Just roll with it

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“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Joseph Campbell

Finding who she is meant to be

I’ve always had a special connection to music, the melody, the lyrics, and relating it to something going on in my life. Growing up, I used to have song lyrics taped to my desk, which until this day, my dad has kept in his garage so my kids could also grow up with knowing their mom in a relatable way. Through music, I’ve been able to go through the most challenging of moments and also feel alive and free in my most joyous moments.

This time last year, I was starting to settle into my body and spirit as a woman. I had just come from a retreat in Tulum feeling refreshed and ready to take on that next year of life. I had much to look forward to at that moment in time: my previous partner and I were building and designing a home for our future family, while I was really enjoying my new role at Google and settling into my Bay Area routine.

The next thing I knew, my world experienced a tornado and I was thrown into a reality that I never expected to happen: a separation and subsequent divorce. As I accepted this reality in ending our marriage, I spent a lot of time singing with so much emotion and released tears of sadness. It was the end of a deep relationship, mourning for the loss of the plans I had for us, and also so scared for what’s to come. In-between sessions with my therapist, I had a lot of anxious thoughts. How would people now perceive me? Would I get labeled? How will I get through this time of my life alone, single, and without strong roots in a new city? These thoughts were so painful and scary, so I dealt with them in the best way I knew how…I sang. I sang “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles and I cried in my living room after packing boxes that would be transferred to my San Francisco studio that weekend.

A fresh start

It took a community of people from all over the world to help me transition into this new life. I am particularly grateful for the 4 amazing humans who helped me move into my SF apartment and my dog Wonton, who I kept as my fur baby and dearest everyday companion. As I started to share my new reality with my family and closest friends, I started to feel more ready to share openly with people outside of my core circles.

I let my coworkers into my new adjustment, and they were an amazing group to be surrounded by during a bulk of my week. I am very grateful to call them my friends. I also let my relatives know of this change and I am grateful for their support as I went through this life change. I exposed myself to events that I thought would be a particularly hard time, like my friend’s wedding in May, where I was surprisingly okay and actually inspired by his parents in finding love again. I surrounded myself around my best friends and family those following months, traveling across the US and to the Philippines to reconnect to my roots and discover who this new version of me was.

When I felt like I was ready to date, I met really great men who enjoyed and appreciated my company. For those discouraged about dating: don’t waste your precious time with people who don’t align with your values and interests. Find your best self and everything else will come together in due time. Even though I wasn’t looking for anything serious, I wanted to ensure that those I would go on dates with was worthy of my time and because of this, they really got to genuinely know me. They also valued my transparency in my dating goals, which was to figure out who I wanted to date in the first place, haha. This was a really fun period during this critical time in my life!

What I am really proud of during this time, is that I really made an effort to be present and self-aware. I spent a lot of time doing the things I loved, which included A LOT of hours outside. I bought an awesome gravel bike and would go to Marin for fresh air, I would ride my e-bike to work three times a week, I would check out fitness studios in SF, I would go on long walks in random parks with Wonton, I would listen to a lot of books and podcasts, I would go on hikes, I went to music festivals, and I would spend 5 hours of my Saturday morning teaching Pilates in Palo Alto. I was feeling my best, looked my best, and it felt so damn good. I was getting into a rhythm with myself and I was building the strongest relationship with this version of me. I was in SUPERBLOOM (“Superbloom” by MisterWives)!

The end of an amazing summer and the beginning of a new love

I will look back very fondly at last summer, because it was a season of discovery, so much magic, and so much acceptance of what is. I did a lot of work to ensure that I felt safe, that I felt grounded, and that I truly believed that I was exactly where I need and was meant to be. I meditated daily and spent a lot of time asking myself if I was fully aware of my thoughts, emotions, and feelings as I processed such a huge life change. Those months following my separation and divorce created the stable foundation that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In reflecting in this last year, I am most proud of the work I put in to better myself, to give myself space, and to allow all of the emotions to arrive at my feet.

I had open eyes, kept an open mind, and seriously, out of nothing, stars aligned (“Naama” by Sultan + Shepard). This is truly when I started to believe in magic, haha. The magic that was within me sprinkled on old friendships I strengthened, new friendships I built, and exploded into a new love that developed into a deep relationship that I want to nurture forever (“Got 2 Believe In Magic” by Rico Yan & Claudine Barretto).

Last fall, I explored this new relationship very thoroughly, while simultaneously adjusting to developing a non-romantic relationship with my ex. Out of all that we’ve been through….I know we’re cool (“Cool” by Gwen Stefani). I am very grateful to be great friends after going through a complex time in our lives and I look back at our time very fondly. We continue to support each other as we explore new avenues of our lives and this is also a lifelong relationship I want to nurture.

And for my new love: I hesitantly fell in love with Dylan, knowing that I wasn’t ready to open up romantically…but goddamn you got me in love again (“Love Again” by Dua Lipa). Because of his friendship, patience, and love, I opened up in ways I never thought I would in a short amount of time. My soul trusted his care and I am so grateful to Dylan in giving me the space to adjust and his understanding of my need to feel grounded in my new life. Even though we are separated by 5,000 miles, we continue to go great lengths for each other and in ensuring that our relationship is tenderly cared for. As we close out on this winter, what I will remember the most is how strong of a bond we’ve built with each other, our families, and our friends. So proud of us, mahal ko! To my moon and my star, thank you for taking care of my heart and soul and giving me everything you’ve got. Let’s continue this wild love of ours. As you’ve said, we have magic in our hands. Your unconditional love takes me to paradise & you make my life soooooo sweet (“I Belong To You” by Lenny Kravitz).

From 28 and feeling great to 29 and feeling fiiiiiine

Honestly, when I turned 28 last year, I felt like I was in my early 30s, as I was preparing for a totally different stage of life and having accomplished so much while also experiencing so many life challenges at a young age. The silver lining in my mom dying when I was 23 is that it forced me to rethink many of life’s moments that feel significant, that are actually pretty insignificant. It forced me to look at the bigger picture, to look at the glass half full, and to ask myself the hard questions we sometimes avoid because we don’t like the answers. These challenges make us better humans and I am grateful to my parents, mentors, and friends in guiding me and am particularly thankful in continuing to build that spiritual relationship with my late mother.

As I take breaths and experience my 29th year of life, I promise to continue living my life fully, to be ever-present, and to appreciate what is. I am ready to continue riding the wave, not trying to deny it or fight it and just roll with it (“Feeling Free” by LEISURE). In a few days, I’ll be leaving for an amazing three-week trip with my best friends exploring Portugal, Italy, and showing them the Netherlands from mine and Dylan’s eyes. What a gift it is to be see and experience the world while having work flexibility and to have such special friends that light your fire.

So to those who have followed my rollercoaster JOURNEY (wow!): I appreciate you. Thank you for your love, your support, and your time. I feel amazing in my own skin, in my experience thus far as a woman in her own home, and am trusting the process during our limited time on earth. Let’s keep this energy goingggggg, fam!

5 Magical Years Since

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As I sit on a moving train, looking at my left hand, I look at my 5 fingers and reflect on the last 5 years since my mom took her last breath and joined the angels. Today, and every day, I miss her. Sometimes I miss her so much it brings me to tears and my heart hurts in mourning for her loss. Sometimes I also miss her so much I cry with joy in the magical experiences I have when I feel her around me. She’s continued to care for me and her loved ones here in the physical world and we are all so blessed to be loved by sweet, spunky, and beautiful, Levy. My Momma.

me + mom // nov 2016

It’s how I feel around you
My head is on my body, but I don’t feel it
It’s getting hard to doubt you
Just like my mama said you shouldn’t second guess
I’m feeling this

Feel Around You – Le Youth

As I make my way to LA to be reunited with some of my favorite people and honor Levy’s 50 years of life, I’ll take this time to share the 5 most magical moments where I’ve felt her warmth around me…where she gave me gifts here on earth when I needed them most. She continues to inspire me, to show her motherly love, and ensure that I’m consciously living my best life. I love you Momma!

The first year

In my darkness I remember
Momma’s words reoccur to me
“Surrender to the good Lord
And he’ll wipe your slate clean”

Take me to your river
I wanna go
Oh, go on
Take me to your river
I wanna know

River – Leon Bridges

In the first year since her death, the most magical moment that stood out to me was the first time I saw my mom since her passing. She visited me in a dream in the summer of 2018, right before I was leaving for my Europe trip with girlfriends to the Netherlands, Greece, and Italy.

walking around Vatican City // aug 2018

Before she died, she was saying how if she felt good enough to fly, the first place she’d go to would be to visit the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Since she wasn’t able to do that, I did that for her.

When she visited me in my dream, she was wearing a crossbody bag, with jeans, and a flowy cardigan. This version of my mom was her in a recent state where her hair was growing back after her chemo and it was short, thick, and very curly! We were walking hand-in-hand on the cobbled streets of Rome and slowly going towards the Vatican. This is the scene I remember very clear in my memory.

When I woke up, I cried. I was relieved to be comforted by her presence and was grateful she came to visit. The next time I cried after that was in the actual Vatican, where I prayed for my mom, my dad, my brother, my loved ones. I prayed that she’ll continue to visit me. I prayed that my mom is dancing and singing in heaven. I prayed that I’ll never forget her.

The second year

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for you

And everything you do

Yellow – Emmit Fenn

In the second year since her death, the most magical moment was when I saw my momma in three different women while I was eating by myself at Cafe de Flore in Paris, France. It was a gorgeous May afternoon and I was traveling alone through France after separating from friends in Ireland.

feeling joy, warmth and hope // may 2019

To my left side was a mother/daughter duo speaking in English and from America. They both resembled what I knew my mom and I would’ve done if she were still here: I’d take her traveling with me to all the places she’d always dreamed of seeing. I saw my mom in the mother.

After the mother/daughter duo left, an older woman in her 60s with her dog replaced their spot. She said she recently lost her husband and was learning how to be on her own. She was also coincidentally from Washington state and lived close to Seattle! We shared some beautiful stories of our loved ones who left us. She actually took this series of photos, where one is shared above. I saw my mom in her.

After the photos were taken, an old woman was passing us from our right and she stopped to say something to me. She was speaking in French but I can tell she was saying something kind. I just said “Merci” as she walked away and smiled. I asked the woman next to me to translate and she said that the old woman was saying that I was so beautiful and happy. I was touched and really felt like my mom was right there next to me. I saw my mom in the old woman who stopped to tell a stranger they were beautiful.

