Tag Archives: relationships

A new beginning.

Two weeks after the beginning of a new year, and everything is already very different… and yet completely the same. I’m sitting in the bedroom, watching mosquitoes hover in front of my cat-eye frames, and blaming myself for not remembering to close the window screen after Riley opened it to make sure I heard him yell, “Mama! Mama! Mamaaaaa!!”

That was his greeting when I got home from school. 

I’d come home early because of a headache and my body’s need to relax, and there he was, happy to see me, positively radiant and beaming in his I-LOVE-my-mommy!-ness. Micah was in the bath, and when he saw me, he lit up like a firecracker and I swore I saw heaven. 

And then I remembered that Rob’s mom had passed away from lung cancer and that she’d never see my babies’ smiles, and I wanted to smoke and eat and shop and act out every other vice I have. 

It’s been a hard year so far.

I miss Rob’s mom. There are money issues plaguing me. My extended family is showing itself to be more and more bat-shit crazy. Rob and I are having a hard time being Rob and I. And in the midst of all this, I’m tentatively putting one foot in front of the other, making my way towards something better than what I’ve got, and mindful that everything could blow up in my face at any moment.

 

Advertisements

From the outside.

So, last night happened. And in the wake of the fight I had with Rob, I blogged. I blogged to vent and to gain perspective and to answer questions I didn’t realize needed to be asked. I blogged to be courageous and communicative and to express ideas that needed to be expressed. And then I sent that post to a bunch of my closest friends and waited until replies came in. And when I read those replies, I realized why I wrote that post in the first place.

I’m as far-removed from my old reality as I ever could be, and in the year and a half that I’ve been living in the Philippines, all of my closest friends are busy changing. We touch minds every so often, but until I read replies from my message, I hadn’t realized just how much I’d changed. I’ve changed more than I’d like to admit, and with that realization came a lot of hard truths, like: Writing that post was one thing, but sending it out to everyone was another. I shouldn’t have done it – not to all those people, at least.

All relationships have their ups and downs – on a pragmatic level, we all know that. Once someone starts giving voice to the downs, though, people tend to focus on them and forget all about the ups. It makes sense, since in giving voice to my relationship fears and doubts, I’m in essence shining a spotlight on an area that many of us find fascinating and downright gossip-worthy; we’re all opinionated when it comes to love, and finding out about other peoples’ love lives gives us license to pass judgment and let our own experiences color their lives.

There’s nothing wrong with sharing the details of our days; sometimes, it’s the only thing that tethers us to sanity. A talk with a good friend, an email, a text – communication keeps things in context and helps us grow. But when you’re in a relationship and making a life with someone, all of a sudden the rules are different. Because sharing the details of your life ends up being sharing the life that the two of you have created, and you realize that some things are too sacred to share.

There were several things I noticed after letting my previous post sink in:

  1. Some of my closest friends just don’t get me anymore.
  2. The shit that used to fly in NY no longer applies.
  3. I will probably never feel really safe with Rob, and that might be okay.

*****

When someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, it’s easy to put on blinders and stick your fingers in your ears. When I read the comments that people made to the effect of “It doesn’t sound like it’s working out between the two of you. Just call it quits already”, I had to stop myself from reacting; I didn’t want to put up the blinders.

I took a step back, took a deep breath, and looked at things objectively. Then I realized that they didn’t have the whole picture; they didn’t even have all of the important parts of the picture. All they knew of my new reality was the little that I’d written in the post, and it dawned on me just how little we know about each others’ lives. That’s when the most painful truth hit me: In the past 19 months, I’ve unintentionally pared down my circle of besties.

It was inevitable, I guess, but still painful to admit. There was a time when these people knew my life backwards and forwards. There was a time when they really got me. Now, everything needs a three-hour back-up story. And even though I’m more than willing to sit down and write them a long-ass email, it still sucks that we’re not already on the same page. I miss what we used to have, and I hate to think that we’re losing track of each other.

But stewing in that post made me realize something else that’s very important: All of the question marks that used to float around me have been replaced with other question marks. I guess this means that I’ve unknowingly figured out who I am and what I want in life. I’ve spent the last 26 years learning all of that, and now that my quest for answers is over, all that’s left is the actual doing.

