September

I’ve been wanting to dance lately, mostly in my room and whenever I bake late at night and have the kitchen and living room all to myself. Heaven for an introvert who hasn’t had a day alone at home in over a year. I play my “Happy Day Playlist” and somehow, my cakes turn out the best ever when I dance (and sing) while baking. No kidding.

But it’s not rocket science. Dancing is one of those things that makes me happy and instantly raises my vibration. And when good vibes + good juju abound, anything is possible. My instant happy dance song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire. Whenever it’s on, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing (even when I’m in the middle of a grocery run), I can’t help but bop my head, tap my feet, and sway my hips–trying to be a bit discreet at the same time, to contain the rhythm and joy bubbling from within, but it never lasts long. It is pure electric energy that needs to be expressed in movement.

September always unlocks happy memories. The best one in 1999, the last year of my golden ’90s childhood–hearing this song being played over and over again from a boombox in the school podium, juniors in their P.E. class dancing the swing. I was a freshman passing by, and to me, they looked like they were all having fun. I wanted to dance too, and not just any dance. I wanted to dance the swing to September. When I heard their music play, I would pull a friend aside and tell her, “Tara, sayaw tayo!” Kudos to her for indulging me even though we looked clumsy mimicking the steps. I was always the more enthusiastic one. I remember being so excited for the time to come when I can finally learn the swing. But third year came and we got folk dance instead. My group got Chinese fan dance. As with everything I did back then, I gave it my best–all-smiles in my red cheongsam top, waving my fan to a rhythm in foreign language. But the truth was, I was disappointed I didn’t get to dance what I wanted.

Then college came and on the very first term as a freshman, I got Social Dance for my P.E. class. We didn’t just learn how to dance the swing, we got the whole package–boogie, cha-cha, waltz. It was a wish fulfillment for this frustrated dancer. We didn’t dance to September, but we did to another Disco Fiasco song on my playlist–Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife”. I was secretly happy I wasn’t partnered with any of the guys in class because my dance partner was just what I needed. She was sweet and patient and made me feel at ease. She never laughed or got annoyed at me when I made mistakes or couldn’t keep up. Her palms weren’t sweaty. And most important of all, we were almost the same height. We didn’t have to worry about adjusting to each other’s level. I felt safe to feel the rhythm and just dance with less self-consciousness and inhibitions. I wanted to get it all right even if I didn’t look like a natural dancer, so whenever everyone else was out of the dorm or cooped up in their own rooms, I would practice by the shower rooms where the mirrors were so I could see myself dancing. It was precious alone time savoring something that made me happy.

On practical exam day, we danced an entire medley of all the dances we learned including modern, and passed with flying colors. I was never so blissfully happy getting a 4.0 in a subject that wasn’t academic. And I learned not just 1 but 4 dances! That more than made up for my junior high school self’s yearning to dance the swing to September. To this day, I still remember the basic steps. And I still dance just like that classic Billy Idol song goes…

“When there’s nothing to lose and there’s nothing to prove,
well I’m dancing with myself”

What is your happy dance song? What makes your heart want to dance–what makes you happy regardless of what everyone else says or everything else going around you? I hope you can find the time to dance–to let your heart just dance and do things that make you happy, whatever they are. 💃

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4th post in the series: Music / Film + Writing Heals 💖

Bittersweet Symphony

Life is too short to hold on to anger, regrets, and what ifs.
Life is too precious to keep your fist closed around a wounded heart.
Life is not meant to be lived in darkness and fear.
Forgiveness doesn’t taste like caramel, but it’s a bittersweet gift only you can give to yourself.
We are not gods in this world, and sometimes we forget that we cannot control every element, every outcome, every little thing we want to happen.
The best we can do is to move through life like a butterfly–kissing flowers with freedom and joy, with every ounce of delight in our being,
unburdened by desires and devoid of expectations.
Living the best way we can for now,
savoring pockets of peace and happiness, finding little things we are grateful for every day.
If there is anything to hold on to, have faith and trust that everything that has happened in your life is guiding you to flow into the river of your dreams, to move through the fog and leave the darkness behind.

Hope and love intertwined are the anchors of your soul.