The third year

I know what you’re going through
Listen, I’m a lot like you
We’re just a different shade of blue
I feel you, I feel it too

I Feel You (Sun Soaked Mix) – Kaskade

In the third year since her death, a magical moment I remember was in January before the pandemic started and I was in Koh Lanta, Thailand floating in the crystal blue waters. All I heard was the sound of my breath, the soft movement of the water around me, and all I felt was peace. I felt my mom’s presence floating out on the water. I had an epiphany here and this was when I told my then partner that I wasn’t happy in Seattle and wanted to move. I needed change, I needed more sunshine in my life, and I want to have more moments where I feel my mom.

sassy on a thai beach // jan 2020

My toes in the sand and feeling the waves kiss my toes is when I feel her. The ocean and I are connected that way. The ocean has washed away my tears. The ocean has muffled my cries of devastation through the losses I’ve experienced. The ocean has given me solace. The ocean reminds me of sunsets I’ve seen with my family growing up in LA. The ocean gives me magic.

The fourth year

I deserve congratulations (thank you)
I’d never thought that I’d survive
If you tell me I won’t make it
That’s when I, that’s when I

Superbloom, superbloom

Superbloom – Misterwives

In the fourth year since her death, a magical moment I experienced was finding this beautiful arrangement of white orchids (her favorite). I placed it by the window of my NYC apartment, and when walking by it, I would be mentally saying “Hi!!!!!” to my momma. This year, I was starting to really find ways to see her, feel her, and hear her even though she wasn’t physically here. I was still connected to the one who gave me life.

orchids + nyc views // jun 2021

This was the year I felt her many times, though. I felt her when my ex and I were told of the news that our house had sold for the price that it did and we felt so blessed for the financial freedom it gave us. I felt her when we were driving to NYC from Seattle and it was just a little fam excitedly starting a new adventure. I felt her when we moved back to CA and memories flooded my brain of growing up in this state. I felt her when my depression hit again and the inner voice in me said that “I am not my best self, you must honor your mind and body and find your best self again”.

I am thankful for these many moments I find her. The “L” necklace I wear on me in moments where I’d like to “take her with me” was bought in 2021. Mother of Pearl, a reminder of my roots, a reminder of the first letter of my mother’s name, a reminder that she is always accessible to me, a reminder that I will always need and have my momma.

The fifth year

I want us to escalate
To know love is growin’
I want us to escalate
To know life is goin’
I was here yesterday
We had a promise made
I want us to escalate

Escalate – Ben Bohmer

In this fifth year since her death, I’ve felt her presence in less moments, but when I did feel her, they were sooooo strong. I was moved. This undoubtedly has been the most tumultuous year yet for me: I moved to a completely new home and started a new life…moved to a little studio in San Francisco after my ex and I separated and decided to end our marriage after seven years together…then unexpectedly found love again in the most magical of ways. I felt my mother’s magical presence when she gave me a wonderful human named Dylan.

our first photo after 36 hours together // jul 2022

There’s so much I can say about this epic love story I hoped to have after the end of one that was already so meaningful and deep. What I was hoping and trusted I would eventually find, was someone who would know how to take care of me when I couldn’t, and for someone to go on countless adventures with. Adventures in the outdoors, on land, in the sea, and in the air. Where Dylan and I met was at the Gorge Amphitheater at the Above & Beyond music festival in the early hours of a July day. We saw each other in the crowd, locked eyes, and have been inseparable ever since.

As we spent more time together that day on the hill at the gorgeous Gorge, we started to become great friends, opening up and sharing stories about ourselves, about where we were in our lives at that moment. We shared our deepest thoughts about life, family, friends, our roles in society as the humans we are, and our experiences in love and the loss of such.

After he shared a story about his beautiful little girl, I shared about the loss of my momma. As I felt the emotions running through all the cells in my body, Dylan, a mere stranger, comforted me and asked the most thoughtful of questions. The sun was shining as he held me, and as the sun shined on him, I smiled at my momma in the sky, who I knew sent me this amazing human who opened me up and connected with me in a way I would’ve never expected.

After 36 magical hours together, we decided to continue getting to know one another even though we were separated 5,475 miles from each other. I was in San Francisco and he was in Amsterdam. The Netherlands!! I met a man in a crowd and here we were feeling love for one another. Insane. But I honored the promise I made to myself to remain open and authentic and cautiously jumped off this cliff with Dylan, trusting the connection we had made and embracing what’s to come for me.

Over the last few months, we’ve visited one another in San Francisco and Amsterdam, got to know one another, have become the best of friends, and have grown to adore one another. He continues to respect my journey and supports me in all the ways I need to be supported. We speak the sweetest language of love. It’s an amazing feeling to find someone you have so much in common with. We have also become each other’s trusted partner. He gives my life a new meaning and I’m glad we found each other and both jumped hand-in-hand off the cliffs of a new love.

I am grateful that my momma gave me this man on that July night and am grateful that even on this day, I continue to feel joy, love, comfort, and peace as more days go by since I last held her hand. I thank her for this gift.

Fix me as I fix you

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face, and I

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Fix You (Live) – Coldplay

As the years go by, my memory, these posts, and stories of her is how I keep her alive here in the physical world.

I’ll never forget the minutes where I sang “Fix You” at her funeral. It took all of my strength to sing a song with so much meaning on the day we laid her to rest. After that day, I could barely get through the first ten seconds of this song without a breakdown. Now, I can listen to this song with a smile, knowing that I did my best as a daughter to care for my mom.

Her light has continued to guide me home. It ignites my bones and gives me the strength to continue moving forward when the pain is so much. She’s fixed me in the same ways I helped to fix her.

Not a day goes by where I don’t miss her. She’ll always be my beautiful momma. The giver of my life. The one I honor every morning I say hello to a new day. Let’s continue to do so. Let’s continue to honor the beautiful life our Levy lived.

Sending light and love to all those who honor her. I love you and thank you for loving her and thank you for loving us through the years.

Free Like a Bird // Oct 2022

Reflections
Feeling the presence of my Momma welcoming me into this new chapter of my life // Jun 2022

When every moment is
A choice you’re making
Just let it guide you
Down whatever road you’re chasing

Naama – Sultan & Shepard

It hit me like a granite wall when the words “divorce” left my mouth 6 months ago. We had just celebrated 5 years of marriage in January. We had secured a home to be built to house the kids we planned to have next year.

Boom. Wall. Tunnel vision. I feel like throwing up. What’s my family going to say? What will my friends think? How are strangers going to perceive me as a divorced woman?

Deep breaths. You’ve been through hard times. Take care of yourself. You’ve done your best. You both tried for 7 years. You knew your differences. You’ll always have love for one another. It was a true love match and it was special. But this will be hard….and you will get through this. “We” to “I” will become easier to say out loud.


Maybe I am learning how to love me more

Just a little bit (love me more)
Just a little bit (love me more)
Oh, I’m gonna try to (love me more)
With a little bit of love (love me more)

Love Me More – Sam Smith
Monterey, CA // June 2022

After moving into my little SF studio in May with my dog Wonton, I went on plenty of solo adventures, surrounded myself with my friends and family, and re-discovered myself.

It was liberating, exhilarating, moving, exhausting but in the best way. It was also a weird adjustment, seeing as I now spent time alone in my space without the partner I’ve been attached to for 7 years of my life. When times would get tough, I’d sent light and love to him, wishing him the best. I sang a lot, I biked a lot, hiked a lot, breathed fresh air a lot…doing all of my favorite things as much as I could. I listened to books, read books, still have books unfinished…went on long walks in the morning sun with the birds. I caught up with friends and family. I also made a lot of new friends. I challenged myself and put myself out there. I released the negative energy and welcomed all the positive the universe would give me.

I planned trips and activities every month until the end of the year. May was San Diego for a friend’s gorgeous wedding. June was LA, San Diego, Big Sur & Monterey. July was exploring Marin, climbing up Half Dome in Yosemite then to Seattle & the Gorge in WA, & a train to Chicago. August was Palm Springs for a bachelorette party then Cebu, Palawan, & Manila in the Philippines with family. September was Colorado with one best friend & Lake Chelan in WA for another’s beautiful wedding. October was Austin with more of my most cherished friends, and at the end of this month I’ll be seeing Amsterdam from a local’s eyes. In November I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Arizona with family. In December I’ll be in Europe again, then spending the start of 2023 in the Grand Canyon. And when I was home, I continued to teach 5 Pilates classes on Saturday mornings.

What a time to be aliiiiiiiive! I’m in awe of the beauty I see, the grace I experience, and the support I continue to receive.


You are exactly where you need to be

You are exactly where you are meant to be

You are enough

My daily affirmations
The start of my new chapter // May 2022
Fresh, salty air + morning sun // Jun 2022
An epic approach to Half Dome // Jul 2022
Reconnecting to my roots // Aug 2022
Exploring the moon // Sep 2022
Feeling freeeeeeeee // Oct 2022

Though I’ve gotten tired of spending time on an airplane, I’ve spent every second of every moment of the last 6 months of my life as present as ever, getting to know this version of me. The best version of me yet. And I am so grateful to each and every single person who has touched my heart and soul during this complex time in my life. Thank you for listening to me, checking in on me, making sure I’m okay, that I’m happy. Thank you for loving me in the way I need to be loved. Thank you for being you and for giving me your time and space.


Home with my girl // Oct 2022

Everything feels good, it feels healthy, and I feel whole. Onwards and upwards. Sending light and love to my wasband. Sending light and love to all my loves. Thank you all for sticking by my side and following me on my journey.

I’m experiencing the magic of love every day. I’m feeling free. & I continue to live my best life to honor the life my Momma has given me. She continues to send me presents here on earth and my most recent gift has been the best one yet…Keep ‘Em coming Momma!

I hope you know

The love you bring, the song you sing
I overflow, I hope you know
I hope you know

My current mood
Is gratitude

Gratitude – Above & Beyond
Magic on the lake with my gift from above

I will be blessed – Ben Howard // Sep 2022

Honor, Serenity, and Joy // Dec 2019

Reflections

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”

The Serenity Prayer

Hello!

