Killing Time with A Blank Page

She has lost her voice. Which is what usually happens when she is concentrating on doing this profession that she had trained on.

The truth is: she is an excellent faker. She had convinced everyone that she is a competent doctor even if the reality in her heart makes her break in sweats every time she gives advice or performs a procedure on another human being.

There are a ton of paperwork attesting to her qualifications. Diplomas, certificates, letters of recommendations. But what do they prove? For her, nothing really. But they were her key to getting this high-paying job, her passport to leaving her life of financial drudgery.

She has always detested poverty of the material kind. Of course, there is a part of her that romanticizes poverty… the virtue of sacrificing a cushy life for a principled one — and all that BS. She appreciates having a full stomach; the capacity to buy the clothes, accessories and gadgets she wants;  even the presence of a hot shower in her flat. A part of her, though, wishes that she had been born with more backbone. So that she can withstand the inconveniences and indignities of standing up to her dreams.

She had given up dreaming (she thinks). Mostly because she lacks the time. Typing away random nothings on her laptop seem like a luxury. Stories used to come from her “random nothings”. But one has to be practical. Her stories have never brought food on the table. They have never helped her pay her taxes or given her a mode of transportation. Certainly, they have made her happy — the same way sex makes one happy, the anticipation, the dance towards an orgasm, but …  after one is done, after one types THE END in Microsoft Word, what then? “Post-coital ennui” — if there is such a  term describes her writing much more than it describes her sex life.

She used to treat her stories like her children. Each one a product of her dreams, characters and images lovingly nurtured in her head. She used to think that writing is her reason for being; much more than medicine, much more than her non-turbulent lovelife. Putting words on paper (or typing them on a word processor)  has always made her feel connected, less alone; a part of the universe and all its mysteries.

Writing has always made her feel … alive, renewed, reborn.

In fact, she once made a poem that boastfully claimed that she had given birth to herself. (She probably would not have written that poem if she had actual physical kids. Human progenies tend to make their mothers consider them as the ultimate performance of her life, beyond any other creative endeavor. A singer may have made the most beautiful song in the world; but if she had a child, she would consider the human as far more important than the other product of her dreams. Which is, maybe correct, depending on how one looks at it. After all, a human progeny has the capacity to make other progenies … a song will never beget another song.)

Acts of creations are tricky things. Sooner or later, they will find their own agency. And when that happens, the god that created them is fucked. One can never have one’s life again when one has a child. One is forever bound to that entity which one has created. (So, there is a part of her that pities, or empathizes with God — the one that created Everything.)

***

The problem with her is that she took Khalil Gibran’s poem too seriously. Specifically,  the line that says: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself … etc etc

Seriously! She believes that. Between believing in the Holy Trinity and that poem, the latter would win hands down. She feels more affinity towards this poem than towards any genetic imperative to propagate her chromosomes.

The irony is that she specializes in a field that helps women propagate their chromosomes. So it is always an awkward question when practical strangers ask her why she does not have a child (as if it is any of their business). To avoid long-winding explanations, she often lies and says that she and her husband have not been married very long (in the grand scheme of things, considering that the Universe is 5 billion year, her 9-year marriage is not that long.) Or she would be flippant and say: God has not willed them to have any kids yet (that reason would usually shut anybody up — nobody wants to argue about God’s will). Or she would say jokingly that she is too lazy to go through the efforts of having a kid.

In any case, today she has no genetic progeny and no literary opus to her name. What she has are a ton of books; a  collection of mishmash in her hard disk drive; a bunch of letters after her name;  a decent and steady salary (something that she can pat herself on the back for); and a patient, and kind husband who is the love of her life.

Taking all that into account, maybe she has not done so bad after all.

But she still, as yet, has to find her voice. She has to find it or else she will be that drowning person groping for her life-vest, flailing and gasping in the middle of the Pacific ocean.

She has to find it, a voice — her voice — otherwise what will be the point?

from pinterest

 

 

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Another Cut-and-Paste Blog Entry

The following words are from this website.

And while the details of the author’s life are different from mine, I share the sentiments she has towards her significant other.
*****
I Could Do This Without You, But I Don’t Want To (A Letter To My Husband)

by Amanda Elder

Image from Marriage.com

Image from Marriage.com

There were times I felt bitter toward you, especially when you were a medical student, and I was transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom. You didn’t understand my struggle. I ate, slept, and breathed our child, and felt consumed and alone.

