[ Notes : Scary and creepy enough to mention, but we had been trying to ID a song that we heard a few summers ago but couldn’t place, when all of a sudden yesterday while chewing the fat, there it was on MTV we saw, the evanescent artist and title, Jack Johnson and Flake, and sure enough it brought back pleasant memories of our first months in NZ. Then came another revelation. Must have heard D McLean’s American Pie hundreds of times before we discerned more than one religious reference (good and evil) as well as the use of the word dirge, which we understand is a funeral song. Just goes to show that you go through life missing tons of detail, and it might serve us well to go back every now and then to review. Which is why we focus now on one important aspect of life the past decade, i.e., more than anything else, the reality of living alone. Apologies for the inordinate length of this email ! ]
When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.- Gertrude Stein, writer & art enthusiast
Dear friends :
GIVEN OUR FAITH in the massive role that Fate assumes when we discover, and lose, the love of our lives, why should we expect anything less when searching for love anew?
We ask this not just because of our being severed from the ranks of those blessed with love these last few years, but also because, improbably, we had discovered more of ourself during our solitary journey, in the process learning to appreciate, albeit at a relatively advanced age, the virtues of living life alone.
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Fittingly, it was the youngest of our brood, Brent, the one that represented change most dramatically, who non-chalantly informed us late last year of that symbolic change in our life.
Papa, matagal na pong dumating yung letter galing sa court. Dinala na ni Kuya kay Nana, baka kasi kailangan mo. Diba mas madaling ipadala sa yo from them?
He said this with so little guile and irony that we could not but assume that he was unaware of the import of the document that he helped send to his grandmother.
Almost 10 years to the day she left, the formal ties that had bound us to Brent’s mother were cut asunder by a magistrate who knew neither of us, had no knowledge of the love and regret that passed through and between, and would never care to do so, now and forever. However, this judge’s routine act was the final stage of a process that had spiralled inevitably from union, into separation, and ultimately into annulment, sad but crying out for closure.
While it was representative of a milestone in our life, such event was not the defining moment of the last decade. Not that we are saying there was one, but the moments we spent alone, attempting to learn more about ourselves, pick up the pieces of the past we left behind, and grasping at straws to see if anything remained of our future, was the scrawling pad that helped us mark the time.
No surprise to anyone but after a short and unremarkable stint in university, we spent practically all of our adult life ( till the turn of the century ) as a married person. We fell in love, fell in lust, and fell out of love (not necessarily in that order) within the span of around 15 stressful but relatively happy years.
We have nothing against love and marriage ; in fact it works for most people we know. Just that the premise of marrying for appearance’s sake, and later staying married to anticipate little ones coming, works but for a limited time. After that, you realize you are faced with the prospect of living with someone, anyone actually, for the rest of your natural life. You had better like that person a whole lot. Obviously we ( and the ex ) hadn’t thought that far.
There are simply too many unknowns, a nearly infinite number of variables, an endless list of dos don’ts and TMIs that you wouldn’t have dared ventured to know but now need to memorize in dizzying detail in a consensual union, some pretty, others not-so, and still others downright scary to know about another person. Nobody should have to be forced to know another person on that level. To be fair to the ex, not even the wisest and sagest counselor could have prepared either of us for the too-close and sometimes disturbing familiarity that (at some point) all spouses endure, re each other.
Sana wag nyong masamain ang cynicism natin regarding the sacred institution ( both in social and religious milieux ) of marriage. You have read enough of our rants and raves to know that we are a firm believer in the formal union of man and woman, especially as it relates to the blooming of love in the form of stable unions and closely-knit families.
Just that there are two great caveats always breathing down the neck of even the strongest, stablest and securest (couldn’t help lining up three s adjectives) marriages. At the risk of exposing our long-held bias/es :
First is that there is no deadline beyond which either partner may no longer bring up the issue of finding and discovering oneself, that great task that simply cannot be accomplished with the spouse and kids waiting at the dinner table back home.
How many hectares of marriage landfills have been used up to the brim because of that reason? How many wives ( and husbands ) have upped and left, after years of domestic bliss, to undo the fact that they married too soon, failed to fulfill their potential, or neglected to find THE ONE ( not Keanu, and not Jet Li ) that would complete their incomplete halves, for the rest of eternity? Here’s a scary word : soulmate. As in, I need to find my soulmate, surely you understand that? How many relationships have poofed and dissolved into nada because of the epiphany and dread that one might end this life without having met one’s soulmate? Ngeeee.
Second, and we submit that husbands are guiltier on this aspect ( but wives are not immune ), that there comes a time ( some refer to it as post seven-year itch ) when one partner grows restless and out of God-given excess sexual energy, decides either to embark upon a quest to prove his/her manhood/womanhood ( as if it wasn’t already proven ) or to stretch the limits recently set by either ( or both ) age and inactivity.
Another terminology for the condition : mid-life crisis, which may or may not come by mid-life, but the symptoms are nearly identical : insecurity about oneself, a constant need to prove one’s virility and potency ( egged on in part by all those steroid drenched Vit. E ads ), and an irrational urge to counterbalance all these with returning to the familiar every time one strays too far from home and hearth, natakot ka rin kay Kumander.
The marriage may or may not survive this pair of issues, but it’s a good bet that whatever happens, bonds will be strained and the partners will have to undergo a bit of reinvention and renewal if the union is to be preserved and maintained. ( Ya think? )
To make a lengthening story less long (sorry for that), and strike quite close to home, our union did not survive, pointless denying it, and at least on our part, we had neither the maturity nor perseverance to fight for it all the way, not that it would have lasted regardless.
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Empirically, out of our losses, a few gains. Which law of the universe states that matter destroyed is always reappearing in another form ? Not that we are rationalizing the event, but especially because we had a family support group ( of the financial and moral kind ), a doctor bro who was astute enough to recognize potential life-threatening problems as they emerged ( he endured many a wet shoulder from our lachrymose tales ) gave us valuable, morale-boosting and keep-your-chin-up pep talks that saved us from many sessions of booze and self-pity, or worse.
And partly because of more-or-less repaired mental health, we were able to visit more places in the first five years of reclaimed singlehood than in all our previous 35 years put together.
We marveled at the length and breadth of the Great Wall, witnessed the economic miracle that was Singapore, were thrilled beyond limits in Disney World, and visited the quiet and understated beauty of New Zealand. Not only were Providence and a very generous aunt there to make the trips possible ( no way we could have afforded it ), we almost surely wouldn’t be available had we stayed attached.
We read all sorts of books the past few years, both mundane and life changing, pedestrian and inspiring, commonplace and beautiful beyond description. Whoever said that books are friends who never leave you must have been unmarried throughout most of his / her life. Or maybe loved books more than having a potential life partner.
We must have said it at least once in our many musings but hard as it is to imagine for most married people, it’s possible that one can be alone without being lonely.
Ironic, but probably the one thing that can make living with oneself truly difficult is when one has gone through most of life with someone else, and therefore cannot fathom the unlimited possibilities inherent in striking it out alone. To those who face the prospect or are already living the unexpected alternate reality of singlehood : it may be daunting , but not impossible to be equal to the challenge.
For ultimately, as we discovered, the one person you live with is yourself. So smile at that beautiful creature in the mirror, bro / sis !
Thanks for reading and thanks for the memories !
*Just another title borrowed from the Great One, G. Garcia Marquez.