The Curious Case of Valentines 2016

No Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Since Birth

That’s my most honest label in the world of romantic relationships and dating. Heck, that’s a confession as well.

If I was the Michelle speaking two years ago, I wouldn’t have ever admitted it. I was dead embarrassed about it. Imagine your mother giving this juicy detail of your life (instead of achievements or experiences) to her friends whenever they would ask about me, in my presence. THE TRAUMA.

Is being an NBSB a stigma? I believe it could be considered as such. Coming from a semi-conservative society of the Philippines, being without a partner for such a long time is considered a shame. Most women in the past would be married at the age of 24. My mom got married with my dad when she was 24, my dad 23. And it wasn’t even just about child rearing, it was more of just the right age to be a married person. Habang bata pa… (While still young) as what they say. Of course, there’s the promise of building a family and being able to provide while stay healthy, etc. Nowadays, I believe that the marrying age has moved up a bit to late 20s probably because of work or just this new era has promised us so much more than just marriage. There’s career growth, traveling, partying, exploring new culture and language,etc. Moreover, you can be in love and be in a long, serious relationship with your partner without being married, right?

When I was much younger (and more cynical), I asked my bestfriend if it’s possible to be mutually in love with someone without putting a label on whatever they have except for love. For several minutes she was taken aback and reflected on it also. Being a player spares you of these types of questions as a player or just a lady-charmer gives you the luck of always having someone around. Anyway, she said that it is totally possible, but without the confirmation of what the relationship is, it’s difficult to define what boundaries and rights you have with each other.  Touche.  Then there’s my question about marriage later on and my perception of it as just a legal binding of emotions and freedom. Somewhere, sometime along the road of maturity, I’ve been a witness to some really good relationships that ended up in marriage. Suddenly, marriage became so ideal to me, and the promise of being together for as long as one can manage with a partner was so appealing.

If there’s one word that I picked up from my elementary English class that stuck so much as beautiful to me, it would be companionship. For example, I believe that my grandparents shared not only years and years of love, but it was companionship that kept them together. They always had each others’ back even when they bickered everyday. I knew how much my grandfather adored my grandmother despite his constant teasing (he new grew old of this, pun yes yes), and I’m sure my grandmother was flustered the whole time.

So you see, bred from an environment, a culture, a society that fosters this type of image of love and relationship, being an NBSB is a stigma. My relatives asks me all the time why I don’t have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and my constant answer is: I DON’T KNOW. Honestly!

They say I don’t look that bad. Yeah, I’m on the chubby side, but at least I have boobs, I’m soft and hug-able. I can carry a conversation and I at least try to be smart, but uhm, yep, that’s not the formula for me. Perhaps because of my resting bitch-face? My high school friend told me some guys get intimidated with me. Frankly, I didn’t know how to deal with that statement, and I still don’t know how. I mean, come on! I didn’t have any say when the genes of my parents decided to mold this kind of face. I’m actually a really really friendly person if they only approach me! And well, fine, I can be a bit bitchy too since my tongue is kinda sharp, but only when necessary. I guess the bad parts stick to people better, huh?

Other friends have told me to go out there and explore. How? Going to clubs? Meh, don’t like crowded, noisy places and I don’t like drinking that much. How do you even have a decent conversation in a place where you’d have to yell at another person to hear you say, hi? What? The point is to be instantly close to the person, like, literally? NUH-UH. I mind my personal space, thank you.

Chats? Well, I could go with this. In fact, I’ve chatted several times with different guys and they were kinda interesting. I even had a few email correspondents. All those had been great experiences, but the thing is, I have problems with consistency. I can’t keep up with the constant exchange online unless it’s that person who becomes persistent with me. I grow tired of writing emails (because my replies are novel-length) and chats are kinda awkward when left hanging by the other person on the line.

Some men have approached me for my number, but I’m seriously untrusting of strangers, so either I lie about something or I just flee the scene. I also have no idea about flirting and I’m more a pare (buddy) to my crushes than a lady. The most offensive description I’ve had of my unsuspecting, unapparent femininity was that I had no sex appeal coming from no other than my own…father. Yep, that hurt a lot. I guess there’s also my non-conforming view of how a female should look like for a really long time, so I really didn’t look the part of someone who has, as my father said, sex appeal.