You had a life outside of parenthood to continue, and while I stopped mine, I accommodated yours. For a period of time, we moved often and lived out of suitcases. Once, we even resided in a single bedroom of a Staten Island basement. For years, I manned the night wakings and offered my breasts around the clock as the only consistent comfort amidst constant upheaval.

Whenever you were off from work, I took our toddler out the minute he woke up so you (and our roommate) could sleep, but not always without resentment. I remember one morning, as I walked to our local bakery yet again, killing time with our little guy attached, I muttered, “I can do all this by myself.”

Because of life’s inherent uncertainty, I’ve actually considered the truth of that statement. I’ve now been a stay-at-home mom for five years and have wondered if I could actually survive on my own. Emotional well-being aside, would I even be able to provide food and shelter? I never thought I’d ask myself that question, being the self-sufficient woman I thought myself to be, but the honest answer is yes, I’d be fine. After all, I’m a go-getter, and that’s the reason all this staying home has been hard in the first place.

I’d make it, although there’d be details to figure out. You’re the dreamer, and you build our lives on the fantasies you manifest. Your doctor job is the one that would allow us to live a life of freedom and adventure in Costa Rica. I don’t have a vision for life without you, and the only notion of home I have is wherever we are. But I certainly wouldn’t head for the jungle on my own, and I wouldn’t do New Jersey either. Even though my sister lives there and I miss her when a single day goes by without conversation, I’ve been in Florida too long and have grown accustomed to bare feet and outdoor play all year long.

You’re in your residency now, and because you sometimes work 26 days a month, and 27 hours a day, I know that technically I can do this by myself. I pack bags and load babies like a boss. I clean toilets and play hide-and-seek simultaneously. I disguise trips to the grocery store as outings for cookies and have prepared many a meal with one hand. But despite my capability, I count down the time for you to come home, not because I so desperately need you to change the next diaper or fill the next sippy cup, but because I want you.

I don’t necessarily need you to carry scooters and tell the boys when it’s time to find a new climbing tree while out on family walks. I need you to hold my hand and talk to me.

I can put all the dishes away and find the missing shoe by myself, but with you, farts are funny, and coffee tastes better.

I can certainly walk the kids to sleep by myself, but when we stroll together, the full moon looks fuller, and I’m inclined to admire it longer.

I can take our son to karate by myself, but when that cute little girl beelines to be Javin’s partner, and another boy helps him perfect his jump kicks, I notice the sweetness, but I don’t giggle like I would with you.

I don’t need you to share parenting responsibilities with me out of fairness or survival, but for the joy of doing so. With you, the funny moments are funnier, the cute moments are cuter, and contrary to the pattern, the terrible moments are less so. Life is simply better with you.

We don’t only co-parent, we co-experience life.

We create and reflect on the same reality, and that somehow deepens the meaning of it all. When I see a beautiful sunset, and you say, “Look at that!” you validate what I see, and all of a sudden the colors become even brighter and more captivating.

I don’t necessarily need you for practical or worldly reasons, but I need you to know me. When I laugh, you’re aware of exactly why. And when I don’t say anything at all, you read my mind. You love my insecurities as you do my strengths, and your understanding gives me confirmation of myself. We’re like two beings from the same source, who get to witness more of themselves through each other.

It’s true that I don’t need you to survive. I need you for so much more.

 

Dreaming of Dictatorships

It must be my disposition, but I am vehemently against the notion of authoritarian rule. Which is (maybe) somewhat hypocritical of me, because I am now living, working in  and enjoying the comforts of a country with such a form of government (what can be more authoritarian than an absolute monarchy?).

democracy

Recently, my country has decided to elect as president a man who espouses his preference for a more “dictatorial” style of management. It has perplexed the “intellectual” segments of my country, we in our so-called ivory towers, who are removed from the daily toils and travails of the hoi polloi.

But hey, once upon a time (a little less than 6 months ago, in fact), I was part of the hoi polloi.  I was suffering the daily hell of MRT/LRT, the woes of Metro Manila traffic, the fragmented public health care system, the epal faces of politicians as pictured in those ubiquitous tarpaulins … Just six months ago, I was bemoaning all that was wrong with Pnoy’s government.

And then I left.

(And I found that I can’t vote in this country I have fled to because I was late for the registration — but that’s  another story.)

Deep in my guts, I knew it was only a matter of time that someone like Rodrigo Duterte would win as president of the Philippines. We are a country who elected Erap, after  all — and in a landslide win, at that.

