The Shadow in the Room

Just recently, I’ve opened up to some close friends, disclosing my suspicion that I was going through clinical depression.  The response has been lukewarm at times, and sometimes, I receive the usual trite responses about being thankful of life and focusing on the positive side of things.  The only good responses I got was from a friend who was both a physical therapist and a teacher.  She acknowledged my problem and didn’t pander to my sorrows with shallow platitudes.  The other was from a friend with a psychiatric disorder.  She gave me the number of her therapist.

At this day and age, I’m sad at how much people don’t understand what clinical depression is.  It goes beyond being sad all the time.  My manifestation is an unreasoning anger and sense of anxiety that blows up slight wrongs to offenses of Biblical proportions.  And during this rage, all I can see is how justified my self-righteousness is and I keep on talking and talking and talking about my anger.

Until I realize that I am wrong.

And the guilt feeds itself into a greater depth of depression and sadness.

I am not excusing my wrongs.  I am taking ownership of the words I’ve said.  But I wish people would be more understanding of this condition.  I wish people that I relied on to have my back would catch me when I am self-destructive.  Or maybe this condition separates the chaff from the grain.  Maybe now we know who who truly has our backs.

I feel for my fellow depressives.  Our affliction is something that society doesn’t take seriously.  Depression is something that happens to strangers, not to people we know.  It’s the shadow in the room that no one wants to look at, much less acknowledge.

If you know someone going through depression, know that injecting cheerfulness that we don’t feel is not the answer.  What we need is for you to keep quiet and stand there witnessing our grief, with acceptance and compassion.

 

Monkey on My Back

I carry within a heavy burden, one that I thought I have forgone with the deviation outside the quadrant of the asymptote.  The heaviness of being of one disappointed with a trusted friend.  An anger from realizing that he didn’t have my best interests at heart.  A disappointment with myself for expressing my anger instead of cool, passive-aggressive indifference.

Now I feel that I am locked in a course that I can’t back out of, without breaking my word and adversely affecting the life of one person.  In other words, I am trapped.

This will be worked out.  But until then, I am caged in a prison of my own making.

I’m Still Fighting for Peace

My dear asymptote,

It’s been some years now since we parted ways and I have healed myself and forgiven you.  But I have not forgotten what you did.  What you kept on doing.  And I do not regret our parting.
Do I miss you?  Of course I do.  But does it pain me to remember?  Not anymore.  I look back with regret, but not with hurt.  And sometimes, I even catch myself remembering the good days fondly.

Do I want you back?  No.  There’s no more you to go back to.  You are not home to me anymore.  When I look back I realize, you were never home.  It’s just that I wanted you to be.You are still and always will be a hard lesson to learn, about loving myself and setting boundaries.  I’m better now.  I’m whole.  I have a healthier relationship with life in general.  And I’m happy to say I don’t brood over the bad times anymore.

This cover of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” used to be a song that I listened to, in the height of my bitterness towards your neglect.  But when I listen now, I barely feel the hatred and the anger any longer.

It’s become a song of validation, instead, of finding who I am and healing the wounds. Of confronting my shadows and seeing myself at my breaking point. You didn’t see me fall apart, my dear asymptote.

Because I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for.

I have an elastic heart.

The Gift

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During times when I am being comforted by friends and family at the loss of my father, they often say how sad it was that our family lost Papa during Christmas time.  It’s Christmas Eve as I write this.  It is true that I miss Papa very badly.  My life feels like something important is missing… I would imagine this is what it would feel like to lose a limb.  You never get over losing someone you love… you accept the loss until it becomes part of what is the new normal.

I should feel sadness and grief.  Papa was my best friend.  I confided in him about everything in my life.  The highlight of my busy days were convincing him to try new cuisines like fusion Japanese at Sumo Sam’s, a Korean hole-in-the-wall like Pearl Meatshop, or shabu-shabu from David’s Teahouse.  Making Papa smile took away my stress away and gave me a sense of purpose during times when I feel so unhappy about the anxieties of law practice.  It gave me something to look forward to, knowing I had some extra money to take Mama and Papa shopping for little luxuries.

But oddly, today is not as sad as other people and myself think it would be.  There is a sense of loss, yes, but not quite a sense of sadness.