Purpose in Patience

Patience in love means timelessness of the heart, not waiting with bated breath and weighted expectations. It means you have surrendered to what you already know is true deep within your heart, and trusting that everything is unfolding the way it needs to. You’ve stopped attaching yourself to the when. It means being present in the now and focusing on what needs your immediate care and attention–your own needs, passions, and dreams, instead of spending all your precious energy on someone else or doling it out to multiple people and tasks at a time as if it’s unli rice. It means letting the past stay in the past, but honoring the lessons you’ve learned from it. It’s not projecting yourself too far ahead onto an unknowable future that you forget to savor a breathtaking sunset or a shared meal with a loved one.

Patience is that Ray Lamontagne song with the haunting chorus of:

“Be here now, be here now”

Reminding the listener to:

“Don’t let your heart get heavy
Child, inside you there’s a strength that lies”

There is purpose in patience. We have avocado trees at home and avocado is currently in season. Instead of using a net to get all the avocados one by one, I have the patience to let them be until they reach maturity. During this “waiting period” which doesn’t feel like waiting idly at all, I spend time like I always do. I do work that keeps me moving forward, not aimlessly. I reconnect with the divine to get my creative juices flowing. I tend to my soul’s garden of delights. I am reminded of avocados every day–it’s hard not to ignore those shiny, smooth emerald teardrops–tempting to me as apples were to Eve in the Garden of Eden. But I just take a longing look and my heart swells in gratitude for the blessing that I could almost taste–soft and creamy, a pleasure with muscovado. “Not yet, Lea. But almost there. Have patience, dearest. We are teaching you the virtue of patience.”

Then on a day when I least expect it, avocados just break off from the branches and fall to the ground in numbers. Only then do I pick them up one by one and enjoy the literal fruits of patience. You cannot force something to come to fruition until it’s time. Patience reveals its own rewards.

Love is the boldest stroke

“Is this really the boldest stroke you can make?” — The Half of It

It’s a line from a movie I didn’t expect I would resonate with and join my favorites list. I hear Ellie asking Aster and it becomes me asking myself, “Is this the boldest stroke I can make?”

I haven’t felt like I was making bold strokes until I learned to choose and embrace myself, until I grew comfortable in the silence and the stillness and found moments of peace, acceptance, and clarity I never even knew I was thirsting for. Moments of finding the courage to peel away the layers and reveal a truth or another part of me is also me painting one bold stroke after another. I’m nowhere near done yet with my painting and I still have a lot of space to cover. I have no idea what it would look like, but I am having fun creating it, building it stroke by stroke.

You wonder why you feel stuck or know you’re unhappy but never do anything to change it. You simply go on doing the things you do and stick with some people and relationships even when deep down you just know that who you are now doesn’t align with them anymore. You stay because they’re familiar and easy–they’re not challenging you to do the bloody inner work, to face your triggers and rise above them. Is it because you fear change? Is it because where you are is safe and accepted by the ones you feel you need approval from? But what is safe and what does external validation do for us, really? Is it even worth denying an essential part of yourself?

One of my bold strokes is finally deciding I’ve had enough of this and I won’t settle for safe and thumbsed up by everyone else but me. I learned you only grow when you learn to trust yourself and venture out of your comfort zone and into the wild unknown. When you realize the only approval and validation you need is from your authentic self, it’s a weight lifted off of your shoulders. It’s the taste of freedom and unity like that time the sea called out to me–waves lapping at my feet and without thinking, I just went into the water–my hair mimicking the waves and my dress getting soaked, a storm brewing on the horizon and I’ve never been happier. I want more of that and I am ready for it.

However my painting turns out to be, I hope it’s a beautiful mess of bold, colorful strokes speckled with jewels of neverending discoveries amidst the unknown.

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Third post in the series: Music / Film + Writing Heals 💖

P.S. Ellie and Aster’s flirtation is a bold stroke for me and I like it. 😚

Wear it with pride

I used to think that wearing my heart on my sleeve was a weakness. And that to be a stronger person, to be taken more seriously, I needed to change. I had to be the opposite–keep everything in check. Keep the bubbliness and warmth from spilling over, don’t say what I really feel like saying at the exact moment I needed to. But no, it didn’t work. I was wearing a mask and felt the weight of being an imposter. I really am warm and bubbly and spontaneous. And I always feel better saying what I am intuitively guided to say to someone at the moment instead of waiting for the perfect time to say it, and not getting hung up on how the other person takes it. Our matrix perception of a “perfect time” is unreliable and even when there is perfect timing and you wait for it, the person might not be there to hear what you have to say when you think you’re ready. Better out than in.

Wearing love has only ever been my strength. That I could express and share my love and affection so freely is my natural state. Love is a super power, not a weakness.

Image credit: Aditya Saxena @ Unsplash