I am away from our home for two weeks, and in lieu of daily writing, I’m running a series called Travel Diaries, with excerpts from my travel journal from the year I spent traveling around the world. I left Melbourne, Australia on September 16, 2008 to spend a year away from my home visiting friends, family, making new friends and visiting far away lands. These excerpts are as accurate as can be with the more shocking typos edited for my own pride’s sake.

Monday 22 September 2008

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

New Zealand is stunning. I keep thinking to myself that if God has a favourite place on earth, this might be it. Stunning Southern Alps arranged in a circle, with the ice blue lake in the middle, just enough shimmer on it from the sun for it to sparkle, but not too much for it to lose its radiant blue. In the distance there is a mist hovering over the water.

The mountains bow down to you, oh Lord. And they do here in New Zealand. I was singing loudly to Hillsong, “We declare the glory of your name…reign in all the earth, Jesus,” normally I would change that, but I knew the mountains and the trees and rocks were crying out to you, too.

… rice paper, make rice paper rolls as Husband and I did last week (inspired by friends who did the same with us before that). I had no idea how easy it is to make rice paper rolls. We bought the dry stuff from the supermarket, soaked it in warm water for a minute or two then filled it with what we hand on hand, which is to say these are the most basic kind of veggie rice paper rolls. But they were so good, and without a doubt we will be eating them more regularly.

  • Simple Veggie Rice Paper Rolls    Soften the rice paper wrapper by soaking it in hot water for a minute or two. Our fillings were: grated carrots, chopped lettuce, mint and coriander leaves and we put a sauce inside the roll made of soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, grated ginger and chopped chilis. Wrap up your rolls and dip in sweet chili sauce.

The world is moving toward the lake to watch the sparkling fireworks. I see them as I get off Tram 14 at Bel Air, crowds of people pressed against the railing over the Rhône River, straining their necks to see the bursts of light and colour over Lake Geneva.

It’s not your everyday fireworks show. It is considered one of the best in the world, lasts for one hour and is choreographed to music, and on Saturday night August 11, watching the fireworks is the only thing to do.

I had been out with friends, eating dinner and singing karaoke. When was the last time I sang karaoke? I honestly can’t remember, and there haven’t been many evenings out with friends in the past year (less than 10).

In Small One’s first year, I can’t remember how many times I cried to Husband about having lost my life. There is no number that I can think of that would be accurate, but I know that it was many, many times. I would catalogue the losses for Husband: my time, my energy, my dreams, my vision, my skills, my body, and the list goes on. Having a baby was one the most healing things I’ve ever done, but it came at a cost, and in my mind the cost was everything that I was. 

But summer 2012 arrived in Geneva, and with each passing day, someone is handing my life back to me one little piece at a time. I stopped nursing Small One, and my hormones regulated. Dates with Husband that remind me of our pre-marriage months except with all the marriage benefits of knowing each other better, increased, laughing more. There has been lots of summer heat, cotton skirts, lunches in the park with Small One, McDonalds take out for both of us by the lake, the Fête de Genève and meaningful times with friends.

The pinnacle of these moments was Saturday night sitting in the dimly lit interior of Aquarium, a small bar that has karaoke evenings. Singing is one of my favourite hobbies, karaoke reminds me of my childhood in the Philippines and it’s a chance to exercise my vocal chords to cheesy music. We are virtually the only ones there, the old DJ is trying to sound cool while he sings the first French song, he’s got a bright red light on in one part of the room to try and make it look cooler, I think. We browse thick karaoke books looking for songs to sing, and yes, I am feeling carefree and a little bit wild. The waitress comes by and puts three shots down in front of us – on the house because we sound good, she said – and here I am, having a great time and an identity crisis all at once.

I’ve never had a shot in my life. I know, I know, how old am I? Alcohol isn’t really my thing except for white whine, champagne and Amarula, and I don’t like to drink when I have to go home alone late at night. Nevertheless my moment of feminine independence seems to be set up to perfection: Alone with the girlfriends, check, Karaoke bar, check, dodgy DJ, check, shots, check.

And I can’t do it. I picked up the shot glass to take a sip – sweet, strong, alcohol, I guess – and I couldn’t drink it. I sing Shania Twain’s “Holding On To Love (To Save My Life),” and I’m feeling good. I love karaoke. Around 9:50pm, I call it a night, get on Tram 14 to Bel Air where I’m going to change to a bus. The tram pulls into Bel Air, the doors open into a packed crowd standing from the tram stop to the railing over the river. The fireworks started 10 or 15 minutes before, and it is beautiful. Fiery stars lighting up the sky, colours of every sort shimmering above us.

I walk away from the crowd, still turning as much as I can to catch the view, and head for the Bust 3 stop where I wait. The bus arrives and empties completely, everyone is walking toward the lake, drawn like magnets toward the fireworks. I take one look back, hop on the bus. It is completely empty, just the bus driver and I, and I sit in my favourite seat.

I am going home. 

I want my life to be like this mushroom carbonara we had last weekend. Easy. Quick. Minimal effort that produces fabulous quality and taste. Chopping the onions and mushrooms, crushing the garlic and sauteeing it together while the spaghetti boiled took around 10 minutes, and I have a 10-minute heart and life stopwatch inside that goes off whenever a problem, issue, person or my own self starts to head in the 30-minute, or God-forbid, the hour-long direction.

