Friday, August 29, 2008

On Being Alone

Yes!  I'm finally doing it.  I'm writing about this.  I'm an ordinary, stereotypical single woman in her 30's, not caring what people would think or say about me after reading this and writing some thoughts which I have been entertaining about this topic.

I guess you could say my eyes are slowly being re-opened and I'm finding I have to claim my life or I would just waste it, noble intentions notwithstanding.  

There are so many horror stories I refused to write about before, of insults, jokes, and demands made of me just because I was the Last Single Person on Earth.  The witty retorts that popped in my head every single time I was teased or pitied for being unmarried, I have managed to put under lock and key.  But I did reserve the nastiest unsaid replies for the harshest comments I had received.  

People could be so cruel.  So I'm the last of five children to be married, although I'm not the youngest.  So I still live with my parents.  So most of my friends are married.  So I am the perennial godmother of their children.  So I am always asked to serve and work and give and wait, because I'm unattached and available (to serve and work and give and wait).

Oh, the insinuations that I'm a horrible, unlovable person, are unbelievable.  As a brother, who is single for the Lord, said, for single people the question at the back of everyone's mind is, "What's wrong with you?"  

Why were you not chosen?
Why were you left behind?
Who will take care of you when you grow old (as if this is the purpose of marriage)?

And so I ask why I'm being accused, are all married people happy?  It is not the state of life per se that makes us happy, but the state of our hearts as we live out our vocation.  Please give single people a break.  God loves us as much as you married ones.   

And these are my favorites.  I call them the Insulting Compliments.

"You're too intimidating.  You hurt the Filipino male's pride by your intelligence, your success, and your passion."

And I'm supposed to say thank you for pointing these things out.  Yes!  How happy I am for being called these names.  And how hard I've tried to tone down my dreams, lessen my service, hide my talents, and quiet my passions.  Now I know better.  God created me this way.  I should celebrate who I am and not let other people dictate how I should live my life.  I guess I haven't found my match yet.  I guess I could die single.  There are worse things in this world.  What matters is how I lived my life as a single person!  I want to be true to who I am.  

"You're too choosy.  You should settle for someone who is not ideal and not perfect.  After all, you are not ideal.  Neither are you perfect."

And so is my mascara, and that's why I never wear mascara, since I cannot afford the truly waterproof, volumizing, non-smearing brand.  I mean, since I have combination skin, mascaras that pretend to be waterproof just smear away with ugly black streaks that make me look like a raccoon on a hot summer day.  Without the perfect mascara in my makeup bag, I'd rather not wear any.  The cheap brands don't work.  Someday maybe I could afford to buy the mascara that was made for my eyes and skin type.  But for now, my life is complete even without it.

I guess people like to poke at others' weaknesses, in an attempt to help them out of their misery.  I welcome the prayers from people who say they want to see me happily married.  I welcome the friendship of those who love me for who I am now and are not nagging me to wear revealing clothes to attract men.  

Some of my happiest moments are driving alone on an empty road listening to my favorite music.  Or dining alone in a fancy restaurant where I could eat in peace.  Or reading a book in the middle of a stormy night.  Or serving macaroni soup to hundreds of youth.  Or going to the market with my parents.  Or having coffee with friends.  Or writing in this blog.

Life is beautiful, and not all are called to the same purpose.  Let me discover mine, and enjoy the journey.  I just want to put it in writing, if I stay with my last name till the end of my days, I would not have lived in vain.  I'm more concerned whether I'm going to heaven after this earth.  If I'm going to meet Jesus face to face.  If I will join the saints in worship eternally.  For in heaven, we shall all be single.  And we won't be asked why.  The angels will rejoice with us.  And Love will be all around us.

And if I am single, it doesn't mean I'm alone.  For God is with me.  I'd rather have bad, stormy, painful, challenging days with God, than good times with someone else who doesn't know Him.
There were moments when I was weak and I almost gave in.  I almost settled.  I almost made the biggest mistake of my life.  I am glad that I was shaken out of that temporary insanity.

It is my hope that there will be more kindness in this world, and that people will think twice before commenting on other people's civil status. Sometimes I get the joke and laugh at my own expense.  

Other times, I just prefer to Be alone.  For that is what I am now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Growing Up

One of the many signs that I'm beginning to feel my age is that I've become better at refusing to be a People Pleaser.  

