted with my unflinching firmness that they were not familiar with because I had left when I was a teenager. My rigidness was teased gently by most and I smiled sweetly in response. But stood my ground. I was ridiculed by a few, seethed inwardly in their presence and railed against them to my Core Four (i.e. the four people – a mix of family and friends – I am closest to). But I did not budge.
My body, my life, my rules. Period.
Five years on and I’m revelling in the results. I am not tired nor do I tear my hair at the end of the day. Or even at the end of 14 month holiday drought. :-)
II. I stayed true to my intention of switching to ‘Unplug mode’ and I was okay. I was more than okay; I was absolutely fine being completely immersed in the real world. ^_^
I checked mail three times in the twenty days we were away. I had access to a computer everywhere we went, but I just did not feel like checking my e-mail.
I did keep track of my Core Four once a day with whoever’s Crackberry or Smartphone was at hand. But those were not my customary prolonged exchanges. Via a common message, I reached out to check that they were okay and to brief them on the highlights of our day.
Each of the three times, I wrote mails to my friends who were hurting in some way or who were celebrating a birthday that day.
Here’s an excerpt from a birthday mail I wrote to a friend:
Mum and I are still in [the name of the state we were in at the time]. In fact, this is the first time I’ve checked my mail in 8 whole days. I know! If it wasn’t your birthday, Friend, I wouldn’t have even logged in today. I am enjoying NOT writing as much as I enjoy writing my regular reams!
III. Before I returned home, I had a pretty detailed plan of what I would have liked my life to be like here after being away a few decades. Some things fell into place. Some did not. Actually, some of the big ones did not. I was angry, frustrated and …. angry. Yes, I know I’ve repeated ‘angry’. That’s because I was angry a lot.
Three years later, I realised the anger was harming me, first of all, and only me for the most part. Thank goodness, I’m a narcissist. I decided to stop being angry because I do not like pain.
When I calmed down, I began to think of other options to fulfil my potential. And options came my way. Not always the ones or the way I had imagined, but they were options nonetheless.
I tentatively dipped my toes, loved how refreshed my soul felt and dove right in. And I’ve been doing swimmingly ever since. Hallelujah!
I am telling this without a sigh
Not ages and ages hence, but now
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one not imagined by,
And that has made all the difference.
Dear Robert Frost, thank you for inspiring me with your ‘The Road Not Taken’.
Also, I’m dreadfully sorry I’ve plagiarised and spifflicated your venerable lines.
Liam, friend of our family, is a Salesian priest. Recently, he was transferred to a mountainous part of the country where he heads a shelter for homeless boys. His institution also has a fruit and vegetable farm, a chicken farm and a piggery on the same sprawling property.
While each of the four places Mum and I visited on this holiday is special to me, I will share my favourite moments from when those mountains spoke to me.
1. Feeding the pigs. I used to feed the pigs a snack every day. I’d gather all the ripened apples from the ground in a pail and toss them to the pigs. Oh, I was so very tempted to hand feed them, but warnings from the elders and common sense got in the way of my fun. ;-)
I called the littlest pig, Babe. Babe was one greedy, little piggy.
Being the lightest on his little pinkish tinged feet, with shocking speed one day, he grabbed the first apple I threw in. Then he grabbed the second apple as well … with the first still in his mouth! Not satisfied with two apples stuffed in his mouth, he darted between the big pigs and lunged at the third one! What a
“Babe!” I admonished. “This is exactly how you will land up on a dining table, roasted to golden perfection with that d#mned apple in your gob.” Warning in vain, for sure.
2. Playing with a glow worm. One patch of the massive grounds had openings in the mountain walls. Those ‘caves’, as I called them, were filled with glow worms. Then Liam picked one up and asked if I wanted to hold it. I froze while the thing wiggled in my hand. Gradually, I began to, um, thaw and I think I managed to stroke it, too. Aww.
Watching all those glow worms was a treat. Playing with one made me want to flicker, too. I declared that they flickered because they were happy. So was I.
3. Seeing thousands of newly sprouted wild saplings. One late afternoon, Liam, a colleague of his and I went trekking to the summit of the lowest mountain in the neighbourhood. I opted for the unbeaten, rough slope. I had trekked in that region a few years ago in summer and I knew those grounds are dry and barren at certain times of the year.
I was shocked and delighted to see how much lies asleep until the rains come and wake them up! I rarely get to see newly sprouted plants. Seeing a huge carpet of them was pure joy. Like the glow worms, I insisted the sprouts were happy (to wake up).
4. The view from the edge of a cliff. Not too early one morning, Liam took a group of his visiting colleagues, Mum and me for a drive around some of the scenic spots. He took us higher up the mountains towards a dead end. More of a dead drop, if you ask me. He had said the view of the valley below and the smaller peaks that stretched almost into the horizon, was a beautiful one.
But when we got there to the edge, it was very foggy. Clouds of mist swirled around us and we barely saw land anywhere ahead of us; mostly fog.
And that’s exactly why I enjoyed that moment.
I love the mountains, I love the mist.
I had both there.
That magical moment up in the mountains
was my most favourite moment
of all the other non-family/friends times
I spent on this holiday.
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: CONGRATULATIONS :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
Fresh off the press! Fresh off the press! The Hook got Freshly Pressed!
Here’s the article:
Hook, what I’m most excited about you getting Freshly Pressed is, that this, getting Freshly Pressed, was one of your many little dreams. And it gone done come true! Woo flippin’ hoo!
You’re next, Hook And Family’s Other Dreams!
P.S.: Cheerful Monk adds a footnote to every post acknowledging those who comment on her previous post. She also links the commenters’ names back to their own blogs.
I like both these practices of acknowledging the time and effort made to comment, and the free advertising! So I’m doing what I do well – being a copycat!