Aug. 27, 2007

the art of death (by awkward)

preferred CNS-ripping soundtrack: Melanie C. feat Left-Eye – Never be the same again.
inside: mothers, honesty, and deep introspection of the slightly unhinged variety. Five pages of wandering, it’s amazing how i eventually got to the end of this.

anyway, i actually finished this a few days ago, but when i woke up the following day (read: five hours later) and re-read it, i thought, oh god i couldn’t stand up for this, or at least, not yet. so i tried the following morning, still no go. and even the morning after that. and the morning after. (just so you know how long this sat in my hard drive)

but then yesterday, i went back home to my parents for my staple once-a-month get together with my father (who’s in bohol more often than he is at home really), and then i got a haircut and a new phone (finallyyyy) — two activities which deserve entirely different blog entries altogether.

and so. in the middle of erasing 1,975 messages from my inbox last night (OH YES), i figured, hm. if i could do this now, i could do anything.

and so. um. here.

If love is surrender, then whose war is it anyway?
–frou frou, ‘psychobabble’

Honesty.

People always say it’s the best policy. My father, for one, is a staunch advocate of truth-telling, firm in his belief that you couldn’t really go wrong with the real thing.

I was almost thirteen when my mother died – to my memory, this was the most terrible truth I’d ever come across. That my mother was dead. My mother’s youngest sister had the responsibility of telling us then, and it shot through me painfully – a lot like a bullet, I’m wont to say, but then I’ve never been shot, so that wouldn’t be a thoroughly honest metaphor for it now, would it.

My father had been busy with the things that had to be fixed immediately after, but he had his own version of the truth-telling gig when he came home later that night. I was sleeping, my eyes too tired from all that nonstop crying. The truth was I’d never cried that much in all my twelve years living then. He’d sat by the bed, I remember the sensation quite well. I sat up and he gathered me in a hug and it was then he told me that my mother was gone.

His honesty summed up in a single word – ‘gone.’ Meet my father, the taciturn man. This was my first real encounter with honesty. The next moment came two years later, when he told me he was marrying my mother’s youngest sister, now also known as Auntie, the best stepmother I could ever have dreamed of having.

So maybe, this was where I got my initial impression that truth-telling wasn’t really something I’d prefer to get involved with often. Not that I was fond of lying – quite the contrary, my father and his courage all but taught me this was a very uncomfortable, if not altogether shameful, practice. But then there are easy truths and there are difficult ones. It’s the difficult ones I try to steer clear of, mostly.

Mostly. Because, really, whoever said that honesty was always the best policy may not have ever experienced the art of honesty working against them.

Certainly there is value to coming clean – with the right amount of courage and the perfect timing, why not? Only that’s the thing – courage and timing. If any of you have the surefire fool-proof fail-proof way of telling the truth without the ugly repercussions every single time, be sure to leave word here and let’s talk—lengthily.

As far as I know, I have enough of the worst-case scenarios in my head to last me this lifetime – the freak out, the turn-down, the walk away. And while this is not to say I haven’t seen some people live happily ever after, post-honesty, the point is, there are kinds of honesty. I just wish we knew which kind it was going to be prior to the execution, that’s all.

Funny how I lost my recent relationship to honesty, for one. But that is getting ahead of myself. In the interest of honesty, I guess I should put in here first that prior to that, the last time I had a bout with honesty was when I came out to her in the first place. Now that was hard – a mix of the freak out, the walk out and the hang on, the reactions after were a jumble of emotions that I would prefer not ever going through again, just to completely simplify my life. But then, 20/20 hindsight notwithstanding, I couldn’t think of any other way I would have lived that portion of my life anyway.

on the verge
see syn. ‘to teeter on edges’

And then, it ended. With the other party being honest with me about being honest with someone else. And now she’s in a different relationship altogether, and I’m on the verge of something.