Maybe I have accepted that Papa is gone, but there is little sorrow to be gained from his loss.  I don’t know if other people in mourning would understand this but an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love fills in the absence and keeps out most of the sadness.  I catch myself coming to tears from time to time, and mostly during inopportune moments:  While I am driving and the radio station plays all the Beatles songs that Papa loved; While I am in the mall and I realize that Papa isn’t waiting for me to get home; While having coffee in S&R and writing in my journal about Papa’s last days; While a friend and I are talking at Bo’s and I describe what happened during my last night with Papa.

I cry because in that void, love rushes in and fills the emptiness, and I am overwhelmed by how much love there is for Papa.  I drown in it.  My only regret is not that I can’t see my Papa anymore.  My regret is that when I call out to say I love him, I can’t see the look in his eyes that says he has heard me.  I can’t see his amused little smile.  I can’t feel the strong grip of his left hand… even in his much weakened state, Papa still had an iron grip, squeezing my hand and answering me when his words didn’t make sense anymore.  The sadness lies in the fact that human as I am, I need to feel my affection accepted and reciprocated.

And this is where the gift comes in.

Papa’s loss is a gift to my family, surprisingly.  His death brought about many things.  My sister and I reconciled and patched up our differences, as we worked together to make Papa’s last days filled with  devotion.  Rifts in my family were healed.  People we were supposed to be at odds with stepped up and showed us how much they really cared.  A best friend I supposedly burned bridges with, didn’t let himself be brushed away by my indifference and stood by my side during these terrible times.  People I didn’t know that cared for me sent flowers, offered prayers, and showed up and made me feel like my family and I mattered in their lives.  I heard more stories about the lives Papa touched and these gave me greater appreciation for the man who set aside his claim to fame and fortune for a life of service to the poorest of the poor.

All these, I would never discover if not for Papa’s passing.  I grieve his loss but I am also grateful for the treasures it uncovered.

One of my favorite Christmas tributes, by Fra. Giovanni Giacondo, says that:

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

I see that in my Father’s passing.  And in a way, his absence invites me to a deeper level of sensing that he is nearby, invisible to the eyes but essentially felt by the proverbial heart.

What sorrow is there when I know a greater sense of intimacy with Papa now?  The love we have for each other fills me with tears of joy.  Perhaps this is what true faith is about… a trust in something which our eyes does not see, our ears do not hear and our hands do not grasp?  Perhaps this is love at its most pure and holy.

I am touched by all who reach out to me and my family out of concern for our well-being.  But know that we are strengthened, not destroyed, by Papa’s passing.  We hope in the day that we will be reunited with him in heaven.

It is with this love, faith and hope that I reach out to you.  Know that there is no loss in my life.  I reach out to you with the fullness of the gifts given to me.  I was blessed with love and this love I return to all of you, for the goodness and kindness we share as family and friends.  An overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sweetness of life and the treasure of knowing that we all have someone to lean on in the moments of our loneliness.

Merry Christmas to one and all from Boy, Tess, Janjan and Janice Perez.  Tonight, may a star lead you into the darkness, where your greatest treasures lie.

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What Do They Tell You?

What do they not tell you of when you lose someone you love?

Do they say of the profound regret which hounds after each death?  I can’t stop thinking of the would-have, could-have, should-haves.  I should have had a nasal tube inserted in order to force-feed him when he refused to eat.  I should have gone out and bought blood at the other hospitals or not be ashamed to wake other people up and ask them to donate blood in the middle of the night.  I should have had a doctor assess him when he was finally back at home.

Do they tell you how much it hurts to know that you gave him tough love and tied his hand to the bedpost so he wouldn’t rip out his tubes?  How much you hated to be the one causing him grief in his final days?

Do they tell you how much you wished you could do more?  Do they tell you of the many missed opportunities to show him how much you care?  And how you wish you did take him to Iloilo to eat steamed diwal at Breakthrough, then to Bacolod to eat siopao at Robert’s?  Do they tell you how much you regret not understanding the words he spoke when all he could utter was gibberish?  What more wisdom I could have squeezed out of him, or at least hear his final thoughts, hear him say “I love you” one last time.

I have had him for 37 years, but it still feels like the time was too short.  That I was cheated of the time to see him hold his first grandchild in his arms.  That I lost him before we could go together and ask my future bride’s hand in marriage.

They don’t tell you of these things.

So to those who still have someone they love… reach out.  Never miss an opportunity to SHOW them how much you love them.  No one will tell you that you could have a lifetime spent showing your father how much you love him, and it would still not be enough. That you will always wish you could do more, say more, love more.

So I’m telling you now.  We can never keep the ones we love.  Memories, sweet, and bitter.  Memories of good times, regrets of the bad.  These.