Why didn’t I listen to those who told me that the living of life, the sorting through of life, the fixing and mending of  life takes time. The change we want, the desires we have, and the ache of lack clenches inside me. It’s a familiar feeling, one I lived with since I was a child. Whether it was not getting picked to be on the newspaper in grade six or the pain of friendship betrayals in high school, I always knew there was more, that somehow the person I was and the things I was doing was not representative of what was deep inside. I could never figure it out then; I was only maddeningly impatient with myself, loathing myself for not being where I was supposed to be because it was supposed to be happening now. Everything should come together right here right now. 

Life takes time, and time gives life. 

It has only been in the past weeks that this came together for me as I am slowly beginning to see the life that grows around me and the life that blooms inside of me after years of only being able to see pain, death and emptiness. Time gives life because it takes time to bring life into existence, it takes time to birth life, it takes time to create life. 

I remember after Small One was born thinking about when he would start sleeping through the night. I didn’t care so much that he woke up at night, but sleeping through the night would be an achievement, my achievement, proof that I was a good parent and knew what I was doing. So he was going to sleep through the night. Early. Earlier than everyone else’s babies.

You know where this story goes. Of course he didn’t sleep through the night early, and I tried things I should not have tried to get him to sleep more because I was ignoring the laws of time and placing myself as lord over time. He needed time, and the truth is, I needed it, too. I needed those night feedings of holding him in my arms, getting to know him, understanding him, falling in love with him. I needed the time to think, to watch early sunrises, and I needed to be taken to my emotional and physical limit to realize that I would not be able to do this on my own because having a baby is an exercise in knowing you can’t do it alone. 

It took time, but time brought life to us and we learned what worked for Small One, for us, for our family.  

I remember battling fear and insecurity about everything from school and grades to food and cooking to make up to hair cuts to clothing to money to boys to men to university choice to what people thought of me to what people in positions of influence thought of me to having enough friends to really this list could go on for a while.

And I remember thinking I could not go on like this but my ways of trying to fix it ignored the one thing I needed for “it” to change – I needed time. It has only been in the daily living, the daily facing of daily challenges, the daily choosing to say no to the daily fear and the daily insecurity that has led to the daily covering of the daily peace and the daily freedom. 

I remember when Husband and I started our marriage, and I moved into his apartment. He wasn’t a typical bachelor – the flat was cleaner then than it is now – and he had good taste in furniture and appliances, but I still wanted everything decorated now, everything needed to be thrown away, sorted, cleaned out, organized now. But Husband lives by the laws of time, he does not have an internal stopwatch that goes off when something is taking too long, and he does not do something for the sake of completing an imaginary list or schedule. He does not rush. Ever.

I didn’t kick and scream because that’s not how I do things, but every few months my internal stopwatch went off and a meltdown ensued. I cried, I whined, I complained, I got angry because nothing was changing, everything was still the same. 

How much heartache could I have saved all of us if I could have just waited? Why didn’t I realize that the months of “suffering” with disorder was something that would come together with time? We needed time to see what was the best way to go about tackling our things, we needed time to know what kind of home we wanted to create, we needed time to find the right pieces of furniture and the style that is us, not the style that is me or the style that is him.

The time is right now as we slowly work our way through this home, deciding what will stay and where it will stay, brainstorming ideas for how to better organize and build our family’s possessions and dreaming of creative projects that best suit the space that we have. We are off-schedule already, parts of our flat are a mess, and it is good.

But even this, this doing that we have now, this time that I have waited impatiently for, even this is taking time, but for a change I am not whining, crying and complaining because after two years – and maybe even a lifetime – of impatience, my heart is a little wiser and knows that it will take time, it has to take time, life takes time and time brings life. 

  • Mushroom Carbonara   (from delicious. magazine)  An easy recipe for lunch or dinner. The ingredient list is simple, and it takes 10-15 minutes to cook from start to finish. I have all the ingredients between our pantry and fridge, with the mushrooms being the only thing I would normally have to plan for.

(Part 1 here)

1. The only way to know that a need exists is to pay attention. 

Listen. Listen. Listen some more. Watch. Pay close attention to detail. When you give someone your full mental, emotional and physical attention, it is much easier to know if there is a need and how you can meet it. When you are talking, chastising, correcting and questioning, it impedes your ability to understand, and your baby – and everyone else in your life – needs you to understand more than they need anything else. Wise understanding is the best foundation on which to build your words, love, correction and discipline. 

2. There is a space that you can fill, and there is a space that you can’t fill. 

There are needs that are for me to meet, and there are needs that are not for me to meet. When I spend my time filling a space that’s not for me, I waste my time and my energy. Focus on the needs you can meet and give yourself to those things not to everything.

3. All of us have deep, aching needs that cannot be met by other people. 

In no small terms, having a child has shown me again and again and again that God is real. From the beginning it was abundantly clear to me that my son had needs I could not meet. When he was fearful, he needed peace in his spirit, and even if  was there, holding him, speaking kind words to him, nursing him, some times the fear was so deep, that nothing I could do would soothe him.

Oh storm-tossed one and not comforted…

He’s not alone; all babies have needs that his or her parent obviously cannot meet, and if we are deeply honest with ourselves, no human relationship can meet our deepest, “adult” needs. We try, we search, we fill the void in our souls with the best – or worst – that other people, but the best of people is not enough for us. Because we were made for more, for eternity, and we were made to be known and to know God, and it’s only there, in him, that our needs can truly be met.