Posted by: Jae | January 10, 2008

On Settling (Both Down and For)

“Viable.” It was the word he used to describe his new relationship with this girl that he met, a classmate of his in PE. She was a nice girl, of steady temperament, the image of the perfect middle-class Filipina. His sister found the word strange, hard put to understand a boy in college who would use the word “viable” to describe his relationship. She asked him if she rocked his world.  “She can’t even make me laugh, Ate.” She wanted to say something more, but she bit her lip. They were, after all, siblings who couldn’t be more different. He was practical and liked consistency. His politics were conservative. And she supposed that boys like that eventually end up with girls who order iced tea in bars and they grow up and live in themed subdivisions with pompous names like Hampstead Villas. He was not deliriously in love with her, but maybe that was ok, she rationalized. Maybe delirious, earth-shaking love is only for the slightly off-kilter.

Two years later, they broke up. The sister asked him why. “I thought of a lifetime of breakfasts with her, seated across each other at the table, having nothing to talk about and not even able to make each other laugh, and it felt… interminable.”

*          *          *

They had been together for seven years, going eight. No one had believed they would make it last that long. In a society where open displays of homosexuality are still frowned upon, they celebrated their love with in-your-face abandon. They couldn’t be more different from each other, but somehow, through some sleight of hand, they came together and became this unbreakable team. Many believed the relationship would not work, as they made such an unlikely lesbian pair.

Into their eight year, their close circle of friends was shocked to find out that the pair had broken up. One of the parties broke the news that she was getting married. She had grown up with her grandmother to whom she owed her life, and her dying grandmother had made it her dying wish that she get married. It was a painful dilemma but she decided to honor the wishes of the one who had single-handedly raised her. In the arms of her confidante, she let out a torrent of tears.

Only three years later, the marriage ended. And she is back with the love that made her fly.

*          *          *

She was sick with leukemia and he promised her the best medical treatment available in the world. He knew she wanted nothing more than to be well again, to do what she wanted to do without fear that her body would fail her anytime, and he knew furthermore that he had the capacity to give it to her. But the offer of help came with an implicit condition: that they would end up together.

She was an ambitious person who wanted to do so many things, and the offer was tempting. But in him she could not see the future that she wanted, nor could she feel for him that the love she craved to feel for another human being. She knew that she would only end up hurting him and they would, between the both of them, only create a lifetime of resentment. She cared for him and wished not to hurt him. There was someone out there who could love him better than she ever could. And there was someone out there that she would love they way she wanted to love – eternal, unbridled.

Sick, scared and uncertain, she turned her back. To this day, there have been no regrets.

*          *          *

These are stories of real people, not mine certainly, but of people I know. I recount these stories now because I had a conversation very late last night with a good friend of mine. I said that for a relationship to be lasting, it has to start with fireworks. And by fireworks, I mean not fireworks of the sexual variety, but of the explosions generated by mad passionate love. Of course, at some point the fireworks will lessen in intensity, and will morph into something comfortable and reassuring (and perhaps even more wonderful), but I firmly believe that it is a prerequisite to a lifetime commitment that at one point, you were head over heels in love with the person you’ve committed yourself to.

He pointed out that people have relationships that start out with a lot of heat and fireworks, but still don’t work out. Sure, that has happened to me, I said. I guess there are external factors that make the relationship fail. Or even inherent incompatibilities. In every relationship, you take a chance. You take a gamble. But if, at the start, you enter into it half-baked, or you know you’re settling, then for me, there’s no gamble. It’s a losing hand of cards from the get-go.

I guess if there is one thing in my life that I fear, it’s settling for something. In life, as in love. I would hate to settle for a job that pays well but does not make me happy, I would hate to settle for a cause that I only half-believe in. In a similar vein, I would hate to have to settle for a relationship because it’s convenient and secure, and because from it I can expect no major fluctuations. I know myself well enough to know that that would be a disaster from the start.

Sometimes I wish it would be simpler if things like passion and intensity don’t matter as much to me. Then perhaps my life would be less psychedelic and I would find myself in a more or less stable life where the margins of error are few and far between. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve had to pay for my recklessness. But I guess that’s not how I’m wired. I am not built for half-baked.

Of course this does not mean that I do not wish for calm and constancy. Roller-coaster rides can be tiring. But calm and constancy should be built on the premise of big-bang love. You are calm because you know you are with the person you want to be with, and not the person you settled for. There is no restlessness, no anxiety. You have constancy because there is nothing more that you seek, and there is joy in knowing that this is how it will be in the end.