Nowadays, I’m more inclined to traditional ways of looking feminine like wearing make-up, curling hairs, wearing skinny jeans and dresses, and perhaps at the back of my mind this is to make myself look better, but I’m not really going for the look that I think guys would like, just things that I find pretty on me. Basically, the upgraded blooming is really puberty hitting a bit late in life without the raging hormones.

To be honest, I used to frustrate myself asking what’s wrong with me and why other people don’t find me interesting enough to make me their girlfriend. Then I’d get conscious about Valentines Day as it really is a case-in-point single-ness awareness day. My family would tease me about not having a date or getting flowers or chocolates then I’d somehow find myself watching a romantic movie even if I deny that Valentines is just another day (not even a holiday, duh), but I’d dream of my own love story anyway, afterward.

This year, somehow, I’m welcoming Valentines with open arms! WOO! That’s why I described this topic as curious. I may had been a bit bitter on the purpose of this day and the contrast it gives my sterling love-life (eherm), but this year, I dunno. I wanna do something on this day! Something special. I’ll just make it a day to do something special, but not really because it’s Valentines, you get me? I wanna get that special feeling that couples maybe giddy about during this day minus the romance and without added sour or bitterness. I just wanna spend this day positively in my own way.

So what’s the plan?

Well, my older brother said he’s gonna treat us for dinner so YEY! That’s one. Valentines is about love, so spend it well with my first love food and then family. Admit it or not, we were first attached to food through our appetites before we start recognizing the faces of our family members, so no shame to that! Also, I kinda really wanna watch this:

panahon-ng-may-tama-comikilig

Yeah, it looks corny, but I’m sure corny is the last words for these veteran comedians! I’d love it more if Jose and Wally were there, but Papa Jack is bad-ass funny in his own way especially handling lovesick, desperate callers in his late night radio show; I’ve watched Ate Gay in a comedy bar and I love him/her; then there’s Boobsie and Chuchay whose segment in a Sunday noontime show has become a mainstay, so you know they’ve got the laughs locked down. I love comedy shows! I love laughing! Doesn’t it feel so good to laugh so hard you can hear your own laugh and then laugh at it and then laugh out more?!

See? This resting-bitchface bitch actually loves to laugh. Take that, irony!

So yeah, I’m not gonna celebrate on the actual Valentines Day, but in spirit of it, yes. V-day falls on a Sunday, so I would, on any other circumstances and day, would avoid the crowd of a Sunday in malls or any shopping area. The farthest I’d probably go to would be in Guadalupe for ukay-ukay. (I miss!)

So how did this change of heart come about? Simple. Acceptance. It’s the key to everything. I really have to thank the gods for letting me experience the worst of pain for me to evolve into this more mature being. Accepting that there’s gold at the end of the horrible road is an upgrade to my optimism and belief that life really gets more amazing as time goes. Failure and death paved way for reflection and changes.

I’m very thankful also to my friends who urged me to attend Zen meditation classes because aside from the actual meditation, Buddhist teachings certainly connected with me on a spiritual level.

Nothing is permanent in this world; people, material things, happiness, pain, nature, etc. Once you start accepting this truth, it’s much easier to live. We suffer because of things we don’t have or things we cannot attain. In this case, I don’t have a romantic partner and I haven’t attained one. I’ve probably haven’t done enough good things to earn my karma for a partner, or maybe I don’t have one for this lifetime. I used to think that perhaps going abroad would open me a whole new opportunity not only for career but also for a chance at love, but what if there’s none? Then I would be in for another disappointment. So, detach. Detach yourself from thoughts of things you do not have. Live your life in the moment with good deeds and happiness. If I’m not meant to fall in love in this lifetime, then so be it. I try my best everyday to detach myself from the hope.

I try because from time to time I still wish to learn what love is all about and why people go crazy with it. It must feel so nice to have someone dote on you lovingly. I know that despite this acceptance, the over-thinker me would always asks these what ifs which I find so tragic in stories. There’s that gray area of things that could have happened, but they wouldn’t because it’s not meant to be. Not in that lifetime at least.