These days are not at all like the ones I had back in NY, and I have to start living that truth. I have to stop living in the past. I have to recognize what I have now and be grateful for all of it.

All this time, I’ve been foraging and gathering and hunting for parts of my life. I’ve been wracking my brain, experiencing a slew of different lives, going through all of that so that I can decide which belong to me. Now that I’ve made my decision, I feel like a kid opening the birthday presents I’ve been begging for. I know what I’ve got, but I don’t know what I can really do with all of it.

That analogy definitely applies to Rob. I feel like, I’ve been fighting for him, for us, and for our family for a really long time. Now that I really feel like it’s all mine, I’m just now getting used to what that means.

Maybe I don’t feel protected when I’m with Rob, but maybe I don’t need to feel protected by him. Maybe the whole point of being so careful about defining my life and picking out its parts was so that I had the confidence to pick a partner who gets me more than I get myself, and maybe my partner is right. Maybe I don’t let anyone take care of me – not in the conventional ways, at least. Maybe I let my partner take care of me in the ways that I need to be taken care of, and that’s okay even if those aren’t the ways I want to be taken care of.

All I know is, this exchange of feelings – the blogging, the messaging to friends, the talking to Rob – is what I needed to feel secure in what I’ve got. Strangely, it took focusing on the downs to get back on an upswing.

On being happy while wishing I wasn’t *here*.

The following was a bout of mental diarrhea that I unleashed on good friends. Fear was stopping me from sharing it on here, but then I realized that 1) I’m having a hard time posting every day (something I want to do) and at the very least, it’ll help with that goal; and 2) I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t post it. So here it is.

I was going to write a blog post about how much I hate it here – but
that’s not entirely true. I don’t really hate it here. I just hate
certain clashes between myself and Filipino culture – and, honestly,
those clashes would be more or less ameliorated if I had more money.
The Philippines is funny that way. Have enough in your wallet, and you
can safely call someone’s mom a whore.

No, it’s not here, per se, that I hate. There’s just something
that’s in the air that’s making me feel uncomfortable. It hit, like 3
hours ago, when I was writing fiction, and it’s only grown as I tried
to study, got a headache, got into a fight with Rob, and started
fantasizing about a friend’s ex-boyfriend.

Let me back up.

The story I’ve been working on has kind of been my salvation on days
when I really loathe my decision of moving out here. It’s the story of
three generations of a Filipino/Filipino-American family, and their
take on the American Dream. Each of them encounters something that
makes them “settle” for a less-than-stellar version of their goal,
i.e., The grandma stays married to a man who constantly cheats on her
(read: not really fictional, this story.), and yet finds ways to “be
happy.” And that right there is the question I pose in the story (and
also the question I was going to pose in the blog post): Is it
possible to really be happy if you don’t like your situation?

At the crux of this question is the idea of happiness and what it
entails. Is it something purely from within? Is it something that
depends, at least partly, on circumstance? If the former is true, then
is happiness something that certain people have a natural inclination
towards? Or is it learned? And if it’s learned, then doesn’t that mean
that it depends (at least in a round-about way) on circumstance, thus
making the latter true?

I can go on for a while with this line of thinking…

Anyway, I realized as I was writing the blog post that every day, I
make myself happy. Now, that sentence alone tells me a couple things:
1) I’m not naturally happy, 2) My happiness is up to me.

I realized as I was writing the blog post that what makes me happy is
the belief that I’m improving myself so that once I get to Real Life
aka The States and everything that is in accordance with my values and
belief systems, I’ll be able to live a more fulfilled, successful and
happy life. This right here? It’s only a pit-stop. And that fact? The
fact that I’m not really living the life I want – at least right now –
makes me truly unhappy. I’m just a shadow of my real self. I don’t get
to show all my colors, because the Philippines is a monotone place
where no one can see my colors. As much as I explode rainbows, it goes
unacknowledged and unappreciated and this makes me feel like my energy
is being wasted and my value is being demeaned.