 

Hello people of the world, those who have followed my journey from the beginning and have been tuning in on Wednesdays from around the globe to see if I have had any recent posts. I won’t apologize for my absence because these past 6-8 months of self-reflection and self-discovery have helped me immensely in figuring out how to honor my mother, discover serenity amidst the chaos, and find joy in the things I do. Today I post this on a Tuesday because it’s a special day and I know my mom would appreciate me taking the day off to unwind, reflect, breathe, and focus on myself after all my life’s crazy and consuming moments. She always worried that I worked too hard, too much, was always on the move and needed to slow down. So Momma, this one, as are many things I do, is for you.

Today marks two years since her death. I’ve had to learn how to calm the constant stream of questions that plagued my brain and led to my anxiety. Questions like: How do you heal a broken soul? How do you put an emotionally broken family together? How do you heal those wounds? How do learn to let go of the things you cannot change? How do you find joy in tragedy? How do you let someone in again?

I am having a hard time writing this because life has truly been great to me these past 6-8 months. I’ve felt more like my silly self. I’ve been able to move more freely. I’ve been able to concentrate on career, family, and friends. I’ve been able to let go of self-pity and accept my new reality. So when I think about the bad and ugly that has happened this year, I can’t help but shake in anger and feel emotional. I shake my head as I write this because in my anger, my mom’s spirit has told me to find serenity. I find her prayer, the prayer that she read when she had doubts and fears. A prayer she wrote down on her phone’s notes that I found after she passed…a series of intimate reflections as she coped with the cards God gave her.

If there is a silver lining I find from her passing at the age of 50, its that she has challenged us to find a life that is purposeful, graceful, kind and joyful. This requires self-awareness, empathy, respect, and courage–all qualities my mom, my dad, and my mentors have taught me as I’ve grown up and qualities I find in my close circle of friends that I consider my family. Goodness gracious do I feel blessed to be surrounded by these humans.

 

Honor: regard with great respect

It’s a word we don’t use often but hold so much weight. This year, I’ve found so many ways to honor my Momma.

It’s in the interactions I have with others. How do I show this person in front of me that I respect them as a human being? How do I become a better listener? How do I become a better ally?

It’s in the things I do with my body. How do I nourish my body? How do I take care of myself? Am I giving myself enough rest? Am I releasing tension effectively so I can move more freely more often?

It’s through these actions I feel her the most. When I am learning how to be a better partner and friend, I feel her the most. When I am treating a stranger with kindness, I feel her the most. When I empathize with someone as they share their stories, I feel her the most. When I am rested, awake, and active, I feel her the most. I try to honor her every second of every day.

 

Serenity: the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled

This is probably the hardest one I’ve had to learn. For most of 2018, I did not find serenity. I found the opposite: chaos, anger, sadness, anxiety, bad energy. They say time heals all wounds and I am a believer but it’s not just time that’s going to heal those wounds. You, yourself, need to help yourself heal your wounds. Only you can control how to react and accept. Only you can teach your mind to cope with triggers. Maybe you’ll have guidance along the the way, like my therapist that I was helped me through the roughest period of my life. But in the end, I had the power to change and grow.

Finding serenity has been so relieving for me. I had to learn how to accept the things I could not change. I had to muster up the courage to change the things I could change. I needed to develop the wisdom to know the difference between what I could and could not change. Through talking to someone, through meditation, through movement, through music, I have found serenity. I have found the one connection I could rely on to find my mom when I am lost.

I remember one of the first times I meditated after her loss. I lashed out in anger at my husband (don’t remember what caused it, classic angry Raelene) and needed to take a timeout. So I went into our apartment’s gym, turned on some loud music, cried while on the bike, got off the bike, then closed my eyes and meditated in silence. I thought of the last time I talked to my mom, the last time I held her warm hand. I had a huge breakthrough that night. In that room, while my eyes were closed, I imagined my mom and her hand and slowly my hand started to close and I felt warmth. I felt her spirit and I cried on the floor. What I would do to hold her hand again.

I’ve had a few more moments like these sprinkled throughout my past two years of grief, acceptance, and recovery. Those are the moments that I hold onto. When situations have gotten out of hand, I’ve reminded myself of serenity and how to find that again. You can only find it when you let go of the bad juju. I know that in time, the day will come where people will let go of their anger, learn to cope with their grief in a healthy way, and eventually feel the serenity my mother’s spirit has taught me.

I have shared these moments where I find her and through sharing those stories, I am also keeping her memory alive. I’ve also been able to help people recover from their grief too. She’s always with us. Maybe in your times of serenity, you have found her, too.

When I am serene, I feel her the most.

 

Joy: a feeling of great pleasure and happiness

When I finally felt emotionally balanced enough to watch Inside Out, that was when I remembered joy and how little I felt it, or was at least aware that I was feeling it, after she passed. It sounds silly, but grief is no joke. I didn’t even really have time to grieve for my grandpa’s death because a week after, my mom was in the hospital and for this, the process, I knew, would take some time. It took me almost a year after her death to muster up the courage to visit her final resting place. It took me more than a year to not feel triggered when others would talk about their mom and just be happy that they had a great relationship with their mom. It took me more than a year to open up and welcome my future stepmom into my life.

Life is all about adjusting and adapting to our environment so here are some moments that have brought me joy the past two years:

I know I felt joy at my wedding but I wasn’t really aware of it.

I felt joy again when I traveled to Amsterdam, Greece, and Rome with friends.

I felt joy again when I cooked an amazing Christmas dinner for my family at our home.

I felt joy again when I was able to let go of my anger and sadness and give my husband my unconditional love and affection

I felt joy again when I got my offer letter from Amazon and took the photo for my blue badge, knowing all the summers spent working, free time spent learning a new skill, and focus spent on professional development led me here.

I felt joy walking around Ireland with my best friends and adventuring by myself in France.

I felt joy again when I mowed my lawn after the spring and sat in the sunshine with my husband on our deck while we watched our two dogs run around.

I felt joy again when I danced my heart out with friends at the Gorge.

I felt joy again this past week when I was messing with my little brother and sang Christmas music in my kitchen while my husband watched in embarrassment and our now three dogs feared for their safety.

I continue to feel joy and for that, I am so grateful to be human. Those dark moments needed to happen so I can give it the attention it deserved and get to where I am now: a more balanced human being who knows when enough is enough and when to lean in if needed. A more balanced human being that knows how to cope with anger and sadness and feels free in moments of joy. I also give partial credit to Marie Kondo for this one. Do things that spark joy! Keep things in your life that spark joy! Doesn’t mean you should throw away the bad because that’s part of your journey as a human, too. Life isn’t about living through rose tinted glasses. It’s about living in the present. About seeing things as they are. About feels emotions the way they should be felt.

When I feel joy, I feel her most.

 


In loving memory of Librada “Levy” Balagtas Olivares

01.18.67 – 12.03.17


Happy Wellness Wednesday (Tuesday)!

I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts every other Wednesday so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.

This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.

This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.

We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.


 

Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂

 

“We” to “I” // Jun 2022

Uncategorized

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep Spring from coming”

Pablo Neruda

After 8 beautiful years together, we have decided to go our separate ways. It was a difficult decision we didn’t think we’d ever have to make, but we have realized that life is precious and if there is an opportunity to live a happier, healthier life, we should take it. Over our unique relationship, we developed the utmost respect for one another and wish each other the very best as we adjust to our lives as individuals. As we close one chapter and open another, we hope you’ll continue to support us in this new journey.

“I’ll Always Remember Us This Way” – Lady Gaga

laughs by the snoqualmie river // Jan 2017

Being that this is my blog, I’ll now take the time to share a few notes about the journey we had as a couple.

Meeting at a coffee shop in Seattle in the summer of 2014 was a clear memory that I recall fondly. It was a meeting that was full of lengthy and intriguing conversation, getting to know one another and fascinated by the very different worlds we lived in: me the extroverted business woman and him the introverted software engineer. We didn’t think it was a romantic match until 5 months later and from there a wonderful life adventure began. We eventually got engaged in Nov 2016, got married in Jan 2017, and celebrated our marriage in March 2018.

I look back at the past 8 years with peace, knowing that we loved each other deeply, did our best to take care of one another, and prioritized doing things that would make us happy. With our marriage now coming to an end, I know that we will be okay and will remain unique friends who will continue to support each other as we go through life separately.

How great it is to have experienced a love so pure and I am so appreciative of John for sharing his life with me and letting me into his incredible world. My wish is for him to live his happiest, best life!

“Fly As Me” – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic

snuggles with my dearest companion Wonton in our SF home // May 2022

As for me, I’ll continue to also live my best life with my girl Wonton—respecting this unique time to reflect, adjust, and be me. Outside of this life change, everything else surrounding me is thriving and I am incredibly grateful to have this balance in a challenging time. I’ll be eating, praying, and loving. I’ll be reconnecting and renewing. I’ll be spending a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors and exploring parts of the world I’ve never been to. I know in my heart this is the best decision we could make and I will continue to be a love lover! It’s one of the only kinds of magic we can experience as humans and something I know takes form in many ways. I look forward to what’s ahead and experiencing this life I get to live with the wisdom I’ve been given, resilience I’ve built, and love I have felt from many.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. —Frank Lloyd Wright

Just out here living life // Jan 2022

Reflections

When we are apart
Still feels like
Feels like home

“Home” – Ben Bohmer

My little crew enjoying an afternoon walk in Stinson Beach, CA // 12.03.2021 (Mom’s 4th death anniversary)

“Grief comes in waves” – Them & Those-who-have-experienced-it

The last time I wrote in my little internet diary was about a year ago. Leave it to my mom to get me to document my life so I can look back and see how I progress through life–the 18th would’ve been her 55th birthday and just last month was her 4th death anniversary. John and I also celebrated (well…in quarantine because we both got covid) our 5th wedding anniversary on the 21st! For those who have followed my journey, how wild is that?! Time has just gone quickly and just as slow at the same time.

What has made it go s l o w l y:

  1. Being in a time-warped pandemic where we had to learn to sit still for two years. I don’t really have any photos to showcase this point because frankly, I was doing nothing productive or worth documenting and just passing time. Activities include: watching/crying/laughing from Schitt’s Creek, painting my garage white with 4 coats of paint, having video calls with friends and family complaining about being stuck at home, walking around during a gloomy Seattle winter, eating more junk food than I was supposed to, driving around the Seattle area aimlessly because there was nothing better to do, enjoying the PNW outdoors when the sun eventually came out, in which case I documented, but didn’t do in 2021 for more reasons I’ll share below, and staring at my computer screen while working long hours just to make the time pass by. Was that too depressing? Because it was. And I eventually went back to seeing a therapist, but more on that later!