On the verge. Such a curious phrase to use for the life I’ve been having lately, always teetering on the edge of something I couldn’t really identify. And it’s odd – I’m used to living a life that’s fairly safe and certain. Fairly is a word I use often, because looking back on the part of my life that I’d recently closed, it wasn’t all ‘safe’ and ‘certain’ either, always playing in the gray area that I’d settled for, thinking I wasn’t good or strong or pretty enough for anything that would be clearer.

But then, here I am – in a new room in a new city, spending nights with new people and engaging in new things. With all due respect to the familiar things I’ve decided to hold onto after all these years, there’s this certain electric quality to something that is new. I’d complained once that my old relationship felt a lot like unwrapping the same gift over and over, that it was too familiar and that it was routine and that probably had something to do with the end, come to think of it.

But with the new comes that uncertainty. It would be a lie to say I haven’t thought about just going back to the things I knew just so I could be confident about knowing something – or in this case, someone – inside out, like a part of myself. But then again, having decided that certain things in my life are irreparably over, I just console myself with the thought that at one point, I was once unfamiliar with the things I now knew inside out, anyway. At least, I tell myself, the uncertainty was familiar.

Haha, I’d laugh to myself. In my head, the wreckage of my frayed nerves is, in all honesty, terrifying.

I once asked someone why it was that honesty was such a hard thing to deal with, one night I was painfully emotionally high-strung. Why was it such a difficult thing to deal with as we grew older, even as we are all too aware that we’d been raised in such a way as to embrace it – a lot like the way my father had raised me? I was told that it was because discovering certain parts of ourselves, parts that we were not yet ready to embrace and love, was naturally a jarring experience.

I wish I had gone on to say, that wasn’t what I meant at all, because I was talking about a truth separate from the discovery of all these potentially scarred portions of myself, but then I realized she had a point. Maybe it was an offshoot of that. Maybe she saw through something I didn’t.

Or, maybe not. Needless to say, since I was clearly not ready for any kind of truth from myself at that time, I wouldn’t really know now would I.

What I do know now is this – the truth of the moment. In my bathroom, there sits only one toothbrush by the sink. When I open my closet, the clothes in there are all mine. There’s not a pair of slippers near my door that belongs to somebody else, and when I go home at night, it’s mostly to an empty room.

Which shouldn’t be construed, by the way, as an aversion for solo living, because if there’s something I honestly look forward to, it’s alone time. But really, there are nights I prefer to be not alone – especially when it’s raining really hard outside and thunder feels like it’s pounding down next to me in bed. Of course, having read this far, you’d certainly know what I mean.

Looking back on the night I’d asked, the night I’d almost said something, it almost pains me to think about the possibility of indeed having said something. Certainly, there’s at least 50 percent possibility that I would regret having said anything anyway, but the fact remains that I still kind of regret not taking the risk.

death by awkward
see syn. ‘the art of bad investments’

I was talking to a friend about this, actually, putting it in a very simplistic equation – if you come clean to a friend and s/he doesn’t feel the same way, the friendship inevitably dies with the intention – we called it Death by Awkward, and in all honesty, the thought was mortifying.

I tried going back to the night I first told her, that other girl – what the fuck was I thinking that night, when I decided to close my eyes, jump right in and never look back? What was it that made me do it? Or, more aptly, what did I have then that I don’t have now? What’s keeping me on the verge for so long?

It has a lot to do with aging, I figured. We grow older and we accumulate all these things to be paranoid about. When we were younger, we were not that scared of getting hurt, precisely because we didn’t know better. Young and brave and foolish, it was a time when the thought of unopened doors did not scare us *at all*.

Of course, this paranoia can be viewed as actually learning from mistakes. It’s a positive way of looking at things, somewhat – albeit admittedly skewed. But then it would also mean that as you grow older you get more scared of things, and wouldn’t that make now a better time to tell than later, seeing that this were the case?

If it would happen to be true, that we get less and less brave as we get more and more cautious with our lives with every day that comes, would this mean that I would not be any more ready to tell her tomorrow than I was today or yesterday, for that matter?

