On being a damaged person on Valentine’s

I wanted to write about the ‘best (and simultaneously the scariest) piece of love advice I have ever received.’ Clearly, I was gearing up to be inspirational. 

And then the blues hit.

As a lifestyle writer, it is virtually impossible to escape Valentine’s. Assignments to write about happy couples come in droves and all other articles are to be themed after February the 14th. In a way it’s a good thing, because love is something that is so easy to relate to, hence the plethora of material. It is one of the rare times that I don’t find myself scraping the barrel for ideas. I told my editor that I would write about the “best (and simultaneously the scariest) piece of love advice I have ever received.” Clearly, I was gearing up to be inspirational. And then the blues hit.

I wonder if there will ever come a day when I will actually be immune to Valentine’s. I’m older and a lot wiser than I was in the past. On the level of reason, I fully understand that it is just another socially constructed occasion. I also understand that insisting on Valentine’s being just another socially constructed occasion is one of the best ways to betray bitterness (or a sense of pseudo-intellectualism). When you’re feeling the damage, sometimes the best and the classiest thing to do is to keep your mouth shut.

Silence remains to be the most effective means of managing your public perception. But when you’re alone and being haunted by the assholes of Christmas past, you wish there was a way to truly be put together. That you could afford more than to merely look the part. You wish you could stop making failures mean that you will never find worthy company. You wish to look at the world and not find it so bleak and hopeless and devoid of possibility. You wish joking about how your “favorite type of men is ramen” wasn’t an empty attempt at looking cool. You wish you could turn the annoying optimism back on, because no one really wants to be a cynic — even though it makes us look smarter.

Life f*cks us all

I like to say that age attracts experience. “No one dies a virgin. Life f*cks us all” read one of the vandalisms on Geraldine Javier’s “Let’s Talk About Art” installation at the recently concluded Art Fair Philippines. To live on is to lose the unadulterated hopefulness we had as little children; to break and be irreversibly cracked and scarred. It is as unavoidable as the eventual disintegration of our bodies. But maybe the damage is an opportunity to reach a deeper dimension of being whole. Maybe we are shattered so that we may come back together, and this time be able to hold so much more. Maybe our hope lies not in turning back time, but in surrendering and letting it have its way with us — in growing our roots deeper and keeping our hearts wide open.

In this light, the blues suddenly don’t seem so bad. They are no longer something to be banished using (fake and forced) positive thinking as a weapon. Suddenly, it’s just part of who I am. Something that enables me to have empathy, compassion, and understanding for other people’s wounds. Something that makes it possible for me to make real contributions to others. Suddenly, I understand that I’m not supposed to unearth the undamaged psyche I had as a newborn baby, because it’s perfectly doable to work with who I’ve become today — and that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. And I guess that’s that.

As for the best (and simultaneously the scariest) piece of love advice I have ever received, it was given to me by a friend at a time when I was trying to hold up against yet another one of those dreaded waves of emotional attachment.

“Then attach yourself!” he said. “When you love, you love with everything. Express yourself fully. Surrender yourself to love and all its tendrils. So that if and when it ends, TAPOS! Ginawa mo na lahat. Sinabi mo na lahat. Hindi ka na lilingon. Wala nang mga what ifs. Diba?”

It’s normal to be gutted over love lost. But maybe the ache that pulsates through us most constantly comes from our innate desire to keep living life fully, rubbing against the walls of distrust and self-preservation we have built that, when you think of it, have only made our pain more subversive.

“To trust,” Eileen Tupaz, another friend of mine blogged. “… in our own resilience and strength. Why is it so hard when, in truth, it’s all that we can do?”

She wasn’t talking about love. But when it comes to love, maybe the best gift we can give ourselves is to stop struggling against the thorns that already have us.

* * *

Originally published in The Philippine Star’s Fashion and Beauty section (11 February 2015)

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