So what’s the conclusion? Be happy, and live life to its most positive potential. Be curious of the odd and different, but have enough caution. Love yourself, love others, and love life. Remember, love always multiplies. 😀

Advanced happy love day, everyone! 🙂

IMG_20160122_225912

Dependency

So my student and I had this question in our TOEFL speaking practice about relationships of parent and children. He shared that his mom was the strict type, so he could never be friendly with her even until now that he’s a parent himself. Moreover, his daughter is flying to the US to study, so his relationship with her could potentially change, either for the better or worse. He said that his daughter is closer to her mom, and they have the friendly type of parent-child relationship (like my mom and I). He’s the stricter parent, but he said his daughter looks up to him, therefore he’s confident that she’ll miss him when she goes to America. This dad confidently feels that they’ll have a closer relationship when she comes back.

Well, at least that is the hope.

Along our conversation, I was suddenly hit by this sort of loneliness which I think I’d have to endure once I become a parent. As my student said, the conflict which teens go through is not only suffered by them, but of the parents as well. This is the period of parenthood which all parents must bear with their child’s growing independence, or what some may interpret as “rebellion”.

A co-teacher shared that parents, on the first day of class (nursery or kindergarten) have a bigger tendency to show signs of separation anxiety rather than the child. This is one of the main reasons why children have a harder time adjusting to the new environment. If the parent is not willing to let go of his or her child’s hand, then how will they let go as well? Children can only feel comfortable in a new place or to a new person once their parents say, “It’s okay. Don’t be scared.”

Of course, it’s understandable why parents would be like this, right? For many years, they will be the child’s strength, their eyes, hands, feet, mouth, everything. Suddenly, after a few years they start to stand up on their own, walk on their own; know how to not call their mom or dad to be guided. Most parents feel proud, and at the same time, I guess a bit lonely too? This tiny human who came from your own flesh, growing more and more capable; more and more capable of living without them. I know it sounds kind of negative, but I think we all have that mixed feeling of liking a person’s dependency to us.

I’d attest to that, personally.

I’ve always felt that my parents, particularly my mom, wanted us to grow up not depending too much on them (or her), but more to our own skills and capacity. Because of this, I grow up not liking other kids who depend too much on their parents for their school projects; it felt unfair. On the other hand, as I grew stronger with my independence, I felt more and more people depending on me. It was an unfamiliar feeling, however, I didn’t hate it. I like helping others, especially if I really like that person, so their dependence on me affirmed my strengths as a person. In addition, taking care of a person feels good, no matter how difficult it could be. So I once thought, “Ah, is this how it feels to be a mom?”

*sigh*

However, in life, we all must walk separate paths, right? Families or lovers alike. It’s the truth of life. A painful or precious reality?

Whichever it is, this hot-pot of emotions and questions, make us human.

Ahhh….life.

Quotes: “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”

“Tikkun olam.”

Exactly. Basically, it says that the world has been broken into pieces. All this chaos, all this discord. And our job – everyone’s job – is to try to put the pieces back together. To make things whole again.”

And you believe that?”

I guess I do. I mean, I don’t know how the world broke. And I don’t know if there’s a God who can help us fix it. But the fact that the world is broken – I absolutely believe that. Just look around us. Every minute – every single second – there are a million things you could be thinking about. A million things you could be worrying about. Our world – don’t you feel we’re becoming more and more fragmented? I used to think that when I got older, the world would make so much more sense. But you know what? The older I get, the more confusing it is to me. The more complicated it is. Harder. You’d think we’d be getting better at it. But there’s just more and more chaos. The pieces – they’re everywhere. And nobody knows what to do about it. I find myself grasping, Nick. You know that feeling? That feeling when you just want the right thing to fall into the right place, not only because it’s right, but because it will mean that such a thing is still possible? I want to believe in that.”

Do you really think it’s getting worse? I mean, aren’t we better off than we were twenty years ago? Or a hundred?”

We’re better off. But I don’t know if the world’s better off. I don’t know if the two are the same thing.”

You’re right.”

Excuse me?”

I said, ‘You’re right.’”

But nobody ever says, ‘You’re right.’ Just like that.”

Really?”

Really.”

…Then it hits me.