After four pages of wandering, I finally saw the wisdom of my father’s honesty lessons – that while the truth was something urgent, while it was something best dealt with immediately, it is foolish to deal with it head-on with an unprepared heart.

I’ve mentioned somewhere that I aged considerably after my mother died – it did not even take a day. I may have been just a girl caught unaware that morning when my aunts told me my mother had little chance of surviving the day, but I was in many ways older and prepared when my father took me in his arms that night, as my mother’s coffin sat quietly in our living room.

All too recently I realized I’d been actually setting myself up for a heartbreak, what with all the things I’d been getting into lately. Unfortunately, I know of no other way to live my life other than this – constantly on the verge of getting something of mine ripped apart, inconsolable for a while, but eventually I do what I do best anyway: Move on.

And so now I sit here, contemplating that first heartbreak, going back to that first time I got left behind. With eternity literally now between us, my mother and I, it occurs to me that she was my first moving on project. And nearly a decade hence, I’m still standing.

I’m comforted by the thought I’d moved on from something as devastating, and come to think of it, all the other heartbreaks in her wake were so minute and petty in comparison. Of course, while remembering my mother still brings on the sting and the tears, it’s a lot like the grief that washes over you when it came to things that couldn’t be brought back anymore, and it’s just that. Wistful, sentimental remembering that ends the moment the tears stop flowing.

And it brings me to the conclusion that I need not equate caution with cowardice. My mother was a very careful, calculated woman – in true Capricorn fashion, just like me. I was born in December, she on January 19th. I still celebrate her birthday in private, honestly. But then, the calculated, careful woman that she was, I’d never, for once, ever thought of her as anything but brave.

Sitting here, remembering her, I sort of wish she were here, though I still have reservations about her possible reaction to my preference and orientation. But that uncertainty notwithstanding, I am of firm belief that she’d know what to tell me anyway, that she’d have the solution. That my mother, that superhero of a woman, could get me out of this mess.

But then, even as she’s no longer here, right now it’s as if I could hear her telling me, tomorrow I’d be no less braver, just wiser – hence the caution. That certain things are worth waiting for, that there’s a right time for everything.

insert moment of schizophrenia here
see syn. ‘slightly unhinged’

“But mom,” I’d say, pointing to my phone, “I had already erased an entire folder of messages from my ex-girlfriend.” I’d wince slightly at the reference, she’d give me that trademark endearing scowl. “That has to count for something, right?”

I could almost see her scowl softening to a smirk her friends used to tell me I had inherited very distinctly. “Of course,” she’d say. “Every little thing does.”

Coming to my senses moments later, I’d realized maybe it’s just that part of my brain that I inherited from her that must have been talking and again I’d laugh to myself — amidst the wreckage of my tattered nerve endings, actually managing the small gesture.

*

It is at this precise moment that iTunes chooses to play “Take it from me” by The Weepies and something inside of me flutters – it must be my central nervous system coming to life after I had shred it to small strips in the first few pages.

What can I compare you to, this girl is singing, my favorite pair of shoes? I sneak a glance back at the area near my doorway, catching a glimpse of my Futsal shoes. I shake my head, that can’t be it – it must be something prettier. But then, they share the most vital thing – the ease with which we fit and work.

My mother’s back, telling me that if I want something bad enough, I’d work hard for it. After all, wasn’t that what I did to finish school? I try to stare at her sharply as if to say, Isn’t that what I’ve been doing all along? And then, My God, it’s like you haven’t changed, still equating all efforts to academics. My mother just laughs along, saying she hadn’t lived long enough to show me her other metaphors. I laugh back, a bit sad.

the art of disclaimers
see syn. ‘anonymous’

So there. I’m keeping this file in my hard drive for the moment, where it would be waiting until I have what it takes to retrieve it and come out with it.

And it will end with a note telling an anonymous someone how it feels like to be around her – on the verge of something, akin to being in between life and death, but mostly, life.

Mostly, just very vividly alive.

(this is the truth and it has been here all this while, unavoidably, between us.)#