2. Having times of doubt of what I’m supposed to be doing with my precious time. I’d always ask “WWLD” or “what would Levy do?” in those particular situations, which is a term my mom’s best friends shared with me and has also helped me when I miss her and would’ve historically called or texted her to get some motherly advice. Levy would usually say things like “Anak, you already know what you need to do, you just need to actually plan and execute it” or “Raelene, I raised you to do the right thing and always follow your heart. Do both.” or “You and John are are team so both of you need to decide together, I am just here to guide you”, all of which I would just roll my eyes and say “Okay mom, that doesn’t help me at all but I know you’re just pushing me to be independent and decide on my own.” So alas, here I am honestly living my best life, all things considered. However, getting to these points where I am deciding between multiple outcomes have also been incredibly hard. Sometimes I’ll cry because I wish she were here to help me or just listen to my list of pros and cons. Sometimes I’ll have a little angry outburst and take it out on John. Sometimes I’ll just clam up and not talk at all. But those ups and down have led to many successful big decisions in the past year: 1) Renovating our WA home and making $$$$$$ after selling it, 2) getting out of a job I wasn’t happy in and pursuing a similar career path in digital marketing/advertising, 3) moving cross-country to NYC which was a lifelong dream I’ve wanted to fulfill, 4) interviewing for jobs in the Bay Area after moving for John’s job and landing a sweet gig at one of the best employers in the world, and 5) investing in our first investment property while also allowing us to buy in the Bay Area (a true privilege we are so blessed to have). You can kind of see my general thought process here…even though life gives you lemons, you keep making that lemonade and just try to make the best with what you have. Sometimes the lemonade will be more tart or more sweet than intended or hoped for, but the goal is to get “just right” more often as we experience our lives.

Me having a moment with my Momma while laying in the sun during a brief work trip to LA // Oct 2021

3. Breaking up with my romanticized version of what living in NYC would be. For those who ever had a lifelong dream of living somewhere, only to get your dreams rained on, this one is for you. I was about 7 or 8 years old when I realized how iconic of a city New York was from watching snippets of Friends when I wasn’t supposed to. Then I loved it even more when I visited during my 8th grade East Coast field trip and looked up at all of the lights in Times Square. Then I made it a goal to live there when watching Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty go from “Betty in Queens” to “Betty in NYC”. I applied to colleges in NYC and wanted to make it work but financially, it didn’t make sense. So in college, I tried to see if getting into finance would be a good fit because that seemed like what people did to afford to life there (silly Raelene!). Of course, while my big plans to move to NYC were in the works my junior year, I met my now husband, John, and my life was forever changed. Thankfully, I married a supportive life partner who also was open to potentially moving to NYC and we did! We tried…and lasted 3 months.

Happy Rae resting at Battery Park after riding around Manhattan in 92 degree heat (hello Statue of Liberty!) // June 2021
View from the top of The Edge in Hudson Yards where we can see our apartment by Madison Square Garden // July 2021

After seeing how unhappy I was in Seattle, he initiated the move since we were working remotely and we could try it for about 6 months before we’d be forced to go back into the office. And then flipping positions when we moved to NYC, seeing how unhappy John was from the dirtiness, crime, and weather, I couldn’t force him to live in NYC for 3 years like we had originally agreed on. So we moved to the Bay Area for our careers. We at least gave it a shot and I’ll make NYC work for me somehow in the future. But dang, shot to the heart. My heart was broken. I was sad my dream didn’t work out. Saaaaaad! I went a little emo and listen to heartbreak songs for a little while…”Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer, “Roots Before Branches” by Glee, and “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra were played on repeat during this period. I’ve recovered now, though. Took me about 3 months of getting settled in the Bay Area to know with 100% certainty we made the right decision. Team work makes the dream work! And also a little bit of time to let the the depression clouds pass over.

Sad Rae from Southern window of our Chelsea apartment in NYC // Jul 2021
Sad Rae with the Northwestern view of Hudson Yards from our balcony in NYC // July 2021

4. Constantly comparing myself to “pre-pandemic Raelene” who was about 15 pounds lighter than I am now. It took me awhile to accept that I am the heaviest I have ever been and I was not happy about it for a long time, which would make it worse and I’d just not care and not take care of myself. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but I did have an unhealthy relationship with food, often eating when depressed, anxious, and angry. The weight gain start around Fall 2020 when I was in the thick of working crazy hours in a job I was unhappy in, then spent another gloomy winter in Seattle, then moved cross-country and ate out everyday for 3 months (this was more happy weight!), and then moved again to an area that brought up a lot of anxiety as I hadn’t been back in CA for an extended period of time since I was caregiving for my mom when she was sick.

Social media was also not putting me in a place to be successful in controlling my emotions because I would have feelings of missing out when I saw people hanging out and about, of being less than because there were people who didn’t seem like their body changed negatively during the pandemic and that made me jealous, and of fake people on the interwebs just posting for likes. Sure, I could’ve switched around the accounts I was following but it was near impossible to ignore the voice in my head that would compare myself and experiences to others, so I decided to just delete Instagram in August and take a break.

These anxious and depressive episodes continued steadily until about 3 months ago when I couldn’t even fit my loose clothes and had to size up to sizes I didn’t think I’d have to wear until I was pregnant. It was this and also realizing that my company was going to possibly go back in the office around October so I had to start caring about how I looked and how I wanted others to perceive me (yes, I know, I should be doing this for myself) as the fit and healthy Raelene I’ve been during the best moments of my life. So I am giving myself grace as I get back to the weight range I am much happier in and where I’d like to maintain.

I also started seeing an amazing therapist when we moved to the Bay Area because ya girl needed some help with dealing with her emotions. No more excuses, just patience, persistence, and dedication to being the best version of me I can be. I learned some really neat techniques through CBT and am more confident in my ability to deal with stubborn emotions like anger and sadness. The past few months have been so good to me where I’m in training to be a Pilates instructor (I’ve been wanting to do this for years), have been routinely doing yoga, and found an awesome strength and conditioning gym in Palo Alto that I love. If anyone feels like they need help related to body acceptance and anxiety reducing techniques, there are many resources out there for you, free or paid, so please take advantage! Health is wealth, and this includes your mental health. Create that sacred space of healing for yourself, sis and bro!

Me (bottom left) with YogaSix yogis in Mountain View after a Friday practice // Dec 2021

What has made it go quickly:

  1. Making the best out of being “stuck” in the US and working remotely by visiting friends across the country, moving cross-country twice in our SUV from Seattle to NYC and then from NYC to SF, going to a few music events, and going on random road trips because “why not”.
The Austin City Limits music festival flags // Oct 2021
Siamese Twins @ Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, CO // Oct 2021
Laying down in the 2nd row of the car & snuggled with the pups en route to NYC // May 2021
Me hanging upside-down from a zipline screaming “WOOOOOO!!!” in Colorado // Oct 2021
Hiking in Asheville, NC with my best friends // Nov 2021
Visiting a home we bought in Lancaster, PA on Thanksgiving Day (also locked myself out, oops) // Nov 2021

2. Starting my amazing job at Google and focusing on learning, growing, and having fun. When we were planning on leaving New York City, it was mainly driven by the weather and dirtiness that made it not worth what we were paying to live there. John calls NYC “an open-air, landfill sauna”. I was originally planning on staying at Amazon and considering switching out of Retail/Ads to AWS for continuity. During our road trip from NYC to SF, I was juggling 4 final interviews with other companies including AWS and at one point, did one of them in our hotel bathroom in Nashville, TN! I continued to have interviews when we were in Arizona and in Santa Barbara, and ultimately got my offer letters when we were moving into our apartment in Mountain View. When I got my Google offer, I was so excited at the potential of learning about what the tech space was like outside of Amazon and had heard great things about working at Google. Flash forward to now, 4 months later, I have never felt more confident in my career path and am so excited to continue growing on my team. I never imagined working in advertising sales but here I am, and I am loving it. Google has also been so refreshing from Amazon where I have work/life balance, am able to unplug completely when I am not working, and also am surrounded by people who love what they’re doing and feel valued by their team and employer. My 2.5 years at Amazon taught me a lot about grit and how to manage a business and for that, I am thankful. Cheers to the future ahead! LET’S GET IT DONE FOLKS!

Me on my first day of work as a Senior Account Manager at Google SF // Sep 2021
Meeting up with my team at our office in SF // Nov 2021

3. Being where ever “home” is and spending quality time with my husband and our two pups. Perhaps this has been my favorite parts of the last year especially as we’ve moved to 4 different places. Pre-pandemic, I was always on the move and on a flight somewhere at least every other month. Now, I have learned to enjoy stillness, find comfort in peaceful environments, and seek moments that require one to be fully present in the moment. In the past year, I’ve travelled many miles and spent lots of time with my little fam enjoying life. As I wrap up this entry, we are snuggled on the couch and getting ready to submit an offer on a home in SF! I am so incredibly grateful for this life I live and look forward to the next few years exploring the Bay Area, having little Johns and Raelenes running around, and making some amazing memories in our future home. I wish my mom was here to see how beautiful my life has come to be as an adult, but I know she’s guiding me and us every step of the way. I miss her everyday and know she’s here in spirit. My family is solid. My dad and brother are thriving. What more can I wish for in this life?!

Sunset view from our apartment // Aug 2021
The bay bridge from my SF office // Dec 2021

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style

Maya Angelou

My wish is that all who know and love me, live a life fulfilled and to also thrive in their little worlds. My hope is that you find peace in stillness, live joyfully and with humor, and are comfortably living your best lives. May we make Levy proud and live the way she would’ve wanted: happy, surrounded by love, family, and friends.

In search of: // Jan 2021

Good Vibes, Reflections

“If I cease searching, then; woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going, keep going come what may.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Hanging out with these beautiful and majestic elephants in Thailand at Lanta Elephant Santuary, Jan 2020

Hello, people of the world! It’s been a little over a year since my last post and in some ways, Dec 2019 seems like just a few weeks ago and in most ways, it seems like years ago. What a year 2020 was, huh? Today I write not only because it would’ve been my Momma’s 54th birthday, but also because tomorrow I start on an exciting new journey exploring a new industry that I think will be the one for me.