Maybe we’re the pieces,”

What?”

Maybe that’s it. With what you were talking about before. The world being broken. Maybe it isn’t that we’re supposed to find the pieces and put them back together. Maybe we’re the pieces. Maybe, what we’re supposed to do is come together. That’s how we stop the breaking.”

Tikkun olam.”

“There’s no such thing as ready,” she says. “There’s only willing.”

“We are the ones who take this thing called music and line it up with this thing called time. We are the ticking, we are the pulsing, we are underneath every part of this moment. And by making the moment our own, we are rendering it timeless. There is no audience. There are no instruments. There are only bodies and thoughts and murmurs and looks. It’s the concert rush to end all concert rushes, because this is what matters. When the heart races, this is what it’s racing towards.”

 

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (novel)

Moving on….

This afternoon, I visited one of my older diaries/journal, the one I used and abused three years ago, and boy have I changed so much.

I love revisiting my previous diaries and even some of my old blog entries because they make me smile at my silliness, at my constant attempt at substance and profoundness, or just some recorded moments of angst and rage. It’s also amusing to trace how my views in life have changed, including my writing style. For example, there are some entries which my writing was so vague I didn’t know what I was talking about! I think in those entries I forgot to introduce the topic to my unnamed reader, so a few years forward, even I cannot remember the incident from that date. I think now, I make sure I give an introduction before I jump to the heart of the matter.

Admittedly, I have an unreliable memory, and I’m a scatterbrain in expressing my ideas verbally. I think this is one of the reasons I write my thoughts. My experience and ideas do not translate as well when I hear my voice as to when I see words making sense of my head.

Anyway (this is the heart of the matter), two years ago, I was apparently still, probably, in love with someone.

Well, it was unrequited. It’s one of those feelings I chose to struggle alone with than risk what we already have as friends. As very good friends. According to that entry from the journal, I’ve confessed some months back, but I wasn’t over it. I felt the agony that enveloped me at that time of writing. The me two years ago, was probably hunched over the notebook, with a heavy heart spilling my innermost thoughts to an idea that has remained an idea till this day. That me that wondered the “what ifs”, that remained in pain.

Well, most fortunately, three years later, I’m glad to say, I have moved on completely, 200 percent definitely over that person. I don’t dream anymore of being us in and out of my subconscious. I would be happy to whomever that person’s heart lands on, and I’d expect that good person to be the same. I’m sure of it.

Three years ago, I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever be over that idea of us because we seemed perfect together, and I wasn’t ready to kill my hope, I guess, because I still thought about it. I guess it’s the same to any problematic situation we encounter, you know, when we’re in pain, we feel as if we’re victims trapped in a bubble that’s bound to pop and our lives will fall apart, but then sometimes things in our lives have to crumble for us to learn the skills of rebuilding ourselves again, creating a stronger self and surviving with whatever we find outside the bubble.

Time does heal wounds, just give it the chance to heal your wounds.  Yeah, you’ll hurt a lot, maybe cry buckets (I never did, really), and feel very very alone, but really, once you’re out the pity party, life begins again. You’ll recover. The question is when and how. Don’t worry, you’d know. 🙂

Such is Life

It has been five months since the whole dilemma began.

Mid-September I received a message from my younger brother, seemingly distressed (and as usual, helpless) that his mom, my Tita Marie (stepmom), felt sick. I immediately visited her, interrogating on her possible past health issues and her then current complaints.

What a supposed visit turned into weeks of unplanned stay-overs because from then on I was suddenly the matron of the house in charge of bills, budget, and food; the personal assistant responsible for setting appointments with doctors and getting Tita to laboratories for endless “necessary” exams; the mediator between family members who were suddenly concerned, visitors who were suddenly friends, and suddenly the highest in-charge of the family business.

With Tita’s worsening cognitive functions and as the responsible child with the most time in her hands (being I work from home), I had to take in all these novel roles with closed eyes.

For a while, I felt like a zombie because I wasn’t exactly sure if what my decisions were correct or wise, I simply acted according to how the time needed me. Apparently, I was the only one in my family willing to sacrifice to help, so with my head high, I just did what I had to do.

