By Johanna Michelle Lim
THESE days, here seems to be just as mystical to me as the mountains of Nepal or the temples of Myanmar.
When I’m home, on the very rare occasions that I am home, I stay in my pocket garden and take in the plants that have grown or shriveled without me.
This collection of greens never really thrive together.With the recent rains, the calamansi and pepper have started shedding their leaves, drowned perhaps, while the heat-sensitive ones like the mayana and oregano have overgrown their pots, climbed bars, leaned lopsidedly from the new, unexpected weight.
Together, they mark the passage of my absence.
There are times when I come home to half of them gone, weeks too late. When I stare at them, it is the closest thing I’ve taken to meditation.
But my presence in these occasions never last for very long. I take time to water them, to reset the clock, then the plants become backdrop to the lights of the laptop.
No sooner has here overtaken me that I once again become a virtual tourist in an information super highway that glorifies a multiplicity of selves. When I am here, I think of the many theres that I have yet to be in.
Here becomes valuable only because it maps out a point of reference, for in my mind, I may already be in mountains of Nepal or the temples of Myanmar. Elsewhere consumes me. It always has.
The daughter constantly complains that I am rarely here. I’ve taken note that she never says that I am always away. There must be a difference.
Like my calamansi, she waits for a drought of things to do, places to go, people to see. Only then might she have me.
When she pleads, it is tantamount to fighting the lack of gravity, that people and personalities to her seem to float away to a vacuous there or what David Foster Wallace would describe as “the agonizing interval between something falling off and it hitting the ground.”
I admire the tenacity of children to stay in a certain place. They have the ability to be fully present in short, fleeting moments. They laugh fully without ever thinking of losing breath, place everything in a drawing and judge it as a masterpiece. Then, they forget about it until the next masterpiece comes along.
Never mind. By then, they’ve already lined up a short, fleeting series of full moments. Better than any adult’s concept of reservation and process, preparation and “finding” passion; finding, what, happiness? A child is passionate, is happy. Those things reside in the realm of the here.
But I am most comfortable when chasing after the unknown, of the far off. It is the exact thing that both excites and incapacitates.
Most recently, sensing my restlessness, a mentor sat me down and talked to me, not about work or not even about far-off plans, but what I might be doing the next day, part of a long weekend.
For a lover of movement, he suggested, I might try doing something new for once. “How about doing nothing?” he said.
This, he continued, was what happened, or didn’t happen, a couple of years ago when his coffee shop chain reached the hundred branch threshold. It is in these pendulums that anxiety often overcomes rational thought. What if he fails? But just as fearful is: what if he actually succeeds?
So, for the next couple of months, he did nothing. It was the best advice he ever gave himself.
I pray rarely but when I do, I pray to the God of Here to visit me and find his solace in mine.