Daily Prompt: Commit

A patch of blue sky on a cloudy day in Jimei

To commit not only means “to do; perform; perpetrate.” It also means “to give in trust or charge” and “to pledge, to bind, to obligate oneself.” 

It was only after I got married that I  formed a different idea of commitment. Before marriage, I was committed to making myself happy. I was always my first priority — if I was unhappy, or worse, angry, I showed it and never mind if somebody else became unhappy or angrier than I as a consequence. Marriage made me realize that commitment means not only pledging or binding yourself to your partner but also doing what is best for both of you. And sometimes what is best for both husband and wife is humility, which is quite a tall order of a virtue. 

I know I am not an easy person to live with, but my husband is committed to being with me for the rest of our lives, and so am I with him. I have a personality that I’m sure no other man would be able to tolerate, but my husband does. And for that I’m grateful. Both of us have changed so much in over a decade of being married, and despite the many trials we’ve been through we’ve managed to remain each other’s best friend. I guess we both have accepted who and what we are — good and bad, and just remain focused on our first priority, which is not our individual selves, but our son.  To me, that’s commitment. 

Have a lovely weekend! ūüíē

T. 
Daily Prompt: Commit 

For Women (who like to laugh) Only

forwomenonly

May 20th is a commercial festival for lovers in China. You may ask what that is. Like Singles’ Day (11/11) which is an unofficial festival to celebrate being single (1=single), ¬†May 20th (or 5/20) is considered¬†lovers’ day because the Mandarin for 5-2-0 (wu er ling) sounds close to “wo ai ni” which is Mandarin for “I love you.” I know. It’s just a reason to go shopping which seems to be ¬†young Chinese people’s favorite pastime.

I’ve heard several young Chinese talking about this day, and somehow I was reminded of a conversation I had with a twenty-something¬†friend where she lamented her boyfriend-less situation and how difficult it was to find Mr. Right. I wasn’t very sympathetic with her because it isn’t actually that difficult for a young woman like her who is tall, attractive, well-traveled and smart. In fact, lots of young men from her university like her, but as she says, “They’re not handsome nor smart enough.”

That’s the real problem: she’s waiting to meet someone who is handsome AND smart! In this area, she isn’t so smart.

I think there are only four kinds of men according to how realistic women view them for their looks and smartness:

  1. The¬†BBC-DOCUMENTARY type. This is the kind of man you can listen to for hours. He can talk about a variety of subjects, and you just feel you are growing in intelligence just by listening. Never mind what he looks like! You don’t have to sit facing each other over a cup of coffee; you can just walk next to him and talk and listen and walk and talk and listen. That can be romantic too.¬†

  2. The TOO-HOT-TO-LISTEN-TO type. This man is your multivitamins for the eyes. Just looking at his handsome face makes you smile. Never mind if he’s telling a tragic story about the death of his dog, you don’t hear it because your mind is somewhere else with him where he’s not talking. It doesn’t matter if that mouth is ¬†spewing out pseudo-intellectual or even idiotic statements. It’s not meant for words anyway! (Incidentally, my young friend prefers this to the first type!)

  3. The GHOST type. This type of man you have probably been with for too long that you can’t stand looking at his face or listening to his voice, but for some reason you’re stuck with him. ¬†Nothing he says makes sense to you. Nothing he wears makes you want to look at him. ¬†So you just let him talk, but you don’t hear him; he walks about the room, but you don’t see him. (Honestly, I don’t know why some people insist on being together when being so only makes both parties unhappy!)¬†

  4. The OCCASIONALLY-HANDSOME-AND-SMART type. The occasion being when you’re in a good mood and you find him so adorable and so smart. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. What is handsome to one woman when she’s happy, may become ugly when she’s unhappy. This kind of man’s handsomeness and intelligence all depends on your mood. He can be the handsomest and the smartest when¬†you’re in a good mood, but he can also be a candidate for the third type when you’re in a bad mood.