Mid-October when Tita was officially diagnosed with Lung Cancer Stage 4 metastasis to the brain. Her apparent impaired memory, motor, and verbal skills were due to the lesions developed from the mass in her lungs, which has progressed to its advanced stage without any of us knowing, including her.

For all we know, Tita was the last in our family to get sick. She is always lively, on-the-go type of person, a bit workaholic, consistently on a diet and working out, the likes. She did smoke on some stressful occasions, but not really enough for her to develop lung cancer. We suspected that it was second-hand smoke. With 12 years working in a small canteen and tired, stressed taxi drivers–puffing countless sticks of yosi–as our biggest patrons, it could have been that. It is also possible that her overworked body found a way to tell her to slow down. It seems jogging at 2:30 AM followed by an exhausting trip to the market to stock our canteen, then straight to bathing, a short nap, and the rest of the day working at the shop is not the best combination for a healthy lifestyle. I quite suspect the long-term effect of those popular slimming pills she took in the past, too.

I felt very sorry for Tita because I know she didn’t want to slow down. Not when I barely had the time to visit (I am infinitely guilty of this), Jom finding quality time to the comfort of his friends’ company, my older brother having his own family, and my dad on the other side of the world, she could not slow down. If I were her, I wouldn’t. I’d be very lonely. I wouldn’t want to slow down because then I’d notice how alone I am, and how eerily, depressingly silent a 3-storey house can be.

At the same time, I felt very sorry for myself. Though at some point, I mulled over the thought of whether I have the right to pity myself when I’m not the one who was sick, yet I couldn’t help but cry at the end of the day, finished with everything that had to be done, accomplished forms and my own work, that I felt so…alone.

For the firs time in my entire 25 years of existence, I felt so lonely.

I’m a person partial to changes. I love the idea, but I’m not entirely confident that it suits me, or how well I can handle it.

In the five months wherein everything transpired, I may have changed drastically. I experienced living away from my mother and realizing how dependent I have been to her emotionally and physically despite my claim to being independent; learning that 20,000 pesos is not such a big amount of money if you start deducting payments for bills and food alone; being more knowledgeable with medical terms and hospital processes, dealing with two-faced “professionals” and being more open to alternative medicine; and handling real-time emergencies like blood and excrement all over the place while maintaining a presence of mind to call for help and not breakdown in anxiety. They were things I didn’t give a toss before, nor was I every welcoming of the idea of knowing them until I had to.

There were sleepless days laced with worry over Tita’s health, whether I’d ever be able to go home, how long will the agony last, why I have to sacrifice career opportunities and personal time, or why I had to do everything by myself. Although my dad kept his support and my younger brother ready to follow my instructions, just one day, I hope somebody takes the burden from me without questions and let me breathe, give a pat in the back and say: “You’ve done enough for now, go on and take a rest.”

In these trying times, I couldn’t appreciate the thank you very much, I wanted physical help. Because taking care of a 5 feet 7 inches woman, weighing 140 lbs was so not easy for a small woman like myself who has a bad back and quite on the heavy side, as well.  Well, at the end of the day, I guess I did it for love.

Tita is like a mother to me. Literally, she is my second mother, but I think in terms of spoiling and support, she was never behind my biological mother. It’s also fascinating that she and my own mom are friends. I know, it’s kinda awkward, but it’s really not. The awkwardness only transpires once my father enters the picture. Anyway, I’ve known her since I was five years old. I remember my dad telling me one weekend that there will be a woman coming to his house with a baby. When I saw them and my dad introduced her as my “Tita Marie” while the baby she was holding was my younger brother, I just shrugged and said, “Talaga?” (Really?) with amusement and apparently, acceptance. During summers, I’d spend my vacation in my dad’s house with her and my younger brother, she’d share to me various stories, have an impulsive movie/coffee/shopping date, and made me feel like an only child. Yeah, she loved to spoil me because I was the only girl and I didn’t live with her. Well, I also like to think that I was the kindest child and definitely the only one who understood her as a woman. When I told her I wanted to go to Japan and that I’d need her help, she didn’t ask me why, she just nodded and smiled a bit, asked how she can help and proceeded with the perfect Japan story of her in her 20’s, trying to survive in Japan. While my mom is a bit clingy and overprotective of me, she’s the mom who pushed me to try new things while I’m still young. I am infinitely lucky to have lived with two mothers.