One of my favorite memories was going backpacking in the Olympics with some close friends, August 2020

In search of: Stability

For the past few years, the one thing I’ve been in search of most is stability. I want it and sometimes I need it so I can keep on going, come what may. I needed it most in 2018 after my mom passed and I needed it in 2020, like most of us. As I reflect on 2020, as unstable as it was, it was the year of the most growth for me.

It was the best year yet for me and John. Being the social butterfly I’ve always been, I needed to learn how to be okay with not having a plan, find stillness in the chaos, and most important of all, be honest with myself and others on what I truly needed in the moment to feel like I had it together. I also learned the true meaning of what it means to be home. John has been my constant, one of the strongest roots of my growing tree, and I am very lucky that the universe gave me him as a partner and lover for life. We learned more about each other this past year and have some exciting plans to look forward to in the years ahead. Team work truly makes the dream work. ILY!

Enjoying the rare PNW sun on our balcony during a daily lunch break, June 2020

It was the best year yet for me developing a relationship with my mom’s spiritual presence. I feel her during more various situations, not just when I need her most, and that’s been such a treat. I credit this to meditation and learning to not have expectations. Just like today—I woke up and knew it was her birthday, but it wasn’t until now that I felt a mental nudge from her to write down my thoughts and share it with the world after more than a year of writer’s block. I talk about her more often and openly and am able to be emotional but not breakdown in anger and sadness. The emotions have also been more of a 70/30, happy/sad combination, which is progress for me. For example, I’ll experience something great and happy and I’ll say “Thanks Mom!” Or “Wish you were here!” And sometimes it’ll be followed with “Ugh, I miss you and wish you were here” with a few teary moments if the feelings were particularly strong. Either way, I am so grateful to have this stability of emotions following a very difficult period in my young adult life and I am so grateful to have known my mom so well that I can figure out how she’d guide me in situations where I feel stuck or lost. I am also so grateful for and proud of my family who has supported one another as we live our lives and honor her. Happy birthday my beautiful Momma! Thank you for continuing to love, support, and guide us.

Visiting my mom on her 3rd death anniversary, December 2020

With the pandemic affecting the micro and macro environments we interact with on a daily basis, it was only a matter of time until I would feel the domino effect of these influenced and sometimes forced changes in my job. Some of you know that I manage the outdoors category for one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the world. All of 2020, I was working 100 mph, not only because I was working towards a promotion, but also because of the intense demand my category saw through all the weeks in the year. It was in a way fulfilling for me because it meant that people were enjoying the great outdoors! But working for corporation that is customer obsessed, also means making sure you’re doing what ever you can to keep up with demand so you don’t miss out on any opportunities. Often times I would lose sight of my “why”. “Why am I doing this?” “Why am I putting this pressure on myself to get to this promotion if I am burnt out?” “Why do I keep pushing my limits?” “Why am I always seeking meaning in this job? Shouldn’t it come more easily? There has to be a better path out there for me.” This pressure and uncertainty took a toll on my mental and personal health and after a long drive with my best friend in the middle of summer to seek clarity, I decided that the retail industry wasn’t for me. I stuck to my personal promise where I work to live, not live to work. I decided to forego my promotion, let go of a little bit of my ego, and instead pursue a career that will fulfill me. After searching 4 months, I landed a great internal role in a parallel organization: advertising. I love working with brands and helping them grow their business. Best of all, I’ll be managing the brands in the sports and outdoors categories where I get to have continuity and work with categories that I have a personal interest in. Tomorrow is Day One again for me and I am so excited!

The inspiring Zion view I looked at when I felt my spark come back and knew I needed something to change, July 2020

With quarantine and working from home since March really affecting my mental health (I know I’m not alone here), combined with political instability, a depressing economy with so many people losing their jobs, and watching major cities struggle to figure out how to help small businesses and support those affected by COVID, it was incredibly difficult to find some sort of meaning to keep me going. I gained weight, was emotionally eating, didn’t feel like talking to people sometimes, and really wasn’t feeling like myself. Through meditation and daily check-ins with my mind and body (thanks Hatch), I discovered that part of it was because we lived in the suburbs where we were limited to what we can explore by foot and part of it was because our neighborhood was changing and made it difficult to continue calling our house a home. I felt like I was floating and couldn’t find a way back to the ground. Ultimately we decided to spontaneously move out of our suburb home and into a city high-rise apartment and live the life we were more familiar and were happy with, while we renovate our house and putting it on the market in the spring. Our end goal is to eventually move to a big city like NYC, so we’ll see where our life will take us and where we decide to settle and call a place our “forever home”. We know we like being in places with energy, innovation, and good food 🙂

On a morning walk on the Brooklyn Bridge where I felt so energized, alive and at home, November 2020

In search of: Joy and Fulfillment

As I think about my goals for this year, it’s really two things: to find more joy in the things I do and to find fulfillment in the career I am beginning. With these two goals, I am able to easily gauge my progress, make reasonable adjustments, and ultimately feel more stable and at home.

I challenge you to create attainable and simple goals as we continue to learn from this past year and grow as human beings. Let’s be more kind to one another, be more patient with ourselves, and have hope that we come out of this strange period of time as better friends, partners, and communities.

As my mom said it best: “a day without laughter is a day wasted”. Let’s laugh a little bit more and do things that will bring us more joy, even during a time of uncertainty and darkness. Much love, from me to you!

25 Things I Learned Before Turning 25 // Mar 2019

Good Vibes

30961329-6476-4568-9C8A-45DDC77911B5.jpeg

“Don’t lose who you are, in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard, to follow your heart
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are.”

– Jessie J.

Tomorrow, I will be at the age I’ve been looking forward to turning since I was 18. I’ve always been a planner…when I was 7, I was thinking of the things I would do when I turn double digits. When I was 10, I was looking forward to watching PG-13 movies and finally being a teenager. When I was 13, I was thinking of high school and the things I needed to do if I wanted to get into a good college at 18. When I entered the adult world, I imagined what life would be like in my mid-twenties as a “full-grown” adult. I was cute. Still am, haha.

Birthdays are exciting times to reflect and also think about the next year. It’s another opportunity to “restart” and turn a new leaf. At 24, I’ve surpassed the wildest dreams I concocted for myself when I was younger.

Because I think it’s fun to share, here were my goals when I was a college freshman. When I was 18, I made these aspirations for age 25:

  • Be a senior finance analyst at a Fortune 500 company
  • Make $80,000 a year because I wanted to make six figures by 30
  • Own a little condo in the city
  • Pay off my student loans
  • Be completely financially independent from my parents
  • Be a strong, independent, career-driven woman

What amazing goals to have by 25. But I was also such a dreamer and didn’t think about what I needed to do to get to those points and also didn’t completely understand those goals. Some of the above are not in my control. Some of those were dependent on my work performance, the industry I was in, and many external factors.

Out of all those 18-year-old-Rae goals, the last one is what holds the most true and is what I have complete control in doing. I have the power to be strong. I have the capability to be independent. I have the will to be career-driven.


These past few weeks have been such a whirlwind for me. Some of you know my Starbucks story. I took the risk entering the corporate finance world again after choosing to leave Boeing my senior year of college and choosing instead to untraditionally work in commercial real estate.

I remember telling my family about this crazy 2016 time–telling them that yes, I have fulfilled your dream of working at a huge, well-known American company like Boeing, but you’ve also told me to follow my heart and create my own path. I told them to trust me. They’ve raised me well and I needed them to trust me. This is how I’ve been able to really push myself and achieve what I have. I am because of those two and the village that raised me.

I remember being maybe 7 or 8, following my mom around as she pursued being a realtor and work with home buyers and sellers and seeing her quote in her office that become etched in my memory:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

So after college, I started making my own trail. I had the confidence in my ability to lead my professional path and knew I had the foundation to take risks and experience new things. And new experiences, I have pursued in the past year. In the past year I have dived into three very different professional industries–commercial real estate, digital finance, and digital marketing.

All the while, I was coping with the death of my mother and her father, my grandpa Lu. I was happy, then I was extremely sad. Then I was laughing  then I was uncontrollably crying. I asked myself many times “Who the eff am I? What is happening to me?!”

How amazing to look back and see how much I have grown.

This past year has taught me how to react to new lows and how to get to those highs and pursue dreams past those achievable highs. I am ready for what 25 and beyond has in store for me. So as I approach this exciting and pivotal time in my life, I have come up with 25 things I have learned before turning 25. Thank you, Taylor Swift, for the inspiration. You’re a real MVP in my heart.


  1. Don’t worry about the things you can’t control.

    • I was taught this lesson by a dear old friend who was looking out for me and helping me through the transition from high school in the comfortable Palos Verdes to college away from home in Seattle. I was scared but excited and always freaked myself out. He told me to calm down. Stop overthinking. He told me, “Raelene, don’t worry about the things you can’t control. You can’t do anything about that. You can only do what you have control over. That how you feel and how you react and how you think.” Thanks bud, happy to see you grow these past 7 years, too. Thanks for the life advice.
  2. Love is a two-way street.

    • We’ve all been there before. Where you’re in a relationship thinking you’ve done everything you can to show your love and you’re not getting the results you expected. This has happened in many relationships in my past. It’s all something I think we all go through at some point….If I do this big gesture, they should know that I love them and they’ll love me equally back, right? If I go out of my way to see them, then I should expect they’ll do the same, right? If I buy this for them because I am being thoughtful,  they’ll know I want them to do the same for me, right?
    • No. The answer is no. Love has no expectations and no boundaries. It’s the most frustrating experience to be in a relationship with unreciprocated love. But you’ll live and learn. Everyone has their own timelines and ways of showing and feeling love. The love languages are a real thing. Some people like gifts, some people prefer physical affection. Figure out what you need and what your partner needs. Timing is also everything. True love isn’t forced. It just happens. And when the puzzle pieces fit, it’s the most magical adventure ever.
  3. Don’t lose sight of the dream.

    • I can’t count the time I have rearranged my goals and created new ones for myself. However, I have always had a rough, malleable dream that I’ve always envisioned for myself and that is what I am in the pursuit of achieving. The road there is going to take a lot of grit, but I am excited for the moment where I can stand in that reality and be proud of how far I have come. So when you feel lost or feel purposeless, think about your dream. Hold onto it. Don’t lose sight of the dream!!!
  4. Find your village.