Unlike the college boy who looks at the future and sees only long interminable breakfasts eaten in resigned silence, you look forward and see that it carries all you will ever want.


Responses

  1. I believe in love, purely and utterly: insisting on it, finding it, keeping it, allowing yourself to be swept off your feet by the violence of its current but at the same time rocked to gentle sleep in the constancy of its embrace.

    – What breaks our hearts? Its thoughts like these and the things that we take for granted. Its forgetting that when the fireworks settle, you can only go through so much haze, rubbish and worthless ash. Its always the memory of the moment and how we constantly re-invent the fireworks in our minds with the people we value most, or think we ought to have been with in the first place. Great writing. Love it.

  2. about the first story, Jae… “viable” then, later on, “interminable”? MassCom yung guy ano?🙂 hehehe

  3. aileen – well, there are fireworks and there are fireworks. there are the ones that are illusory, the kind that leave a hazy smoke in its wake that chokes you. but we must keep on looking, shouldn’t we? better gambling on heartbreak than living life too safely, i always say.

    thanks.🙂

    taroogs – haha, hindi. malawak lang vocabulary…. nang babaeng nagsulat ng blog entry. hahaha.

  4. You want the freedom of the open sea. You want to roam, explore, discover, maybe even conquer.
    You want it so badly only to seek an anchor in the end.
    Finally, you found an anchor, something to hold on to, and yet, you went back to the sea.

    Love is the most dizzying, crazy and addictive sea sickness there is. Why? How can we be sure? All you have to do is turn around and see the long trail of vomit, spit and filth you’ve made.

  5. bonamine lang yan, emman. hehehe.

  6. loved this entry, and i agree with every word.🙂 miss u!

  7. i like breakfasts with nothing to talk about, basta masarap ang food. eight years into our marriage, one thing i realized overrated ang conversations, ang importante dapat masarap ang pagkain at pareho kayong maganang kumain🙂

  8. ako gusto ko din ng comfortable silence, pero ang ayoko ung awkward silences dahil wala kayong mapagusapan. gusto ko kasi talaga ng masarap kausap, kasi madaldal ako. hehe.

    pero gusto ko din ng masarap na pagkain! pag breakfast na daing na squid na super crispy, steaming rice at kape barako, wala na talagang usap usap yun. yum yum.

  9. i asked in my facebook page: boring forever or fleetingly hot?

    everyone who answered chose “fleetingly hot”….and i agree! so what does that say about choices of the heart??

  10. or can it be “hot forever”?

  11. ay claudette, ayoko (na) ng fleetingly hot. pang-college lang yan. hahaha. hot forever nalang. kahit magdwindle to “warm”, ok lang pa din.🙂

    jordan, mukhang matutuloy na talaga kami sa saigon, kaya magkikita tayo soon!

  12. fireworks in a relationship can be stressful daw in physiological terms, sabi ni diane ackerman.🙂
    pero to hell with ackerman, gusto ko pa rin ng fireworks. at yung mga fleetingly hot affairs. lol.

    PS. so kelan tayo pupunta ng vietnam?

  13. Walang Bonamine yata para dito. lahat nagsusuka. lahat hiling hilo.

  14. My sentiments exactly!!!🙂 Mwah!

  15. jonas – hmm, may koneksyon ba ung fleeting hot affairs ba sa pagpunta nating vietnam? hehe.

    emman – kala ko ba sabi mo steady lang tayo at hihinto ang mundo?

    joan – mwah! i knew youd agree!

  16. Haay. Pagbigyan mo ako sa isang malalim na buntung hininga.

    Sabi ko naman sa’yo, Zen ako ngayon. Di ko kaya yung mga thoughts on what i think, what i want, what could be, thinking what will feel interminable. Yung mga tipong, I won’t settle for this, I won’t settle for that, I KNOW I will hurt him, I KNOW I will cheat…blah-blah…Di ko kaya ang setting requirements of what elements should be present for a relationship (“settling down”) to start. Sibuyas, kamatis, toyo, paminta, garbanzos… ewan.

    We seem to be sure of what will make us happy in a lifetime; parang adik (yes, tol! ito ang tama! sang gramo, sakto!). We feel good to know we are in control of what kind of love we want, how we love, who to love; and when we lose it, we don’t feel like blaming ourselves: it’s always another person’s fault. kasi walang fireworks; the love didn’t make us fly. no self-blaming there. how convenient. I don’t know why we are so bloody afraid of how boredom, pain, sadness — and yes, even a feeling of something being interminable — could change us. Surely, there must be a good reason why we end up in imperfect relationships.