This is a superficial observation, and I’m writing this just for fun (partly to comfort my young friend). But what I really want to say is, sometimes we cannot choose who we are attracted to, and sometimes too, the very thing that once attracted us to one person may be the very thing that we would one day find most annoying about that person. Hence, these emotions we have towards people are truly unreliable. It is always wiser to listen to reason than to our emotions when we choose someone with whom we have to share the rest of our lives.

Have a lovely week(end)! It’s already weekend for me! Yay!

T.

Thoughts after Reading Gogol’s The Overcoat¬†

I’m not entirely sure if it’s mere coincidence that last night I read Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat , and this afternoon, I watched the second episode of The Young Pope where Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII spoke to the faithful for the first time, and he said something like we have to be closer to God than to each other, that he will never be closer to the people than he is to God because we are all alone before God. 

Akakievitch’s death was truly tragic, just as tragic as his life. Tragic to the reader, anyway. If he existed in our times, he would probably be diagnosed as being on the spectrum and would get some help. But in the story, in his adult life, no one cared about him. 

The quote I pasted on the photo reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few years back. I told him how the sight of so many people who came to my father’s funeral made me think there would be very few people who would come to my own funeral because as I grow older I’ve become less sociable, less friendly. Especially now that I’ve been away from home for 14 years, and most of my friends and former students have left the city or the country, and I don’t visit friends or relatives whenever I go home; I don’t attend family (clan) reunions….

At my mother’s funeral last year, I was moved by the number of people who came to condole  with us. A lot of them I’ve never even seen before — my sisters’ co-workers and friends, my mother’s former co-workers and students, my father’s former co-workers. It was comforting to see so many people cared about my family enough to come to my mother’s  funeral. My parents were luckier than Akakievitch. 

Now and then I would remind my husband not to die ahead of me, or I would never forgive him. We often laugh when I start talking about this, but we both know I am serious. No way he’s dying before me. Good thing is we agree this is a good idea. 

Having said that, I’ve decided to try to be a little more sociable again. Not because I want people to remember me, but because I want my husband and my son to find comfort in the thought that they’re not alone, that there are people who care enough to come to my funeral. 

In today’s society where fake online friendships are common, will people care if one day you just disappear? Or will you be like Akakiy Akakievitch whose death mattered to no one? 

Old Age and Dependency in Neruda’s Don’t Go Far Off

dont-go-far-off
Mindanao, Philippines 

Don’t go far off by Pablo Neruda

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

I like the hesitation expressed in the repetition of ‚Äúbecause,‚ÄĚ as it seems the speaker seems unsure whether the reason he is going to give for asking the other person not to go too far even for a day, would be reasonable enough for the latter. And to me, he succeeded in sounding convincing with his use of the imagery of the empty train station ‚Äď empty of not only people, but of the trains as well as they are ‚Äúparked off somewhere else, asleep.‚ÄĚ This last line of the first stanza emphasizes his feeling of emptiness ‚Äď everyone and everything else has gone and they are asleep (not dead, just having a rest), which I think signals what the speaker himself is going through (revealed in the last line of the last stanza.)

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

His demand not to be left alone becomes urgent as he argues even an hour would be too long. He knows himself and knows that slowly but surely anguish will come in full force. I think ‚Äúsmoke‚ÄĚ here refers to fear that can overwhelm a person and make one‚Äôs heart rate grow faster thus ‚Äúchoking my lost heart.‚ÄĚ

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

Whereas in the first and second stanzas, he gives reasons for not wanting the other to leave him (he will be waiting, feeling empty; he will be full of anguish and be heartbroken), in the third stanza, he reveals further that he is not only thinking of physical distance, but emotional as well ‚Äď ‚Äúmay your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.‚ÄĚ These words show the total dependence of the speaker to the other person. He never wants to lose sight of this person¬†(‚ÄúOh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;‚ÄĚ), nor to have this person¬†not being in the present with him. From not being able to be without this person¬†for a day, then for an hour, then for a second, the speaker obviously relies heavily on the other person for his existence.