You see, once upon a time, I cared too much what people said about me, and I wanted to be Campus Girl or Miss Congeniality.  I thought being a good girl mant I had to keep quiet even if people who posed as my friends put me down, and obedience meant not questioning the weird and unflattering comments of people I thought I was duty-bound to be obedient to.

I could take verbal abuse and justify it, just like a battered wife who kept coming back to her violent husband.  And it took the objectivity of caring leaders and directors to gently point out to me that I was putting up with some things that were not right.  Being a Christian, I learned, did not involve being a Yes Person, a Pushover, or a Pleaser.  It meant saying yes to Jesus, standing up for what's right, and not being afraid to let people down if their ways or being involved with them led me to sin.

Not every negative comment is to be avoided, however.  In fact, I have grown through the loving correction and timely reminders of friends, for I saw the concern behind their seemingly harsh words.  Those people who truly cared for me were not afraid to say the painful truth.  I still run to them with my darkest secrets, unafraid to get scolded or reprimanded, and eager to hear their suggestions for dealing with my problems.

On the other hand, there were some people I had encountered in the past who seemed to take pleasure in reminding others, me in particular, of weaknesses, failures, and faults.  They said it with unbelievable delight, and the usual, and expected, effect was not to lift me up, but to put lime juice on my wounds.  

Well last birthday, I made a grownup decision that enough was enough.  I decided to be more careful how I was treated so that I wouldn't explode later on like a volcano after I've had too much verbal aggression.  I would give timely corrections when other people step all over me, and would always try to remember the truth that God loves me, warts and all.

Love is complicated, for its expressions in some do not always match the needs of their beloved.  I do not question the faith of those who inadvertently hurt other people, but there is also nothing wrong in sticking to the people who share my values, whom I know are journeying, struggling, and rejoicing with me every step of the way.

It is time to say goodbye to dead stars that no longer exist, but still appear to shine due to their distance from the earth.

It is time to define love as God who is love intended it to be.

It is time to stand up, out of love for my soul, and to walk on with less baggage and distraction.

Yes, this explains my silence.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Picking Up the Pieces

Finally, I was prevailed upon to play the piano again, for a one-night engagement, here in our living room, as part of a family recital for a dear friend.  

I have a confession to make.  I never play because I don't think I'm good enough.  I'm not concert pianist-level.  I'm never going to make it to Julliard.  So I quit while I was still ahead, and opted to finish Business Economics, instead of taking up a Minor in Piano, which a friend of mine actually succeeded in doing.

It all came back to me tonight when I started practicing "The Poet's Harp" (Op. 38, No. 3, composed by Felix Mendelssohna beautiful piece from my college days.  After four tries (should be ten times, according to my piano teacher-mother), my neck and shoulders hurt (I can hear her reply - that this is due to my wrong sitting position), and I felt like I had wrestled with the notes.  I had to stop and play something easier, something I had memorized like the back of my hand, J.S. Bach's Two-Part Inventions, until I checked the pieces and the actual notes, and realized how wrongly I had been playing Nos. 1, 4, 8, and especially 13, all these years.  Like a friend of mine from a choir told me years ago, practice makes permanent.  I did not practice perfectly and so the effect of that mistake is permanent.  Unless I practice the pieces correctly, "ten times".  I stopped after an hour, for I could not hear the music anymore.  I also noticed that my piano teacher from UP's Extension Program had encircled parts where I made the most mistakes, and consciously or subconsciously, I hit the wrong notes on the exact same parts of The Poet's Harp.  Talk about repeating one's mistakes over and over again.

I will try again this weekend, and hopefully, I will not resist anymore, and will not end up feeling like I had just been on a boxing match with the piano.

There was only one man who was able to bring not just me back in front of the keys, but also my mother, who is even more of a musical perfectionist than I am.  One man, a good friend of mine who is leaving the country, requested a recital for his farewell party, and I could not help but oblige.  He also convinced my mother, who in turn encouraged her grandsons (the current performing stars of the family) to play at least two pieces each.  I don't know how to say goodbye, to face him and thank him for all that he's done for me, to wish him the best in his further studies, to ask him to write to me often, to memorize his face so that I don't forget.  I will just pour my goodbyes into The Poet's Harp.  I asked him to paint me something as a remembrance.  He is an artist who has stopped painting due to a new vocation.  I don't know if he will do his part of the bargain, but I sure am doing mine.

In the movies, goodbyes are so poignant.  They bring out the best memories and make the characters realize their worth in one another's eyes.  

In the movies, rusty musicians play gloriously in the end, and frustrated artists create masterpieces.

