Dedicated To My Room Mates Michi and Pinky

LLP 18.1.16. Walang Pasok Final

 

When I was in primary school in The Philippines, the best gauge for “storm signal #2” was when our neighbor’s coconut tree—visible through our bedroom window—swayed violently in the wind. It was during the #2 intensity that classes were cancelled for the day.

At the time, I roomed with two of my six sisters. Michi, the older room mate coined this phrase when school was called off: “WALANG PASOK SI MARIE CALICA!!!” (NO CLASSES FOR MARIE CALICA!!!) I don’t even remember how it started, but somehow the tradition of screaming this phrase continued through out each school-cancelling storm. Each time my Michi and Pinky saw our neighbor’s coconut tree swishing to and fro, seconds later there was always the chiming together of these famous five words: “WALANG PASOK SI MARIE CALICA!!!” I always had a good feeling when I heard this; it meant staying dry and safe in our home, and taking a break from the rigors of school.

Even as I got older and graduated high school and college, there would be occasional work-cancelling weather disturbances, or simple work-suspension holidays. Even if we no longer lived together, Michi and Pinky still managed to communicate their personal announcement to me—via phone call, pager message (hello, 90’s), or text message.

Today marks the first day of my maternal leave (my due date is in about 3 weeks’ time). For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to report for work (teaching yoga at a yoga studio I co-own in Basel, Switzerland—my home for the last 3.5 years). It’s a long way from those days where school was suspended, and yet here I am—42 years old and expecting my husband’s and my first child—waiting for my sisters to shout those playful words again.

Why Drawing Is Like Living

LLP Why Drawing is Like Living

Dear Lady with a bob haircut, I’m very sorry I made you look like a squire with a mustache. With enough practice, I think I can get better at this. Love, Marie

I’ve always wanted to learn how to sketch. For years I’d been telling myself to get a sketch pad and start drawing. And then some months ago, I asked my artist friend Joëlle (who I’ve mentioned several times in this blog) if she could teach me how to draw. And so one afternoon we sat down in her atelier, and she put a portrait of a woman in front of me. She shoved a pencil into my hand and said “draw her.”

“Um, how?” I asked. I felt so self-conscious and vulnerable, knowing that Joëlle was watching me take the first strokes with the pencil. I felt awkward and so out of my comfort zone, but I continued anyway. I began with the hairline, then the jaw, then the ears, then the eyes. I had no idea how off-proportion one can draw when one is inexperienced and has no sense of dimensions. The lady’s eyes were far too big for the rest of her face, that she looked like an alien.

My strokes were safe and timid, and I was so careful to keep everything correct. More and more, I noticed the self-talk in my head. There were hundreds of judgements and self-criticism that automatically went off like fireworks at New Year’s Eve. In the end, J was nice enough to say that at least the finished drawing looked like a woman. Not quite THE woman that she asked me to draw, but a woman nonetheless.

My next assignment was to use coloring pencils. Joëlle chose another portrait of a young, chic woman sporting a bob. I learned how to use my subject’s skin undertone—a light yellowish shade—as the base layer of my drawing. Still timid and hesitant, I continued. J pointed out my timid strokes, and said I needed to be brave enough to use bigger strokes and bolder colors. I needed to be brave enough to make mistakes, and to be okay with imperfection.

A light bulb turned on in my head, and I realized that in many aspects of my life, I’m afraid to make mistakes. It’s difficult to admit, but realized that in many ways, I want to be perfect (or close to it). But I can’t always be perfect. I can’t “nail it” every single time. I can’t get everything right all the time.

As I colored and colored, Joëlle repeatedly gave me two instructions in German (our entire session was conducted in German): “Mut!” and “Trau dich!”, which are basically commands to be brave and daring. To be brave and to dare, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make them; you can only learn from them. Without bravery you stay fenced in tight boundaries, but with it, you gain possibility. J’s constant reminding helped me produce a colorful, multi-dimensional face. Okay, it turned out to look like a bearded squire rather than a smart-looking bobbed girl. But after finishing the sketch, I felt I was a little braver, a little bolder, and a little less critical of my self.

Special Thanks

IMG_3023Inspired by my thankfulness for surviving Winter (in spite of three bouts with a terrible cold, cough, and sore throat) as well as seeing the first few signs of spring, I decided to have a special yoga class on the Attitude of Gratitude, centering on how thankfulness makes us happier people.

Apart from our physical practice, students had time to write down things there were grateful for, and towards the end of class had time to write a thank you card to someone they were very thankful for. I made these cards the day before, but on the day itself, while everyone else was thanking their chosen one, I wrote down a message of thanks to each student. Whether it was for simply showing up for class, being curious about their practice, spending time after class for a meaningful chat, asking questions, or a simple smile during the hour–these gestures from students mean so much to me, and I am thankful for their presence. Seeing their reaction on realizing how they make a difference was priceless!

May you be inspired today to thank people in your life whose presence mean something (or the whole world) to you.