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Normally, I would be very cynical about people being too dependent on other people, emotionally. But I totally understand that certain people like the elderly and young children, and people with certain developmental disorders cannot help being so. And this is how I see the speaker of this poem. He is not a young and healthy man in the best years of his life. Rather he is old, and nearing his end and fears dying alone. This is not a man speaking to his lover, but a mere human being asking the one he trusts not to leave him, physically and emotionally.

This is not a love poem.

A couple of times, I have heard old men, who when they were young, were once brave soldiers and then, stern fathers; but, as they became old and frail, they became fearful of being left alone, begging their children not to leave them. This, I find extremely sad.

This is perhaps the saddest Neruda poem I have ever read.

 

Here’s the Spanish version (probably the original)

“No lejos de m√≠ un solo d√≠a”
Pablo Neruda

No estés lejos de mí un solo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decirlo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar a√ļn mi coraz√≥n perdido.

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena,
ay que no vuelen tus p√°rpados en la ausencia:
no te vayas por un minuto, bienamada,

porque en ese minuto te habr√°s ido tan lejos
que yo cruzaré toda la tierra preguntando
si volver√°s o si me dejar√°s muriendo.

 

 

On Friendship with the Ex 


I stopped communicating with my best friend #2 of 16 years, who also happens to be my ex-boyfriend for the same number of years. Whereas in the past I couldn’t last a week without talking or even just texting with him, it has been two months since we’ve had any communication. Best friend #1 who has always known and accepted my romantic-turned-fraternal relationship with M. tried to get me to, at least, ask him how he’s doing, fearing one day I would regret my silence. 

I probably would regret ending this friendship, but I have to take care of myself before I can take care of others. Something was done , and I didn’t like it. My not liking it manifests itself in my actions. I cannot control my emotions, only my actions. However, controlling my actions is exhausting because it takes so much effort, so much energy which I know can be expended on other more substantial endeavors. My only solution is to eliminate the source of these feelings by ending the relationship. 

Whereas in the past, I could shamelessly ask my friend to do or not do something; now as a more mature person, .I can never, will never ask my friend to change himself for me, or stop him from doing what he wants to do that is not bad for him. I have no control over him, but I have control over my life. Surprisingly, I do not feel sentimental about these things. I will always treasure what we had. Those were wonderful memories. 

There won’t be new ones, though.

Goodbyes

GOODBYES1

Some goodbyes are sweet —¬†
You smile and hug and kiss 
And say the word, believing
That you’ll be better people¬†
When you see each other again. 

Some goodbyes are bitter —
You turn your back 
Perhaps with tears 
Or with a frown, hoping 
You’ll never have to see each other again.¬†

Some goodbyes are not meant to be —
You think it is over 
That the last chapter has been written
And another one cannot be added. 
But then a sequel is started. 

‚Ä®Some goodbyes are inevitable —¬†
You hate to part 
You know you shouldn’t¬†
But you’re not characters in a book¬†
Or lovers in a rom-com….

These goodbyes leave you feeling cold and empty 
Like a house stripped 
Of every furniture, curtain and picture,
Of every sign of being lived in, 
And all that’s left is a hollow sound¬†

And the echo of one’s sigh¬†
And the memories of a voice…

Such is the goodbye that, in my ear,
You gently whispered
As you kissed away 
A tear on my cheek 
And softly,
Quietly

Left me
For good. 

*****

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long..” is a line from one of my favorite¬†Neruda poems, “Tonight I can Write.” I think it’s a beautifully sad poem that captures not only the¬†pain one feels at the thought that love has gone, but also the courage to imagine that the person one has loved so passionately will eventually move on.

Tonight I can Write by Pablo Neruda:

Click here for the English and Spanish versions.
Click here to listen to Andy Garcia’s reading of the poem.