(I hate to degrade this amazing opportunity to learn about my culture,
learn more about myself, et al, but that’s what I’ve come to view my
time here as: a necessary and dreadful pit-stop on my journey to
becoming who I want to be.)

So. Now. Back to the fiction-writing.

This was all percolating in my head as I was writing, and that’s when
my friend’s ex made an appearance in the story. Because, really?
He’s everything that Rob isn’t, aka he’s the improved version of my
partner. He’s charismatic. He commands the respect and attention of
crowds. He’s learned and intellectual and has a better grasp on the
English language than Rob has – even though English isn’t his first
language. And he has this air of integrity. Maybe that’s all it is –
maybe it’s just air, smoke and mirrors and whatnot – but I can feel
it, whatever it is. Character. Virtue. This is what draws me in. This
sense that he knows what he’s doing, that he’s guided by an idea of
what he knows is right, and that his belief system closely resembles
my own. I can feel all this, and all of a sudden there’s a new
character in the fiction story – one that the mom has an affair with
after the dad moves back to New York – and I can’t help but wonder: Am
I writing my future? Am I going to make this happen?

After I got into the fight with Rob (which was caused because I’d
asked him to watch Riley, and he just played video games while Riley
kept trying to head-butt me as I nursed my headache), I couldn’t help
but fantasize. Not about my friend’s ex, really. But about a man.
A man who knows what he’s doing. A man who doesn’t need me to teach
him how to be. A man who eats even when he doesn’t have company. A man
who doesn’t ask me to go with him downstairs so we can “be together”
when really, that’s what he means: He wants us to be next to each
other, even though he knows damn well that I have four chapters of
dense material to study.

And I don’t know. I just don’t know what this all means. I just know
that when it comes to living in the Philippines and being in a
relationship with Rob, I make myself happy, and a part of me wishes
that wasn’t the case. I wish I was just happy. No elaboration or
work necessary. Just happy.

I wonder if that’s possible, though. Can people just be happy? Or is
it the potential for something better that’s really the catalyst for
happiness? If a static life is a happy one, then why do we aspire to
change our circumstances?… And that’s where the fiction story just
keeps going and going…

I should have worked for the CIA.

Tonight, two things happened:

  1. I finally watched the Angelina Jolie flick, Salt,   and,
  2. I had my first break with reality.

*****

It was 6 p.m. Rob, Riley and I were in my brother’s room, watching the movie, and Riley was agitated. One of his back molars are coming in, so Rob went back to our bedroom to get his bottle. Usually, biting on the nipple of a bottle is enough to soothe him, but tonight was another story. I knew he’d feel better if we went to our room, so we paused the film and walked down the hall.

When I stepped into the room with Riley, the lights were off. I turned them on and noticed that the electric fans were on. Rob came in and mentioned that he’d turned them on when he retrieved the bottle, and then he drew my attention to the screen door of the balcony. “When I came in here, though, the screen door was closed. I’m sure of it.”

*****

When I was little, I used to sleep with my shoes on. A book bag and jacket were always in my closet, waiting. At hand were necessities: money, water, matches, flashlight, batteries, granola bars, extra clothes, my passport, et al. They were all waiting in that knapsack. I was ready. I was always ready.

*****

I used to have dreams where I was running. People or monsters or vampires would be chasing me,  and I would be running for my life. I always seemed to be jumping and climbing and making my way through rabbit holes and strange attics and tunnels – sometimes all in the same dream – and sometimes, it would appear as if I’d get caught. But then I’d learn to fly or suddenly have some kind of super power. I was always very capable in these dreams, and they felt so vivid and real.

*****

A month after I moved to the Philippines, the Maguindanao Massacre happened. I’d already been feeling apprehensive about my move to a developing nation, and the massacre was exactly what was necessary to push me over the edge.

I remember, a couple of nights after it happened, I was watching the news and the reporter talked about the killings. Women had been raped before guns were shoved into their vaginas and fired. Some were gangraped. Kids had been killed, possibly after having been molested. Men…?

I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I now live in a country where things like that happen and no one is brought to justice. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if circumstances somehow made me or my son a victim of such a tragedy. I didn’t want to ask myself who I would turn to or what I would do. The truth is, I didn’t know the answers to these questions. I still don’t know the answers.