    • Gosh, this is what I am especially thankful for these past few months. Who are the folks from my different walks of life I can depend on for advice or to cheer me up or remind me why I am pursuing something? Who are my mentors, who are people I consider part of my village, who can I trust with my doubts, who will keep me accountable?
  5. Find your people.

    • Similar to the above but closer to the core. Who will know your deepest thoughts and will love you for you even if you’re a freaking hot mess? Who’s on speed dial? Who’s on your emergency contact list? Those are your people. Those are your forever friends. The people who become family and who you can depend on to pick up the phone or answer the door at any time of the hour. Thank you, my lovely humans, for being my people. Y’all know who you are.
  6. Everyone has a story. Be kind to others.

    • Most often in this social media influenced world, we encounter negativity and interact with people who are mean, angry, jealous, and unkind. Instead of giving them a “taste of your own medicine” be the bigger person and let it go. Or ask if they’re open for a conversation. It takes a lot of effort do this, but it will contribute to making this world a better place. We need to people in the world who can do this. Everyone has a story. Be kind to others.
  7. Know where you come from.

    • This has been crucial for me as my mom was the main storyteller in my life. She reminded me where I come from. How did I get to America? Who sacrificed before me to get me and my brother here? Who do I visit and where do I go when I travel back to the Philippines and re-discover my roots? I’ve been having to ask the questions and write the story myself as I adjust to life without her voice and knowledge but I take pride in who I am and where I come from. I am because of those before me. Thank you for your sacrifice.
  8. You can still be independent but also be in the relationship at the same time.

    • Just because you’re independent doesn’t mean that you need to be on your own. It means knowing and identifying as your own person without being attached to someone else. You can still ask for help. You can still be dependent on someone. Know what you need to stand tall and by yourself. Know what it means to not be held by someone and to be sure of who you are as a human being in this crazy world. Be free, my friend. Discover what it means to truly be free and independent.
  9. Bask in the sunlight when you are able because life doesn’t make those last forever!

    • I have learned many times over that the sun don’t shine foreva. It’ll come at intermittent times in your life and sometimes it’ll last a whole season and sometimes it’ll last for an hour. But when the sun does shine, enjoy it. Close your eyes and breathe the air and remember the feeling of sunshine on your now sun-kissed skin. I am a sun person and I need my sunshine to feel truly complete. So know that when the sun is outside, I am outside playing and when there is no sunshine, I am learning how to cope without it and discover new parts of myself and my environment until that moment comes again.
  10. Find your happy place.

    • I love this one. I am smiling knowing that I have my happy places solid. My happy place is in many places–dependent on my mood and what I need to serve myself. It’s where I get my favorite boba milk tea. It’s where I workout to get my angst and energy out. It’s where I meditate to feel grounded and flexible. It’s where I am warm and cozy and loved. It’s where I go on a run when I need to clear my mind and think. It’s where I can sing and not feel judged. It’s where I can laugh until my stomach hurts and my eyes cry happy tears. It’s where I feel at peace and I feel content.
  11. Discover what your base level is. What do you need to feel whole?

    • I have especially learned this in the past year. What’s my base level? For me, it means I get a workout in, eat my over-easy egg with furikake, listen to a song that makes me feel light, drink ice cold water, and get kisses from my dogs and my husband. That’s my base level. What’s yours?
  12. Keep the music going in your life. You need a melody to guide you when you’re lost.

    • I ignored this for a while. For a little bit, I lost what music meant to me. I forgot how it felt like to listen to a song and be like “DAT’S MAH JAM!” and sing a song in my car, hitting the high notes and be like “YOU GO RAELENE! YOU STILL GOT IT!” and dance with my friends and be like “YOU MOVE GURL, YOU MOVE!” Once I re-discovered my love for music and lyrics, I started to feel more like myself again. Not taking that for granted in the future! Sorry I forgot about you, music. But also thanks for always being there for me. Music has also been especially good to me when I feel like my mom is with me. Hi momma 🙂
  13. Time heals all wounds.

    • This past year has also shown me what incredible loss can do to people and a community and all I can say is, I trust that time will heal all wounds. Things will be said in hurt and anger and actions will be done with no thought to consequence. But it is what it is, and you just gotta do you until the right time comes around again. The world will keep turning and the clock will continue to tick.
  14. H8ers gonna h8!

    • Yo. Forreal. Let the haters hate. They’re probably going through a rough time in their lives and are projecting it on you. Try not to take things personally. Remember your village and your people and whose opinions you trust. Everything else is just noise. Don’t let the negativity consume you. Trust your process. I truly believe all humans at their core are capable of love and kindness but not always will that show, if ever. I hope they find what they’re looking for. We’re all out here just tryna function.
  15. We’re all in the pursuit of happiness.

    • Kid Cudi’s song became so popular for a reason. It’s relatable. We are all in the pursuit of happiness. What drives us? What ignites the fire within? What makes your soul happy? Choose that, do that. Understand that our peers are doing the same thing, too.
  16. Women must lift each other up and stop being so dang mean and judgemental.

    • I sometimes will catch myself making a quick judgement in my head and unfortunately sometimes it’ll come out. I am trying to be a better female and be a better woman for other woman. Now, more than anything I have realized why we need support and why we need each other. Lean in, start a conversation, and be open to others. We need each other so we can continue to be lifted to new heights.
  17. Finding your life partner, if that’s what you want to have, will be the best discovery of your life.

    • I am not saying everyone needs a life partner, but it’s been proven throughout the existence of life that we need another being to live a long and happy life. Whether that means getting a dog and living alone in the woods or spending time in the jungle doing animal conservation work, or being in a committed relationship, we need that support and comfort.
    • For me, finding John and growing with him these past four years have been so fulfilling. Everything seems right. With him, I am invincible and I know that if I fail, he will be there to catch me and hold me. Bless his patient heart because that man has been through hell and back after the hell I’ve experienced in grieving this past year. He’s seen it all and now we’ve come out of the ashes as a stronger couple. He’s my safety net and my partner and lover and someone who I know will stand next to me for life. Yay for us! I love you forever.
  18. Learn to grow. Learn to challenge. Learn to evolve.

    • I feel most fulfilled and most valued when I am challenged and rise to the occasion. Sometimes I’ll hit it out of the park and sometimes I’ll have a #epicfail. We’ve all been there. Pick yourself back up. Reflect why you failed and don’t do it again. If you did right, know what worked and figure out how to apply that method to future scenarios. This doesn’t apply to just the professional space. This also applies to the personal space as well. Continue to grow, challenge, and evolve. Feel the blood rushing through the yours veins and feel the energy you put out onto the world around you.
  19. You know, deep down, who your “day-ones” are. Keep them close.

    • When you encounter a rough patch in a relationship (this includes friendships), know why they’re in your life and why you’ve chosen them to be in your inner circle. They earned that spot and you earned a spot in theirs, too. Call those people when you have downtime. Check-in. Keep in touch. Keep that authentic relationship going. You owe that to what you have built together.
  20. Spend more on experiences not things.

    • As I get older, I realize more and more how happy and free I feel when I am experiencing with friends and with family. I promise to value those times and commit to doing more like that in my life. Experiences can me made out of nothing, too.
  21. Be courageous. Talk to someone if you need help, don’t hold it in.

    • Gosh, has this been such a help for me. I had so many people telling me to talk to someone at my lowest points but I ignored it and was prideful of how far I have gotten without needing to talk to someone. But once I did, I was so thankful and relieved. My story is so unique and I am so glad I can reliably share my stories with someone who will listen and engage when needed. Bless her heart. Talk to your friends. See a professional if you need to. They’re there for a reason.
  22. Being the “first” to do many life things doesn’t have to feel like a burden.

    • For a long time, I felt like being the oldest in my family meant I needed to do things  a certain way or I’d let them down. I also felt like doing the first in my friend group meant that I needed to keep up with the momentum I’ve built. Now, I’ve learned that it’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to pause. There will always be someone better than you. There will always be someone who is further ahead than you. Try to focus on your journey and know that all of the crap you’ve had to sift through have made you who you are. I’ve done this best while pursuing my dreams and ambitions while also remembering my purpose and remembering my roots.
  23. Stay curious. Ask questions.

    • When in doubt, ask. Set your ego aside and just ask. The only thing holding you back is you. Stay curious and know when to be humble and ask. Humility is learned and can only be learned through experience.
  24. Celebrate and remember the little things because someday you’ll realize that those seemingly insignificant moments will pull you through.

    • Much like #9-#11, those sunshine-y and happy moments will be great reminders of where you’ve been and how to get back to a place like that again. For me, those little moments have been these:
      • Looking into John’s brown eyes and saying “I love you” for the first time
      • My dad pushing me when I first rode my bike with no training wheels
      • Kissing my mom on the lips when we went on our last shopping trip at the Tory Burch outlet. She also smiled and said “I love you anak” as she paid for our things. Sometimes I just remember her eyes and her mouth as she said that and that memory gives me a sense of peace when I miss her and want to remember her voice, her smile, and her beautiful spunky self.
      • Walking to my brother’s room when I got home from college and seeing our picture taped to his desk. I love you littleman! Always here to guide you.
      • Taking the photograph of my maternal grandparents smiling and laughing
      • The moment when my dog, Wonton, climbed onto my lap before we adopted her
      • Curling up with Charlie on the couch as a little puppy that fit in the crevice between my neck and chest
      • The feeling of the crowd cheering when I sang “Unwritten” at my high school graduation
  25. Find love in all things. Bloom with grace.

    • Self-explanatory. You got this!

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts on Wednesdays as inspiration finds me so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.

This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.

This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.

We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.


 

Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂

Be your own hero // Jan 2019

Reflections

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July 2015, Me after finishing the San Francisco Full Marathon: 26.2mi or 42km


When I signed up to do the San Francisco Full, I knew what I was getting myself into. The year prior, I did my first marathon the Seattle Rock and Roll, and was hooked. I wanted to try it again and beat my time since I now knew how incredibly exhausting yet indescribably exhilarating it was to train and complete an entire marathon. I enjoyed being called crazy. I loved the feeling of accomplishment. I love looking back and knowing I did that!

These last few months, as many of you know, have been the hardest, loneliest, most mentally challenging times of my young life. The death and absence of my mom hit me like a glacial wall. It hit me at different speeds, with each time increasing in velocity towards the reality of my situation. That was how September and October felt like for me. It was inescapable and the anxiety of the emotional outbursts seeping into my outside life was getting worse with every week I chose to deal with the scariness by myself.

