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Living a day at a time

By MONCHET DIOKNO OLIVES, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 08, 2023 5:00 am

I have not been writing, and here is why. 

I was dealing with my own personal struggle—the challenge of my mental health. I couldn’t get around to writing witty and vainglorious prose, because deep down I was suffering a singed heart. Over the past few years, I played the very actor in my own play as I was going through this maniacal roller coaster. Some days I was at peace, and others I didn’t want to get out of bed.

For close to 15 years, I charged this all to my leaving a very lucrative job, caused by my own doing. I had everything I wanted—a loving wife, bohemian life of largesse (perhaps far too much). Then I spiraled. I realized that I was a maelstrom that sent Margie away, and I had to deal with all my issues on my own. And I could not handle it.

“The Scream”

Over time, I saw all this as pretentious, excessive, and purely ridiculous. Living a life that was not me… or was it? Flamboyant and simply entitled. I was a total clusterf—k. I had no overseer and I was on my own. It all worked splendidly till I was losing it; I was spending and I was becoming unhinged. It was too late when I realized I functioned normally all those years because Margie was at my side.

Then the stroke. I just turned 52 and I was doing well at my new job, and managed my personal day-to-day (cursed inside, mind you), till, again, I had another judgment error (to put it mildly), and did the unthinkable that led to my having to resign.

I had to find a way to reinvent myself again.

But as I collect my thoughts at my favorite table that served incredible Bloody Mamous (which I can no longer partake given my meds), the 15 years I would sit there allowed me to consider these many thoughts:

  • I know I was far from being obtuse, but I managed to find myself in ridiculously daft situations. Too smart for my own good. A compulsive, manic little boy in a candy store.
  • I had to find a way to reinvent myself again and I did, and found a place where my talents are put to good use. Where the triggers of the past were nowhere to be found, where there was kindness.
  • Just as things started to work their way through, anxiety and its demons set in. I was diagnosed (well, I could have told you that) as obsessive–compulsive, bipolar, and with severe anxiety attacks. Unlike most, I am fully functional, and I can get things done. The doctor was kind to say it contributes to a level of brilliance, or the lens for things that one cannot normally see.

  • I have, for the most part, realized that living with this is not the end of the world; in fact, since the pandemic, the rise of those diagnosed has risen. Unless you have been living under a rock, you’d know Xanor (a very popular anti-anxiety pill) was/is always out of stock in my hood and neighboring pharmacies!
  • If it doesn’t matter or you cannot change it, let it go. Live it a day at a time. Solve the issue. Move on, don’t dwell.
  • Acknowledge what is truly in your control and stop driving yourself crazy about the rest. I overthink, as we all do, and it has been keeping me off kilter. Let go of what is not important, and let go of toxic people.
  • Keep your circle small (mine is a pindrop). I thought when Margie and I parted ways that I had found a friend, but instead, I became a patron of sorts, and when the time came when I needed help, that person was gone. Just like many in my life, what matters is family. And Margie. No one else.
 Let it go. Live it a day at a time.
  • I have had my health scares and try to keep them in tow. I am addicted to rowing at Saddle Row and managing a healthy lifestyle is probably the hardest thing I will ever do. Working towards a better life will forever be a struggle that I am willing to power through. When I first began my road to fitness at 45, it was vanity. Now I just need to keep myself healthy.
  • I am stronger than I think. Despite what people thought of me, I kept resilient. I am here.
  • I am weaker than I thought. I am because I can be excessive, Why have one Diet Coke when you can have four in one sitting? That and other traits I need to taper. Why do I drink (when I did) to a dear stupor when I could have stopped when the tipsy kicked in?
  • I legitimately want to be with Margie for the rest of my life. We’ve had our differences, and despite her wanting me to move out (again, because of these errant mood swings), she allowed me to stay, with conditions.

  • I fight for what I believe in. Yet, my moral compass hasn’t been pointing north of late so I really need to be honest with myself. 
  • Managing friendships takes effort as an adult. Yes, and choose them right. Those that you thought were friends even as early as 10 years ago no longer keep in touch—not even a generic holiday greeting.
  • Deleting Facebook was the best decision ever, and it simply kept my privacy. My Instagram has become more toned down, using it more for the business (and my #ootd).
  • I found a place of work that appreciates my talent despite my flaws. I’m better because of it. I had great opportunities, but the universe has a way to make you screw things up so that you have no choice but to leave.
  • At this point in my life, entering seniorhood, I need to make the most of my second chance; sorting out my remaining baggage and enjoying my work. Being needed fills my soul.
  • I absolutely love to cook and my passion for a great meal is what gets me excited to get home. But being on medication makes me overcook meals, like burning tocino in a Creuset, which took me almost a day to remove the grime.

  • It’s okay to just sit on the couch. It’s okay to take a nap in the middle of the day (I have a sofa at my workstation and snooze at lunch). Nothing bad about a power nap. Feels even better, especially when you snuggle with a vintage Pendleton blanket from Sonny Boy Vintage.
  • We retired our yayas right before the pandemic. They had been with us for 40 years. We no longer have a car nor a driver. Grab is far more practical. Less hassle. Less overhead. Margie and I have a weekly yaya to help us sort things out. 
  • Margie is everything to me, and when I fell pretty hard emotionally recently, she held on to me and was always there to let me cry. I mean this.
  • I don’t need everyone to like me. When I was starting out till I retired people hated my guts. Remember this: There are few to trust, so keep much to yourself. This was a tough lesson because I wanted to be liked, but things changed. When I retired, I entered the butler’s pantry and the same waiter I helped with his surgery didn’t even stand up, did not offer me a drink. At that moment I decided that I couldn’t care less about 90% of the people I actually know.
  • Everything that happened and is happening to me now is not all lessons. Some of them were just messed-up experiences that I have to live with. I went through this before and perhaps the best way to say it is I just relapsed.
  • And I don’t have to forgive the people who wronged me. I don’t care what is being preached to me. It took me a long time to get to this thought and to get over the guilt I felt as I did my morning prayers. I was hurt, and yes, with that moral compass gone awry, I will not forgive.

And yes, time does heal.

As I ask for the tab for my final Bloody Mamou, I have a long way to go in getting my life all quiet and under the radar. My therapist likes to say, “No, Monchet, you aren’t flamboyant, but have a joie de vive.” To which I retort, “Oh, Doc, I am damaged goods,” and he says, “You are resilient!” Just like that second-grade play, just like the Molave… unless they decide to cut you down again.

No, they won’t. I am back.