That night, I stared at Riley asleep in his crib, angelic as ever, and I started crying. Hysterically. Because what kind of mother brings her infant to a country where bad things happen and she has no one to trust? What kind of mother gives up the safety of trusted ambulances, police, and media, to haul her kid to a country where politicians are blatant, unscrupulous assholes? What kind of mother would do that? A bad one. I was sure I was a bad mom.

And I was scared. Not just because of the idea of being a bad mom, but because I truly believed that my safety was in danger. And, honestly, I still do. I’m scared shitless because there are no laws/rules/boundaries here. None that are respectable, at least. And I don’t know how I should function. I just know how I will function, and that’s a scary notion. Because I’m scared. And I think my safety and my son’s safety are in jeopardy simply by living in the Philippines. And fear augments peoples’ capacity to do irrational things.

I will kill someone.

*****

I sat on the bed, while clutching Riley in my lap and watching Rob open all of the closets. The whole time, I imagined a man stepping out with a knife, and I kept telling myself not to panic. If someone jumped out, I had to be ready. I had to scream to Rob exactly the right and concise phrase to make him know the location of the intruder. I had to throw something heavy or sharp at the assailant. I had to keep Riley safe. I had to do a lot of things, and the more I thought about it, the more I kept on seeing red, and I remembered The Stranger, and how the protagonist saw red before he stabbed the man at the beach. I imagined that that’s just what happens right before you take a life: the world is painted in a gory tinge of bright red, which makes it difficult to know what’s really going on.

Rob searched everywhere, and my adrenaline was making my heart pound like a bass drum, and I suddenly felt nauseous, and I thought about the gun we keep under the bed and started wondering where I hid the bullets. I thought about running to my brother’s room and retrieving a few of his fighting knives. I thought about stuffing the diaper bag with our essential documents and whatever was lying around, and putting on my sneakers.

I was scared and paranoid and confused and frenzied, and I don’t know how or when it happened, but somehow it came out that the whole thing was a joke. But it was too late. I was already screaming and crying hysterically. Over and over again, between hyperventilating sobs, I kept yelling, “Never do that to me!” And the whole time, I couldn’t escape the scenes flashing through my head: running, fighting, clawing, flying with an excited fury out of harm’s way.

*****

I used to fantasize about joining the military or CIA. I wanted to go through the rigorous physical and emotional training. I wanted to prove my mettle. I wanted to show people, to show myself, that I could withstand that kind of pressure.

Whenever I ran on my parents’ treadmill, I’d put on a horror film and run especially hard and fast when the killer came onto the screen. I knew I had to run or be killed. It was a kind of training. Just like sleeping with shoes on. Or having a backpack of necessities ready. Or learning to read behind the words escaping peoples’ mouths.

*****

When Rob arrived in the Philippines and saw our house for the first time, he said, “I just looked at the place, and I know how to climb up to the master bedroom.” This, despite our guard dogs, and the tall gate surrounding our property, and the perennial periphery of onlooking neighbors.

*****

Two weeks ago, when Rob and I had a huge blowout about his going back to New York, I’d mentioned how scared I was. How I feel like the only person I can trust in the Philippines is my brother, and he was flaky. How I fear for my bodily safety, and for Riley’s safety, too. How I’m willing to deal with my fear because living here is the only real shot I have at… I don’t know. I’m not sure why I ascribe incredible characteristics to this place and our plan of living here, but I do. Something in my gut tells me that great and wonderful things are going to happen if I stay in the Philippines and make good on all of my plans.

But something also tells me that I’m going to be challenged in ways I’ve only ever considered in nightmares.

And that thrills and excites and confuses and scares me.

*****

Rob should have known better. He should have known that I’m scared. He should have remembered the conversation we had two weeks ago. When I told him that, he said, “I remember what you said about being scared. I just thought that you wouldn’t be scared because you know everyone here.”

My fears hadn’t made sense to him. So he’d disregarded them.