Tomorrow, my father and I would be taking Tita to Caloocan where her mother and brother reside. From then on, it will be their responsibility to take care of her. It’s not because we’ve given up on her, but my dad has to go back to the US to earn money for my younger brother and expenses for the house and Tita’s needs, while it’s been too long since I’ve been home. I also need to get out and find myself a new job because it won’t be long that my part-time job at home drive me crazy. My mom needs my attention too now that her health is also in the hazard zone with asthma, high blood, and borderline diabetes in the mix. We’ve tried our best to find someone to take care of Tita, but there’s just no one willing. We can hire a private nurse or caretaker, but we just don’t have the funds now to secure one. In the end, we have to pass the responsibility to her other family. It’s gonna be tough, but I hope they show the same kind of love, care, and patience we’ve given to her since. Not because you’re family mean that you’ll be treated like one.

I’ll miss Tita so much. Even in her cognitive-impaired, bed-ridden, diaper-dependent state, I still enjoy her company. I know she has not given up the fight when she can still understand my joke, out of the blue comment on my never-changing weight, and that she’s still prettier than me even without hair. She’s still the same woman I treated as my own mother the moment I met her 20 years ago.

I hope they treat her well, I hope they treat her right. I hope they understand that she’s not stubborn, you just have to find a way around her. I hope they have the patience of a saint because it’s never easy taking care of the sick. I hope they never forget that she’s a woman who loves us all and still craves for attention even if she doesn’t remember how to.

It’s only a matter of days when I’ll go back to my own house in Makati, and I can keep everything behind me. Of course I’ll have to visit Tita once in a while too, and lord knows how much I’d have to teach Jom now that he’d have to live by himself. Nonetheless, I’d have less responsibility and I can go forward to start a new job, some new hobbies, meet my friends more often, spend time with my Mom everyday when I don’t have work, so I should be happier.

At the same time I am not.

I feel like I’m leaving a very important chapter of my life which, despite all it’s bad memories, I have learned to live with. I’m not happy that I’d be separated with my family, and our weekends will never be the same. It won’t be the same when I can simply swing by my Dad’s house to find Tita working her magic in the kitchen, asking me if I’ve eaten something, Jom trying to mask his glee (I know!) that I’ve visited by bickering with me, the only lambingan we know, and then video-calling with dad to share some trivial stories in our lives while trying not to get into each other throat (that’s just the way we are). It’s painful that we can’t go back to those kinds of days anymore, and I feel that it’s too soon. I’m not ready for these kinds of changes at 26, no matter how much one should have learned at that age. I thought we’d have this kind of family drama when I’m in my 40s.

Sometimes I feel that life had not been fair. Although more often, I feel that life, the universe which holds all the answer, might be staging something big for me.

Last year, before all these began, I asked for my life to change. Yes, I said I’m partial to it, however, since my life had been a vicious cycle of disappointments so far, I asked someone to bring me something different. And just when I thought wishes aren’t true, it slaps me in the face with a smelly trout and with a smirk saying, “There ya go, bitch.” But you, whoever you are, I didn’t ask for a disease! SIGH.

Anyhow, I learned a lot from this event like I am such a fucking positive person, nothing can make me cry except my own self-pitying self which I’d purge the minute it’s detected; that I have a serious-non-panicky face even in face of people dying or blood coughing; that I can only tolerate my father to such an extent, and that if we live together for more than 3 months, I’d eventually be in jail for murder; that I prioritize my family more than anything else (yes, even if I get annoyed by my father constantly); and that I’m capable of patience, sacrifice, and small talk with people I need to be acquainted with for help.

Problems of these kinds put things in perspective. It’s hard to appreciate the present fully, but try to do so because you’ll really miss whatever you now enjoy when it’s gone. Appreciate the small things, be grateful  for them. Do not mull on the problem and feel sorry for yourself, instead find a way to still find the strength to smile while trying to solve it. Go slowly, steadily and find your way back up.

That’s life. Such is life.

 

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life:  it goes on.” ― Robert Frost