The one time I was able to become fully immersed in one of my readings (i.e., a class presentation due in two weeks!), I was snapped back into reality and trip into a spiraling panic…
Working on a memoir, as a thesis project and as a hopeful debut for my writing career, has been tough to handle. Not only am I concerned about the narrative structure and the decisions on what to include as relevant to the story I am putting together, but I am also confronted with re-surfacing traumas and discontents, in light of my ability to psychoanalyze with theoretical frameworks of the past few years.
In simple terms, I’m remembering stuff that I would rather forget, if I had the choice…
Like, sitting at a coffee shop to (force myself to) work on a book presentation. I checked out this particular book from my school’s library in September, and I am not even halfway done reading it. I was assigned to work on this book by a certain author, and I want to do their work justice by carefully researching their background and closely read this book to somehow extract take-aways in the art of Life-writing. But I was getting into it, in my natural element, as I typed away on a small tablet-keyboard while checking my notes for pull-quotes.
I glanced up from my work for a second, and the sight of a person waiting for their order at the pick-up counter disrupted my flow. I was not sure if the person was who I thought it was, but the physical features of the face were very similar to how I remembered a past life… before I became aware of the necessity to draw boundaries for the sake of my mental health and emotional well-being. Not feeling sure of my memory or my ability to recognize people, I felt a panic emerging from my gut. Perhaps the person noticed me checking if they were familiar to me, but I made sure to hide my face, wanting to disappear at the moment. Waiting for the shaky feeling to die down so that I could calmly pack away my things, I told myself to buy another latte and a bottle of water, but only after that phantom left.
They did, and I proceeded with my emergency escape plan. I tried to remain poised in front of the baristas who were familiar with me, as a frequent customer. But do they know by now that I have trouble maintaining eye contact, whenever something is bothering me? If they did notice, they said nothing, maybe to maintain face or to keep in mind of the others waiting behind me in line. There was no need to express my concerns to them, unless it is checking to make sure that I get almond milk for my order.
Even after having everything packed up and picking up my latte to go from the counter, my hands were shaking more from the anxiety being shoved down by my willpower than by the cold weather that really felt like autumn. Deep breaths as I slowly walked out the door and checking around the corner, in hopes that the phantom was not waiting for me with ill intent. The coast was clear, so I moved with my guard up and my direction forward to go home.
I visited my dad at the nursing/rehab center, where he was having dinner. Soon he will be back home, to be taken cared of by only two people instead of a staff. I thought of the past year, when we did not have help or reference guides on caregiving. Will it become that way again?
In that state of thought, I caught a glimpse into a potential future. Another visitor, a grown woman, was checking in on her aging parents, much older than mine. Overhearing their verbal exchanges, it made me think of my own parents, of my position as the “dutiful daughter” who is obligated by blood and filial piety to make sure that they are well enough to take care of themselves. Will I be able to manage being independent (eventually) and providing attention to those dependent on me because I am their child whom they had raised?
The panic from earlier in the afternoon slowly rose up, almost coming out from my eyes. But the tears barely fell out, maybe because of my need to maintain face prevented their flow. I looked at my dad, who was dozing off to sleep (as he usually does), and saw that his hair is nearly white but his eyebrows are black. Parts of his face decided to retain the youth I only knew about from photographs and stories of the Philippines. I reached out for my mom’s hand, as she asked me if I wanted to go home now, since Dad was ready to go to sleep. I hesitated, wondering if it was alright to leave. Mom waited patiently for me to decide to let go of Dad’s hand.
As Mom spoke to one of the nurses on staff, I waited near the nurse’s station, looking towards the exit. If I looked back, that painful feeling that had been building up in the last few hours would bring me to actual tears. But thankfully one of the nursing aides came by to ask how I was doing. How is school? It’s tiring. Hang in there. Do not worry about your father. He is taken cared of. I’ll try. You need to take care of yourself first. Remember that. Okay, I will.
It was the same kind of advice I was given last time, when things were even more overwhelming because it was at a time when the whole world seemed to be against us, against my family and myself. But hearing that advice now brought me back to reality, in the sense that we had survived that traumatic time. We were much stronger now, as a unit. And personally, I am at a much better position now than before. The stresses that I am experiencing now are new, but the stresses of before shaped my mental fortitude to face the present.
Things will be changing soon. I do not want to quit. I do not want to lose my opportunity of becoming what I was truly meant for. All who know what I am about are supporting me, so why should I believe the doubts that sneak into my consciousness? I finally found my groove again, which had been long buried for years; it was important for me to focus on myself first before thinking of how I will recover that groove.
Chestnut praline lattes help. (Preferably one per day.)