October: A month and forever without …

(Part of A Year of Living Without)

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The original zen habits challenge was to go on vacation without feeling guilty.

Planned replacement habits: Actually enjoy the time off. Breathe. Unplug for at least three days.

Month-end Report: I did go on vacation (five days to boot). It was a guilt-free time off for me, alright, but far from enjoyable. I missed a major activity at the office, and I didn’t care. Unfortunately, it was an “emergency leave,” bereavement leave to be exact.

It’s October 30 as I’m as I’m writing this, exactly a month since my father passed on. It’s been a month without drugstore errands  and hospital stays.

It’s been a month without Papa.

I was at Mercury Drug two weekends ago, and an overwhelming sense of sadness came over me as I realized I was actually there buying meds for myself (antacid and paracetamol)…and not the usual loot I had to buy almost daily for Papa (albumin, antibiotics, and a lot more).

It was a routine I took seriously, almost solemnly. First, I would check my own excel file masterlist of meds (oh yes, complete with generic names, brand names, dosage strength, and the comparative prices of four drugstores), then I’d go to the drugstore hoping the less expensive albumin would be available there. I’d hand the doctor’s prescription and Papa’s senior citizen ID card and booklet to the pharmacist then get the meds and the ice pack that usually goes with those meds.

But he’s gone now.

I felt so empty and lost standing like an idiot there at the drugstore before finally asking for my own Kremil S and Biogesic.

I miss my father. Although I always tell myself he’s in a much better place now, well- rested, ‘breathing” easier, and free from earthly pain and hardships, it would probably take a long time before I could enter a drugstore or a hospital without a tinge of sadness or emptiness. I still offer a silent prayer for Papa whenever my cab passes by the Lung Center on my way to work.

So there.

When I started this personal experiment called “A Year of Living Without” in January, I wanted to simplify my life and give up some habits. I didn’t expect to lose someone I so dearly love and respect with all my heart.

I will try my best to let go of the pain and the sadness of losing Papa, but I will keep the happy memories our family had with him for as long as I live.

Quote: A story is like a house

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“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows.

And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished.

You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time.

It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” (2013 Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Alice Munro)

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September: A month without being late for work

(Part of A Year of Living Without)

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The Challenge: To be a goddess of punctuality, an anti-tardiness poster girl.

Planned replacement habits: Sleep early. Rise early. Buy an alarm clock.

Month-end Report: It’s just mid-September as I’m writing this, but it’s safe to say…all hell broke loose. Refer to last month’s blog post.

Up next in October: Go on a vacation without feeling guilty.

August: A month without sleeping in on Sunday mornings

(Part of A Year of Living Without)

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I'm sleepy. Go away.

The Challenge: A month without sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Say hello to a fast-paced productive weekend!

Planned replacement habits: Wake up early and exercise for at least 30 minutes!!! Go to church in the morning!!! Do more housework!!! Use exclamation points to mentally push myself to do this!!!

Month-end Report: Guess what? Total failure. I’ve been spending more and more days and nights at the hospital. August whizzed by, I hardly noticed. Been sleeping late, waking up late, and rushing to the office after my night shift. That was no excuse to avoid exercising, but yeah, I’d rather catch up on sleep in the mornings — Sundays or other days of the week, like busy busy busy Mondays. So there, good luck with the September project.

Up next in September: A month without tardiness

Quote: Be reverent

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Photo by Tony P.

“In order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here?

Think of reverence as awe, as presence in and openness to the world.

Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul.

All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least to have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of – please forgive me – wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.

When this happens, everything feels more spacious.” (Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

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Quote: The act of writing as its own reward

“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is.

Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part.

It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” (From Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

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Let's have tea!

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Quote: Just take it bird by bird, buddy!

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” (Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

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