This is real life.  I don't know how this will end.  But I will try to enjoy the journey, and not commit the same mistakes I've made in the past.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August Rush

It is August, after all. I watched the Oscar-nominated film "August Rush" last weekend. Twice. They say there are only two reactions to the film, either you will love it, or you will get bored with it. I belonged to the first category.

Spoiler warning here, as I write a bit of reaction to the movie. The theme is the power of music, and how it brings together people who listen to it. August Rush is the screen name of a young boy from the orphanage who grew up listening to the beat of his own music, literally. He could stand in the middle of the road and hear the humming of electric cables. He could conduct an orchestra out of wind chimes. He was able to write music at a very young age.

Magical and mystical, the film unwraps like a play, with the audience in willing suspension of disbelief. I suspended mine because I wanted to see the world as Evan, or August, did. He just followed his heart and out came the music that was given to him. In writing down the music, he was just giving it back, he said, to the ones who gave it to him.

The movie is set in New York City and it is obvious that its creators had such love for their city, for the setting itself was a character in the movie. It provided the perfect background, although this was a different NYC probably than the one featured in "Sleepless in Seattle", "An Affair to Remember", or any of those Armageddon-type movies. This NYC played a rhapsody so beautiful and powerful that it reunited Evan with his loved ones.

Some lines in the film were memorable. The cellist said she wanted to play again, after eleven years, because she felt her son could hear her somehow.

The poet-rockstar returned to the concert stage to sing of the love he met one moonlit night, and to call her back to him again.

And the boy touched many lives - from street performers to choir members, from policemen to pastors. His gift stunned Julliard professors. His music inspired thousands.

I sat on a bed watching it on my Macbook and cried for about half the movie. I have not cried like that over a film in a long time. Perhaps it is the boy's faith. Perhaps it is his determination to fulfill his purpose in life. Perhaps it is the beauty of seeing a human soul becoming what he was meant to be. Perhaps it is the love that I have stopped believing in.

This August, rush to your favorite DVD suki and buy a copy of this touching movie. Prepare to face your own dreams, and prepare to be filled with hope that they will come true, if you will keep believing, and if you keep doing what you are called to do.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blessings in the Time of Oil Speculation

Unexpected blessings poured out this week.  I was able to spend time with different sets of friends, and I did not have to throw a party to gather all of them.  I could not invite all my friends because times are hard, but what a blessing because there were other reasons to get together, and they all happened during my birthday week so I took it as a gift from a loving God.

Last week, I had a fantastic lunch and coffee with one of the smartest people I know, followed by dinner with some good friends who were well-versed in civil and canon law.  On my actual birthday, I had breakfast with my parents at Jollibee after mass - with their Senior Citizen's card, our bill was the sweetest ever.  I saw some of the WYD delegates and was blessed by their experiences.  My grade school barkada Secrets treated me to dinner at Mary Grace in Serendra, and I brought home a birthday cake.

A couple of good friends gifted me with a dream come true - a red Moleskine 18-month planner with notepad (ok so they asked me what I wanted), and we had Starbucks on a stormy night.  Over at the office, we had a thanksgiving party for last month's performance and had a joint celebration for all the July birthday girls.  People had a really, really, really good time and everyone said it did not feel like an "office party" at all.  I had to drive home so I had to watch what I drank.  Yeah, too bad!

Yesterday was one for the books, my books, for it started with an afternoon party at Manila Ocean Park's Fuzion restaurant for Baby Juan's first birthday bash, and I was with my grade school friends.  Then I went to Chocolate Kiss cafe in Roces Ave. to send off the woman who invited me to Lingkod, Alett Nunez, who is leaving to study abroad on a generous scholarship.  Because of Alett, brothers and sisters I had not seen in a long time had wonderful dinner together and shared stories of our colorful life as the early Lingkod QC members and servants.  With the exception of a few people who had previous engagements, gathered that night were my closest friends in Lingkod.  To cap the night, I had to follow at a small gathering with my friends from the parish, where we drank wine and ate Santi's ham, while watching concerts on DVD.  

I got home late but had to wake up early to serve at mass, where I felt so much gratitude, peace, and joy (see my other blog for my post about Today's Readings).  Then I had buffet lunch at Italianni's with my family.  It was a wonderful birthday week and I could not ask for more.  God knows me.  God loves me.  God owns me!  And I think I could say that today, I'm happy.

P.S.  Cuz, this is one happy post, and I remembered your greeting as I typed tonight.  Hope you visit this blog and get to read this, too.