I was afraid to open up to my husband for fear he wouldn’t know how to care for someone in crippling sadness and unpredictable outbursts from emotional triggers. I was afraid to open up to my inner circle for fear of dependency on them to hold me up. I was afraid to tell my dad for fear of interfering with his grieving journey.


Friends, now I know the power of sharing the burden. In November, I chose to start seeing a grief therapist and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I was finally able to talk about my journey to rock bottom to someone who didn’t know me. I had to share my story of my happy childhood, my frustration with my shortened teenage years due to my family’s struggles, and conflict with my early 20’s trying to be a carefree college student but also feeling the pressure to perform and succeed. I had these great internships and jobs and activities but it was hard to balance issues in LA while also building a personal and professional life in Seattle. I seemed to have it all, and I believe at a time I did, but as of late, I’ve felt like I’m losing ground again and it’s scary.

A few months ago, I was triggered by people who would talk about things they do with their mom. I knew I was in trouble when I was standing in line at Costco to pay for my food and these two girls behind me were talking about getting their nails done with their moms. I got in my head and was thinking, you’re lucky you can do that with your mom because mine is dead and I’ll never get a chance to do that again. Dark, harsh. I know.

I was also triggered by things I watched. For the longest time I avoided watching Crazy, Rich, Asians because that’s the last book my mom was reading before her brain tumor hospitalization and she said she wanted me to read it with her and see the movie when it comes out. We all know how this story went. I never got the chance to see it with her, but I did however, finally get the strength to watch the movie when it was available to rent. John watched it with me and I was bawling at the scene where Rachel was surprised by her mom at Peik Lin’s house. It reminded me of the most recent and last Mother’s Day card I sent to my mom. On the front said: “I will always need my mama”. And it broke me to once again realize that she’s not here. But in that sadness and tearful breaths I also remind myself that I will still, always, need my momma. It felt good to not be so angry at the situation. It was another milestone to tell me I was getting better.

It’s a unique situation to be in–to have matured so quickly, to have been so independent at a young age, to have been married at 22 and to have lost your mom at 23. It’s a lot and not many people my age have gone through a similar path. You’re in a constant cycle of re-discovery and re-invention and it seems like the point of comfort and stability is not within sight.


With the celebration of 2019, I promised myself to continue in the path of mental and emotional strength again. Truthfully, in the last few weeks, I’ve struggled to find the inspiration to stay on that consistent path.

I kept making excuses. It’s a new year but I still don’t know what direction I want. I’ll just sign up for the 16 classes in 30 days at my Pilates studio to keep me physically committed to something. That should be enough, right?

But oh, it’s my grandpa and mom’s birthdays in the first half of January, so I’ll reset completely after that. That’s when I’ll get back on track and eat well again and start reading and blogging again. But after their birthdays passed, I was still feeling very unmotivated and uninspired. There was a lot going on and I couldn’t seem to get my groove back on the right track.

Last month, one of my best friends recommended I read the book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Since I have about a two-hour commute roundtrip to and from work, I listened to the audiobook. I wanted to avoid reading self-help books but heck, I needed something to keep myself mentally occupied and off the path of emotional instability.

This was the book’s hook:

Stop believing the lies about who you are so can become who you were meant to be.

I loved it.


My first impression of the audiobook was negative because I honestly got annoyed with Rachel’s LA voice (sorry, Rachel!). But I got over it after a few moments of meditation and self-talk to listen to the words and not pay attention to the voice.

Eventually, I started looking forward to my morning and afternoon commute so I can hear Rachel’s recollections and her ability to organize her memories and turn them into stories that inspire women to be find themselves and be their best selves.

It worked. So thank you, Rachel, for getting me out of this rut and for reminding me of my strength.

The last chapter was my favorite because it inspired me to blog again and share and get back on the right foot. It only took 30 days into 2019, but better late than never, right?

Throughout Rachel’s book, I found many ways of how I related to her: the death of her older brother, the struggle with personal appearance, the relationship issues she and her husband encountered and overcame, and her never-ending journey of self-discovery and knowing your self-worth.

Listening to her speak was like listening to my own self giving me advice.

The last chapter, Chapter 20, was titled: “The Lie: I Need a Hero”. That chapter, I was reminiscing on one of the proudest moments of my life. It was when I finished the San Francisco Full Marathon in July 2015, having only trained for 9 weeks. I had an ankle injury 3 weeks before race day that threw me off-schedule for the full. But I did the damn thing! But how? How did I do it then? Because I couldn’t imagine doing that now.


The days leading up to the marathon, I was mentally preparing myself for the half marathon. I’ve already completed a full so this half should be a piece of cake. I wanted to run a 9-minute mile average, two minutes faster than my first marathon’s average mile time. For context, I finished my first full in Seattle the previous year just over 4.5 hours. It was brutal. Katy Perry’s “Roar” and OneRepublic’s “I Lived” were my theme songs for that run because it motivated me to get to the finish line and get my first marathon finisher medal.

The night before race day, I was still a little bummed that I was only going to run the half.  My family drove from LA to see me finish the race. My best friend Rachel was in San Francisco with me and she was going to run the full. I wanted so badly to run that race with her! But my body was undertrained and I wasn’t mentally prepared.

I kid you not, that night, I had a dream that I finished the full marathon. I woke up on race day at 4:30am and started to mentally prepare myself at the possibility of fulfilling that dream. My family thought I was crazy. They said I would hurt myself and to only do the half.

“Ugh, fine. Okay you’re right. I’ll do the half,” I told them before Rachel and I left for the starting line.

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As we waited to start the race, I was looking up the route for the half and see where the two races split off; half-marathon runners go the shorter way and full-marathon runners go the longer way. As we were approaching the starting line, I remember telling Rachel I was going to try to run the full. I was thinking about it, I dreamt about it and I think I can do it.

I was lighter than when I ran the full the year prior. Now, I knew my body, I knew my knees, I knew my mental resilience. I told her regardless, I’ll see her at the finish line and I’ll text her when/if I decide to do the full. I was running on adrenaline, endless positivity, and the want to get that full marathon finishers medal again. I wanted to earn my finishers t-shirt that said San Francisco Full Marathon on it, like I originally planned.

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Here’s us at the start, where I told Rachel I’ll see her right here at the finish line. 🙂


As I started the first 4 miles of the marathon, I felt like I was on cloud nine. My curated playlist was giving me life and I had a smile on my face. At mile 6, I had my first energy gel. I was chewing it as I was running on the Golden Gate Bridge and I was feeling so inspired and motivated. At the end of the bridge, at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point where runners turned around to head back to San Francisco and continue running along the Presidio and through Golden Gate Park, volunteers were handing out packets of GU gel. It was a sign.

Not only were the GU gels my favorite flavor (Strawberry) but it came with 10 gels–enough to sustain me through a full marathon. I’ll need Advil I thought, but I knew the med tents would have that. As I ran back on the Bridge towards San Francisco I kept checking in with myself. How did my body feel? And most importantly, how did I mentally feel? Could I convince myself to finish the full and run for another 3 hours?

My phone was charged and I had battery to play my Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon playlist to keep me inspired and motivated once my Friso Marathon playlist ran out of juice. I now had the calories and nutrients needed to refuel. But I knew I also needed support, so first I texted Rachel saying I’ll see her at the finish line after I finish the full. Then I texted my family saying sorry and that I was going to finish the full so I’ll be done in three hours instead of one.

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This is the photo I sent them, just as I was about to reach the fork where half and full marathoners split to continue on their routes.


I can’t describe the feeling of utter despair at mile 18, knowing I still had 8.2 miles to go until I could cross the dang finish line. I kissed my Grandpa Rey in Heaven and asked him to give me strength. Wiz Khalifa’s “See you again” was playing when I did this–what perfect timing. That song always reminded me of my Grandpa Rey.

I can’t describe the feeling of pride as I kept reminding myself that I could do this. I thought of my family greeting me at the finish line. I’d imagine it. The emotion and the happiness. I cannot wait!

Just one foot in front of the other. That’s all it takes. Just keeping on moving Raelene. I had so much freaking confidence in myself to get this done.

As I was approaching AT&T park, I started to see the finish line. THANK GOODNESS. Just a little under 3 miles now. Almost there. So close. I started to play my motivation anthems on my playlist:

  1. “Schoolin’ Life” – Beyonce
  2. “Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj (rapping this always did a good job of distracting me)
  3. “Power” – Big Gigantic & GRIZ
  4. “Divinity” – Porter Robinson
  5. “Avaritia” – deadmau5
  6. “Roar” – Katy Perry
  7. “I Lived” – OneRepublic

What a time to be alive to relive the moments as I pushed myself toward the finish line. My calves were cramping. My cheeks were slightly sunburnt. I was so hot from the constant sunshine and lack of hydration. But I kept telling myself, one foot in front of the other. You got this Raelene!!!


When I crossed the finish line, I could barely keep myself up. My legs were going to give out aaaaaany minute haha. I saw Rachel, then I saw my parents and I started crying.

What a tremendous accomplishment and what an incredible lesson to learn. I thank my village for mentally supporting me those 5 hours running on asphalt–on the infamous hills of San Francisco.

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That entire race and those moments before and after the race are my “hero” moments. I was my own hero. And as I look back at that time in my life, I am so happy that I have that story to remind me of who I was, who I am and who I am meant to be. Because of that determination and resilience, I have proven that I can do anything as long as I have the will to do it. If 2015 Raelene can do that, 2019 Raelene is capable of that and more, so long as I tell myself I can and I will.

And I urge you to find a time when you were own hero when you feel doubtful of your direction. Be proud of where you came from–the journey it took to be here and be alive. Find your light, don’t lose sight of the dream, and believe you can. The rest is still unwritten 🙂

Happy New Year and until next time!

All my love,

Raelene

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Photo above taken during a butterfly release to celebrate my mom’s 52nd birthday on Jan 18th. I love her and I miss her everyday but her light shines within me, I can feel it 🙂


Happy Wellness Wednesday!

I plan to release snippets of my reflections and thoughts on Wednesdays as inspiration finds me so as to recharge my mind and prepare for the rest of the week to come. As I sift through my memories and share the good, the bad, and the ugly, my intention is to promote self-care and self-discovery as we walk, crawl, skip, and run through life.

This blog is meant to be an open space where I share my deepest thoughts, while remaining poised for the Internet and to strangers who may not know me but are reading my story.

