Rediscovering Independence

Rediscovering Independence

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

― Lao Tzu

Before my husband and I got married, we both agreed to have 7 nights of “hall pass” each year. What this means for us is that we get to travel alone or with friends, but definitely without each other – no strings, and no questions asked right after. This, for a married person, could mean freedom at its finest! Imagine that?!

In the first few years of the honeymoon phase, travelling leisurely without your better half can seem unimaginable, and it was honestly that way for us. So we quietly shoved this “hall pass” in the closet until it started to collect dusts and cobwebs – that was our mistake.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

What I realize now is that we should have stuck with our agreement to use this yearly hall pass. We should have made an effort to still keep our identities, the “me, myself and I”, instead of focusing only on the “we and us”. It’s never too late though. So on our 8th year, I have decided to start using mine.

The reactions I received from people after sharing this decision to travel alone (something I used to do A LOT prior to getting hitched) surprised me (an understatement):

Is there something wrong between you and the hubby? – I am appalled (to say the least) that our culture dictates that women can’t travel and enjoy themselves while away from their husbands, that there has to be something “wrong” with the relationship to validate this kind of trip.

Are you having an affair? – Imagine my disgust. Since there’s nothing wrong with my husband, I have to be the culprit then.

And while I was on the trip already, I received messages from concerned friends along these lines too:

Have you been behaving yourself? – I think I forgot to mention I’m 36-fucking-years-old who’s been through so much hell in life (death, miscarriage, calamities – name it!), so really?! Seriously?!

Any one night stands? Drunk and wasted? How wild did you get? – I hate to burst your bubble, but no, I refuse to allow you to live vicariously through me. Thank you very much.

“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I am re-discovering myself. I am gaining myself back. I am just being… JUST BEING.

Following my father’s death, I have realized there are so many things I’d like to change in my life.  One would be my loss of independence. For almost 8 years, I have NEVER stepped out of our house alone – always, and I mean ALWAYS, with my husband (it probably didn’t help too that my work is home based). I would either be with him wherever I go, or I’d ask him to drive me there and back. This will come as a surprise to those who knew me before – I was surprised when it sunk in too. Yep, believe it.

Please know that my husband never imposed or encouraged this. Always the supportive and loving husband that he is – It was all me. I entered the married life thinking that I’ve done and seen it all, with much enthusiasm to let go of me and be a part of a unit that is us. I was ready. I am still. But I was wrong to lose my sense of self through it all. Guilty.

And so the journey begins, it all played well in my imagination. I was going to spend a couple of nights with no strings, no work, no chores to do, no one checking on me – a free woman! WOW! What to do?

The plan:

First Day/Night – Indulge in all the adventures available in the island (Zip line, Jet Ski – what have you), and then party and get wasted at night. And no, I won’t call or SMS my husband.

Second Day/Night – More adventures. More drinking. Probably even go as far as talking to strangers. Still no phone calls with my husband.

Hah! Easy peasy! I can do all these. Pffft!

What actually happened:

First Day/Night – Pigged out (5 meals – not snacks – in a day!). Walked from one end of the shore to the other (that’s the adventure part!). Hung out with a boatman / lay minister (Kuya Let, bless your soul!) from the island who we’ve known for 7 years now – and talked about his life struggles and how he survived them all (my day’s high).

I visited the tattoo shop of the artist who did my ink back in Manila. I was so close to getting another one. We even talked about the design already. Did I? NO.

Come night time, I went to a bar. Ordered food. And when asked what drink I wanted, I stared at the list of cocktail drinks for a few minutes, and then ordered Coke.

And then I found myself sitting in a quiet area of the shore, gazing at the stars, enjoying the sound of the waves – mourning my father’s death.

Second Day/Night – Early morning walk by the shore. Shopping (hoorah!). More pigging out. More beach bumming and book reading. Got a pedicure and a whole body massage by the sea shore, and hung out with my masseuse (Nanay Fely, you rock!) for a couple of hours talking about how she made it through raising 3 wonderful daughters all by herself (my day’s high). And I also got to overdose on Star Movies cable TV while in my room!

First and Second Days – I got to meet and feed two dogs – both made me terribly miss my Chowdren more! Spent hours on video calls with my husband and our Chowdren, while my husband kept on reminding me that the hall pass shouldn’t include calls and SMS – but at that point, do you think I really cared?

