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The ‘Present’

Illustration by Jaymee L. Amores

Today is a gift from God, from the Universe, from evolution, from your parents, from your significant other. Whichever deity you believe in, know that each breath you take is a gift, and multiply each breath with the number of hours there has been so far today, and you know how abundantly you have been blessed.

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift of God, which is why we call it ‘the present’.”

I don’t remember where I picked up that paragraph or the quotes that I am sharing below, but because they have made such an impact on me I actually jotted them down on my iPhone. Could be from a classic. Could be from Instagram. Could be from a stranger.

Today, the first working day of the year, I strung all these pearls of wisdom I gathered the past year into a necklace. It is a present to myself, and to all those who want its luster.

These are my pearls, and they are by no means finite:

1. “Starting over is being the hero of your own life.” I picked up that pearl from a movie about a dysfunctional family, I kid thee not, getting ready for a reunion on Christmas Eve. In Love the Coopers, the family patriarch Bucky goes to the same diner every day even if the food is lousy because he has formed an attachment to one of its waitresses, Ruby. One day, he is shocked that she is leaving the diner for another job, and she tells him, quoting a line from a book, that “to start over is to be the hero of one’s life.” 

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Believing in second chances and new beginnings alone won’t whisk you off your lot like Lois Lane being scooped up by Superman from a raging river. Quitting smoking or a bad relationship, finding a job that makes you want to get up every morning, going out of the “closet,” losing weight if your weight has become a burden to you, is being your own superhero.

2. “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” As long as one isn’t spending government money for one’s explorations, one has truly not lived life to the fullest if one hasn’t discovered as much of the beautiful world that we live in as one can — above and below sea level. From the snow-contoured Alps to the coral castles beneath the sea in El Nido, the world is such a palette of shapes, colors and textures that you should behold. Travel while you can, and while the world still is a relatively friendly place to explore.

Last November, I took a trip of a lifetime that unleashed the child in me. I traveled to the northernmost region of Finland and listened to sleigh bells ring as reindeers and huskies drove me around fields carpeted by powdery snow. So, whatever one’s age, go to a place where you can shriek and giggle and no one will mind as they, too, young and old, will be shrieking and giggling.

3. This saying is as ancient as the Old Testament, “You harvest what you sow.” Gina de Venecia once told me that a lot of the good that has come to her life was freely given by people who were recipients of her parents’ kindness. And so she tells people who are kind to her that if she is not able to repay them, for sure, her children will, in one way or the other. The kindness one has sown is never lost, and the harvest may be beyond what you put in. And I’m not talking about interest rates or dividends, either.

4. “Work is a virtue. Rest is a virtue. To neglect one or the other would be a sin.” It is true that we work hard in order to afford to rest. How can one fund that trip to Bora or Istanbul if one doesn’t save up for it? Just remember that it is important to have not just a living, but also a life. And even when the spirit is willing but the flesh has a 39-degree fever, you’re not getting past the check-in counter of the airport.

5. Be still. Not the kind of still that you want to extricate yourself from when caught in a traffic gridlock in Metro Manila. The kind of “still” I’m talking of is when you pause, not just to smell the flowers, but to plant them. To wrap one’s fingers around a warm mug of hot chocolate or coffee and savor its rich flavor while watching The Crown or Definitely, Maybe.

During a trip to Vienna this year, I was told by our guide that the Viennese, “Eat well, drink well and hate to be rushed.” Rush by all means if you have a deadline, but avoid being often in a situation where you have to be rushed. That’s the reason why I’m not a morning person (for meetings). I like savoring my coffee as I look dreamily at the pocket garden off the dining room, lost in a moving sea of green, observing the birds hop from wall to tree and back. Which brings to mind what someone once told me, “Joy is like a bird. Enjoy it while it’s there.”

Sometimes, it is when I am still that the solutions to problems big and small come to me.

6. “Time is a gift that you cannot take back.” I think it was Donnie Tantoco who said this at the Rustan’s Christmas party with the media, when he thanked guests for making time to be with his family amid the holiday rush. Once you’ve given someone your time, it’s his or hers forever. And even if two people fall at odds with each other, whether business partners or domestic partners, the time they’ve given each other is a good keepsake, for old times’ sake.

7. I used to think that the line in the song, The Greatest Love of All, “Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all” was too narcissistic and a lot of humbug. Apparently, it is true. Never ever underestimate yourself, or let others downgrade your true worth. You are a gift to others. You are the present. You bring others joy and childlike glee. And if they tell you you don’t, then be a present to yourself by being your best version.

 Happy New Year, everybody!

Be as much-awaited as a present.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com.)

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