*****

Rob’s going to see a therapist in New York. Hopefully, he’ll learn more about himself and how/why he does what he does, and I can finally put an end to the conundrum of Rob. I want to know when he’s joking. I want to get why he thinks it’s okay to scare the shit out of me. I want to get, mostly, why he didn’t understand what would happen if he continued making me believe that there was an intruder in our room. I want to know why he completely disregarded my fears and discarded my trust.

I want him to make sense to me.

*****

In those moments of fear, when Rob was searching the room for an intruder, I felt myself slipping. Rationality had escaped, and I was trying desperately to reign her back in. I was capable of doing anything. I think I’m going crazy, I thought. But if I know I’m crazy, then I can’t be crazy, right? That’s how that goes? Or maybe I’m only questioning my craziness because I know that most people consider that the sane thing to do?

And then the fear from my craziness. The frenzied sensation of worry as I realized that I was losing touch with reality. The second wherein I’d considered suicide to save Riley from the fate of having a crazy mom. The next second, where I felt suicide would be a better option than letting Rob drive me crazy.

And that: The thought that Rob would someday drive me crazy. Because he knows how. Because he knows how close I am to the edge, and that he’s capable of doing it. Because he knows I trust him and will let my defenses down. Because he knows that he can. Because he doesn’t want to, but he won’t catch himself doing it until it’s too late.

I really think Rob is the personification of all those mind-washing techniques employed by the military and CIA. Loving him is the closest I’ll ever be to living out that dream.

Maybes, turning points, and question marks.

There are a million things about mine and Rob’s relationship that drive me nuts. Given the opportunity to change them, though, I’m not sure that I would. Part of me thinks we’re defined by the problems we have. We wouldn’t be us anymore if those problems didn’t exist. Or rather, Rob could be anyone, altered to my specification, if those problems didn’t exist.

Lately, the problem we’ve been discussing is his eventual leaving. He’s moving back to New York in February, and honestly, I don’t want him to go. I think a family should only split up if 1) the parents have decided to separate and/or divorce, 2) the kids are mature enough to leave the nest, 3) someone’s abusive, or 4) the family is in financial dire straits. None of these characteristics apply to us, so I’m all, Leaving? Wha’…?

As far as I know, Rob and I are a real-life functional, happy couple. Financially, we’re making it work. And happiness is in abundance at our house. So what gives? Why would he want to essentially miss out on three years’ worth of memories with his family? I just don’t get it.

Rob insists on going back to New York to earn money and financially provide for me and Riley. And even though he’s never been able to hold down a job for more than a year, and even though my father insists that Rob’s leaving just to be able to hang out with his friends and play video games all the time, and even though I have doubts our relationship can survive the move, I support him.

Because it’s taken a lot of time and work for Rob to grow the confidence to strive for an ideal.

Because I respect his decision-making skills.

Because I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Because you never know what a relationship is made of until it faces adversity, and I’d rather know what we’re made of than live in ignorance because of fear.

Because, truly, what else is there to do when the man you love tells you what he wants to do? You don’t have to understand it. You just have to understand what it means to love someone.

And maybe that’s the clincher about loving someone. Maybe you never get them. Not completely, anyway. Maybe you have to look past all the doubts and insecurities and worries that plague you about your partner and your relationship, and simply let it be. No matter how much hoping and planning and scrutinizing you do, you just never know what the future has in store.

Maybe Rob will move to New York, earn money, save a bunch for our future, and get a degree while I’m making my dreams come true in the Philippines. Maybe we’ll reunite in 3 years and be better than ever.

Or maybe Rob’s plans won’t go anywhere, I’ll realize he’s all talk and no action, and I’ll get fed up of his lack of dependability. Maybe we’ll break up.

Either way, life is going to happen and I’m going to make the most of it.

But, right now? It’s a turning point, my friend: just another curve on the end of a question mark.

Another reason love is so confusing.

Sometimes, making it work closely resembles ignoring that it doesn’t work.

*

We have the same argument. Again. For the nth time. And even though I swear we’re the same people who’ve had this argument so many times before, we’re not. I know this because at the end of our argument, we were changed. Irrevocably. Me, with tears streaming down my face, and Rob, with tears streaming down his face, and a conclusion that I didn’t really see coming. We’re, like, good together. Whoa.