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

― Lao Tzu

It was perfect and exactly what I needed!

I got to travel alone (although my dear husband drove me to the bus station and picked me up in Manila when I got back – baby steps!). I got to prove to myself that I can still be independent. And more importantly, I have learned to appreciate the value of both the solitude, and the life I have back home.

Now all I have to do is keep the balance going. Hah! Easy peasy!

I still have 5 nights of hall pass this year…

“Your father went out of the house today, talked to a neighbor while wearing only his diaper.” – One of the many rants from my visibly exhausted mother when I arrived to visit them earlier. So I asked my father what he was thinking then, he said he didn’t know he was wearing only his diapers. I briefly told him not to go out of the house anymore as he makes us worry and I can’t expect mom and the help to watch him 24/7, that’s just not fair.

Next one: “your father threw pee on the floor beside his bed, and he has been doing this a lot of times, if not on his bed, his clothes or the floor.” This explains the pungent smell upon entering their home. To pacify my mom, I asked dad what happened. Like always, he said “I had to pee, and I had to empty the contents of the chamber pot somewhere for the next time I’d have to use it.” I’d remind him of his diapers and its purpose. And for the nth time he’d say he forgot that he could go and do his deed in it. I believe him. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m walking on the shore with bare feet, enjoying the grainy sand and the sea on this glorious afternoon. I immerse my feet in the water as I contemplate in the wonder of the sea meeting land. Staring into the vast horizon, I deeply inhale the salty air. I feel like I am floating, or I may be flying. I hop, skip, and sometimes even trip. The sun will set soon and I’m basking in what’s left of its heat.

I hear two pairs of feet following beside me, and a playful growl by no one else but Sakura, our Akita dog. I run and she sprints after me. I could almost hear my laughter surround the entire beach. I stop to catch my breath, resting my hands on my knees. Sakura leaps up to fill my face with wet kisses. I smile and hug her. Read the rest of this entry »

photo credits: sodahead.com

photo credits: sodahead.com

When I was in grade school, it was mostly only me and my father at home. Both my sisters were working in another country, while my mom was, hmmm, let’s just say on “Absence Without Leave”. So my dad was left with no choice but to play the mother’s role as well, and this includes attending to my then long hair. To say the least, it was a painful struggle.

One day my dad arrived home from work with several newly purchased hair clips and ribbons in hand that were apparently recommended by a workmate. He would painstakingly try them on me, clueless on how to use them. It was bittersweet. We both managed to survive.

My grade school class pictures still haunt me to this day. My father – the resolute.
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picture this

Picture this: My husband and I, happily strolling at the mall and just going about our shopping business when suddenly three children between the ages of 7 and 10 surfaced in front of us. No big deal, right? Except these children were pointing their fingers at me, calling me “baldy” while laughing their hearts out. Funny – not. Grabbing my husband’s hand and ignoring the children, we ran to the nearest shop for refuge. Lo and behold, the children ran after us to continue laughing at me and calling me names. Where were their parents when I needed them? And why can’t things like this happen in secluded places where there won’t be people to witness me butcher these children? Fortunately we were relatively near our parking space, so we ran towards our car like I was running after my sanity.
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Dad and Me

ALZHEIMER’S.

I went to my parents’ house yesterday morning and this was how I was welcomed…

I asked my mom if they had breakfast already, she said yes and that she already went upstairs to my dad’s room to give him his breakfast as well. I then went up to my dad’s room for a quick check.

DAD: I’m going to die here. I may be dead already.
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When I learned about Angelina Jolie’s Double Mastectomy operation to prevent breast cancer, my first thought was: woah, that’s extreme! Then it got me thinking, will she have her ovaries removed next to prevent ovarian cancer? Colon, to prevent colon cancer? How about brain cancer?
Having learned now that her mother died of breast cancer, I’m a little more enlightened of her decision. I am now losing my father to Alzheimer’s disease and I just might go to extremes myself (if I can) to prevent the same disease from consuming me. You have to understand the fear that grows in a person when they have witnessed a loved one taken (an understatement) by such an illness.
I DO find her decision “heroic” just like most people do. I admire women who take charge of their lives, those who does not comfortably take the back seat and just watch life happen. You conquer your fear, you get proactive, but still.. to what extent? How far should one go?