Lessons From Mama and Papa

I think most people who know me would agree that I'm not a seaworthy douchecanoe. On occasion, I may rise to the level of Decent Person. I owe a lot of that to the lessons that Fragrant Mother and Father taught me. I like to say that I'm half-crazy on my mom's side (edit: my mom says she's a "free spirit") and half-robot on my dad's, but overall, I think I made it through Life pretty okay, for now anyway.

Here are the nuggets of wisdom dropped by my parental units that help me out:

MAMA SAYS: BE POLITE.

This is not to say that you should hide your raging homicidal tendencies behind a veneer of civility. No, the politeness my mom espoused had to do with acknowledging another person's existence, which is the foundation for respect. Respectfulness and politeness go hand-in-hand in Tagalog; the language is structured to indicate one's position in the age hierarchy. Elders get the most respect, and have to be addressed by their proper titles -- Lolo/Lola/Ate/Kuya/Tito/Tita/etc. -- and the honorific "po" or "opo" attached to sentences when speaking to someone so exalted because they were born before you. When I was a kid, my mom would roar, "OPO!!!!" when I forgot myself and just said the ordinary "oo" for "yes" when speaking to someone older.

Being polite sends a message: that everyone deserves a greeting or a thank you, that the world isn't actually filled with trolls, and that yes, you may ask me for directions, tourist, and I may even give you the correct ones. Most of all, it says you are not a clogged douchenozzle.

PAPA SAYS: WE DO NOT SPEAK OF BAD THINGS.

Sure, it could be a recipe for an early heart attack, but what he means is: if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything. This is especially important when I feel angry. I just hold it in because I know, I know, that I will inevitably regret what I say. So I just go into silent mode until I can process my emotions or, even better, eat my feelings. My silence causes Fragrant Husband to go into panic mode, which is a happy bonus. j/k babes luv u!

MAMA SAYS: INVEST IN FOOD.

My mom used to plow through dessert before a meal. Why wait until after the meal to enjoy what you really came here for?, she reasoned, heart palpitating. Back in Manila, she brought us kids to all the rumored hot spots for food: fancy hotel restaurants, mountainside barbecues, and once to a sketchy hole-in-the-wall with Middle Eastern men openly asking for children from the waitresses. This happened. The shawarma was delicious.

Food is comforting. I feel good after a plate of curry, or a bowl of sinigang, or some divine fried chicken. Today at the office I was so stressed that I ate half a Dunkin Donut (the other half is for tomorrow!) and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Some folks like to buy art to nourish their spirits; I buy fries and my soul sings. An investment in food is an investment in your very soul.

PAPA SAYS: BOOKS ARE OUR FRIENDS.

A few months ago, my dad mailed me a flash drive -- shaped like a piece of sushi -- with thousands of e-books in it, continuing his tradition of giving me any reading material my little heart desired. Now I'm reading World War Z, and I'm happy as a clam on my daily commute. Fiction and non-fiction have the power to transport us into the lives of others. Books stimulate our brains and offer fodder for chattering excitedly at our spouses. They're a wholesome escape. Whenever I feel down, I pick up a book and voila! Serenity is mine.

Reading like it's my job also helped me score high on the verbals for SATs and GREs, which were stepping stones to some of the glittering text in my resume, which have been very helpful in le job search. See how it all ties together?

MAMA SAYS: WALK.

Me and mom used to go on walks around the village. I would tease her for walking like a duck; she'd get mad and not talk to me for five minutes; rinse and repeat. One time, I attempted to listen to music while we walked. The tragic wailing--"Y u no want talk 2 me?"--was enough to turn me into a super aggressive listener during walks.

Now that I work at a health center and have been writing proposals about type-2 diabetes and other preventable diseases, I believe ever more fervently in exercise. Walking is low-impact, social, and good practice for people-watching and gossiping while politely saying hello. Plus, I get to pet dogs! It's a win-win for everyone.

PAPA SAYS: SLEEP.

And how. In my childhood, my dad regularly showed his mastery of the art of falling asleep while sitting up. The man can sleep anywhere: on a lumpy couch, in a moving vehicle, and probably on a magic rug en route to Agrabah while Aladdin and Jasmine sing to each other. I'm still unclear whether I inherited his superior sleep-genes or if I just learned by watching him calmly pass out, but I can sleep anywhere, too. Very useful skill on international flights, let me tell you.

Sleep is also super important in everyday life, because without enough sleep, I turn into a tired, angry panda. I can't focus or spell correctly, I'm barely civil, and I am in actual danger of falling asleep at my desk, which would be B-A-D. So I've learned to tune out when Sheba gets her meow on. Still working on sleeping through husband's snoring.

MAMA AND PAPA SAY: WE BELIEVE IN YOU! BE HAPPY!

I've never had any doubt that my parents believe in me and want me to be happy. I wasn't petted and fawned over like a star athlete or an honor student (which I was, by the way, thank you for asking)--both parents always tried to be fair. But they made it clear that they knew I could do it -- whatever it was -- and that if I was happy and not axe-murdering people and/or committing other heinous crimes, that was fine by them. That assurance is a pretty great gift, and it makes me determined to never be a burden to them, although of course if my fortunes fall I shall be living rent-free with one of them in a hot second. Hint, hint.

***

This post brought to you by a pork chop that could have been more moist, and half-burnt wedding carrot cake. It's a long story.

I hope everyone survived their Hump Day!