Catharsis by restaurant receipts

3 01 2011

I’VE BEEN losing sleep on a daily basis.  I stare at the ceiling until around 1:00 to 2:00 AM before sleep comes.  I’ve probably seen more ceiling that Michelangelo ever did.

Over the holidays, I think I lose twice more.  But it’s not because I stare at the ceiling much longer.  Apart from all the cooking I have to do, I use the few days away from work for my holiday ritual.  It’s actually just my annual attempt to thoroughly clean my room.  It’s my best effort at spring-cleaning at a third world country that doesn’t even have four seasons.

I go through all my stuff and edit.  I may not want to compartmentalize my life in any way ever, but my things, my things I compartmentalize.  At the end of it, I hope to be able to throw away things I don’t need anymore, find stuff I can repurpose, identify those I can give away to others who may have use for or need them more, and, make room for something new in my life.

Without originally intending to, it has proven to be a most cathartic endeavor.  It’s like my own news and public affairs production of the year in review.  It has given me time to think through all that happened in the year that was about to end.  I’m brought back to decisions I made, friendships that no matter how I tried to save still had to end, new and better friendships that made me forget them, and friendships that have stood the test of personal differences, of time and of distance.

For starters, twelve months’ worth of receipts tell me a lot about myself.  I’m too cheap to fork over the membership fee for a Powerbooks Power Card and for like the third year in a row, I’ve failed miserably at submitting my application before the window period for accumulated receipts would have lapsed.  The same holds true for National Bookstore’s “Laking National” card.  I chide myself that those cards would cost me only the equivalent of – actually less – what I unmindfully pay for my favorite chai tea latte over ice.  I guess the fact that I have to “collect” something (receipts) to meet a target is what appeals to me.

I’m too cheap to reach deep in my pocket to pay full price on books for myself.  But it’s one cheap thrill I’m not about to change.  Besides, some really hard-to-find titles, I found only after patiently rummaging through bins and shelves at Booksale.  I had to cancel a reservation at Powerbooks for Dana Thomas’s “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster” after I chanced upon a like-new-condition copy at the bottom of a sad pile of hardbacks at a bargain bin.  Quite ironic if you think about it.  I found the ultimate book on luxury at the most unglamorous of places – at the two-for-one bin.

But if there’s one thing that put a smile on my face, it is that I do put my money where my mouth is.  Literally.  Restaurant receipts can be thought of as some of my most treasured possessions.  And I’m not exaggerating.  When I get home from dining out, I take the receipt out and write on its back the names of the people who shared the meal with me.  Sometimes I would forget.  But if there’s something going through these receipts revealed to me now, it is that something memorable is truly unforgettable.  July 13 – dinner at Buon Giorno, dessert at Café Breton.  November 5 – early dinner at Pizza Hut.  November 10 – dinner at Max’s.  November 26 – dinner at Italianni’s, coffee at Starbucks.  December 4 – dessert and coffee at Starbucks.  The list goes on.

With the receipts taken care of and separated into categories – “Dinners with Superheroes” and “Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf with Superheroes” saved, everything else to be shredded – I move on to pruning my CD and DVD collection (gifts from Batman are “the untouchables”), book collection, magazine piles (I read seven titles a month), articles of clothing, and newspaper clippings.  For the latter, all I could manage to do this time was categorize them into wristwatch features and others.  “Others” being mostly columns of journalists I follow.

Unlike in years past, I lingered this time.  It was as if I didn’t want to end my ritual.  Last year, by day three of my cleaning, I was stricken with panic the moment I’d covered my bedroom floor with piles and piles of “categorized” stuff.  I thought to myself that I wouldn’t be able to go back to my daily grind with so much unfinished clutter.  But this time?  I just sat there, slumped on the floor.  I knew even before starting that this time around, my hoilday ritual will give me time to ponder on all the major changes that will come in 2011.

I’m not the same person anymore.  I’ve finally given up on trying to resuscitate to what-used-to-be one of the closest friendships in my life simply because it has proven to be too much of an effort already.  Even standard CPR procedures dictate one could only defibrillate to a certain point.  I’ve moved past the bitterness to a place of gratitude for all that experience afforded me.  A gratitude that came after seeking forgiveness that may or may not have come.  (Honestly, I don’t know which.)  I just held on to the belief that you should know when something has already become painful and joyless.  The time will come to save yourself.  You will have other friendships.  But never another self.

With the piles of restaurant receipts sitting to my right, I’m accepting that I may have to take a respite from gastronomic adventures this coming year.  People I love sharing the table with have almost all moved abroad.  I don’t want to impose on the one left behind.  Though I’m starting to reconsider learning to play DOTA to make our friendship give-and-take.  Hahaha!  I do appreciate though that he gives me my lonely time because “people do get lonely especially when they are deprived of seeing someone they care about”.  (I love it when good movies succinctly describe how I feel.)

The year has barely started and yet now more than ever, I do feel like I’m working against the clock.  Something that I have been relegating to the deepest recesses of my mind just couldn’t be put at the backburner for much longer.  I have to accept that much like the jar of Nutella I reached for at the supermarket shelf last week, I too have an expiration date.  I’m now walking with an invisible “sell by / best before” date on my forehead.  Hard as it is to admit, one facet of my life will soon come to a screeching halt.

Am I too young for a bucket list?  I don’t know.  But it sure feels like I have to make one – if I’m serious at all to make this life count.  Sometimes, I’m reduced to asking, “I’m 36 years old and what have I done with my life?”

Honestly, not much, an assessment that was not measured against anybody else’s standard but my own self.  On one drive to a farfalle alla genovese dinner with a superhero, I’ve floated one of my ideas – actually more like a dream – for the first time.  I’m thinking about writing a book.  It’s still a lot of bits and pieces in my head, but if there’s one thing that I’ve already gotten down pat, it’s how I will write the dedication page.  Short but sweet.  And as I write, I already know exactly the words.

I know I already sound like a broken record when it comes to taking care of my friendships.  The body count has been infamous.  Many bridges have been burned.  But I guess those who do matter have managed to stay and now so well-deserve the descriptive “long-standing” (or should it be “long-suffering”?).  They know who they are.  (Green Lantern just surprised me with a thank you for the “ups and downs”.)  And they know I love them dearly and deeply.  They are quite few.  I’ve moved past wanting to have as many as I could to wanting to have just those who I really need in my life.  I mean, if you would be friends with too many people, then I guess you probably are not friends.  There’s no better irony than Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – 550 million friends but not too popular.  So I’d keep it to the critical few.  Friendship takes a lot of work and time.  But for the critical few, I don’t mind.

Finally, I think now is the time that I have come to accept that every now and then, I have to swallow my pride.  Get down from my white horse.  Atone for my sins.  I’m going to hit this refresh button until my Facebook friend request gets accepted.  I just hope it happens before my expiration date.

Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.