These are the only things we can hold on to.

Love Remains the Same

To my estranged best friend and brother,

Today (or technically, 2 hours ago), you got married.  And I was not there because I was not invited.  I have mixed feelings about this.  A part of me feels sad that it has come to this.  It’s an important day in your life and no matter how much I resent you for things which happened in the past, there’s a small tucked-away part of me that will always love you like the brother I hoped you would be to me.  I’m sad that I’m not by your side in something that’s important to you.

There’s another part of me that feels relieved that you didn’t invite me.  It’s the part that’s happy that I don’t have to feel torn whether to be the supportive former best friend, or to continue standing up for my pride and dignity about something I feel strongly about.  I’m happy that you decided it for me, and that you have cut ties as well and let it go.  Somehow, there’s a sense of closure there.  I can finally move on knowing that this chapter of my life is, for better or for worse, over.

One thing I’m sure I do  NOT feel is bitter about that you didn’t invite me.  I brought this on myself.  Whether I was justified to take the decision or not is a long dead issue.  But the fact is, I knew this would be one of the consequences of my actions, and I am standing by it.  But know that this consequence does come with its share of regret and sentimental sadness.

We used to have such high intentions.  We planned to become law firm partners in the future.  We called ourselves brothers.

But despite our best intentions, we just could not get along.  Tempers flared, words were said and lines were drawn on the sand.

I love you big brother.  Never doubt that.  I love you and I am happy that my prayers have been answered.  You have found someone worthy of your love.  You have found someone whom I pray would take care of you for the rest of your life.  That is something I will never feel bitter about.  I am truly happy for you.  Whether you want me to or not, I am there with you in spirit, celebrating your happiness and wishing nothing but the best for you and your beautiful wife.

Know that I am happy too with what life has given me.  I am happy with the law firm that I am a partner in.  I am treated well and deeply loved by my other brothers.  I have a beautiful girlfriend who loves me.  My practice is starting on its upswing and my star is beginning to shine bright.

But sad to say, I have not changed my mind. You no longer have a place by my side.  There is too much hurt and broken trust for me to even think about being friendly towards you, much less serving you the way I served you before.  But maybe, with enough time, I can someday be at peace and give you my genuine good graces, as a cordial acquaintance.  And perhaps, if God so wills, we can be friends again.

But for now, go your way and I’ll go mine.

I reiterate, do not ever doubt that I love you.  I would not harbor this much anger towards you if I didn’t.  Resentment is not the anti-thesis of love.  Apathy is.  And I feel no apathy towards you.  Tonight, my love and best intentions for you shine brighter than the sun.

Whatever tomorrow brings, be happy big bro.  I pray hard for you to find the peace that always eludes you.  You deserve this wonderful love that you have found with your bride.  Be happy, successful, at peace… but above all, be loved.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Claim it.

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Everyday

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Every day I rewrite her name across my ribcage
so that those who wish to break my heart
will know who to answer to later
She has no idea that I’ve taught my tongue to make pennies,
and every time our mouths are to meet
I will slip coins to the back of her throat and make wishes

I wish
that someday
my head on her belly might be like home
like doubt to doubt resuscitation
because time is supposed to mean more than skin
She doesn’t know that I have taught my arms to close around her clocks
so they can withstand the fallout from her Autumn

She is so explosive,
volcanoes watch her and learn
terrorists want to strap her to their chests
because she is a cause worth dying for
Maybe someday
time will teach me to pick up her pieces
put her back together
and remind her to click her heels
but she doesn’t need a wizard to tell her that I was here all along

Lady
let us catch the next tornado home
let us plant cantaloupe trees in our backyard
then maybe together we will realize that we don’t like cantaloupe
and they don’t grow on trees
we can laugh about it
then we can plant things we’ve never heard of

I’ve never heard of a woman
who can make flawed look so beautiful
the way you do

The word smitten is to how I feel about you
what a kiss is to romance
so maybe my lips to yours could be the penance to this confession
because I am the only one preaching your defunct religion
sitting alone at your altar, praising you out of faith

I cannot do this hard-knock life alone
You are all the softness a rock dreams of being
the mistakes the rain makes at picnics
when Mother Nature bears witness in much better places

So yes
I will gladly take on your ocean
just to swim beneath you
so I can kiss the bends of your knees
in appreciation for the work they do
keeping your head above water

~ Mike McGee

*7 months and counting with this wonderful lady.  Thank you for making each day of those 7 months count.