    Entonces, medyo unreal ung fireworks. parang wish list, which is what we accumulate in life that end up as tumor or cyst. sayang lang ang oras to worry about these things. sure, we have an idea of the “fireworks” in our heads, (kasi nga we stuff our minds with these things… for a lifetime!) yet most of us do not even have the capacity to recognize it when they come face to face with it on a clear day. Passion and intensity? sure they feed our minds, but they trick our senses. imagination is as fleeting as it is unreal, but is ironically used as a yardstick upon which we build all relationships.

    it was pompous for that college boy to imagine “interminable breakfasts” with someone, in a lifetime based on a feeling of today/yesterday. who knows what he will want after 7, 8 years? Tuwing birthday mo nga, may nagbabago sayo, yun pa kayang lifetime? What pomposity drives finite, mortal man to be prescient of what eternity brings? Baka si joey reyes lang makakaisip nun – sa fantasy films niya.

    Madami pa – but we agreed to disagree, di ba? So park muna natin yan.

    Levy – (mag seatbelt ka, profound ‘to: ) sabi nga ni Tom Cruise minsan (i.e., probably drunk with Scientology stuff): “Talk is over-rated as a means of settling things.” at dahil mas mahalaga ang insights ni tom cruise kesa sa kung sinong guru, agree ako sayo. Happiness is a good breakfast.

    Ay, sorry ha. Parang ginawa ko itong sarili kong blog. Wala kasi akong blog. hehe😉

  17. “Chop wood, carry water.” Happy new year, jae…😉

  18. i felt you misconstrued me in parts, but ok, lets park it and agree to disagree.
    🙂

    happy new year, gus. love you so much.

  19. yes, maybe I did. but, you see, that’s how thinking works. it can misconstrue.😉 love you so much, too, jae. that i am sure of.

  20. Stages naman ata yan. It has been scientifically determined that our hormones cant keep raging on account of one person forever. But then, couples graduate to a higher level of companionship which is okay because people’s needs change. Stages nga.

    I skipped the “I-cant-get-enough-of you-stage once. Si Mr. Pigsa. He was just such a catch (you saw what he looked like, right? he was intelligent too. And rich.) so I thought he was the one I wanted to be with. But he couldn’t even make me laugh. I used to wake up thinking “C’mon this has to work.”

    And that is exactly what it felt like: work.

  21. Gusto ko talaga ung feeling when you meet someone and you know that you are ALREADY crazy about him and you know too that he’s going to like you too. kase “TUGMA”. It’s not that youre great or that he is. TUGMA LANG TALAGA. Alam mo yun?

    Naku kung may tao na indi alam yun, ang sad sad sad sad sad ng life niya. Naiiyak ako for him/her.

    At kung may tao din na nahanap nya yung katugma nya, tapos he let her go kase scared siya to venture into something frighteningly wonderful, sad din yun.

    Life is short and we have to grow some balls.

  22. gus – er, di ko gets ung “thats how thinking works, it can misconstrue.” slow lang siguro ako. love ya much. find your happy.😉

    charms – haha, mr. pigsa, good riddance to him. ako din naman dati, staying in relationships kasi nanghihinayang sa investment of time and efort, takot to venture out in the great unknown once more. pero yeah,life is short. natutunan yan ng girl with leukemia in the story. and the balls that it takes to go out on a limb for something that feels frighteningly wonderful, is the same balls that it takes to break free of something thats not working and not be afraid of being(momentarily) alone.

    sabi ko sa isa ko pang friend kagabi, baka tayo ang abnormal, sila ang normal. what-ebak. then lets be abnormal. hehe.

    i miss you and dianne. where is dianne? yoo-hoo. bakit wala kang comment sa blog entry na ito, roa?

  23. hmmmm

  24. “I guess if there is one thing in my life that I fear, it’s settling for something. In life, as in love. I would hate to settle for a job that pays well but does not make me happy, I would hate to settle for a cause that I only half-believe in.”

    That’s a fairly noble conviction to be be carrying. You’d like to say you don’t wanna settle for a job u won’t love, but when you find yourself having to do so and the one person you need to be able to depend on refuses to do the same, the words just end up as words. Up on one’s ivory tower, one can get away with applauding and believing in that. But when you’re the one down there, as much as you’d like to applaud the other for refusing to stoop down to where you miserably are, the natural instinct really is to reach up, grab him by the neck and fling him down to the goddamn ground, again and again and again till those silly winged passions stop sprouting. so there.

  25. silly winged passions. parang sanitary napkin.

    ewan ko… paano ba magreply sa comment mo, dianne?
    🙂


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