This is an evolving blog, with the eventual goal to inspire those to share, to be present, to find balance, and to be fearless.

We all have a story and I am choosing to share mine with you all.


 

Thank you for your interest! Comment below or contact me if you want to chat 🙂

Beginning the Rest of My Life // Dec 2018

Good Vibes, Reflections

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there

are

feelings.

you haven’t felt yet.

give them time.

they are almost here.

— fresh

 

from nayyirah waheed

 

As I’ve been reflecting of what this post would become, knowing that my mother passed away a year ago on December 3rd, I’ve struggled to find a way to eloquently relay the feelings and thoughts I’ve had in the last year of adjusting to her being gone.

Thankfully I have my journal, my notes, books, audio books, and friends to help me organize the craziness of thoughts bouncing around my head as I accepted, lived, remembered, grieved, remembered more, mourned, grieved, and continued to live my life. I didn’t follow the typical stages of grieving but I felt a few of those moments so strongly that I had forgotten who I was and where I came from and who I wanted to be. Never in my life had I been so consumed by sadness and happiness at the same time that I needed to give myself hours and days and weeks to breathe.

But this is what it’s like to adjust and move on from such tragedy in life. You live in it, float in it, jump in it, and be in it, without choice. You have no choice but to just feel and be and figure it out.

 

”Just Go With It” – Chromeo, Oliver


My mom took her last breath the early afternoon of Sunday, December 3rd, 2017. She was 50 years young. She was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer that had metastasized to many parts of her body that prohibited even the simplest of movements like getting up from bed. After she got diagnosed, she simultaneously received radiation and chemo to treat the aggressive nature of the cancer and she almost beat it. She almost beat it for 15 months.

She went through emergency brain surgery to remove a tumor that took her and everyone who supported her, by surprise. She survived brain surgery and tried to beat the continuously growing tumors in her body due to hospitalization and inability to receive treatment for 8 weeks. For 8 weeks she fought, she got better, but unfortunately wasn’t able to conquer what was killing her.

Levy Olivares fought her very best. I was there to see it. Many were there to see it. I believe that she didn’t choose to join the Kingdom of her God, but simply let the pain she felt from her organs shutting down and lifted them up so she can be relieved and free of pain. Her heart then stopped and that was it. Slow to breathe, gently beginning to settle into the new life of being with the angels above.

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Two days after the “Best Last Day” I was on the phone with my dad to talk about my mom’s current state. After Thanksgiving weekend, her condition started to drastically deteriorate. She had an infection and was showing early signs of liver failure.

That night, I went to my friend’s house to share this news. I told her that I had a feeling this was going to be it. I just had a feeling. Her liver was failing. What major organ was next? I had two days until I was back in LA again. I purchased a series of plane tickets as a gift to my mom so I’m with her. Thank goodness I did that.

As I packed my small 19” carry-on bag, I thought long and hard about what I should pack. Should I just pack for another weekend trip or pack for the end? I did both.

I packed for the weekend: two pairs of pants, three pairs of shirts, a pair of boots, and running shoes. I also packed for the end: an elegant black, boatneck Jones NY midi dress that I bought with my mom from Ross when I was working in wealth management and tan leather wedges and black and gold earrings from Tory Burch she bought for me on our last shopping trip just a few weeks before her brain tumor scare. I wanted to look put together and I also wanted to be prepared (hence the wedges for grass at the cemetery and dress with pockets for my phone and car keys). I also packed a pair of black Aritzia pants just in case I needed it for a night service (the vigil) and black Cole Haan kitten heels to match. How I planned for this at the time, I don’t know. I’m in awe that I even did this.

I arrived in LA Friday night, just 5 days after I saw her last. It was bad. She was fearful. She was tired. She was intubated and had a refrigerated blanket to keep her temp down. It was not good. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t do anything to “fix” her. I could only comfort her and be there with her, holding her hand. I could only give my dad hugs and give my brother kisses.

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That Sunday, when I received the text from my dad stating that my mom experienced a heart attack, I already knew what I needed to do and how I needed to be but it’s truly in these last few months that I have slowly figured out how to be without her physically here.

Thank you to my Tita for being in the car with me while I swallowed the news, called my friends, and picked up my brother from a conference. Your presence with me as I received that text and gathered my thoughts and drafted my plan of action was so crucial to my handling of things thereafter.

Thank you to the family and friends who were already there, thinking that it was going to be just a normal hospital visit in the ICU. Thank you to my Tito for being there for my dad as he received the news that his wife’s heart has stopped beating.

Thank you to my Ninang, Ninong, and Tita for your countless car rides to and from the hospital—for being our sounding board when we had to make difficult decisions and for making sure she was never alone. It’s sad our roles ended that day but from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being the best example of sibling love I have ever seen. Your dedication and love is inspiring and I’m proud to call you part of our village.

I am so thankful that when that December day came, our entire system was there to say our goodbyes. Her family was there to pray for her and be with her. Her friends were there to say their goodbyes. My friends were there to say how much her love for them impacted their lives. It’s amazing to think that when my mom joined the angels, she was never alone. She was loved and supported and cared for until the very end. She seemed to be at peace and that’s all we could wish for. Rest In Peace, my dear Momma. I’ll try to be a good cook for you and promise I’ll reach the heights you always wanted me to achieve in life and love.

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“O” – Coldplay


Recently, I had a conversation with a close friend about dealing with what comes after.

The worst day of my life was not when she passed but when I realized the reality that I now lived in was a reality where my mom is no longer and never will be. That was this past September. It took me 9 months to get to that point and 10 months for me to wrap my head around what happened and think about how to be after carrying the weight of this forced reality with me.

It was so painful–the sadness, the anger, the fear, the questioning, the uncertainty, the acceptance that the woman who gave you life is no longer here. But damn, I got through it.

I am still going through it–but now with a sense of peace as I find ways of doing things that remind me of her versus not doing anything at all and feeling things that I know she would want me to feel versus not feeling anything at all.

 

“breathin’” – Ariana Grande


It is really quite amazing to see how humans and life forms respond to tragedy. Flight or fight kicks in. Instinct.

“How did you get through it, Raelene?”

“I don’t know. I just did what I knew I needed to do or what I thought was best.”

When I look back at everything I experienced the last two years, I get exhausted but I am proud of myself in being resilient and trying to adapt to the change.

Here’s the last two years in a nutshell:

1. I left corporate finance at Boeing and switched industries to commercial real estate brokerage.

2. I went to LA to take care of my mom for a summer after she got diagnosed.

3. I got engaged and we got married (!!!) John, if you’re reading this, I love you.

4. I adjusted to having my mom back and treated her like my best friend again and not as my mom who is sick and is my patient.

5. I watched my mom reach new heights then deteriorate and almost make it out.

6. I saw my mom’s last breaths and said my final goodbye.

7. My family worked together to plan her funeral and her celebration of life.

8. We celebrated our first Christmas without my mom in Seattle. And my dad and brother got a sweet dog named Chester 🙂

9. John and I celebrated our first year of marriage. A few months later, we had our wedding celebration in LA where 170 family and friends gathered to celebrate us both. My mom was there in spirit, she was everywhere 🙂

10. Left commercial real estate and embarked on a new adventure back in corporate America at Starbucks. Thank you Digital Finance team for ignighting my fire and being my breath of fresh air!

11. I traveled to Europe with my best friends, had a trip of a lifetime, remembered and experienced the feeling of joy, and reconnected with my mom at the Vatican for the first time since her death. The Italian woman next to me in the chapel gave me her tissues and she shared that she recently lost her dad too. We both cried.

12. Came back to Seattle and John and I bought a house in the suburbs. Goodbye to the city life! I also bought a Prius! Woot!

13. I started a new role at Starbucks in Digital Marketing, entering a completely different industry from the finance worlds I was familiar with for 5 years.

And here I am now. Still growing and learning and feeling. And adjusting.

 

“My Life” – ZHU


I have learned that life is all about adapting to the constantly changing environment around you. The world will always turn and life around you goes on. And sometimes you fall and get back up. And sometimes you reach new peaks and grow. I will always want to grow, but now I have learned to slow down and find solace in the falls because it reminds me of where I came from and where I want to be. Grief demands it and it’s part of the journey of moving on.

As I approach a new year, I challenge myself to continue to give myself space to breathe and think, while also acknowledge that the pain and sorrow is of the past and this is a new chapter. This is the beginning of the rest of my life. I will forever carry her heart in mine. I’ll continue to be a daughter and friend to my dad. I’ll continue to be an Ate and friend to my brother.

I look forward to taking my experiences from 2018–my growth year—and applying them all to make a better, stronger me.

 

“Best of Us Go Down” – Aquilo


 

Lastly, as I move on and leave the pain behind, I want to thank every single person who has reached out with support and love. These last few years, I have drawn strength from many of you, who have reminded me of my age, my humanity, and my needs as such.

Thank you for the dozens of prayer groups that held my mom in their thoughts, for these friends and strangers also gave my mom strength to overcome and fight.

Thank you for the friends and family friends who have become permanently etched in my heart as family. You are all so amazing and it brings me tears to feel your kindness even as my mom has passed. You are her fighters, someone’s hero, someone’s brother and sister.

Thank you to my friends for holding me in times when I couldn’t keep myself up. Thank you for crying for me when I couldn’t feel sadness and just felt anger and confusion. Thank you for loving me when I didn’t know who I was and unsure of how to find myself. Thank you for responding and for following up. Thank you for showing up. I love you forever for that.

To my husband, thank you for your unconditional love—for fulfilling the idea and turning it into something tangible. Out of choice, you always chose me and chose us. You believed that I will recover and will return to the woman who was full of life. Because of your love and support, I believed in myself. So thank you for never giving up, always forgiving me in times when I projected anger towards you and always asking how you can help. Thank you for letting me be me and accepting me as I am and for showing me joy and laughter when it was hard for me to see other than dim and darkness. I love you infinitely, now and forever. Here’s to the rest of our lives together as we approach the celebration of our second year of marriage!

As I close this chapter and enter a new one, I hope you’ll follow my journey of discovering self and experiencing the new. It’s quite weird to feel like I’m turning back the clock because for years I felt like I was a 40 year old in a 20 year old body. Now I can figure out how to be a normal 20-something and see what’s out there!

 

“show me” – San Holo


 

In loving memory of Librada “Levy” Balagtas Olivares

01.18.67 – 12.03.17

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