We are a country who believes the social media machine of the Marcoses that is popularizing the revisionist idea that Martial Law was God’s gift to the Philippines. (ha ha, it was a gift that left me with a debt to be paid to foreign lending agencies until 2025!)

We are a country whose children do not know who Apolinario Mabini is, let alone that he was paralyzed.

We are a country whose people leave. That includes me, of course.

Once upon a time, in 1982 —   Marcos was still in power and Ninoy was still alive; when the peso was plummeting and the economy was in shambles; when thousands of would-be youth leaders have either been “salvaged”, tortured or disappeared,   a certain US Secretary of State was rumored to have said this: “The Philippines is a nation of 40 million cowards and one son-of-a-bitch.”

Well, George Schultz, it is now 2016, and the Philippines is a nation of 100 million people. I do not know if Mr. Duterte will prove to be a son-of-a-bitch (whatever that term may mean), but a lot of us are still cowards (or lazy … or deluded … or all of the above).

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The OFW Life

Dear Auntie J,

Yes now I understand.

Now I get it, the things you had to go through, which my mother (your sister) thought so little of:

Image from plantingrice.com

Image from plantingrice.com… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

Image: screengrab from youtube.com

… the language barriers, a wall so vast and deep because it is not only about words but more about history, culture and  things left unsaid …

al hajar mountains

… adjusting to a different climate whether too hot or too cold, looking  for your Goldilocks-zone and never quite finding it …

Image from gmanetwork.com

Image from gmanetwork.com

… having plenty of material stuff but not having enough, because “enough” meant having someone you love share all that plenty-ness with; unfortunately the ones you love are oceans of miles away …

… worrying and wondering about a distant land you left behind and dealing with the constant question “Did I  do the right thing?”  Leaving was a matter of survival, but still you have your doubts …

…. the feeling that your life is on hold. Because you are neither here nor there. You are not a tourist, but you are not a “resident” either.

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

Image from pinoyrepublic.info

I get it now. I get the allure of wanting to acquire citizenship in a foreign country to get a sense of belonging. Because eventually you feel that your own will not welcome you with open arms. Or the open arms are a sham, was only extended to demand something from you.

I get it now. Why you felt I was wasting my life back home. You see: I still think of it as home. I wonder, after all these years, how you think of it.

Image from minibalita.com

Image from minibalita.com

I get it now. The balikbayan boxes, the infrequent calls,  the seemingly superficial mails (because it really is hard to put into words this feeling of displacement, of  having betrayed something or having been let down, of not knowing who to talk to or how to talk about the deepest fears of your heart, of crying and feeling stupid because, hey, you have all this money, so why the tears?)

I get it now. And I am wondering whether to feel happy for us. Or sorry.

It is masochism, I know … but loving something frequently is.

And I know I love the land of my birth. Leaving was a pain. The pain was (is) palpable, and mostly felt in the wee silences of the morning or before sleeping when the routines of work are over.

Image from thefilipino.com

Image from thefilipino.com

It effing hurts to have left.

But I know … it would have hurt so much more to have stayed.

Hate is a Precondition for Freedom (or Mothers & Daughters)

fear of fifty

Erica Jong is a 1970’s author who invented the term “zipless fuck” — a passe concept that is not so popular now among the Y-gens and the millenials. What’s the big deal about zipless fucks when we have “friends-with-benefits”, “twerking”, and “Christian Grey”, right?

Erica has a daughter named Molly, with whom she had a love-hate relationship with.

Daughters will always have a love-hate relationship with their mothers. Unless that mother is dead and there is no point in hating her. When your mother is dead, the only way you can release yourself from her ghost is to forgive her for bringing you out into this world.

I think my mother would also have liked Erica’s books. I wouldn’t know now.

So, to mommy: thank you … I imagine that you are saying these to me from your grave ….

 

[Daughter], I want to release you.

If you hate me or want to reject me, I understand.

If you curse me, then want to atone, I also understand.

I expect to be your home plate: kicked, scuffed, but always returned to.

I expect to be the earth from which you spring.

But if I release you too much, what will you have to fight against?

You need my acceptance, but you may need my resistance more.

I promise to stand firm while you come and go.

I promise unwavering love while you experiment with hate. Hate is energy too — sometimes brighter-burning energy than love. Hate is often the precondition for freedom.

No matter how I try to disappear, I fear I cast too big a shadow. I would erase that shadow if I could. but if I erased it, how would you know your own shadow? And with no shadow, how would you ever fly?

I want to release you from the fears that bound me, yet I know you can only release yourself. I stand here wearing my catcher’s padding. I pray you won’t need me to catch you if you fall. But I’m here waiting anyway.

Freedom is full of fear. But fear isn’t the worst thing we face. Paralysis is.

(from the book “Fear of Fifty” by Erica Jong)

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

Image from shopsaveenjoy.wordpress.com

 

Intergenerational Discord or Creative Destructions

 

It is a rite of passage to hate (at some point in one’s life) the people who brought oneself into this world:

Kids will hate their parents. 

And here are the examples:

….. Romeo and Juliet, the Montagues and Capulets being the “malaking hadlang” (great barrier) keeping them from enjoying their teenage romance,

…. Luke Skywalker (being a Jedi, he did try to manage to channel his hatred to more productive pursuits — like mastering his lightsaber),

…. Tony Stark, we all know Iron Man had a typical love/hate relationship with Howard, which proves that the law of physics saying that two similar electric charges will repel each other, is true

…. even Harry Potter, at some point in book 6, did not like his daddy, having found out that James used to be a toerag bully to Snape.

Knowing that our kids will hate us someday does not keep us off from procreating … and populating this already over-populated world with our minions, our genetic progenies, our shots at immortality.

This human propensity towards masochism (I mean how else can you describe a person who will willingly bring forth the seed of its own destruction?), a masochism that is tolerated because of vanity and narcissism (hello! parents, like god, want to create creatures in their own image!), does make the world more interesting.

As Joseph Schumpeter has so insightfully put it: capitalism is an exercise on creative destruction. Parenthood (I would imagine) is even more so.

****

So, going back to my initial insight and the reason I wrote this post:  I have this  feeling that the American people will vote for Donald Trump; and the Filipino people will vote for Rodrigo Duterte for the same reason that a teenager keeps doing the things his/her parents advise him not to.

****

Readings Lists:

http://www.vox.com/2015/12/1/9828086/donald-trump-

mediahttp://www.interaksyon.com/article/120949/editorial–tangina-this

http://archives.newsbreak-knowledge.ph/2005/12/05/guns-and-gold/

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/Joel-Brillantes/189440967

http://lumadsatagum.blogspot.com/2005/03/way-kurat-implicated-in-plot-to-kill.html

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/300423

https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/04/06/philippines-dismantle-davao-death-squad

To My Future Self: Seeking Career Advice

(or if you are still clueless 10 years from now, can you just tell me if I made it past forty without dying?)

 

Image from connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com

Image from connecticutcatholiccorner.blogspot.com

 

The past 4 years, I have been working in a public health institution in a Local Government Unit for the following reasons:

1. To augment income from private practice which, until now, is still going nowhere,

2. Sense of obligation to the country whose taxpayers subsidized my education (ha ha),

3.To honor the memory of my mother who gave birth to me in same city where I am currently working (classic example of crass sentimentality and hubris in action),

4. Steady source of income, albeit small (this is almost the same as reason number 1) and

5. I like the people I work with in the facility where I was assigned.

Now I am being offered a job in a foreign country where the salary is 5 times the one I am receiving now.
Should I or should I not go? That is the question.
I do not feel particularly loyal to the institution that currently employs me. There is a culture of mediocrity here that is, I am beginning to realize, the rule in most government facilities.  The problem is I am being sucked into that culture and, let’s face it, it is so much more easier to give in than to fight. My nightmare is that I will be waking up 10 years from now; less a professional and more a cog in the Philippine government bureaucracy — where a lot of things are more wrong than right; but we have to put up with it because it is better than nothing and we do not have the energy, the power or the right connections to make the changes that we want.
I am only Me. And I am lured by monetary compensation much like the next person. My private practice is floundering because I don’t have business sense and I am not motivated to do “customer service”. I know that. Why should I do more when I believe the rewards (the “real ones” anyway) are so much less than what I (or we: meaning, me and my clients) think I deserve?
And also, my present situation leaves me uninspired. Some notion comes into me to upgrade my skills, get another degree, add more words and letters to my resume; and I find myself asking: what for?
I see this offer to work in another country as an adventure,  a change of scenery, or even (with all the terrorist threats looming in that region) maybe a death wish?
Am I too old for all that? Should I settle down now and direct considerable energies, financial resources and emotion to having an offspring perhaps? (another death-wish in another form)
But … but … but …. Offsprings are so overrated! — the bitchy, scrooge-y part of me would say.
So, to my forty-ish-year-old-self-ten-years-from-now: what do you think?